RESEARCH FINDINGS Over the last three decades, science has been advancing our understanding of stress and how it impacts our bodies and brains. From baboon troops on the plains of Africa, to neuroscience labs at Stanford University, scientists are revealing just how lethal stress can be. Research reveals that the impact of stress can be found deep within us, shrinking our brains, adding fat to our bellies, even unraveling our chromosomes. Stress is something measurable and dangerous! Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and two-thirds of all office visits to family physicians are due to stress-related symptoms. Sign up (on right) to receive updates on Stress Reduction research.
TLC 8: Destress with Mind-Body Innercise
De-stress and halt aging with mind/body meditation or yoga. You won’t miss the calming benefit of alcohol once you learn how to de-stress naturally, using the relaxation response, meditation and deep breathing, yoga, or biofeedback. You won’t head straight for the refrigerator to stuff your face (and emotions). You will look and feel younger, healthier, and happier when you learn to de-stress. Confronted with life’s stress, your body produces adrenaline. The release of adrenaline is like sending a thousand messages to various key parts of the body at once, resulting in a racing heart, increased blood pressure, out-of-balance hormones, and a system on red alert. The problem with high levels of stress is that this can weaken the body, reducing the number of T-cells—the killer cells in our immune system that help to ward off diseases. This effect happens immediately and can last for days. Ongoing stress can also result in unresolved muscle tension, increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and general arousal—as we cannot get out of “passing gear” (as opposed to normal or low gear).
Eventually the tension, arousal, and tightness seem normal, and we find ourselves more vulnerable to illness and poor self-care habits. Chronic tension can lead to weight gain, skin problems, knotted muscles, lower mobility, degenerative joint and spine problems, and sheer exhaustion.
Meditation and deep breathing induce the relaxation response, which can slow down your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, calm the feelings of anxiety that you experience during chronic stress, bring your hormones into balance, and much more. Although it’s an involuntary action, breathing measures and alters your psychological state, making a stressful moment accelerate or diminish in intensity. Meditation and deep breathing affect appetite, aging, emotions, hormones, sleep, and overall health every 24 hours. In the 24 Hour Turnaround, TLC 8, you learn how to change a highly charged moment into a period of calm (I call it “relaxation on demand”), as you call upon these mind/body exercises at will and protect your body from the ravages of increased stress hormones today and every other day. Sign up (on right) to receive updates on Stress Reduction research.
Get Started Today! Relax on demand to reduce stress.
Heart Rate Bio-Feedback: The “Quick Fix” for stress relief. Neuroscientists agree that the most effective way to counteract stressful situations is to learn how to respond immediately—stop stress in its tracks! It’s much more difficult and time-consuming to reverse tension than to deal with it and put it to rest. This is exactly the reason why I recommend Heart Rate (HR) Biofeedback: it works spontaneously and produces a 24-hour result. HR Biofeedback is a therapeutic practice that uses your heart rate monitor to give you instant feedback during your stress reduction training. HR Biofeedback teaches you how to “relax on demand.” If the thought of figuring out how to reduce stress tends to stress you out because it sounds time consuming to learn to meditate or practice yoga, get out your heart rate monitor, and I will teach you a proven technique in five minutes. If you haven’t gotten a heart rate monitor for your H.E.A.R.T workouts, you now have TWO good reasons to order one today.
Learning HR Biofeedback takes seven days, but the first session can produce a 24-hour result. The first day takes 5 minutes; the last day takes only one minute. The learning curve is zero, the cost is nothing, and everyone in your household or office will benefit.
Days 1, 2, and 3 At Home
- Choose a time when you know you will not be interrupted, and turn off the phone. Put on your monitor and observe your heart rate. Lie down on the floor with something under your neck (a pillow or towel) to relax the neck area and put your spine in a neutral position. You might want a pillow under your knees as well, especially if you have back problems.
- Rest the watch of your monitor where you can look at it occasionally. I like to rest my hands on my chest with the watch in one hand.
- Continue by relaxing all the muscles in your face–around your eyes, your jaw, and your forehead. Make sure your teeth are not touching. Take the deepest breath you have ever taken and exhale. On that exhale relax every muscle in your body.
- Continue to breath deeply and slowly. Check to see if you can feel your shoulders, back, hips, and legs on floor. They should feel heavy.
- Observe your heart rate. As you begin to relax, your heart rate will go down. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Every time you look at your heart rate, it should be lower. If you get anxious or the number goes up, start over. End the session after five minutes regardless of the outcome.
Days 4 and 5 At Home
- Choose a time when you know you will not be interrupted, and turn off the phone. Put on your monitor, and observe your heart rate. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Rest your hands on your lap with your shoulders relaxed. Hold your monitor watch where you can see it.
- Start by relaxing all the muscles in your face–around your eyes, your jaw, and your forehead. Make sure your teeth are not touching. Take the deepest breath you have ever taken and exhale. On that exhale relax every muscle in your body.
- Continue to breathe deeply and slowly; scan your body and relax all your muscles.
- Observe your heart rate. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Every time you look at your heart rate, it should be lower. If you get anxious or the number goes up, start over. End the session after three minutes.
Days 6 and 7 At Work or a Stressful Time of Day
- Choose a time when you know you will not be interrupted, and turn off the phone. If you’re not in an office or at home, go to a quiet place or your car. Put on your monitor, and observe your heart rate. Rest your arms on your desk or your lap with your monitor watch in front of you. Your arms need to feel heavy in order to relax your neck.
- You should now be able to do your relaxation exercise in one minute with your heart rate dropping after the first few exhales.
- Practice your biofeedback any time of the day that you feel stress coming on. Eventually you will get so good at “relaxing on demand” that you will not need to put your monitor on.
Yoga: Mind, Body and Mood Medicine. Yoga is holistic, integrating the body, breath, and the mind. Some people use it for stretching purposes only, while others prefer the more aerobic yoga positions to get a good cardiovascular and stretching workout. Many use yoga for stress reduction. It has been eighty years since health professionals in both India and the West started investigating the therapeutic life change potential of yoga. Thousands of research studies have shown that with the practice of yoga you can learn to control your heart rate, brain wave patterns, blood pressure, respiratory function, metabolic rate, skin resistance, body temperature, and many other bodily functions.
There are many styles and methods of yoga to choose from. If you have never done yoga, you are considered to be a beginner (Level 1). Start at the beginning. Learn how to do each pose correctly. Take several classes from different teachers and find a style that you like. Some are geared towards strength and stamina; others toward relaxation.
I do not recommend learning yoga from a book, although there are some good books for people who already have yoga experience. There are also many good tapes and CD’s available. I realize that there are only so many hours in the day, and yoga can be time consuming to learn and practice. Start with a 10-minute routine in the morning or evening hours. Stay tuned for our Yoga Stretches for the Office being produced soon.
“Only the person who is relaxed can create, and to that mind ideas flow like lightning.” Cicero