Personal Directions: Stress is different things to different people
By Christina Dodd,
This week I’d like to share some thoughts on stress that I have
found, as quite often even though we know a certain amount about stress
because we all suffer from it to some degree, it is always a good idea to
get the facts as well.
Sean … writes: “Much 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.”
This is the main definition, 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.
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 or perceives 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
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.
Stress is different things to different people. To
a mountaineer it is the challenge of pushing physical resources to the
limit by striving to achieve a demanding goal. To the homeward bound
motorist it can be the hassles of heavy traffic and obnoxious exhaust
fumes. To the student it can be exam pressure.
Most people respond to the word stress in negative
ways. They see it as a destructive, debilitating force. However, not all
stress is negative. The word eustress has been coined to describe positive
stress. Eustress results from exhilarating experiences. It is the type of
stress you are likely to experience when you inherit a large amount of
money or receive an unexpected promotion or reward. Eustress is the stress
of winning and achieving.
Negative stress is distress. It is the stress of
losing, failing, overworking and not coping. Distress affects people in a
negative often harmful manner.
We all experience distress from time to time. It is a
normal, unavoidable part of living.”
Perhaps you are experiencing intense stress right now.
Maybe you have a challenging job with a punishing workload, intense
demands and over-tight deadlines. Or perhaps your boss or clients just
keep piling on the pressure. Maybe problems with your coworkers or your
team are making your life a misery, or perhaps you are just not getting
the support you need. Or maybe you are increasingly exhausted as the
things you enjoy about your job are submerged in a relentless flood of
Manage both the sources and symptoms of stress and beat
job stress starting now!
Our Stress Management MasterClass shows you how
to tackle these problems at root. Where you have some control over the
situation, it helps you to target the causes of stress quickly and
effectively. Where you have no control, it shows you how to build robust
buffers against stress. You’ll learn how to cope with intense pressure,
win back control of your workload, improve working relationships, and live
a happier, more relaxed life.
If you would like to contact me about our Stress
Management Program or indeed any of our business and personal skills
programs, then please email me at Christina.dodd
Until next time, have a great week!
The Doctor's Consultation: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
and how to pacify it
by Dr. Iain Corness
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS since we like acronyms, is
an interesting condition. It is not a disease, and in fact tests for
abnormalities come back reported as ‘negative’. Does this mean that IBS
isn’t really in the bowel, but all ‘in the brain’?
Unfortunately, there is a school of thought in medicine
that says that if all the tests come back negative, the condition is not real,
only imagined. This is totally wrong. There are many conditions for which we
did not know (or had not developed) the right tests. Until the last couple of
decades, we did not have a definitive test for HIV - but the people had the
ailment, even though we couldn’t identify it. We doctors must never forget
to treat the patient, not the test results. (I thank my eldest son, Dr.
Jonathan, for that sage little homily.)
Getting back to IBS, I repeat that it is not a disease, but
can be a very debilitating condition, characterized by some of the following
(but not necessarily all) symptoms: cramping pain in the stomach area, painful
diarrhoea or constipation (now that’s confusing), mucus in the stool,
swollen or bloated belly, increased gas and the feeling that you are unable to
totally empty your bowel.
If IBS is not a disease, what is it? It is a functional
disorder, which means that the bowel doesn’t work as it should. What appears
to happen is that the nerves (called Auerbach’s Plexus from memory) and the
muscles of the bowel are extra-sensitive. For example, the muscles may
contract too much when you eat. These contractions can cause cramping and
diarrhoea or rapid bowel movement during, or shortly after, a meal. Or the
nerves can be overly sensitive to the dilating of the bowel (because of gas,
for example). Cramping or pain can be the result.
Any condition that does not have some nice finger-pointing
test result is then too often put into the ‘psychosomatic’ pigeonhole.
“It’s caused by stress,” say the non-medical ‘experts’. In actual
fact, emotional stress will not cause anyone to develop IBS. However, if you
already have IBS, stress can trigger the symptoms, just as it can for a myriad
of medical conditions. Stress does not cause the problem, but it can make it
appear worse. In fact, the bowel can overreact to all sorts of things,
including food, exercise, and hormones (women with IBS have more problems
around the time of their menses).
Food and drinks that tend to cause symptoms include milk
products, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and fatty items. In
some cases, even eating a large meal will trigger symptoms.
