Tag Archives: acute stress

Stress Solutions

Ever sit beneath a tin roof in the rain?

As I sat here listening to the rain hit the roof and trying to think of what to write about, I realized that I was feeling relaxed and peaceful. I love that sound. It is so calming. It is amazing that even imagining yourself sitting beneath a tin roof in the rain can have the same effect as physically  being there. Our imagination is that strong. It can take us on wonderful experiences. And, of  course, imagination is also largely responsible for our fears and anxiety. Let’s focus today on using imagination to create a relaxed, calm state of mind. Imagination can be the key to  becoming more conscious of when we are stressed and knowing  when and how to consciously change that state of mind.

Using your imagination to create a relaxed and focused state of mind is critical to learning how  to consciously reduce stress. This is also a good place to start if you are new to meditation. Our  imagination is extremely powerful and may be the most important of all our faculties. You can  literally sit in a closet and re-live a wonderful experience or imagine something you want to  create.

Why not gift yourself a few minutes of imagining you are sitting beneath a tin roof in the rain.  Or, choose another favorite experience or place and go there for a few minutes. Start by finding a comfortable seat or lying down. Remove unnecessary sounds or just screen those sounds out. Do something to signal to your subconscious mind that you are going to create a relaxed but  attentive state of mind. Once comfortable, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. It  should become a little slower and even. Notice your heartbeat. Don’t worry about trying to slow  it down if it seems fast. It will quieten down in a few moments.

Next, check your body for places where you feel muscle tension and consciously let that go. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly through pursed lips. Now, you are ready to imagine a  beautiful place in Nature. Maybe imagine one you know well but are not there now. Or let your  imagination make up one you have never seen. Choose a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Slowly add the details of color, time of day, sounds of Nature, the smells; the more detail you imagine, the more real the experience becomes. Remember, once you get there, you  do not have to DO anything. Just BE.


Stress Solutions

What do Jazz Fest and Stress Have in Common?

Do you like music? To New Orleanians, Jazz Fest means good music, and lots of it. So, you might  ask what could Jazz Fest and Stress possibly have in common? My answer is “MUSIC!” The reason is that one of the best ways to relax and reduce built-up stress is music.

Why is music such a good way to relax? There are many answers, but the key answer is also the  key to stress. It is simple really. Music is a great way to relax and reduce stress because it can stop you from thinking. And, thinking is the #1 trigger for stress.

Thinking generally produces cortisol. To reduce the buildup of cortisol, you have to stop  thinking. That is why focusing on your breathing, mindfulness, meditation, or exercise are great  stress relievers. Most of the time if you are practicing mindfulness or meditation, you are not  thinking and trying to solve a problem. You are burning cortisol when exercising so maybe it  does not belong in the same group. My point is that music can stop you from thinking.

There are major advantages to using music as your primary means of stress reduction. For one  thing, it is much more fun and pleasant and easy to do than most of the other things you can do to reduce cortisol. Music is usually easy to set up. Any type of music, well – almost – any type of  music will work. It can be playing in the background while working. Then you can take regular  breaks by sitting back and focusing on the music and clearing your mind of whatever you are  working on for a few minutes.

Music uses almost all the brain areas. I’m not sure if this is a fair statement, but music like good  jazz or classical seems to balance the nervous system. The more you can take a moment to pay attention to, focus on the music, the more it will work to relax you.

If at the same time, you  practice a little breathing while listening actively, you will be surprised how much 5 minutes like  that can do for you. You will feel ready to re-attack that stack of files on your desk.

So, how about putting on something you like to listen to, take a few deep breaths and then  maybe move a bit to the rhythm. Shrug those shoulders. Relax your neck and shut your eyes for a minute. When you catch yourself in that big yawn, then you know you were successful. You  reduced the cortisol. I think I will take some of my own advice right now.

Stress Solutions

Acute Stress is Helpful…
Chronic Stress is Harmful

Of course, the key to successful management of stress is recognizing acute stress from chronic  stress. So many things stress us during the average day that it is hard to be aware of when  acute stress becomes chronic stress. Webster defines acute in this context as “characterized by  sudden onset…and lasting a short time.” Webster gives 136 synonyms and antonyms of acute. The word, acute, comes from the Latin word, acutus, meaning sharpened, pointed, having a  violent onset, and less than a 90-degree angle. If your nervous system is healthy, it redresses  itself when the acute stress is over and is better off for the process in many cases.

On the other hand, the meaning of chronic according to Mr. Webster is “continuing for a long  time or returning often.” Of interest, there are only 41 synonyms of the word, chronic. In medical care, an illness that lasts more than 90 days is considered chronic. The Greek root of  chronic is time. The psychological context of chronic stress is more like habitual, returning  often.

The difference between Helpful and Harmful is based on how successful the person is at  managing their stress. If a person is in a chronically stressful situation, good management has  to include frequent breaks during which you can clear your mind, think, and do something  relaxing and happy-making before returning to the stressful situation either in your mind or in  action.

So, there really are two important keys involved in keeping stress from becoming harmful: 1)  Learn how to recognize when you are in stress. 2) Learn how to best manage your stress to  keep it acute (i.e., by taking frequent breaks) and finding things you can do that are relaxing. Or, if your stress primarily comes from your mind and the fact that you have a busy mind and your  mind seldom or never shuts off, then finding a way to clear your mind long enough to reduce  the body’s stress reaction.

Sadly, many of us tend to deny that we are under stress, therefore failing to recognize it. There  are so many triggers and situations that produce the stress hormones, but none are as present  as our mind and thinking. Do you remember those childhood years when an adult might have  said: “What were you thinking?” And, the response was truthfully, “Nothing!”

Well, for most of us, those days are long gone. That is why the technique that is now called,  Mindfulness, is sweeping the world. It is easy to do for anyone and if done often enough it will  produce the desired result of a peaceful, quiet mind. Mindfulness only takes a minute or two to  do and the only thing most people have to do is sit back, close your eyes, focus on your  breathing, and spend a quiet, mindful minute or two. Try it right now. It only takes a minute.  Your To Do List can wait a moment.