Women and Stress In the Modern World

Need for Stress Management for Women

I believe that everyone is experiencing higher levels of stress in the “Information Age.” The pace of change has accelerated to the point where we are forced to confront more changes and faster paced changes in this day and age, than at any time in the past. Just the pace of development of new information has many of us just spinning to keep up. I remember getting my first new personal business computer in 1989. The hardware and software, though getting old, were still plenty functional for 3 years. I bought a new computer two months ago and I have had to “upgrade the software several times since then and the hardware was “old” when I was taking the machine out of the box.

Since the 1960’s, the pace has increased and roles have changed. There are more women in the work force (with jobs outside of the home/farm.) In fact, in many parts of the country/world, most families require more than one person in the work force just to meet the daily expenses of living. In the early part of this working revolution, there was an assumption by many companies that men should receive more money (higher pay for the same job) because they were the “bread winners” for the family. This has not changed in many parts of this world. There were also many limitations imposed for women in the level of their career developments. Though these attitudes are changing (in many parts of the world), there are still areas that have not been completely addressed. For example, how many working women come home from work with the old expectations that they are responsible for the “homemaking” duties like: dinner preparation, cleaning, shopping, and childcare. Men are gradually, though often grudgingly, taking on their share of many of these tasks (except where the cultural or religious beliefs discourage this evolution.)

Women have special stress management requirements and considerations. Women are often taught (most unconsciously by their families or communities) to not complain about the two careers that they assume, working outside the home and also as the center of home activities. Women need to take care of themselves better, more so now than ever before. They must be better role models to their peers and children in the skills that are needed for self-preservation and improved quality of their lives.

Today, women need to get regular exercise, eat better, and take time for relaxation. Everyone needs to make time for self-care that can also include continuing education, spiritual development, positive relationships, and financial and career planning. The challenge is to find the time and the “support” necessary to make this happen. I know that without this self-care, you are left with a “burned-out,” unhappy, and unhealthy person who the family and the greater world will find, in the long-run will not be able to make the positive contributions that would be ideal. We need to support each other more now ever before. We need to encourage greater health and happiness for all women.

Some men believe that playing aggressive games like football or racquetball are relaxing, and most of the time they are wrong, but women also have their misconceptions about what is relaxing. Women tend to get together with friends or family for meals out, shopping, even “pampering.” Sometimes these activities are not so ideal or even relaxing. Every woman is an individual with her own requirements and needs. Spending money, shopping in crowds, binging on foods (desserts,) even breathing fumes from getting your nails done are not always the most healthy choices. If you do not know what is really “right” for you (and your body) then consider getting some lifestyle coaching and test the options until you “know” what is best for you and what really works. The investment in time and money will save you time and energy in the long run and definitely improve your quality of life. Also, remember that close relationships are important and can be important for stress management. However, healthy relationships start with “healthy” partners/friends and “needy”/demanding friends are not always helpful for personal stress management. (Make good choices where you spend your time and energy…)

Along the way, do not forget to take good care of yourself! Be present and enjoy everyday. Enjoy time with your family and good friends. Find time for gratitude!
Good Health!

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training through the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com.

Driving Stress Management

Driving can be stressful. Driving in traffic can be stressful. Driving in commute traffic on a Los Angeles freeway when you do not know where the off ramp is can be very stressful.

Some people do not like driving, or more specifically, do not like driving in traffic on freeways/highways. I grew up in Southern California and usually find freeway driving to be a friendly challenge and usually less stressful than driving in stop-and-go street traffic. So, I am in Los Angeles for a visit after offering a presentation near San Diego and can admit that there are many vehicles flying around the “Southland” with reckless abandon. My travel maps are from 1988 and the numbers of the highways have changed. (When and why did that happen?) So I took the wrong off ramps a few times… so what. I could have gotten mad or upset but I was in the “right” mood and found it all pretty entertaining. Since I was not in too much of a rush, it did not seem to be life-threatening.

Due to this recent experience, I decided to write this blog with reminders on how to survive, more gracefully, your driving experience.

First, FOCUS… pay attention! Turnoff any unnecessary distractions such as your loud music/radio, your telephone, your loud passengers, and television (yes, though it is illegal, I have seen people driving in LA with TV’s on their dashboards…) Do NOT Text message while driving even if you are addicted and even if you feel you must post to your “Facebook” or Twitter page. Focusing on driving, while driving, seems like a silly thing to remind you about but look around, many people get bored with steering their vehicles and need additional activities including telephoning, eating, grooming, reading, note taking, etc….

