Tag Archives: Tips to Beat Stress

A Calmer You: Hey doc, I’ve been waiting

Of all the people, doctors can’t be the ones adding to our stress. All those who scolded me left, right and centre for not writing the column last week, please note that medical leave is allowed even in the prison camps of Guatemala. Areey, I was down with a terrible bout of viral infection that caused bad cough and cold.


Bekaar mein beemar ko daant diya. Aap dekh lena if Kejriwal comes to power, we may even start getting special cough-leave per month. Anyway, I promised some of you on Twitter that this week, I would recount the stress one faces when one has to visit a doctor.

Especially during the viral infection season, which now lasts twelve months in a year.  I toh have a standard line if I see someone unwell, no matter what season or month it is. I make a wise, grim face, shake my head and say ‘Changing-weather hai. You must take special care these days.’ I swear by Mayawati that I don’t know what ‘changing weather’ technically means but people buy this remark with all seriousness any time of the year. Anyway, so here’s what happened when I went under the weather last week. True story, no exaggeration.

 Me: I have fever and bad cold since morning. I think I should see a doctor.

Colleague 1: Viral hoga. Antibiotic le lo. Augmentin 625 mg. Do gargles and inhale steam.

Colleague 2: Don’t take such strong medicines. Take ginger and honey and black pepper.

Colleague 3: Homeopathy works like magic in this viral. Hum toh preventive bhi le lete hain. No side effects, you see.

Me (Next morning): The cough has worsened. Let me see a doctor today.
Colleague 1: I know the best physician. It’s a bit crowded at his clinic. Let me know when you’re going, I’d give him a call.

Me: That’s okay. Just give me the number, I’ll fix an appointment.
So I call up at the doc’s clinic and ask for a 6:30 pm appointment
Receptionist: Sorry, 6:30 slot is booked. I can give you 7:18pm.

Me (pleased with the professionalism): Okay, that’s fine.
I reach at 7:10 for my 7:18pm appointment and see at least 40 patients, all at various degrees of distress and coughing at various volumes. I go up to the receptionist.

Me: I have a 7:18pm appointment.
Receptionist (notes down my name): Please wait. The doctor is about to reach from his other clinic.

Me: When will my turn come? I’m on time for my appointment.

Receptionist: When he comes, we’ll start with the patients from the 5:30pm slot first. You are at Number 42.

Me: What’s the point in giving me an appointment for a certain time then?

Receptionist: Yawwwwn. Aap meri TV screen ke aage aa rahe ho. Please sit and wait. Dr saab will reach anytime now.

The good doctor comes in at 7:30, and suddenly the coughing in the waiting lounge becomes louder. Mr Verma and Mr Kapoor, both with the 5:30 appointment are, by then, fighting with the receptionist on who will go inside first. ‘Hum Noida se aaye hain,’ says Verma. ‘Noida koi America hai,’ argues Kapoor. Meanwhile the receptionist calls out for Mrs Malhotra out of turn and sends her inside. Suddenly Verma ji and Kapoor ji are united-in-victimisation and question the receptionist. ‘Woh Dr Saab ko personally jaanti hain. She only has to show her reports,’ the highly irritated, and highly irritating receptionist replies. ‘Isiliye Kejriwal rota hai. Everywhere corruption hai ji,’ Verma ji shakes his head. Finally my turn comes at 9:40pm, and exactly 22 seconds later, I emerge with a prescription that  advises: Augmentin 625, do gargles and inhale steam. ‘700 rupees’, the receptionist says. ‘Please give change,’ she adds. “Please change,” I tell her, while dishing out 700 bucks. She doesn’t get the sarcasm.

I don’t really know what calmness tips to give in the situation I described above. By no means can we undermine the importance or value of doctors and the significant role they play in our well being. Having some close friends in the medical profession, I also know the stress and challenges doctors have to face everyday – the biggest one being having to deal with the ‘Internet doctors’ all patients have become these days. We google our symptoms, we google medicine names, we google test reports. This awareness can sometimes be a blessing, but is more often a tool to question a doctor’s advice with cynicism. But that said, the doctors also need to see if the entire experience of visiting them is reducing, or adding stress to their patient’s condition. In this season of manifestos, may I put forward these demands to our doctor friends….

