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Stress Management the Holistic Way

Stress Management

Stress management - stress can affect anyone, even the carers.

Stress management refers to a variety of techniques and psychotherapies that are designed to controlling stress levels within an individual, especially chronic stress.

We all know, or at least think we know, what stress is but even the professionals, who have spent their lives studying it, still have difficulty in exactly what stress is. Despite their efforts over the last half-century there is still no agreed definition yet we all know what stress is, in the same way that we all know what happiness is, but like happiness it has different qualities for different people.

Basically, stress is a term that describes our natural fight or flight response. Our primeval survival response that helped our species to continue existing. It is this inborn response that prepares us for fight or flight from anything that we perceive as dangerous, or a threat to our survival. And in the interests of our survival, this response is extremely sensitive and is set to recognise and react to even minute levels of potential danger, whether it is real or merely a perception.

In the 21st Century we may not be being chased by sabre-toothed tigers but this response to danger is still hard-wired into our system. Today’s modern stressors produce the same emotional and physical response but are brought on by a perceived imbalance between demands placed and what resources and time are available. They can be the result of fear of missing a deadline, of making a mistake in a tender, of not getting the job right, of redundancy, of not matching up to one’s peers…………… the list goes on. This means that you experience stress whenever you are faced with an event or situation that you perceive as challenging to your ability to cope. If you see the event or situation as only mildly challenging, you will probably feel only a little stress; however, if you perceive the situation or event as threatening or overwhelming your coping abilities, you will probably feel a lot of stress.

Is this, in itself bad? No, not really. Imagine the relief and sense of achievement of the caveman who has outrun the sabre-toothed tiger………….. Stress is a motivator and, on completion of a successful task, it can be rewarded and the stress levels drop to be replaced by a feeling of euphoria…………… However, it rarely works that way and one stressor can be piled on another until coping is no longer possible. Daily exposure to stressors can have negative consequences by causing hyper-vigilance or over-reaction during times when a state of calm awareness would be more productive. With daily exposure to these stressors, stress hormones can accumulate in the body and cause feelings of being burnt-out or depressed.

 

Effects of stress hormones

Stress hormones act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate and shutting down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity.

Constant stress causes continual release of various stress hormones which can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stress-induced hypertension
  • Effects on metabolic processes
  • Lowered energy levels
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Decrease in testosterone levels in males
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in females
  • Lowered immune system

Research has shown that stress hormones are a major contributing factor in many major illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Certain skin disorders, infections and psychological problems like generalised anxiety, panic, OCD, PTSD, depression, dissociative disorder, phobias and psychosis, have also been linked to cumulative stress.

 

Self-help methods of managing stress

  • Exercise – The easiest way to deal with cumulative stress is through physical exercise. During exercise, we metabolise excessive stress hormones and restore our body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. Even five to ten minutes of exercise, where a sweat has been worked up, will metabolise stress hormones and prevent their excessive  build-up. Exercise releases endorphins, which help us to feel better.
  • Taiji – Developed by the ancient Chinese, Taiji is one of the internal (soft) martial. It is increasingly practised in the West as a means of stress management and holistic exercise. Taiji is a series of slow, choreographed movements, or postures. At the core of Taiji is the concept of life essence, or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), that flows, in meridians, through the body. When the flow of Qi is disrupted, illness is the result. Regular practice of Taiji is said to strengthen and improve Qi and according to scientific studies, Taiji is an effective healing tool for a range of disorders, particularly chronic (for example, arthritis and heart disease) and stress related conditions.
  • Qigong – Qi Gong is a combination of meditation and gentle, fluid, body movement with an emphasis on abdominal breathing. The, proper, practice of Qigong fills the mind to the point where there is no room for the stressors that permeate our daily lives. It is extremely difficult to empty our minds, our thoughts. The universe loves a vacuum and as we try to empty our mind, it takes the opportunity to fill it to overflowing. With Qigong the mind becomes full, full of one thing, the focus on the Qigong exercise. There is no room for anything else and this lets the practitioner step into the eye of the hurricane, to that calm spot where the stresses of life are absent. From there, these stresses can be observed with an air of detachment and life can be prioritised in a way that is beneficial to body, mind and spirit.
  • Meditation – It does not necessarily take years of meditation to combat stress. Meditation provides stillness and nourishment for our conscious (spirit) brain (cognitive mind) and. There are many types of meditation to choose from but they all share the understanding that the more you meditate, the lower the stress levels and the better you will feel. Zen meditation is particularly good for reducing stress levels.
    During Zen meditation, you become more accepting of your thoughts and feelings and how they relate to the world around you. This enables you to reassess your life, your goals and your relationship with the world, enabling your mind to become increasingly peaceful.

