Archive for the ‘Stress Management.’ Category

Can’t sleep? It may be because you DIDN’T react to stress

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Study identifies behaviours that cause insomnia.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explored the pathway that leads to short-term insomnia disorder after stressful events.

According to the study, dangerous coping mechanisms that could lead to insomnia include disengaging without confronting the stressor, turning to drugs and alcohol, and using media as a means of distraction.

“Our study is among the first to show that it’s not the number of stressors, but your reaction to them that determines the likelihood of experiencing insomnia,” says lead author Vivek Pillai, PhD, research fellow at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. “While a stressful event can lead to a bad night of sleep, it’s what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia.”

Nearly 3,000 subjects with no history of insomnia were interviewed about their coping mechanisms and asked to communicate their perception of the stressful situations in their lives.

One year later, those with short-term insomnia disorder were identified as having the corresponding, aforementioned reactions to stress, although researchers were also able to identify potential solutions to help circumvent insomnia during hard times.

“Though we may not be able to control external events, we can reduce their burden by staying away from certain maladaptive behaviors,” says Pillai.

According to researchers, mindfulness-based therapies seem able to help suppress the “mental chatter” that inhibits the onset of sleep.

“This study is an important reminder that stressful events and other major life changes often cause insomnia,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler. “If you are feeling overwhelmed by events in your life, talk to your doctor about strategies to reduce your stress level and improve your sleep.”

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Hobbies do help de-stress professionals

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

CREATIVE DIVERSIONS: They provide meaning, fun and can break up a boring schedule without feeling like work.

I MARVEL at career women who have time for hobbies, especially when they are climbing the corporate ladder and are always on the go.

Many people don’t realise that hobbies provide balance. Many would sigh, saying they are always too busy to have time for hobbies as they have to juggle their careers and families, what more to indulge in hobbies.

That is where most career women are wrong. They don’t realise the power of hobbies. Hobbies bring a sense of fun and freedom to life that can help minimise the impact of chronic stress.

People who are stressed out can benefit from hobbies because they provide an outlet for stress and something to look forward to after a hard day (or week) at a stressful job. The research out of San Francisco State University looked at how creative activities like knitting, beading, cooking, painting and baking affect work performance.

In a study by a team of psychologists, the subjects gave their after-hours pursuits and their evaluation of job performance examined.

They found, in general, that the more you engage in creative activities, the better you’ll do. The result showed that people with creative hobbies performed between 15 and 30 per cent better at work.

There are several explanations to this. Taking time to indulge in your favourite creative pursuit might help you recharge before heading back to work or could also be a means to learn more about your strengths, weaknesses and knowledge that will benefit you professionally. Those who engage in a hobby also reported greater feelings of control and mastery.

I know of two professionals who are successful career women with creative hobbies. One of them is Aliza Yasmin Yahaya, 31, who is an offshore structures project engineer with Shell Malaysia. Aliza bakes cakes, macaroons, pavlova, etc, as a hobby.

By word of mouth she started to take orders. She even got orders from famous artistes such as Aaron Aziz and Adi Putra. She bakes and her hubby, Ahmad Sidik (also an engineer), helps her with the icing and frosting.

Another professional that I know is Shuhaizee A. Shukor, 30, an executive with Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) who enjoys beading as a hobby.

She said that her beading hobby enhances her creativity and performance. She makes all kinds of beaded bracelets and necklaces.

This hobby later became an online business known as beadlista. You can order her beaded bracelets and necklaces or Suhaizee is going to be featured on TV9 soon.

Research shows that those who are in stressful jobs that normally contribute to burnout feel less of a need to “recover” from their day at bedtime if they have more creative and social leisure activities that aren’t work-related hobbies.

Mental health centres needed

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR: The country needs more community mental health care centres and trained therapists in schools and institutions of higher learning to help students and young adults menage stress.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) president Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the increase in stress levels in schools, higher learning institutions, colleges and at workplaces is a major factor in the rise in mental disorder cases.

