Stress Facts and Stress Management
Every week we seem to hear about someone who is suffering from stress. It is becoming more widespread as the pressures and demands of modern living takes its toll.
Stress can originate anywhere and the causes are numerous. Rushing in the morning for work, bills in the post, poor relationships, traffic hold-ups, being late for meetings, criticism, pressure, lack of appreciation or understanding the list goes on and on.
What is stressful for one person may be perfectly acceptable to another, indeed some people seem to thrive on stress and others seem to go to pieces over the slightest little thing. Stress, it seems, is not triggered by an actual event, but how we as an individual react to that event. The situation that makes us feel stressed one day could have no impact the next. More usual though, is that there is a gradual build up of stress, which may or may not, eventually exceed personal tolerance levels.
Not all stress is bad, we need a certain amount of it to motivate us, to get the best out of us. Without stress we can become apathetic, lethargic, lazy. Stress is activating. It's all a case of balance.
There are two main types of stress, Eustress is the positive and Distress of course, the negative. There is also Post Traumatic Stress, which, as its name suggests, can occur as a consequence of a past traumatic experience.
You might feel yourself to be under constant pressure and unable to cope with the demands of today's hectic lifestyle. It seems strange that when we have so many time-saving, labour saving devices, washing machines, microwaves, tumble dryers, dishwashers, fast cars, to name but a few, many of us still find it difficult to enjoy quality time doing what we really want to do. How much time have we actually gained from these inventions? When we do have the spare time, how many of us feel guilty when we are inactive or doing something for ourselves?
Many people today are suffering from 'information overload' too much information for the brain to cope with. We wake up with fuzzy heads and we go to bed with fuzzy heads. Some companies put undue pressure on their employees; performance, productivity, profit the competition is fierce and we must all pull our weight or face the consequences.
Primitive man was governed by the need to hunt for food and the animal body is designed to act or react as in the 'fight or flight' response. When faced with danger the blood flows away from the stomach and to the limbs, (hence that sinking feeling) to enable man to run or fight; the digestion shuts down, which is why it is never a good idea to eat when under stress, otherwise you could suffer from indigestion. The muscles tense ready for action, the glands secrete adrenalin, a powerful chemical eventually, when the threat of an attack is over the body returns to a state of near normal, but it is still on the alert - remaining vigilant.
Technology has advanced at a far greater speed than human beings have. And the stressors of yesteryear are very different from the ones of today. We rarely need to fight or flee these days, (even though we may feel like doing so,) but our body is still prepared.
In consequence all that negative energy accumulates in the muscles. It may cause ulcers, migraine, tension headache, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety or panic attacks, perhaps just feelings of general unease. There could be dizziness, irritability, a feeling of being constantly 'on edge'.
Too much stress results in failure of the immune system to produce those important T cells that help to fight off infection. The immune system then attacks itself, resulting in arthritis, ME, MS, HIV, allergies, asthma, to name but a few.
It is known that bereaved people are more at risk of illness than partners who are together. The mental state is lowered leaving them wide open to negative influences.
So what can we do to discharge the stress?
Well for a start, exercise is great; any kind of exercise will make us feel good, whether it be aerobic such as swimming, dancing, walking, jogging, running or anaerobic such as tennis, football, Exercise is a wonderful stress-buster because it helps to release tension, but after a busy day most people prefer to collapse in front of the television with a drink in their hand.
Take a look at the cause of your stress and see if you can do something about it. At first glance this may sound obvious but if you analyse the cause you may find that the reason is not always so easy to pinpoint. For example you may be stressed because of the amount of work that you have to do, perhaps you are dealing with complaints or difficult customers or trying to achieve impossible targets etc.
If you can do something to alleviate the situation then do it. But if not, accept that you have to change your reaction to it.
For example if dealing with difficult customers is part of your job then examine your options. You can either,
a. continue as you are doing, feeling stressed.
b. change your job.
c. change your own attitude, i.e. don't take complaints personally.
Worrying about something which is beyond your control will only make you ill.
If you feel under pressure because of the amount of work you have to do, examine your options. You either
a. continue as you are doing, getting into a flap over your work.
b. change your job
c. change your own attitude, i.e. accept that there is only so much that you can do, do it to the best of your ability, but don't worry about what you can't do.
I am assuming here that you have explored avenues such as discussing your overload with your boss; this comes under taking a look at the cause of your stress and seeing if you can do something about it.
Right, I can hear you now, saying "Oh it's alright to say that, but my boss will not accept that, the work has got to be done." My point is this, you are only physically able to do so much, you can either do it under stress or without stress.
Worrying about something which is beyond your control will only make you ill.
You cannot change other people. People can change, and often do, but that is their decision. Therefore if you are the one who is suffering from stress then you are the one who must change. It is that simple.
Now I can almost hear you saying ''Of course it's not that simple, don't you think if I could change I would have done!' Well, maybe, but maybe not. We are all resistant to change, that is human nature, and anyway you may be blaming other people for the cause of that stress, that is also, to a certain extent, human nature. But we can change just like the people mentioned above when we decide to.
