Breathe and Be Present!

When all else fails and you find yourself emotionally spinning or anxious or angry, STOP, take a deep slow breath. Feel the cool air as you inhale and the warm air exhale as you slowly breathe out… Be present! Release the anger or resentment from the past. Let the future wait, without the fear and anxiety of the unknown. Sure this is easier said than done but with some practice, and willingness, you can learn to live more in the appreciation of the present moment.

It really is not that difficult to pay close attention to the cool air as you breathe in, then pause a moment, and then slowly release the breath while allowing the unnecessary thoughts and emotions to slowly, but freely, flow out and away. You have to breathe anyway. Why not do it consciously? And, while you slowly breathe, why not learn to take responsibility for YOUR role in creating the life drama that may be upsetting to you… Sure, there are annoying people and  incidents, but you have a choice to get sucked in to the drama or to not get sucked in. Yes, you can just watch the drama unfold and wonder what your lesson is and what you are supposed to be learning from the weird turn of events.

There are styles of meditation which are practiced for years and built around focusing on slowly breathing. It can take people years to master these styles but it does not have to take years to have important benefits for you in the present moment! In fact, if you walk out into a beautiful natural setting like by the ocean, or by a river/stream, or by the majesty of the mountains with the sky above reaching up to the heavens, you can use your slow breathing to find the beauty and appreciation of the present moment. This will change your attitude quickly, if you let it! You can let go of the fear and be present, basking in the love that accompanies the beauty of the present moment in nature. If you can not get out into nature then use a candle to focus on or maybe a beautiful photograph or painting as a natural mandala to soothe your mind and soul. Even a pleasant memory of a time basking in the beauty of nature will help to soothe you in the present moment if you find yourself slowly breathing deeply with the willingness to “let go.”

You can close your eyes and go inward to feel the cool air as you inhale, pause, and release the warm exhale, slowly. String together 8-12 slow breaths and your heart rate will begin to slow and your muscles will begin to relax. As you slow down, your mind will gently follow into a more peaceful and pleasant state. This is a great skill to share with the people you care the most about… And, also it is worth sharing with people who you do not care the most about. The calming with gently spread like a chain reaction and offer calmness to all of your environment.

The Stress Education Center has information at www.dstress.com . The Masters of the Journey has information and ways to find a spiritual tribe to support you at www.mastersofthejourney.com  Please take good care of yourself and find ways to be “Present.”

Dangers of Ignoring the Impact of Stress

Why are we in denial?

Have you ever experienced any stress? Is the world more stressful now than it was 20 years ago? Have you ever experienced physical or emotional symptoms that are made worse as a response to stress? Do you believe that the best solution to stress is getting drunk or taking drugs?

I ask these questions many times per month to groups I train or individuals I coach. Without exception, people respond by saying that there is plenty of stress out in the world. It can be a distraction and effect physical and emotional health.

Now I ask you, what do you do, on a daily basis, to control your responses to stress? Do you meditate or practice stress management for 20 minutes per day? Most people say that they are too busy for 20 minutes of relaxation. People think that there is some easier way to control stress like taking medication. It is not convenient to practice stress management, so why bother to do it? The other response that many people use when confronted by the challenges of stress is to a point a finger and then blame someone or something else, rather that to take any responsibility for ones own habitual response to life’s stress.

Do not believe me without testing this out for yourself, but most people find that by practicing 20 minutes of deep relaxation, daily, they will actually save time and energy. Research suggests that 20 minutes of deep relaxation can take the place of as much as 2 hours of sleep and the sleep that you do get will be deeper and more restful. When I first heard this statistic I did not believe it, as most of you will not. I tested the statement and after 3 months I discovered that I required less sleep. Instead of needing 8.5 hours of sleep, I was getting rested with only 7 hours of sleep. So I invested 20 minutes and required 1.5 hours less sleep time. I came out ahead by one hour and ten minutes. Many of my Executive Coaching clients, after I convince them to try the 20 minutes of stress management, report that they get more work done in less time, with less energy, because they are better able to focus and make fewer mistakes. I challenge you to try this activity for 8-12 weeks and find the benefits that will surface.

