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ManagementofExecutiveStress

IamStressed!.Howoftendoyouhearthisinyourdailylife?More
timesthanyoucaretorememberwouldbe,perhaps,anaccurateway
ofansweringthequestion.
WhatisStressandwhyisitharmful?
Stresscanbedefinedastheresponseofyourmindbodycontinuumto
a situation or event where your resources, physical, mental or both,
are inadequate in coping with the demands of that situation/event.
What happens when the stress response is triggered ? To understand
thisinperspective,letmetakeyoubackafewthousandyears.Imagine
you are living in a cave or a mud hut. You have stepped out into the
forestforaleisurelyafterdinnerwalk.AhungryLion(alsotakingawalk
!) sees you as his dinner! As you notice the Lion and guess his
intentions, several bodily responses are triggered. Your brain sends a
messagetoyouradrenalglandsresultinginadrenalinandcortisolbeing
releasedintothebloodstream.Thisimmediatelyresultsinaquickening
of the pulse rate as the heart prepares to supply larger quantities of
blood to the muscles thus supplying them with the extra oxygen
needed. (your legs need to take you to safety in a sudden burst of
activity !). You start sweating as the bodys cooling system gets
activated in anticipation of the fight or flee response. In this case of
courseyouwillonlybedoingthefleeing!
2. This Stress Response is meant to arm you to face the threat by
fighting it or fleeing from it and is meant as a short term coping
mechanism.Intheexamplegivenabove,onceyouareinsideyourcave
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thestressresponseisturnedoffandrelaxationsetsin,leavingthebody
withnoilleffectsfromtheStressResponse.
Unfortunately, in todays world the stresses are much longer lasting
though they are as acute in intensity as that caused by the Lion. And
there are a multiplicity of stresses from an angry boss, to
overcompetitive colleagues, to performance pressures, bad traffic on
theroads,jugglingworkandfamilylife..thelistisendless.Andsomeof
the stresses are such that though the body readies you for a Fight or
Fleeresponse,thesituationissuchthatyoucanneitherfightnorflee.
(A job loss situation or a loss of promotion situation are examples of
thiskindofasituation.)Littlewonderthatweareconstantlystressed..
ineffecttheStressResponseiscontinuouslyturnedon.
The Mind Body continuum does not have the chance to relax.
Continuing activation of the stress response can cause chronic fatigue,
stomach upsets, back pain, hypertension and increased chances of
cardiacfailure,loweredimmunity,anger,depressionetc.
Apart from the potential threat to your well being, Stress can severely
affect your work efficiency and more and more employers are
recognizing that a good employer also provides an opportunity to its
employeestoaddresstheirstresslevels.
3.Letusnowproceedtothemanagementofstress.Thefirststepto
managementofStressistobeabletounderstandhowtorecognizeit.
Therearesomeclassicsigns:
(a)Changeindietaryhabits.
Youareeatingtoolittleortoomuchcomparedtoyournormalintake.
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(b)ChangeinSleepinghabits.
You find it difficult to get to sleep, sleep very few hours or very
longhours.
(c)UseofIntoxicants.
You find yourself smoking more, drinking more alcohol, or using
anyotherdruginanattempttorelax.
(d)ChangeinSocialHabits.
Ifyouarenormallyanoutgoingperson,andsuddenlyfindyourself
avoidingcompany,thiscouldbeasignofstress.
(e)ChangeinPersonalattributes.
Sudden Mood swings, outbursts of temper, discontent, loss of
sexualappetite,inabilitytoconcentrate,constantworrying,inabilityto
takedecisions,impairedjudgments,restlessmoods,depressedstateof
mindareallpossiblesignsofstress.
(f)ChangeinHealth
Changeinbowelhabits,nausea,frequentmildillness,bodyaches
andpains,headaches.

4.Ifyouareexhibitinganyormultiplesignsabove,thenitistimetosit
upandtakeaction.Bearinmindthatstressnotaddressedcanseverely
damageyourfamilyandworklife.Someofthesymptomsgivenabove
canalsobearesultofphysicalailmentsandthisneedstoberuledout.
Sofirstseeyourfamilydoctor.Physicalcauseshavingbeenruledout,it
is now necessary for your to analyse yourself, your current work and
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familysetupandidentifythecausesofyourstress.Anillustrativelist
ofeventswhichcauseStress(Stressors)isgivenbelow:
(a)Deathofaspouse
(b)Divorce
(c)MaritalSeparation
(d)LossofEmployment
(e)TroublewithSuperiors/PeersinOffice
(f)Officepressures/targets
(g)Extramaritalaffairsofselforspouse
(h)Prosecuted/Facingprosecutioninacourtoflaw
(i)FinancialTroubles
(j)ProblemsinthelifeofChildren/Parents/Closefamilymembers
(k)MajorIllnessorinjuryaffectingcapacitytocope
(l)Noisyenvironmentathomeorwork.
(m)Relocationforthepurposesofworkorfamily.
This list is only illustrative and there could be stressors beyond all
these. It will require an honest analysis to be able to pin down the
problemswhicharereallybotheringyou.Whilesomemaybeobvious,
there may be others which are not so obvious and which will require
someintrospectionforyoutoidentify.

