By Clifford Sawhney February 2001 Interestingly, it is possible to convert stress-building thoughts into stress-busting ones. Here are ten sure ways for managing stress in our life. 1. Time Management Tips Time is money, said Benjamin Franklin. Centuries later, the dictum still holds. Which is why management guru Peter F. Drucker said: ‘Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.’ Time is inelastic-once squandered, it is lost forever. Make sure that every waking and working moment is used productively. You could do this by being organized and avoiding clutter. If pressed for time, plan and prioritize your tasks by preparing a checklist. If you still have your hands full, delegate. Indecision and procrastination are two of the biggest time wasters. Rid your life of both. To quote Sant Kabir: ‘Kal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab.’ Having outlined what task(s) you wish to accomplish, set a deadline. A job without a deadline is akin to a boat without a sail. If possible, split your task into sub-tasks, each with individual deadlines, keeping the final deadline in mind. Ensure that staff meetings are kept to the minimum. At every meeting, adhere to a prior agenda so that time is not lost in ‘putting things in perspective’. At the workplace, avoid/reduce personal calls. Besides, keep official conversations to their polite brief. And when you mean no, say NO. Beating about the bush is only productive if you’re out on shikar. Years ago, the Japanese developed a beautiful tool called Kaizen, to boost efficiency and productivity through simpler, faster and/or cheaper techniques and tools. You too could discover your own tools to save on time and costs, instead of waiting for the Japanese to do so! 2. Creative Visualization This is a technique for mobilizing inner resources for success or whatever else you desire. Begin by having an idea, or image, of what you want to create and then accept that to fulfill your goals you have to imagine your present reality transformed into something you want. In short, you create a vision, believe in that vision and pursue it till accomplishment. This can be used for material success. Or to handle aches, pains and stress. Suppose you have a constant pain in your right elbow caused by daylong work at the computer terminal. Every morning before getting up from bed and every night before sleeping, visualize your healthy left elbow. Then overlap the elbows and visualize your right elbow as a fighting fit body part. This technique is also used to destress. Begin by lying down or sitting comfortably. Now close your eyes and visualize a tranquil place, one you have actually been to or an imaginary one. Make it vivid: A beautiful Himalayan valley full of flowers spanning the spectrum of rainbow colors. A cool, gentle breeze is wafting the fragrance of these exotic flowers all around. Your ears register the mellifluous music of birdsong and the soothing trickle of a gurgling mountain stream. Leaves rustle in the wind as a magpie robin trills its love song to seduce a teasing female and a pair of lovelorn koels answer each other’s calls at rapid intervals. Now visualize the stress slowly trickling out of your fingers and toes like grains of sand from a sand clock. Sixty seconds later, your mind is completely calm, your body totally relaxed. You feel you’re in the Garden of Eden. Indeed, you are. Mentally. Gradually let this image fade away and return to reality. You are back in your room. Sans the stress. Feeling absolutely refreshed. Relaxed. Light, instrumental and soothing music in the background could aid the visualization process. Use creative visualization twice or thrice a day and see it work wonders. 3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation A technique developed by American physiologist Edmund Jacobson, described in his book Progressive Relaxation (1929), it is based on the premise that anxiety-provoking thoughts and situations create muscular tension. The trick is to deliberately heighten muscular tension and then relax. Here’s a simplified variation of his original technique: • Clasp your hands behind the back of your head. Push your head back into your hands even as you tighten your arms to shove the head forward. Hold this position till a count of eight. Then release the tension and relax. Repeat thrice. • Clench your fists, flex the biceps and crunch the pectoral muscles while tensing the shoulders, back and upper body. Hold till a count of eight. Release tension. Relax. Repeat thrice. • Raise your knees while you lie down, cup your palms behind each knee cap and as you press the knees upwards and out pull your hands inwards while tensing the entire lower body. Hold till eight. Release tension. Relax. Repeat thrice. • Tense your entire body simultaneously, hold up to a count of eight. Release tension and relax. Repeat thrice. Remember to tense each muscle group for a maximum of eight seconds and relax for up to 30 seconds before the next repetition. Throughout, focus on the sensations of tension and relaxation. Do not do this exercise before or after a heavy meal. An excellent stress buster for quick relief. 