Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Serbsky Institute Warns Russians Against Inactivity over the Holidays

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 6 – Moscow’s Serbsky Institute, notorious for its “treatment” of Soviet dissidents in the past, is warning Russians against inactivity over the long winter holidays, arguing that more than two or three days of total inactivity will have the most doleful consequences for individuals and the society in which they live.
In comments yesterday reported on almost all Russian news outlets currently being updated, Tatyana Dmitriyeva, the director of the Serbsky Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry, said that Russians must keep themselves busy or face the prospect of exhaustion, health problems and disappointment (www.polit.ru/news/2009/01/05/kanikyll.html).
Moreover, she said, they must avoid at least for more than a few days in a row eating, drinking, watching television, reading books and magazines, or sleeping too much – the most common “activities” of Russians in these difficult times -- lest they upset their “biological” clocks and thus experience problems later with sleep, circulation and headaches.
Ever since the demise of communism and the effective lengthening of the midwinter holidays from Western Christmas on December 25 to Russian New Years in mid-January, Russian medical experts have worried about the physiological and psychological consequences of those who are off work at a time when harsh weather makes outside activities more difficult.
And this year, Dmitriyeva and other Russian psychiatrists and psychologists have registered particular concern given that the economic crisis with its threat of wages withheld, jobs lost, and continuing uncertainties has made the situation many Russians find themselves in even worse.
But most Russian outlets paired their reports of Dmitriyeva’s warnings with discussions of similar suggestions in other countries, most notably the findings of a group of British psychologists led by Judy James that yesterday, January 5, is “the most stressful day of the year” because that is when residents of the United Kingdom return to work after their holidays.
James suggested that British residents experience stress should cure it by shouting or making noise. There is no indication yet, however, that Russians are following her advice either, although there are many suggestions in Moscow media outlets that Russians have no reason to feel unique in the problems they now face.

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