Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stress continued.

OK, now that we know what stress is and how stressed we are, it's time to find out what we can do about it. As I have mentioned before, a healthy dose is good, as it pushes our limits and raises us to new performance levels. For example, when you go to the gym and push 5 kg more than you did yesterday, you are stressing your muscles and the body response makes you stronger. Same with your nervous system: the ability to recognize and experience stress in a correct way makes you stress-resilient.

Here is the menu - it is not MECE (mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustible), but this will keep you busy for a while...
  • Physical exercise is the best tension reliever. Half an hour of physical exercise (cardiovascular takes the cake) can do wonders to your feeling of gloom and depression. The rule is that AM is to energize and PM is to relax/destress. Yet, a word of caution: don't overdo it. I recall seeing a cartoon of a fish in a fish tank saying to itself, "I swam 32 847 laps today and I'm still stressed out!"
  • Ventilation. You need someone to talk to... to someone who will not start solving your problems. Share your problems and concerns with others. Develop a support system of relatives, colleagues or friends to talk to when you are upset or worried. "Dear diary..." works too.
  • Transference: hold a rock in your hand and envision all your stress and anxiety flowing through your fingers and palm into the rock. After you "feel" that the bad stuff has been transferred to the rock, throw the rock away or bury it or toss it into running water. Another cool transference technique is an imaginary balloon that you tie to your wrist and let go when it's full with your negative emotions and pain.
  • Humor and Laughter Therapy. The simple truth is that happy people generally don't get sick. Laughter stimulates the immune system, offsetting the immunosuppressive effects of stress. The ability to laugh at a situation gives us a feeling of superiority and power. Just think about all the positive effects of laughter: muscle relaxation, reduction of stress hormones, immune system enhancement, pain reduction, cardiac exercise and others.
  • Music. Listening to music does wonders to alleviate stress. It has always been a great healer. There is no universal rule, which music will be right for you - it is strictly individual - try and pick for yourself. However, generally, if you are seeking relaxation, go for tracks with less than 60 bits per minute. Water Suite is a great album to start with.
  • Progressive Relaxation (or PMR) is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles developed by Edmund Jacobson. You can find a wide variety of exercises using PMR by simply googling it.
  • Imagery. Surround yourself with images of what you like, what makes you feel good, relaxed, what takes you away from the current situation and helps you look at the current problems from an outer perspective. The so-called, double-loop learning starts here: by taking yourself out of the equation, you get the external view of what is really happening, and it helps you re-frame the issue.
  • Breathing. Breathing properly is difficult. Most people do not know how to breathe. Breathing from your chest is not economical and may increase tension, simply because our lungs are not large enough to contain a lot of air, when we need it in situations of high distress. Thus, abdominal breathing is what we have to practice. You can get the basics of proper breathing in any yoga class, and there is a plenitude of exercises you can find online.

Good luck!

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