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March 2014

How to manage stress

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How many of you have gone through a stressful situation? Do you think we can avoid stress?

No matter how good or bad persons we are, stress is unavoidable. One thing we can do though is change the way we respond to stress. Today, I would like to present to you few situations where I personally felt disconcerted and how I am learning today to domesticate this beast well-known under stress.


As far as I remember, I encountered stress for the first time in 2nd grade while performing a poem recital. My heart was pounding fast, my hands were shaking and my voice stemming, stuttering to the point I could barely speak. After that first experience, I felt anxious with my own body being out of control every time I had to do a recital. In order to limit embarrassment, I learned all poems by heart. The way it worked back then is if you don’t recite your poem correctly, not only you get a bad mark, but also you are publicly humiliated and pointed out to the corner. This type of educational approach put a lot of pressure on my younger self and somehow shaped my relationship with the beast (I hated stress to the point I would do anything to stay away from it). As a teenager, I was smart enough to avoid situations that caused such discomfort. Over the years, I built up my little comfort zone that I very much liked and enjoyed until the day I decided to study abroad! I think I was unconscious at that time but in retrospection did the right thing.

Moving to Canada turned into a dreadful situation the day I realized all points of reference were gone. I was left with no one except this beast that somehow found a way to sneak into my suitcase and chase me in my new home. Here I am, having to step out of my cozy comfort zone to build new relationships and familiarize with a new culture, a different educational system along with regulations and ethics.  As a matter of fact, the integration was easier to manage than expected since I ended up evolving within an international student environment and many people were going through the same situation, which was pretty heart-warming.

Next, I entered the workforce and had a very critical, angry boss, a man who would walk in each day and immediately begin to find fault with everything I did. I was becoming a nervous wreck, feeling inadequate and shameful, as well as developing a real bitterness toward him. My self confidence and self-esteem were at their lowest and I wanted to leave, but jobs were scarce and I had financial commitments. Moreover around the same time, my girlfriend broke up with me so I had to find a new place. So imagine this happening to you at the same time: job dissatisfaction, financial difficulties, break up and moving out. I think these are at the top of the list of known stressors for westerners. At that point, my mental and physical health deteriorated and I was going through one of the toughest if not the worst moment of my life, the bottom of the bottom (as I call it). I was in deep despair and didn’t know what to do except to lean in and let go. Meanwhile, I started looking for ways to calm my parasympathetic system and lower my cortisol level, cortisol being the hormone released in response to a fight or flight situation. As such, I came across two ancient wisdom approaches: mindfulness and meditation which supported me to overcome these roadblocks, reestablishing a strong and unshakable foundation by living one breath at a time.


In summary, I believe we can change the way we manage stress. There is a way to turn this beast into a docile creature. The way I personally go about it today is whenever I go through a stressful situation, I would ask myself :

1. “Do I have to believe all my thoughts?”

2. ”What’s the most important thing in my life at this very moment?”

These two questions help me put things into perspective and make my fuse longer. In other words, I learn to smile at stress, make it my friend and my ally. I would like to leave you on this note: “not all snakes are dangerous”! Our beliefs color our thought, word, and action. So let’s choose them carefully.