Out with it
As an increasing number of vaccines and medicines treat the body's physical
ailments, the mind-particularly that of the urban corporate worker-is plagued
with inexplicable uneasiness. It is mental strain, psychological decay, and
we call it 'stress.' To it we attribute fatigue, headaches, backaches, depression
and many such problems that occur at the most inopportune and unexpected moments,
but we tend to ignore it once the physical symptoms are dispelled. Nevertheless,
the effect of stress lasts far beyond its initial manifestation as it plays
havoc with the hormones in the human system. Vinay Joshi, Chairman of Medstream
Pharmaceuticals and author of Stress: From Burnout to Balance, details the nature
and degree of damage that stress hormones can inflict. He also weighs in on
how we can control this process.
Despite being the head of a drug company, Joshi says very honestly, "Most
stress cases cannot be treated by medication." In his book he therefore
suggests many ways to counter the production of stress hormones-exercise, deep
breathing, yoga, massage, control on food and a balanced approach to everything
else in life. These recommendations, however, comprise but a small portion of
the book. The bulk of it deals with causes of stress and the biological phenomena
that spring from it. At certain junctures, the book gets a little technical
with all the scientific names and functions of elements that make up the human
body. When asked why he chose to explore the finer biological details, Joshi's
reply is simple, "If someone told me to run a mile everyday I wouldn't
do it unless I knew exactly why I was doing it and how it would help."
Understanding stress and its effects
||Title: Stress: From Burnout to Balance
Author: Vinay Joshi
Publisher: Sage Publications India
Price: Rs 185
If you are on the lookout for an explanation of how and why
stress can cause a heart attack or why stress may result in the onset of diabetes
or stomach ulcers, this is the book for you. Its premise is that the brain rations
hormones and that stress causes the brain to send the wrong signals. It prepares
the body for a 'fight or flight' situation. Imagine your state of mind if you
were standing in front of a hungry lion; this is the state an average business
head lives with all the time.
The book also deals with sickness due to an immune system that is weakened by
stress, and the impact of such strain on memory and aging. Joshi asserts that
stress can bring on depression and lead to suicide.
Uncertainty = stress
An interesting point that Joshi brings out in the book is that uncertainty induces
more stress than predictable stress situations. Given that uncertainty is a
surety in any IT-related job, particularly that of a CIO or IT head, being alert
and dealing with such tension is imperative. A commonplace example of stress
triggered by uncertainty is the traffic light. At least in Mumbai, you see cars
inching forward well before the light goes green. Ask yourself, does your foot
twitch or do you start tapping your steering wheel with your fingers when you
stop at a traffic light? "They have now started putting timers on traffic
signals to prevent road rage. This is pure psychology at work," notes Joshi.
Pressure's OK, stress kills
Some amount of pressure is a necessity for good management, but today's levels
of stress make it a silent killer that hits people past their 30s the worst.
It cannot be diagnosed by a medical test, and is often overlooked. It is therefore
essential for one and all to understand it as a concept, be aware of the symptoms
to watch out for, and take proactive measures to keep trouble at bay. Joshi's
book makes a good starting point.
- Deepali Gupta