By Jamuna Rangachari May 2009 ‘Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”-Thomas Jefferson Handle RelationshipsNever allow communication to break down. Do not mix up issuesTherapies to counter stressFood and lifestyleWalkingSound and music therapyBiofeedbackCranio-sacral therapyEmotional Freedom TechniqueNeuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)Silva MethodYoga and t’ai chiVisualisation and affirmationsDe-Stress WorkDo not carry work-related stress homeEven in an existing job, make yourself more useful.If you are laid off, do not allow it to affect your self-esteem Think creatively on how you could use your talentsAccept the situationDo not indulge in the blame gameEvaluate options and take the right decision with a cool mindRemember this too shall passNever panicPray and surrender to the Divine willParables for our TimesLeave your stress where it belongs A man used to always hang his bag on the tree outside, take a deep breath, and then enter his home. Puzzled, his neighbour asked why he did so. “I leave all my worries of the day outside and then enter home,” he said with a smile. “I never allow myself to think of any of the issues I have dealt with during the day. Instead, I pick up the bag the next day and take off where I left off. This makes me totally charged and able to handle the challenges.”Recession?This story is about a man who was once upon a time selling vada-pav by the roadside. He was illiterate, so he never read newspapers. He was hard of hearing, so he never listened to the radio. His eyes were weak, so he never watched television. However, enthusiastically, he sold many vada-pavs.He was smart enough to offer attractive schemes to increase his sales. His sales and profit went up. He ordered more and more raw material, and his sales soared. He recruited a few more supporting staff to serve more customers. He started offering home deliveries. Eventually, he got himself a bigger and better stove. As his business was growing, the son, who had recently graduated from college, joined his father. Then something strange happened. The son asked, “Dad, aren’t you aware of the great recession that is coming our way?” The father replied, “No, but tell me about it.” The son said, “The international situation is terrible. The domestic situation is even worse. We should be prepared for the coming bad times.” The man thought that since his son had been to college, read the papers, listened to the radio, and watched TV, he ought to know and his advice should not be taken lightly. So the next day onwards, the father cut down his raw material order, took down the colourful signboard, removed all the special schemes he was offering to the customers and was no longer as enthusiastic. He reduced his staff strength by giving layoffs.Very soon, fewer and fewer people bothered to stop at his vada-pav stand. His sales started coming down rapidly, and so did the profit.The father said to his son, “Son, you were right. We are in the middle of a recession and crisis. I am glad you warned me ahead of time.”It is all in your mind ! We actually fuel this recession much more that we think we do ! When my son was in the ninth standard, we were given heaps of advice by other anxious parents, well-meaning friends and relatives to take this as an important milestone, and ensure that he took up studies 24/7. Well, he was just not made of that mettle, and this only created more arguments between us. For a while, we worried that we were taking it too easy. Soon, we realised that this only created more tension and spoilt his effective use of time. We also realised that it was best not to shape things beyond our control. Our approach changed and so did his pattern of studying. He began taking ownership for his own work. To relax, he used to play the guitar, and listen to music. We let that be. Apart from a lesson in parenting, it made me realise what a crippling effect stress can have on effective thinking.Ameeta Shah, a psychotherapist, shares the story of Mr and Mrs Y, a young couple aspiring to a high income, the best luxuries, and a good network of friends. Though Mr Y is doing well, Mrs Y is dissatisfied with his progress and pressurises him to quicken his pace. The resulting stress is eroding his self-esteem, and affecting his ability to make the right decisions. He often retreats into watching TV, and is becoming forgetful. Though both get along in many ways, this issue has created so much stress that it could break up their relationship.During a rough period in his job, Anil (name changed), a software professional from Mumbai, was so cross with his wife and children that they actually dreaded his presence at home. The ultimate blow came when he lost his job. He became thoroughly disgruntled. We live in an era of multiple stresses that can either make or break usHere we offer a range of body-mind-spirit therapies that can give youa toolkit to survive and even thrive in these ravaging times The Current Scenario Why is there so much stress today? Are increasing demands and choices taking their toll?“Life has become far more stressful than it ever was. For one, the communication download is keeping everyone’s mind and body busy. In earlier times, an event happened, and it took time to reach the final destination. Today, an SMS tells you of a death; an email informs you of a celebration, and a phone call gives news of a terrorist attack, all at the same time. How do human beings deal with all these emotions in such a short time? The stress transfers into anxiety, anger, and other feelings which are suppressed,” says Indu Kohli, a trainer and behavioural consultant. An SMS tells you of a death, an email of a celebrationand a phone call of a terrorist attack, all at the same time Ameeta Shah agrees, “The good news for today’s world is ‘possibility’ – the possibility with friendships, careers, success, hobbies, lifestyles, travels, celebrations – the bad news about that is there is always someone who does more than you. Therefore, you do not feel significant.”“Stress to achieve, stress to buy, stress to keep healthy, stress to manage money in today’s consumer-filled world, stress because of jobs at BPOs, which have to cater to people in another part of the world, and stress because homes are small. So even though people have more money, they also have more stress, which ultimately affects their emotional, physical, and mental health,” says Indu.“With so many reactors (potential areas of stress creation), there is bound to be more stress,” says Dr Srinivasan, a motivational speaker and qualified doctor who helps people handle the malaise. The demons of thought And yet the fact remains that no matter how stressful modern living is, there is a minor but significant part of the population that does not experience stress. This segment of society lives peacefully and happily, is content with life, and joyfully tackles daily responsibilities. What’s their secret?It’s small but very significant. Call it attitude. They recognize that no matter what life throws at them, they have the final choice on how to react. They take responsibility for their lives, and consciously choose to respond to situations in an unhurried, positive manner. Most people do not realise that they themselves are creating the stress in their own lives. Just as a reckless driver often blames the bad traffic situation in the city for his stress, we often look outside and not within for the solutions.When there is terror, we blame the ‘others’. When there is recession, we blame the government. When things go wrong at home, we blame the family for it, just as Anil did. Such an approach only causes anger and higher levels of stress, because it encourages victimhood and subsequent helplessness.In fact, calamities such as the terror attacks always leave in their wake an increase in psycho-medical problems. These include PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder); depression-related mental disorders; an array of physical syndromes such as altered pain processing; cardiovascular, nervous, and gastrointestinal diseases such as fatigue, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea; problems with blood pressure and fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat. The disaster was being re-experienced repeatedly. Similarly, with the recession, there is the imagined fear of a job loss, with people dying a thousand deaths every day.EustressInterestingly, stress is not always negative. Hans Selye, who laid the foundations of stress science in the 1930s, believed so strongly in good stress that he coined a word, ‘eustress’, for it. He saw stress as “the salt of life”. He did his research at the time of the Great Depression, as stressful a time as any.In his research with rats, he found that as the rat’s brain registers danger, it pumps itself up on hormones – first adrenaline, then cortisol. The surge helps mobilise energy to the muscles, and primes several parts of the brain, temporarily improving some types of memory and fine-tuning the senses. Thus armed, the rat makes its escape – assuming that the cat, whose brain has also been flooded with stress hormones by the sight of a long-awaited potential meal, does not outrun, or outwit it. This cascade of chemicals is what we refer to as ‘stress’. For rats, the triggers are largely limited to physical threats from the likes of cats and scientists. However, in humans, almost anything can start the stress response. Battling traffic, planning a party, losing a job, even gaining a job – all may get the stress hormones flowing as freely as being attacked by a predator does. Even the prospec
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