People resist trying new things even if these “new things” are good for them. In fact, people are so overwhelmed that most of us are apathetic about taking good care of ourselves. We simply do not have the energy to care… Making time, even just 20 minutes per day, is painful and difficult. Motivation is low for using stress management preventively. Stress can cause headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, rapid heart rates, anxiety, depression, GI complaints, sexual dysfunction, back or neck pain, and poor quality of life, and yet most people would rather develop annoying or dangerous symptoms rather than practice stress management…

Most people have an unconscious need to get beaten up by stress as if it were their badge of honor for surviving our hectic world… There are a few genetic immunes who thrive on stress, with no sleep, and they make the rest of us mere mortals look bad. These “immunes” are in denial and stress will eventually affect their health or their relationships in negative ways. In Japan there is a word “Karoshi” which translates; people who work themselves to death. There is an addiction to work in our society and we need to be aware that the long term consequences of this attitude are high costs to our health, relationships, and quality of life.

When we are younger, we can get away with not sleeping or self-care. We are young and strong and flexible, but as we get older, we lose our flexibility and our strength. We have to learn how to do things smarter instead of “muscling through.” If we don’t, we will pay the price and our denial will not save us from our suffering.

Things in life that are the most stressful are the things that you care the most about but that you can not control. The only thing that you can control is the way that you respond in these difficult situations but this can take time and effort.

Please take your head out of the sand and take good care of yourself. Even if this means spending 20 minutes per day with stress management. It will save you time, energy, and even money in the long run.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the country’s leading expert on stress management and the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training. In 1978, he opened the Stress Education Center www.dstress.com.

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.

10 Tips for Stress Management

These tips are at the core of my 1 day stress management program. Contact me if you have any questions regarding stress reduction coaching through the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com

Tip #1 Take 40 Deep Slow Diaphragmatic Breaths Each Day (Spread evenly throughout your day not all at once at the end of the day or you might hyperventilate. Try for one every 20 minutes.) You can benefit from associating the deep breaths with some common work occurrence such as the telephone ringing or clock watching. Try this! Though very simple to do, it is a very powerful stress management strategy.

Tip #2 Use Regular Relaxation Periods for Work Breaks. Try fifteen to twenty minute periods of (hopefully) undisturbed time away from phone and/or family. Commit to using this for four to six weeks to begin to see the benefits. If you would like some guidance in developing your stress management skills consider finding an appropriate audio program that is targeted for your specific interest. You will be surprised to find that this will save you time and energy. You will get more done in less time if you are not distracted by internalized stress. Autogenic Training Phrases, Progressive Relaxations, Meditations, or Visualization/Imagery relaxations are recommended. Find the one that works best for you.

Tip #3 Get Regular Exercise. Aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc. for 20 minutes 3 times per week is minimum. Recommended is 30 minutes or more, 4-6 times per week. But do not hurt yourself!

Tip #4 Eat Sensibly. Avoid Caffeine. Do Not Cope With Stress by Using Alcohol or Drugs. If you are stressed out, caffeine is like throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out! The secret is moderation and common-sense.

Tip #5 Get Focused on New Directions and Regular Planning. Give yourself positive options if you feel trapped. Plan for growth in all aspects of your life; not just work and finance (family/relationships, spiritual interests, creativity, vacations, hobbies, etc).

Tip #6 Use and Develop Your Humor! Positive Attitudes Really Help! Difficulties, when viewed as opportunities for growth and proving your abilities, are less harmful. Do not bury your anger, fear or sadness.

Tip #7 Protect Yourself From Negative Co-Workers and Relationships! Do not get caught up in other people negative thinking or let them rip off your peace of mind and positive energy. Take good care of yourself!!

Tip #8 Get Back In Control! If you cannot control all the people and situations that happen around you…. at least you can control the way you respond! Being “out of control” is one of the main sensations that indicate that the stress in your life is a problem.

Tip #9 Give Sincere Compliments Freely and Smile! Be positive and let it shine on all that surround you. It will come back many times more.

Tip #10 Learn to Really Listen! It is the best communication technique that you can develop!

More coaching and tips are available at www.dstress.com

Autogenic Training: Try It, You May Like the Results

Have you heard about Autogenic Training as a stress management or anxiety control technique? If you haven’t, you should look into it. Since I learned this stress management technique in 1977, I have been using it, with great results, for my relaxation practice.

Autogenic Training was first developed in 1928 in Germany. There has been a lot of research regarding the success of using Autogenic Training Phrases with stress/anxiety related disorders like: panic/anxiety, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, GI disorders, chronic pain, and many other health challenges that are created or made worse by stress. Most of the research and reports are written in French or German so for English speakers this technique may be less familiar. I learned about Autogenics while in training for my career in biofeedback in 1977 and have been using this technique as my personal stress management strategy ever since. It took 6-8 weeks of regular (daily) use for me to get the higher levels of benefit. The skills of relaxation and awareness require at least this amount of practice no matter which stress management technique you try…. so be patient.

