Rapid globalization, advances in information and technology and lifestyle revolving around digital appliances have radically transformed businesses and societies in recent years. Combined with demanding economic forces, it has significantly added to job and lifestyle insecurities. As a result, the stress level of people across the world has significantly gone up in last couple of years.
Because of the sheer amount of activities we participate in it can be hard to find the time to just take a break and relax. Even when we do have the time, it can be hard to relax because we’re simply not used to having the chance.
When you don’t make time to relax your body and mind become more and more “wound up”, resulting in aches and pains and excessive mental chatter. That mental chatter then causes you difficulties sleeping which only makes the problem of stress worse. If you are unable to relax you find yourself coming down with illnesses a lot more often. Therefore, stress is all pervasive and constantly takes heavy toll on the physical and emotional health of people.
Stress related health troubles cover a wide range of illnesses right from headaches to heart diseases. In fact, if stress is removed from life, people will automatically begin to stay healthier and happier.
Reality of LIFE: Life in Not Fair
By nature life is not fair. It is a common experience that does not need any elaboration.
Julie died in an accident. Life is not fair to her children who lost their mother for none of their fault.
Jim’s worked really hard for years and significantly boosted profits for the company. He was almost hoping to be elevated to the rank of vice president. Suddenly the company was sold. All the cherished dreams of Jim crashed when he discovered that his ideas are out of sync with the new owner.
Evil is not always punished nor is virtue always rewarded. We all know this reality. According to Albert Ellis, founder of rational emotive behavior therapy, the belief that everything should be “fair” causes severe distress in people and aggravates it as well. We can all testify to the fact that bad things do happen to good people and bad people appear to have what they don’t deserve.
People, who have harbored high moral and ethical ideas, particularly get distressed when they observe something “unfair”. But a fact is a fact, whether you like it or not. However, it certainly must not encourage you to become unjust to others. Just realize this truth and maintain your sanity!
Stress Management in Organizations
From the view point of businesses and organizations, wherever stress management is considered, it has been conventionally focused on techniques such as redesigning the job profile, time management training, increased employee participation, allowing for social support network, providing recreational facilities, etc.
Though never sufficiently effective in eliminating stress, except for select group of employees, they did serve some purpose as long as employees were viewed as “workers” whose productivity was correlated with man-hours and production output. However, this approach does not work well with today’s employees who are “knowledge workers”. Something more personal and individual approach to stress management is needed in the current atmosphere.
Relaxation Techniques are Necessary but Insufficient
For most people managing stress is simply learning to relax. Hence, they try different ways to relax. Some of the common ways to relax are music, massage, long baths, yoga, meditation etc. They all have significant potential for stress relief and relaxing people. As long as people get relaxed and energized, they gain strength to stand up to face stress and discomforts.
However, learning to relax does not solve the root cause of stress that often has to do with the way people react to stressful situations. Since the mental frameworks of individuals are different, their reactions differ, and hence their stress levels are different. Ideally one would like to tackle stress where it basically originates – in the mind.
It is the attitudes, personal beliefs and emotional make-up of an individual that decides how any uncomfortable situation is going to impact him. Therefore, the best way to deal with stress is to learn relaxation techniques on one hand, and simultaneously work on removing the inner conflicts and developing right attitudes. In essence, it means reprogramming the mind, particularly the subconscious mind. Therefore, it is better to see stress as a pointer telling us to change.
Mindfulness – Know Yourself
Cultivating mindfulness or mindful awareness does precisely that. Mindfulness involves paying attention to one’s inner world – thoughts, feelings, emotions, tendencies, etc – without getting involved. You train to stay as an impartial witness of the activities of your own mind. Since mindfulness is a reality based practice, it will be rewarding to know a few hard facts of life while applying the mindfulness in real life situations. Your understanding of these facts will be of enormous help. However, rather than taking them as something from God’s mouth, think over them and check whether they make any sense to you.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is certainly helpful but is not necessary. We are all gifted with the ability to be aware (mindful). Now it is for us to decide if we want and choose to become consciously aware of what we are doing or continue to function in an auto-pilot mode based on habitual behavior. When adopting a mindfulness based lifestyle you will have to realize clearly that you can’t control other people and their behavior, but you certainly have the capacity to take care of how you react or respond. This, in fact, is the essence of mindfulness approach. You will learn to view everything (including yourself) from a broader perspective rather than the short term and immediate habitual reaction.
All forms of habit correction and personal transformation involve working with the subconscious mind – it is accessible only when the conscious mind is stilled. In states of anxiety and tension there is excessive mental chattering and is reflected by higher brainwave frequencies. In normal conscious waking state the beta brainwaves dominate the brain landscape for most people. The usual frequency range is 13-30 Hz, which is associated with alertness, concentration and arousal. Brainwaves beyond 30 Hz signify emotional distress, uneasiness and anxiety. Then it becomes important to have periods of frequent rest and stillness.
The first step towards self transformation is to slow down. By slowing down and becoming more focused you can achieve so much more all the while feeling calm and composed.
Stillness of mind is indicated by reduced brainwave frequencies (Brainwave patterns: Vocabulary of the Brain). As a person begins relaxing, his dominant brainwave frequencies shift to alpha region, 8-12 Hz. When the alpha waves predominate, calming neuro-chemicals like serotonin are released which are reduced by stress and anxiety. Deeper states of relaxation further decrease the brainwave frequency to theta region, 4-8 Hz. According to most psychologists the theta state is the doorway to the sub-conscious mind. Theta state increases the production of catecholamines that are vital for learning and memory.
Use Self Help Tools
While it is certainly possible for anyone to transform himself, but most people find it difficult and time consuming to even relax without some aiding tool. This is where the help of professionals or aiding tools like self-help audio/video. People generally prefer the recording for economical and practical reasons. Many people prefer brainwave music that directly operates on the brain by altering the brainwave frequencies. A lot of people also go for hypnosis which has become popular as more and more psychiatrists are applying it for a variety of purposes such as stress reduction, anger management, sleep disorders, addictions, pain control, healing wounds, and general health and well being.