“School children have been detected to have severe symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression. These children should be given appropriate intervention in the form of counseling and mental health coping skills.

Teachers, students face stress

Friday, September 6th, 2013

TIME BOMBS: Keep your eyes open for the mentally sick in our midst.

A NEW test will be introduced for applicants to teachers’ training colleges, the Education Ministry announced on Monday.

The assessment will gauge whether they have the mental resilience to be teachers in today’s fast-paced, everything-now world.

Will they continue to have both oars in the water when under extreme pressure and emotional distress?

Students these days are, after all, capable of driving anyone, even the most serene embodiments of control, over the edge.

Being ignored and heckled, or worse, attacked, assaulted and having your car set on fire do that to people.

Educators have spoken of fellow teachers who clamber over the school fence to get into school and talk to themselves. One carried a basket to school every day and filled it up with stray kittens found along the way.

But it’s not just teachers that ought to be assessed. Students should be, too.

Last Saturday, a Form Five student hanged himself with his school tie at his home in Kampar.

Several days earlier, a student, believed to be suffering from stress after having to re-sit six exam papers, fell to her death from the 10th floor of a flat in Tanjung Bungah in Penang.

There have been many other suicides and suicide attempts involving students over the years.

by Chok Suat Ling

A game to help kids with anger problems

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

IN an age where many are hooked on computer games, Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health (IMH) is experimenting with using the medium to reach out to children with anger problems.

It hopes that primary school children can learn to control their anger and impulses after playing Regna Tales, a role-playing computer game that it launched recently.

Dr Daniel Fung, chairman of the IMH medical board, said, “Anger is the most common negative emotion that children experience. It is found in all sorts of conditions from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to depression and when it gets really bad, it results in violence.”

He hopes to reach out to large groups of children through the game, to give them some help in dealing with their emotions. It is hoped that this would reduce the number of children who need psychiatric help.

The IMH’s Child Guidance Clinic, for patients between six and 19, has been seeing between 2,500 and 3,000 new patients a year, in the last five years.

The most common conditions are ADHD, stress-related problems and autism spectrum disorders.

The IMH worked with game developer IP Spaces to come up with it, at a cost of about S$220,000 (RM560,489).

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More urban folk expressing suicidal thoughts

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: The number of people in Klang Valley expressing suicidal thoughts to Befrienders Kuala Lumpur last year is almost double that of 2008.

In 2008, 1,393 persons expressed that they had suicidal feelings, but the number shot up to 2,668 last year, said Befrienders KL chairman L. Mary Raj.

Relationship issues topped the list of problems expressed, followed by psychiatric and financial problems, she said, adding that most callers who said they had suicidal thoughts were below 30, followed closely by those in the 31 to 50 year age group.

When it comes to race, the Chinese led the pack, making up 60% of callers, followed by Indians and Malays.

Mary said the reason more people were having suicidal thoughts could be due to an increasing number of people living under stressful conditions, as well as greater media publi­city on suicide cases.

Other than phone calls, such expressions were also made through e-mail and face-to-face meetings.

“It is good that they express suicidal feelings because it lowers their risk of committing suicide at the moment they are contemplating it,” Mary said.

According to the National Suicide Registry, 117 suicide cases were recorded in 2007, while 425 cases were seen in 2010. Indians recorded the highest suicide rate at 3.67 for every 100,000 Indians, followed by the Chinese at 2.44 per 100,000.


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Too blessed to be stressed

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Sometimes, spending quiet moments alone in the garden can offer lessons that remind us to put things in perspective.

WE all go through moments when everything is totally meaningless. There are days when nothing seems to go right, and we are overwhelmed by circumstances that we cannot control.

On Friday morning, I woke up early, put the laundry to wash, and prepared my regular breakfast of two half-boiled eggs. I made myself a cup of coffee and remembered that the coffee had been sent to me specially by a friend in Kuantan.