Learn to relax. This does NOT mean closing your eyes while driving. It does include letting your shoulders drop to a more comfortable position, especially if they are up around your ears… Check your forehead and your jaw, and allow these to loosen. Breathe slowly and allow this to reduce your anxiety or fear because it is something that you can control…

Finally, you can distract yourself from annoying stress or anxiety by looking carefully for any natural beauty or unusual occurrences that manifest outside your vehicle, without losing focus on what is going on in front and to the sides of your vehicle. Some people engage in a game of finding a new discovery on every commute. Look carefully and note this new item even if it is a cloud formation or flock of birds. Remember that no matter how much fear, anger, or anxiety you feel while driving, you will not get to your destination any faster, or probably any safer, by being preoccupied by these stress filled emotions.

Breathe slowly, eyes open (paying attention (FOCUS), and allow enough time so you are NOT anxious about getting there on time.

Helping Our Heroes with PTSD

I am told that in the United States there are 18 Million potential heroes. Yes, 18,000,000 men and women who are actively, or retired from, positions, where their primary work involves saving or protecting the citizens of this country. Included in this group are people you know, the Police personnel, Firefighters, Emergency Medical Responders, Correctional Officers, Active Military, and retired veterans of the these services. They all have stories to tell regarding their service and the heroic actions they have taken or witnessed in the course of their work. Many of these heroes have been affected physically or emotionally by their activities. Most will not discuss the emotional scars that they bare from traumatic events in which they participated. If they can talk about the traumatic events, it is usually with co-workers that they trust because “civilians would not really understand.”

Acknowledgement of their service can make the difference between healing from their emotional scars or following a much more negative pathway. Did you know that our police heroes have an extremely higher rate of death by suicide than the civilian population? Divorce is higher, as is, early death (statistics say 10 years less than the “normal” population.) Historically, returning Vietnam veterans were treated to often harsh welcomes when they returned from service in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Those who had family and community support, appreciation, and acknowledgement fared much better with their mental and emotional rehabilitation.

Currently, a stream of military personnel are returning from long tours of duty in the Middle East. Their healthy re-integration is tested by the existing systems and our society will bear the costs of long term physical and mental health challenges. Amongst these returnees, we see National Guard personnel who are returning to their civilian jobs and lives.

We even have a new class of warriors who work at war during their day and go home to their families at night. Technology now allows for pilots to fly “drones” over enemy targets from computers in our country. There are times when these drones release weapons that destroy targets and kill or injure people on the ground. These pilots are not buffered with re-integration processes and may return home to their families at the end of their shifts. These are NOT video games. These are real weapons and real warfare conducted from home (bases.) How do we assist these warriors with their emotional and psychological issues?

We need to view training differently as we prepare our heroes for their professional duties. We need to act preventively and train our heroes how to minimize the impact of PTSD from the traumatic experiences that they participate in. These heroes are too important to our society to let them “break down.” We need to support and assist them in ways that have not been widely used in the past.

Honor, celebrate, support, and reach out to our heroes. Our police personnel, our fire personnel, our Emergency Medical service personnel, our active military personnel, and our veterans deserve much better recognition and service than they often receive.

In the future, we hope to reach out and serve heroes throughout the world by offering training programs for professionals who have PTSD clients and who may offer better services by learning some of the new behavioral techniques for lessening PTSD.

“There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave, there are souls that are pure and true, then give to the world the best you have, And the best will come back to you.” By Madeline Bridges.
Let’s strive to give our heroes our best!

Contact me for more details regarding professional involvement in this network to support our heroes. The Stress Education center at www.dstress.com

No matter what your opinion regarding the military personnel, police and law enforcement professionals, and other emergency service providers, we are all in this together and need to reach out and support ALL people.

