How to recognize stress and what to do with it? - Move2Armenia

How to recognize stress and what to do with it?

How to recognize stress and what to do with it?

When serious upheavals occur, such as those that occurred on September 19, 2023 in Artsakh, our psyche cannot help but react. Some people face anxiety, others are affected by depression or other psychological problems.

So that any person, be it a refugee, a volunteer or just a sympathizer, can figure out what is happening to him and what to do about it, we turned to psychologist Inna Hayrapetyan. She has already experienced several wars and knows about the consequences associated with them. Together we will publish several articles that will help differentiate between diagnoses, because we often mistakenly make them for ourselves.

Let's start with stress.


  1. Stress: benefits and harms, causes and signs
  2. What stress does to us
  3. How to cope with stress
    1. Return to reality
    2. Free yourself from heavy thoughts
    3. Act according to your values

Stress: benefits and harms, causes and signs

Stress is emotional tension that occurs under the influence of an unfavorable factor or problem.

Stress may seem to only have negative consequences, but it can actually have positive effects as well. Thus, a short-term stressful situation triggers the production of hormones (adrenaline, cortisone) and activates the work of immune cells. Thanks to this, people's memory improves for a short time, immune defense increases, the rate of tissue restoration increases, mental abilities are activated, the endurance of the central nervous system increases and the functioning of all senses improves.

In case of standard life difficulties, immediately after eliminating the negative factor (or a combination of them), the mood returns to normal. But if a person is regularly exposed to stress, then the body constantly works under tension. As a result, he quickly consumes accumulated resources and strength and a “breakdown” of protective mechanisms occurs.

Some causes of stress: family quarrel and even more so violence, fear of the future, conflict at work, illness. Now stress is caused by uncertainty, loss of home, emergency evacuation and inability to provide for family.

First sign of stress – is the persistence of a bad mood for more than 14 days. In this case, there may be a slight improvement in the condition, but most of the time the person remains irritable and depressed.

Stress has negative impact on the body. Calls:

  • headache;
  • stomach and intestinal disorders;
  • pain in the back, neck and shoulders;
  • heaviness in the chest;
  • muscle tension;
  • lump in the throat;
  • lack of hunger;
  • skin rash;
  • infection.

When under stress, many people:

  • can't concentrate;
  • lose their temper quickly;
  • cannot sit still;
  • have difficulty sleeping;
  • feel very tired;
  • experience changes in appetite;
  • feel sad or guilty;
  • worry;
  • crying.

Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

What stress does to us

We figured out what stress looks like. Now you need to understand what the mechanisms of its operation are, how it causes the symptoms listed above.

We all periodically think about bad events that happened to us in the past, or that we are afraid of facing in the future. These strong thoughts and feelings are inherent in any stress, but if they "They're hooking us" and they don’t let go, then this is where problems arise.

Moreover, you can fall into the bait of unkind thoughts and feelings even at the happiest moment. For example, you are at dinner with your family, enjoying yourself, and everything is fine. But suddenly you are overcome with anger, as if it is pulling you away from your family, although physically you are still at the same table.

What painful thoughts most often haunt us:

  • judging others: “He shouldn’t have done that. It's his fault"; 
  • harsh judgments about oneself: “I’m a weak person”, “I’m crazy”;
  • the desire to give up: “I can’t do it anymore,” “It’s all too hard”;
  • memories, especially of adverse events and insults in childhood;
  • thoughts about a terrible future;
  • concern for others: “Is she okay?”, “Where is he now?”

Negative thoughts also affect behavior. We begin to do things that make our lives worse, such as withdrawing into ourselves, withdrawing from loved ones, staying in bed for a long time, getting into arguments, conflicts, and even getting into fights. Experts call this all "movements away"because by doing this we moving away from our values.

Here it is important to delve deeper into the concept of values. Psychologist Inna Hayrapetyan calls them innermost desires about what a person wants to be, what kind of treatment he wants for himself, others and the world around him.

Values should not be confused with goals. The latter reflect what you are trying to get, not who you are trying to become. Let's say your goal is to find a job so you can help people you care about. Then your values are kindness, caring, love and support. This is the kind of person you want to be towards your loved ones.

So, stress is associated with negative thoughts and feelings, and sometimes they are so painful and strong that they turn into "emotional storms", which can easily overpower you, throw you off balance and tear you away from reality.

Photo: Alex Green

How to cope with stress

As you can see, the impact of stress is great, but it can be managed. We tell you how to do this.

Return to reality

First you need learn to concentrate, engage in life and focus attention, because stress makes us detached and distracted. This does not get rid of the “hook” of painful thoughts and feelings, but it helps you give your full attention to those close to you, move towards your values and focus on what you are doing, therefore getting more satisfaction from your activities. In addition, concentration is needed to perform monotonous or irritating actions.

If concentration and concentration are not difficult to imagine, then what does it mean to be “on”? And this means giving something your full attention, even mundane things.

You can develop inclusion skills during any activity. For example, when you drink tea or coffee, focus all your attention on it. Watch this drink with curiosity, as if you have never seen it before. Pay attention to its color, feel its smell, temperature. Hold the drink on your tongue, feel it on your teeth, slowly take a small sip and enjoy the taste. Pay attention to the movements of your throat. Notice how the taste disappears from your tongue. And take each subsequent sip the same way: slowly, noticing all the details and enjoying.

