Health Special: De-stress the Djokovic way

World No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic credits his professional success to marriage and fatherhood. While Djokovic has found his work-life balance, we gauge how some of Mumbai’s professionals fare when it comes to tackling stress, and how they maintain an equilibrium.

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic and wife (then girlfriend) Jelena Ristic play with a dolphin at the Atlantis Hotel, Dubai, while there for the 2011 Dubai Tennis Championships. Pic/AFP
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic and wife (then girlfriend) Jelena Ristic play with a dolphin at the Atlantis Hotel, Dubai, while there for the 2011 Dubai Tennis Championships. Pic/AFP

The Djokovic Mantra
After winning his third Wimbledon title last week, the 28-year-old tennis player suggested that every player should get married and have kids. He reportedly said, "When I go back home, I’m not a tennis player anymore. I'm a father and a husband. That's the balance that I think allows me to play this well. Ever since I got married and became a father I haven’t lost many matches, I won many tournaments. I suggest every player should get married and have kids."

The working mum
Payal Khandwala, 
Fashion designer

Payal Khandwala with her six-year-old daughter, Mira, in Bhutan
Payal Khandwala with her six-year-old daughter, Mira, in Bhutan

My day: On school mornings, I'm up at 7.30 am. After packing my six-year-old daughter, Mira, off to school followed by an hour of workout or yoga, I start work at my studio by 11 am. Typically, I'm home by 7 pm, in time for dinner with the family and bedtime stories. On some days, my daughter, Mira, comes by the studio/store and hangs around, which is nice especially for her to see what I busy myself with all day. I try and make it a point to not work on weekends.
What's the stress: Not having enough time for myself, and trying to juggle work and baby can be a bit exhausting. I'm not a natural multi-tasker but I'm learning quickly. Also, I'm not an early riser, so I always feel like there is not enough time in the day to finish my to-do list! I don't work too far from home and mostly spend my travel time answering emails. Sometimes, the noise levels can be quite stressful.
My stress busters: If I find a situation overwhelming, I try to close my eyes, count till 10 and take a deep breath. That's effective. I also find doodling, listening to music or learning to play the piano quite relaxing. The biggest stress buster is my daughter. She always puts things in perspective. When I see her, it reminds me to look at the world like a child does. It keeps my life simple and helps me prioritise.
Digital detox: Once I'm back home, I disconnect from the phone, my computer and work. My evenings are spent exchanging stories, sometimes we'll cook a meal together, other times read or play boardgames.
My work-life balance: I try to schedule my day well. Also, I don't discuss work at home. I actually love spending time at home just as much as I love what I do at work, so the balance comes easily.
Expert speak
Her life seems pretty balanced and I find her coping resources/skills intact. What is needed is some more 'me' time in her schedule, which will help her tremendously. Getting up half an hour before her scheduled time will work wonders. Along with yoga, she can try meditation too. Avoid working or sending emails while in the car, if possible. Put on soothing music while travelling to work, and do send the emails during office time.

The head honcho
Roopak Saluja, Founder & CEO, The 120 Media Collective

Roopak Saluja

My day: Every 30 minutes of my day from Monday to Saturday is scheduled. While I travel a lot, both domestically and internationally, on my average weekday in Mumbai, I wake up at 6.30 am, workout for two hours and then head to office. After packing in back-to-back meetings, etc, I try to get home in time for dinner with my kids - Zen (6) and Kai (4) - at least, twice a week, but I usually only make one. I'm almost always able to make it home in time to put them to bed.
What's the stress: In a high-stress job like mine, there are simply too many stress points to mention.  But I don't let it get to me.
My stress busters: My personal life is my stress buster.  No matter how stressful it gets at work, and like any entrepreneur, I've been through immense amounts of it, I come home and forget about it. Once home, I play with my boys. We often wrestle and tickle each other. My wife, Tara (Sharma) and I watch a TV show with a glass of wine. I also go for weekly Sunday evening massage followed by a couple of single malts.
Digital detox: I don't switch off during the working week but I'm not actively working either. I just got back from a vacation to Northern Italy with my family, where I disconnected for 10 whole days. I turned off my notifications and didn't check mail even once. The effects were immeasurable.
My work-life balance: I don't believe in work-life balance. The scales are heavily tipped in favour of work, and I'm very comfortable with that, though I do wish I could spend a bit more time with my boys. As long as I can spend quality time with them during the weekend, I'm happy as Sunday is mostly chill time. And through the year, I take a few breaks of a few days each.
Expert speak
Though his life is stressful, he has learnt the art of containment of things and priorities, which help him live in the moment. The best part of his profile is that he can disengage himself from work while he is at home. His compartmentalisation skills are excellent. A few small changes in his lifestyle, like devoting some time to yoga or silent meditation; maybe, 30 minutes before he starts his day, will help him in the longer run.

