Stress and Relaxation

Dr.Krishna Prasad Sreedhar M.A., Ph.D., D. M & S. P. (NIMHANS)


Praveen’s wife telephoned to fix an appointment for counseling. When they came Praveen did not appear very happy about the appointment. He said, “My wife thinks that I need psychological counseling. I do not know for what? She says, of late I am not my old self…I am a changed person. I came just to oblige her”.


I looked at his wife Padma and asked only one question. I wanted to know her educational level because she showed an astonishing insight into the plight of her husband.


Padma politely revealed that she could study only up to the second year degree course. Her marriage made her a house wife. Padma did not have any regrets, for her husband has been very loving and understanding. Her husband has a fat salary and they own a house with all the possible amenities they could imagine.

Padma was waiting to talk. She said “My husband is a brilliant person and is very good at his work. His company raises his salary as soon as they feel that he is planning to go away. Though sometimes he brings his work home, he has always found time to spend with me. Till recently our life was very good. Of late I find him moody and irritated. He finds faults with me for trivial matters. I think he has frequent headaches and stomach upsets, but he refuses to see a doctor. The most upsetting thing is that he is often absent minded and forgets things and feels frustrated. He is tensed up and worries a lot. His sleep is also disturbed and gets up in the morning with a grouchy face…”


I consoled his wife and told that her husband was probably tensed up. I also told her that sincere and hard working people were lot more tensed up these days because of the pace with which life is going on and also competition has become the order of the day. Competition is a threat and produces ‘tension’. Tension either at work or at home makes a person stressed up. While a reasonable degree of stress is a good motivator, in excess it affects the physical, psychological and sociological well being of a person.

I asked the following questions to Praveen and all the answers were in the affirmative.

  • Do you suffer from frequent headaches?

  • Do you have tension at the back of the neck?

  • Do you have a nagging low back ache?

  • Do you experience frequent dryness of mouth and throat?

  • Do you have congestion in the chest?

  • Do you have spells of breathlessness?

  • Do you have frequent trouble with your stomach?

  • Do you have vague aches and pains all over the body?

  • Do you worry a lot about the future?

  • Do you have difficulty waiting to get things done?

  • Do you consider yourself restless of late?

  • Do you get upset when there is commotion around you?

  • Do you have difficulty enjoying things which you used to enjoy?

  • Do you get angry about trivial things and regret later?

  • Do you have difficulty in concentration?

  • Do you have trouble with your memory?

  • Do you feel that you lost your self confidence?

  • Do you often withdraw from social situations?

  • Do you feel that recently you cannot enjoy sex with your wife?


He had all the above problems. At this point his wife nodded as if I hit the most intimate thing in their life. Yes, the intimacy was gone and Praveen has become morose and lonely. (Names have been changed to keep anonymity).


I told him that his wife could be right as he was too tensed up if not stressed up. His work and success unfortunately have put him at a high level of competition to maintain his and his company’s status producing enormous tension and he had no idea of the reward of relaxation. Continuous tension made him experience ‘distress’; the worst form of stress. I explained to him that his trouble was that he has become a victim of bad stress. I also explained to him that stress at an optimum level was not only good but was healthy. However, stress in excess stimulates the brain centers which are primarily responsible for our safety and security – typically known as the flight/fight reaction in which stress hormones are released. Under real threat like standing in front of a furious dog, the release of these hormones are essential as they make our system prepared to fight the dog or escape. However, this life saving mechanism of our psycho physiological system becomes life threatening if it persists in the absence of an objective threat. The flight/fight reaction is a primitive jungle law which used to help the cavemen and animals from dangers. The difficulty with modern men is that they have lots of imagined threats to which the brain reacts more or less the same way when real threat is perceived. Human beings are endowed with the capacity to think verbally and visually. The words and visuals which once threatened a person, often act as real threats forcing the body and mind to react as if the threat is real out there. If these reactions become continuous and chronic, damages occur to our mind and body. The result is chronic tension which manifests as symptoms of undue stress.


Overcoming these stresses is not easy but we can if we make a committed effort. It has been found that people with Type-A personality has more difficulty to come out of undue stresses. By far the best antidote to distress appears to be YOGA. Continuous practice of yoga changes our body metabolism unhealthy attitudes of the mind and a transcendental tranquility.


Those who are disinclined to do yoga may try the modern techniques of RELAXATION.They are Yoganidra, Jacobsons Progressive Muscular Relaxation, Schultz Autogenic Training, Relaxation Response, Bio-feedback and the latest being Guided Psycho-Somatic Relaxation.