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips when Doctors are the reasons for your stress.[/stextbox]

Please schedule your day in such a way that you reach your clinics on time. An exceptional emergency is perfectly understandable in your profession, but having a room full of sick and already stressed people constantly staring at the clock and sighing, everyday, is not.
Please do not take up more patients than you can practically see, and pay attention to, on any given day. I know this means less money, but it also means getting a life. Reaching home at midnight everyday with stacks of cash still means reaching home to family members who are asleep.

Please fix a separate time during your day, if possible, for pharmaceutical representatives and influential patients who come with sifarish. To a patient who is in a bad condition and waiting for two hours, it isn’t easy to digest another person cutting the queue and breezing in, just because you wanted to oblige someone. They’ll not say it on your face because yours is a noble profession (?) and you are a life saver, but it hurts the respect that should naturally come for you.

Please hire polite and cheerful receptionists. Please.

Sonal Kalra just googled her symptoms and realised that she might be suffering from lymphocercoma of the brain due to changing weather. Please suggest some specialist.

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A Calmer You – here’s a resolution: let us gossip

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The secret formula for a stress-free, long life is now revealed.

In January 2011, I had written a column about making a resolution that I shall not indulge in gossip. In January 2014, I want to slap myself for it. Nasht ho gayi zindagi in teen saal mein, saara mazaa hi chala gaya lifese. Of course, aspiring to have good values was the intent, but I never bargained for turning into Alok Nath! And on top of this self-invited boredom, I also compromised on my longevity, you see. Because as a recent study by the University of Michigan says in its report — which by the way I have framed and light agarbattis before, every morning — people, especially women, who gossip, live longer. Gossiping apparently elevates levels of progesterone; a hormone that reduces stress and makes you feels good.

Kya baat hai, University of Michigan, pehli baar koi interesting teer maara hai. Now, you see, whether I like it or not, I would have to gossip in the interest of science and research.  And humanity. And divinity.  And while on this trip, my mind has figured out some valid benefits of gossiping. But woh batane se pehle let me break my fast and tell you what I overheard coming from Chaddha ji’s house this morning. His daughter Bansuri was playing, I mean wailing. Not that it’s new, she’s been crying about pretty much everything ever since she turned a teenager. But she was crying out rather loud, so purely out of concern and sympathy (ha,ha), I went out to the balcony and heard this…

Bansuri: Daddy jiii, yeh dress poori nahi aa rahiA Calmer You - here’s a resolution let us gossip
Chadda ji: Dress toh wahi hai,  tum poori nahi aa rahi hogi
Bansuri: Mummy jiii, daddy ji mazaak udaa rahe hain
Mrs Chaddha: Inse kaho pehle apne shaadi waale suit mein poore aa ke dikhaayein
Chaddha ji: Us manhoos suit ko toh meine 10saal pehle lohri mein jalaa diya thaa
Mrs Chaddha: #$%^&**Y%#@

Phew! Thank God I could tell someone all this. If you have neighbours like the Chaddhas, AND you have the permission from University of Michigan to gossip, why would stress anyway come near you. Haan? So here’s why I think that research would have allowed us this oldest pleasure known to mankind…

1 Law of diminishing hatred:  You see, the moment you gossip about someone, pangs of guilt overtake your mind. I’m not referring to the typical readers of this column, but this happens at least with most normal, good people.

That guilt suddenly makes you want to be all nice to the victim of your gossip. So without that person even knowing the reason for it, you go out of your way to be good to him/her. Dekha? The devi of gossip actually enhances goodness and bonding between people. Jai ho.

