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 Psychological & Emotional Health

 
How Stressed Are you?
Dr Savita Date Menon
 
As Abraham Lincoln 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 moot point,
a given, let's check your attitude towards stress. Is it driving or destroying you? Is it energizing
and invigorating, or is it extremely exhausting? Is it fantastic or fatiguing?

Your answers

 

  • More Yes's
  • More No's
  • Maybe; Some Yes, Some No
If yes
This makes you a stress addict. Without stress you don't move, but with stress you are all charged up - face flushed, eyes wide, heart pumping, blood racing through your arteries. You are a man on the move. You could also be a woman programmed to achieve.

If No
You do seem to be at the end of your tether, don't you? You seem to be swamped under the
burden of your 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.

If Maybe
How far to go and where to pull back, how to support yourself and strengthen your reserves, how to last out the downs and flourish with the ups – these are lessons well learned by you. To you I say, balance is the key, and you seem to have it.
In the following matrix, record your particular stress areas, with these codes: W=Work, H= Home, S= Study, R= Relationships/Social, H= Health


Month 1

Days of the week


Weekly Total

Weeks Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun  
1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days Total

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 Day Stress Analysis
If work was "very exciting" then place one W on that day. If work was "OK" then write 2 Ws. And if it was bad /tiring /disappointing, then give it 3 Ws. Follow the routine with all other areas.
At the end of the week, total up each area individually. This matrix will help you quantify your stress areas, which you can reflect upon on a weekly or monthly basis. The results may be exactly as you expected - confirming what you always knew. On the other hand, the results of month may even be quite a revelation. Your perception may have been that home was a boiling pot of stress, but the totals may indicate that in fact it is work.
Needless to say, honest answers are a must. This is a 'do- it-yourself' test, so confidentiality is guaranteed.

Stress Busting Techniques
  • Head, Neck, Face –When stress burdens you, like Atlas we tend to take the load on our shoulders. The muscles of the neck and shoulders go tight, 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 your chin to the left shoulder, then right. Repeat it five times. Then point the chin up to the sky and down, five times.
  • Rotate your neck very slowly – left shoulder, chest, right shoulder, back, left shoulder. Slow ly reverse. Repeat five times.
  • Now comes the silent scream – open your 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.

  • Chest – With stress, the chest feels heavy, the breathing short and uncomfortable and this only adds to the state of arousal. Try these quickies to breathe right.
  • Sit with the back straight in, in an open body position.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • Slow your breath down to a count of four in, and then 4 out.
  • If you can, when you breathe in, push the abdomen out; when you breathe out, push the abdomen in.
  • Now reverse count your breaths. Depending on the time available, start with 54 or 16. One count for a breathe in, 1 count for the breathe out .When you reach zero, open your eyes.
  • Now your breathing is slow: lower chest and lungs are being used, your oxygen requirement is being met and your body and mind are becoming calm
  • Time taken: 5 minutes
Ever notice how your back starts hurting every time stress is wearing you down? You walk stiff are unable to bend, and all this makes you more tired and unable to face stress head on. Spinal health is vital, so here are a few simple dos and don'ts.

- You guessed it - don't slouch! Sit up.
- Sit back in your chair; don't perch on it. This will support your entire back.
- In a sedentary job, stand up, walk around every half hour, just for a minute or two.
- When your back hurts, rest, rest and only rest.
- Include back exercises in your daily workout.
- Lie down on you stomach, arms and legs stretched out. Now slowly lift the left arm and right leg up and down. Now the other. Repeat five -ten times.
- Bhujangasan is an excellent back exercise.
- Regular practice will keep your back young and flexible. If you don't fix your back, the Ortho and Physio team will!
- Time taken: 5 minutes

Ever realized that the weight of your whole body falls on your poor feet? And if your shoes are ill fitting or heels are too high, that's aggravating those poor feet even more. Simple foot care tips are all you need:

- Put your feet up whenever you can, pregnant or not!
- Stretch your legs out and now pull your toes in towards you, then push out. Repeat five times.
- Now keeping both legs straight out, rotate feet and ankles, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise . Repeat five times.
- A pedicure is great for the skin. It is even better for stress. So, indulge.

And last but not the least, the value of robust physical activity is many fold. Whether it be 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 your heart, lungs and blood vessels. The muscles and the joints of the body are mobilized 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 well being.
Dr Savita Date Menon is a clinical psychologist, popular speaker, columnist and guest faculty at Harvard Medical School, USA


    
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