To stress or not to stress?

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In a city that fosters the world’s tallest sky-scrapper, a man-made palm-shaped island, the world’s largest indoor theme park and town sized malls and the infamous desert skyline – Dubai, a relatively new city, has become the definition of luxury in the region.

Simultaneously, in a city where time is money, many residents undergo certain pressures in effort to maintain the status-co and can eventually encounter somewhat of a stressful lifestyle.

Thus, in efforts to maintain a modern life, the challenges of balancing work, health and personal lives can eventually become overwhelming and stressful.

Stress is a mental state of tensed circumstances that may sometimes lead to physical or mental obstacles.

One study by The American Psychology Association (APA) has shown that money, work and family were the top sources of significant stress in 2015.

Also, within the past year, a quarter of UK employees took time off of work due to stress, according to another study.

While many of them reported the idea of approaching their boss with a stress-related work problem to have negatively added to their dilemma.

Ultimately, combining to a total loss of 13.7 million working days each year of stress-related problems in the UK.

Dr. Jigar Rasiklal Jogia, a researcher and Associate Professor at the American University of Dubai (AUD) affirmed that stress sees no boundaries and affects many of us worldwide,

“Stress is the body’s response to any kind of demand or threat or event called stressors that we appraise as threatening or challenging. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones.”

“It could be found in all regions and areas of work, households or the public and could affect people in different intensities,” Dr. Jogia added.

There is, however, a stigma towards admitting that any kind of mental dilemma exists in the region, with many attributing stress to prehistoric ways of life and just a passing phase,

“I don’t really believe that stress can affect a person’s life greatly.”

“All our ancestors and grandparents have undergone even more stressful environments, such as wars, famine or immigration to foreign countries without half of the facilities available to us today. Somehow they have managed to continue with their lives regardless,” said Erik Makhul, a recent graduate from the American University of Beirut.

Yet studies have shown that some people are more vulnerable to the effects of stress than others and can experience it at different phases in life – APA has reported that U.S teens between 9th and 12th grade experience stress that may bear long term implications.

In other recent cases has been the U.S elections and the win of President-elect Donald Trump that has caused stress amongst U.S adults.

With a heated presidential campaign between the two electors during the past year, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have caused almost 52% of Americans to report feelings of stress towards the U.S election.

“We’re seeing that it doesn’t matter whether you’re registered as a Democrat or Republican — U.S. adults say they are experiencing significant stress from the current election,” says APA’s associated executive director, Lynn Bufka, on the website.

“Election stress becomes exacerbated by arguments, stories, images and videos on social media that can heighten concern and frustration, particularly with thousands of comments that can range from factual to hostile or even inflammatory,” she added.

Nonetheless, an uncommon idea is the notion that stress may not necessarily be a bad thing,

“Extreme or prolonged stress can cause harm in numerous ways and lead to poor health and well being but a certain amount of stress has been said to build resilience.” Dr. Jigar Jogia said.

With Dr. Jogia concluding that certain amounts of stress might help others thrive in areas such as the workplace or institutions, “where a level of competitiveness may unlock creativity, endurance and improve overall performance.”

Students at the American University of Dubai also reported feelings of stress during the school year like Sarah Skaf, who said,

“Stress has a big impact on my life, it affects me negatively sometimes and slows me down when I am trying to get things done in time. It also stresses me out when the job I hand in isn’t perfect or up to my standards.”

Other students think a stressful educational environment is actually the only way to go,

“Stress can make me feel really good, I do feel pressured but I end up getting a lot of work done. It gives me a sense of urgency and fulfillment, especially when the task is completed,“ said Dana Hachwa.

“It’s as if my brain is doing cardio and it feels refreshing!” She added.

If not handled properly, stress can have detrimental impacts on our moods and actions, which is why many professionals recommend adding healthy habits and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, talking to someone about it and finally getting enough sleep.

Just like Aisha Buhari, a student at the American University concluded,

“Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I make sure I take some time to relax and catch up on some sleep for a bit before I jump back into my deadlines and submissions.”

Whether you’re feeling stressed at work, in school or in life, treat yourself to some time off and catch up on your favorite show, visit a nearby park or keep hitting that snooze button because it has never been a bad idea to just unwind and relax!

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AquaYoga

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For some, the sunrise means the start of a new day and time to brew a fresh cup of coffee, get ready and head to work.

For others living in the bustling city of Dubai, the rise of the sun means it’s time to squeeze in the day’s workout before being pinned at the work desk for the next 9 hours.

As the sun rises up in the sky, residents in the city engage in various available workout options ranging from jogging around the palm, making their way to their community gym, joining a workout class or attending an outdoor cross fit class.

Moreover, in the latest splash-worthy workout craze that has made it’s way to Dubai, residents are oddly turning to inflatable water matts for their source of exercise.

Getting dressed to go to the gym, exercise enthusiasts get into a pool and swim to their aqua yoga matts and climb on top for an intensive 30-minute barefoot workout.

According to UK-based website, The Daily Mail, the high intensity workout, that consists of short exercise bursts, is scientifically proven to shed hundreds of calories in a minimal amount of time.

For those with a tight schedule, this newly active workout, otherwise known as Aquaphysical, is designed to give you an effective workout in as little as 30-minutes on a floating and inflatable yoga matt board.

Risking the chance of being plunged in cold water, trainees perform sets of squats, burpees and push-ups alternated by yoga stretches all the while keeping their balance in-check.

American fitness pioneer Leila Francis Coleman, who at the age of 27 left her job as a business analyst to become a fitness trainer had originated the unordinary workout.

Getting inspired after spending most of her life sailing in the ocean, Leila would experience body aches in her efforts to stay afloat,

“My muscles would go into overdrive trying to give me enough stability not to get tipped off the dingy.”

She had then decided that a water-type exercise was an efficient niche exercise to look into.

After taking some time to study the industry and design the perfect aqua matt, Leila launched the water-based workout in swimming pools across the US earlier this year.

Not soon after, the crazed workout had made its way to Dubai at The Burj Club in the world-recognized Burj Khalifa through PUMA’s DO YOU women’s fitness campaign.

“It was a weekend of fitness and fashion where we involved a lot of studios and gyms from around Dubai to participate in the event,” said Samyukta Ranganathan, senior marketing manager at PUMA Middle East.

The only ladies gym, was one of the first to host the unique workout class in their indoor swimming pool with the corresponding aqua matts.

“Everyone loved it – it was different and challenging and a lot of fun.”

“A lot of people signed up for classes after seeing other people try it out,” Ranganathan added.

The PUMA team had decided to include the unique workout in their latest brand campaign after noticing the feedback received online, especially the amount of Facebook shares the exercise had gotten in such a short amount of time.

“We thought it would be a really cool workout to bring to the UAE since it hadn’t been done before and we were hosting a large women’s event and wanted to include this,” Ranganathan said.

Many, however, are skeptical of the workout and its benefits.

Leila has explained to The Daily Mail, that exercising on the board on top of water works the core and raises the heart rate because of the body’s effort to maintain balance throughout different workout positions.

Brendan Venter from a cross fit gym in Dubai backed up the effectiveness of Leila’s balance-focused exercise and said,

“When you are trying to stay balanced, the most muscles used are the core muscles because they connect to every other body part and are basically the backbone to a person’s balance.”

“A balance exercise on its own might not be effective but trying to maintain the balance while performing another type of exercise is definitely a different and great way to get in shape!” He concluded.

So regardless of how Dubai residents stay in shape, perhaps trying to make a splash in the pool might be a good enough reason to beat the scorching desert heat!