2 It is social work, in disguise: Gossiping about someone else’s bad behaviour is simply your way of warning everyone else about it. Toh aap toh charity kar rahe ho. Isn’t that supposed to be a noble thing? The other day two girls at work were gossiping about the behaviour of the office  Casanova. Since I was Alok Nath at that time, I immediately went up to lecture them about the sanskaar of not gossiping, but before I could say something, a third girl who was overhearing them, also joined in and they realised that Mr Casanova had used the same pick up line on all three, pretending to be only interested in them. Bas! Girls safe and happy, Alok Nath ji chup.

3 Six degrees of separation: Whether you like it or not, gossiping is perhaps the best way to discover people who are exactly like you. Lifelong rishtey ban jaate hain ji, over gossip sessions. We all outwardly take a stand that we hate gossip mongers, but deep inside we know the thrill of being able to high-five a person whose mean-ness levels are exactly the same as ours. A person at work who is my gossip partner would know exactly what I mean. And you know what, people who gossip also have to be creative. Because you can’t excel at gossiping unless it’s told in an entertaining way. Mehnat lagti hai, talent bhi lagta hai, koi mazaak hai? Denouncing an activity that stimulates the mind at so many different levels is sacrilege.

Ab thoda serious ho jayein, just for a minute? See, I wrote all of this in good faith towards your sensibilities and intelligence. I hope you know the difference between malicious backbiting and relatively harmless, idle chatter. It’s easy to act Puritans and deny it, but I can bet my AAP jhaadu that there’s not even a single person who hasn’t done the latter, at some or the other time. I’m only asking for an admission of the truth here, as long as we are aware of our boundaries.

Spreading false rumours about someone with an intent to harm his or her reputation is not gossip, it is sin. The thumb rule that I apply to myself is simple.

I imagine a situation where the person I’m gossiping about, turns out to be standing behind me when I’m speaking. If I can still say the same thing about them playfully to their face, I’m doing okay. Don’t ever say anything behind a person’s back, that, if the need or situation be, you can’t repeat in front of them. And, finally, to the victims of harmful gossip. Dekho yaar, there’ll always be people in life who would love to see you fail, simply because they didn’t succeed. They’ll keep talking behind your back, but you’ve got to realise that they are ‘behind’ you for a reason.

Here’s a random, confusing, but golden advice, a la Chaddha ji — ‘Agar aap hi har waqt yeh sochenge ki log kya sochenge, toh phir log kya sochenge?’

Sonal Kalra is wondering if all the sweetness and goodness in trying to be Alok Nath, gave her diabetes. How will she handle a very long life now?

Oh, this gender bender nonsense

I’m terribly ashamed to admit that almost all of you saw through, with spectacular ease, my April Fool joke about discontinuing this column. Even those who ended up sending me mails with a plea to not give up writing, also seemed to be trying to humour me – letting out a stifled laugh while making a serious face, asking me not to leave. Koi izzat hi nahi hai meri dhamki ki, I tell you. Anyway, I’m here, a la Raj Kapoor’s Jeena yahan marna yahan style, and we are yet again trying to seek calmness in this world full of idiots like you and me.

calmness tips confused gender names people

Today’s topic is courtesy Shakti — who is an amazingly good humoured girl, for someone with a name that reminds most people of an on-screen rapist. Shakti wants me to write about people who are saddled with gender-bender i.e girls who have boy-names and guys who have typically girlie names. Around two years back in this column, I had briefly touched upon the stress of having an odd-sounding name. But it didn’t seem like something that could put people into a state of depression.

[stextbox id=”info”]How to Avoid Stress of Confused-Gender Names [Calmness Tips][/stextbox]

