A national level swimmer at just 10 yrs. of age, Sara (Name changed) was brought to me by her parents with exactly this complain, “She just lost one tournament and she is in tremendous stress for the up coming internationals , please help her”.
As they sat through they shared with me 3 thick files of certificates of various championships and tournaments won by Sara over a little span of 4 years. I could see the pride in their tone and gestures. Meanwhile they spoke at length about how much she trains and that they have special permission from her school to attend the school only for about half the academic year. Every day she trains for 5-6 hours under two different coaches and then there are many other exercises that the parents supervise also with her diet and other habits. In between they kept on adding, “she has no stress from us even if she does not want to do, but she is the one who wants to do it, so we help.”
In the end I asked them, “What is Sara is not able to win another championship after this?” And everything changed. The same parents who were obviously very proud of her achievements in such a short span of time looked at her files and said in a very dejected and hurt tone, “Then this is all a waste.”
Surprised, I asked them, “but she has already achieved so much and every sports person has a field life, my question is just a hypothesis but some day she will reach her peak and then decline.” But they kept insisting, “We have put in so much effort, so much money, it can’t go waste, she has to perform, you have to help her.” Suddenly it all became about them.
When I met Sara in person she seemed to be a calm and composed child for her age and cheerfully relaxed. When I spoke to her about the last defeat, she matter of factly explained, “I cannot win every time, other swimmers are also very good, they train hard, sometimes I win sometimes they do.” No signs of stress sir!
Then I used the direct approach and asked her does she get stressed over these big competitions. She laughed, she said, “My mother often asks me the same, but then she says you should take some stress, don’t be so casual that is why you loose, please don’t tell her but you have to help her, she is always so stressed and always after me to not do anything that the kids of my age do. I love to swim and compete but I want to be with my friends too, at least for sometime, already I miss so much school that I hardly have any friends left.” After a short pause she looked up sadly and said, “I put in so much effort but if I loose even once my mother starts pointing out my mistakes right then and there.”
Stress! I could palpate it in the air. But who was stressed? And who needed counseling? Definitely children need pushing and guiding at times and even disciplining, but does that mean that we all need to live under stress at all the times?
We need to examine ourselves frequently to acknowledge how are we responsible for our stress and for the stress we see among the people around us. There is a lot more to be achieved and to motivate others to achieve if we can do it minus the excess stress that we create. If we cant understand ourselves then we need to take help and guidance from stress counselors online or offline.
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