Calm­ing plod through a world of ten­sion

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

STRESS: if you haven’t got it you may well be liv­ing in the pre­vi­ous cen­tury. Stress has be­come the ail­ment du jour of the noughties, trig­ger­ing ev­ery­thing from de­pres­sion to heart dis­ease, mar­i­tal break­down, obe­sity and even sui­cide.

Ev­ery­one, it seems, has a tale of stress. Whether it be the tribu­la­tions of get­ting small chil­dren out the door and off to school, cop­ing with that ob­sti­nate mid­dle man­ager or trav­el­ling the globe busi­ness class to seal the next mul­ti­mil­lion- dol­lar deal.

Where once stress was con­sid­ered a good thing, an el­e­ment of our ge­netic make- up that al­lowed the fight or flight de­fences to kick im­me­di­ately into ac­tion, to­day it is on a par with life- threat­en­ing dis­eases, if not be­ing im­pli­cated as a cause of them.

Step for­ward Niki El­lis of Univer­sity of Queens­land.

The pro­fes­sor is the Su­per Nanny of stress, fronting this in­trigu­ing se­ries that plots how a range of com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als de­fine and deal with stress, with her in­ter­ven­tion.

On pa­per it is a great idea, some­thing that may al­low us to shine a light on our lives and find a way of deal­ing with those daily stresses.

Tonight El­lis en­ters what is un­ques­tion­ably a most stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment ( par­tic­u­larly for an­i­mal lovers), the RSPCA.

Work­ing with mi­nus­cule fi­nances and re­stricted re­sources, the com­mit­ted staff of the RSPCA in Queens­land put an­i­mals first.

Each day they must make life- and­death de­ci­sions about an­i­mals cast away by fate or the fick­le­ness of hu­man na­ture.

An­i­mals healthy enough to war­rant

the a sec­ond chance get to try out for adop­tion through a se­ries of sim­plis­tic tests. If a dog so much as shies away from a child- sized doll brought to­wards it, it is con­signed to eu­thana­sia lest fear turn to at­tack in the out­side world. This is a stress­ful job where failed ef­forts to save an an­i­mal’s life can turn to qui­etly shed tears.

En­ter El­lis, called in to help the RSPCA pre­vent the com­pas­sion­re­lated stress its staff suf­fer. It’s a man­age­ment call, but El­lis swiftly has man­age­ment off­side, with the RSPCA bosses fear­ing she is a union lackey.

The staff, on the other hand, fear any demon­stra­tions of weak­ness or dis­plays of emo­tion will have them re­moved from roles where they have the an­i­mals’ best in­ter­ests at heart even in putting them down.

At one level El­lis’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions are fas­ci­nat­ing to watch, the con­cerns of the work­force doubtlessly mir­ror­ing the work­force- man­age­ment di­vide so many of us en­counter.

But, to its detri­ment, this show plods. It is wor­thy but some­how lack­ing. Per­haps the se­date pace will go some way to al­le­vi­at­ing your stress.

Si­mon Can­ning

Help: Univer­sity of Queens­land pro­fes­sor Niki El­lis tack­les work­place stress

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