The work-at-home scriptwriter
Janaki Viswanathan,
Associate Screenplay Writer for television

Janaki Viswanathan

My day: On most weekdays, I wake up at anytime between 8 and 10 am. My work routine is nothing specific, but since I'm currently co-writing two shows, I usually have two screenplays to write in a day, along with incorporating the feedback. The working hours could be between 6-10 hours, scattered, of course. Twice a week, I have meetings that last about two hours. I live alone but usually, I see my parents once in three weeks. I have a work desk; I don't write anywhere else in the house. But the work desk is also where I sit to have my breakfast, read, and also watch movies late into the night sometimes.
What's the stress: The biggest stress is that I can't possibly make a time-table, because anything could change anytime. There's no routine as such, so plans made well in advance sometimes have to be cancelled, if work comes up. This inconsistency of timing does create a wee bit of stress within the personal sphere.
My stress busters: I do yoga thrice a week and on those days, I find myself better equipped to deal with more work, mentally and physically. Sometimes, I indulge in stress-eating but mostly, I feel better the minute I clean out my cupboard or wipe down my desk or laptop. On a bad day, I check if any of my favourite films/TV shows are on air, or I read the Sunday supplements. If neither of these work, I call a friend and vent it all out.
Digital detox: I do try and head out every single day before or after work, even if it's for something as mundane as grocery shopping. After spending a whole day at home, one does get frustrated and wants to get out. On days when I don't have big social plans, I head out to the local coffee shop with a book to get out of my space at home, and feel refreshed.
My work-life balance: I try not to bring in work related topics into my conversations with friends who aren't from the field. I try to make an effort (though not nearly enough) to keep in touch with family, extended family and friends.
Expert speak
She can incorporate some healthier lifestyle patterns; like getting up a little early and heading for a therapeutic walk in a nearby garden. Comfort eating or stress eating should be avoided, as it will further exacerbate stress in her life. Watching movies is a very good stress buster. At the same time, she can learn to implement deep breathing exercises when she has her bad days to give an oxygen pump to her brain. For someone living alone, venting out with her friends is the correct method to let out one's frustrations.

Seema Hingorany
Seema Hingorany

8 tips to banish daily urban stress
>> Start your day on a peaceful note. Jumping out of bed to a loud alarm clock, racing around the house trying to get everything done creates huge amount of stress. Get up a little earlier. If it's only 20 minutes, give yourself time.
>> Many circumstances in life are beyond your control, particularly the behaviour of others. This acceptance will help lower your stress hormone (cortisol) levels. Use “re-framing strategies” to look at your problems in different ways. As the saying goes, 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade'.
>> Learn to understand the root of your stress. Reactions to stress are often rooted in childhood experiences, not actually based in our reality as adults. When we analyse
it, the event may not be threatening to us at all.  
>> Cultivate healthy bonding at work. Just knowing that you have one or more co-workers who are willing to assist you in times of high-pressure work will reduce your stress level.
>> Be more flexible. Obsessing over every detail and micromanaging to make sure “everything is perfect” will worsen your stress.
>> Eat a balanced diet. Healthy eating fuels your mind as well as your body. Take time to eat breakfast in the morning. It will keep you going throughout the day.
>> Keep a journal. Putting your common worries into words may help you see that you don't really have that much to worry about.
>> Take breaks when needed. Going out to lunch, stretching or taking a short walk when necessary helps provide a much-needed energy boost.
— Seema Hingorany
Clinical psychologist and author of Beating The Blues (also provided the expert views for the case studies)

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