Death and Dying: Fear and Anxiety

Can you live fully if you fear death? Can you be fully present in life if you are distracted by dying? Does there come a time in your life when you can let go of your anxiety and celebrate your life?

These are not easy questions and yet they are surprisingly common. After your birth, the only certainty is that at some point you will die. No big deal, ’cause we all gotta do this, BUT, it is a big deal! In a metaphysical frame of reference, the fear and anxiety may come from the part of YOU that does NOT move on. Let’s back up! Many of us remember that our soul/spirit is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes form. As a spirit, we have lessons or challenges to encounter and we get into our life in a certain “Meat-suit” (body) so we can experience the lessons which we need to “move on.” Our “meat-suit” comes complete with a brain, emotions, “ego,” physical attributes, AND mortality. This body does not get to move on into the divine, it simply goes back into the Earth’s elements and is recycled.

The lack of our brain’s ability to understand death and our “ego’s” mortality, make for the fear and anxiety which many of us consider and shudder to deal with. Real scary fears surface and cause major distractions in life. My father was afraid of change and very fearful of dying. He did not know to trust the experience of “letting go” anywhere in his life. As he got older, his anxiety increased and he seemed to turn to his religion for comfort and found little peace of mind. He was scared! On the other hand, my mother’s life was filled with intuition and trust. She loved change and travel and adventure. Late in her life, she was somewhat impatient regarding letting go of the limitations of her body so she could “move on.” Two different role models for me. I chose to be a bit more like mom in these regards.

Some people are blessed with experiences which offer insight into death and dying like a “near death experience” (NDE) which allows them to visit the dying process but return for more living. There are many accounts written in books and articles which describe these documented experiences. In the accounts which I have read, death seems comfortable and not scary to the soul. Upon returning, the individual who experienced the NDE seems to live with less burdens regarding anxiety of dying. In many cases, there is a greater appreciation of life and greater enjoyment in experiencing living. Consider reading some of these accounts for yourself. I recommend, Ken Ring, Ph.D. as an author and researcher on NDE’s, but there are many popular books on this topic and first hand accounts of near death experience. If you read these and find them familiar, you may relieve some fear of death.

Spiritual development and learning to be more “present” can also offer you the insight that will give you comfort. I am currently participating in study groups reading the “Course in Miracles” and “The Way of Mastery” which challenge me to consider a way to find the “Divine Spirit” in my day to day living. Many meditation practices are also helpful and create positive insights which allow you develop your intuition and connection with your soul/spirit. There is great value in finding a loving supportive community where you can share the anxieties which may arise and the questions which surface. My only warning is to find a community where you are accepted for who you are and does not want you to conform in ways that restrict your spirit’s need for expansion and ACCEPTANCE. We are all in this together and we benefit from supporting others without the “judgements” that can separate us.

Blessing to you on your path. Find a way of supporting other pilgrims and reach around to lend a hand.

If you require resources for finding community or are looking to checkout other consciousness development processes, consider the new and evolving community called Masters of the Journey. We are building a website and have a Facebook presence to assist people who are searching… Please take good care of yourself.

If appropriate, please share this blog. Thank you.

Panic and Anxiety Control Program

Symptoms of panic and anxiety can be confused with life threatening physical disorders! Please consult your physician to determine the source of your symptoms.

Behavioral techniques for controlling panic and anxiety. Help get back in control of your life.
This is an update of specific things you can do to control the symptoms of panic and anxiety attacks. These devastating occurrences can negatively affect your day to day quality of life. But this is not news for anyone suffering from this terrible disorder. Millions of people live in fear of these “attacks.” Major transitions, trauma, and stress can lead to feelings of little or no control over one’s life! This can affect people in major ways.

A scary symptom which can develop is called Panic (or Panic Attack.”) A panic episode can come on suddenly or can awaken you from your sleep with a nasty feeling of apprehension. Some people believe that they are having a heart attack because often there is chest pain, a shortness of breath, neck or arm pain, major stomach upset, an adrenaline rush, lightheadedness, dizziness, and other unpleasant feelings of fear and apprehension. These feelings can be triggered by specific events such as: driving (getting stuck in traffic), shopping, waiting in lines at stores, banks, post offices, etc, feeling trapped in church/movies/classes, traveling distances from home (especially flying, etc.), making a presentation in front of a group of people (drawing attention toward yourself), doing new or unfamiliar activities, meeting new people, basically, doing anything new or seemingly stressful where you may fear “LOSING CONTROL.” Loss of control is the main feature that makes this so frightening for the people who suffer from panic and anxiety. We may not know a panic sufferer by looking at him or her because they can maintain such good control that unless we were to look very carefully we might not notice the nervousness below the surface.

