What is stress and how to deal
with it?
In the modern world, stress accompanies quite often our daily life and even becomes its integral part. What is stress, how to cope with it?

The founder of the doctrine of stress, the Canadian physiologist G. Selye defined it as a response of the body to extreme stimuli. He introduced the term "stress" from English "stress" and described the neuroendocrine disturbances arising at the same time, calling it the general adaptation syndrome. Selye revealed 3 stages in the course of stress: anxiety, resistance and exhaustion. And he also pointed out two possible outcomes, favorable - eustress - when the body copes with adverse effects and unfavorable - distress - when the adaptive systems of the body breaks down and various pathological conditions can develop. In his research, Selye studied the effect of mainly negative physical factors on the body and described the physiological reactions arising in this case. On the basis of G. Selye's research work, the American researcher R. Lazarus in the 70s of the last century introduced the concept of psychological stress, defining it as a negative reaction of a person to the difficulties of interacting with the outside world and described the psychoemotional reactions arising in this case. Then some scientists separated physiological and psychological stress. However, now it is recognized as conditional and there is no doubt that the fact that any stress is accompanied by both physiological and psycho-emotional disorders.

So, in the modern interpretation, stress is characterized as a state of mental stress that occurs in a person under the influence of various negative factors both in everyday life and in special circumstances. The spectrum of stressors in our lives is very diverse. Among them, there are numerous factors that we cannot influence. These are prices, taxes, weather, habits and characters of other people, etc. Therefore, there is no point in worrying about these reasons, because this will only lead to a violation of your neuropsychic state. However, there are many problems and emotional experiences in our lives we are able to cope with, and they often arise due to our unconstructive actions, a tendency to negative thinking, inability to communicate with others, to plan our time, to set life goals, etc. e. These are the problems that should be emphasized. There are many different stress detection techniques. The most famous of them are the Nemchin-Taylor test, the Holmes scale of life events, the Spielberger test, etc.

To determine if you have stress, try to answer the questions of the rather short test "Diagnosis of stress" by K. Schreiner
  1. I always try to complete the work up to the end, but often do not have time and have to catch up.
  2. When I look at myself in the mirror, I notice traces of fatigue and overwork on my face.
  3. My troubles continue at work and at home
  4. I persistently struggle with my habits, but I can't cope with them.
  5. I am worried about the future.
  6. I often need alcohol, cigarettes or sleeping pills to relax after a busy day.
  7. The head is buzzing due to such changes occuring
  8. I love my family and friends, but I often feel bored and empty with them.
  9. In my life, I have not achieved anything and often experience disappointment in myself.

Processing the results.
0-4 points. You behave in a stressful situation rather restrained and know how to regulate your emotions

5-7 points. You always behave correctly in a stressful situation. Sometimes you know how to maintain self-control, but there are times when you can loose your temper due to a trifle and then regret because of it. You need to work out the development of some individual methods of self-control under stress.

8-9 points. You are overworked and exhausted. You often lose control in a stressful situation and do not know how to control yourself. As a result of this behavior, you and the people around you suffer. Developing self-management skills in stress is your main goal now.

Development of stress tolerance as an important factor in overcoming stress
The ability to overcome stressful situations effectively largely depends on the ability to self-regulation in the main areas of life: emotional-bodily, cognitive-behavioral and valuable.

The emotional-bodily sphere is basic one in the processes of self-regulation, it determines the ability to realize and understand one's feelings and bodily sensations, the ability to control one's emotional state, and understanding of the relationship between emotions and bodily manifestations.

In modern society, a cult of a rational attitude to life is being instilled. However, this is not a natural condition for a person, since emotions are simply necessary for the survival and well-being of a person. Suppression of emotions is the path to stress and depression, which are common causes of a violation of the psychological health of the person and the appearance of psychosomatic diseases.

In the 90s of the last century, thanks to the work of a group of American scientists led by D. Goleman, the concept of emotional intelligence appeared. Emotional intelligence the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior" by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. The results of the studies conducted by these authors showed that healthy and professionally successful people usually showed not very high IQ (cognitive intelligence), but rather high EC - an emotional coefficient, which was later called emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) includes the ability to perceive our own emotions, the ability to manage them, as well as the ability to empathize with other people and competently build relationships. People with high EI can not only realize and express their feelings, but also correlate them with their thoughts and decisions. The fact that all people have feelings and emotions is beyond doubt, but the ability to realize them, regulate and use them for making decisions in personal and professional spheres is significantly different.

According to the psychoanalytic theory of personality development, the basis of emotionality and physicality is laid in infancy and depends on the nature of communication between a mother and a child. Warm emotional contact with the child and adequate satisfaction of his or her physiological needs contribute to the full development of mental structures that form the emotional-bodily sphere of a person. This sphere can be developed and improved providing the physical and psychological well-being of a person. However, with adverse development, the capacity for emotional-bodily understanding undergoes serious violations or does not form at all. In such case a state of sensory-bodily blindness can develop, which is called 'alexithymia' (the term of P. Sifneos). The main psychological characteristics of alexithymia are: difficulties in identifying and describing feelings, inability to differentiate feelings and bodily sensations, lack of imagination, combined with rigidity and concreteness of thinking. This phenomenon is quite common in our lives and is one of the important factors that reduce stress resistance and lead to the development of psychosomatic diseases.

