Who Can Escape Stress?

wosormuStress and its management remains the subject. We began last week. Our main source was acknowledged:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/AboutThisSite/AM00057. We met Madam Veronique Dogbe in a spot of bother at the check-in-counter, Sydney. The encounter was unexpected as it was stressful.
But, that is the nature of things. Stress can occur anywhere, at anytime. We found nature’s design is to gear us up to fight or flee when we perceive threat. [Medics call this protection pact “the fight-or-flight” response.]

We also found that, according to nature’s blueprint, once the threat is over, the alarm system should switch itself off. This allows our body to return to business as usual. And, that is “normal relaxed state”. But, due to the usual nonstop stress of modern life, our alarm system rarely switches off. [We shall meet ‘switch off’ again and again later on.]

The Mayo Clinic continued: “That’s why stress management is important. It gives you tools to reset your alarm system. Without stress management, your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to health problems.”

“Do you know anyone who isn’t at times stressed out these days?” That question is not mine. It was from the Mayo Clinic.  Let’s put this into local context. Ama Dede is 32 but look 42. She is a mom to three kids, wife, trader in street markets selling ‘folks or home second-hand’. She is also an usher at “Mendskrom Evangelicals”. To her pastor, the likes of Ama Dede are cows to be milked, or else, with non-pastoral tongues, lashed from pulpit or cursed and crushed in vestry.
The Mayo Clinic wrote: “Many people juggle multiple responsibilities.” [Tell Ama Dede all about that!] It continued: “ Learning to identify problems and implement solutions is the key to successful stress reduction.”

Is this a Chinese proverb? “It is a wise man, who, when in doubt, has the courage to admit: ‘Lo! There is doubt.’” That was precisely what Madam Dogbe did. Breaking into an unaccustomed sweat, this woman of fragrance placed a long distance call to her husband: “I must admit, I was seriously stressed.”

Let us tot up five steps. Step 1:  Decide and change how you manage stress.

From the very beginning, let there be light. Be clear about the mission of this stress management campaign.  Accept that stress won’t vanish from your life. When it does, you are dead. Neither is stress management the waving of a magic wand. Hence, the mission is not to gain access to a secret stress-less world. It is to manage levels of stress, and, increase ability to cope with woes.

Step 3: Identify your stress triggers. Some stick out…Divorce…No job no cash…Braving the traffic from Tema to Accra… Funerals funerals funerals…Positive events: Engagement, marriage, out-dooring… New job, new town, new house, same man same year.

It is agreed. Negative events are more stressful. But make no mistake. Positive changes in life also have high voltage stress potential.

4.1 Some strategic solutions are stunningly simple. Switch off. Let’s set it in the context of our proverbs. Recall this exquisite one from the Ga language: “Ker eefebo tang’er, káá kwer!” The literary translation hits the nail on the head. “If you find it nauseating, don’t look!”
An ancient demonstration of this strategy is found in the three wise monkeys. In plain words: When you’re sucked into a stressful place, try three things — if you can. Shut your eyes. Plug your ears. And, switch off your tongue.

It is also called selective blindness, selective deafness and, hardest of all, selective dumbness. The Sufis are famous for this. They are nicknamed “The Idiots”. Here it is in our context. Most of our languages have. The Ga: “Ker ohe afe bulu.” “In order to take the venom out of a stressful situation, permit your foes to take you for a short-term idiot!”

Come nearer home. Madam Dogbe does it all the time. Whenever the Black Stars are playing international matches, [with friend or with foe, it matters not], madam flees from the sitting room. “Tell me the score. But not before the final whistle.” Madam, an ardent football fan, has found that things aren’t what they used to be. Of late, watching a football match ‘life’ has become too stressful for her. “It is not worth it!” she concluded. Solution? Flee! Switch off!!
“A rendition of The Three Wise Monkeys”
“Tell me only the final score”

Another stunningly simple strategic solution is what the Mayo Men wrote: “When you can’t avoid a stressful situation, brainstorm ways to reduce the irritation factor. Don’t feel like you have to figure it out all on your own. Seek help and support from family and friends. You may want to ask them what stress-relief techniques have worked well for them.”
Does that sound familiar? Here it is in our context. Yes? It is from the Akan proverb: “When you market your ailment, you are likely to find its remedy.”

Step 5: # 3 PRACTICE
And, so to the fifth and last step. Practise stress reduction moves. The Mayo Men closed their brief tour of Stress Management with a briefest section entitled “Relaxation Techniques.” That section is also the sharp end of the mission. Next week, we’ll see if putting things into our context can simplify complex health and wellness issues.

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