Advice from a Friend on Stress

by W. Williams

From PHN Issue 31, Winter 2017

Stress is the physical and psychological reaction to a challenging or adverse stimulus (anything causing a response).

Anyone who has experienced prison to some degree has experienced stress. Stress is a part of life. But excessive stress can be highly damaging and may contribute to physical or mental illness. Some examples of excessive stress are grief over the death of a loved one, doing time in solitary confinement, and missing family, friends and loved ones. The list can go on for us locked behind the wall.

Stress can also have a negative effect on the immune system. The immune system is a primary player in the network of the body’s defenses. When the body’s defenses are down due to stress, we are usually more prone to contracting an illness.

Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that two months after the death of their spouses, widowers suffered a depressed immune function. During stressful times, the body releases large quantities of a steroid known as cortisol, which limits the ability of white blood cells to respond normally to infection.

Ways to Beat Stress in Prison

Learning techniques to cope with the day-to-day stress of prison life can mean the difference between being healthy or sick.

Writing, reading, playing sports and meditation are just some of the ways one can release stress in the concrete jungle called prison. Another way of coping with stress is listening to music. This can take your mind off of stressful situations.

Reading is a very good way for me to keep my mind strong. I love to read autobiographies, biographies and books written by great minds, such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and Antigone by Sophocles (translated by Robert Fagles), just to name a few. When I read, it allows me to take my mind off of things that may be stressful to me at the time, while giving me a different view of the world around me.

Writing is another tool I use to fight back the stress. When I write my feelings down, it allows me to release and express my feelings in a productive and positive way. A journal is the best way to write your feelings, because I find that you can go back and reflect on your writings.

The most helpful out of the above is working out. The best time for me to work out is in the morning. I like to do a little bit of everything, such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips, running and lifting weights. I like to work out five to six days a week. Push-ups and pull-ups are the best exercises that work to manage stress, because they require me to use my whole body. Exercise can keep you physically and mentally strong.

The above, I feel, work for me because they help me to grow and feel better about myself mentally and physically. They also help me to keep my mind off of things that can start me to stress. Mostly things that I can’t control make me start to stress out. These are just some of my ways of releasing stress.

One of my most important goals is to get home. I know that staying well and healthy will help me get out and stay out.

Sources:

American Medical Association Complete Medical Encyclopedia

The Natural Pharmacy Product Guide

Webster’s Dictionary

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