'Relaxation and Peace' Category Archive

Posted on Nov 23rd, 2006

"The great lesson from the true mystics, from the Zen Monks, and now also from the Humanistic and Transpersonal psychologists – that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s back yard, and that travel may be a flight from confronting the sacred – this lesson can be easily lost. To be looking elsewhere for miracles is to me a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous." - Abraham Maslow

An electronic search of Psychological Abstracts in psychology’s last 100 years reveals a 14 to 1 ratio of psychological articles about negative emotions versus positive emotions. The imbalance in research of negative versus positive makes it ever more important to ask the question, what does it mean to live the good life? Religious scholars to philosophers to modern day psychologists have pondered the perennial question of what it means to live well. In the past few decades there has been a considerable surge in interest and research on the phenomena of well-being. Distilled through the years, subjective well-being (SWB)and psychological well-being (PWB)have emerged as the most prominent concepts in mainstream research. SWB focuses more on positive/negative affect and life satisfaction while PWB is concerned with meaning, purpose, and existential issues. Through empirically validated studies, research in each field has created operationalized, well validated constructs of well-being (Diener, 1984; Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996; Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Keyes, 1995).

Empirical research suggests that, in considering an approach to pursuing a lifestyle conducive to good overall health and well-being, an important factor is cultivating a sense of sacredness in one’s life. Recent studies show a high positive correlation between cognitive and affective aspects of the sacred and well-being. Some studies suggest that connecting with the transcendent and experiencing a transcendent sense of self foster well-being. Other studies find that well-being is positively correlated with a sense of support from the transcendent in areas such as marriage, parenting,healthy family relationships, and sustaining physical health. Emmons and McCullough (2003) applied a new intervention that focuses on fostering gratitude and linked it to life satisfaction and a sense of purpose in life. Furthermore, cognitive and affective components associated with the sacred have positive correlations among themselves, implying that when experiencing one aspect, others may be felt at the same time. These studies underscore the concept that there is a significant positive connection between what are considered sacred components of life and well-being and a negative connection to stress. It can therefore be argued that an intervention cultivating these sacred components may increase well-being and reduce stress.

Sacred Qualities and Sacred Moments

A large body of theory has described a broad spectrum of experiences that may or may not be considered a sacred moment. The key aspect of a sacred moment, as defined and described in this study, is that it is a moment in time that is imbued with sacred qualities. For the purposes of this study, sacred qualities are defined as having two components: (a) they inherently possess spiritual qualities as defined by Lynn Underwood and the World Health Organization, such as gratefulness, feeling of connection with and support from the transcendent, sweet-sadness, awe, compassion, and/or a deep sense of inner peace, and (b) they are imbued with qualities such as precious, dear, blessed, cherished, and/or holy. Consequently, for the purposes of this study, sacred moments are defined as day-to-day personal moments that are imbued with sacred qualities, which seem like time-outs from daily busy-ness, where a sense of stillness arises or occurs and where concerns of the every day just seem to evaporate. In other words, in order to experience a sacred moment, the moment needs to be imbued by the individual with these sacred qualities. Although extraordinary mystical experiences could also be considered sacred moments, the focus of this research is on those more ordinary day-to-day experiences.

After defining these moments, it seems important to find a way to cultivate them. A core aspect in cultivating these moments is being able to attend to the present moment. Different methods have been developed over the last decade to help the individual control attention, including; hypnosis, biofeedback, and gestalt therapy. Currently, the most applicable and prolific field of study attending to the present moment is mindfulness. Mindfulness has been defined as a method of focusing attention on the present as it occurs. Learning how to train the mind and body to be in the present moment is critical to being aware of what is sacred in the moment.

Studying the effects of sacred moments on people’s lives could serve to add understanding and knowledge for practical ways to increase well-being while providing a possible therapeutic alternative to treating stress. A serious need exists for programs that promote well-being in both psychologically healthy and unhealthy individuals. It is important to understand whether aspects of sacred moments can be cultivated as a therapeutic intervention and consequently whether their cultivation can contribute to a reduction in rising medical costs associated with stress. Current research is quick to point out that rising amount of stress in western society is due to the increasing complexity of responsibilities and events (i.e., 9/11). Stress is a precursor to anxiety, and approximately 19 million Americans are afflicted with some type of anxiety disorder today.

Furthermore, disorders such as anxiety critically impact quality of life and well-being. Although current research is working towards discovering factors that influence well-being, there is still a pattern of sidestepping the qualities of sacred moments in reference to mental health and well-being. With the field’s persistent emphasis on techniques toward mental health that do not explicitly involve the sacred and the transcendent, it seems critical to continue to tap this area for its value to psychology.

