Expert advice Mind
How Stressed Are You?

Dr Savita Date Menon

Clinical Psychologist and Wellness Specialist

5 min read

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”. In urban India, the answer seems to have become a foregone conclusion. Almost akin to saying, if you are alive, you surely have stress!

So if having stress is a given, let’s check UR attitude towards stress. Is it driving or destroying you? Is it energising and invigorating, or is it extremely exhausting? Is it fantastic or fatiguing?

A simplistic diagnosis would be to ask you what UR answer was. If you said ‘yes’ to the former all the time, that does make you a stress addict. Without stress you don’t move, but with stress you are all charged up – face flushed, eyes wide, heart pumping and blood racing through UR arteries.

You may also have said ‘No’ to most of the questions. What then? You do seem to be at the end of UR tether, don’t you? You seem to be swamped under the burden of UR troubles. Or, the thought of stress puts you in panic mode. You are either overburdened with stress and close to burnout or you have stress phobia.

But why not do a quick 30-day stress analysis – a ‘how much’ and ‘where from’ check. You can understand the problem quickly, which will make working on the solution much easier too.

If work was “very exciting” then place a W on that day. If the work was “OK” then write 2 Ws. And if it was bad/tiring/disappointing, then give it 3 Ws. Follow this routine with all other areas too.

At the end of the week, total up each area individually. This matrix will help you quantify UR stress areas, which you can reflect upon on a weekly or monthly basis. The more the Hs, the more the stress caused at home. The less the Rs, the healthier is UR relationship quotient! The results may be exactly as you expected – confirming what you always knew. On the other hand, the results of the month may even be quite a revelation. UR perception may have been that home was a boiling pot of stress, but the totals may indicate that in fact, it was work.

Now, let us explore some solutions. A problem-solving approach, a change of attitude or a change of perception might help you address specific areas. But meanwhile, you need to burn the existing stress. Let us start with the top of the body and work down to the feet. It was about UR lazy bones that Martin Lurther King Jr said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

1. Head, Neck & Face

When stress burdens us, like Atlas we tend to take the load on our shoulders. The muscles of the neck and shoulders tighten, the jaw clenches and the forehead goes into a frown. All this muscle tension soon results in a tension headache. Here are a few simple steps to beat the Atlas:

  • Sit comfortably in a chair, legs and arms in an open position.
  • Gently point UR chin to the left shoulder, then right. Repeat it five times. Then point the chin up to the sky and down, five times.
  • Rotate UR neck very slowly – left shoulder, chest, right shoulder, back, left shoulder.
  • Slowly reverse. Repeat five times.
  • Now comes the silent scream – open UR mouth wide, squeeze those eyes shut and let out a scream at a zero volume. This is a good preventive measure, though it may not help much if the headache is severe. Try it when you feel discomfort starting.
  • Time taken: 5 minutes.
2. Chest

With stress, the chest feels heavy, breathing is short and uncomfortable and this only adds to the state of arousal. Try these quick tips to breathe right.

  • Sit with the back straight in, in an open body position.
  • Close UR eyes and focus on UR breathing.
  • Slow UR breath down to a count of four in, and then 4 out.
  • When you breathe in, push the abdomen out and when you breathe out, pull the abdomen in.
  • Now reverse count UR breaths. Depending on the time available, start with 54 or 16. One count for breathe in and one for breathe out. When you reach zero, open UR eyes.
  • Now UR breathing is slow: lower chest and lungs are being used, UR oxygen requirement is being met and UR body and mind are becoming calm.
  • Time taken: 5 minutes

The value of a robust physical activity is many folds. Whether it is an hour of aerobics, Bollywood dance or salsa, a walk or jog around the park or a strenuous session of swimming, the benefits are felt by UR heart, lungs and blood vessels. The muscles and the joints of the body are mobilised and strengthened. And most importantly, the stress impacts of hormones and neurochemicals are burned and reduced. Feel-good hormones or endorphins are released creating a sense of de-stress and wellbeing.

To the above list let’s add sports – tennis, football, basketball, hockey or cricket. With this, you will learn to work within a team, subjugate UR ego for the group, rise to a leadership position if required, demand the best out of each teammate and rise to the challenge of a win!

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