Winnie-the-Pooh and Reducing Stress
Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back
of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of
coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way,
if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
– A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Most of us are like my friend, Edward Bear. When the stress gets to be too much,
we might not notice. If we do notice, we might say “rough day” and hopefully take
some action to chill out. In general, however, we often just continue down the
stairway in the same way, bumping our heads on every step. We don’t realize
how stressed we are until we overreact to some minor irritation or oversleep
because we don’t hear the alarm. We can all learn a lesson from that “silly old
bear”: If only we could stop bumping for a moment, we might be able to think
As we ponder what we now know about stress and what it can do, I think you will
agree that it is time for a stress-reduction system that will work with our busy
lifestyles. Here are the key points we have to keep in mind when looking for a
• It’s not hard to trigger the release of cortisol in our body. Some people have a
busy schedule and a busy mind, which leads to increased and possibly chronic
levels of cortisol in their systems. Others do not have a busy schedule, but their
busy mind never stops, and that definitely keeps a high level of cortisol in their
body and brain.
• People acknowledge that stress is affecting them more than it did in past years.
Our lifestyle seems to generate stress due to active minds and busy schedules.
• While there are many stress-reduction techniques available in our arsenal, most
people do not use them actively and regularly. Some may not use them at all
even though they recognize how stressed they are.
• One of the most effective ways to manage the problem of stress is to take
frequent breaks during the day to stop the mental activity and consequent cortisol
All these points bring us to this logical conclusion: we need a simple and
immediately available system that makes it easy to tell when we are stressed and
then helps us get our stress levels under control. The system needs to be flexible
enough to account for each day’s special stresses and hassles. Some of us have
lived with high cortisol levels long enough that our body has changed the way it
deals with it. Others of us still have a body and nervous system that works the
way nature intended it to work-like a good seesaw. Some of us live super-stressful lifestyles while others do not. Some of us have learned to moderate our
daily activities to take regular little mental holidays or breaks in our thinking and
work, and others of us have a hard time stopping what we are doing or stopping
the worrying and thinking.
The bottom line: to be effective, a stress-reduction system needs to account for all
these factors, and it needs to be a system you can work with not just by going to
the yoga class after work if there is enough time left in your day. Instead, you
need a system you can work with in the background all day long. Next month we
will talk about such a system.