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Unique Perspective on Growing Problem of Stress

Research Reveals Unique Perspective on Growing Problem of Stress

At this time of the year, we often hear comments like "Christmas is such a stressful time!" But one doctor says this is a misleading statement.

"We commonly think of ourselves as being stressed by events or other people; in fact stress is self-inflicted and we can train ourselves to avoid it," says Dr Derek Roger, one of the world's leading researchers on stress and currently based at the University of Canterbury. He is highly critical of conventional views on stress.

"I have found, researching over a period of 18 years, that stress is not inherent in life events. It plays a role but only in providing things to ruminate about, and it is the rumination, the continued preoccupation with a negative emotion before or after an event, that puts the body and mind under the constant demand that is commonly called stress."

Dr Roger says ongoing negative rumination about past and possible future events is a form of dreaming, a nightmare, in fact, that he calls 'waking sleep'.

"More and more in this busy world, our attention is being snatched away as we ruminate about emotional upsets - either pre-empting or reliving them. My research has shown it's possible to 'wake-up' and to regain control of ones attention."

Dr Roger, who recently emigrated from the United Kingdom, has worked with large organisations including the BBC, local government, education and health groups, using his unique training programme called the "Challenge of Change".

"Our research has shown that people who undertake the training find they improve the quality of their lives, and are happier and healthier. I believe getting stress under control using my programme can also help people to live longer," he says.

Last week the Mental Health Foundation distributed a media release enlisting the help of television celebrity, Charlotte Dawson, to advise people about surviving Christmas stress. Dr Derek Roger says conventional stress management focuses on signs or symptoms of stress, but these are just effects - no matter how many you list, they tell you nothing about causes. Relaxation is another key component of this approach, but physical relaxation offers symptomatic relief rather than cure.

"Usually, stress is attributed to things like debt, family problems or work pressures. Unfortunately, stress then becomes part of life, since most of the events or people we have to deal with, cannot be avoided or changed. No wonder stress is seen as 'inevitable' and even 'a good thing' - that we can 'thrive on stress'. There may be pressure, but pressure is not the same as stress," he says.

Dr Roger believes we need to change the way we view stress and start working with our minds to change the way we ruminate while in a waking sleep, rather than putting band aids on the symptoms, which doesn't address the real problem.

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