Monthly Archives: July 2018

You Need Stress Relief for Your Body and Mind!

Stress relief is available today!

When your muscles are tight as rocks, your heart is racing, you’re holding your breath, “ah”, you need to exhale. You need stress relief now! Most of the time, there is no monster chasing you. Take a breath, all the way down into your belly. Breathe a few times, in through your nose, out of your mouth. Make the sound “ah”, on the exhale. As you do, your body and mind will relax. Look around and notice, in this moment you are safe. Then breathe again.

When a scary event happens, in traffic, in life, in relationships, several systems kick into a state of being on guard, alert, ready to run or fight. One is a part of your brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system, which releases a cascade of chemicals-such as adrenaline, steroid hormones, and cortisol-that speed up your heart rate, helps your brain make a quick decision to avoid pain, and increases glucose in the bloodstream to give you a burst of energy to react. You don’t even have to tell it what to do. This is your body’s natural reaction to stress.

That is great when danger is lurking. But what is not natural is continuously facing stressful situations and challenges day after day. This is known as chronic stress and can be detrimental to your health. Forty-three percent of adults say they suffer adverse health effects from stress, and three-quarters of all doctor’s visits are the result of stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress is also linked to several serious diseases and unhealthy situations, such as heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.

It’s important to understand how stress can impact your day-to-day life, as well as your long-term health. Even more importantly, we need to learn how to relieve stress.

Ongoing mind stress can hamper your clear thinking. You may find making simple decisions like what to have for dinner or remembering directions to a restaurant are more difficult than in a non-stressed state. Getting your chores and responsibilities completed may turn into procrastination.

Chronic emotional stress causes people to be easily frustrated and quicker to lose their temper. They may cry more often and spend considerably more time worrying about things, and even feeling depressed.

Stress affects your teeth and gums too. Strange as it may seem, stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth, often unconsciously or during sleep.

Your hair may fall victim to your stress. When a person is under a great deal of stress, his or her hair may enter the falling-out stage of the hair life cycle. It can occur up to three months after the stressful event, though hair frequently grows back within a year if the stressful situation is diminished.

Stress can increase pressure on your healthy heart function. Stress hormones speed up your heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and set up a pattern that makes the heart and blood vessels more likely to overreact when you encounter future stressful events. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, and in some cases, even stroke.

Your immune system, responsible for fighting disease, is diminished under stress. The thymus gland, one of the key players, gets small, restricted, and tight under stress, and so doesn’t function as well. If it seems you always get sick when you can least afford it, it may be because your stress is suppressing your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection.

Stress inhibits proper breathing, so people with asthma and chronic lung problems often have worsening symptoms during times of chronic stress.

In your stomach, stress takes its toll on digestion, so you may have increased incidence of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, acid reflux, colitis, or ulcer flare ups when you are under chronic stress.

Stress can make skin problems, rashes, eczema, rosacea and acne worse. It is also known to bring on cold sores and fever blisters.

Stress-related tension in your back, neck, and shoulder muscles can lead to pain and inflammation throughout your body.

So what can you do about stress relief?

First, identify the source. Sometimes finding your stressors is easier said than done. In most cases, it will be fairly obvious: a difficult relationship, tight money, needing friends, body pain, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example.

In other cases, finding the root causes of your anxiety and stress may be more challenging. When you are tired, it’s slowing you down and making you feel down in the dumps, and you need more rest. When there is a lack of positive, healthy communication between you and a friend or you are experiencing conflict in a relationship, it is being able to talk through what each person is needing that will dissolve the stress. When we have financial burdens that are haunting our spending habits now, and when you are stressed over every bill and purchase, that worry, that conflict, that down feeling is stress in action. In that case, seeking acceptance of what is, and finding a balance between being frugal and enjoying small things in life, while your finances recover from previous errors will eventually reduce the sense of stress around your situation.

One thing to keep in mind is: often underneath not feeling well physically, there is unresolved anxiety, anger, tension or frustration that we have not been addressing in a healthy way.

It is useful to gently ask ourselves, is there something I am anxious about? What healthy action can I take to create some amount of resolution?

Is there something I am afraid of in my life right now? What action can I take to feel safer?

Is there something I am angry about in my life? What action can I take on my own behalf today, or this week?

