( By K. P. S. Kamath )

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Stress Management

Stress management has to do with minimizing stress in our daily life to prevent painful, toxic emotions from entering the balloon. In the second chapter we read what stress management is. Fundamental to avoiding stress in life is to learn to properly manage five main aspects of our daily life: body, mind , money, time and relationships.

1. Managing physical health :

As we get older, our body begins to show signs of wear and tear. Aches and pains become common. Health problems begin to crop up one by one. Most of our health problems come from two sources:

  1. Excesses we indulge in: Overeating , smoking, excessive drinking, drug abuse and reckless sexual activity. Most people with these excesses come down with numerous physical illnesses as they get older. Many become disabled on account of heart disease, lung disease, liver and stomach disease, bone and joint disease, diabetes, and the like. These health problems take away our peace of mind, enjoyment and financial security

  2. Not meeting the basic needs of the body : Adequate rest; proper food and liquids; timely meals; vitamins and minerals; regularity in bowel movements and urination; adequate exercise; daily showers or baths, and the like. Very often, people are too busy to meet these basic requirements of the body.

    Here are some suggestions for keeping good health:

    1. Eat in moderation. Eat on time. Don?t eat or drink anything between meals except water. Find time to eat your food in peace. Don?t have your breakfast or lunch while driving. Maintain your weight within normal range. Learn to listen to your stomach. When your stomach is filled with just the right amount of food it usually sends a signal: I am full. Stop eating. If you ignore the signal, you will soon gain weight. Let your stomach shrink gradually so it will fill up with smaller amounts.
    2. Attend to body?s needs scrupulously. Get at least 7 hours of sleep at night. Go to bed on time and get up in the morning on time. If per chance you lose some sleep, catch up with it as soon as possible to avoid sleep debt. Avoid swing shift. Sleep debt often causes people to fall asleep while driving or performing delicate tasks. Avoid sleeping aids. If you are usually a good sleeper and you suddenly find yourself unable to sleep, ask yourself honestly: What am I worried about? Then come up with a plan to tackle the problem. If you can not put your finger on it, start your favorite movie on the screen of your mind, focus on it intensely, and before you know you will be asleep.

      Move your bowels everyday, preferably in the morning. Take enough fiber in your daily diet to assist you with bowel movement. Find time to empty your bladder at least twice during day time.

      Take a hot shower daily, before you start your day. Use deodorizers to keep body odor to a minimum. Put on nice clothes before you go to work. Good clothes make people feel better about themselves.

    3. Exercise in moderation at least three times a week. Go for a brisk walk with someone you are close to. Or just do some sit ups or push ups when you have some time between routine daily tasks.

    4. Vitamins: If you believe that you might not be getting enough, vitamins and minerals in your daily diet, take a multivitamin tablet daily. If you are over the age of 50, consider taking a tablet of aspirin with your doctor?s permission. Keep your cholesterol within normal range.

    5. Smoking , Drinking : If you are a smoker quit smoking . Smoking is the worst thing you can do to your body and your relationship with other. Drink alcohol in moderation. Taking a glass of wine before a meal might even be helpful to your heart if you have no drinking problem, or if you are not taking a nerve medication.

    6. Regulate your life by having a predictable pattern of habits. You can greatly enhance your productivity by having set times for going to bed, getting up, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, moving bowels, etc.

      A good night?s sleep; a good bowel movement; a good hot water shower; a good breakfast, lunch and dinner; good music; good friends; and good sex life are seven pleasures of life.

2.Managing emotional health:

This entire booklet is about managing painful emotions. To avoid repetition, I will give here only the bare essentials; Raise your awareness about your inner emotions; learn to express them appropriately; never let yourself be trapped in a life problem; learn to cancel-out emotions on a daily basis. By managing one?s emotions well, one could effectively avoid all stress related disorders we read about before. Besides good emotional health is essential for us to enjoy life to the fullest extent.

3. Managing money:

Finding a balance between money for the family and time for the family is the key to managing both. Around the turn of this century most Americans equated raising their standard of living with raising quality of life. As indoor bathroom, a three bedroom home, a car, an attached garage, a refrigerator, a washing machine?. All added up to raising one?s comfort level and quality of life.

