Changing Students’ Perception of Stress from “Ew, Stress” into “Eustress”
How many times have you said that you were stressed today? Does that mean you have a problem? Does that mean you need help? If so, where can you get help? And if you are a Malaysian student, continue reading!
What is stress?
Everyone experiences stress on a daily basis in our daily routine or a sudden change whether good or bad. Stress is just our body’s reaction to any situations in life that requires a response.
Is all stress bad?
Not at all! Stress is generally perceived as something bad. Hence, Hans Selye (1975) coined the word “eustress” (combining the Greek prefix eu-, meaning good, with stress) to distinguish it from negative stress.
This positive stress can induce an automatic process where the body releases stress hormones which rouse the body for emergency actions a.k.a. “fight or flight response” (Segal, Smith, Segal, Robinson, 2019). It is not only aimed at survival but also creates positive reactions like making us more energised, focused, or alert and gives us a better overall performance during a test, presentation, a long but important lecture and etc (Mills, Reiss and Dombeck, 2018).
When does stress become bad?
Prolonged or excessive stress can lead to distress or negative stress. The result is that we no longer reap the benefits of eustress and could in turn have negative effects on us emotionally and physically in varying intensities (National Health Service, 2019).
Figure 2. The Eustress Stress Diagram. Adapted from “What is Eustress And How is It Different than Stress?” by Juliette Tocino-Smith, 2019. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-eustress/.
However, stress itself is not a mental illness but long-term stress could cause mental health problems (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2019). We can reduce these negative outcomes by managing our stress, but how are we currently managing it? Are we managing it effectively?
Ever heard or even said “oh, I was stress-eating”? Many of us employ various means to relieve our stress whether it is going shopping, exercising or etc. Some of us may be resorting to certain substances to relieve stress which could leave the body in a stress state and cause more problems. It becomes a vicious cycle (Cleveland Clinic, 2015).
Do I need to get help?
There are many ways to properly destress but it depends on how we respond to stress. Some of us may be crippled by it and our go-to remedy is insufficient to get us out of that hole. Sometimes we have to admit that we just need guidance to get through it.
The problem is the stigma in Malaysia, especially amongst us students where we equate seeking help to going crazy or being “weak”. This thinking prevents people from seeking help that is very accessible and free! The reality is that mental illness is a growing problem in Malaysia. According to Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Hannah Yeoh, the Social Welfare Department (JKM) saw 1,929 people come in for psychological and counselling services in 2019, a 300% increase from 671 people in 2018 (Nazari, 2019).
Where can I seek help?
Are you a student? You don’t need to look far. You can always ask if there are counsellors in your school, college or university. It is highly likely that there are licensed counsellors and the service it is for free.
“but why should I approach someone that I don’t know?” Well, it can be very refreshing to have a professional hear you out and talk it through. They are there to help you understand and discuss potential solutions for the problems you are facing, not to tell you what to do and certainly not to judge you. Remember that this is all private and confidential and in a safe environment.
However, if you do not have access to counselling in your institution, or you would like to get help elsewhere, here’s a list of places:
- MMHA (https://mmha.org.my/find-help/psychological-support-services/)
- Befrienders (https://www.befrienders.org.my/services)
- INPSYCH (http://www.inpsych.com.my/individual-counselling-psychotherapy)
- MIASA (https://miasa.org.my/blog/counselling-services/)
Are you a BAC/ IACT student?
Did you know that BAC & IACT has free counselling services in both the KL and PJ campus? All you need to do is book an appointment through the numbers listed below:
03-22744165 (BAC KL Campus)
03-79600063 (BAC PJ Campus)
03-79321936 (IACT College)
Cleveland Clinic. (2015). Stress. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress.
Mills, H., Reiss, N., & Dombeck, M. (2018). Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress). Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/stress/types-of-stressors-eustress-vs-distress/.
National Health Service. (2019). Stress. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2019). 5 Things You Should Know About Stress (NIH Publication No. 19-MH-8109). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.
Nazari, T. (2019, November). Why it’s so difficult to get mental health treatment in M’sia & how to fix it. Retrieved from https://www.therakyatpost.com/2019/11/08/why-its-so-difficult-to-get-mental-health-treatment-in-msia-and-how-we-can-fix-it-evergreen/.
Segal, J., Smith, M., Segal, R., & Robinson, L. (2019, October). Stress symptoms, signs, and Causes. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm.
Selye, H. (1975). Stress Without Distress. [New York] New American Library