4. Laughter ‘A laugh a day keeps the doctor away’ is a dictum the Marx Brothers would happily swear by. Besides doctors, laughter also keeps lawsuits at bay. No kidding! In the 1940s, the Marx Bros made a film titled Night in Casablanca. Whereupon they received a notice from Warner Bros threatening to sue the Marx Brothers if the latter didn’t change the name of their film. Warner Bros felt aggrieved as they already had a hit film entitled Casablanca. The Marx Bros responded by saying that they would be suing Warner Bros if the latter didn’t drop Bros from their name since the Marx Bros were born before the Warners! Predictably, Warner Bros saw sense. Small wonder then that many medical practitioners have advocated a happy, positive mindset as a means to healthy living. When Sir Heneage Ogilvie, a specialist at Guy’s Hospital, London, made a statement in the 1950s that ‘a happy man never gets cancer’, he was speaking from years of experience, although he knew his words weren’t an inflexible fact and there could be exceptions. A man with a cheerful disposition has the ability to instantly light up a room full of solemn people. If disease can be contagious, laughter is doubly so. Laughter can also act as a catharsis in various emotional disorders. Which is why laughter clubs are mushrooming in metropolitan cities with their aficionados visiting parks in the early morning to indulge in their day’s quota of a bellyful of uproarious laughter. And the best thing about laughter as a therapy is… it’s free! Enjoy! 5. Hobbies Empirical evidence since the 1950s indicates that aches and ailments tend to mushroom after retirement and death looms larger than ever. Once-busy people who couldn’t spare any ‘time to kill’ find all the time on their hands, which is killing-literally and figuratively. As the adage goes: An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. It is also a workshop for atrophy and disease of the body, mind and spirit, since any faculty that isn’t used rapidly deteriorates. To pre-empt quicker aging, retired people should begin a second innings by learning a new skill or cultivating a hobby. One could try painting, some form of craft, learn a foreign language or begin a collection-philately, numismatology (coins), deltiology (picture postcards) or anything else that enthralls you. Those not interested in picking up a new hobby could revive past flames-and we aren’t thinking about the opposite sex! Writing, cooking, gardening, flower making, listening to music, singing, maintaining a fish tank or doing anything that is relaxing and enjoyable would qualify as a hobby. One of the most soothing and rewarding hobbies is maintaining a fish tank. As an element of relaxation, nothing beats water. It is natural, soft, transparent, and not just its sight, but even the sound of trickling water soothes frayed nerves. And if there are exotic and colorful fish in the tank, it adds to the joy of the experience. ‘Hobbies help us ventilate, redefine focus and allow one to indulge in activities that are health-stimulating in nature,’ concurs Dr Chugh. Go ahead and discover the hobby of your life. 6. Vacation There might be times at the workplace when you will run around like a headless chicken as a deadline nears. The sheer pressure of work might make you feel like exploding or imploding. This is especially true if you are in the hotel, advertising, airline, public relations, IT, media or foreign banking industry. In which case, you might need to get away from it all once in six months or so. Take a break from work and go trekking in the hills, have a ball on the beach or go wherever it suits your budget and inclination. And ensure you don’t take anything that’s even remotely connected with your work. No, not even your mobile! This is your break from the grind of daily routine, buddy. This will ensure you enjoy your vacation in toto. Besides destressing, your body and mind will be recharged and you’ll be raring to pick up the gauntlet once you’re back in town. 7. Exercise Stress has the uncanny knack of creeping up on most people and overstaying as a chronic companion, whether one likes it or not. Chronic stress can lead to constant aches and tensions in the muscles and joints of the body. Such stress is always cumulative and inevitably finds an outlet through the weakest link in the body or mind. If an organ gives way, you could be saddled with heart, kidney, lung, liver or some other problem. Even cancer. If your mind caves in, you could end up with emotional problems or even suffer a nervous breakdown. But relax!
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