 

Therapist info

Stress management - stress can lead to poor, physical, health.

 

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ENLARGING OUR SENSE OF THINGS

An ageing Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining and so, one morning, sent him for some salt.  When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter” spit the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.  The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said “Now drink from the lake”

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked  “How does it taste?”
“Fresh” remarked the apprentice.
“Do you taste the salt?”  asked the master.
“No” said the young man.

At this, the master sat beside the serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less.  The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same.  However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.  So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things.  Stop being a glass.  Become a lake.”

A, simple, guided meditation

A, simple, guided meditation

I have used this guided meditation with many of my clients who, like many of us, suffer from the daily stress that life can bring.  It is not always possible to take time out (holidays) in order to get away from these stresses but respite can be found, along with increased energy, through simple meditation.

Initially used as a guided meditation,  it is an easy path to follow and soon the guide is no longer required.  A simple exercise that takes up little time yet has amazing results.  It is a real treasure.

  • It is a warm summer day, a perfect day.
  • You are in the terraced garden of large country house where there are people sitting, sunbathing or strolling.
  • It is peaceful and quiet – everyone here has come for a rest and are quietly appreciating the beautiful surroundings and you, like them, are listening to the bird song.
  • As you walk across the lawn you can feel the grass under your bare feet.  It is a comforting feeling.
  • Ahead of you, you see a broad stairway that leads down to the next terrace. There are seven stairs.
  • As you descend each of them you become more relaxed and your breathing becomes deeper and effortless.
  • This terrace is quieter, with fewer people.
  • As you walk across the grass, you become aware of a high wall that has ivy and honeysuckle growing on it.
  • You know this wall well.  It surrounds a secret garden and you have the only key.  It is your garden, your secret place, where you can sit in peace while you relax and recharge your batteries.
  • As you get closer, you can see your secret door.
  • Unlocking and opening the door, you enter a magical space with trees and plants of every kind.
  • The trees provide a canopy of shade with dappled sunlight beaming through.
  • You see your favourite tree and walk over to it, sitting down and resting your back against it.  It is like an old friend who brings feelings of warmth, comfort, and safety.
  • Sitting here, you feel the gentle spots of sunlight that have slipped through between the leaves, gently resting on your skin.
  • Can you feel these small areas of heat?
  • Each of these spots of sunshine contains a smile for you.  A smile that radiates through your whole body.
  • Allow yourself to spend some time here.
  • Feeling rested, you decide to walk deeper into the garden
  • With each step you feel lighter, more at home
  • You become more aware of the scent of the flowers, the colours, the shapes.
  • You hear the birds singing clearer than you have ever heard before.
  • You hear a buzzing and look over to see a honey bee moving from flower to flower.  We often think about busy bees and how they move from plant to plant, working away.  And often we think of ourselves moving through life in the same way, creating aims/goals and struggling to achieve them.  But, look again at the bee.  It is not frantic.  It looks almost aimless as it goes about its work.  It meanders through life but still reaches its goal – it makes honey and honey makes it content………….happy.  The flowers, in themselves, are not goals.  There are points that the bee passes through to achieve its happiness.
  • You hear yourself.  You hear your positive, happy inner thoughts.  Each of these is a treasure to be held on to, to be nurtured.
  • Take your time to explore the garden, yourself and your thoughts.  Feel the energy entering your body, mind and spirit.  Enjoy!
  • It is time to leave your secret garden now.  But it is always here for you and always easy to reach.  Remember, just across the lawn, down the seven steps to the quieter terrace and then a short walk to the door that only has one key.  Your key.
  • You are now leaving the garden, shutting the door behind you, and slowly walking back up the seven stairs that will bring you back into this room.

As you come back into the room, I want you to bring some movement back into your hands and feet by wiggling your fingers and toes.  Then, slowly, open your eyes.

Optimal Health Look after yourself

Look after yourself

To look after yourself and maintain optimal health and well-being you have to take some responsibility for your own health. You might like to consider some of the following.  These techniques cost very little in terms of money or time.

Water

Most people will improve their general health simply by drinking more water.  Good hydration encourages good drainage of the lymph system, and enables the body to excrete waste products and toxins out of the body cells more effectively; it enables nutrients to be more easily absorbed into the cells.