Heart problems, chest pain, and respiratory difficulties (hyperventilation and dizziness are common symptoms of panic/anxiety attacks) should be carefully examined by your physician! If no heart related problem exists, but you are still in great fear of these occurrences of panic then the following behavioral program, with practice, will greatly aid you in preventing or at least minimizing the episodes of panic. Also, remember that exciting/positive actions or events can raise your heart rate. This excitement is not bad or life threatening, but you fear of the physical symptoms of excitement can really hamper your enjoyment of life!

The keys to controlling panic and anxiety are:

• Breathe slowly/diaphragmatically
• Remain in the present… in your body, in a positive way
• Positive self-talk… not negative ruminations
• Avoid caffeine and stimulants
• Regular aerobic exercise
• Regular deep relaxation with Biofeedback Temperature monitoring
• Use relaxation tapes/CD’s regularly!
• Learn to warm your hands and feet
• Get support in confronting and then desensitizing yourself to fears/phobias
• Taper your anti-anxiety medication after you have mastered the relaxation-biofeedback

1. Learn to breathe diaphragmatically
Place a hand over your upper abdomen
Push it OUT as you inhale
Let in move IN as you exhale
Let your chest, shoulder, neck, and back relax as you breathe.
Only on a very deep breath should these parts move in the breath.
This may be the most important Panic Control Technique you can learn!

2. Use any of the Stress Management Audio’s, especially, #205 Stress Management for Controlling Panic and Anxiety, 1-3 times per day for 8-12 weeks. Check the “Products” page at the Stress Education Center’s website.
After achieving a level of controlled deep relaxation, repeat suggestions of “control,” especially control of slow, regular breathing and slow regular heart rate. Suggestions of “letting go” to help achieve hand and foot warming, along with any visualizations that can encourage this increase of peripheral blood flow, would be very useful, as well.

Try to find: StressDots or some sort of temperature training biofeedback device on your hands to learn how to warm your hands with relaxation. When you can consistently get above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (93-95 degrees is ideal) then you can begin to master warming your feet to 90 degrees.
When you can “let go” by relaxing and warming your hands and feet, you will be able to control if not prevent your panic episodes. Then you must develop the confidence in your control so the fear of panic will not control your life.

3. Regular exercise will help you to work off the effects of life’s stresses
3-5 times per week of regular exercise that can elevate your heart rate for 15-45 minutes would be best. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program if you have been inactive for a long while. Even though elevating your heart rate can be a little scary, the release of tensions and the strengthening of your cardiovascular system will have great benefits.

4. Eat regular meals.
Low fat and complex carbohydrates are better than fast foods with lots of sugar. AVOID CAFFEINE and other stimulants. Caffeine is found in coffee, black teas, cola drinks, chocolate, some over-the-counter pain medications, and other foods/drugs. Read labels. Eating as closely as you can to natural foods (lots of: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.) will benefit any one.

5. Practice positive self-talk.
Do not let your fears escalate into you losing control of your body and your mind. By breathing slowly and staying in your body, in present time, you avoid falling into the negative pattern of fear and panic.

6. Get support from your friends, doctor, and a therapist if necessary.
Check your area for panic/anxiety support or treatment groups! Regular use of anti-anxiety medications may be better than just taking your prescription only after the panic has begun. Reduce your medication in a supervised way after you have mastered the relaxation/biofeedback control techniques.

Remember you can get back in control of your body and your life! You must make this a priority so you can avoid being a victim to this set of scary symptoms.

Panic/anxiety is not always your enemy. This reaction is designed to protect you and may teach you something about the stresses and transitions you are going through. Denial of these challenges only creates a more stubborn set of symptoms that can be more debilitating.

Other Good books that can help you:David Barlow, Ph.D. and Jerome Cerny, Psychological Treatment of Panic, Guilford Press, New York. 1988.

Susan Lark, MD, Anxiety & Stress: A Self-Help Program, Westchester Publishing Company, Los Altos, CA. 1993.

For more information regarding the Stress Education Center Panic/Anxiety Control Program visit the website at www.dstress.com or call 360-593-3833.

