Health Farming: Coping With Stress

When we want to release tension, we prefer to go to a serene, calm and secluded place, a sleepy atmosphere where there is no rush. Noise, high living, the rush on the roads and pollution add to tension. This is what happened to an isolated village, in the Swiss Alps, called Saas, which was a sleepy, calm region. A road was opened and overnight it became a tourist resort, in 1957. By 1970 over 250,000 winter tourists and 500,000 summer tourists were invading this once secluded area.

Now it has a 10-months long tourist season. The local people worked long hours each day, seven days a week. As the economy developed, major changes started taking place in this remote village. In the last 20 years of boom, the family ties have weakened. Parental involvement in raising children has become less and less. Some of the pernicious habits of the visitors have been adopted. The use of alcohol and drugs has increased.

The gap between older and younger generation is widening. This rapid social change has taken its toll among adults, leading to cases of chronic fatigue, irritability, insomnia, ulcers and high blood pressure. Alcoholism is increasing among the young and women. Divorces and mental illness are the rule of the day.

The affluent countries of the West are the greatest sufferers of tension. Westerners who were learning yoga invariably said that yoga gave them peace of mind. Why is it that U.S. Presidents tend to live longer than Vice Presidents? The most powerful man of a most powerful country of the world whose finger controls the nuclear button fares better than his deputy.

The answer is simple. The President has the final decisive power, he is master of the situation and can overrule, anybody but cannot be overruled. He is a more successful man. Success Promotes longevity, gives you something to live for. Middle managers are more stressful, they are the persons who are trying hard but still do not reach the executive summit.

William Sargent, a celebrated U.K. psychiatrist, recognised that the ability to cope with various stressful situations varied from person to person according to their temperament. He found that persons who were well adjusted and had a settled, happy outlook on life were likely to hold out longer than those who did not possess this asset. You cannot avoid stress. Like food, exercise or love you have to have it. But you must also be able to know the optimum stress level that you can bear.

Of course knowing this will help you to know when you are in the danger zone of stress-related diseased. You must be firm to make adjustments to lessen your personal susceptibility. Avoid getting overtired. Ensure enough good quality sleep and develop the ability to say no and admit your limitations. Women live longer than men. Japanese women are supposed to live the longest, their average life expectancy of 79.1 years, compared with 73.8 years for Japanese men.

Do women respond to stress differently? Researches have found out that they manifest less biochemical activity than men in response to stressful and challenging situations and also tend to unwind more quickly. There is the case of a woman who worked until her 100th birthday and could see well enough to be able to read and watch television without glasses till her death at the age of 113. Her simple rule for longevity was ” Attend to your business”.

What happens when a woman takes upon herself the role which was normally or traditionally associated with men? Women students doing engineering have displayed hormonal stress reactions more similar to those of men than of those of women who followed a more traditional women’s academic path. Whether the new found liberation will prove detrimental and make them more prone to coronary heart diseases and ulcer is something that is being looked into.

When you have a very high ambition which you know you are incapable to achieve in your lifetime you are likely to be tense. It will be a taxing period for you and the slow pace of your attempts of achieving your end will fill you up with frustration. Divide your goals, keep targets which you can fulfil at shorter periods. Every target you achieve will increase your strength and make you more confident. A person who has confidence in himself is a relaxed person.

Noise pollution and population explosion tell on the nerves. Jostling in crowded trains and buses, to and from your place of work, wheeling through frustrating traffic jams and imbibing exhaust fumes are a daily occurrence for millions of commuters. According to an earlier research study in Bombay for the improvement of living and working conditions, it was found that 71 percent workers lived within 10 km. of their work place.

About 22 percent travelled ten to 25 kms, seven percent had to travel more than 25 kms. Some 75 percent workers took less than half an hour to get to work and 20 per cent over an hour. In present day Bombay, because of the influx of migrant labour and a big increase in population, at least 30% of the workers have to waste two hours each way travelling by train and bus to reach their working place.

Commuters at the end of the day complain of a far higher incidence of tiredness, irritability, lack of concentration, sleeplessness, headaches, digestive disorders, backaches, motion sickness and general discomfort. A man weighing 70 kg. uses more than 25 kg. of air while breathing. He requires one kg. of food and 1.5 kg. of water. Air pollution is silent killer. Mr. S. Hanumamtha Rao, Chairman of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, estimated that it reduces one’s life span by at least 20 years.

Prof. J.M. Dave, Dean of the School of Environmental Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University admitted that cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Ahmedabad showed respectively 350,560 300 and 250 miligrams of particles per metre cube in the air. This was caused by vehicles, smoke and coal consuming industries. Big towns breed tension in their environment. If you breath in heavily polluted air in a big and crowded township you will feel tensed up.

If the pace of life is fast, and if we are running faster, tension will also go on mounting faster. Tension keeps on filling the body. Some day it may get filled to the brim. Due to anxiety, our mind may work overtime in a state of violent tenseness and then it will target to stop thinking. We go to bed, we feel tired, we feel drowsy but the mind goes on ticking. We are not able to sleep. We get up in the morning still tired, the mind does not seem to work properly.

This in turn builds up more tension. The body is tense, muscles becomes tense. Neck muscles, shoulder muscles and the upper back get all tensed up. If we put fingers on these muscles and try to probe them by pushing harder, we can feel that they are tense and tender. This in turn shrinks the muscles. Less blood flows through them. Less blood reaches the neck and brain. Thinking power begins to dwindle, we feel heavy in the head, we feel tired after working for a little while, we feel miserable. Our heart is filled up with grief. There is no inclination to smile even if we try hard.

Then other problems crop up as the effect of tension spreads to several parts of the body. Digestion suffers, the secretion of gastric juices appears to increase and the stomach may pain. The heart seems to be jumping a lot, the pulse rate goes high, we become irritable. There is loss of interest in the surroundings and there is loss of libido. We must learn to relax in order to be able to reverse this negative process in the body. We must try to tension and relax the muscles.

Dr. Steven J.Schleiter of Mount Sinai School of Medicine U.S.A. says that the loss of the life partner is linked with increased illness and death, notably among the widowers. His team of researchers found that there was a significant decline in the activity of the white blood cells which are responsible for the defence of the body in diseases. Weakened resistance was aggravated by hormonal changes in the blood chemistry due to depression and anxiety which were common emotions among widowers.

Dr. Robert Ader, a British immunologist, showed through an experiment a clear and direct link between brain and the immune system. He established that hypnosis can suppress allergic reactions. These findings should alter a physician’s approach to disease and also his attitude towards the patients. If the physician talks to the patient trying to understand his problem, giving him a constructive suggestion, this may work far better than prescribing a tranquilliser.

A split second prescription adversely affects doctor-patient interaction and hinder “meaningful” communication between the patient and his physician according to some experimenters. The patient seems to be most satisfied when the physician gives detailed information about the disease affecting him, rather than the one who got a mere prescription from his physician.

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