Executive Stress

Executive Stress – Why We Are More Stressed Now Than Ever Before

On his one hour commute into work, Robert, the executive vice-president for a large international bank, noticed that his stomach seemed tied up in knots. His doctor had referred him for some executive coaching to assist him in reducing symptoms of job stress. Robert was being treated for stress related high blood pressure and now he was having tests for a possible stomach ulcer. It was not uncommon for tension headaches and neck aches to develop near the end of his work day and prevent him from sleeping well at night. Sometimes he would awaken at his normal time and feel completely un-rested as he pulled himself out of bed to prepare for his day. Even on his weekends, Robert would be distracted by his fatigue, loss of concentration, and an irritated stomach.

As he began his stress management coaching, Robert had a difficult time finding the time required to practice his stress management exercises. These were provided for him on audio CD’s that he could listen to while undistracted for 20 minutes. Robert was struggling with finding 20 minutes in his heavily scheduled day. After several weeks, Robert was convinced, by his coach, that this expenditure of time would not only allow him to feel better, it would probably save him time. He began to practice these relaxation strategies and to his amazement, Robert found that the program really worked. He listened to the CD’s while being driven to work. At work, he discovered that he was better able to concentrate and to communicate with his co-workers. This allowed him to get his work completed in less time. He saved one and half hours on most days. Robert invested the “extra” time in some projects that he enjoyed but had not found the time to accomplish. This gave him greater satisfaction and a sense of control that he had not remembered feeling for a long time. In several more weeks, Robert reported fewer headaches, better sleep, and reduced stomach problems. Eventually, his blood pressure began to respond and was reduced to normal ranges with less medication. Robert was convinced that stress management improved the quality of his life and allowed him to be more productive.

Why do Executives suffer from the effects of stress?
What are the possible symptoms of stress?

We are all born with a primitive survival mechanism called the “Flight/Fight Response.” This ancient survival responses has been inherited from billions of years of evolution. 5,000 years ago, if a man was confronted by a threat, he could either run away or stand his ground and physically fight against his attacker. His body would automatically prepare for the action required to survive. His heart beat would increase, his blood pressure would go up, his breathing would become more rapid, muscles would tense to prepare for the fight or to flee, his hands would get cool and clammy, digestion and libido would be reduced, and the primitive brain would take over reducing his ability to think clearly, instead making him more reactive to his fear or anger. These “hard-wired” responses that are triggered when we are threatened. The threats today are usually not as life threatening as 5,000 years ago but our sub-conscious perceptions believe that an upset client or a poor contract negotiation are as serious as a life and death confrontation. We only have one way to respond to the stress of change. Even if the change is a positive experience our body responds in part, if not all, the “Flight/Fight Response.”

The pace of change has increased and adapting to change triggers the stress response. Even positive changes can be stressful. To prove a point about how positive change and stress can be dramatically bad for your health, I want to tell one brief story. When I was growing up, I read a newspaper account of a man who suffered from good fortune! The story read that a man had won a large sweepstakes award. He had won a fortune…. $100,000, which back in those days was a lot of money! He was so overjoyed with his good luck that he celebrated in an unfortunate way… he died of a heart attack! How many people do you know who get a new job or relationship, and wind up paying the price of this positive stress?

Now, more than ever before in history, people are overwhelmed by the stresses of life. The pace of change due to new technologies and the new information that technology generates has created overloads that we are not able to handle in appropriate ways. In the past ten years, people are developing symptoms of these new technologies. Eye strain, back strain, wrist/hand strain, neck problems, even increased body weight, and substance abuse increases can be linked to long hours in the modern work world of computers and technology.

Who in this modern world can say that our primitive response to stress, from millions of years of adaptation and survival, has been able to keep up with the accelerated pace of change during the past few decades? Have you evolved a new survival mechanism to counter the old Flight/Fight Response? Normally, evolution of these systems takes nature thousands of generations to develop. In today’s world, more people are overwhelmed by the accelerated pace of change than ever before in human history! There are always a few “genetic immunes” who make the rest of us look like “slackers” but, trust me, more of us suffer from the pace of change than there are those who seem to thrive in this 24/7 world…)

If we can not change the pace of the world around us, or the people we do business with, or the behaviors of the people we live with, or the global changes that affect us, then we can at least become aware of these stressors and avoid becoming a victim to these changes! We do have control over the way we respond to these changes.