It should be pointed out that the emotional sphere cannot be considered in isolation from the body, because it is known that any emotion especially that one being difficult to recognize finds its own place in the human body. That's why adequate awareness of emotional and bodily sensations is an important factor in maintaining the health and welfare of a person. It's a well-known fact that every stress, causing negative emotions, also produces tension in the body, limiting its mobility and expression. The founder of body-oriented therapy, Wilhelm Reich, was one of the first scientists who paid attention to the relationship of body sensations with emotional experience. According to his theory a person learns specific skills to avoid pain, despair and fear from the childhood. This model of reactions leads to muscle tension and the development of rigid patterns of response and behavior that limit the vitality of the body. Also it can affect a character's structure being reflected in 'a muscle shell' at the bodily level. According to W. Reich, it is necessary to work with this "shell" to solve both physical and psychological problems. Therapy should consist of research the character's structures and awakening emotions, it leads to the release of large reserves of energy spent before this to restriction of bodily impulses. The new pattern can be used for creative forms of adaptation and development of personality. His student and follower, Alexander Lowen, also consider to be of great importance to the free and spontaneous flow of vital energy in the body and noted the important role of feeling support as a necessary condition of the connection between human beings and reality.

An important factor in the development of the bodily part is the formation of subjective relation to your body, i.e. its inclusion into the inner world. In this case the body from the biomechanical structure 'turns' into physicality, expressing the inner mental structure of a person and being his or her integral part. In this context, physicality acts as the basic value of human existence, meaning 'to be alive', 'to be yourself'. Thanks to the developed ability to feel yourself from the inside, contact with the inner world becomes deeper, a conscious internal space that promotes personal growth and the formation of self-identity increases.

For the development of emotional-bodily competence and mastering the skills of self-regulation the different techniques have been successfully applied. There are various relaxation, breathing, and meditation methods, methods with elements of hypnosis, self-hypnosis, visualization, borrowed from eastern spiritual practices. One of these techniques is autogenic training, which is well-known to everyone, and can be used in a wide range of patients. It helps to reduce muscle tone and mental stress, increase awareness of the emotional-bodily state and stabilize physiological functions.

A significant role in the processes of self-regulation is played by the cognitive-behavioral sphere, which determines a person's ability to comprehension and overcome existing difficulties. Important resources in this area are adequate self-esteem, a high level of subjective control, rational cognitive attitudes, positive thinking, an active life position, developed communication skills, etc. They contribute to the formation of constructive coping strategies that help successfully overcome any difficult life situations.

The term 'coping strategies', which is translated from English as 'overcoming' was introduced by R. Lazarus in the study of human behavior in difficult life situations. In his opinion, constructive coping is behavior aimed at achieving success, thinking about a situation, supporting oneself, and unconstructive coping is avoiding a problem, being confused, and suppressing emotions. The improvement of the cognitive-behavioral sphere is facilitated by rational, positive, cognitive-behavioral and other types of psychotherapy.

A. Ellis, the founder of rational psychotherapy, believed that due to upbringing and previous life experience, a person develops stable automatic thoughts that are triggered under certain circumstances. He called them cognitive errors or irrational attitudes. The most common of them are attitudes of obligation, catastrophism, dichotomous thinking, perfectionism, etc. Rational therapy according to Ellis is aimed at overcoming these attitudes and saving a person from destructive experiences as a result the energy spent previously on indignation and unnecessary experiences is sent to constructive track, i.e. to increase personal effectiveness and the rational transformation of life.

N. Peseschkian is the founder of positive psychotherapy aimed at the development of positive thinking based on a positive interpretation of feelings to yourself, current events and the world around. In his opinion, this position promotes personal growth, mobilization of internal resources and the successful overcoming of life difficulties. Also, according to his teachings, in order to achieve a successful and healthy life, it is necessary to distribute energy between work, communication, caring for the body and soul evenly.

And, finally, resources of the personal value sphere, implying commitment to universal values, search for living a full life even in difficult life conditions, preserving the old meanings and creating new goals, are of great importance in the processes of self-regulation. The first person who pay attention to the great significance of the goal in human life was Viktor Frankl, author of the books 'Say YES to life', 'Man's Searching of Meaning' and others. Frankl who himself survived the horrors of Auschwitz and Dachau and watched a lot of different people, believed that people would have more chances to survive if they directed to the future, to the goal that awaited them, to the meaning that they wanted to realize. According to his thoughts, there is no more effective help for survival in the world even in the most terrible conditions than knowing that your life makes sense. He created a whole direction in psychology called 'logotherapy', which helps a person to set and achieve life goals.