Psychology is becoming more interested in those moments that transcend and include the ego, are non-ordinary, and are personal. Arthur Hastings, a leading Transpersonal Psychologist points out:

"These experiences are usually defined as going beyond the ordinary sense of identity or personality to encompass wider dimensions of the psyche and the cosmos. This can include experiences of intense love, enhanced perception, a sense of merging into a more comprehensive identity, spiritual and religious experiences, psychic awareness. . . . Other definitions suggest that transpersonal means optimal health and well-being, holistic development of the self and the psychology of transformation."

Both sacred moments and well-being are suggested in Hasting’s description of transpersonal psychology. A study of sacred moments could aspire to bring transpersonal psychology out into the mainstream of psychology and bring mainstream thought into the transpersonal realm.

Questions

1. What effects does the cultivation of sacred moments have on subjective well-being, psychological well-being, and stress.

2. What are the people’s experiences of having sacred moments? What helps the cultivation of these moments and what hinders the cultivation of these moments in daily life? The recent surge of interest in well-being has brought a serious need for interventive strategies.

*** There is currently a study that is about to begin that explores the affects on sacred moments on daily life.

IF you are interested in learning how to potentially cultivate more of these moments in your life, please check out http://sacredmomentstudy.blogspot.com

Elisha Goldstein holds an M.A. in Psychology and is a 4th year doctoral student at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto. He is currently exploring how the cultivation of sacred moments in daily life affects well-being and stress. If you would consider participating in this invaluable study, please go to http://sacredmomentstudy.blogspot.com You can also check out http://mindfulmoments.blogspot.com

Posted on Nov 5th, 2006

When was the last time that you truly took a mental break from work? Many of us in North America are now getting out our calendars to gear up for summer vacations, so it’s timely to discuss how we use our “downtime” to enhance our ability to excel in our businesses and our workplaces.

The book The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, 2003, uses an enlightening analogy from their studies of world-class athletes. They remind us that muscles are grown most effectively by stretching beyond the limits of comfort and then allowing them to recover. Alternating activity with periods of rest is a training method used by elite athletes throughout the world. To quote Loehr and Schwartz, “The key to expanding capacity is to both push beyond one’s ordinary limits and to regularly seek recovery, which is when growth actually occurs.”

What are you doing to ensure optimum stretch AND recovery of your mental muscles?

Looked at this way, it’s not that difficult to buy-in intellectually to this principle. It makes sense that our creativity flows best when we are refreshed. It’s logical that our ideas are more focused when our minds are sharp. We know that we are better able to “pour it on” in times of crisis when we have energy reserves to drawn on. So what gets in our way of acting on this principle?

Somewhere along the way we started to equate being available to our customers, clients and employees with being “responsible” and almost “noble”. We joke about our workaholic tendencies with an odd sense of pride.

I have certainly caught myself in this game. The light bulb went on for me when I looked at how my behaviour matches my values. It has been helpful for me to ask myself, “How am I modelling the success that I want for my clients?” and, “Is this really what being responsible looks like?”

When the pressure is on, it’s easy to slip. We need anchors to hang onto that are core to us, not a list of “shoulds”. Compromising our vacation and recovery time can compromise the integrity we model with our employees and our colleagues (let alone our families and friends). Integrity might be one of your anchors.

How might your own values help you stay committed to the practice of rejuvenation?

Clearly, running on fumes doesn’t cut it. The demands of today’s businesses are too high and customer expectations too great. We owe it to our businesses, our employers and our customers alike to be functioning in top form. We owe it to our employees to rely on them in our absence. When others take vacations, we need to show respect for the value of disconnecting from work. And we particularly owe it to ourselves to build in recovery, so that we can be our most creative and highly contributing selves when we get back to work.

As you look ahead to summertime…

What action can you take today to be accountable for building rejuvenation into your plans over the next 3 months?

Susan Edwards is President of Development by Design, a Business & Leadership Coaching and Human Resources Consulting firm. Her Coaching clients are high potential leaders and profitable business owners who are redefining the terms of their success and taking their impact to a new level. She consults to Fortune 500 companies and smaller entrepreneurial organizations who are also committed to creating extraordinary impact with their customers, employees and shareholders. One of the niches of her practice is supporting new leaders and senior professionals in successfully transitioning into new organizations and “clearing the 90-day hurdle”. She is authoring a self-coaching workbook to support people in effectively navigating this transition. Visit Sue at http://www.development-by-design.com

Posted on Oct 26th, 2006

WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS

Experts in the stress management field have traditionally found it difficult to pinpoint how much stress is optimum. A very recent study, carried out by the University of Ohio, showed the relationship really depended on your definition of performance. In this study, subjects’ ability to recall simple facts seemed to improve as their stress increased, while their ability to think flexibly and apply those facts to new situations deteriorated.