Autogenic Training requires that you repeat 6 basic phrases until you feel the desired results. With practice this can be abbreviated into a much shorter period of time. Now, it takes me only about 5 minutes of repeating the phrases to get to the level of relaxation that I desire. This leaves me 10-15 minutes to enjoy the state of deep relaxation in my 15-20 minute relaxation/meditation period. The positive effects of this relaxation generally last for the whole day, at this stage of my life. The 6 basic phrases include:

Begin with a mood phrase to ‘get you in the mood to relax’ by slowly repeating… “I am at peace with myself and fully relaxed.” (Eventually, this phrase will trigger a lot of the relaxation.

1. “My right arm is heavy” (repeated at least 3 times or longer until you can feel your muscles start to relax.) Then change to, “My left arm is heavy” (repeated 3 or more times.) Then relax your legs as you repeat, “My right leg is heavy” repeat 3 or more times. Then switch to, “My left leg is heavy” repeated. Finally, repeat “My neck and shoulders are heavy.” The arms will usually be easier to relax than your legs. The neck and shoulders are generally more difficult for most people and may take as long as 6-12 weeks of practice before you get them to relax.

2. Repeat, “My right arm is warm” (repeated at least 3 or more times to allow the warmth of blood to flow more freely down your arm into your hand and fingers.) Change to, “My left arm is warm” and repeat until you feel warmth or a pulse or a tingling feeling in your hands. Then say, “My right leg is warm” and repeat. Then, “My left leg is warm” repeat. Finally, repeat, “My neck and shoulders are warm” repeat, though this may require many practice sessions.

3. The next phrase to repeat is “My heart beat is calm and regular” repeated to slow your heart rate.

4. Next phrase is “My breathing is calm and regular” repeated slowly.

5. Then say, “My stomach region is warm and calm” and repeat to relax your abdomen.

6. Last phrase to relax the muscles of your head and face is “My forehead is cool and calm” repeated until your forehead and jaw can start to relax.

The return phrase to repeat at the end is, “I am refreshed and alert” repeated and with taking a deep breath.
I will usually say the 6 relaxation phrases and then sit quietly to enjoy the relaxation before I awaken with the “return” phrase. Also, combining these phrases with temperature training biofeedback makes for powerful step before beginning an anxiety control visualization or a desensitization process.

Give it a try. I have seen this technique work very well with many people who could benefit from stress and anxiety management.

More information available on the “articles” page of the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com.

Stress Management Techniques a list

Stress Management Techniques a list

The book, Guide to Stress Reduction, is a cook book with recipes for relaxation and stress management. Find the formula that works best for you and read the step by step guided strategies for deep relaxation. The following is a list of some of the most effective stress management strategies from this book.

 

  1. Breathing Techniques: Diaphragmatic Breathing, 1-8, 1-4 1-4 1-8, Alternate Nostril Breathing
  2. Autogenic Training Phrases
  3. Active Progressive Relaxation
  4. Passive Progressive Relaxation
  5. 10-1 Countdown
  6. Visualization for Deep Relaxation
  7. Indirect Suggestions
  8. Biofeedback: temperature training, EMG, GSR/EDR, EEG, Cardio feedback
  9. Meditation for Relaxation: Yogic meditation, Kundalini, transcendental, Zen Meditation
  10. Hypnosis
  11. Goal Setting and Planning for Stress Management
  12. Communication for Stress Management
  13. Physical Exercise and Movement for Stress Management

 

There are also specific stress management protocols for working to lessen or eliminate certain stress related physical and emotional symptoms like:

 

  1. Chronic Pain Management
  2. Contolling High Blood Pressure
  3. Tension Headaches
  4. Migraine Headaches
  5. Gastro-Intestinal Disorders
  6. Poor Circulation – Raynaud’s
  7. Panic/Anxiety Control with Desensitization and PTSD
  8. Sleep Disorders – Insomnia
  9. Coaching to Increase Productivity from Sports Psychology

 

Through the Stress Education Center you can get coaching or training for you or your organization. You can also get the Stress Management On-line Course (Five sessions with handouts, biofeedback, and recorded stress management techniques.) Articles and this blog are available through the website. Consider whether this will benefit you and get more information at www.dstress.com.