Creative management of stress: React differently to pressures of daily living | Sunday Observer

Creative management of stress: React differently to pressures of daily living

Friday afternoon 3.00 pm: Kumudini stood at the door of her 12-year-old’s room, staring at the tangle of clothes, heaps of strewn story books and his football and shoes.

She felt her head begin to throb. “Clean up this room, Arosha,” she snapped. “No, not now” he replied defiantly.

“That’s the last straw!” she shrieked. “You’re not going to watch TV until this room is spotless.” She slammed the door and stamped down the hall. The throb had turned into a stabbing pain behind her eyes.

Jagath, Kumudini’s husband, twisted a paper clip into lopsided loops while his boss pounded his fist on top of Jagath’s sales report and said, “You’re slipping, Jagath. Maybe you’re getting too old to handle this territory.” Jagath felt his stomach churning as he left the office. He had worked hard to keep up sales but rising prices were a problem.

Saturday morning 9.00 am: “Where do you think, you’re going?” Kumudini demanded as Jagath got up from the breakfast table. “To play a few holes of golf,” he answered. “l need some time for myself.”

“And what about me?” Kumudini complained. “1 need help here.”

Pressures

Jagath stormed out of the house, gunned his car out of the roller gate and headed for the golf course. Back in the house, Kumudini sat down at the kitchen table, put her throbbing head in her hands, and wept.

The Kumudini family were experiencing stress, a physiological response to the pressures of daily living. Yet, stress is vital for effective living.

Psychologists say, there is a simple system for creative management of stress.

The first step is to determine whether you are experiencing useful or destructive stress. Ask yourself these questions: Do little things irritate me? Do I have trouble sleeping, and wake up tired and grouchy? Do I worry a lot? Feel trapped? Complain? Frequently snap at those I love?

If your answer is “yes” to even one question, you may be experiencing harmful stress.

There are many stressors - sources of stress - to succeed, such as conflicts with children or mates, unrealistic expectations, too many people to please, too little sleep, money worries, lack of self-confidence, a conflict in values, lack of goals.

However, any stressor is neutral. Our reactions to it - based on personal beliefs and values - are what give it positive or negative power over our lives. Imagine waking up and glancing at your clock, which reads 7:30 a.m.

This information means nothing, until you apply your perception to it. If it’s a weekday and you’re due at work at 8.30 a.m., it becomes a negative stressor.

If it’s Saturday, your perception of 7.30 may result in a feeling of luxurious anticipation of a lazy day. The information in both cases was the same. Your perception of it determined your response.

Most of us feel trapped. We see no alternatives. We must learn that we do have choices, and that we create our own world by the choices we make. Often, stress reactions are simply the result of habitual response to certain circumstances. But, we can break those stress habits over a period of time by consciously making different choices.

Techniques

There are four techniques for taking charge of your reactions to stressors:

Reorganize yourself. Take control of the way you spend your time; learn to avoid using Rs. 1,000 worth of energy on a Rs 100 problem. Draw up a plan - for the next five years, year, month and day - listing specific actions to achieve those goals.

Kumudini’s plan looked like this: In five years, be prepared to work full time, perhaps as an office manager in Jagath’s own business; action - study accounting and management at weekend sessions.

In one year, find part-time work; action - brush up on typing and shorthand. Next month, lighten the load of housework; action - work out a three-way chores chart with Jagath and Arosha. Tomorrow, get action – do a day out with family.

Jagath decided to manage his stress by controlling his environment. These include fight, flight and listening.

At work, Jagath chose flight, leaving his stress-producing job to open his own business, where he could use his accumulated know-how and contacts, but, answer only to himself. At home, he tried listening - the art of tuning in to the feelings of others.

One Saturday morning, Jagath asked Kumudini what she would like to do. “I’d like to go to the BMICH sale,” replied Kumudini. ‘ ‘But, there is a lot of dirty clothes to be washed, and the garden is full of weeds.”

“Why don’t you wash the clothes this morning, while I play golf,” Jagath suggested.

“I’ll weed the garden this afternoon, while you go to the sale. Then maybe we can both take Arosha out to watch a film.”

Build up your strength. Another way of managing stress is to build up your stamina. Jagath and Kumudini began to eat a healthful diet, arranged daily relaxation times, and took in the habit of exercising.

Change your mind. You can manage stress by taking control of your attitude too, particularly, through techniques. Psychologists describe it as relabelling, whispering and imagination.

Relabelling is the art of seeing a promise in every problem, Kumudini relaxed when Arosha challenged her authority. Instead of seeing his rebellion as a lack of respect for her, she learnt to see it as a sign of his growing independence.

Whispering is the art of giving yourself positive messages when things are going wrong.

Jagath and Kumudini found it difficult to practice this mind-changing skill. Kumudini often whispered to herself, “1 am a good wife and mother” whenever she felt uptight about her house, husband or son.

Imagination is the ability to accept and appreciate the chaos and disagreements of life. If you can laugh at yourself, it sets you apart from your problem. Then you can tackle it from a new perspective.’

So, you see, with little things, you can break your stress habits by reacting differently to the pressures of daily living. 

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