Is there something I am frustrated about in my life? What action steps can I begin today to change that frustrating situation now, or over time?

What can I do to relieve stress in my life?

    • The answer is, each day focus a bit of time and attention on de-stressing your life. Taking small steps that make you smile, or make you feel a bit more relaxed, or help you get rid of burdens and clutter, all these contribute to your health and well-being.
    • Choosing what you take into your body, mind and life makes a difference: picking healthy food, water, people, commitments, activities all help support your health, calmness and happiness.
    • Set priorities each day and each week for your tasks. Delegate what you can. Many of us feel always behind, but we can be realistic about how quickly time flies in a day. We can just be glad we got a few tasks accomplished. Feeling glad for what we did do instead of critical for what we did not do, that is enough.
    • Enjoying and focusing your attention on small moments of loving our children, listening to birds, seeing flowers in bloom, feeling the shade of a tree, and thinking I am grateful for this moment, will bring more and more of those pleasing, relaxing experiences for you to enjoy.
    • Take a minute in your day to close your eyes, breathe deep into your belly, and think I am enough. Notice how you feel when you do that.
    • Ask for help. Talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Let them know you’re working to reduce the amount of stress you deal with. Be willing to ask for help when you need it. Be open to receiving help. It’s possible those around you have faced similar situations and have information than can be of benefit to you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Sometimes talking through a problem or a conflict helps you better understand how you can avoid it in the future.
    • Set limits on your commitments. Even though being involved in activities such as volunteering and socializing can be rewarding and fulfilling, these constant demands in addition to your other responsibilities of family may be more than you can handle without feeling stressed.
    • Take a break. Mounting stress and pressure may begin to weigh down on your shoulders like a load of bricks. Before you let it get the best of you, take a break. Bend your knees just a little, curl forward toward your toes, letting your arms and head hang. Exhale with the sound, “ah”.
    • Feeling drained? Instead of reaching for caffeine for low energy, try taking a walk, going outside, and getting some fresh air. Take a few deep breaths, focusing your attention into your back, and exhale with the sound “ah”.
    • Create your support system among friends, family, and co-workers. This may be your best asset in the fight against overwhelming stress. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become more than you can handle. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations about stressful situations.
    • Make a List. Think you can multi-task? Think again. When the ideas in our head are overflowing, research suggests we’re not as capable of doing so many things at once as we wish. But where do you start? First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can better recognize what can wait and what needs your attention now. Then prioritize the items and complete them one at a time. That is really enough. You don’t have to be super-mom all the time!
    • Don’t neglect your health. When pressures are looming, and you’re struggling to stay above water, it’s too easy to let your health fall by the wayside. Get regular sleep, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of pure water. Choose more often to skip caffeine, alcohol, drugs and tobacco in favor of outdoor stress relievers, like a visit to a mountain, park, pond, garden, creek, or right in your backyard.
    • oving your body is great for stress relief. Physical activity of every kind boosts your feel-good endorphins. Moving counteracts the damage stress is doing to your body, and gets your mind off what is stressing you. If you can’t squeeze in 30 minutes each day, Three short ten-minute sessions are great too. Go for a walk, ride your bike, jog, jump rope, bounce on the kids’ trampoline, play tag with your children, put on music and dance, let’s hear your ideas!
    • ave a flexible plan for the future. It’s easy to get lost in the “what if’s” of the future, but if you have a back up plan for upcoming stressful events, you will be faced with fewer surprises. Thinking through these scenarios allows you to return to the present moment. Ancient words of wisdom suggest: avert the danger that has not yet come, that is think ahead a bit, but most of all live in the present moment.
    • racticing Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching, visualization, and massage. These are all great ways to work out the physical and mental effects of chronic stress.
    • llow a little time to Focus on what you do like and do want in your life. When you are worried about what you don’t like, your stress level increases, and more of that seems to appear in your life. Whenever you can, inundate yourself with positive thoughts and experiences. Listen to music, watch a funny video online, or call a friend who makes you laugh. Over time you’ll learn to meet negativity with a positive reaction. A positive attitude will keep you from slipping back so easily into feeling overwhelmed. Over time this is one of the best stress relief techniques for your mind and body.

