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August 8, 2011 / Man in the Mirror

Stress and self-destruction

Amy Winehouse, age 27, a popular British singer-songwriter and winner of six Grammy awards, was found dead in her London flat last month. This was a tragic end to a brilliant career of a young, talented and popular performer who had, sadly, a much troubled private life. She was an example of how a talented individual with everything to live for, can possess a self-destruct button that inexorably led to her untimely death.

In fact, we all have the capacity to self-destruct and sometimes, under intense pressure, we can do can just that. Self-destruction can exist in many forms but essentially it manifests itself in irresponsible behaviour, including self-abuse by the use of prohibited substances, alcohol, smoking or sometimes overeating.
When individuals turn to such behaviour as a result of stress or disappointment in their lives, the long-term effects can be devastating, and sometimes, as in the case of Amy Winehouse, fatal. Driving too often in the fast lane will certainly give you a quick shot of adrenaline, for a few moments, but it may well also kill you. It is at times such as these that one doesn’t think clearly and logically, for if you did, then you would not take such risks.

So next time that you feel like pressing the self-destruct button because you cannot take any more pressure, think for just a moment about the consequences and first use these recommended stress interventions.

Time for reflection
When you feel the urge to be reckless, consider for a moment the consequences and then set about defusing your thoughts and getting rid of the excess of adrenaline that stress has created. There is nothing better than hard, physical activity to help you cope with the results of excessive stress. If you are badly stressed so that excessive pressure is making you angry, then competitive exercise or ball games can help the anger to dispel.

So when you are feeling angry, do your best to walk away from the situation and give yourself time and space for the emotions to dissipate. Shouting when upset is bad for your blood pressure and for your entire cardiac system — sometimes it can even bring about a heart attack.

Try sitting quietly in a room on your own. Close your eyes and clear your mind of stressful thoughts. Think about something pleasant — your favourite food or a special place, maybe on the beach by the sea. Breathe deeply to bring more oxygen into your blood and feel the tension leave your body. Chronic stress leads to quick, shallow breaths but bringing conscious attention to your breathing, lengthening and deepening the drawing in of oxygen, nourishes every cell of your body and promotes relaxation, as prolonged exhalation helps clear our bodies of toxins.

Some individuals, under stress, may binge-eat. They often eat alone, using food as a substitute for frustration, disappointment or upset.

None one of us is immune to stress but we can manage it effectively, and being aware of what not to do when you get that possible feeling of despair, is half the battle.
It is a continuous process of managing our bodies and our lives on a daily basis, and with Ramadan now upon us, now is a good a time as any to reassess our lives and priorities. Use the time to reflect back to what has worked for you over the past year and what you need to improve in your personal life. Use this quiet time as a period of reassessment of yourself and how you consider and treat others. Look out for your neighbour who might be sad and lonely, and remember that just a thoughtful word, a genuine smile and a feeling of love can made another person feel better and less stressed, almost immediately. And helping others helps you. Try it!

Key points

  1. We all have the capacity to self-destruct
  2. Stress and excessive pressure can be dangerous
  3. When you feel angry, walk away from the situation
  4. Physical exercise and competitive sports can help you cope with stress
  5. Deep breathing exercises can help

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee well-being consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies – www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

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