She is a cancer survivor and the road for her is not easy. She has to travel by bus once every few weeks to continue her treatment in another state but she never complains. She shares about how she takes morning walks on the beach front and the amazing views of sunrise bring her much cheer.

I took my cup of coffee and sat on the swing in the garden. This swing was given to us by my brother-in-law years ago when he moved house. It has wonderful memories because I courted my wife on this swing when she stayed with her brother in Petaling Jaya.

As I surveyed the patch of green, with a few pots of plants that have been part of the scenery for many years, I recall how my mother, even in her 80s, would potter about to keep the garden neat and tidy.

I have seen gardens that are “picture-perfect” but the owners are often too busy to appreciate them.

In one of the cracks on the concrete wall, a small plant with one flower in full bloom reminds me that even in the toughest of situations, it is possible to be a beacon of hope.

The sun was slowly rising. It had rained earlier and the air was fresh. The dark clouds were shifting away, and I was treated to a kaleidoscope of colour in the morning sky. As I have written before, the most brilliant sunrises and sunsets are not only those by the beach or in the hills.

They are often in our own backyard, if we wake up early enough, and are able to look beyond the trials of life, and lift up our eyes. Many years back, a friend sent me a card that said, “If the outlook is grim, try looking up.”

by Soo Ewe  Jin.

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Slow down, relax, breathe deeply

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Managing stress is easier said than done, but in the fast – paced life we live, it is important to master this skill, writes Meera Murugesan.

MANAGE stress and you’ll be healthier and happier. Haven’t we heard this once too often? And isn’t it easier said than done given the “pressure cooker” lives we lead today?

Demanding bosses, back-stabbing co-workers, problematic children and unruly neighbours — the list of “stress triggers” is endless in today’s urban environment. But can we still find ways to manage stress and achieve balance in our lives in the midst of all this chaos?

Humans are social creatures. We thrive in our inter-personal relationships, whether at home or at work but these same relationships can either be a source of support or stress, says Dr Daniel Zainal Abdul Rahman, consultant psychiatrist at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

Managing stress he explains, doesn’t mean eliminating it from our lives because that would be impossible. Furthermore, we need stress to some extent because it motivates us to perform. But, if we are in perpetual stress mode 24 hours a day we are heading for danger.


Dr Daniel says everyone is “running on fifth gear” these days, so the body’s stress response, which is actually intended to help us face an external threat to our safety or survival, is being constantly triggered.

The heart beats fast, breathing becomes shallow and rapid, blood pressure, pulse rate and sugar levels rise. Adrenalin floods the body and muscles tighten. All these come into place to help us either fight or run away in the face of danger and these stress parameters go back to normal once the threat is over. However, in today’s environment, this stress response is being triggered all the time, even over small things and the end result is damage to the body and mind.

“It’s like starting a car, and keeping the left foot flooring the brake and the right foot flooring the gas. What do you think happens to the engine? How long can it last? It will break down,” he says.

Parents, friends cause of stress

Monday, October 8th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Young Malaysians, especially students experience stress because of pressure from parents and peers.

National Population and Family Development Board chairman Tan Sri Datuk Napsiah Omar said children were pressured to score in examinations and almost had no time for leisure activities to help them unwind.

“It (stress) is mainly caused by competition among students striving to be the best,” she told the New Straits Times yesterday.

She pointed out the need for an understanding in children’s development to balance study and entertainment.

“Education is important, but this does not mean parents should risk their children’s mental health.”

Befrienders Kuala Lumpur executive director Vincent Pun said they received 21,600 calls and emails from young callers for help over relationship break-ups, interpersonal conflicts in school and at home, insecurity and family problems last year.

“Parents must play their part. When problems are identified, a family should start working on ways to solve them instead of avoiding them.

“If the problems are not resolved, they could lead to youths committing suicide.”

A report by the National Suicide Registry Malaysia estimated that between January and August 2010, 425 people committed suicide, averaging 60 cases per month.

