Monday, July 30, 2012

To attain Peace of Mind.......

       It's been a 'tearing your hair' out kind of day. After a tough day at the office, you've come home to find your kids still haven't started their homework, then there's dinner to be made from scratch all the while knowing that you've then got to be on a conference call till late in the night. If this has become the norm rather than the exception, it's time to step back and ask yourself a few questions....

     There are many external sources of stress - career, financials, kids' education, family expectations, etc but these translate into a very real physical response from the body. When the body is under perceived threat, Cortisol, a steroid hormone is released by our adrenal glands. It's job is to redistribute stored glucose to parts of the body that may need to deal with the 'threat' - the brain and major muscles. 

     Persistently higher cortisol levels (seen in chronic stress) results in slowing down of the metabolism (rate at which your body burns calories) and weight gain. Cortisol is such a powerful hormone, if you're under chronic stress - you could even develop Diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, hypothyroidism, delayed wound healing, decreased bone density, impaired memory and other cognitive brain functions. 

     Wait, one other result of this hormone is suppressed immune function, meaning you tend to fall sick more if you let stress take over your life. What a wide array of health impacts of long standing stress. But these disorders are so common, does that mean that in addition to eating healthy and regular exercise, one also needs to focus on being happy and peaceful in trying circumstances to avoid chronic illness? YES!!!

     This is one more aspect of WELLNESS - Emotional Well-Being. It's important to work hard on your relationships, especially with people you love most. Having flourishing relationships that bring us joy and peace serves as a sheet-anchor through the ups and downs of life. 

     Dealing with loss of loved ones is also a necessary capability unfortunately developed only through experience. The death of someone close is such a source of stress that every health risk assessment questionnaire has this standard question - have you lost someone dear to you in the last 6 months? This experience can literally reduce your life expectancy so do whatever you need to do to cope powerfully. Therapy or counseling can make a huge difference in these cases. Depression too needs to be addressed similarly. 

     Great, now how do I reduce my stress levels? The first step to dealing with stress is ADMITTING YOU ARE STRESSED. Stress is always something that happens to someone else - that delusion ends now. There are many professional tools and methods out there to support you but here are some you can get started with on a daily basis: 

My top five:

1] Music - preferably not fast paced (like heavy metal or acid rock with a lot of screeching). Calm music that evokes memories of good times, Indian or Western classical music (for those with an ear for it). Enjoy it in between your busy day - even 3 - 5 minutes does you good.

2] When you feel yourself getting worked up over something, take a quick mental break - a few deep breaths and practice LETTING GO. Notice when you're trying to be a perfectionist and BE FLEXIBLE.

3] Develop a hobby or practice around something you're passionate about - it could be bottle top collecting or even volunteering at your neighbourhood old age home. In fact, giving your time or money to a worthy cause extends your lifespan!

4] When tense, notice your body contracting - jaws clenched, forehead furrowing, contracted eyebrows, biting your tongue, fist clenched, leaning forward in your seat are some signs of up-tightness. As you notice these, start to relax your body parts, one by one till you've hit them all and breathe deeply the whole time. Distracting yourself like this gives you a different perspective and you'll end this exercise with a smile on your face with a little practice.

5] Make a list of things you are intensely grateful for (at least 5 items), keep it in your wallet or diary and read it frequently.

     Last but NOT the least (I am a nutritionist after all), take care of your health - eat nutritious meals and snacks, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and include one of the following journeys inside - meditation, pranayama, yoga. 

This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', Chennai -  June 16th, 2012.


  1. All the five points noted here are okay and are effective to a limited extent on the stressed person depending on the magnitude and quality of stress.But real stress management/stress removal is possible only when you can unload the events/fruits/enjoyments/sufferings on the God/Goddess you surrender to."PRASDADE SARVA DUKHKHANAM HAANIRAYOPAJAYATE"(STITHA PRAGNYA YOGAM-CHAPTER4-BHAGWAT GEETHA)

  2. Very eloquently put :)

    I'm not religious myself but do advocate that for people who are, prayer and surrender ease the burden of this life. As you rightly intend to communicate - a higher purpose above all brings peace.

    One more point I wanted to make in this article is 'dealing with the issues that cause stress' - unless you tackle the root cause of your stress - it will persist.

  3. It is true that unless the root cause of the stress is tackled the problem can not be solved.Stress is generated only when the person finds it impossible to remove/defeat/weaken the root cause.Inability to remove the root cause and the inevitability of suffering leads to stress.When a police man starts troubling a law abiding citizen who is meek and obedient lots of stress gets generated.Even in a democratic set up in an independent community there are pockets of unfairness and exploitation leading to stress on the victims.
    The five points noted by you do help in mitigating the negative effects of stress.


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