Fanning the Flames of “Media Created” Anxiety

A Break From Unnecessary Drama

Do you ever feel caught up in the “Media” frenzy when disasters strike? Do stories regarding dramatic weather, or planes landing in the Hudson River, or banking scandals, or babies born by “in vitro fertilization,” or even celebrities faux pas ever seem blown out of proportion by “Hype?” We news consumers are often bombarded by the media as they attempt to gain, and then hold, our attention…

Tips for gaining control of your life…
The news media is more than a source for information and current events. It has become a “roller coaster ride” of drama and self-aggrandizement. We consumers of these presentations are swept up and our visceral anxiety responses are fanned into a frenzy. But why are swept up in this media blitz of emotion?

Since the dawning of the “Information Age” in the 1970’s, we have been steadily drawn into an escalating 24/7 need for worldwide news and the media has provided us with anxiety producing excitement from every corner of the world. Technology allows this instant communication and seems to encourage our “need to know” mentality. We “need to know” because we have a very primitive survival mechanism that stimulates our external focus on any threats, even perceived threats that may exist thousands of miles away, so our unconscious minds can protect us by preparing to fight or to flee from “danger.” When the Flight/Fight Response is triggered, our reactive, survival mechanisms take priority. We can react with “knee jerk” habitual patterns that are unique to our learned responses, but are born from the survival reaction. One major reaction that occurs for many people under threat is a reduced ability to creatively problem solve and communicate effectively. We react and often do not really think things through. When this occurs, mistakes can be made. Accidents can happen. People or projects can get hurt. Relationships can be harmed. Our world can suffer by becoming a victim to poor rational thought in cases of fear or media driven anxiety. It is an extra “heaping, helping” of annoying distractions that take us away from self-care, focus on priorities, and creative pursuits that promote productivity and well-being.

Just before 9/11/2001 our news media changed. Do you remember? About 3 months prior to the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, the television news media upgraded their reporting to include, not just a “talking head” (reporter) giving us the “news” but also text messages flying by on the bottom of the screen, and often a graphic on the left of the “talking head.” Now we have to deal with 3 sources of information simultaneously. This multi-tasking creates added frenetic anxiety in coping with this increased input. Have humans evolved to keep pace with this new use of technology? When we are threatened, we have a response that NEEDS to know what is going on around us so that we can take action and survive any threat. We are often overwhelmed. We have learned to cope by becoming unconscious regarding this media craziness. The media fights to keep our attention. The media has evolved their approach to sensationalize their coverage, to yell at us even louder, with more graphic events that “demand” our attention. Even the weather news whips us with “STORM” coverage that makes weather events major news, even when it occurs hundreds of miles away!

To combat this media blitz on our senses we must do three things. First, we must become aware that we can become victims to sensationalism that may not necessarily be an immediate threat, and filter the news so that we can respond more appropriately. Secondly, as my friend Rodger Ruge suggests, we should consider a media “Fast,” where we reduce and limit the amount of media news that we subject ourselves to. For many of us, turning off the news, especially before bedtime, would be a very good option. The third necessary step is to practice self-care and strengthen our emotional foundations by eating better, avoiding caffeine, getting regular exercise, and practicing daily relaxation.

Awareness of the media frenzy can help protect us and our children from the “overwhelm.” Since the mid 1980’s, we have been deluged by new technologies that force us to react to news and information that is swirling around us. We have experienced: pagers, fax machines, cable TV with 500 channels, Cell phones, text messaging, e-mail, internet information, changes in media coverage of world “disasters,” “robo-calls” at dinner time, and huge expectations that we are plugged in 24/7 and can respond instantaneously even when we are driving our cars…. This is crazy making! Some people can handle this gracefully, in fact, some people can thrive in this environment. But most of us are just victims to our technology and can benefit from setting some limits on the ways that we use, and react to, our technologies… We need to evolve and to create survival strategies that meet our unique, individual requirements.

Please be smart and figure out how to “not become a VICTIM” to the media and our newest technologies!

When we see natural disasters on the TV, we think that we filter the visceral effects on our survival systems, but our unconscious often reacts to the possible threats that are perceive through our visual and auditory senses. When we witness “coverage” of war zones, murders, attacks, rapes, fires, or vehicular accidents, we may believe that this does not affect us at a “conscious level,” but we are still triggering the flight/fight response in some systems at an unconscious level. Have you ever noticed your heart race or your gut tighten when confronted by news or movies? Does your neck, jaw, or back react to accidents or disasters that you witness in person or on TV? Do thoughts of “media images” ever pop into your conscious mind as you try to sleep? We are bombarded by negative media attacks almost everyday.