Awareness is half the battle! Know how you respond to stress in your own unique way! Know what in your life is causing this transitional stress. Then, you must develop daily habits that effectively control the negative physical and emotional responses to stress. You can GET BACK in CONTROL! You can prevent, or at least minimize, symptoms of stress such as: headaches, backaches, neck aches, high blood pressure, panic, anxiety, many stomach problems, sexual dysfunction, possibly reduce auto-immune problems like allergies or some forms of arthritis, sleeping problems, bruxism, TMJ, and other stress related symptoms. The emotional symptoms such as: loss of concentration, withdrawal (depression), anxiety, being accident prone, memory loss, poor motivation, poor communication, poor performance, and some learning disabilities can be linked to stress and reduced, if not eliminated, by awareness and lifestyle changes. Key executive personnel can be given executive coaching and this can prevent them from becoming liabilities due to inefficiency or poor productivity. You will want to protect your valuable employees and avoid having to replace and then retrain key personnel who may be impaired or lost due to stress related symptoms. One higher level executive let his response to stress take the form of anger and had lawsuits threatened and the alienation of his team to deal with (and the liability that faced the company.)

Executive stress management programs are tailored to the specific requirements of the executive and their specific symptoms. Programs can include a combination of strategies such as: regular relaxation practices, increased physical exercise, and changes to the diet. These are the three components of a lifestyle designed to encourage health and symptom prevention. Though they require time and energy, they tend to give back health, well being, and effectiveness.

Stress management and regular relaxation can be performed in different ways. These can be selected and developed for individual preference and to fit different styles. Some executives enjoy stress management techniques that were created from Western European tradition such as Autogenic Training phrases. Other executives may respond better to styles of meditation drawn from “Eastern” traditions such as yoga. Regardless of the historical origins of the relaxation strategies they all will benefit the practitioners in similar ways. They all reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, slow and deepen breathing, relax muscles, send warmth into the hands and feet, and increase the ability to concentrate, solve problems and enhance communication. The best results come with practice. It takes 8-12 weeks of regular daily practice for most people to get the maximum benefits. For myself, I found that after 12 weeks of regular practice with Autogenic Training (20 minutes per day) that I required one and half hours less sleep at night. I was better rested and could focus on tasks better, allowing me to get more accomplished in the same amount of time at work! This is not uncommon.

Regular physical activity not only helps with the health of the heart and can burn calories for weight loss but it also can assist you in by releasing stored muscle tensions. This muscle tension can cause many problems from fatigue, loss of focus, poor sleep, to muscles spasms that create headaches, and neck and back aches. By working these muscles, they can relax better after the exercise period. Many mental health professional also know that regular exercise can help to minimize or prevent depression.

Diet and nutrition can effect your health and well being. There are many different philosophies on eating for the best health. In busy times, business people need to eat well to maintain their highest levels of performance. Eating as close to “natural” is recommended. Fast foods and highly processed convenience foods are not the best for long-term health and well being. Food additives (colors and preservatives) can cause bad reactions. American eat too quickly and this unfortunate habit is spreading worldwide. Drinking alcoholic beverages for relaxation can easily move to excess and can then stress certain systems in the body. One glass of wine is probably better than no stress management, but becoming dependent on drinking wine, beer, or distilled spirits is not a good strategy for stress management.

Regarding diet and nutrition, executives who find themselves suffering from the symptoms of stress should consider reducing, if not eliminating, caffeine from their diets. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can increase symptoms of stress. Caffeine can negatively impact your sleeping patterns and reduce your productivity on future days. With the increase of coffee and expresso shops in the past 15 years, we have noticed an increase in symptoms of stress. Caffeine is found in coffees, black teas, chocolate, sodas (most colas and some caffeine enhanced beverages), and some other products. (Please read the packaging labels.) This can be a very difficult habit to change. If you want to eliminate caffeine, and you are a heavy user, please slowly reduce your consumption by gradually replacing your caffeinated products with non-caffeinated products. I have worked with people who have eliminated their headaches, muscle pains, sleeping problems, stomach dis-stress, and even high blood pressure problems by minimizing their use of caffeine.

Though stress from the pace of change is unavoidable, you can avoid becoming a victim. By taking the time necessary for these preventive activities, you will save time and enhance your performance.

Since 1978, the Stress Education Center has provided consulting and training services for individuals and organizations. The books, tapes, training seminars, online courses, and executive coaching have assisted thousands of motivated business people to improve their performance and enhance the quality of their lives.

