Radhika* had lost weight. Yet, this young homemaker from Pune was not rejoicing. She was sleeping less at night. She did not feel like meeting family and friends. She always seemed preoccupied.
Ask her what was wrong and she would say, "Aren't you scared? There's swine flu, there's panic at my son's school, my husband's job pressures are ever growing, and oh... the list is endless."
Radhika may not have much reason to worry about swine flu. But she definitely has a larger problem to worry about and that is: stress.
We all know stress, but here are some quick facts:
- Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses in many individuals
- Stress also affects the immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases
- Almost 75 per cent of people experience 'some stress' every two weeks (National Health Interview Survey)
- Of these people, half experience moderate to high levels of stress during that two-week period
- Worldwide workplace stress is growing by the day. A report estimated billions affected
- The use of tranquilisers, antidepressants and anxiety-relief medicines has gone up considerably in our country
- Stress plays an important role in alcoholism, obesity, suicide and substance abuse
- Excessive stress can cause many physical and emotional symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, lethargy, overeating, anxiety and depression
So how can you help yourself deal with stress?
We spoke to a few health professionals and they came up with some easy tips on how to deal with stress, irrespective of the cause.
1. Create a balance in your life, says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Dayal Mirchandani. You have to make time for activities that are important to you -- spend time with family, friends.
2. Make time for rest and regeneration, he adds. Listen to music, watch movie, take walks, whatever you like doing. Carry your iPod wherever you go.
3. Don't let small things bother you. If something is on your mind, find out more about it instead of relying on undependable sources. Dr Adhiraj Joglekar, consulting psychiatrist says, "Take for example swine flu. The first thing to acknowledge is that the virus is contagious (spreads) but not virulent (deadly). If it was deadly, then deaths would have been a lot higher than they are." Learn how you can protect yourself instead of panicking.
4. Exercise. "Even if it means walking for 10 minutes everyday or climbing the stairs, do it," says Dr Mirchandani. Exercising releases endorphins that help in keeping you positive and happy.
5. Make time to relax at work. "Take those five minutes to look out of the window when you are at office. It is better than later undergoing a stress workshop for two hours a day," says Dr Mirchandani.
6. Rekindle that hobby -- it could be shopping or painting or whatever you like. Do activities that make you happy and take your mind off the routine.
7. Meditate. Cliched as this sounds, there is no shortcut out of this, says Dr Mirchandani. Take short breaks during your work-day to meditate in a quiet corner of your office. Do some deep breathing exercises to calm your mind.
8. Change your habits, if need be. If something is bothering you, a change in habit can work wonders.
9. Change your mindset. "Ultimately, it is how you look at life. Don't let stress get the better of you," says Dr Mirchandani. "If something bothers you, look at it rationally and see how you can reduce its effect on you or eliminate it. Don't let it reach a stage where you need professional help."
* Name changed for privacy