Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (Four)

Deep Breathing

breatheDeep breathing is a simple and very effective method of relaxation. It is a core component of every relaxation technique, plus yoga and Zen meditation. All you do is simply take a number of deep breaths and relax your body further with each breath. That’s it!

Deep breathing is one of the most basic forms of relaxation therapy. It is a type of relaxation breathing that helps to melt away stress by providing your body with more oxygen. Without oxygen your body cannot function efficiently, and you will feel very painful.

Deep breathing techniques require you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Sit or stand comfortably and place your hands firmly on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose. As you inhale, you should notice that your stomach begins to expand outwards – this is a sign that you are inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Hold your breath for a few seconds before you begin to exhale. Purse your lips and slowly release all of the air you have just taken in. Repeat for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.

 

Remember, stress in all its forms needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Only recently have scientists and leading doctors started to acknowledge that stress is an instigator of so many physical health disorders – don’t we know it!

Most importantly, you need to identify the cause or particular stress triggers and investigate the appropriate stress management remedy for you. By understanding the root cause of the problem, you can look to remove the stressful trigger, or gain insight into how to adapt to it in a much more relaxed manner.

Reducing tasks and obligations can help in eliminating some pressures and burdens (easier said than done, right?) so delegating tasks to others and sticking to a strict timetable can make life more enjoyable, relaxed and stress-free.

 

 

Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (Three)

Channelling Anger into Positive Performance

Anger is an emotion everyone experiences (even those without FM). It can be a normal and healthy emotion that helps you instinctively detect and respond to a threatening situation. When properly channelled, it can be a powerful motivating force. But anger can get out of control…

Anger resides in the liver at a deep cellular level and impedes the balanced function of the liver. It can also lead to high blood pressure and palpitations. Uncontrolled anger can seriously affect your personal and professional life, being incredibly destructive to yourself and the people around you.

Anger is a well-developed coping mechanism we turn to when we feel threatened in some way. It helps us react quickly and decisively in situations where there is no time for a careful, reasoned analysis of the situation and can motivate us to solve problems, achieve goals and remove threats.

So, anger can at times serve a positive purpose but, more frequently, it has a downside.

The Downside of Anger

anger-an-emotion-by-darry-dA negative angry response can damage relationships leading to a loss of respect and self-respect. A common example is when we are quick to anger over a misunderstanding or incorrect perception and this leaves us looking very foolish.

Learning to use anger positively and manage it so that it is constructive and not destructive is the key. Where situations are not immediately life threatening, you need to calm down and evaluate the accuracy of your perceptions before channelling anger in a powerful but controlled way.

Anger management is a process of learning how to ‘calm down’ and diffuse the emotion before it gets to a destructive level. Use creative visualisation to see the person who is making you feel angry as funny and amusing in some way, or to send loving energy towards them. Both these methods help to dispel the intensity of anger being generated by that person to you. On a subtle energy level, your antagonist will ‘pick up’ on what you are visualising – and their anger will diminish.

Similarly, if you are feeling angry, allow yourself to draw upon loving energy from a higher source; let it fill you up completely as you focus on your breathing. All this can be done spontaneously in seconds when you begin to practise the technique any time you feel anger. Otherwise, anger can lead to rage, which, in turn, can evolve into hatred, a toxic emotion which always turns in on the host – you!

People experience anger in many different ways and for many different reasons. What makes you angry may only mildly irritate one of your friends and have little to no effect on another. This subjectivity can make anger difficult to understand and deal with; it focuses the response onto you. So anger management focuses on managing your response, rather than specific external factors. Learning to manage anger enables you to develop techniques to deal with and expel the negative response and emotions before it causes you serious stress.

Despite differences in the level of anger you feel toward something, there are some universal causes of anger:

  • Frustration of your goal
  • Hurt
  • Harassment
  • Personal attack (mental or physical)
  • Threat to people, things or ideas you care about.

All these triggers can be experienced in your daily life at some stage. An appropriate level of anger that is expressed correctly helps you take the right action, solve the problem, or deal with the situation in a positive manner.

When someone has made you feel angry, it is far better to express to them constructively how their actions have made you feel but without blaming them. Constructive communication can be quite empowering if you educate yourself to pause, take a deep breath, consider the situation then express your feeling. It changes the energy between people in an instance.

Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (Two)

Visualisation/Imagery Meditation

This is a technique to deeply relax people and allow them to use the power of their mind to make positive changes in their life. Visualisation is the process of actively making pictures in your mind to create the outcome you desire. Visualisation and mental imagery are like mental movies.

When using creative visualisation or imagery in relaxation, you simply imagine a scene, place or event that you remember as safe, peaceful, restful, beautiful and happy. You may spontaneously visualise this scene, which is brought about through your ability to channel when in a deep relaxed state such as meditation. You activate all your senses to hear sounds of nature such as running water or waves crashing on the shore; to smell the air, grass and flowers; to taste the food, water or wine and feel the warmth of the sun. This place becomes an inner sanctuary, to which you can retreat in times of stress. You will often spontaneously experience the most effective images for yourself, as your subconscious mind is free to communicate to you while deeply relaxed.

Other uses of creative visualisation in relaxation involve creating mental pictures of stress flowing out of your body, or stress, negative thoughts, internal chatter and everyday concerns being drawn out and placed in a box with the lid tightly secured. The ability to draw on your intuitive faculties and tap into the subconscious mind becomes easier with regular practice. Many of these examples are used by hypnotherapists, so this style of meditation is extremely powerful.

Applying Creative Visualisation

 

Visualisation is a form of mental rehearsal. A person who is visualising can actually see himself completing specific actions (like going to a disability hearing and blitzing all the questions!). Whenever we want to do anything, the areas of our brain for planning and movement are involved, followed by activation of the motor areas that carry out the action. The brain prepares the body milliseconds before it is about to begin an action. It formulates a motor program based on movements in the frontal and prefrontal cortex. Then onto the motor cortex where the movements are carried out. As you visualise, you can create the same process.

Put simplistically, the more you visualise the more you practise.

How to visualise

Make the situation as vivid as possible in your mind. Be specific when you imagine the activity and use colour and as many senses as possible – smell, touch, sound. The more real your visualisation, the greater the stimulation of your brain. The more you enhance a situation in your mind, the more powerful it becomes. Powerful imagery will help propel you to where you want to go.

Visualisation is done by closing your eyes and concentrating on the point between your eyebrows directly above the nose. This is the prefrontal cortex area and is also known as the third eye, sixth chakra or Christ consciousness. What is interesting about this point is that it has been used for thousands of years for meditation and prayer, before humans even knew what the prefrontal cortex was.

Build some active processes into your visualisations. For example, if you want to get rid of some old emotions don’t just see the emotions getting smaller and smaller in your mind but go through the actions of making them smaller or throwing them away with your hands so that you engage your body in the action.

Engage all your senses. Visualise the touching, smelling, hearing and tasting as well as the seeing. The more senses you engage the more of the mind you tap into. Create visualisations by using all of your senses. If you’re creating a picture of success, feel the success. Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic Think and Grow Rich, “feel the feeling of success.” Use all your senses as you imagine how it feels to achieve your visualisation.

Visualisation can also be used by creating a strong negative association in your mind with a behaviour you want to eliminate. If you are trying to give up junk foods, you can associate them with being nauseated, vomiting and having stomach cramps. If you can, make the picture vivid enough that it creates a real sensation and the sheer thought of eating that food is enough to turn your stomach. Similarly, you can associate some foods with positive sensations and feel good about eating those foods, even without actually eating them. Do this with healthy, nutritious foods.

Once you have harnessed the power of visualisation, you can use it for almost anything. The more you use it, the more powerfully you’ll imprint the desired outcome in your mind and the more likely you are to actually achieve what you want. This, of course, goes hand in hand with actual preparation for the activity.

Visualisation can be used to prepare for any situation where you may come under extra pressure or need a positive outcome. The first part of the visualisation is to create a positive picture of the success of an event, such as imagining your friends and family coming up to you after your hearing and saying, “Congratulations, that was excellent.” The second part is to mentally rehearse the event in your mind. See yourself walking to the front of the room with a confident smile and body language, taking centre stage, and answering any and all questions perfectly. It is best to run through your major points in your mind. It should only take a few minutes the first time and then when you have done it several times, it will become easier.

The more you rehearse, the more you’ll reinforce your ability to achieve the results you want.

Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (One)

Living without stress is an impossibility in today’s world, unless you’ve found your own private island hideaway! The secret is in managing it.

