I’ve been writing about stress for quite a while now. To be honest, seeing people in stress and myself being in stress lead to those articles. I intellectualised my stress rather than admitting that I was stressed. And I think I still am more stressed than one should be. Not sure if it’s the weather, the work, physical ailment, all three, not sure, but yes, I’m stressed. But I also wrote these articles because I was greatly inspired by this book, ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’ and also of course its author. I had read this book 3 yrs ago, and I’m still a fan. However, in my first article I had promised to also write about managing stress. I mean Dr Sapolsky also ends the book with that. So while I have scared you with the previous articles, and may continue to scare you further, I want to take a positive pause and talk about managing stress.
But why am I breaking this chain of writing articles about the various effects of stress on our bodies and writing about the correction? Simply because I had a positive pause in my life.
I have started yet another new initiative in my factory. (Quick background — I’m an HR person in a factory. Last year I introduced an English speaking program for our workers, the ones who have diligently completed it have loved it. I also introduced a lot of things on Wellness for employees. Again, people who participated, were ecstatic. In this case, I credit the endorphins 😁) In any case, basis the input from the workers and our clinic (some people came in with unexplained issues, which were mostly stress related), I realised this was the next new thing I was going to do. I initiated a psychologist visit in a factory. I’m not sure how many factories in India have this. For the common man, therapy is for the over-educated or the affluent. But man you come to a factory, you’ll get to see people from all strata of society, with all kinds of problems. And you know why a factory needs a psychologist more than maybe a fancy corporate office? Not because anyone is more stressed than any other (never make the lethal mistake of comparing misery), it’s because someone working in a fancy corporate office may already have the exposure to know what a psychologist is and may even be willing to readily take time post work to visit one. It’s places like mine where we need the organisation to offer this service.
So coming back to the point, why am I breaking this chain? Because I went to take therapy from this psychologist who visits our plant. In all honesty, I actually went to assess whether he was any good. I mean after his first day in plant, I had taken feedback personally from each individual who had consulted with him, and 4 out of 5 individuals gave a very positive response, and 1 was conservative in saying that I would like to continue with him and see. But me being me, I wanted to check for myself. I booked an appointment with him post lunch. And for a good part of my lunch was spent thinking about what issue I could take to him. Finally I decided, let’s just take work stress. I’m not the most stressed person in my factory, but it’s not like I don’t have any. I certainly do have my share. I sat with him for an hour. The first part I felt that maybe this guy isn’t good, but the second half of it felt good. I actually relieved myself of some of the stress I was carrying, and got some tips from him too. Here I know that some therapists will raise their brows, that therapists are supposed to lead you to solutions, not give you ready solutions. Well, some tips are helpful to start with. I’m not saying he’s the best, but he’s helping our employees. And already we have so many registrations seeking appointment with him that we will have to increase his visiting hours.
Now I must address a natural assumption that many people may have made, is your workplace that stressful? Of all the stories I’ve heard and seen of mental illness or discomfort, it’s never just one thing that’s the culprit. Workplace in general these days are more stressful than they were 20 years ago. But there are other factors that precipitate mental ill-health. Some of them are your upbringing during your formative years, your relationships at home, amount of poverty you are in, whether you are going through any grief, any history of abuse, your present social support, your current lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercise habits) etc. etc. While yes, workplace stress, is a precipitating factor, I’ve seen that the trigger that really topples one into mental ill-health is generally personal. This can simply mean that something we hold most emotional attachment and value with.
So yeah, I went to assess, and got therapised. It was not bad. But therapy is just guidance in how to make yourself mentally healthier, it’s not the solution, it helps you find solutions. At the end of that day, therapy did not relieve me, it was unfortunately a lot of arguing with my loved ones and crying (also called displacement & catharsis). But it definitely brought in a spark of lightness, of positivity.
More on managing stress in part 2.