Don't Stress, Stress

Two young ladies used to commute together to their college. Over the hour-long journey in the train, they would chat about everything under the sun. An evening on their way back home, one of them was a little low. The other tried to get her to talk about it. She created enough comfort for her to expose the vulnerable side, patiently offered her ears, few questions, and no judgments. Towards the end of the journey, the narrator felt very relaxed.

Episodes like these started frequently happening to her. More individuals started opening up and she would patiently listen to all of them. At the end of the conversation, everyone would end up much more relaxed and would exclaim, “It was really nice talking to you”. We are talking about Aditi Vaze, whom we interviewed for this article.

Aditi grew up seeing her doctor parents offer immediate relief to their patients, and she wanted to pick a profession where she could serve and heal. Gifted with an uncanny instinct to just listen to people, and question the blind spots, Aditi has been a practicing therapist with over a decade of experience.

When Aditi took up the profession, it was not as cool as it is today. She feels that there is a lot more rigor to the profession now, and it is not treated as a pseudo-science. Therapy is not just about talking, but the techniques and science behind things need to be accurately followed.

Q: Tell us what is malaise, stress, and anxiety?

Let us take a scale of 0 to 10. Where 0 is a cow chewing cud, and 10 being a state where one is in a panic zone where (s)/he can barely speak or act. 0 - 2 would be malaise. 2 - 6 would be stress. 7 - 10 would be anxiety.

Malaise is a minor discomforted feeling, it usually lies at the back of your head. You probably don’t know why you are feeling it. There could be multiple underlying, maybe you have eaten too much, haven’t slept well, or any other minor issue.

Stress is an emotional response to the pressures of everyday life. Worry, fear, anger, sadness, and other emotions are normal emotional responses. They are all part of life. If the stress that underlies these emotions starts to interfere with your ability to do things then it reaches an unhealthy state.

Stress can be motivating and can help us grow. If you are going for an exam and not stressed out at all. You will not be motivated enough to perform.

When these emotions lead you to avoid actions or space, in that case it becomes anxiety. Stress and anxiety take a toll on your thoughts. There can not be a life without stress and anxiety, stress-free existence is a myth. The goal of counseling is to equip yourself with tools, using which you can deal with these emotions.

Q: In the same line, where would you put depression?

Depression is a mood disorder involving prolonged sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness. The self-talk for a depressed person would be: “I am useless, there is no getting out of this, I am hopeless”.

For someone with anxiety disorder, the self-talk would be: “Why does this always happen to me? Why am I so unlucky? Why do I always invite trouble?”

Q: How does one go about dealing with Stress?

One of the most important things is to look at stress differently. Don’t be stressed about stress. If you look at your stressors and run away from them, you are withdrawing energy from what needs to be done. You are not facing the issue. You are trying to distract yourself.

Not anyone is in control all the time. The reality is that life is mostly about coping. Life offers its share of rejection and failure. If you think things are going to be easy, you are concluding something wrong. So to sum it up :

stress management

Q: “Mindfulness” and “Journaling” have become buzz-words, take us beyond them?

There are two categories of help, prevention, and intervention. Meditation, mindfulness, and journaling are very slow processes. It has to be part of the lifestyle. One needs to keep practicing it. People usually lose patience when they don’t see any immediate result. It only compounds with time, these techniques are no quick magic pill.

When you are driving a car, and the shock absorbers are taken away, you’d feel more shocks. If things are getting out of hand, one must not be stressed when it comes to seeking help. If you need to go from point a to point b, and a bus facility is available, it is advisable to use a faster means of transport.

Q: How should one build one’s own emotional first-aid kit?

There is no point digging a well when the house is set on fire. So it is always good to have some techniques handy to deal with uncomfortable emotions. The goal of a first-aid kit should be to reduce the immediate panic so that the thinking(logical) brain takes over the reptilian(emotional) brain.

One of the simplest kits would be to include something that panders to all our senses.

  • Smell: Infants can identify their mother with smell, we can use aromas that make us feel calm.
  • Visual: A photograph of a loved one. A letter that you should write to yourself.
  • Touch: Texture of something that makes you feel better.
  • Hear: Listening or playing the music of your taste.
  • Taste: Your comfort food.

Q: If there is a fracture in the physical body, it takes time, physio, and medicine(or surgery) to heal. How does one go about healing a fracture in the emotional body?

A fracture is something that is the result of an accident - it is unexpected, and it takes time to heal. Kubles Ross model suggests that people go through 5 stages to heal.

Denial: the state of shock that the accident could not have happened.

Anger: How could this happen to me? Anger to yourself, those around you, and maybe even to God.

Bargaining: if X reverts to its original state, I will do Y. Y could range from visiting a shrine to making adjustments in your behavior or giving up something which you desire the most.

Depression: Period of sadness, helplessness, and isolation.

Acceptance: Realisation, Reorganisation, Recovery, and Restoration.

The stages might not be linear and vary from person to person. The process of recovery should not be hastened. A baby won’t walk in 3 months, but only when the limbs are developed.

Stress must be accepted and Grief must be witnessed. Life has peaks and valleys. It is our duty to be present for both. Each person’s grief is unique as their fingerprint. The commonality is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. The need for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining. Sitting in the feeling and just witnessing and sharing it helps.

It is also about what you do with the time. One can spend that time making meaningful connections, creating something, and ensuring that your day has some sort of scaffolding and structure, else it is bound to go stray.

Q: How does one go about building emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience is not a binary term, the degree varies for individuals. Emotional resilience is the quality of bouncing back from the lows of emotional adversity. The lone wolves who appear to be strong on the outside are the ones with a brittle emotional system inside. Emotional resilience like muscle comes from training over time. The drills on a regular basis to build emotional resilience would be

emotional resilience

  • Instead of being trapped in the problem, shift the perspective and approach to find a solution.
  • Avoid negative (why me, no good happens to me, I’m so unlucky) self-talks.
  • Have depth in relationships. This creates a support system where you know you can fall back to.
  • Being part of a community generates a feeling of social connection, boosting a sense of belongingness.
  • Acknowledging one’s own self-worth and value without being arrogant about it.
  • The abundance of Gratitude - acknowledging what you have and being thankful for it.

Q: How does one go about holding micro-catharsis sessions with self to release daily frustration?

Catharsis is a psycho-analytical concept. It is an emotional release linked to unconscious conflicts and generally happens with the help of a therapist. However, it is not possible to keep going to a therapist for every minor issue in your life. Any sort of movement or exercise leads to the release of endorphins and makes you happy. Dance, Music, or any hobby of your choice. Journaling is a fantastic way to keep track of your emotions. When practiced on a regular basis, they help in overcoming day-to-day frustrations.

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