A nation screaming for stress-busters

Mala Ashok

WE COME into this world screaming, and when we leave this world, there are many teary-eyed friends and relatives mourning our departure. This is without question. What is debatable is whether we have to spend the interim period (our entire lives) in a state of stress.

I got the answer to this question early morning a few days back in my daily newspaper. The headline of a column read, "What's your tolerance level?" The column went on to say that panels of both job interviewers and interviewers for management courses had devised a new `stress test.' These tested the candidates' ability to stand stress.

With all due respect to such erudite folks, who appear to be proactive in `weeding out' candidates, who cannot, at a later date, handle stress, is it really necessary? Why do our courses or our jobs have to be so stressful that there are `good cops' and `bad cops' on the panel? More importantly, why subject our eager young Business School candidates to this test? What will be the effect of an interviewee who has to go in to the `Devil's Chamber' when the previous entrant comes out in tears?

Stress starts when a child is born. Who is going to look after the young one in a double-income nuclear family? After a couple of years, will the child make it through the `entrance examination (!)' of a decent pre-school? Did we book the child well in advance to go to a `good English medium school' which, in addition to attention to academics, attaches importance to extra-curricular activities?

The list goes on, till the arrival of IX and X standard. This signals the arrival of a state of panic for the entire family. Tuitions are sought. TV privileges revoked and in general life is made miserable for the teenager, who is but a child.

The survival through this phase leads to something worse — the ubiquitous `Plus Two' board exam. The student's whole life depends on his/her performance in this exam — well not quite, there are the insidious entrance exams — or yet again, are they going to `count or not count'? Imagine an adolescent's plight going through such harrowing experiences when they have hormones cruising through them.

Is there anyone these troubled teens, young adults, and professionals can turn to? Well, yes and no. There are psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors but their numbers are pitifully low. Also, they are concentrated in predominantly urban areas and are not of any use to rural men and women, who wish to improve their lot in life.

So, what then is the solution? Well, our country seems to have imported the problems of the fast-paced Western world and it is time we took control by resorting to our time tested methods of yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques. We need to control the urge to answer that phone every time it rings and `hit reply' every time there is a message in our email `in box.' We can organise our lives with Time Management skills and spend quality time with our children.

When all is said and done, it appears that `stress' is now a given in our lives and we have to work at eliminating it. It is important, however, to beware of quacks who promise instant `stress-busters.' They just do not exist.

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