Keller stress management consultant helps clients unwind

Posted Sunday, Sep. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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What a gorgeous day it is to be at the beach. Boy, I sure needed this: a nice nap under the sun, a cool drink to my left, my wife to the right, yellow sand and blue water at my feet. I can hear the waves crashing and the joyful giggles of my stepson, as he runs up and down the coastline on this picture-perfect afternoon.

Here, there’s no iPhone or iPad, no email or text messages, no deadlines or people asking me to do stuff. The only question I have to answer at this lovely beach resort: Do I want my fresh fish for dinner grilled or fried? Mmm, I can smell it cooking. I wonder what kind of wine they have here. Red sure sounds …….

An ominous voice interrupts: “3, 2, 1. Come back.”

Hey, what happened to my beach, my drink, my fish? I was going to have grilled mahi-mahi — my favorite.

Now I remember: I am not at the beach. I’m 300 miles from the nearest seagull, lying on a chaise longue in the north Fort Worth office of 32-year-old Aman Dhaliwal.

I must have dozed off, but then again, I was supposed to. You see, I am here to de-stress and Dhaliwal is the de-stressor.

His company is called StressBGone ( www.stressbgone.org/), and he works out of this tiny office, furnished only with low lights, a chaise longue, a coupla chairs and a yoga mat.

One of the methods he uses is called neuromuscular progressive relaxation. As I kicked back on the chaise, closing my eyes, keeping my legs straight, Dhaliwal asked me to relax each of my muscles, going from head to toe.

With each muscle relaxed, he then took me on my journey, planting images of beaches and blue skies into my head with his soothing voice. Together, we traveled far, far away from the everyday stresses that, according to the American Psychological Association, affect 22 perfect of all Americans.

Dhaliwal is what’s known as a stress management consultant. There are only a few in the United States, and most of them are located in California, where they help stressed-out Hollywood types who just can’t deal with being popular and making millions of dollars.

I’m no Lindsay Lohan, but I’ve got my share of stresses. Armed with war stories of what an 8-year-old little boy can do to your kitchen, what the day-to-day demands of holding down a real job can do to your Monday afternoons and how punctuality and timeliness can utterly destroy your well-being, I present to Dhaliwal myself, undoubtedly his greatest challenge yet.

So you know ...

A coupla weeks prior to my session with Dhaliwal, I broke the news to my wife that, someday soon, I am going to be stress-free.

Me: “I’m going to see this guy who is supposed to help me with stress.”

Unsupportive wife: “Pfffft.”

Me: “What does that mean?”

Unsupportive wife: “Nothing.”

Me: “What do you mean, ‘nothing’?” (Stress level rising).

Unsupportive wife: “It’s not going to work.”

Me: “You don’t think he can de-stress me?”

Unsupportive wife: “No” (laughs real hard, like I told her I’m cooking dinner).

Me: “Why not?” (Stress level at about a 7 now).

Unsupportive wife: “Because stress keeps you together. It’s the only way you can function. You’re like a rubber band — you need tension in order to work.”

Red alert: I am now at a 10. Where’s my medicine?

Maybe she was onto something. My life does seem to be one long street of yellow lights that I Mach 5 down, always getting through but always at the last second, blood boiling, hands shaking.

Ask my editors, who always tell me to turn something in on X date but who always receive it on Y date. (Including this story, in fact.)

Ask my family, which knows that when I say 5:30, I really mean sometime much later, like probably 7 or so, depending on traffic and what time I get off work and whether I want to stop at Starbucks for a Mocha Cookie Crumble frap.

The more punctual I’m supposed to be, the less I will be; being on time just stresses me out too much.

As my astute wife pointed out, I totally know that I create this stress myself. But there are other factors involved with my stress, too. Like work. I’m expected to be at my regular job every day that we’re open for business. Insanity! If there’s such a thing as a mental health day, there should also be a stress-relief day, and it should be every Monday.

I also have an 8-year-old boy. Those of you who have/had/will have an 8-year-old boy, know this: YOU ARE DOOMED.

I am, however, very unstressed about going to the doctor, as if I show up on time and stress-free, I won’t get any bad news. That’s not how it went at my last appointment, and that’s why I am Dhaliwal’s perfect client. Doc said I had two problems: I weighed too much and my blood pressure was too high.