‘Oh yes, it can,’ says my colleague Chirag — a girl who says she’s spent her entire life living an ‘identity crisis’. ‘People call up and ask me to hand over the phone to Mr Chirag. When I say it’s my name, they sound surprised, mostly amused,’ she says, and casually shows me her desk, full of letters addressed to her name shown as the male gender. Now that I sit back and think about it, I’ve known so many such people in my life. I’m sure so did you. My geography teacher in school, a beautiful woman, was called Vinod. And an ex-colleague — a rather burly bearded guy — Madhu. In fact come to think of it, there was a phase during my work life that my colleagues in a certain project had these first names — Saroj, Kamla, Indu and Madhu. They were all guys. Oh yeah, there was one girl colleague — her name was Jasvinder. Quite a bit of our time used to go into explaining this odd nomenclature to people who would call up and insist that their perception of what the gender ought to be is stronger than reality. Reality is harsh for some people, my friends. In certain communities, like the Sikhs, girls and boys do get the same names. The differentiator earlier would be the middle name of ‘Singh’ or ‘Kaur’, but a lot of younger generation has dropped the middle name, happily adding to the gender confusion. I know of families where both husband and wife are called Ravinder. And if their determination is strong enough, that’s the name of the kid too. Anyway, if you or someone you know, suffers from the gender-bender stress, here’s food for thought…

1 People will always assume. Let them: Some people get very angry if mistakenly addressed as the opposite gender.

While it is indeed irritating to be having to explain all your life that your parents had a rather quirky sense of humour, it never helps to lose your cool. In fact, having the ability to laugh about it will endear you to most people and they’ll not mock you. A friend’s mom whose name is Prem, always used to introduce herself as ‘Prem, thankfully not Chopra’ and people would instantly warm up to her.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
–  William Shakespeare

2 See the positives: Remember that an unusual name helps you stand out in the sea of people with predictable names.

Does any of you recall a time when every other boy was Rahul and every second girl, Pooja or Ritu. I never had less than three Poojas in my class, throughout my student life. And oh, the nicknames made situations hilarious, because they were the worst in gender bending. There was a point when all four of my close girl friends were called Sonu, at home. And then I got married to a guy, who, along with all his close guy friends, was also called Sonu. My marriage was perhaps the largest congregation of Sonus in the world. You just had to shout out the name, and half the guests would leave their plates and come rushing, in Saris and Suits alike. So if, my friend, you have an unusual name, it may not be a bad thing after all. People would remember you. Explaining the genesis of your name could be a good conversation starter for those who are otherwise short of things to talk about, at social gatherings. You may just begin to enjoy the attention.

3 Finally, if despite all the gyan I just tried to give you, you still can’t stand your name, go ahead and change it.

Koi patthar pe lakeer hai? It’s easier than you think. Check out a newspaper and it’s full of those classified ads where people announce a change in name. If you’re leading your life in misery while hating your name, but don’t change it because your great-great grandfather’s last great wish was to name his grandchild Om Prakash even though it turned out to be a girl, I’m truly sorry for you. Dadaji toh already chale gaye, aur tum chale jaaoge, cribbing all your life. And even on your tombstone, somebody will write ‘Mr’, by mistake. Do one of these — either make peace with your name and begin to love it, or change it. There are anyway so many problems in life, it’s the worst to be fretting all the time about why the Citibank operator called you Ms Cheenu Gupta when you are Mr Cheenu Gupta. Why the hell are you Cheenu in the first place?

Well, whatever. Sonal Kalra is forever thankful to danseuse Sonal Mansingh for becoming famous so that people got to know that ‘Sonal’ is a female name. Otherwise she would have changed it to…hmm…Cheenu.

Stress: Here’s what you can do to relax

Stress is the human mind’s response to physical, mental or emotional demands. When an actual or perceived challenge is sensed, the nervous system releases various hormones including adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body to deal with the demand. These hormones increase the heart rate, raise blood pressure, make muscles clench, and heighten sensory perception. These help the body to focus on the problem at hand to find solutions or countermeasures. One important point to note is that the hormone release happens even if the challenge is not real, but only imagined. Some stress is good for the person and can act as the motivator to excel at what he is doing. For example, in creative people like artistes and musicians, some level of stress helps improve their performance from average to outstanding, likewise in competitive sports and even in business executives.


