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Mastering the Game

By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIMastering the Game

The kilometer-long lines snaking beyond the nearest corner of the Quezon or North Avenue MRT stations shocked many non-MRT patrons, after seeing the situation on television a few years ago. It’s like a scene straight out of some Hollywood apocalyptic-themed movie, where people stuck in an insanely long queue continued to multiply by hundreds resulting to a chaotic condition — the pushing and shoving, the fainting spells, the endless delays due to train glitch, well, you get the picture. Inevitably, what was once the most convenient and speedy means of transport became a nightmare for every passenger, and some television reporters even went live on-the-scene for several days to document the grueling wait that commuters had to endure each day just to go to work.

Reporters also made stories about alternatives to the MRT, only to conclude that plying Metro Manila’s streets via bus, jeepney, taxi or carpool only prove to be more time-consuming and frustrating — not to mention, costly — because of the rush hour gridlock all over the metropolis.  Hence, commuters are left with no option but to endure the ordeal of riding an MRT.

Surprisingly, some of those interviewed said that the situation has become the new normal for them, and they have no choice but to adjust to or tolerate the situation if the government doesn’t or can’t do anything about it.  However, there are those who complained about how much they felt stressed even before setting foot at work, while some even went as far as saying that they often get sick because of the intolerable condition.

Stress experienced as a result of the daily grind has proven to be a pressing health concern, not just in the Philippines, but the world over. In fact, the World Health Organization has called work stress the health epidemic of the 21st century. In the United States, for example, one in 10 Americans takes anti-anxiety medication for stressors experienced from the moment one wakes up, to the moment one goes to bed.

Initially, the problem may start out on an emotional or psychological level in which one begins to feel a myriad of overwhelming emotions like frustration, anger, anxiety, surrendering, and even indifference, sometimes. However, if this continues, the emotional distress would eventually lower the body’s resistance to disease and the body begins to wear out. While many will resort to prescription medicine and counseling to alleviate themselves of stress, there are ways to prevent burnouts at the onset. 

At work, here are some tips to beat the stress:

Stop multi-tasking – Different people have different reasons why they “put too much on their plate” at work. Wanting to get noticed, aiming for a promotion, or simply wanting to beat a deadline are some of the reasons for multi-tasking.  However, biting more than you can chew will eventually take its toll on work quality and performance.  You will start feeling overwhelmed, lose focus, and sooner or later, crash. Doing things at an acceptable pace is important to keep you from being overwhelmed with work.

Take breaks Some of those interviewed by reporters outside the MRT station said they skipped breakfast just to beat the morning rush.  As if foregoing the most important meal of the day is not bad enough, some employees also skip their lunch breaks to get more work done.  Obviously, aside from depriving the body of much-needed fuel, not taking a breather (even coffee breaks) robs the body and mind of the opportunity to refocus and recharge, even for a brief period of time. Taking a walk or getting some air are two of the most effective means to get a moment of respite if you’re having a second thought about getting a caffeine boost.

Practice meditation – This doesn’t necessarily mean enrolling in a yoga or self-motivation class.  Praying while on the MRT can be one form of meditation.  Listening to soft music or simply closing one’s eyes and not dwelling on the uncomfortable or stressful situation during the commute is another way of disengaging from the present reality.  More so, practicing breathing exercises, whether while traveling to work or working at the desk has a calming effect, both physically and mentally. 

Beyond work, there are ways to manage your stress: 

Espouse time management This doesn’t just mean waking up earlier than the usual time to beat the rest of the pack (remember, getting less sleep also adds to fatigue) but getting an extra morning time so as not to feel pressured in going about each and every daily task.  Long lines at PUV terminals is obviously inevitable, but coming early and not feeling anxious that the line is not moving or that you will not be able to clock in on time for work can temporarily buy you a peace of mind. Similarly, preparing your clothes and work-related stuff before you turn in for the night eliminates the need to scramble the next morning.

On the other hand, cars owners and those who ride in private vehicles can combat the traffic-induced stress by looking for alternative routes and knowing when these routes will be jammed to avoid getting stuck in a traffic nightmare.

Exercise Working out or just staying active renders more benefits to the body than just keeping the cardiovascular system healthy.  Exercising reduces cortisol levels, the organ-damaging hormone that the body secretes when under stress, and increases the level of endorphins, commonly known as the happy hormone, in the bloodstream.  Endorphins give one a euphoric feeling and block the receptors that normally send pain signals to other parts of the brain and body.

Take multivitamins – Research has shown that adults who take multivitamins for at least a month enjoyed around 70% reduction in stress and fatigue levels. Stress is known to deplete the body’s supply of B vitamins so taking B-complex supplements prove to be necessary to offset the effects of stress on the body. Taking up to 5 times the recommended daily allowance of B vitamins boosts the body’s ability to convert food into energy, produces anti-stress hormones and allows the nervous system to function properly.

Start a hobby While some may think of it as a band-aid solution, looking for a diversion relieves the mind (and body) of stress.  More often than not, people who are stressed out because of the weekly work routine are the same people who bring their work home.  Even if they don’t bring paperwork or projects physically to their house, their minds are still fixated on work and the deadlines they have to beat the next day.  Having a pastime, whether it be arts & crafts, collecting memorabilia, or some other worthy endeavor, allows the mind to cool down and eventually help the body to rejuvenate.

While it may be more difficult than it sounds, the solution to beat stress is ultimately a matter of mind over body.  Some psychologists believe that since daily routines (that become part of our lifestyles) are created, they can, therefore, be undone. All you have to do is make the right choices to reduce and alleviate stress, commit to these choices and, finally, create a routine to counter the grueling weekday work schedule and ensure that the quality of work-life balance will be greatly improved in the process.  

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