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March 6, 2017

A silent killer


March 6, 2017

I recently had the pleasure and opportunity to conduct training sessions at the Punjab Judicial Academy. The topic that was assigned to me was stress management.

I divided the course into three major headings: short techniques to use at the workplace, techniques to use at home and things to do over the weekend. The versatility of the course makes it a successful and useful tool for my clients. I have conducted sessions like this in a variety of private organisations as well. Each place that I have gone to has strengthened my belief in the fact that stress is inevitable and crops up in our lives on a daily basis.

Since it is a silent killer, it is of utmost importance to keep practising some simple techniques to avoid a major breakdown. Research has shown that stress, if not properly managed, leads to psychological illnesses – such as anxiety and aggression – as well as physiological symptoms – like stomach ulcers, cancer, high blood pressure and nervous breakdowns.

We encounter the stress of being late to the office, performing poorly, missing – and even meeting – a deadline and remaining overworked and underpaid -. These are very common examples of how stress can impact our lives. Stress is something we cannot avoid. It is bound to happen but the good news is that we can manage it.

The people who fail to do so face detrimental consequences to their mental and physical wellbeing. If we are young and energetic, we often think that we can easily cope with stress without taking any appropriate measures to reduce it – which is a thoroughly incorrect concept. Anyone who has encountered a teenager can vouch for the fact that they are, in fact, among the most stressed-out demographic.

When we fail to take care of wounds at the appropriate time, it can exacerbate the harm and cause damage that could have easily been contained with timely and effective treatment. Stress is something that we cannot see. As a result, we usually take it for granted because we believe that stress is an implicit and necessary evil. More often than not, we decide to let it fester and eventually stop bothering about it.

Until people break down due to the buildup of toxic amounts of stress – which is mostly induced by a congested mental traffic jam or an accident – they do not do anything that could get them out of the intense situation. Our faces are apparent, easily accessible to touch and sight, so we wash them regularly as a form of maintenance. Yet we never seem to take as good care of our psyches. Stress, when it is left unaddressed, leads to aggression.

Since it is always easier to vent our anger on those weaker than us, our mind uses a special defence mechanism. The term used to describe this phenomenon is displacement. It is often the justification for angry people hitting their spouses, slamming doors and engaging in other forms of non-constructive, impulsive and reactionary behaviour. Increased stress levels lead to irritability that further becomes a cause for fights or minor disputes with anyone who is close enough to project anger on.

When a person is insecure or unable to take his anger out on any other person and the stress weighs down on those are weaker than us, aggression manifests itself in the form of self-mutilating behaviour. In short, stress affects our personal life and familial relationships, breeding emotional and psychological disruption in society. Stress is blind to age, profession or gender and anyone can be affected in their own capacity.

I am familiar neither with my readers nor their backgrounds. But one thing that I do feel is that they can all become victims of stress at some point. They should practice stress-managing techniques on a daily basis to keep the intensity of stress low. Some of these techniques include – but are not limited to – daily physical exercise (including going for a jog, a walk or to the gym), spending quality time with friends and family, sharing jokes, listening to music, watching a movie, eating healthy, sleeping on time, reaching office on time, putting reminders on your mobile for important tasks, doing yoga or meditation, taking a day off and going on vacations. Anything that makes you happy helps to calm you down, chasing away that stress.

Every organisation should make arrangements to call stress management experts or psychologists to their organisations who can interact with employees on a one-on-one basis, understand their general and individual causes of stress and propose customised solutions and techniques to manage it. One by one, we should keep striving to make our society, homes and offices better places to work and live in.


The writer is an organisational psychologist.



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