I thought one might affect the other, so I’ve been exercising regularly for the past couple months. Doc suggested biking, so I gave it a whirl. Say, Doc, have you yourself tried biking on the Trinity Trails on a Saturday morning? Kinda hard to de-stress when you’re dodging little kids, crazy speed bikers and people walking LESS THAN A MILE AN HOUR. GET OUT OF THE WAY, LADY!!!!!

My name is Malcolm and I’m a stressaholic.

Stress management 101

When Aman Dhaliwal was an RN at Huguley hospital, he developed a knack for helping his patients and co-workers deal with stressful situations. A supervisor took notice and suggested he pursue soothing nerves as a full-time job; he took a yearlong online course through the San Antonio-based American Association for Healthcare Professionals.

He has now been a stress management consultant for two years. Initially, he spoke at area seminars, helping healthcare employees understand the field. In March, he quit his job at Huguley and opened a tiny office near Keller to see clients. Through a bit of advertising and word of mouth, he has since amassed nearly two dozen clients. His Facebook page has about 400 followers.

“I’m busy, and that’s a good thing,” he says.

It’s not a common field in North Texas, or in many other places, for that matter. Most are based in California, where they work with had-it-up-to-here superstars.

“Most [famous actors] will go through some sort of therapy, and this is one of them,” Dhaliwal says. “A lot of high-profile people deal with high levels of stress on a daily basis. I have clients who are in creative fields. It’s a demanding field, to be creative, and it causes a certain amount of stress.”

Dhaliwal’s methods do not involve any form of medicine. It’s strictly mind and body exercises — meditation, relaxation exercises, counseling. You learn the exercises in the office, then practice at home and, eventually, you add them to your day-to-day routine.

Boss bugging you? There’s a breathing exercise for that.

“These are not complicated exercises, but you have to have the desire to learn them and the desire to rid yourself of stress,” he says. “If you come in for a session and you leave and forget everything I’ve told you, no, it won’t work. But if you go home and practice what we learn, then, yes, there will be positive results.”

Cost per hourlong session ranges from $75 to $150. The higher end is for those who require home or work visits. Come into his office, you’ll pay the low end.

“A lot of people who suffer from stress can’t afford treatment for it,” he says. “That’s why I keep my rates low and affordable. Everybody deserves to have a less stressful life.”

Exercises in futility?

After my visit to the beach, Dhaliwal takes me on another journey, across his office to a yoga mat, where I sit down, cross my legs and stare at a candle he has placed in front of me. For the first time in my life, I am going to meditate.

I “zone out” all the time, I say..

“This is not the same thing,” he says. “Focus on the flame, if you want to close your eyes, you can, but let the flame burn in your mind.”

I stare at the candle, then close my eyes.

“Focus on the flame, clear your mind,” he says.

All I can really think about is how much my legs hurt from sitting in this position; maybe meditation isn’t for me.

The most challenging part of my hourlong session was, seemingly, the easiest part: looking in the mirror. Dhaliwal wanted me to stare at myself in the mirror and count the number of times I blinked.

“Don’t look away, don’t look around, look at yourself and count your blinks,” he said, sternly.

I look at myself in the mirror. Jeez, look at the size of that pimple. Why didn’t anyone tell me I have a small moon growing on my cheek? Isn’t this exercise supposed to de-stress me?

I thought this exercise would be a cinch, but I only lasted a few minutes. Can’t even look at myself in the mirror.

“A lot of people can’t,” says Dhaliwal, who’s married and has a 5-year-old daughter. “They’re not very comfortable with what they see. For some of my clients, we spend entire sessions doing just this, getting comfortable with what they see in the mirror, who they are, what makes them who they are. First part of alleviating stress is understanding where it comes from, and it comes from within. You have to be comfortable with yourself to truly know yourself.”

I wonder if I’m incurable. I wonder if I’ll stay in the fast lane until I’m in the funeral procession, white-knuckled to the end.

“There’s always hope, hope for everyone,” he says. “We’re actually very adaptive. Our bodies and minds are resilient in that way. We can easily adapt to a lot of different social settings. Sometimes, we just need a little direction.”

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