3 strategies for stress management

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Thomas Kulanjiyil, PsyD, PhD, is a founding member of PARIVAR International. He currently serves on the faculty of College of DuPage. He is co-editor of the book, “Caring for the South Asians-Counseling South Asians in the West.” Dr. Kulanjiyil can be reached at tk@parivarinterntional.org. For any personal or family issues contact Parivar Family Helpline:(877)-743-5711.

By Thomas Kulanjiyil
In the last few weeks we have been discussing strategies to manage acculturation-related stress. We conclude our discussion by looking into three more strategies: balancing work and family, seeking professional counseling and medication help (when needed), and staying focused.

Balancing work and family: The good and wellbeing of your family is the primary reason for your immigration, and at no expense should you ignore family responsibilities. You are to find a balance between work and family. It is a temptation to take up more than one job to maintain the family or to make additional income. However, this can often lead to emotional burnout, which is the height of stress. Consequently, emotional burnout can lead to work-related impairments, interpersonal relationship problems, family discord, and physical and emotional exhaustion. Studies reveal that families who practice family prayer, have dinner together, and communicate openly, have the potential to encourage the atmosphere conducive for growth and stability. Mutual engagement between family members, especially between parents and children, is a decisive import in raising healthy families. By working together and attempting feasible solutions to their common problems, family members can face the ongoing challenges of acculturation.

Seeking professional counseling and medication help: Stress attributed to the immigration and acculturation process is a major contributor to depression among Indian immigrants. When individuals experience loneliness and isolation on a consistent basis, depression sets in. The depressed person might need medication and counseling help to manage depressive feelings. If depression is unattended, it can lead to suicidal thoughts. Although the rates of completed suicide are much less among Indians than Americans, suicidal ideations and failed attempts are not rare.  Studies conducted in India indicate that cultural factors and heredity may predispose some to depression. 

Staying focused:  Persever-ance is necessary to achieve the skills and abilities we have recommended. Do not be upset and frustrated when minor setbacks occur as you attempt to learn new coping skills. Sharing your experience with other fellow immigrants, and learning from their own experiences will encourage you. Be willing to share your thoughts and feelings honestly and openly with someone you trust. 

The course of acculturation can eventually lead a person to bicultural identity, which is a state of positive psychological adjustment.  With a clear sense of one’s own beliefs, values, and abilities one is able to perform adequately within the expected norms of the dominant culture. In this respect, most Indian immigrants reveal the capacity for successful adaptation to North American society with a bi-cultural identity as Indo-Americans.

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