Stress is primarily caused by too many whys, whats, whens and hows, which are questions in our minds
18th June, 2001, Troy, MI, USA
I got a call from Dad as I stepped out of the headquarters of Oxford Automotive Inc. I was worried as it was an odd time for him to call – it was way past midnight in India. He sounded nervous and said Mom was unwell and that I should return by the first available flight. I had numerous meetings lined up for the remaining six days of my business trip to the US. I called up KLM and rescheduled my return flight to India for the same night.
Oxford Automotive at that time was amongst the largest OEM manufacturers of auto components. The company was vendor to all major automobile companies like General Motors, Ford, DiamlerChrysler, Isuzu, Nissan etc. and had an annual turnover exceeding a billion US dollars and a workforce of nearly seven thousand people. It had forty-one factories across Canada, Europe, South America and Asia-Pacific region.
After months of meetings and negotiations, we had decided to set up a factory in India in a 50-50 equity joint venture. It was to be their first foray in India. Plant, machinery and technology were to come from Oxford. We were a small company of only forty people. This was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for us and would’ve pushed us into the big league of auto component manufacturing.
It also meant huge investments from us to match the 50% share. I would have put on stake nearly all the wealth and assets that my family and I owned and maybe more. I had just signed the Memorandum of Understanding and the new company formation documents when I received that fateful call from Dad. All the excitement and happiness of bagging the deal vanished and my mood turned grim and nervous.
Every moment I would ask God – why me?
Dad and my wife were there to pick me up from the Delhi airport. On the way home, they told me about Mom’s condition. She had been detected with breast cancer which was in an advanced stage. Cancer, even today is a dreadful disease. Imagine how painful and fearful it must’ve felt nineteen years ago. When I reached home, I hugged my mom and started crying. She was just fifty-one. The next two weeks passed in consulting doctors, specialists and getting various tests and investigations done. My usual question to all the doctors I met was ‘how long does she have?’ The most optimistic answer I got was one year.
As her treatment started, I sent an email to Oxford explaining the situation I was in to them. I told them that I would not be able to work on the project during my mother’s treatment. The project would have to be postponed till my mother got well which I estimated to be one year. Meanwhile, if they wanted, they could go ahead with a new partner. Oxford, very graciously, agreed to wait.
Fast forward to June 2002. Mom had her surgery, chemo and radiations and was convalescing well. Meanwhile September 11 happened in New York plunging the US economy into despair. Oxford Automotive filed for Chapter 11 and became bankrupt.
You have to believe in something. You just have to. Something bigger than us. Something bigger than we can even comprehend.
Just one year earlier, the events of June 2001 had been so full of stress and pain for me. Every moment I would ask God – why me? My mom was in the last stages of life and the best opportunity of my career had to be put on hold. That was the most depressing time of my life.
And now, when I look back at those events, I realize that this was probably God’s way of stopping me from putting up the venture with Oxford. If I had gone ahead with the project, I would probably have lost everything and become bankrupt too. From that moment onwards I became a firm believer of what my Grandfather always used to say jo hota hai ache ke liye hota hai (whatever happens, happens for good).
Life is full of many different kinds of negative situations and twists and turns, which keep us unsettled and stressed at times. Stress is primarily caused by too many whys, whats, whens and hows, which are questions in our minds. The effect of these thoughts on our physical health is well established. A large number of diseases today are psychosomatic, which means persistent negative emotions like stress, anger, hurt and mistrust manifest in the form of disease. Focus on happiness, forgiveness, acceptance and trust. As you increase your inner strength and faith, you will become more stable, peaceful and happy.
Accept a higher power
You may or may not believe in God. But still, you have to believe in something. You just have to. Something bigger than us. Something bigger than we can even comprehend. There is an anchor in our life called Faith. You will realize, you have so little control over most of the things happening around you or to you. You only control how you react to the situation. You have to believe that there is a deeper purpose behind your suffering. The point of this belief is some way to override the mind. This technique changes our attitudes and feelings, which influences positively the situations we are in, as well as how others respond.
At this point in life I have more or less learned to manage stress.
- I never bring work issues to home.
- I exercise often, rest enough and eat clean.
- I never let stress accumulate. If stress accumulates it leads to anxiety, lack of motivation, depression, fatigue. Stress reduction is a must for a healthy you.
- Prefer to choose trust over doubt, co-operation over competition, appreciation over criticism, health over disease.
- Spend some time on meditation. Detoxification of the mind begins the process of detoxification of the body.
- Be relaxed throughout the day in all your interactions.
- Whenever stress levels increase, focus on your breathing. With each breath, remain mindful, ease your state of mind. Think of a strength with each inhalation, think of a weakness in yourself with each exhalation. Inhale peace, exhale stress, inhale faith, exhale fear.
- Avoid auto pilot reactions.
You will swim across the tough and painful times easily. Trust me. You will remain relatively calm, relaxed and stress free. And this is the first step to lead a Fit Life.
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