All the health and beauty magazines advise you to drink water.  Ideally a person should drink 25 ml per kilogram of body weight per day (so a 60 kg person should drink 60 x 25 ml = 1500ml or 1.5 litres per day).  This would increase the more physically active you are or depending on your work environment.  Bottled water is best.  Tap water is OK, but is full of chlorine, metals, antibiotics and hormones etc., and will become unpalatable once you are used to the real thing! Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks etc. are not utilised by the body in the same way.  Many of these drinks contain additives, preservatives, sweeteners or sugar that upset normal metabolism.

Yoga Exercises – for flexibility of body and mind.

By stretching the muscles and tissues of the body, energy flows more freely.  Ten or fifteen minutes of stretching in the morning is a great way to start the day, and the more often you do it, the better you’ll feel.

Always move gently from one position to the next and don’t over-stretch.  None of these exercises should cause pain or discomfort.

Salute to the sun

  1. Stand relaxed, feet together, hands together as if praying.
  2. Breathe in.  Stretch arms high above head, bending gently backwards.
  3. Breathe out.  Bend forwards, starting with the head bent, then the neck, upper back and lower back.  Arms hang loosely downwards towards the feet.  Feel each of the vertebrae stretching as you bend forwards.  Bend knees, if necessary, until your hands touch the floor.
  4. Breathe in.  Left leg moves back, right knee bends at right angles as if on the starting blocks for a race.  Head raised.
  5. Breathe out.  Hands on the floor, feet on the floor, lift bottom into the air making a right-angle at the waist.  Head drops down relaxed.
  6. Breathe in.  Lying flat on the floor, hands level with shoulders, push up so that your shoulders are off the floor while your hips are still touching the floor.  Head up.
  7. Breathe out.  Position (e), – bottom in the air.
  8. Breathe in.  Bring right leg forwards and go into Position (d) – starting blocks.
  9. Breathe out.  Position (c) – standing, bent over, hands hanging towards the floor.
  10. Breathe in.  Slowly stand up straight.  Stretch arms high above head, bending gently backwards – position (b).
  11. Breathe out and return to starting position, feet together, hands together as if praying.

Spine rotations and stretches

  1. Feet fixed firmly on the ground, legs shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.  Keeping knees and hips facing forwards, rotate body first to the right, then to the left.  Allow relaxed arms to windmill around the body.  Turn the head and neck fully in direction of rotation. Repeat 15-30 times.  This helps to loosen up the spine.
  2. Feet apart, knees slightly bent.  Fold arms.  Bend forward, slowly flexing the neck, upper spine then lower spine.  Head down and dip gently in the middle 5 – 10 times.  Move your arms and body and dip to the left 5 – 10 times, to the right 5 – 10 times.  Finish off with 5 – 10 dips in the middle.  Notice how much further you can now bend.
  3. Stand with arms at sides.  Breathe in and lift arms forward and up above your head.  Breathe out and bring your arms backwards behind you and back to your sides.  Repeat 5 – 10 times.
  4. Keeping torso vertical, arms out to the sides, put one leg straight out behind you and bend the other knee in front of you.  Dip in the middle towards the ground 5 – 10 times.

Nutrition

We are what we eat.  Like the computer – garbage in = garbage out, i.e. no energy and no productivity.

Processed and refined foods are a poor source of nutrition.  If possible food should be freshly cooked.  Include plenty of fruit and vegetables and whole-wheat products rather than refined alternatives – (at least 50% of the diet should be raw foods).

Consider eating organic foods – we already have, on average, 500+ different pesticides in our bodies impairing our health!

Food combining is another option for some – by not mixing protein and carbohydrate at the same meal, some people feel more energetic.

Supplements such as antioxidants and fish oil are highly recommended to make up for the deficiencies in our diet today.

Your blood group may affect your ability to metabolise certain foods.  Type O tends to be intolerant of wheat and cow’s milk;  type A tends to be intolerant of red meats.

Meditation / Relaxation

There are many different meditation and relaxation techniques which you can use, e.g. the Silva technique, visualisation exercises, etc.  Do two 15 minute meditation or relaxation sessions a day to calm you down and replenish your energy.

Exercise with attitude

Don’t give yourself a hard time!  Whatever you do, enjoy it e.g. if you go running, don’t always make it a time trial.  Enjoy the fresh air.

Treat yourself well at bath and shower time.

Use aromatherapy oils in the bath.  In the shower, stand tall and be aware of your aura growing as you breathe in.  When you breathe out, let your stresses and worries go down the plughole.

Massage the tension out of your muscles and smooth out the worry lines in your face.

