Decrease your Stress
Practical tips about stress and health
By: Kathy Gruver, PhD
We know stress is a killer. But it's not so much the stress; it's our reaction to it. The stress is often beyond our control, where as we can control our thoughts and reactions. Techniques like mini meditations, affirmations and visualization can help reduce your stress response to allow you to deal with challenges in a more relaxed and intelligent manner.
First off, what is the stress response? It is a very important evolutionary process that acted as our alarm to danger. It’s the flight or fight response, a cascade of hormones that affects digestion, brain function, heart function, muscle tone, etc. Whereas the stress response was very beneficial to warn us against immediate danger and get us moving to react, our current stresses are not as dynamic. It’s not a saber tooth tiger around the corner; it’s the economy, the IRS, our spouse, job insecurities, our kids, our boss, daily stresses that don’t seem to subside.
When we don’t get a break from our reaction to that stress it starts to manifest as problems in our bodies. Studies have shown that increasing the relaxation response not only slows heart rate and decreases blood pressure but also slows the genetic expression of aging. That’s right: Relax more…age slower. And we think we know when we are stressed, but sometimes we ignore the signs and power through. Symptoms of stress can be everything from headaches and indigestion to teeth grinding, overindulgence in alcohol, sleeplessness, muscle tension and road rage.
Any of those sound familiar? Then you are probably stressed. So let’s see how you can add some of the relaxation response invokers to your day. Let’s start with meditation. When we think of meditation, we picture someone sitting perfectly still on a pillow, eyes closed, hands in the lap, perhaps some chanting and om-ing. And it’s challenging for many people. But there is a simple form of meditation called a mini.
These mini meditations take just a few minutes to do. And you can do them anywhere. There have been several times that I’ve taken a minute or two before an important lecture, standing in line at the post office or even when I’m driving, to take advantage of this simple technique. There are only two rules: concentrate on something repetitive and when thoughts come through, just dismiss them without judgment and return to your repetition. Here’s what I do. I close my eyes, unless I’m in the car. And I concentrate on my breath. If thoughts intrude I just dismiss them without judgment and go back to my breath. Sometimes just using this simple breath technique can be enough, but here is my favorite script for a mini: As you breathe in, think “I am” and on the exhale think “at peace.”
So, we know stress is a killer and we’ve learned why we have the stress response and what it does to our bodies. We also know ways to counteract that with the relaxation response. Tools like mini meditations are just a few ways to help. I hope this technique helps you navigate life with ease and grace. May your stressors be few and manageable and your dreams be realized!
Kathy Gruver, PhD is a stress and communication expert. She is the author of seven award-winning books and has lectured world-wide, including TEDx. She will be speaking at ABA 2019 Meeting and Marketplace. More information is found at www.KathyGruver.com