Around the middle of twentieth century, raising their standard of living became an obsession with most Americans. Just about everyone wanted to keep improving his lot by owning more and more material things in the mistaken belief that his quality of life would improve by doing so. In fact, the opposite began to happen. Somewhere along the way, quality of life began to part ways with standard of living. There came a time when raising the standard of living invariably caused lowering quality of life.

How did this happen? Well, standard of living has to do with money -money for house, cars, gadgets, vacations, etc. Quality of life has to do with time -time for fun, relaxation, hobbies, family. To make more money to buy all the things one felt he must have, he had to borrow the time which was designated for family. To make more money, one had to work longer hours, take up a second or a third job and sometimes resort to humbug. More and more people are indulging in all of these. The result is that fewer bread winners have time for their family.

As preoccupation with raising the standard of living increased, more women joined the work force so the family could continue to afford things which were not essential but were thought to be needed to improve one's standard of living. When both parents worked, children had to be left with strangers for their care. Millions of children have grown up and are growing up even today without the much needed parental nurturing and care. Millions were subjected to emotional and sexual abuse by wicked baby sitters and other "trusted" caretakers. A lot of these children ended up with psychiatric problems later in life as a result of these traumas.

When both parents worked, often times they worked different shifts. Parents were too busy to spend time together, to renew bonds, to make joint decisions regarding household issues and children. Millions of parents grew apart, separated and divorced resulting in personal trauma and trauma for their children. These traumatized children grew up into adults and repeated in their own lives what they had learned from their parents. This cycle has snowballed and continued unabated.

To find a balance between standard of living and quality of life, one has to balance between the demand for money and the demand for time. Two simple principles could help us to find this balance: 1) Choose quality of life over standard of living. 2) Follow K.I.S.S.(Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Here are some basic steps in this direction.

  1. Save money regularly. Saving money gives you the cushion during hard times, but also it give you the ability to walk away from your job and not feel trapped in it; and to solve difficult life problems. Money in the bank gives you peace of mind and also self-confidence. Adequate savings is one of the best medicines against stress.

  2. Live within your means: Be content with what you have. Don?t be envious of others. Envy causes stress. Don?t buy things to impress friends or relatives. Buy only necessary things, not just because you want something or because it is on sale. Prioritize your spending. This means you buy things that are essential. I have lost count of stressed-out people who have money for luxury items but no money for essentials.

  3. Buy a house within your budget: Buy a house just the right size so you don?t have to make big mortgage payments. The commonest mistake newly wed make is to buy an oversize house which leaves little spare money for anything else. Remember, in addition to mortgage, you will have to pay real estate taxes, pay for repairs and maintenance, heating and cooling, etc. Let the house be near your work place so you don?t waste time driving back and forth from work. You could spend that precious time with your family. Have a small yard so you don?t spend a lot of time taking care of it. Before you plant trees and shrubs, read instructions carefully so that you don?t have to do the planting twice. People who buy house ?in the country? far away from their job, often have little time to spend in their homes as they are busy working day in and out just to make payments on the house besides being on road a lot. Don?t buy a house costing more than 150% of your annual income. If you do, you will find yourself strapped for cash all the time. And that is stress.

  4. Buy a car within your budget and maintain it well: Buy a small or mid size car that has track record for reliability. An unreliable car is a big source of financial headaches to millions of families. The commonest cause of breakdown of a car is poor maintenance. Have it serviced every three thousand miles. That small amount you spend on oil change could save you a lot of unnecessary expense and stress. If it ain't broke, service it regularly! Avoid buying luxury car just to impress people or to enhance your "prestige?. If you need a car to enhance your prestige, something is not right.

  5. Debt: Avoid going into debt as much as possible, except perhaps to buy a house and a car. Have no more than one credit card. Pay up the bills at the earliest possible time. Before you buy anything on credit, except your house and car, you must have enough savings in the bank. People who pile up unpaid credit card bills will soon feel stressed-out.

  6. Business: Be aware of your limitations and so curb your ambition accordingly. Don?t get into a business you have no business to get into. Remember: 9 out of 10 new businesses don?t last beyond the first year. Do a lot of research before starting a new business. You must know the inside story about the business you intend to start.

  7. Prioritize spending: You have only so much money and your needs are almost infinite. The main idea is to prioritize the needs. Different people have different priorities. For example, some people might think that owning an expensive boat is more important than paying for their son's college education. Others might think that spending money on their flashy clothes is more important than paying electricity bill. Most people who have financial problems have their priorities all messed up.
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