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5.AveryusefultoolistostartaStressDiaryforyourself.Usethediary
over a two to three month typical period of your life. Keep the Diary
totally confidential and you will be able to write most honestly into it.
Honesty is very important here. The following is the suggested way to
recordeacheventwhichcausedyoustress.
(a)Time&Date
(b)StressorEvent(Ratetheeventonascaleof15withonebeing
mildand5beingextreme)
(c)Youremotions(anger,fear,helplessnessetc)
(d)HowyouhandledtheEvent
(e)Yourcurrentfeelingonthatevent.
(f)Couldyouhavehandledtheeventanyotherway.

{Items (a) to (d) are to recorded the immediately and certainly before
endofday.Items(e)and(f)mustberecordedaftertheeventimpactis
over.}
Thiskindofmeticulousrecordwillenableyoutobeabletounderstand
your stressors and more importantly understand how you react to
them.Thiswillenableyoutomoveontoactivemanagementofstress.

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6.Letusnowtrytounderstandthemechanicsofstress.Weneedto
lookatthemindbodyconnectiontobeabletounderstandhowstress
affects us. The following diagram provides a Vedantic overview of the
humanorganism.

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Whileadetailedstudyofthesubjectisbeyondthescopeofthisarticle,
a brief outline of the concepts is considered necessary so that the
reader who is not familiar with the subject may have no difficulty in
following the rest of the article. The Vedantic view is that a human
complex consists of three bodies, the Sthula Sharira (Gross/Physical
Body), Sukshama Sharira (Astral Body) and the Karana Sharira (Causal
Body)PleasenoteCausalasinbeingthecauseofnottobemistaken
with casual. This complex is given what we call Life by the
intervention of Consciousness. Consciousness, known as Atman in the
humanbody,isthereforetheLifegivingforce.
The Physical body consists of the five elements. (Earth, water, Fire, Air
&Ether)
TheAstralbodyconsistsof:
Organs of Knowledge (Jyanendriyas Eyes, Ears, Nose, Tongue &
Skin)
Organs of Action (KarmaendriyasHands, Feet, Mouth, Organ of
Excretionandorganofreproduction)
Prana
Antahkarana(Manas,Buddhi,Chitta,Ahankara)
TheCausalBodycontainsmemoriesandisalsotheKarmicStorehouse
andisthereasonfortheexistenceoftheAstralandPhysicalbodies.
Youmaynowbeaskingwhatdoesallthishavetodowithstress
anditsmanagement.Avalidquestion,whichweshallnowproceedto
answer. Let us look at the fourth component of the Astral Body. The
AntahkaranaisverybroadlywhatwerefertocommonlyastheMind.
Therearefourbasicfunctionsthatthemindperforms.
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(a)Manasistheinterfaceofthehumanorganismwhichinteracts
with the external world. Manas picks up sensory data from the
Indriyas and carries it onward to the Buddhi. Doubts and
questionsoriginateintheManas.
(b) When the mind is analyzing, making decisions etc, it is
performing the function of the intellect and in the role of
Buddhi.
(c) When the mind is moving in the subconscious, picking out
memories and working on past impressions it is in the role of
Chitta.ThoughtsariseintheChitta.
(d)Whenthemindisarrogating,whenitisintheIfunction,itis
Ahankara.

