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Finding the Source of Stress
Heavy workloads, looming deadlines and working with the boss from hell can all take their toll on the best of us. Add to that the stresses and strains working in a foreign culture can bring and the potential for mental health problems becomes obvious.

Dr Catherine Hsu, a psychologist with the Beijing International SOS Clinic, notes that work and interpersonal relationships comprise a major part of our lives and therefore can bring us the greatest amount of pleasure as well as stress.

In jobs where success depends totally on results, pressure is a constant companion. Bosses on performance-related pay can in turn pile the pressure unreasonably on subordinates. Parents worry about their children, who in turn have pressures of their own at school and from peers. No one, it seems, is immune from stress.

Unchecked, such problems can develop and make people feel irritable, depressed, anxious and emotionally distraught. Dr Hsu divides the source of stress into three categories: people's thought, the environment and the body condition. As a psychologist, her first task is to try and find out the source of the stress, and then work with the client on solving it. If it is a troubling thought, for example, "my boss hates me," a psychologist with the client will first try and determine how much of this thought reflects the actual situation and how much this statement reflects the person's perception of the situation. Depending on the situation, the psychologist may try and help their client learn communication and/or assertiveness skills, to help them express what they feel and hence relieve the stress.

For some, being in a new and unfamiliar environment can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, leading to psychological problems. Dr Hsu may encourage such people to find ways to meet others improve and help them adopt a more positive attitude towards the situation. Physical problems can also lead to stress, according to the psychologist. Having such problems dealt with by appropriately skilled doctors is the first step.

Stress affects us all. It is important for people to learn how to relax. It sounds simple, says Dr Hsu, but in a surprising number of cases, it is a "skill," which people need to learn. A psychotherapy and counseling network, to which Dr Hsu belongs, is available in Beijing for expats encountering emotional stress and difficulties.

We list right some of the people who can help.

(China Daily July 5, 2002)

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