Wednesday, December 12, 2007


After one turns forty (the new benchmark is thirty, these days), most doctors will shake their heads grimly and tell you that your cold/fever/headache/infection is stress-related. Now add to that a blood pressure reading and a cholesterol level that puts a frown on the doctor’s face, and you’re definitely under scrutiny for stress-related disorders.

Stress is the by-product of the body’s self-preserving instinct to face or flee danger. It’s called a fight-or-flight response. When the brain signals the body that there’s danger ahead (be it an approaching deadline or an approaching tiger), the body sends itself into high-alert. Stress is a result of overdrawing of the body’s resources in these situations of perceived threat. As a result, the body’s effective and efficient functioning is disrupted time and again, leading to dis-ease.

Earlier, this would happen for instance, when one saw an approaching tiger. Today, our perception of ‘danger’ ranges from the aforementioned tiger, right down to, say, running out of staples in the stapler. Sure, somewhere in the middle is that important board meeting next week and the sudden absence of that Sales Manager you hired last month.

In effect, what we must recognize is that the mind and body are not independent of each other. What ails the body, ails the mind, and vice versa.

Why do we get stressed?
  • Technology : With the rapid changes in technology, we are 24/7 workers. There’s simply no getting away from the ‘electronic leash’. Don’t believe me? Just count the number of calls you get after work or on holiday.
  • Circle of control: We don’t see the difference between situations within our control and those outside our control. The only thing we can control in the latter case, is the way we handle ourselves. It’s unhealthy to nurture a ‘Kick the dog’ attitude, where we take our angst out on someone least connected to the situation. By the way, it’s also unhealthy to assume you’re that person and kick yourself for it! Hit the ‘Pause’ button and gauge this.
  • Imponderables: Things go wrong. Chaos is part of our lives no matter how technologically advance a race we are. It’s better to simply accept that and sometimes, even anticipate imponderables when you’re at planning stage of a project.

While eliminating stressors or withdrawing from one’s stressors is one solution, stress-management techniques help in fortifying the person so he/she can better handle situations that possibly can’t be escaped. Psychotherapy is one solution, but meditation, physical exercise and a balanced diet certainly work on a healthy, every-day basis. Add to that Pranayam (breathing exercises) and yoga that are seeing resurgence today.

Do remember that the change towards a less stressful life begins with you.

Read the second part of this article, HQ – Common Sense Health, in the next issue of Best of Crest.


Stress -

Mind-body medicine -

(Article written for Best of Crest, 2007)

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