Another complicating factor is that the symptoms of IBS can
also mimic other gastro-intestinal problems, which is why in the ‘work-up’
there may be a barium enema or lower GI (gastro-intestinal) series. Barium is
a thick liquid that makes the bowel show up on X-ray. Another examination is
an Endoscopy. This is where the doctor inserts the ‘black snake’ into your
bowel and can look through the small camera on the tip.
Although there is no ‘magic bullet’ to cure someone of
IBS, there is treatment that will help. This includes dietary changes,
anti-spasmodic medicine and stress relief if you are a highly stressed person.
As a starter, fibre (found in bran, bread, cereal, beans, fruit, and
vegetables) reduces IBS symptoms - especially constipation, because it makes
stool soft and easier to pass, but you have to identify the ‘triggers’.
(And it ain’t Roy Rogers!)
Can nothing be done about the song taew drivers? For a tourist city they
give the place a bad name with their stand-over tactics and demands for
fares much greater than should be the case. No wonder the foreign tourists
look for taxis, but unless they have their wits about them they will again
be quoted exorbitant fares, rather than using the meters. For a real fun
time, try a tuk-tuk which will attempt to take you straight to the nearest
jewelry shop that pays for their fuel. Until our city fathers meet the
song taew monopoly head on and produce a real public transport system,
this will always be a third world tourist destination.
“Where you go?”
Dear “Where you go?”
Unfortunately you are quite correct, my Petal. The song taews which do not
have any fixed or marked destination will always be a turn-off for
tourists, as the majority of the drivers do not speak another language.
Why would you expect them to get on transport with unmarked destinations?
Perhaps it is time for the TAT to get involved and issue ‘tourist bus’
licenses for drivers who meet a minimum standard in communication. Hillary
has given up with the song taews, taxis and tuk-tuks, and uses motorcycle
taxis when possible (still none in Chiang Mai). They appear to be a
friendlier bunch and will heed the “cha-cha” (slowly) instructions.
You do have to barter first, but that’s part of the fun of living in the
This is a very embarrassing problem, so you will forgive me if I don’t
attach my real name. I have suffered from night-time wind for many years.
My mother even tells me I had it when a child. Living on my own it is not
too much of a problem as I can let one rip whenever I like, but I have
recently taken up with a lovely young lady and it is obvious that she
would be willing to spend the night with me. It is me that is holding
back, as I don’t want her to hear the Charge of the Light Brigade and be
put off by the musical items that my bottom can produce.
You have my sympathies, as opposed to my symphonies. You have several
choices, however, Flatulent my dear. You can opt to remain celibate and
join the clergy, but your flatulent fits might be misunderstood as music
to some cleric’s ears. You can train yourself to be able to play the
Charge of the Light Brigade, and make money from your musical bottom. A
French entertainer did just that. Called Le Petomaine he could extinguish
a candle at one metre. You can have a look at your diet and avoid milk
products and green beans and see if that helps. Finally, you can always
get the young lady concerned to ‘burp’ you before settling down for
the night. That is what your mother would have done.
Every day I see these Thai girls sitting sideways on the rear of some
motorcycle and wonder where did this custom come from? China adopted
bicycles, but Thailand seems to have adopted the motorcycle. Do you know
why this is so, and when did the Thai girls start to ride pillion in this
strange way? I must say I have never seen one fall off, but I suppose they
must. Any answers are appreciated.
Dear Pillion Pete,
An interesting observation. China, I believe, adopted pedal power because
of financial reasons, while the Thais have always been better off and
adopted the gasoline engine for boats, cars, trucks and personal transport
(motorcycles) very early in the history of the gasoline engine. The
Thailand infrastructure was also well developed early, so the itinerant
motorcyclist could always find a gas station to get his or her fuel.
However, the art of riding sideways came long before the nasty two strokes
from Japan (smelly motorcycles and karaoke bars were Japan’s revenge
after the war, I am sure) as Thai women have always been very aware of
their femininity. Figure hugging sarongs and skirts are not new. They were
wearing them over 100 years ago, and try slinging your leg over a buffalo
in a tight skirt, Pillion Pete my Petal. No, you can’t, so they sat
side-saddle on the buffaloes. Sitting side-saddle on a motorcycle was a
very natural progression, otherwise the skirt would have to be hoisted
around the waist to get on. Something you men wouldn’t mind, but
something the naturally shy Thai woman would not countenance. Take a look
at the clothing the girls are wearing. Tight skirts means side-saddle,
while jeans means sitting astride the nasty, smelly device. As far as your
question, “Do they fall off?” the simple answer is yes they do, but
not because they lost their balance. They only fall off when the rider (or
the person nominally in control of the machine) loses balance, and down
they go, including the two girls sitting opposite each other, but still
side-saddle. Thank you for a ‘real’ question for once!
