Saturday, June 14, 2014

Maheshwari Jani’s 5th session: Transforming stress to success!

On 1st June 2014, Maheshwari Jani, behaviour analyst and master in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) presented her fifth Sunday morning session at SHAFA HOME, Delhi. This endearing session, attended by all residents and staff was all about stress. The session covered 3 sub-topics: the root causes of our stress, how it manifests within our lives and how we can effectively tackle it. After the end of last week’s session on dreams, residents proactively gave feedback that a class dedicated to stress was definitely needed. It’s a common notion between our residents that their new recovery life brings with it a great deal of tension. Unfortunately, this tension is a major progress inhibitor for their mental and emotional growth. However, we need not fear because Maheshwari Jani was here to lead us through another exciting and engaging session. Even SHAFA’s director made an appearance to take part in the fun!
Maheshwari Ji entered the ‘Asha Greh’ hall and was met with her signature sea of applause. Our members’ faces lit up with anticipation and curiosity. Without saying a word, she opened a bag of balloons and threw them out amongst the residents. Participants smiled with glee like little kids in a sweet shop! Without explaining why, they were instructed to blow into as many balloons as they could with full effort and concentration. We quickly came to know our first activity was to rid ourselves of whatever pent up aggression, tension, stress we had brewing inside us by channeling that negative energy into the balloon and sealing it there. The technical term was called “stress displacement” through experimental learning; a kinesthetic (“hand’s on”) dynamic approach. That was the first part of the “balloon game”.
The second part consisted of our residents tying two balloons to their left and right ankle and then popping their neighbours balloons but trying to save their own. This got our residents jumping, joyous and laughing as the cacophony of loudly bursting balloons filled the hall. The second part of the activity came with a salient and crucial message - no matter how hard they tried to keep their stress-balloons intact to themselves, in the end their balloons were guaranteed to explode.
Ms. Jani’s game effectively demonstrated that the healthiest form of stress management was to LET IT OUT!  Letting it bubble and simmer away would have disastrous consequences which would kill whatever progress we were making in our lives. We addicts have an alarming propensity to consciously hide away from our stresses & tensions rather than face them head on…this has led us into all sorts of predicaments in the past. We needed a new tack, a new solution…our past coping methods had not only brought us pain, shame and misery; they had not tackled the root of the stress.     
Next, she emphatically fronted our residents with a question; what were the main reasons of their stress? Residents gave the usual reply of family, finances, the programme duration etc as their primary sources of stress. But these were superficial, immediately-focused “auto-pilot” responses that scratched at the surface level only. If we wanted to take the stress out of our life, we needed to see where it all started to unravel.  Maheshwari Ji
coaxed one courageous young member to delve right into his stress. He was instructed to close his eyes, breathe deeply into his feelings and visually imagine himself moving back chronologically through his adult years, then his teenage and childhood years. This exercise involved a NLP technique called “bridging the gap”. He had to run through the events of his life to pinpoint the exact event which triggered an offsetting spiral of negative feelings which then brought their consequences. Pinpointing the exact event allows us to objectively make a link between our past response and our present response. We are placed in a better position to evaluate what works well and what does not. This allows us to be mindful as to how we can modify our future response to stress-causing stimuli.
Ms. Jani then asked us what we can actively do to combat our feelings of stress. Members piped out a variety of ideas such as, writing it out on paper (“literary expulsion”), going for a walk, reading, listening to calming music, and talking to a friend, family member or counselor. After all a problem shared is a problem halved! The very fact that residents were expressing their contributions showed that residents were mentally shifting their perspective on life; searching for possible solutions to their problems. This highlighted their personal growth and progress within treatment.
The last activity involved a guided meditation wherein Maheshwari Ji led our residents through a five minute visualization exercise in which their stresses & tensions attributed a colour, form and physical tangibility. Residents were told to imagine their stress physically decreasing in size, the intensity of the intense, unpleasant colours harmonizing and their problems becoming lighter and lighter; eventually disintegrating into air.  
Maheshwari Ji instructed the residents to take their seat and assimilate the morning’s experience. She asked the residents how they felt before and after the activities…many replied that initially they were irritated and mentally unfocused; with several small bothers whirling around in their mind. After, they felt energized, mentally clearer and stronger to face the day. It was fair to say that the session had successfully shaken the drowsiness out of our family member’s Sunday-morning sluggishness. Eyes were opened to a different view on stress. Rather than portraying stress as a havoc-wreaking demon, it can also a positive force too. Stress allows our mind to be kept constantly active and solution-orientated. Stresses and tensions also allow us to be grateful for the positive and helpful people and resources.
Our sincere thanks goes to Ms. Maheshwari Jani for her superb session.


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