This is interesting for those of us who learned back in basic stress management theory that the relationship between stress and performance always followed an inverted ‘U’-shaped curve. The top of this curve is our optimal stress level. Insufficient stress will leave us feeling bored, tired and lethargic. The closer our stress levels to that ‘optimal stress’ point, the more excited and enthused we become about our work and our lives. Once we get beyond that optimum level, however, things start going downhill fairly quickly. All manner of negative stress responses kick in, and our performance starts to decline.

Unfortunately, useful as both the new research and the old concept are in terms of general understanding, they’re equally frustrating for those of us who are looking for practical ways to optimise our performance. Even if experts could agree on the relationship between stress and performance, it still wouldn’t tell us where our own optimal levels stress lay, because stress responses are so individual.

FOCUSSING ON THE EFFECTS

If we want a practical guide to optimising our performance, it’s probably more useful to step away from the research and redirect our focus. In the same way as we’ve been taught to ‘know a tree by its fruit’, perhaps the most practical way we discover our optimal stress is to look at the effects. We know that a limited level of stress can have positive effects on our performance, including:

- Motivation to start new projects
- Motivation to finish them on time
- Motivation to produce higher quality work
- The feeling that comes with conceptualising tasks as challenges that can be met

At the same time, we also have well documented cases of too much stress leading to:

- Lack of concentration
- Procrastination and demotivation
- Anxiety and/or insomnia
- Emotional overreacting (irritability or tearfulness)

If we focus on these effects, we can identify our optimum stress level by looking at our current performance and motivation levels. It’s not always easy to be objective. Sometimes asking for a second opinion from a friend or colleague can help. Other times a little time spent reflecting – journaling or just thinking it through alone - may be all that’s needed.

Either way, it’s important to look at what stressors are present, and where performance and motivation levels are. It can also be helpful to look at whether there have been any noticeable shifts in either recently, and what events or changes were taking place at the same time (whether or not they felt like stressors at the time)

Once we have a feel for what stressors we’ve been facing, and how we’re really performing, we’re in a better position to understand the relationship between stress and performance in our lives. And once we understand that, ensuring the right level of stress for optimum performance becomes a matter of details.

Copyright 2005 Tanja Gardner

Optimum Life’s Tanja Gardner is a Stress Management Coach and Personal Trainer whose articles on holistic health, relaxation and spirituality have appeared in various media since 1999. Optimum Life is dedicated to providing fitness and stress management services to help clients all over the world achieve their optimum lives. For more information please visit check out http://optimumlife.co.nz, or contact Tanja on tanja@stressmanagementarticles.com.

Posted on Oct 18th, 2006

Conceptualizing stress: Stress often has a negative connotation. Failure, illnesses, distress are often marked as stress. Stress can also be a result of factors like job promotion, transfers, first love and the like.

Ivancevich and Matteson (1980) defined stress as an adaptive response mediated by individual characteristics or psychological process that is a consequence of any internal action, situation or event that places special physical or psychological demands upon the person. Hans Selye’s (1974) pioneering work shed light on stress, and introduced the concept of stress into scientific circle. As seen above different psychologists have given different definitions to stress. Bourne and Ekstrand (1982) define stress as “any state during which the body tends to mobilize its resources and during which it utilizes more energy that originally would produce.” According to Shanmugham (1981) stress is any condition that strains the coping capacities of the person.

Stress can also lead to physical disorders because the internal body system changes in order to cope with stress. Some physical disorders have short term effect such as an upset of stomach and others have longer term effects such as stomach ulcer. Stress over a prolonged time also leads to degenerative disease of hear, kidneys, blood vessels and others parts of the body. Researches have revealed certain personality variables which make the individual to be more vulnerable to stress. Certain occupations were also found offering more stress. Lachman (1983) has cited examples of experiencing higher work stress by nurses in intensive care units as compared to those on general duty. Dharmangadan (1988) reported that policeman score significantly higher on stress than other occupational groups. Irrespective of the wide research attacks and theoretical contemplation, the field of stress lacks an integrative frame work which can explain the majority of research results in a logical and theoretical manner (Cooper, 1983).