Once we have decided to change we can wonder how we will go about effecting these changes. There are ways, easy ways.
One of these ways entails using simple mind techniques to re-programme the subconscious mind to accept a healthier and more beneficial outlook.
You may be feeling a little dubious about the terming of the subconscious mind so a brief description of the way the mind works may help you to understand its function.
If we think of the mind as an iceberg, you could perhaps imagine the tip of the iceberg to be the conscious mind, the part of you that is thinking now. This part of the mind deals with problems at hand but when it encounters events that have been previously experienced it will dip into the deeper sub-conscious mind to see how to deal with this problem or event.
The sub-conscious mind holds all the information about everything that has ever happened to you, everything you've ever seen, heard, done, smelt, dreamt, touched, thought it is all there, recorded in and around the cells as electrical nerve impulses.
Now the subconscious mind is not as intelligent as the conscious mind, in many ways it is quite childlike and takes things very literally. The conscious mind can be thought of as the 'critical censor' guarding the entrance to the subconscious mind evaluating the information that is to be stored in the deeper vaults of the subconscious. Once the information has entered into the mind it is filed away in the appropriate compartment.
However, and this next point is extremely important - the subconscious does not differentiate between fact and fantasy and when the conscious, thinking mind wishes to draw upon past experience it will dip in and examine a piece of what it considers to be, relevant information to tell it how to deal with this situation.
Of course I have over-simplified all this, there is a lot more to it than I have briefly outlined and if you are interested in exploring this further then some excellent books are recommended at the end of these notes. But I want to give you an idea of how the mind functions and how you can improve your outcome, whatever the situation.
When the conscious thinking mind is relaxed, or occupied elsewhere, it drops its guard somewhat, allowing data to filter in, uncensored. We can make use of this knowledge to help us to deal with unwanted behaviour patterns, such as the stress response, addictions to food, tobacco, alcohol, anxiety states, panic attacks, relationship difficulties in fact any problem of a psycho somatic nature.
Advertisers and politicians make use of this knowledge to make us buy their products or vote for them. Subliminal messages are all around us and most of the time we are completely unaware of the 'stuff' that is being put into our minds.
However, knowing all this, we can now decide what goes into our mind. We can put that information there. We can make full use of our potential.
Actually I've not told you of a fraction of the things you can do with this knowledge. You've probably heard that human beings use only about a tenth of their brain power and for a long time Russians have been exploring areas such as telepathy and distance vision. We know that people are more intuitive when the mind is relaxed, you can increase your confidence, help with stage fright, public speaking, memory enhancement, sport performance, compulsive behaviours, phobias, 'go back' to events that occurred in childhood, infancy, even the womb - the list is limitless.
A relatively new area of psychology is Neuro-Linguistic-Programming (NLP) which enables people to move out of their existing mind-set, to model themselves on successful individuals through visualisation, time-orientation and specific language patterns
These are just a few of the things you can hope to achieve with your knowledge if you wish to.
However, returning to the issue of dealing with stress. If you have attended a course on stress-management, hypnotherapy or deep-relaxation then you will know exactly how it feels when the conscious mind is relaxed you may recognise these feelings as similar to ones you've had when engrossed in something you've really enjoyed doing, or perhaps daydreaming. But what we are using is a form of creative relaxation. We are using this relaxation for a specific purpose, and that is to make changes.
You will have received a relaxation tape, and for more rapid improvement you may wish to use this tape to reinforce the feelings of well-being. Or you may wish to make your own tape and add to the end of it, specific suggestions related to the area that you wish to improve upon. If you do this then make sure your suggestions are positive ones, try to focus on the outcome you wish to achieve rather than the one you wish to avoid, for the subconscious mind tends to latch on to key words.
For example, if you wish to speak more confidently at meetings, rather than saying
"I will no longer be nervous or shaky whilst speaking at meetings."
You would actually say. "NOW I speak confidently and calmly, I am certain of my correctness, other people want to hear what I have to say and I deliver my speeches with natural ease and flow."
Notice too how the second paragraph is spoken in present tense rather than future. The mind accepts that this behaviour is already happening. Otherwise it could appear to be in the distant future.
An example recording is given below. If you are making your own recording, speak slowly, clearly, you may like some background music, if so make it soft and gentle music, this will help to pace your sentences. Where I have left a gap, insert your own specific suggestions.
Warning. Listening to your own voice can be potently hypnotic. Never, I repeat, never, listen to your recording whilst you are driving or operating any machinery or at any other time when you are required to maintain full awakening consciousness
SCRIPT. (Click here for more scripts)
"Sit or lie in a comfortable position, arms at the side of you, palms upwards and open, and feet slightly and comfortably apart, and begin by taking one or two slow deep breaths in through the nose; a little more deeply than you would normally take them. As you inhale, just imagine breathing in a lovely, calm comfortable feeling and as you exhale imagine breathing away any tension in your body. And quieten your mind as you listen to the sound of my voice. Let the whole body feel loose and limp, comfortable and very relaxed, and I'm going to ask you to think about relaxing each part of your body, and as you think about relaxing, each part of your body does become relaxed. And know that at any time whilst listening to this recording, if you should need to waken at any time, all you need to do is to take one long, slow, deep breath in through the nose and say to yourself, "I am awake and fully alert" and you will immediately rise to your full awakening consciousness and deal with any situation in a calm and competent manner.