Language and self-talk

The way we talk to ourselves determines how we feel about ourselves.  Use positive language – “good”, “clever”, rather than negative language – “bad”, “stupid”.  If you make a mistake, rather than saying “I was stupid”, acknowledge it by saying, “that wasn’t very clever”.  Next time someone asks you how you feel, rather than saying, “not bad”,

try saying, “Pretty good thank you”.  If your not feeling good you can always say, “Could be better”.  See how different you feel using different expressions.  Use positive language with other people, especially your loved ones – they will feel better, and you will feel better.

Goals

It is important to have goals – to know what you really want for yourself.  You will feel more fulfilled if you know that you are doing what is right for you.  Your goal may be to be a nurse, it may be to work with children, it may be to start a charity for refugees, or to be a show-jumper, or to create beautiful gardens or it may be to be a mother (or father).  If you are on the path towards fulfilling your goal, life becomes a whole lot easier.

Complementary therapies

If you think you are getting really out of balance, e.g. feeling over-stressed and anxious, treat yourself to a massage, or Reiki, kinesiology, reflexology, aromatherapy etc. – they really help.

Your GP

See your GP if it is appropriate – if you have a sudden illness or unexplained pain.  Be good to yourself – if you are unwell, get treatment.

Stress at work

stress at workStress at work

Among the most common types of stress is good old-fashioned job stress, stress at work, and it is easy to understand why. With the economic slow-down of the last few years, employers are trying to squeeze more and more work out of their employees in order to keep the profits. Unfortunately, this is all too often the case with workers and people need to learn how to manage work stress. Otherwise, you will simply drown yourself in worry and drive yourself batty with concern over your workload and your job security.

The first thing to remember about job stress is that it really does not help you get work done. In fact, too much stress can actually prevent you from getting through your projects. Though every worker can point to a time when the chips were down and they rose to challenge, the fact is that long-term stress does not help people focus. Yes, short-term bursts of stress can heighten your ability to focus, but any period of stress that lasts longer than a day or even a few hours deteriorates your ability to focus. This is because the very hormones that heighten focus over a short period of time eventually degrade concentration and make you unable to keep your mind on the task at hand. Needless to say, this does not help you in the workplace.

One of the best ways to manage workplace stress is to take a break every so often. This means that you should give yourself a short break about every fifteen minutes or so and avail yourself of a break of a few minutes about every hour.
If you have the self-awareness to notice that you are not able to focus completely, you should give your eyes a break and take a quick stretch break in your chair. These breaks should be taken about every fifteen minutes, as they will allow your brain to recover a little bit of energy and allow you to return to the task at hand.

Additionally, every hour, stand up and walk away from your desk. This break should consist of some task not related to work or your desk and it is vital for maintaining concentration and reducing job stress. Go get a soft drink, take a restroom break, or simply walk the halls for about 3-5 minutes. This will not only give your body a break, it will provide your mind with an opportunity to relax. It is the simple act of doing something mindless that helps your mind. Just like muscles, the brain needs a rest and recovery period in order to get its strength back. Remember, you cannot remain completely focused forever, just like you cannot sprint forever.

If you do not take a break, your mind will start taking its own breaks. This is otherwise known as “having your mind wander.” This is a tremendously frustrating phenomenon and it can create severe job stress. You cannot focus, so you cannot get your work done, so you try to focus, which is causing your mind to wander simply because it has been focusing for so long. Thus, you become more frustrated with yourself and your stress increases. This is an endless spiral and, if you do not deliberately escape it, job stress will consume you until the only thing you can think about is your inability to think about anything other than your inability to get work done.
For those who are in the throes of job stress already and there does not seem to be any way to get out of it, it is time to give yourself a complete break. The best break is, of course, to go home and leave your work behind. However, this is not always feasible and, instead, you need some way to give yourself a break while not leaving your desk.

The best method for relieving job stress at your desk is to close your eyes and take deep breaths. The key to this is to avoid thinking about work while you are doing this breathing exercise. In fact, you should simply concentrate on your breathing. In essence, this is a form of meditation and it is a very good way to refresh your brainpower. This is because, when you are thinking about your breathing, you are thinking about almost nothing at all. After all, you breathe all the time and it comes pretty naturally. Thus, by concentrating on a process that is generally automatic, your mind will give itself a much-needed rest. In fact, some people are so effective at this form of meditation that they receive something akin to concentrated sleep. Though it takes a great deal of practice to achieve this much relaxation from meditation, even simple meditation can help you recover from job stress.

The most important thing to remember about job stress is to simply not worry about job stress. In fact, worrying about job stress will actually create a certain about of stress all its own. Thus, if you simply concentrate on your work, give yourself a break every so often, and give yourself a complete break when you need it, job stress does not need to be a concern.