|THE ROLE OF STRESS MANAGEMENT AMONGST BEIJING’S BUSINESS COMMUNITY|
The field of Stress Management has progressed substantially since its beginnings in the 1980is. Meticulous scientists have investigated the efficacy of numerous stress reduction techniques. But it is still up to the experienced trainer or consultant to match the correct technique to each individual or company they have been invited to help. Thus bridging the gap between theory and practice is one of the most challenging parts of Stress Management Application.
But let us start at the beginning. What do I mean by stress and what options do I have to learn to live with stress. The word ‘stress’ derives from the Latin word ‘stringere’ which means hardships / difficulties. It was discovered that certain illnesses are connected to our modern lifestyle. We know that we need a certain amount of pressure in order to perform well. Should we however overstep this optimum point of pressure, performance and health would decrease. How stressed we feel is however not only dependent on the amount of work we have to do, but also very much on environmental factors and on how individuals perceive a certain situation. Stress affects our circulatory system, our energy storage, our growth, our reproductive organs and our immune system. Stress has also been linked to one of the most crippling psychiatric disorders, depression. Sustained or repeated stress can disrupt our health in endless ways.
Now what happens to your body when you get stressed? The body is at all times attempting to restore balance to the ideal level of oxygen, acidity and temperature you need in order to stay healthy (this is called the body’s stress-response). In stressful situations or situations we perceive as being stressful the body is often forced to secret certain hormones, inhibit others and activate parts of the nervous system ad nauseam. This can and will eventually exhaust your biological system, very much like the battery of your car would run out if you left it running over night.
Beijing is very competitive with more than a few environmental challenges. People who are sent here from overseas are perceived as experts and continuously feel the pressure of having to perform well. Local employees who work in international companies again perceive themselves as the chosen few who must prove to themselves and the world that they are worth the money they are being paid. The competition is huge. Beijing’s air pollution is amongst the highest in the world, not to speak of the high levels of noise and lack of personal space for the individual. All these factors contribute to people becoming stressed or worse burned out.
I have been working in Beijing as a Stress Management Consultant and Psychotherapist for the last four years. Most of my private clients come to see me at a time when they are already unwell and barely coping. Some of the most common ailments range from depression, alcohol or other drug-dependency, insomnia, phobias and anxiety to eating disorders and nervous exhaustion. People also come and see me when they feel their jobs have destroyed their marriages or relationships with their children.
In general I work with my clients in a multimodal approach. That means we look at how they interpret themselves and the world around them (cognition / thoughts), how they behave, at their life-style and their health.
One client for example came to see me with marital problems. His wife and he were having frequent arguments and they were growing apart. Furthermore he had concentration problems and frequent outbursts of anger with his co-workers. He felt misunderstood and anxious. At those times he tended to drown his problems in alcohol. Thus we had to tackle a multitude of problems at once. We started with his belief-system. He could only accept himself if he performed well at all times. Performing well for him meant doing everything right. I challenged this belief by offering him alternative views, such as, we are all fallible human beings and we still perform well, even if we make the occasional mistake. This basically means a healthy pursuit of excellence versus perfectionism. Furthermore I taught him anger-management and applied friendship training. All sessions were completed by a 15-minute relaxation exercise. The client was encouraged to practice relaxation daily. We gradually reduced his alcohol intake. With time he learned to accept himself ‘warts and all’ and generally applied the same rule to people around him. He began to calm down, treat people more gently and came home in a better mood. He even began sharing his daily work-experiences with his wife. All in all we had twelve intensive sessions and then reduced our meetings to once a month. This case was relatively straightforward, as the client really wanted to change.
But why wait until you are unwell? In my one-day workshops I train people in an array of techniques, which they can apply to themselves and hence they are more stress-proved than before. You cannot always avoid stressful-situations but you can learn to handle them with less damaging results. Basically these life-skills are not new, but rather packaged and presented in a way that may help you to cope with modern life more successfully and most of all more joyfully.
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Stressminus Dr. Patrizia Collard
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