The domestic psychologist F. Vasilyuk, studying the process of experiencing tragic situations by various people, revealed the following types of grief experience: destructive, hedonistic, realistic and valuable. In his opinion, the value type of experience is most productive, raising a person to a new level of development and contributing to the generation of new life senses and goals to replace for the lost ones.

The person's spiritual dimension is also an important factor in maintaining health and developing stress tolerance. It implies a person's faith in goodness, mind, justice, faith in God as the highest human justice. A number of studies have shown the great role of spiritual health as an important factor in stress tolerance. Unfortunately, the problem of modern society is that the value structure of life is fundamentally violated. True universal values and meanings are replaced by momentary mostly mercantile goals. As a result, there's the emerging of consumer society, which a priori is deprived of its future. A person in such a society becomes only a cog in the global consumer system. He or she loses the individuality being the true value and meaning of the life.

Existential and humanistic methods of psychotherapy and, of course, the spiritual and moral way of life of the family and society contribute to the formation and development of resources of the value sphere.

How to cope with exam stress.
The situation of the exam and preparation for it refers to that kind of stressors those can be actively influenced to using the following recommendations.

1. Arrange your classes correctly. Do not chain yourself to your desk 24 hours a day. After 2 to 3 hours, you won't understand what you are reading with a guarantee. That's why be sure to alternate work with rest.

2. Eat well. Feed your brain with healthy food!

3. The full-fledged sleep is vital. Insomnia starts at the exam period. Make it a rule to go to bed and get up at certain times.

4. Do not hang around. Do something when you're preparing for the exam. This will not leave you time for empty fears. You can do some sports, go dancing, drawing or start cooking.

5. Praise yourself, it is necessary to increase self-confidence.

6. Avoid panic attacks. Getting nervous before the exam is natural, but panic is unproductive because you cannot think clearly.

7. The fastest and most effective way to overcome feelings of stress and panic is to close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Such breathing can calm down your nervous system.

8. Do not keep everything inside. Looking for support from friends and relatives and sharing your problems with them, you can thereby reduce your anxiety significantly before the upcoming exam.

A very important resource for stress tolerance in situations of exam stress is the mastery of psychophysiological self-regulation methods including various breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, visualization, self-hypnosis, etc. Their use allows you to reduce anxiety, fear, irritability, activate memory, thinking, normalize sleep, autonomic dysfunctions, etc.

Breathing techniques
According to Tibetan doctors, the longer the exhale, the longer the life. Our breathing becomes more superficial with neuropsychic stress, and as a result of which the body is provided with only a minimal amount of oxygen, which can negatively affect our somatic and emotional state. Conscious breathing control is one of the oldest methods of controlling stress. Yogis consider breathing to be the most important of all body functions, because all other function depend on it.

Exercise 'Concentration on breathing' - try to concentrate on your breathing for 5 minutes. This will allow you to escape from external stimuli, to recover, to get away from obsessive thoughts, and also to find a comfortable breathing rhythm at the physiological level and normalize internal processes.

Relaxation methods
Chinese proverb - when a person is calm, complex events appear simple.

Under stress muscle tension and clamps occur. That leads to the abnormal flow of vital energy. Relaxation techniques are aimed at understanding muscle clamps and developing muscle relaxation skills. Relaxation also helps to deepen and slow down breathing, palpitations, increase blood flow, normalize metabolic processes, etc. Muscular relaxation also contributes to psychological relaxation, especially if the appropriate musical accompaniment is used.

The method of 'Gathering the body' - try to mentally inspect your body from the feet to the top of the head and discover areas of skeletal muscle, where you feel stiff or discomfort. After determining the most stressed part of the body, you need to concentrate on it and silently repeat several times the self-hypnosis formula such as 'My body relaxes and calms down'. After a while, you will feel a sense of pleasant relaxation and peace.

Visualization and self-hypnosis methods
"You're never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true." Richard Bach

Most of our lives we use logical thinking to analyze our problems and to improve adaptation to life situations. Visualization activates the work of the right hemisphere. That balances and harmonizes the work of the brain. Today it is proved that visualization can cause a change in the blood flow, blood sugar level, it can influence digestion processes, the work of the heart, the immune system, etc.

The technique of 'Balloon'. Imagine a deflated balloon above your head. Take a deep breath and, when you exhale, imagine how all your worries and anxieties and various troubles fill this ballon. You are completely free from these worries, filling them with a balloon. Then, taking another deep breath, while exhaling, visualize how the balloon flies away and disappears, taking with it all your worries and problems that you put into it. This is a great technique that is good to use before bedtime, especially if the problems keep you awake.

The exercise to create a strategy for successful behavior in the exam.

You are invited to create a mental model of your successful exam and turn this situation over in your mind several times. Thus, a unique program of successful activity can be created, which can significantly increase the effectiveness of your activity.

In conclusion, it's important to mention a key phrase of the founder of the doctrine of stress H. Selye: 'You should not be afraid of stress, it never happens only when you're dead. Stress must be managed. Controlled stress has the taste and scent of life'.