Several studies have attempted to identify and explore different areas and dimensions of stress. (Pestonjee, 1992, Balagangadharan and Bhagavathy, 1997). Most widely used instruments to assess stress include schedule of Recent Experiences (Holmes and Rahe, 1967) Personal Stress Assessment Inventory (Kindler, 1981) and Life Experience Survey (Sarason et al.1979).Different methodological issues in stress assessment are discussed in Rabkin and Struening (1986). Sarason et al. (1978) has concluded that a measure of life stress should possess three characteristics, a) It should include a list of events experienced by the population being investigated. b) It should allow rating by respondent themselves. c) It should allow for individualized rating of the personal impact of the events experienced.

Based on the writing of James (1982), Sutherland and Cooper (1990) and Pohorecky (1991) the investigator identified 8 areas of stress measures the global stress of the individual subject.

1. Stress as a predisposition: The concept of viewing stress as a predisposition evolved over many years in response to experimental findings, clinical observation, theory formulation and prospective validation. Friedman and Roseman (1974) Observed a pattern of behavior particularly in young coronary patients, which later came to be known as Type A Behavior. Type A people are those who are engaged in a relatively chronic struggle to obtain more and more in shorter time.

2. Source of stress in family: House can be a potential source of stress. Both regular and unexpected situations demand adaptive and coping style of the individual. Interpersonal relationships, marriage, communication barriers, unexpected incidents like shifting of the residence, illness or bereavement of a family member add stress to persons.

3. Source stress in occupation: Occupation is another potential source of stress. Regular situations like taking up a risky job, which is against the interest. Working for low wages. Insecurity of job, lack of appraisal from the employer, receiving contradictory directions from higher authorities are stressful to any individual. Along with these, loss of employment, delayed payments and strained interpersonal relations among the colleagues also cause stress.

4. Subjective assessment of situations: Individual’s subjective assessment about a situation is important in labeling a situation as stressful. A situation which is highly stressful for a person, for example a transfer in job, may be viewed as an opportunity to meet new people and see new places by another.

5. Somatic outcomes of stress: Somatic outcomes like migraine headache, angina, loss of appetite, constipation, respiratory problems, excessive sweating are often regarded as indices of stress.

6. Psychological outcomes: Psychological outcomes like insomnia, nightmares, irritability, and hopelessness, anger towards criticism, anxiety,

tiredness, excessive smoking and substances abuse can be counted as to reflect stress. 7. Specific patterns of responding to stress: Individual’s patterns of response to stress are an indicator of his personality. Some persons show hatred and irritability in stressful situations whereas same others become desperate and confessing.

8. Engagement in tension reduction activities: In day to day life, people come across a number of situations which arouse stress. Deliberate or unconscious desire to get out of stress is obvious in the in creased rate of interest shown in sports and games, joining clubs, rearing of pets, watching movies etc.

SELECTION OF ITEMS

On the basis of related literature and detailed discussion with experts in the field, it was planned to construct an inventory to measure stress on a five point scale. 15 to 20 items were constructed on each area of stress evolved in the discussions. Maximum care was taken to see that each item corresponds to the specific area under which it was constructed and they do not overlap each other.

The listed items were constructed in the form of statements. Each statement was related to situation creating or resulting in subjective experience of stress. Altogether 140 statements were constructed and the following precautions were taken while constructing the test items.

1. Each item was constructed in simple Malayalam so that it could be easily understood.

2. Careful attention was taken to make the items free from the factor of social desirability.

3. Sufficient care was paid to see that each item was closely related to stress.

4. In order to control the acquiescence set of subjects, items were constructed in both positive and negative forms.

Tryout

The test items were randomly arranged and were applied to an unselected group of 50 school teachers. No time limit was given to the subjects and they were asked to read carefully each of the items and express their own opinion in terms of any of the five alternatives, ‘fully agree’ ‘agree’, ‘undecided’, ‘disagree’ ‘fully disagree’ as the case may be. They were also asked to mention, if the statements were either vague or different in respect of their meanings. The test items were again checked on the basis of the responses obtained in the tryout. Statement which belonged to any of the following categories was dropped.

1. Statements which were responded to either favorably or unfavorably almost invariably.

2. Statements which elicited a high proposition of ‘undecided’ responses.

3. Statements which were considered difficult or vague.

Thus, out of the 140 items, 28 items were rejected totally. The remaining 112 statements were given to teachers of Psychology to judge the clarity and face validity of each item. In the light of their judgment 11 more items were dropped and the rest 101 items were retained for final tryout and item analysis. Item analysis.