For additional information on retention or copies of the executive summaries on Hiring Winners or Keys to Retention based on information gathered from executive interviews, contact L. John Mason, Ph.D. at the Stress Education Center – Dstress.com (360) 593-3833 or mason@dstress.com

As an Executive Coach, consultant, and trainer, John works with executive management teams to leverage their strengths and create superior performance.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training for articles, free blog signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.

Empowerment: Get Back in Control

Are you feeling that many things in your life are out of control? Does this feeling of “lack of control” make you feel stressed? Would you like to “Get Back in Control”?

There are many things that are important to you and yet beyond your control. These are the things that are the most stressful. Relationships are stressful and often beyond your control. The economy, world conflicts, global warming the fear of nuclear proliferation are all stressful and, in most cases, beyond your control. You may not be able to control other people’s actions or the global economy, but you can learn to control one important thing, the way you respond to these challenges.

To “Get Back in Control,” you most do 2 things. First, you must identify how you physically and emotionally respond to these stressors. This awareness will aid you in NOT becoming a Victim to your habitual patterns of holding stress. Secondly, you will want to learn how to change (and control) your responses. Biofeedback and stress management research have proven that any physical system that can be monitored in “real time” can be controlled. You can learn to control your: brainwaves, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow/circulation, even the release of gastric juices. Through awareness and learned control, you can learn to change your habitual response to stress and invest your available energies in more appropriate and positive ways.

I recommend starting with temperature training biofeedback combined with a stress management strategy like Autogenic Training or visualization. You can learn to control your physiology and this will in turn lead to Empowerment. It is often reported by my coaching clients that: “things that used to bother me do not seem to bother me anymore (or the same way.)” My clients learn that they can get back in control of the their bodies’ and then their lives.
It may not change all of the stressful situations that surround you, but it will give you an opportunity to put things in perspective and make the best use of your available time and energy.

Please take good care of yourself.
L. John Mason, Ph.D.
www.dstress.com (360) 593-3833

Happy Valentines Day! Hold the Expectations

It is that time of year, again… The celebration of romance or the horror of the lack of romance. The sale of flowers, cards, candy, jewelry, balloons, dinners out, even fancy underwear will all be way up, but will anybody truly find any happiness? I like romance, but the pressure to be romantic and the expense of romantic expectations make me crazy… Yes, the “Stress Guy” gets stressed out by EXPECTATIONS… I am a victim of my own mind… But, so are the people who are fine, satisfied and happy without a significant relationship who somehow can feel lonely on this weird, and manufactured, holiday.

The part I enjoy is going out early on Valentines Day to the well supplied supermarkets. Usually, there are several “stations” set up for the desperate, last minute male Valentines buyers to race through in their anxiety, fear, and clueless-ness. Yup, tables of flowers and cards and candy and jewelry and balloons, etc… Then, I stand in line with desperate men and remind them that they have forgotten one or more of the items, and then watch them leap out of line to obtain the forgotten expectation.

Does anybody really feel loved when they receive a pile of Valentine expectations??? Romance is NOT dead, we just do not have enough time or money these days… The handmade gift or card or dinner seem more thoughtful and loving to me, but what do I know… I have been told by higher authorities on romance (like my sister) that one red rose is more romantic than a mega-buttload of red roses. (Mega-buttload means a lot of…)

Sincere acknowledgement should be enough, and often is, unless the nightmare of run-away expectations somehow take over. Please be gentle, and appreciate the thought, even if it is simple, pure, and innocent.

And, by the way, to the memory of my loving wife, I treasured our time together. As always, please be my Valentine….

Being Present: Key to Mindfulness

Have you ever suffered from anxiety, fear, or major stress? If so, then the chances are good that the fear or anxiety were born out of an experience from the past, as a learned response, or from fears of some future unknown or uncontrollable event. Throughout our lives we suffer great or small traumas and our body learns to respond to similar scenarios as if we were having PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) reactions. In deed, we may have mini-PTSD responses to fearful or difficult events even if these past events were not life threatening. Most importantly, if we ruminate on past events then we are not totally “present” in our bodies, in present time. Our bodies will then attempt to make us “present” by dragging us back into the present moment with an irritating, if not worse, symptom like an anxiety attack. This symptom is not necessarily the enemy, but it is a warning sign that we are not paying attention to our bodies, in the present moment.