You can also practice while talking with friends and family. Pay attention to what they say, their intonation and facial expressions. Whenever you get caught up in negative thoughts and feelings, focus your attention.

If you are covered emotional storm, negative feelings are incredibly strong, and it seems that you cannot cope with them, you need "ground yourself". What does it mean?

Imagine that a real storm begins and you are high in a tree. Of course it's dangerous. You need to get down to earth as quickly as possible, where you will be safer and can even help other people. It’s the same with emotions: to cope with them, you need pay attention to how you feel and what you think.

1. Slow down and connect with your body. Breathe slowly. Exhale the air from your lungs completely, then fill them with air as slowly as possible. Slowly press your feet toward the floor, slowly extend your arms, or slowly clasp your palms together.

2. Switch your attention to the world around you. Look where you are. Name five objects around you, three or four sounds that you hear. Breathe in. What smell do you smell? Think about what you are doing. Touch your knee, the surface underneath you, or any object. What do you feel under your fingers? Notice the emergence of painful thoughts and feelings in you.

Grounding will not make your emotional storms go away, but it will keep you safe until you feel calmer. Be prepared that some storms last a long time.

When we engage in life, pay attention to others, focus on what we are doing, and live in accordance with our values, we cope with stress much better. Develop these skills throughout the day whenever possible. You can make a plan. Think about when, where and how many times you will do grounding exercises without causing discomfort. Even one or two minutes is enough. You can resort to grounding even if you have difficulty falling asleep.

Free yourself from heavy thoughts

We have listed exercises that help you not fall out of life. But how can you cope with painful thoughts and feelings?

Surely you have already tried to get rid of the negativity that has filled your consciousness. Maybe you screamed, stayed in bed for a long time, drank alcohol, smoked a lot, argued or criticized yourself. Think about or write down your methods. Some of them have an effect, but it is short-lived. In addition, they often alienate us from values and only worsen the condition.

It is much more effective not to push thoughts and feelings away, but to stop fighting them and acknowledge them. This will give you a feeling of release.

Before you begin the exercises, identify and write down what thoughts and feelings are bothering you. Maybe sad events of the past, self-criticism, fear of the future. If there are unpleasant sensations in the body, note where they are.

Next you will need A few steps to freeing yourself from thoughts and feelings:

1. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Say to yourself, “I have a thought” or “I have a feeling.”

2. Name them to yourself. For example, “I notice that I am overcome with anger” or “I notice that my chest is compressed.”

Paying attention to and naming thoughts and feelings is important because they hook us precisely when we are unaware of them. For example, at some point you are talking with a friend and listening to her with interest, and the next you are overwhelmed by negativity, and you are no longer “involved” in the conversation. Then psychological exercises will be needed.

Try these steps right now.

3. Switch your focus to what you are doing.

No matter what you do, immerse yourself in it, give your attention to the task or those around you. You might say, “I notice how angry I feel. Despite the feelings of anger, I choose to act on my values by turning my attention to my family and getting involved in life.”

When you notice that you are caught up in thoughts and feelings, repeat these steps. It may be difficult, for example, you are too tired, sad, or maybe you just don’t feel like doing exercise and you consider it a useless activity. In such cases, remind yourself that nothing comes easy right away. Pay attention, name the thoughts that are interfering with your practice, and switch.

The main thing to remember is that stress is natural and happens to everyone. By engaging in life, accepting our thoughts, we act in accordance with our values - we take care of ourselves. Let's talk about values next.

Act according to your values

Even if you find yourself in a very difficult situation and many of your goals are unattainable, you can still act in accordance with your values - being kind, caring, loving and supportive.

The more attention you pay to your actions, the more you influence the world around you: people and situations. Therefore, ask yourself questions all the time: “Are my actions consistent with my values?”, “Where are they leading me: towards or away from values?”

If your country is in a state, you cannot stop the fighting, but you can stop fighting with people in your community and instead act according to your values.

Remember that even the smallest actions matter. For example, if you want to be kind and responsible towards your child, then the smallest action towards your value could be playing together or reading a story for 10 minutes every day.

We advise you to draw up an action plan; they can be small and simple. Even think about what you will do with your hands, feet, and what you will say. For example, choose a relationship that is important to you. What actions could you take with this person over the next week that are consistent with your values? Will these actions move you towards your values or away from your values?

Often, as soon as we start thinking about upcoming actions, painful thoughts and feelings appear. If so, you now know what to do. Pay attention to them, call them: “I notice that I have a painful thought about the complexity of the task.” And then get involved in the world around you: see, try, feel, hear, touch something around you.

Aim to think about two or three values every day that you want to live by and look for opportunities to take action. You can say the following words: “I act in accordance with my values.”

So now you have three effective tools:

  1. Grounding.
  2. Getting off the hook.
  3. Act according to your values.

Remember this and use it to work with your problems. Change what you can; accept the pain of what cannot be changed; follow your values.

Even in the most unfavorable situation, you can still find meaning in life, purpose and energy.

Thank yourself for reading this article and stay healthy.

The article uses material from [Doing what matters in times of stress: an illustrated guide]. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

Might be interesting: “What to do if you are overwhelmed by anxiety: advice from psychologists”.

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