A recent road incident in Singapore has made me think deeply about people’s general behaviour at home and in the office. Aggression, annoyance, impatience, irritation, depression are only some behaviours that are becoming so common today. Be it at home or in the office, you see people constantly complaining that they are tired, getting irritated at the slightest thing. To think that a man literally killed himself, because another showed him the middle finger (Singapore Straits Times, 1998), makes me wonder why people react the way they do.
Two questions pop up in my mind – firstly are these the only ways to manage our feelings of stress? And more importantly, are we aware that we are under stress? So much has been said about this invisible killer that it has become a household word without anyone ever realising what this really means.
Sadly enough, many people, including corporate executives, are not ready to accept that they are under stress as stress is seen as negative. On the contrary, stress can be and is positive – it helps you think on your toes and act better. With the help of your autonomic nervous system and endocrine system, your entire body prepares to handle stress by either “fighting” or “fleeing”. This is referred to as positive stress. When situation returns to normal, which can be within an hour or the whole day, your physiology gets back to its usual balanced state. Many of the happiest and most successful people, respond to high level of stress in a balanced way. However the problem arises when we have continued stress, more than we want or can cope with, resulting in negative stress.
Needless to say, with technological advancements, the world is moving at an extremely rapid pace. As inhabitants of this world, we too have to race along with these changes and our poor bodies have fallen the inevitable victims to this never ending saga. This is evidenced by fatigue, stiff joints, insomnia, nervousness, worry, high blood pressure, palpitation as well as circulatory and respiratory disorders. Research suggests that hereditary diseases are further aggravated by stress. Our productivity level slowly starts to decrease and hence the birth of the word “burnt-out” in the commercial world. It is a known fact that stress affects the mind, body, feelings and behaviour.
What then, as rational beings, can and should we do to be healthy in a stressful condition? Retreat into the deep forest? Good short- term solution, but then who is going to pay your bills? Also if everyone runs to the forest, it will eventually become industrialised and commercialised and the cycle will start again, wouldn’t it? So, given that we have to live in this current stressful environment, it would be advisable to make a forest for ourselves – by creating a breathing space. How?
Someone very special said to me “if you are hungry, you have to eat. Reading about food alone is not going to satisfy your hunger.” Likewise, when you are under stress, reading this or any material on stress management is not going to help you. Reading will only help you understand why you are under stress, what causes it, the physiological reactions that take place in your body, mind and behaviour and their consequences. But to eventually manage and alleviate stress for a healthy lifestyle, you will have to DO something about it.
To begin with, you have to be aware and recognise that you are under stress. Awareness alone is half the solution. Recognise the symptoms of stress at your physiological, mental and behavioural levels. If you still prefer ignorance and choose not to recognise your stress, then you should consider looking at your increasing medical bills. They will tell you. This is the beginning of your journey to your stress-free productive forest.
Now that you have taken the first step, that is awareness, the next step is to recharge yourself by giving both your body and mind proper rest. Your immediate reaction maybe :”I sleep at night. Isn’t that rest?” Think carefully, how many times have you woken up in the mornings still feeling tired? This may be an indication that your body is at rest while your mind is not, resulting in tiredness despite the “sleep”. In simple terms it means that your body is not in union with your mind and you may be feeling out of balance. The fundamental truth is that you will not experience optimal success if you try to operate with stress and fatigue. When you do not give your body enough time to recharge itself for the next day, your energy level gradually depletes until you feel fatigue. Many think that taking their annual holidays or short breaks would solve the problem. Remember, stress is a daily problem and has to be dealt with daily. You need to gather as much of your body’s energy in a balanced way to be prepared to start the next day. I call this “Innergy” – synergising your inner energy.
Regular deep relaxation, proper breathing and proper stretch exercises performed slowly and with full awareness (internalising and observing your body movements and changes) recharge your bogy and release stress at a deeper level.
Tips for creating your Breathing Space
Take slow, deep rhythmic breathing continuously for one minute, at least three times a day. Internalise and observe your breathing – as you inhale, slowly expand your abdomen and chest, and as you exhale, contract them.
When you feel tired, close your eyes and sit with your back straight in a relaxed position. As you inhale stretch your shoulders backwards slowly and as you exhale return to normal position. As you feel the stretch, imagine that you are releasing your tension.
If you have difficulty falling asleep, lie with your eyes closed and with your hands and legs apart and slowly start relaxing your body part by part without moving your body. You do this by mentally bringing your awareness to your feet and slowly moving your awareness all the way to your head.
Vasanthi Pillay who has worked in a highly stressful corporate world, developed keen interest in mind-body relationship and stress. This prompted her to take up her Yoga Instructor Course in Bangalore India in 1995 where she did further research in this area. She has conducted Yoga & Stress Management for corporate executives in India, Australia and Africa. Vasanthi also holds a Bachelor of Arts (NUS) degree, Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (SIM) and Post Graduate Diploma in Banking and Finance (UNSW, Australia).
She is currently the Director of Innergy Ayurveda and Yoga Pte Ltd. Vasanthi is also the Founder and President of the Ayurveda Association of Singapore (AAOS)
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