7.Themindismostlyastreamofrandomthoughtspoweredbyregrets
about the past and hopes/fears of the future. It is the Mind that
determinesourfeelingsandreactions.Letustaketwoexamples:
i.Amaniswalkinginaruralareaindarkwithoutatorchlight.His
feettoucharopelyingontheroad.Beholdthebuzzofactivityin
themindastheminddecidesitisaSnakeandthereforeathreat.
This message is sent to the brain triggering off a chain of
reactions emotional and physical. We see sweating, pounding
heartbeats,jerkingofthelegfromthe(perceived)snake,jumping
backwards, fear, panic etc. Even though it was a rope, the
reactions were what it would be had it been a snake. If the man
hadatorchinhand,hewouldseetheropeforwhatitisandwalk
withoutturningahair.
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ii. A father and son walk into a shop where loud rap music is
playing.Thesonlovesthemusic.Thefatherfindsitveryirritating.
Theobjectthatthesensesperceive(hearinthiscase)isthesame
rapmusic.
What is the point being made here ? That objects have no
reactions attached to them. The same object can arouse different
reactions under different environmental conditions and in different
people.Thereactionstoanyexperience,therefore,ariseinthemindof
the one who experiences and the reaction is tempered by his
knowledgeandpastexperiencesasalsohisownnature.
We come to the conclusion, therefore, that stress arises in the
mind which is the source of all thoughts. To verify this statement, all
you need to do is to sit quietly for a few minutes, close your eyes and
mentally, consciously and with awareness, try to watch the variety of
thoughts coming passing through your mind. Truly is it said that the
mindislikeadrunkenmonkeywithitstailonfire!.
8. The physical body is also subject to stress in two ways (a) Purely
Physical ie tiredness of physique through overuse (b) Arising as a
manifestation of Stress in the Mind. Tiredness of the muscle is cured
simply by rest and food. However, the major chunk of stress works in
themindandhasaninsidiouseffectonthephysicalbodyleadingtoa
variety of symptoms which can range from plain uneasiness to
sleeplessness,lackofappetite,irritationetcandseriouscardiacissues.
Those who have understood the full implication of the first example
giveninparagraphfourabovewillappreciatethatthemindispowerful
enough to cause serious physical damage , even death. At the very
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least,Stressnotaddressedcancauseonetohaveauncomfortableand
unhappylife.
8.ThemanagementofStressthereforeisaholisticexerciseaimedat
(a)RelaxingtheBody
(b)StrengtheningtheBody
(c)Relaxingthemind
(d)Quietingthemind.
The effect of stress on a person varies in intensity, depending on his
physical and mental resilience. Therefore Stress Management consists
in techniques of relaxing and strengthening the body as well as
techniquesofrelaxingandquietingthemind.
9. Thefirststepisthereforetobeabletostrengthenthebody.The
followingscheduleisrecommended:
Thirtyminutedailywalk
6roundsofSuryaNamaskar.
Stretchingexercises

Lie down on your back. Inhalelift up the right leg into a 90
degree angle. Hold for 15 seconds. Bring it down while
exhaling.Repeatwithleftleg.Dosixroundsofthis.
Lift both legs while inhaling. Hold for 15 seconds. Slowly
loweritwhileexhaling.Repeat4tosixtimes.

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Join a Yoga Class. Even if you are able to go thrice a week it is


goodenough.*
Learnhowtorelax.Trythisverysimplemethod.Liedownonyour
back. Legs apart, hands spread out, palms facing the ceiling. The
hands should be about six inches away from your body. Take a
few deep breaths and let the body relax. Now consciously focus
your mind on your right big toe, visualize it in your mind and tell
yourselftorelaxthattoe.(AutoSuggestion..Yesitworkswonders
with some practice). After that the 2nd toe and so on till the 5th
toe, then the sole of the foot, then calf muscles, shin, thigh
muscles, hips and so on. Work your way up the right side of the
body,consciouslyrelaxingeachpartofthebodyasyoumoveup.
Move up to the shoulders, then work your way down to your
hands and fingers. Now repeat the process with the left toe and
the left side of the body. Now go down to the lower back and
workyourwayupwards,tothebackoftheneck,thentopofthe
head, and down the front relaxing the forehead, the eyes, the
nostrils,cheeks,ears,lips,chin,throat,chest,&abdomen.Time
yourselfsothatthisentireprocesstakesabouttenminutes.Then
lie quietly being aware of the relaxed body and mind for about
ten minutes. Remember true relaxation can come only when the
mindhasslowed,sofocusyourmindonyourbreathingandkeep
the attention focused on the flow of the inhaled and exhaled
breath. If you find the mind wandering, bring it back to focus on
the breath. A relaxation session lasting twenty minutes should
bring you out feeling relaxed and pepped up !. One caveat Be
awareatalltimes.Ifyoufallasleepthepurposeofrelaxationwith
awarenesswillnotbeachieved.
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Lastly,learntomeditateanddosoregularlyStartwith15minutes
andtakeituptohalfanhourdaily.
10.Youwillneedtofindthewillpowerandthetimetoadheretothis
schedule.Butsixmonthsofthisandthedifferenceyouseeinyourself
physicallyandmentallywillmakeyouanaddicttothisroutine.Having
takensomepositivestepstomakeyourmindbodycomplexcapableof
handlingstress,thinkaboutthefollowingandimplementtheminyour
life.
(i) Take your work seriously and do it to the best of your ability.
Butdevelopadegreeofdetachment.Thisdoesnotmeanthatyou
do not give your best. It actually means the opposite. Being
detached,youwilltakebetterdecisionsandbeabletogivemore
attentiontoyourworksinceyouarefreeofunnecessaryworry.
(ii) Avoid Unnecessary stress. If you find that a person or a
situationiscausingyoutobestressedout,limityourcontactwith
that person and try to avoid the situation. Running away ? No
Just being wise. For example do you get into discussions about
religion /politics and end up getting angry or upset ? Avoid such
discussions firmly say No. I dont want to discuss this. There is
nodishonorinsuchanaction.Youwillbesurprisedatthemarked
improvementinyourcomposure.
(iii) Learn to say No to additional tasks when you are
overburdened.
(iv)Makeaprioritylistoftaskstobedoneonadaily/weeklybasis.
Make sure the number of tasks is that which can be done
comfortablywithoutstrain.
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(v) Instead of resenting a situation and fretting about it, look for
anopportunityinit.Areyouinaninterminabletrafficjam?There
is an opportunity to listen to your favorite music, read that book
whichyouhavealwayswantedto,talktothatoldbuddyyouhave
beenmeaningtocallforthelastfewmonths..
(vi)Letgoofangerandresentment.Forgivethoseyouthinkhave
wrongedyou.Forgivenessisawonderfulgift.toyourself.
(vii) Change a situation if you can. If you cant, accept it.
Acceptance and forgiveness are two powerful arrows in your
quiver.Thesupplyisunending.Usethemliberally.Rememberthe
prayerofSt.FrancisofAssisi:
Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot
change,thecouragetochangethethingsIcan,andthewisdomto
knowthedifference.
(viii) Take a vacation with your loved ones regularly, if possible,
twiceayear.
(ix) Children grow up very fast and they are adults and gone
before you notice it. Parents grow older even faster. Spend
Sundayswithyourfamilyandyouwillnothavetolivewithregret
whenyouareolder.