The Psychological Effects Of Stress

Defining Stress

As the Adrenalin in our body rises – as we start to accumulate stress – our body experiences ever-increasing physiological reactions. The physiology relates to our physical responses. For example, a man might say, “I feel stressed. I feel stressed because of my stressful job.” This is interesting because I might say to that man, “Tell me about your job.”

He replies, “Well, I really like my job. I enjoy the people I work with, I’m well paid and I’ve got a good position.”

If the man says that to me, I say to him, “Well, you’ve got a lot of positive feelings about your job. What are the negative feelings? If you don’t have any negative feelings then you are actually not stressed. You only experience stress when you have negative emotion. Positive emotion is a non-problem status.”

He’ll reply, “Well, I’m busy.” I’ll say, “Well, okay. People who are busy – that’s a particular feeling – you can recognize when you are busy – but ‘busy’ comes and goes. It fluctuates. A negative emotion that you have in your life, the stress that you have in your life, perhaps comes from another source.”

Very often, I will explore with that client where his source of stress comes from. It may be related to health. It may be related to low self-esteem. It may be related to his relationship. It may be related to guilt that he has about not spending enough time with his children. But stress is always related to a negative emotion.

Another example is that of a house-wife at home who says she’s stressed and that may be true. She may be feeling bored, lonely, inadequate, helpless, overwhelmed or under-stimulated. Or she may feel put down or dismissed if she tries to tell her husband about these feelings and he says, “What have you got to worry about?” That sort of comment is likely to make her have even more bad feelings and it therefore increases her stress. Remember, stress is related to a negative emotion and so, yes, we have all sorts of people feeling stressed in all sorts of situations.

Stress is extremely subjective. It relates to how you experience it. The stress that we are focusing on in this chapter is the stress that we experience in a life drama – that means a lot of stress. I am referring to a body that is experiencing a lot of stress and that can come about through two different ways. It can come about because of one particular life event that causes your body to flood with Adrenalin – for example, the car accident or the Tsunami.

Or you can also experience a life drama because of what I label, ‘relentless stress’. This is an accumulation of stress that occurs over time so there is no particular major event, just a gradual build up. It is episodes that occur or negative emotion that you experience relentlessly – perhaps in your job or your relationship. If you have a build up of negative emotion and it goes on for a period of time without a break, then you will also become stressed and the feeling is the same. It is to do with an accumulation of and then a flooding of Adrenalin.

Symptoms of Stress

When you have an extreme level of Adrenalin in your body, whether it is caused by the one event or whether it is the accumulation of events, your muscles become tighter and tighter and this eventually results in you having physiological responses. Heart palpitations, the chest, neck and shoulders are always involved – you end up feeling quite hunched and very tight around your neck and shoulders. Your muscles will also ache.

Whenever you are experiencing stress, one of the common symptoms is muscle ache, especially in the thighs, arms. Your body becomes fatigued because your muscles ache. It is like you have been carrying heavy shopping for a long time and you can’t put it down. Even after you have put the heavy shopping down, your muscles still ache because they have been working and tightened for a very long time.

Your breathing is affected. The reason that your breathing alters is simply because your chest wall is a huge muscle. As our muscles constrict and become tighter, the chest wall becomes like a tight, rigid sheet of muscle. As a result of this, the lungs that are inside this chest wall no longer have the ability to expand like they normally do – they are only expanding a little bit and are therefore not taking in the quantity of air that you would normally take in.

After a while the brain sends a signal down to the lungs, “This body needs a little bit more oxygen. Please breathe a bit more deeply.” Outwardly, you end up sighing. This forces your chest wall to open to a greater expansion and that is what the (sighing) response is. When you are stressed, you tend to sigh more or you yawn more because yawning has the same impact. Yawning is when you take in air and deliberately force your chest wall to expand. Again, these are symptoms of stress.

Other people will notice that they do not sleep well when they are stressed. Of course not. When you are stressed, your body has got a lot of Adrenalin in it. The purpose of Adrenalin is to keep you alert, to keep you awake, to keep you on guard. You are not supposed to sleep when you are on guard duty and so, when you are stressed, you will not be able to settle and you will not be able to sleep because your brain is thinking and checking, “Where is the danger?”

