Here’s How To Make Sense Of Your Feelings Of Stress

Featured image credit: Radu Florin / Unsplash


In an age where we’re inundated by the hour (sometimes, even by the minute) by news, good and bad (well mostly, it’s been bad for 2020!) it seems like stress and anxiety is just inevitable.

In the noise, though, these feelings  likes to play dress-up and disguise itself as anger, anxiety, irritability, fear,
sadness, self-doubt or a need to eat all the chocolate. Then again, it begins with you — according to an expert, it depends on your own coping skills and personality.

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“Stress is a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension,” said Ms R. R. Manjari, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Gleneagles Medini Hospital. As you know, too much stress is definitely not okay. “Stress is cumulative in nature … it’s key for survival but too much can be detrimental. Over time, stress can affect your immune system, heart, muscles,” she said.

The good news is, that you can make it all work for you.  “Working effectively with stress requires taking control of our responsibilities and attitudes — just like harnessing our focus to persist through a tough workout or challenge, stress offers us the opportunity to use it to promote growth.” added Ms R. R. Manjari.

Harnessing stress can be a powerful tool to help give you the strength you need when it comes to being your best. “Good stress can be a burst of energy that helps you meet daily challenges, reach your goals, accomplish tasks more efficiently, boost your memory or even fortify your immune system,” she added.

Here’s how you make the bad good again — and make stress finally work for you.


Pull back and notice the looping negative self-talk, trace the crazy back to its roots, and figure out if it’s the healthy kind of stress or the going-nowhere-fast variety. Quarantine the problem. Our tendency, of course, is the exact opposite: combine today’s problem with yesterday’s and tomorrow’s to prove that now Everything. Is. Ruined. Forever.

It ’s the 90/10 rule, explained Leo Willcocks, author of Destress To Success. “So 10 per cent of what you’re feeling now is related to the actual problem, and 90 per cent is your history.”

In more clinical terms, it ’s called compound association. And in everyday speak? Basically the crappy date is making you re-feel every other dud hook-up and all the negative emotions about never finding love that’s built up gradually over time. But what you need to do is ask yourself, ’why is this really bothering me’, Willcocks suggested. By the time you’ve asked yourself that four or five times, you’ve got to the core of the issue.

Now comes the moment you need to separate what you feel from what you know. Separating imaginary from reality brings the mind into real focus, and that ’s where you can truly harness your stress. “The key is accepting that frustrations are part of the game of life, and to not get carried away by emotion,” Manjari explained.

Once you’re free from the overwhelming, you’re more likely to be able to sit down to the business of solving the issue.

take out the (actual) trash talk

The tendency when we’re in a state of maximum freakout is to try too many fixes at once. To let your stress focus you, choose one problem and go at it, using all the adrenaline in your body.

“Choosing one thing lets you channel your energy in a productive and meaningful way,” said life coach Johanna Parker (

Ms R. R. Manjari also suggests the IDEAL technique. Namely: Identify the problem, Describe possible options, Evaluate pros and cons, Act based on the best possible option, Learn from the process.

When you act early, you can deal with it properly. ”Once you learn to recognise problems much earlier, then you can start to face your problems head-on, instead of running away from them. The more you run away, the more it chases.” Cut away the unnecessary and have that one main focus to deal with.

Turn To Someone You Trust

Our natural desire during times of stress is also to reach out to other people. This is OK as long as it ’s the right person. It’s vital to talk to somebody, but with the expectation that the other person doesn’t have to actually fix [the problem] or take responsibility, and vice versa. You need someone who can listen without judgement.

Offloading on a toxic friend who’s only going to point out how it ’s even worse than you thought, or oversharing on social media will keep you stuck on that very same stressy-go-round.

Know Your Limits And Manage The Stress

Creating a margin in life is a vital and effective way to make sure the stress you experience stays manageable and helps you achieve.

That can mean agreeing on a reasonable deadline at work, not spending down to your last cent every pay cycle, or diarising some do-nothing time. Then, know you can train your brain to deal with stress properly — focus on having a “growth” mindset. “Those who have the ability to believe that we can change allows us to do so,” said Ms R. R. Manjari.

Release that tension

No need to stay in a foetal position for the rest of the year. These steps can help you drop that stress to help you relax:

  • Belly breathe. While in the moment, you can often lose focus and your stress can sometimes overwhelm you. Breathing techniques will help ground you and set you back to zero.
  • Stay active. While you may be pro-nap, coming down from stress can be easier when you stay active. It can be as much as aimless walking, swimming, or even low-key organising.
  • Fight the bad with good. Studies have actually shown that helping another person not only just makes you feel good, but takes your focus off your own personal problems.

This article was previously published on CLEO Malaysia in 2018.