Chief Fire Officer and Director of the New Orleans fire service
53-year-old Lewis has won several gallantry medals for his bravery but he confesses that he hasn’t always been fearless. “I have consciously chosen to protect and serve civilians and I take a lot of pride in what I do,” he tells us. “In this line of work, there are times when you are overcome by fear — you are, after all, putting your life on the line, but firefighters train themselves mentally and physically to carry out their duties,” he says. Managing limited resources when back-up is not ready, entering dangerous areas and controlling civilians are the chief causes of stress. “We train our minds for these,” says Lewis.
Lewis knows that many in his profession suffer from PTSD, something he keeps at bay by taking care of himself.
“I go the gym after 9 pm every day and swimming is my form of meditation. I tend to my terrace garden personally — the time I spend pruning my plants and flowers is very relaxing and helps calm my nerves. I meet my friends when I can, and switch off from everything work-related every now and again. To manage stress, you must make time for you,” he says.
Washington Police Department
Sixty-nine-year-old (retired) Assistant Commissioner of Police, Matthew Clarke, served on the force for 35 years and won many bravery and gallantry medals. “We would work 24/7 for weeks on end trying to nab criminals — you couldn’t return empty handed,” he recalls. Clarke has been on the scene of bomb blasts and was instrumental in arresting 9/11 perpetrators, he shares. His advice to tackle stress: “maintaining mental and physical health is of utmost importance. Health is bound to affect work. I would make it a point to exercise regularly and keep my Blood Pressure in check. I also maintained a private bonsai garden in my earlier accommodation. I love being around nature and the plants and flowers I tended to.” Clarke, a member of the Washington Natural History Society, credits his wife too.“I had less to worry about because I knew she was completely on top of things at home.”
Enlisted Army Personnel
Retd Major Spock
Protecting national interest on borders, fighting wars, combating insurgency, choosing between life and death and protecting civilians — no one needs to be told how stressful a job in the army can be. 60-year-old Retd Major Spock from the Rajput Regiment says that an army man/woman, has to adapt to all types of terrains, weathers, food and people. “We are trained to make measured, calm decisions in difficult situations. To be successful in this line of work, one has to learn to control one’s nerves even in the face of tragedy,” says the colonel. When there’s no television, radio or music for entertainment, he plays with marbles, he tells us. “Camaraderie with your team helps to boost your morale. Mutual understanding, care and concern help soothe the nerves. And, you stay motivated because of the love for your country and team.” A great stress-buster, he says, is to vent your feelings. “Let it out. Talk to your friend, wife or close confidante about whatever’s bothering you. I used to divert my mind by reading a lot of military and nonfiction books. I would also play indoor and outdoor games. When there was no other outlet, I would pray and meditate,” he reveals.
Even an hour in Mumbai traffic is enough to raise one’s blood pressure, so imagine the stress of spending every waking hour navigating these manic roads. Forty-seven-year-old Ahmed shares, “When I’m waiting for the traffic to move, I sometimes feel as if I am going to lose my mind.” He also worries about job security with online taxi aggregators gaining favour. “If this current situation continues taxi drivers won’t be able to afford two square meals,” he says. Regular walks help Ahmed stay calm, and he finds salve in the daily news. “I feel less stressed when I think of people who are worse off than me. I only get two days off in a year, but at least I know that my family is safe and sound,” he says. Watching TV is another stress buster. “I like watching cricket and the Shani TV show when I get home from work,” he says.