As your stress increases, you are producing more and more Adrenalin. The Adrenalin that you are producing is making your brain think more and more, “Where is the danger?” A good analogy of this is the meerkat on sentry duty. It is constantly looking around, checking for danger. This is how the brain becomes. It thinks, “Where is the danger?” And so the Adrenalin that is genuinely in your body is causing your brain to become more alert, more on guard, worrying. That is why Sensitive People, who always have a lot of Adrenalin in their body, tend to be worriers. The Adrenalin in their body is making their brain think, “Where is the danger?” And then of course, the brain begins to think, “Well, it could be this. It could be that.” You are picturing what the danger might be and your body is thereby producing more Adrenalin.

This situation becomes the anxious cycle. The anxious cycle, when it continues, eventually will cause your Parasympathetic Nervous System to break down. The Parasympathetic Nervous System becomes so exhausted by trying to restore your body to calm that it no longer functions. Now, when you are thinking about worrying thoughts, your body is producing Adrenalin even when you are trying to restore yourself to calm and you are trying to tell yourself – your Cortex, “No, no, no, there is no danger. It’s okay. Settle down. You’ll get through this. You are a big girl. Other people have experienced things like this before.” This is the way we talk to ourselves. This is our self-soothing talk.

However, when your Parasympathetic Nervous System breaks down, even as you are trying to calm yourself down, you end up producing more and more Adrenalin and this is when we have relentless stress and we can no longer restore to calm. That is when we really experience the feeling of being traumatized. I am using the word ‘trauma’ for the first time – that is how we feel when we are experiencing a life drama. We feel traumatized. Our body is flooding with Adrenalin and it actually feels as though we are in a car accident but the car is still rolling. We don’t know what the outcome is going to be. That is how it can feel when you are traumatized.

At that point in time, as well as all the physical reactions that your body has, there are other things that start to happen. The Autonomic Nervous System in the body starts to collapse. The Autonomic Nervous System is the nervous system that looks after all the functions over which we have no conscious control. (It is the Central Nervous System that we are able to have conscious thought about. For example, movement – blinking and walking.) So the Autonomic Nervous System looks after our gut and digestion, it looks after our bowels and evacuation, it looks after our reproductive system. These are all the areas of our body that continue to function without us having any conscious control over them.

But, when we are feeling stressed, even a little bit stressed, what do we start to notice? We begin to have tummy upsets and when we have a lot of stress, these upsets become more pronounced. Some people end up with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Ulcerative Colitis. These are quite major gut and bowel problems. If you are a little bit stressed or a little bit nervous, you might have loose stools and need to go to the toilet quite a lot. But if you have stress over a long period of time, you end up with major gut problems and bowel problems.

Our whole reproductive system can be affected. It is well known that if a woman is stressed, her menstrual cycle might alter. What we now know, because of the advance of medical technology, is that men are also very affected by stress. With this advance of medical technology and photography, we know that men’s sperm is highly affected by stress and men can experience a lot of abnormal sperm and low sperm count because their Autonomic Nervous System is being interrupted.

The other major parts of our Autonomic Nervous System are our Sympathetic and our Parasympathetic Nervous System. These are the areas of our system that look after the recovery and the restoration of the body to calm after stress. And so as that breaks down, so our body experiences more and more stress without being able to recover.

To summarize, when we are experiencing stress, the first thing that starts to happen as our Autonomic Nervous System breaks down is that we have a break down of our immune system. We have concentrated on the Autonomic Nervous System but the other thing that happens is that we have a break down of our immune system. As we become more stressed, we start to develop more colds, flus, viruses, skin conditions, your Eczema – if you suffer from it – might crop up again. Your Shingles or your Glandular Fever might return.

The Importance of Serotonin

The next thing that occurs is a decrease of the chemical, Serotonin. Your Serotonin depletes as your Adrenalin increases. Serotonin is our ‘good feeling’ chemical. It is a very important chemical. Serotonin is a Neurotransmitter that we have in our brain and our Serotonin is necessary for us to feel good and to think good. Serotonin enables electrical impulses to jump across all the millions of neurons in our brain. Therefore, a lot of Serotonin equals a lot of good thought. If you are with friends and you are feeling really good, you have a lot of Serotonin and you can do a lot of brainstorming. When you are feeling really good, you can get on with things and you are inspired to get going with the projects that you want to do because the increased Serotonin means you can think well.