National Parent-Teacher Association president Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Ali Hassan said parents should be more aware of their children’s emotional status and added that the education system should be less taxing.

“Parents should spend more time with children instead of leaving them to struggle on their own as it may lead to suicide.

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Stress Management – Start Here!

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Take action quickly when “cracks” start to appear.

© iStockphoto/kulicki

A lot of research has been conducted into stress over the last hundred years. Some of the theories behind it are now settled and accepted; others are still being researched and debated. During this time, there seems to have been something approaching open warfare between competing theories and definitions: Views have been passionately held and aggressively defended.

What complicates this is that intuitively we all feel that we know what stress is, as it is something we have all experienced. A definition should therefore be obvious… except that it is not.


Hans Selye was one of the founding fathers of stress research. His view in 1956 was that “stress is not necessarily something bad – it all depends on how you take it. The stress of exhilarating, creative successful work is beneficial, while that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental.” Selye believed that the biochemical effects of stress would be experienced irrespective of whether the situation was positive or negative.

Since then, a great deal of further research has been conducted, and ideas have moved on. Stress is now viewed as a “bad thing”, with a range of harmful biochemical and long-term effects. These effects have rarely been observed in positive situations.

The most commonly accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard S Lazarus) is that stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” In short, it’s what we feel when we think we’ve lost control of events.

This is the main definition used by this section of Mind Tools, although we also recognize that there is an intertwined instinctive stress response to unexpected events. The stress response inside us is therefore part instinct and part to do with the way we think.

Fight – or – Flight:

Some of the early research on stress (conducted by Walter Cannon in 1932) established the existence of the well-known “fight-or-flight” response. His work showed that when an organism experiences a shock orperceives a threat, it quickly releases hormones that help it to survive.

In humans, as in other animals, these hormones help us to run faster and fight harder. They increase heart rate and blood pressure, delivering more oxygen and blood sugar to power important muscles. They increase sweating in an effort to cool these muscles, and help them stay efficient. They divert blood away from the skin to the core of our bodies, reducing blood loss if we are damaged. As well as this, these hormones focus our attention on the threat, to the exclusion of everything else. All of this significantly improves our ability to survive life-threatening events.

Not only life-threatening events trigger this reaction: We experience it almost any time we come across something unexpected or something that frustrates our goals. When the threat is small, our response is small and we often do not notice it among the many other distractions of a stressful situation.

Unfortunately, this mobilization of the body for survival also has negative consequences. In this state, we are excitable, anxious, jumpy and irritable. This actually reduces our ability to work effectively with other people. With trembling and a pounding heart, we can find it difficult to execute precise, controlled skills. The intensity of our focus on survival interferes with our ability to make fine judgments by drawing information from many sources. We find ourselves more accident-prone and less able to make good decisions.

There are very few situations in modern working life where this response is useful. Most situations benefit from a calm, rational, controlled and socially sensitive approach.

In the short term, we need to keep this fight-or-flight response under control to be effective in our jobs. In the long term we need to keep it under control to avoid problems of poor health and burnout.

Introducing Stress Management:

There are very many proven skills that we can use to manage stress. These help us to remain calm and effective in high pressure situations, and help us avoid the problems of long term stress. In the rest of this section of Mind Tools, we look at some important techniques in each of these three groups.

This is a much-abridged excerpt from the ‘Understanding Stress and Stress Management’ module of the Mind Tools Stress Management Masterclass. As well as covering this material in more detail, it also discusses:

  • Long-term stress: The General Adaptation Syndrome and Burnout.
  • The Integrated Stress Response.
  • Stress and Health.
  • Stress and its Affect on the Way We Think.
  • Pressure & Performance: Flow and the ‘Inverted-U’.

These sections give you a deeper understanding of stress, helping you to develop your own stress management strategies for handling unique circumstances. Click here to find out more about the Stress Management Masterclass.

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