Continual stress is however harmful both for the mind and the body. Many people feel stress from even everyday events like traffic congestion, inability to get through on a phone call or even a delayed cup of coffee. This stress results in various physiological problems. Some can be transient like irritability or anger, but others can be more sustained like inability to sleep, nausea and indigestion, muscular aches and pain. The human reaction to such stress could take various forms like hitting out at other people or breaking things or in alcohol or tobacco abuse, binge eating etc., which lead to actual harm to the human body. In extreme cases, clinical depression has been caused by continual stress. Chronic stress also causes impact beyond the environment where it occurred. For example, workplace related stress is carried home into the family and stresses from the home front impact work performance.

The major concern with stress is that the continual release of hormones can become addictive so that the person actively seeks stressful situations. For example, even when the traffic is flowing, a stress seeking driver will change lanes and jump traffic lights. In meetings or discussions, the stress-addict would take an antagonistic stand to provoke an argument.

The first step in managing stress is to recognize the symptoms. The first important indicator is the human body itself. The first quick indicator is the breathing pattern. Any departure from normal is indicative of stress. Similarly, the clenching of hands or jaw muscles, rigidity of shoulders or arms indicates stress. Once the person recognizes the signals, it is possible to find the means to relax. For example, if the breath is rapid and shallow, you can pause and slow the breathing to a more normal cadence. If the hands or shoulders are clenched, you could consciously relax them and so on. The very process of checking for stress helps dissipate some of it.

Once stress symptoms are identified, it is possible to develop habits to avoid stress situations. To begin the process, it is good to write down each day, the events that led to the symptoms of stress. For example, if it is traffic, whether one can start early, take a different route or even if the time can be used productively to listen to music or play an audio-book. If it is work pressure, whether some tasks could be deferred. It is also important to realize that all events cannot be controlled, and many have to be accepted as they happen.
The following relaxation methods are known to work in overcoming stress.

[stextbox id=”info”]Relaxation Tips to Beat Stress[/stextbox]

Below are some of the great tips to relax and beat day to day stress.

Deep breathing – Relaxation Tips to Beat Stress

Deep breathing is fundamental to various relaxation exercises. The breathing has to be from the abdomen. When the breath is drawn in, the stomach should rise. Exhalation should be through the mouth and prolonged to expel all air. Both inhaling and exhaling should be slow and controlled. Typically, the person is asked to count slowly to six both for inhaling and exhaling. This focus on deep breathing not just increases the oxygen intake to the body but also focuses the mind on the act of breathing and avoids other thoughts, including the event that caused the stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This is another good way to reduce stress. Adopt a comfortable posture and take deep breaths to relax the body. Start with, say, the right foot. For about ten seconds, tense and relax the foot focusing all your attention only on that foot and its sensations. Thereafter, work on the ankle, then the calf and the knee and so on each part of the body. This muscle relaxation exercise done at least once a day, is a good stress-busting technique.

Meditating on the body

This can follow the muscle relaxation process described above. In this exercise, no muscles are tensed or relaxed but only the mind is focused on each limb in turn for a minute or two. Starting, say, with the same right foot, the mind focuses on the sensations in the foot without any attempt to modify or change what is felt. This process is followed in turn for each body segment. This practice is also established as a good stress avoidance exercise.

Focusing the mind on the present

The human mind is constantly switching from reliving past events and worrying about imagined future events. This is one reason for stress. In this exercise, sometimes called mindfulness, an effort is made to keep the mind focused on the present instant. To help in this, an artifact like a candle or the thumb or a religious picture or icon can be used. The mind is focused on the object and all other thoughts are consciously avoided. This practice can also be done, for example, when walking or jogging. The attention is focused on the footfalls and the breath to the exclusion of other thoughts.

Yoga and Tai-chi

Both Yoga and Tai-chi depend on controlled movements of the body in consonance with breathing. Practice of these ancient exercise forms are also known to be effective stress management methods.

In conclusion, it is important to recognize that continual stress can harm the human body and mind. To avoid stress, the first step is to identify the causes and to think of ways to avoid being affected. Mind and body relaxation techniques help overcome susceptibility to stress.

Above is a guest post by Alia Haley who is a blogger by profession and currently she is writing for Fisher Price Toys for Toddlers.