Even the most easy-going of us experiences stress at different times and in varying degrees of intensity. So it’s helpful to understand the different types of stress.

  • Eustress is a type of stress that excites you, is fun and instigates motivation and energy, such as when you are dancing, playing a sport you love or even rushing off to some deadline you must keep.
  • Acute Stress is something everyone experiences; it is short-term and can be classed as positive or negative depending on the situation. Positive acute stress, like eustress, often relates to an enjoyable and exhilarating experience. Distressing acute stress, though, manifests as road rage or running late for an important appointment.
  • Episodic Acute Stress is when acute stress is running rampant in your life, often creating chaos. Some people appear to thrive on acute stress; they are often referred to as “drama queens”, many loving the attention it generates for them.
  • Chronic Stress is a long-standing stressful situation, such as working long hours for many weeks or months, constant sleep deprivation due to noisy neighbours or loud music, relationships that are draining and lacking harmony. This ongoing chronic stress leads to nerve/adrenal burnout and ill-health.

The ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered in stressful situations when the body releases hormones that help it to survive. In both humans and animals, these hormones are released to help you run faster and fight harder to survive. They also focus your attention on the threat, to the exclusion of everything else, thereby improving your ability to survive life threatening events.

Supposedly, part of our problem is that us FM sufferers are in this state permanently.

249. stressing out (1)Unfortunately, this effect on the body driven by the survival impulse has negative consequences. In this state, we are excitable, anxious, jumpy and irritable. It can make us experience trembling, a pounding heart and make it difficult to execute precise, controlled skills. The intensity of your focus on survival interferes with the ability to make sound judgments. As a result, you find yourself more accident-prone and less able to make clear accurate decisions – sound familiar?

There are very few situations in modern life where this response is actually useful. Most situations benefit from a calm, rational, controlled and socially sensitive approach.

We need to keep this ‘fight or flight’ response under control to effectively manage our condition.

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to look at some methods that you can use to manage stress, helping you to remain calm and effective.

Umm…What Exactly are Tender Points?

Tender points are one of the major characteristics of FM (along with all those others like widespread deep muscle pain, fatigue, and depression).

Tender points are pain points or localized areas of tenderness around joints, but not the joints themselves. These tender points hurt when pressed with a finger. Tender points are often not deep areas of pain. Instead, they are superficial areas seemingly under the surface of the skin, such as the area over the elbow or shoulder.

The actual size of the point of most tenderness is usually very small, about the size of the tip of your thumb. These areas are much more sensitive than other nearby areas. In fact, pressure on one of the tender points with a finger will cause pain that makes the person flinch or pull back. Tender points are scattered over the neck, back, chest, elbows, hips, buttocks, and knees.

The cause of these pressure points is not known. Even though it feels like these areas are inflamed, researchers have not found particular signs of inflammation when examining the tissue. What is known is that the locations of tender points are not random. They occur in predictable places on the body. That means many people with FM experience similar symptoms with tender points.

There are 18 tender points important for the diagnosis of FM (see illustration below).

These tender points are located at various places on your body. To get a medical diagnosis of FM, 11 of 18 tender point sites must be painful when pressed. In addition, the symptom of widespread pain must have been present for three months.

19. tender pointsYour doctor can test the painful tender points during an examination. Yet even with tender points, you need to tell your doctor about the exact pain you feel in those areas. You also need to tell the doctor about your other symptoms, such as deep muscle pain, fatiguesleep problemsdepression, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. It is often best you maintain a symptom diary/log and take it with you to your doctor (see Improving Patient-Doctor Communication)

If you don’t explain all your symptoms fully to your doctor, the doctor will not be able to effectively(?) treat the FM. As a result, you won’t get any relief from the chronic pain and other symptoms.

When a doctor tests tender points for pain, he or she will also check “control” points or other non-tender points on your body to make sure you don’t react to these as well. Some physicians use a special instrument called a ‘doximeter’ or ‘dolorimeter’ to apply just the right amount of pressure on tender points.

Pain management for tender points with FM involves a multifaceted treatment program that employs both conventional and alternative therapies. While the reason is not entirely clear, FM pain and fatigue sometimes respond to low doses of antidepressants. However, the treatment for FM and tender points involves medications, daily stress management, exercise, hydrotherapy using heat and ice, and rest. Other remedies for symptoms may also be used.