With the depletion of Serotonin, you find that your mood drops. You become flat, despondent, unmotivated, can’t be bothered, joyless. When you are undergoing a lot of stress, you might still force yourself to do things that have to be done but they don’t give you pleasure anymore. These are the feelings of a lowered Serotonin level in your brain.

Your thinking is also affected. Your thinking is affected inasmuch as it now starts to become inaccurate. You now begin to have irrational thinking. You may not know this at the time, but afterwards, when you recover a bit from your stress, you can look back and think, “I wasn’t thinking rationally at that time.” Our thinking becomes inaccurate, irrational and anxious. The reason why our thinking becomes more anxious again at this time is purely biological. When you have got a lot of Serotonin, that hormone is a neurotransmitter in the brain that allows electrical impulses (which are thoughts) to jump across neurons. When you have decreased levels of Serotonin, the electrical impulses don’t jump as far. They are not able to jump in different directions and so your thinking becomes more rigid – your thoughts have got nowhere else to go.

Because of that, they come to a stop and that is why, when you are feeling down, you actually feel stuck in your brain. You feel thick. You feel blocked. You can’t think straight. How often we say that to ourselves, “I can’t think straight.” You do not feel like getting going with a project you have to do or the next task you have to do – it might just even be cooking a meal. You just can not be bothered. These are all signs of lowered Serotonin.

Unfortunately, what happens is that these electrical impulses have to go somewhere. And so they then start to go around in the area of the brain where they have just come from, which gives the person a recurring thought. This is what dwelling is. This is what ruminating is. When we are feeling down, we dwell on things. We actually do not dwell on things when we are feeling good. Of course, when we dwell on things, we are in fact experiencing the same, anxious cycle because the thought we are having is a bad thought. Because we are having a bad thought, our body is creating more Adrenalin and so that cycle continues. It is the reason why, with lowered Serotonin and with this inaccurate and irrational thinking, we do in fact become more and more anxious and our brain is increasing our levels of Adrenalin in our body.

These lowered levels of Serotonin and impaired thinking cause us to have lowered self-esteem. Self-esteem is a thinking process. As well as feeling bad, we also think badly about ourselves. We have continuous thoughts about how bad we are, how useless we are, how pathetic we are or how uninteresting we are. These ongoing thoughts, in turn, create more and more Adrenalin.

An easy way to remember the relationship between Serotonin and Adrenalin is to consider your hands as two platforms. The left hand is the Adrenalin hand and the right hand is the Serotonin hand. Remember that these platforms move up and down as though they are a counterweight. As Adrenalin rises, Serotonin drops. And as Adrenalin drops, Serotonin rises. Effectively, the label, ‘self-esteem’ could also be placed on the right hand. Your Serotonin and your self-esteem are very connected and they are both strongly influenced by the presence of Adrenalin.

For example, you might have a good day spending time with friends. When you get home, you are feeling good. Your Serotonin is elevated, you are feeling good about yourself and you are feeling good about life. You do not feel stressed at all. The next day, you might be organizing a dinner-party with the same friends. As you are organizing the dinner party, things go a bit wrong and you discover that you haven’t put the wine in the fridge, you haven’t got enough meat and the potatoes that you wanted to put on the barbeque turn out to be rotten. Your stress rises, your Adrenalin levels rise, you are feeling stressed and now your levels of Serotonin have depleted. Because of that, you start all the ruminating thoughts of, “Oh, I’m so hopeless. I should have done that before. Why didn’t I check? I’m hopeless at organizing barbeques and my friends aren’t going to be happy. And they probably won’t even turn up anyway. I’m so pathetic.”

All of these unnecessary, negative thoughts that you have are simply because of the imbalance of the chemicals. Our personal stress is so significantly affected by the way that we think and once we realize this and visualize this, we can work out that if we can change the way we think, if we can change the way that we see a situation and change our viewpoint of it, we are going to change the way that we feel. We are responsible for the way that we feel, regardless of what happens to us in life. We can manage our stress levels and we can work out what we are going to do next by altering the way that we feel.