Fear of the unknown or the uncertainty of what can happen in the future will also trigger a symptom of fear or anxiety. Since we can not predict the future with 100% accuracy, our flight-fight response can be triggered and physical or emotional symptoms can be exacerbated. When we lose track of the present moment, our body can force us to consider the present in rude ways.

Conversely, at the heart of every stress or anxiety management technique are simple activities designed to bring us back into our bodies in the present moment and in a “positive way.” One strong example is the request to take a deep slow breath and to feel the cool air as you inhale and the warm breath as you exhale. This simple, but powerful, request asks that you release thoughts regarding the past or expectations of the future and to feel the subtle difference of a slow inhale and exhale. This act of Mindfulness can back you away from your fear or anxiety especially when this has been rehearsed enough to become a habituated pattern.

Being Present or practicing Mindfulness is easier said than done, but the concept is not difficult to understand and with practice not too difficult to learn. Being prepared to “let go” of fear, anxiety, or traumatic thoughts can be very useful and can succeed when the skill of “Being Present” has become a positive habit.

Other techniques for mindfulness would include feeling: muscles relaxing, heart rate slowing, hands and feet warming, stomach tension releasing, and sensations of slowing down of distracting thoughts. Techniques which can lead to this state of mind and body, when practiced, include: Meditations, Autogenic Training, Progressive Relaxations, Visualizations/Imagery, forms of Self-Hypnosis, Breathing techniques, Yoga/Stretching, biofeedback training, and other types of focusing and observations. The secret is to find the one that works best for you, master it, and then use it preventively on a regular basis.

Information at the Stress Education Center’s website wwww.dstress.com may prove helpful to you.

How Much Sleep Do YOU Need?

I am L. John Mason, Ph.D. and I founded the Stress Education Center (www.dstress.com) in 1978. Like you, I have required sleep every day of my life. But the question arises, how much sleep do you require to be happy, healthy, and most productive. This is more complicated than you might image. Even the “Sleep experts” have difficulty agreeing because this is such a complicated question. There is a great deal of good information about sleep and how much you may require at the “Sleep Foundation’s” website at http://www.sleepfoundation.org/

Since everyone has different lifestyles, health backgrounds, ages, and living environments the understanding regarding your specific requirements for sleep gets difficult. Experts do agree that babies and young children require more sleep that most adults. The chart below comes from National Sleep Foundation.

Age: Sleep Needs:
Newborns (0-2 Months) 12-18 hours/day of sleep
Infants (3-11 Months) 14-15 hours
Toddlers (1-3 Years) 12-14 hours
Preschool (3-5 Years) 11-13 hours
School Age (5-10 Years) 10-11 hours
Teens (10-17 Years) 8.5-9.25 hours
Adults 7-9 hours

As you can see, this may not fit for many of us who get less than 7 hours of sleep due to choice or lifestyle. There is also research that suggests that too much sleep can have negative impacts for many people as well. The “quality” of your sleep will also be a factor in the duration that you require for sleep. The quality of sleep will be discussed in another blog as well as tips for getting the best sleep.

In a recent article at http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/27/30-percent-us-workers-dont-get-enough-sleep/ researchers reported that 30% of workers are not getting enough sleep and it affects their work.

We need to understand our own body’s requirements for sleep to determine the best length for our best health. If you wake tired, you can assume that you are not getting enough “quality” sleep. Reduced sleep can lead to low energy, poor concentration and reduced productivity, possible depression, weight gain, and a variety of more serious health challenges, including heart disease. Too much sleep can lead to accidents, illnesses, and even death as reported by sleep researchers. The “right” amount of sleep will vary for you and is affected by what your environment and life changes can do to your physical and emotional health & well-being. Changing work schedules (or activities like classes) can be factors that need to be considered in your need for sleep and need to be taken into account as you determine how much sleep you require. Also, talk to your doctor about how medications, diet, and especially caffeine can be affecting you and your requirements for sleep.

Stress management can offer better sleep, better focus, and control of the anxiety that can be negative on your quality of life. Consider the information offered by the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com including the audio download for stress control to improve your sleep.

