Qualification: Diploma in Stress Management, School of Natural Health Sciences
Everyone suffers from stress, so stress management can be of help to us all. For some of us, what stresses us occupies most of our waking lives, and it may disturb our sleep patterns or cause us nightmares, too. While stress in itself is not a bad thing, too much for too long can have a wide range of adverse effects on the human physiology – not to mention our psychology. As Caroline Myss so eloquently puts it – ‘your biography becomes your biology’.
Stress management is very much a case of mind over matter. The joke that says ‘if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter’ is truer than you know. Only what we care about and cannot let go of is capable of causing us stress!
I believe that health, happiness and well-being are the birthright of each and every person on the planet. Science is now beginning to prove, as complimentary therapists and eastern philosophies have long believed, that mind can influence matter, just as matter influences mind. Poor health can make us feel more pessimistic, irritable or anxious. But equally, pessimism, irritability or anxiety can, and often do, manifest in ill-health. Because of this, new methods of treatment are being pioneered that will enable people to treat mental health in the same ways as they would treat their physical health. Think healthy thoughts and you will be physically healthy – as long as you have no hidden, self-imposed barriers to health. But who among us does not?
Often we sabotage our own health and happiness – without knowing why or even that we are doing it – through beliefs and limitations we have picked up without being aware of them. The em’brace philosophy is not merely to treat the symptoms of stress, nor even just to give clients strategies to control their stress response, although these are included in the package of services offered, but also to counsel those clients who are willing to take the plunge into demolishing restrictive beliefs and barriers, to make their lives more joyful, productive and effective, both for themselves and for those around them.
For too long, the human race has rushed headlong towards its own destruction, and in the process we have forgotten who we are and why we are here. We do not exist solely to perpetuate our species, or to make money and enjoy material riches. From time to time we all find ourselves wondering why we are moving so fast; why we have no time for the things we most enjoy; why we neglect the most important elements of our lives for things which are so much less valuable to us. Relationships suffer, physical and mental health suffers, because we spend too much of our time and energy in answering the perceived demands of others. Stress management can help us take the time to slow down and examine our lives; we may find that we don’t need to live in the fast lane, and we can find time to smell the roses. When we stop trying to do what we believe others want of us, we will, ironically, find that we can more easily satisfy both ourselves and those who are important to us, with less effort and less stress. In other words, we will have achieved a much higher level of happiness and well-being.
You have the right to health and happiness—Embrace it!
Quick Tip for Stress Management
You’ll have seen it other places, but has anyone ever explained why breathing slowly and deeply helps relieve stress? No, I didn’t think so!
It’s simply this – you have within your lungs a series of ‘monitoring points’, that are constantly checking how fast and how deeply you’re breathing. The answers they supply to your brain provide the information that regulates your nervious system.
Your nervous system is in two parts – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic part is the one that readies you for the classic ‘fight or flight’ reaction – in other words, it’s the system that’s working overtime if you’re living in a stressful situation. The physiological effects are many, and include: less energy given to digestion and your immune system; tensing of muscles; production of stress hormones; flooding your body with glucose ready for use by your muscles. It doesn’t take much thought to work out that on a long-term basis, this can cause many unwanted side-effects – indigestion, even IBS; glucose intolerance or diabetes; tension headaches and migraines; and many others.
So what you need to do is get the parasympathetic nervous system to take over running your metabolism. That’s the part that reverses all the symptoms of stress and helps your whole body to relax. And that’s where slow, deep breathing comes in. Because when you breathe more slowly and deeply, the receptors in your lungs figure that now you’re relaxing, and they send a signal to your brain to shut down the sympathetic nervous system and power up the parasympathetic. That instantly starts to relax your muscles, allow your immune system and digestion to start working properly again, reduces the amount of glucose in your blood, and generally chill out.
Simple, really! But unless you knew that, would you really believe that such a quick and easy exercise as taking 3-5 deeper and slower breaths on a regular basis could have such a beneficial effect?