Camera Class: Action stations for Still Life photography
by Harry Flashman
One of the most amazingly creative and satisfying aspects of
photography can be Still Life shooting. The ability to position and light a
subject to produce a pleasing result can fill up an entire day. In fact, the
pros can take a couple of days to get a still life shot just right. That’s
right. A couple of days! No exaggeration.
see, there are so many aspects to be covered in still life photography. It is
not just a case of placing the subject on a sheet of paper and pushing the
button. Still life photography teaches you every important aspect of the
artistic side of photography, as well as honing up your basic photographic
The first good thing about still life shots is the subject
doesn’t complain and tell you to hurry up and “Is my mascara smudged?” You
can also just pick up the subject and move it in any direction to suit the shot.
You don’t have to ask for permission. Oh yes, there are many advantages in
having a silent subject!
Let us begin with lighting. The secret to all still life
shots is to have two light sources. This can be daylight plus flash, two
flashes, electric lights, daylight and a mirror - but you need two. One to
basically light the subject and the other to light the background.
Lighting the background isolates the subject from the
background and makes your subject the “hero” in the shot.
The other secret in the lighting is to produce a diffused
light source. With un-diffused light, you will get far too many distracting
shadows, which with small tabletop objects can ruin the overall effect. You can
diffuse your lighting by shining it through some scrim cloth, transparent net
curtain material or through some frosted plexiglass - the sort of material they
have over fluoro lights, for example.
The next important item in still life photography is your own
eye. You will find there are even books on the subject, but what you have to do
is to look at your tabletop and arrange the items in a manner that is pleasing
to your eye. Do you want them overlapping, or at some distance from each other?
Generally there is one dominant item - bring it to the foreground and then
arrange the supporting items after that. Some overlap generally works well.
Having got that far and you are now pleased with the
composition, you then have to look through your camera. Help! It doesn’t look
the same as it did with the naked eye! What’s gone wrong? It is because of the
differences between the lens and your eye’s focal length. You now have to look
through the camera and adjust the tabletop items to produce the pleasing
composition you saw with your own eye. Yes, this takes time, and now you can
begin to see why the pros take so long!
After you have the composition to your satisfaction - you
have to light it. This is where daylight or tungsten light becomes easier than
flash - at least with the sun’s (filtered) rays or diffused tungsten you can
see what you are going to get. (In the pro studio, the flash units have tungsten
“modelling” lights so that you can get the idea of how the flash will
illuminate the subject, before popping the shutter.)
Generally, I light the background first, then bring in the
foreground (subject) lighting, carefully noting “spill” of one light source
into the area of the other. Again, this can take hours! In fact, you can change
the whole look of a table-top scene just with the balance of lighting used.
Remember too, that the exposure settings used in the camera
depend upon the foreground lighting (not the background), and for most
situations (but not all) the background can be brighter than the foreground, to
“wash” it out a little. But again this is experimentation.
No, still life photography is not easy, even though it sounds
straightforward. Perhaps it is easier to help the model fix her mascara after
Dr Byte's Computer
By Dr. Byte, Citec Asia
My absence from these pages hasn’t meant that I
haven’t been busy researching and working hard. In my last column, I
advised that Alta Vista and AlltheWeb are about to be deceased. In this
week’s column, I want to share some easier ways to deal with your web
based (and also POP3) e-mail. I receive many enquiries and complaints about
e-mail performance, spam and internet connections. The answer to your e-mail
frustrations may be answered below.
Q. Dear Dr Byte
I am really fed up with my Hotmail e-mail account. When I
started using Hotmail (circa 1996 for those of us oldies who can remember
that far back), I was one of only a few. I was also a happy ICQ user back in
those heady days.
But since then, Microsoft has bought both companies and
now Hotmail is arguably the world’s largest free e-mail server and ICQ,
well ICQ has grown the same way. I’m not knocking Microsoft for some good
business decisions, but from my point of view, always having log in problems
and competing with millions of others for 3mb of space for my e-mail is a
Can you suggest any other ways to manage my e-mail?
Surely there are some choices that will allow me to continue to use Hotmail,
or must I head down the track of opening an account with Loxinfo, KSC or
Frustrated and irritable
A. Dear frustrated,
There are easier ways to deal with Hotmail or Yahoo Mail.