So for now, just let the eyes close naturally and normally and imagine those eyes becoming heavy and very relaxed. And just direct your awareness around the different parts of the body, starting with the feet. Become aware of the weight and shape of those feet as they rest on the surface underneath them; there may be a tingling sensation in the feet and if so then that's alright, that's fine. And just imagine those feet becoming heavier, feeling like lead weights, heavy and relaxed, heavy and comfortable.
And move that comfortable, heavy feeling of relaxation into the ankles and the lower legs, then over the knees and up into the upper legs. And let feet and legs feel heavy and comfortable, heavy and relaxed.
And the heavy, comfortable feeling now creeps up into the pelvic area, the hips, the stomach, and all the tummy muscles relax and feel loose and comfortable. And the comfort and relaxation flows up into the chest and the shoulders, and then down the arms and into the hands.
And the hands and arms and shoulders and chest and stomach all become relaxed and comfortable, you feel deeply relaxed, beginning to feel and inner sense of peace, harmony and tranquillity growing and developing within you now. And take those good feelings back up the body and into the neck and the throat, and relax the neck and the throat, and then the chin, the jaw, the mouth, even the tongue inside the mouth becomes relaxed and still, and very comfortable. And the cheeks, the nose, the eyes and forehead are all relaxing nicely and you feel comfortable and heavy and so relaxed. And you're feeling relaxed from the top of the head all the way down to the tips of the toes, every nerve, every cell, every fibre of your being feeling comfortable and heavy and so relaxed.
Now you can go inside and notice your thoughts and thoughts can be thoughts but you don't have to think them. You can notice the steady beating of the heart, the rise and fall of the abdomen, the feeling of expansion and contraction in the lower ribs. And you can notice the sounds going on around you, but these don't concern or bother you, for you are comfortable and relaxed, and at peace with the world.
And now I want you to imagine in your mind that you are standing on a balcony overlooking a beautiful garden, and although the garden is not clear to you yet, you can feel the peacefulness all around you, and you really want to visit that garden, that special place. And you are here, standing now at the top of a flight of steps ten steps that lead down to that wonderful garden, and you begin to walk down the steps as I count them off for you ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
And as you reach the bottom of the steps you can just let those steps and the ordinary every day world fade away and turn around and find yourself in a special, wonderful garden. And it's a warm summers day, and the sun shines down on you, warming your body gently all over.
And you may be able to hear the birds up there in the tree, singing a beautiful tune, just for you or smell the perfume of your favourite flower, feel a gentle breeze on your body. This is a beautiful place to be.
You may even notice the sound of running water coming from a deeper part of the garden and notice five more steps leading down into that deeper level. If you wish you can go further down to see the beautiful waterfall and the comfortable bench on which you may rest.
I will be quiet for a few moments for you to enjoy this place that you have created. And in the silence let yourself absorb the peace and beauty and stillness of your wonderful place."
(pause for three minutes)
At this point you may wish to insert suggestions appropriate to your problem.
"Now it's time to leave the garden, but bring back with you all those wonderful peaceful feelings. And know too that you can come back here at any time you wish, all with the power of your own mind.
Begin to walk up the steps now, and as you do I will count to five, then at the count of five you will be wide awake, fully refreshed and relaxed and feeling absolutely marvellous."
.end of recording
Making your own tape is one way of coping with stress, however if you feel that you may have deeper underlying problems then consult your G.P. or seek professional advise.
You may prefer to combine your relaxation with other methods such as reflexology, massage or aromatherapy. Essential oils are uplifting and in some countries are issued by GPs as treatment for medical problems.
Listening to music can have a therapeutic effect, or finding some other creative outlet such as painting, drawing, pottery, drama, decoupage, or embroidery. If you are stuck for ideas then you can ask your subconscious mind to bring forward the creativity within you, by inserting the suggestion into the above script. For example:- "I become more creative as my mind brings forward new ideas." Or think back to when you were a child, what hopes and aspirations did you have then? Perhaps there is something there that has taken a backseat in your life and now is the time to explore the potential which you and every human being on this earth, holds within.
You may be feeling that I have diversified from the subject of stress but the body and mind are in harmony when there is balance. Many people today are left-brain dominant, lacking in creativity. We can 'tune in' to our natural resources.
Another way of changing is to focus outwardly instead of inwardly. If you have a difficult customer or client, put yourself in his place. Imagine you are that person, seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels. Try to match your breathing, your smiling, your frowning with his. If he is tapping his fingers or feet nervously then nod in tune with him, do all this subtlety and it will be registered on an unconscious level, this will put you in rapport and you will find that he warms to you, because he feels that you are like him. When you are in rapport you can begin to lead the person to the desired outcome.
Hypnotic World has a range of MP3s which can help if you find yourself suffering from stress.
Balloon Negative Emotion Release
Gagging 2 (Easy Swallowing)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Silver Sack - Negativity
Wash Away Stress