Being calm and composed

We’re all prey to tension and stress even at the best of times. It’s not possible to escape the drudgery of life by quitting one’s job and moving to Goa or the hills. Here’s how to deal with it.
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Updated on Nov 08, 2010 05:49 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByTashneem Chaudhury, New Delhi

It’s surely not a coincidence that the expression for a peaceful situation is ‘dead calm’. Generally, life, with its ups and downs, is too chaotic for us to handle at most times. Even when we manage to escape the cycle of work pressures, chores, emotional upheavals and stressful situations and go on holiday or even opt for a day at a spa, it’s only a temporary release. Once back at your desk, or as soon as you unlock the door of your home, all the stresses and worries come flooding back.

But even as we struggle to keep our equilibrium afloat the sea of nervous tension and anxiety, remember that this can happen to the best of us. Even strategies such a going on a short break, a longer holiday or spending the weekend at a spa are at best short term solutions. It’s also not possible to escape the drudgery of life by quitting one’s job and moving to Goa or the hills, as all of us have fantasised about at one time or another. The truth is that the more fortunate among us may not get worked up as easily, but no one can possibly be on a perpetual high.

Depressed manSmall wonders

Shiv Malhotra found this out the hard way. For the last one year, the 33-year-old lawyer had been suffering from tension headaches that forced him to pop painkillers twice a week. In addition, Malhotra’s BP kept shooting up, he suffered from insomnia and mild chest pains – all courtesy his high-pressure job, demanding office politics, lack of family time and erratic eating habits. It was only after a routine checkup that Malhotra found out that many of his ailments were all psychosomatic – his physical aches were being caused by his mental state.

“I work nonstop, and so don’t have the time for elaborate destress therapies,” explains Malhotra, adding, “So I realised that unless I made small changes in my lifestyle and worked on my mental attitude, I would go off the deep end.”

That’s exactly the strategy outlined by experts. According to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, “Some must dos to stay calm are eating the right foods, getting regular exercise, good sleep and thinking positive thoughts.”

Santhosh Babu, motivational expert, OD Alternatives, explains, “There are three possibilities to help you deal with stress. The first is acceptance about what is and what is not and also that what is not is not! Many times, accepting a present condition instead of being in denial can help us cope better. So if you are feeling low, that’s it. Accept that you are feeling low.”

He adds, “Secondly, try to change by getting into a performer’s role. Humour can also help you out. Think, what are the things that you could do to help you change the way you are feeling? Imagine a time in your past where you could shift your moods, how did you do that? And can you do it now?”

“Then thirdly, ask yourself if the current situation is beneficial or harmful to you. Is there a meaning to what is happening now? How have I created this situation for myself? Very often, situations that are frustrating can be great learning opportunities. It’s all a question of perspective.”

Make the change
It’s also helpful to identify the things or situations that stress you out, and have a coping strategy for each. Have a list ready of things can make you happy and do them when you are feeling down or ready to erupt. “Positive action helps,” says Dr Bhavna Barmi, clinical psychologist, Escorts Heart Institute. She adds, “You should also make it a habit to be grateful for the little things in life. When you do that, and you think of this list at the times when you are stressed out, it can make you happy simply about being alive.”

Anita Desai, an MBA graduate earlier employed with a Baroda-based company and now a full-time mom, says, “I usually cry it out when a situation gets bad. So, to stop myself from doing this, I think of all the good things in the past that made me smile. It also stops me from venting my anger on my husband and friends.”

The 38-year-old adds, “Food is another big stress buster for me - lots of cheese in my favourite Italian cuisine usually manages to restore my equilibrium.”

Another way to calm ourselves down is get some amount of exercise. Choose from tried and tested methods of yoga, gym, swimming, or even just go for a short walk around the block. Not only does exercise make you feel good from within and outside, it can help your body’s physical and mental ability to fight stress.

Eating the right foods will also help you keep your cool. According to Brunch columnist Dr Shikha Sharma, “Seventy per cent of our bodies are made of water, so there is actually no better way to bring down your stress levels than by drinking water. Not only does the coldness manage to act as a foil to one’s anger, those few seconds of drinking are enough to give the mind time to relax and slow down.”

She adds, “Fruits are alkaline in nature, and when a person is stressed out, his or her acid levels tend to rise. The alkaline content in fruits balances this out. Of course, there’s nothing a like a flavoured cup of jasmine or chamomile tea to help one destress because these are herbal infusions that contain properties to calm your mind and emotions. Spices like choti elaichi and cinnamon can help combat stress.”

The serene life
Practices like pranic healing, reiki and the art of living also claim to help keep your calm. But while doing these things requires a fair amount of motivation, the DIY things come easier to most people who don’t have to make any special efforts to do them. It’s also about rephrasing what you want from life. And even if you compromise, one thing that’s in your power is the ability to control your thoughts. When you do that, you’ve uncovered the secret to staying cool and collected.

Foods that help you de-stress
Water: It will help you cool down if you are angry.
Fruits: All seasonal fruits can help you if you are feeling anxious and fearful.
Milk, curd: For insomnia due to stress.
Peanuts: Aids with stress during PMS.

Keep your cool
Visualise: Imagine a peaceful situation.
Count your breathing: Take deep breaths.
Talk to yourself: Explain the situation to yourself and try to solve it.
Prioritise problems: How big is the issue really?
Humour: Think of a funny image or joke.
Shut your eyes: Think of a good memory.
Take a break: Go for a walk to break the tension.

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