5 Powerful Stress Management Tools

There are many stress management techniques. Everyone who has spent time attempting to find the best stress management technique has found that there are many ways to reduce stress. The block to success has been that it requires time and patience to develop the awareness and the skills to allow these techniques to have their maximum benefit. I want to list 5 of my favorite techniques and would encourage you to consider trying one or more of these until you find the ones that work best for you. If you have suffered from: lack of focus, high blood pressure, anxiety/panic, headaches, or sleeping problems, seriously consider learning one or more of the following techniques to minimize stress in your body and to get back in control of your life.

Many people have tried forms of Eastern Meditation to relax. These techniques have been around for thousand of years. The “Western mind” may struggle with the discipline it requires to focus your attention and to then “still” your mind. When coaching busy individuals, I do not start with these techniques, except for some of the basic breathing techniques.

What I do start with, and is #1 on my stress management list, is Autogenic Training phrases. I learned these in 1977 as part of some of my original training in stress management and biofeedback. This is the technique that I use regularly for myself. This style of stress management uses 6 basic phrases that I repeat to myself, each 3 times, and then with practice get to the level of stress management that I desire. First there is a “mood” phrase- “I am at peace with myself and fully relaxed” to get me in the mood to begin relaxation. The text for the entire exercise is available in my books with a chapter dedicated to Autogenic training in “Guide to Stress Reduction.” The six basic phrases include: “My right arm is heavy,” repeated 3 times, (then left arm, right leg, left leg, and neck and shouldes are heavy) (which is used to begin to relax skeletal muscles,) then “My right arm is warm,” slowly repeated 3 times, (then left arm, right leg, left leg, and neck and shoulders are warm) (which is used to improve blood flow and circulation into the extremities,) then “My heart beat is calm and regular,” then “My breathing is calm and regular,” then “My stomach region is warm and calm,” and finally, “My forehead is cool and calm (or smooth.” Amazing results after daily use for 8-12 weeks especially with sympathetic nervous system symptoms like: migraine headaches, high blood pressure, panic/anxiety, distress related digestive challenges, etc

My #2 relaxation favorite is progressive relaxation. There is a whole chapter about this technique in “Guide to Stress Reduction” and many other sources. There two major versions of Progressive Relaxation including an “active version” where you tighten and then release muscle groups and the second form which is the “passive version” of attending to muscles and releasing tension without tightening the muscle groups. This is great for sleeping problems, headaches, neck/shoulder pain, and back pain.

#3 is using Visualization or Imagery for stress management. This is often combined with one of my first 2 choices to deepen a relaxation practice. This involves using your imagination to see or feel or hear or even smell mentally constructed relaxation triggers. As an example, picture yourself on a mental vacation in beautiful place outdoors on a warm and peaceful day. Settle back into what ever you might imagine yourself lying on such a lounge chair or a blanket in the warm sand (or grass.) Imagine that you can feel the warmth of the sunshine or the warm breezes as the tension melts away. Perhaps you can imagine the sounds that might surround you like the sound of waves or running water or the sounds of the birds or the warm breezes. Perhaps you can imagine the smell of salt air, or of the flowers or grasses or of the woods. Imagine that you can soak up the warmth and let the tension melt away. This is fun mental relaxation that can help you to control anxiety and start the process of encouraging healing o begin.

#4 Using special breathing techniques to slow yourself down and distract yourself from stressful experiences. Start with taking 3 slow deep breaths to begin to trigger some relaxation. Then you may want to take 4 breaths by slow counting 1-4 as you inhale, then hold your breath for a count of 1-4, and then slowly exhale as you count 1-8. The counting will occupy your mind and help you to relax. A great counting relaxation at bedtime involves counting backward from 50 down to 1 but do it this way. 50,1,2,3, 49,1,2,3 48,1,2,3, 47,12,3 etc. Your mind can get bored with keeping these numbers in line and gradually drift off into a restful sleep. (key: do not rush through this counting and breathe slowly.)

#5 is using a form of biofeedback to monitor your body’s level of stress and then monitor your learning of relaxation as you “let go” of your stress. There are several forms of biofeedback which are used. EMG biofeedback measures levels of electrical activity, or muscle tension, and teaches you to relax specific muscle groups. A more inexpensive form is temperature biofeedback where you begin by taping a simple thermometer to the side of your index finger and allow yourself to relax until you feel your hands warm above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 93-95 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal and usually symbolizes relaxation of this system. The reason this works for many people is that when we are under the effects of stress we often constrict blood flow into our hands and feet as a survival response. When you can “let go” and have a vaso-dialation which increases blow flow into your extremities you are better able to “let go” of emotional stress and function at a more ideal level.