Do media pundits ever whip you up with their “news coverage” or editorials so that anger or fear seem to rise to the surface of you or your loved ones? This can be emotionally and physically hard on our systems…. Be aware and do not get caught up in the media circus, if at all possible.

Final note. Many people are studying and applying the principles of the “Law of Attraction” believing that goal setting and positive attitudes toward achieving these goals is essential to success. World class competitive athletes have been using these “Sports Psychology” techniques in their training regimen for decades to achieve advantages in mental preparation in their events. When we get caught in the sensationalized, negative reporting by the various media we are sapped of our positive thoughts and energy. We lose our focus on attracting success and positive outcomes. In fact, we can be overwhelmed by negativity. This can strip you of your ability to problem solve in positive and creative ways. Negative thoughts can attract negative outcomes, mistakes, and ill health. Avoiding negativity (and negative thoughts) can be a path to better health and lead to positive outcomes. “Dwell in the Light” (Choose “Joy”) and when you feel overwhelmed, consider turning off the negative newscasts and immerse yourself in a book or audio program, or a video that will inspire you with positive; thoughts, actions, and emotions.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the country’s leading stress management expert and the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website www.dstress.com. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.

Holiday Survival

Happy Holidays… They are headed our way, ready or not!

I know that for many people this is easier said than done… It is the season for high expectations of happiness, joyful family gatherings, and limitless supplies of good food and cheerful gifts. Most of the time, expectations seem to mess things up! This time of year can make people irritable if not crazy because we expect so much of ourselves and the people around us. Sadness, depression, and anxiety begin to peak at this time of year for many people. Many people are struggling with financial challenges, even homelessness and these people can feel left out of Happiness in the Holidays. Illness and losses of family or friends, even from the past, can make this season difficult traumatic to celebrate. The short days and Winter weather for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere also can take an emotional toll on the Holidaze. There may be changes of schedule, travel, or dietary changes that can make positive, joy filled celebrations a bit difficult at this season of the year.

Consider the Holiday Survival Tips from the article below. This can be found in a more printable form at the Stress Education Center’s website, www.dstress.com, on the “Articles” page.

Please take good care of yourself and have some sympathetic understanding of people you may meet who may be struggling during the Holiday Season.

Holiday Survival tips
10 basic strategies to more gracefully survive holiday stress. Written by L. John Mason, Ph.D., Author of the Bestseller; Guide to Stress Reduction.
Are expectations of happiness in the holidays making you sad? Do you want to be happier and healthier this holiday season? Would you like to enhance your holiday stress management skills?

This holiday season will be stress filled. World economic swings and terrorism have created conditions that have changed our holiday celebrations. Attitudes towards travel, being with family, celebration in the face of fear and sadness, will make this year’s holiday season different than in years past. Adjustments will help to create new ways of participating in the holiday events. These can be both positive and negative. Consider new traditions in self-care. Search for community support that will open your heart to the joys that are possible in this season. Remember the things that are the most stressful are the things that you care the most about, but have the least control over. World events, the economy, the way people respond, and our families (and children) are major stressors that we wish we could control, but often cannot.

1. Schedule Time for Self-Care! Regular exercise and time for stress management are a must. Find what techniques work best for you, and use these tools. This is non-negotiable time devoted for your health and well being.

2. Eat Well Moderation is the key. Do not use alcohol or drugs for stress management. Do not “over” celebrate. Avoid fast foods.

3. Avoid Caffeine Minimize the impact of caffeine on your life.

4. Plan the Holiday… Set some limits. Do not over spend your financial and emotional resources.

5. Control Your Expectations of: Happiness, Joy, Sadness, and Loneliness

6. Be Nice to Others Give compliments and smile. Around negative, anxious, or rude people, take a breath and remember that you do not need to get pulled into other people’s holiday misery or their craziness.

7. Reach Out for Support Talk with “stable” friends or family, or clergy, or mental health counselors.

8. Humor Helps… Have Fun Laugh daily, if possible.

9. Stay in the Present! Mentally and emotionally, do not be consumed by things that happened in the past or fear events in the future. Enjoy the people you are with and make the very best of the situation that you are in.

10. Find the True Spirit of the Holidays Share “the Spirit” of this holiday with those people who you love or care about. Give love and support to the people of the world. Volunteer or go out of your way to be thoughtful and kind. A smile or a hug can go a long way. Sometimes it is just listening… Show others that they have value and that you are aware of their special qualities.
Even learn to let others give to you!

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….