Table Speech

“About Stress Management”

December 19, 2007

Dr. Yutaka Ono,
Keio University Health Center

People may often believe that psychological illnesses and psychiatric disorders are only suffered by special people, but in reality many people suffer from psychological issues.

The following data was collected, analyzed and studied based on the results of interview surveys that we conducted on a sample of 4,000 people across the country for the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare as part of a study by the WHO, which was put together last year.

As a result of the study, one in fifteen people suffer from depression. When including other psychological illness, such as anxiety disorders and alcohol dependency disorders, about one in five people need medical treatment. Yet, only 33% had actually ever visited a medical facility. The remaining two thirds also need medical treatment and think that “something feels strange”, but tend to suffer on their own.

It is imperative to know and recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety, as each has a significant meaning. For example, a fever onset is the body’s reaction to fighting bacteria. Therefore, trying to lower the fever too fast is not believed to be a remedy, because the body’s resistance level will begin to decline. The same applies to the aching of the heart.

When work is not going well, it is a natural tendency to feel down. At those times, it is definitely necessary to take a break for a while, and think things over. The state of depression is a clear sign for this.

“Stress” is another contributing factor to depression. The corporate life style in particular, increases stress stemming from interpersonal issues. The recent introduction of the performance-based wage system is forcing people to think only for themselves, and less time is being spent working together in harmony, with others. However, it is not human nature to be alone. We accumulate and build stress when we spend too much time on our own.

It is very difficult to be energetic when people are in a state of depression or under high circumstances of stress. Even if they try to work hard, they cannot focus or perform. When this occurs, it is very important for them to first, take a rest. Further, it is also necessary for the surrounding people to tell them to take their time in resting. Once they become ready to do something small again, they can increase their range of activities step by step. It will allow them to feel and build some confidence, and it will give them energy to take another step forward.

At times when they feel weak or overwhelmed, they should not panic and should do things one at a time. They need to rebuild their confidence by accumulating small cases of successful experiences. As this process takes a very long time, it is important to be patient. These days, large companies are starting to introduce EAP (employee assistance programs), a system designed to manage the mental well being of their employees. These programs provide mental healthcare, such as requesting for the dispatch of a counselor in that specialty, and setting up counseling rooms for professional treatment.
In Japanese society, it is particularly necessary to have programs that think about and consider mental well being in the context of interpersonal relationships within the company, in addition to helping individuals to protect themselves.

“Cognitive therapy” is a therapy method based on the idea that “it is our way of thinking that affects our moods and actions. So we should first relax our minds, take it easy; and then try to become more active in our actions”.

Interpersonal relationships are based on two axes; they are the relationships of distance and of power. People will come closer to you if you approach them, and this is the relationship of distance. If you smile at someone, they will also smile to you.

When you take on a strong attitude, the other party will generally respond with a weaker stance, and this is the relationship of power. If you yell, the other party will normally apologize. This will not by any means facilitate a conversation. When you are the side with the stronger power, it is helpful and necessary to put yourself in the other’s shoes and lower your stance. There are three important points to resolving these issues. 
First, narrow down the issue to make it as specific as possible. You should focus your efforts towards the issue after specifying your goals. Second, come up with as many solutions as you can for resolving the issue. Thinking about various methods itself will be effective. Finally, put the decision making on hold. Putting off the judgment of whether it can be done or not is another way of resolving an issue.

When your mind is trapped in your own way of thinking, it is harder to see and take notice of other amicable solutions. When you cannot find a solution, all is not lost; you can try again after refreshing your mind.

It is important to think and maximize as many possibilities to deal with things with an open mind and in a flexible manner. It is also very important to consult with many people. You will feel much better when you can do this. I hope that you will also give that kind of chance and opportunities to people who are suffering from psychological issues.