Most of these simple, but powerful, stress management techniques are described in “Guide to Stress Reduction” and at the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com. Audios are available for download as stress management products and are at the core of the 5 session online stress management course. Contact us with any questions or for stress management coaching/training.

More information and detailed stress management techniques are listed at the Stress Education Center’s webpage. Please visit and read the “articles” which may assist you.

Anxiety & Aging the Dilemma for Baby Boomers

I admit it. I am an aging Baby Boomer. I accept than I am aging and that I am not in my 20’s, nor 30’s, even my 40’s or 50’s. I am past 60 and more than beginning to show my age. Physically, I mean. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I am still a puppy BUT… If you are a Baby Boomer, you know where I am going with this.

My hair is not the same color as it was in my 20’s. Nor is there as much hair as there was in those photos of me with shoulder length locks and the full dark beard that I recently posted on Facebook. Believe it or not, I weigh more than I did when I was in my early 20s. In my early 50s, I took to wearing reading glasses and now my bifocals are my constant companion. Even my hearing has been impacted by the time, activities, and the years since my youth. My doctor reminds me that I need certain regular unspeakable tests as a more than I would want, course of my annual physicals. Though I manage my stress and anxiety fairly well through regular relaxation, meditation, and exercise, I find the anxiety of aging creeping closer to the surface. The situation is not unique just to me.

I don’t have the youthful energy that I once had nor the ability to focus and concentrate. It seems to take me longer to learn certain tasks and yet I do not want to give up on learning new things. I am not sure whether I am just frustrated by the aging process or whether there is some deeper levels of anxiety and fears that I or someone like me, may need to address. For most of my life, I have a pattern of being oppositional and not truly fitting in with the age that has been prescribed for me. I still feel youthful, excited, and passionate about life and yet I don’t seem to have quite as much energy. So as I struggle with the current reality I know that I am not alone and that there are many people who are dealing with the same situation and would like to find a forum for us all to work together and to support each other as we deal with the consequences of aging.

I do not claim to have a magic diet or exercise program that can eliminate the impact of aging. I would like to be able to offer a process where each of us can minimize the impact of the anxiety of aging. There are people who struggle a great deal more than me with the discovery of wrinkles, lack of skin tone, the widening of the waistline, the reduction of hair, or even the loss of key body parts like teeth. I have been blessed with a relatively healthy body and yet I still feel the effects of the aging process as I celebrate my mid-60s. This may not be true for everyone, but I do not wish to go back and be a teenager or someone in my 20s again. I simply wish that my body did not behave as if it were a large sack of stones that I must drag around at certain times.

For me a passive life of sitting still does not resonate. I like to be active and energized by new and exciting things. I like to tell my stories of times past when I hiked over mountain passes far above timberline and yet most days I do not feel I have the energy to trudge up those trails the way I did in my 20s and 30s and 40s. Truth be known, I can still do many of the things that I tell stories about but in this day and age I would do them more slowly and probably less gracefully. Again, I do not find my situation unique to me and I would like to be a voice for many of us baby boomers who can still not believe that the insidious aging process offers us “better days”.

Perhaps what is needed is a new perspective and a new way of looking at my now worn life. People tell me that I should focus on the positive like what I can do and what my body is able to perform. And yet there are times when any limitation makes me boil. I also admit that I am far from being a patient person. I’ve said for years that there will be a time later in life when I engage in accepting the process of being patient. I have not found that time in life as of yet. I’m not jealous of people who have their youth or of people who are in better shape than I, I am only envious of my memories of what I once took for granted and now find difficult if not impossible to do.

My ranting in this blog is designed to be a point of discussion. I would like to build a process where there can be physical control of fear and anxiety and the wherewithal to find greater emotional acceptance to live with the challenges that we all must face. From using the techniques that I have taught for 40 years in stress management and from sports psychology, I know that there are ways that we can minimize the impact of the aging process at least on our mind and our spirit. If you have an interest in developing your own skills for dealing with the aging process please contribute to this blog with comments and continue to follow your passion and be a role model for all of us.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Blessings to you and all of us baby boomers.