There Are Several Ways of Managing Stress

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Recently a psychology student of mine asked a few people, men and women, from different walks of life (or in Ross Perot's terms, "decent hardworking people") as to what did they do for stress management. 

We assured them that that information will be confidential and we would use it for the purpose of general observations. We were really surprised to learn that people felt somewhat uncomfortable to disclose what they personally did for stress management. In this day and age when thousands of talks and workshops have been delivered on the subject of stress management and where everybody is complaining about the stress they have to tolerate, people were as coy and reticent about the subject of "stress management" as a Victorian grandparent was about the subject of sex in the l9th century. 

Maybe how we manage stress is a very private matter for us, or to acknowledge the use of a special way to manage stress is to admit one's weakness. 

We don't want to be found weak and wanting. We expect that we should be able to handle even the most severe level of stress with the raw strength of our muscles. How about getting comfortable with the idea of practicing stress management as a perfectly routine matter. Let's promote the idea that stress management is a skill, a complex skill, like the juggling skill. Now, if you could juggle ten balls at a time, would you be embarrassed about your juggling? 

As regards the stress management methods people use, the most popular method seems to be eating whenever one feels stressed out. They are aware that eating is not a real smart idea but they will go ahead and eat as it is easier just to eat. 

The next popular method is to distance oneself from the stressful situation which grants them a little time to refocus their thoughts on how best to deal with the stressful situation. For that, some will take long drives in the country, visit another city for just a few hours, or get away for the weekend. Some would take a long walk to distance themselves from the situation. 

A physical activity or exercise was a favorite method for some and it took their mind off the stressful event. One person liked to ride his bike to the mountains or inside the city and felt that "worries and tension flowed out of his body along with each drop of sweat. " 

Some people take a "mental trip" instead a physical trip to distance themselves. For example, in the mind's eye, they would walk their favorite beach, feel the ocean breeze on their faces, and "taste the salty the air." 

Taking long hot showers and listening to their favorite music was another method used by people to drain the tension out. Some took a spiritual recourse. These individuals find relaxation in prayer and reading scriptures,

Unfortunately, alcohol is taken as a big stress reliever by some people out of ignorance.
We were glad that no one in this survey claimed to use alcohol or drugs for stress reduction. 

Stress management methods reported by our group are generally good but a caution is in order. Eating as a way to relieve tension can get out of control, especially, in face of the prolonged stress. 

Also, jumping instantly into the car to get away, as one gets angry or upset is not a good idea. First, make sure that you have calmed down enough to drive with good judgment. I believe that stress prevention is even more important than stress management. "An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. " 

We must look in the stress production department and analyze how we manufacture stress in our lives. Granted that stress is a part of life. The only stress-free place is six feet under the ground. In order to perform well and move ahead, some stress is unavoidable. 

Stress in excess to the required level of tension is dispensable and surely self manufactured. For example, it is estimated that only 5 % of our worries have a realistic basis and the remaining 95 % are unfounded fears, self created "monsters" as we overestimate the possible negative consequences of events in our lives and underestimate our capacities to deal with them. 

We also manufacture physical tensions which can be easily avoided by using common sense reasoning: Working long hours without adequate breaks to replenish and recreate oneself, irregular and/or abnormally short or long sleeping hours, irregular and abnormal food-intake patterns, exerting oneself mentally for long hours without breaks for physical warming, stretching and loosening up, excessive exposure to loud music, etc., are just a few examples of how the regulation of these physical sources of tension can lead to stress prevention.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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