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11.Letmeconcludewithafamousstory:
Onceakingcalleduponallofhiswisemenandaskedthem,Iwantyou
tofindmeamantrawhichworksinverysituationinlifewhetheritbe
joyous or full of grief, whether it be victory or defeat, whether it be
pleasureorpain.Goforthandfindsuchamantraandletmeknow.
After a long discussion lasting many weeks, the Kings Chief Advisor
cameandgavehimadiamondringsayingSire,underthediamondisa
small piece of paper and on this the mantra is written. The Wise men
have,howeverprescribedacondition,yourmajesty.Youshallonlylook
at the paper when you are in extreme danger, all alone and all roads
seemclosed.TheKingagreedandputonthering.
Some time later, his Kingdom was attacked by enemies. The King and
his army fought bravely, but the battle was lost. The King had to flee.
The enemies were following him hotly on his trail. Suddenly the King
found himself standing at the end of the road that road had a dead
end.Hewassurroundedbyloftycliffswhichhecouldnotscale.The
soundoftheenemyhorseswasapproachingfast.Hewastrapped.
As if on cue, his diamond ring flashed in the sun. He remembered the
wordsofhisAdvisorandtookoutthepaper.Thepaperhadonlyfour
words:
This,too,shallpass.
AstheKingreaditandreaditagain,hethoughttohimselfAfewdays
ago I was King and master of all that I surveyed. I had every luxury.
Thosedayshavepassed.NowhereIamwithoutaKingdomoranarmy
andhuntedbytheenemy.Butyes,thistooshallpass.
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Whenhecameoutofhisreverieherealizedthattheenemyseemedto
have disappeared. Taking this as an opportunity, the King reorganized
his army and mounted an attack on the enemy, defeating them and
regaining his empire. As he sat in his throne in victorious celebration,
thediamondringflashedagainconveyingitstimelessmessageOKing,
thistooshallpass!.
12.Thisisagoodtimetothinkoveryourlifeanditsevents.Howmany
timeshaveyoubeenovercomewithpainandsorrow?Howmanytimes
haveyoubeendeliriouswithpleasureandjoy?Havetheylasted?Have
they been permanent ? No All these are ephemeral. Life changes
constantly bringing you new experiences all the time. Why, your body
cellsitselfundergochangethebodyyouhavetodaydoesnothavethe
same cells it had a decade ago. The only constant is Change. So when
youarestressedthenexttime,rememberthemantra:
This, too, shall pass.


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AbouttheAuthor

Shri Ravi Easwaran, is the son of (late) Shri Eknath Easwaran, the
CaliforniabasedmeditationGuruwhosewritingsarewellknown.
An accomplished Corporate professional, Shri Easwaran is now a Yoga
teacheratSivanandaYogaVedantaCentre,Trivandrumwithaninterest
in taking stress management workshops for corporates. He can be
contactedatreaswaran@gmail.com/+918086070630.