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11/04/11 Simple Tools to beat stress

Stress is getting a bad press. And rightly so.  It may be a perception that a certain amount of stress is what keeps many people focussed, motivated, successful and happy, however, think again.  Stress is never a good thing, it’s a certain amount of pressure that ensures we get out of bed every day and keeps us enthused.

Too much pressure/stress is another matter. This can slow a person down and often gets in the way of achieving the very thing a person most wants to do. And if you have a chronic condition this only adds to the frustrations.

Stress is one of the body’s messengers. A feeling of stress alerts the body that more is required of it right now. The body is informed that it needs to change state; to be ready to move or think quicker. There is a real and present danger that needs immediate attention.

Adrenaline commands. It closes down the digestion and diverts the energy to the muscles of the hips, thighs, shoulders and upper arms, and to the brain. The heart pumps faster. The brain analyses and assesses all options. The body is quickly ready to fight or flee; whatever stands the best chance of survival.

And when the emergency is over the natural response is to relax and to feel relief. This response is the signal for the adrenal glands to relax; for normal life to resume.

These days there are less chances of being presented with a real and present danger. Instead we get drip fed with information that is usually less than positive about things that may or may not affect us; crucially about things we as individuals have very little or no control over.

And this leads to an odd state of background fear or anxiety. This in turn causes a low level drip of adrenaline into the system, resulting in tension, palpitations, and a racing mind. And because there is no single discrete cause there is no single sense of relief that ‘it’ is over. The stress becomes a part of daily existence. And that is no way to truly live.

So, here a few breathing techniques that can help bring you relief and relaxation:

a) Become aware of your breath. Notice:  Is it fast or slow, shallow or deep?

Focus on your in-breath. Feel your out-breath and enjoy letting go. Let your breathing find a comfortable rate. Do this for 2 –5 minutes.

b) When breathing in think of a word e.g. Calm and sense calm entering your body with each breath.
With each out breath let the air leave your body with a sound, word or phrase e.g. Ahhhhh or that’s better.

c) Focus on your breath, then take a couple of deeper breaths in and out.

Then one deep breath in – and hold it. Hold it until it gets uncomfortable and then let go with a sound, word or phrase.

d) Breath in and hold your breath, as you hold your breath tense your muscles in your arms and legs. Relax your muscles as you breathe out.

Also, using a phrase like ‘All is well’ during the day reassures your subconscious.

Article by Carrie Harris, Workplace Healthcare Consultant.