Healing Tension in a Timeless Territory

Me_management holistic event 2005Holistic Hong Kong, October 2005

The Me-Management Self-awareness Programme Provides Relief for Stressed Tsunami Workers

Time is money echo the words in my mind as I look into expectant eyes awaiting a response. I am conducting a weekend Me-Management (MeM) workshop with 30 local Tsunami psycho-social workers. One of the girls has asked me if time management is key to stress management. This could be seen as a naive question but given the third world environment that I am working in, it doesn’t surprise me.

I had previously traveled with an Australian film crew who were shooting scenes of post-Tsunami Sri Lanka and interviewing me on the motivation for my self-awareness programme when I was ‘slam-dunked’ back into the time/ money reality that is the driving force of business in the west. But how does that equate to a land where clock towers are frozen in time? Where people wear broken watches as a fashion piece.

Stress is a new concept to these local Tsunami workers and yet the first world has been drowning in it for decades. As business gets faster, performance pressure mounts and minds race on into the no-man’s-land of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ – a guilt-trip journey to hell that is supposed to increase productivity, ultimately creating desensitized, multi-task robots.

‘Cowada?’ (Have you eaten?), is the question I am most asked in the village I am staying. Here they live at root level where the basic necessity of filling one’s belly is uppermost in their mind. And they make it their business to ensure that my basic needs are provided for.

Yet I come from a developed world where fast food, working through lunch, eating on the run and skipping meals is the order of day so that business deadlines are met. This practice of blatant disrespect to personal needs has laid the ground for escalating levels of insensitivity, and the consequences are dis-ease and unmanageable stress levels as mechanical expectations replace ‘but what about me?’

The Me-Management workshop breaks new ground as I am questioned about my core belief system. These Tsunami workers are hungry for a deeper metaphor for the daily tragedies they download. They have been thoroughly trained in active listening skills, which serve them well as catalysts in the healing process of the Tsunami survivors. Yet they have little understanding of their own need to download and are struggling with emotional release symptoms, as they acknowledge the mental weight they are carrying.

Eight months post Tsunami and burn out levels are on the increase as people no longer feel the same satisfaction level as when they first put their selfless service to task. When asked to rate their current fulfillment level a downpour of frustration is released stemming from bureaucratic hold-ups and no support in the field, to overwork with no time off.

When recently conducting the workshop with a group of 40 managers from Tsunami temporary housing camps, they were overjoyed just to be given an outlet to express themselves. ‘These people are so well trained in roles and responsibilities,’ says Dr. Fernando, a Colombo psychiatrist who regularly volunteers his time to conduct mental health seminars in the Southern coastal region. ‘..but rarely heard. Self awareness training has been a much needed, yet neglected area.’

Self awareness is the key to managing emotional imbalance which can happen in any intense environment. Psychological stress can have the impact of a Tsunami when people feel totally overwhelmed by a rising current of pressure.

MeM has a self awareness programme that takes participants on a journey into the make-up of their minds, and the impact on the psyche under escalating stress levels.

Stress unto itself is an important and necessary component of motivation. However, when it is seen as a threat to our personal sense of security, it creates a negative impact and we take on a reactive rather than proactive state.

MeM takes a higher view by considering how the different aspects of our character operate and then introduces participants to an empowered, emotionally removed state of being. From this position there is space between thought and action so they have a greater sense of choice in their response, rather than feeling emotionally drawn into a situation that can be disempowering.

As a recipe of reinforcing stress management, the MeM programme offers a toolbox of processes and techniques to be practiced and applied during tense times in order to maintain a healthy mental mode of operation.

For the Tsunami workers, it means they can still exercise their active listening skills but with a greater sense of control over their own emotions enabling them to establish professional and balanced relations.

And for the frazzled fraternity in the developed world, MeM is a means to accessing a resource box of empowerment tricks to tackle tension in the continual melee of the mind.

Alas, in my efforts to empower these Sri Lankan people with an understanding of how to manage this new dysfunctional concept of pressure, I recognize that there are still many gifts of emotional sensitivity that we can learn from in this timeless land, if we take the time.

Linda Fancy is a British born Australian who spent the past 12 years living in Hong Kong, and is now based in Sri Lanka.

Linda is a qualified Neuro Linguistic Practitioner (NLP certification) and has an in-depth understanding of psychological concepts and techniques. She has worked as a personal and corporate crisis counselor and trainer, serving as a catalyst for transformational development. Her humanitarian and cultural sensitivity, coupled with an eclectic professional background of experience in Asia has created a foundation for a unique understanding of people’s nature, cross cultural diversity and personal issues with escalating affect.

Linda moved to Sri Lanka two weeks before Tsunami in December, 2005, and has since been focusing her energy on local needs. When working with medical graduates offering psycho-social support work in the field, she identified the stress and burnout levels that can be experienced. As a consequence, Linda developed the Me-Management programme which has been successfully delivered to doctors at the Sri Lankan Ministry of Mental Health (M.O.M.H.) and Galle Medical Faculty, various NGOs, volunteer groups, and camp managers, as a self-awareness programme.