These nifty little applications will fetch mail from just about all possible
sites for you to read, reply and can as spam. You shouldn’t be repeatedly
and laboriously logging into the web site where you get your e-mail from.
POP3 boxes are both the traditional and arguably the best
way to receive your email. You download incoming messages into software on
your computer, such as Outlook, Eudora and so on. You read and answer the
messages there, and the program automatically sends back your replies.
Normally, people seem to log in to their Internet
provider and download every message on their server, spam, viruses and
marketing gibberish right along with the mail.
Or they log in laboriously to their Hotmail or Yahoo,
Thai.com or other account, waiting for the huge time lag as they click on
this message to read and probably not answer, then delete it and do it again
for the next message, over and over whether it’s nasty come-ons for sex
sites that Hotmail employees seem to love, or legitimate email.
These applications sit between you and that POP3 process.
You can see copies of your mail quickly and temporarily. Typically, you get
to dump the spam, advertising and - in almost all cases - recognise and
delete viruses and worms as well. You can also write quick replies to very
urgent or very brief email.
Mailmoa is a quick way to see and deal with the fluff and
stuff in your mailbox, discard the garbage, whip off quick answers to the
frivolous or emergency email. Then you can download your email or log in and
deal with the weighty email.
There is even an address book.
Mailmoa is a system-tray based e-mail notification
utility that supports unlimited accounts (both POP3 and some popular
web-based accounts, including Hotmail .com, Lycos.com, E-mail. com,
Mail.com, Usa.com) and shows all the mail content for all the different
accounts fast without mouse clicking (called the ‘Quick View’). Mailmoa
features a spam filtering function. It uses a pre-programmed set of filters,
as well as spammers’ e-mail addresses that you add to a database.
You can download this free application from
http://www.moazon.com/english/index.htm and this gets 4 out of 5 stars (and
they offer Mailmoa in the following languages: Chinese GB, Catalan,
Brazilian Portuguese, German, Spanish, French, Italian and of-course
There is another neat little application called ePrompter
and this is an email monitor that checks, presents and allows you to write
quick answers to email at your Internet provider, Hotmail, Yahoo and a few
other webmail places. ePrompter automatically and simultaneously checks and
retrieves your email messages from up to sixteen password protected email
accounts such as AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Earthlink, Email.com, iName, Juno,
Lycos, Mail.com, Mindspring, MSN, Netscape, POP3, OneBox, Rediffmail,
Switchboard, USA.net and hundreds of other email domains.
You can download a free version from http://www
.eprompter.com/ and if you like the program, make a donation. This
application gets a 3 out of 5 stars.
POP3 Easy runs in your system tray (the area next to the
clock on your computer). With just a few configuration settings, POP3 Easy
will automatically check your mail, including your Hotmail or Yahoo account,
as often as you like. When you’ve got new email you’ll be reported which
account has new email. You will see the sender, the subject, the date and
time and the size of all the messages. When new e-mail arrives, a flashing
icon appears in your system tray.
POP3 Easy monitors an unlimited number of POP3 mailboxes
and Hotmail and Yahoo email. It can check unlimited numbers of email
accounts. You can customize the email notification and check your email
accounts at any time you want. It connects you automatically to Hotmail or
Yahoo email accounts inbox. You can see all your new emails from all your
accounts in one window. Retrieve e-mail behind a firewall. It’s free and
it’s easy. It is far less talented than Mailmoa but POP3 Easy can monitor
your mailboxes and lets you know when you have new mail, just like Mailmoa.
But it reads and displays only basic information about each incoming
message, at which point you have to make a yes-no decision: Delete it or
This can be extremely useful considering you’re
probably getting 60 to 80 spams a day by now. Many of these are easily
recognisable by sender or subject line or both. E-mail offering to give you
a loan for a retirement home if you sign up for bigger extension is better
discarded immediately and not granted the respect of being downloaded to
your PC and then trashed. And anyone who has had a Hotmail account for a few
days is already familiar with the sort of message that asks the once
entertaining and now tiresome, even disgusting question, “Are you looking
for hot hunks?’’ Click-gone, with POP3Easy.
You can download POP3 easy from http://www.adera
.be/en/products/pop3easy .cfm and this application also gets 3 stars out of
Dr Byte appears in Chiang Mai Mail every 2 weeks and if
you have any questions or suggestions you would like to make, you can
contact me at Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.