ITEM ANALYSIS

The item analysis of 101 items on the response of a sample of 300 college students was made on a Liker type 5 point scale ranging from ‘fully agree’ through ‘undecided’ to ‘fully disagree’. Response score of each individual was summed across 101 items. (After converting negative item score to positive). 75 high scoring and 75 low scoring subjects were screened out. These two extreme groups were used to check the discriminative indices of each of the adopting the criterion of internal consistency suggested by Likert (1932). t-value was calculated to compare the mean scores of two extreme groups on each item. All the t values are given in appendices. Those items whose t values were significant at 0.01 level were retained in the inventory. Thus 66 items were selected for the final form.

RELIABILITY

In order to ascertain the reliability of the inventory, internal consistency as determined by split half method was calculated on the basis of responses given by a sample of 50 college students. The product moment co-efficient of internal consistency as corrected by Spearman- Brown formula was found to be 0.74. To test the temporal consistency, the inventory was administered to the same of 50 college students after 4 weeks. Test-retest coefficient of correlation was found to be 0.79 and temporal consistency to be 0.88.

VALIDITY

To ascertain whether HSI was a valid tool, the content validity was determined. The items were given to five teachers in Psychology (as mentioned earlier) who had sufficient orientation and experience in this area. They read every item and judged carefully the degree of stress expressed by each. For this purpose the judges were given a table in which they were required to place every item under one of the following 5 categories, fully agree/agree/undecided/disagree/fully disagree. Judges were also requested to mention such items which were either not well worded or difficult to understand. On the basis of their opinion only 101 items were subjected to item analysis and out of them 66 items which full filled the criteria were finally included in the inventory.

Dr. Hari S.Chandran, M.Phil (Psy), Ph.D, PGDPC is working as Cons. Psychologist ,Department of Deaddiction&Mental Health,St.Gregorios Mission Hospital, Parumala. Kerala, dr_hari@sancharnet

REFERENCES

Balagangadaran, A and Bhagavathy, K.A, A study of personality and perceived risk factors in CHD, Paper presented in Seminar on stress and stress management, Dept.of Psychology, University of Kerala, 1997 Bourne, E.L and Ekstrand, G. Psychology, London: CBS College Pub., 1982

Cooper, CL, Stress Research, issues for Eighties. New York: John Wiley, 1983

Dharmangadan B., Stress at work-A comparison of five occupations, Psychological studies, 1988, 162-69.

Holmes.TH and Rahe, The Social readjustment scale, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1967 (11) 211-218

Ivancevich J.M and Matterson, Stress at work. Scot. Foresman, 1980. James, CN, Introduction to medical Psychology New York; Free press, 1982.

Kindler, H.A, Personal Stress Assessment inventory, New York : Center for management effectiveness, 1981

Lachman.V.D, Stress Management-A Manual for Nurses, New York: Grune and Stratton Inc, 1983.

Likert.R ,Technique for measurement of attitude scales, Archieves of Psychology, New York, 1932.

Pehoreeky.L.A, Stress and alcohol interaction, An update Human Research, Journal of Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research 1991 (3) 438-59.

Pestonjee D.M, Stress and coping: The Indian experience, New Delhi, Sagar pub.1992

Rabkin J.G and Struening.E.L. Life events, Stress and illness, Science 1986, 1013-020

Sarason I.G, Assessing the impact of life Changes in stress and anxiety (Ed)

Sarason, IG. London: Hemisphere Pub.Co.1979

Selye H.A, The stress without Distress, Philadelphia: Lippincot, 1974. Shanmugham, T.E, Abnormal Psychology, New Delhi: TMH Pub. Co.1981

Sutherland.V.J and Cooper.C.L, understanding stress: A Psychological perspective for Health professionals, London: Chapman and Hall 1990.

Dr. Hari S. Chandran

Posted on Oct 15th, 2006

"We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing." -unknown

Spontaneous Play

The phone company has been working in our neighborhood installing new cables. Two weeks ago, during part of an early morning installation, they hit a major power line and cut power and phone service to 600 homes. The repair crew estimated that it would take two days to restore the power and phone service. I was in the middle of several large business projects. Since I office at home, my first thought when this happened was, “what can I do without access to my computer and emails?" I caught myself before I went too far down this path and shifted my focus to "what was the opportunity in this situation?"

Often what we label as problems are really opportunities. In the Chinese language the same character is used for both a crisis or problem and an opportunity. Another way of looking at this is different sides of the same coin. So when I "flipped" to the other side of the coin, I immediately saw this situation as an opportunity to play! It reminded me of the "snow days" we used to have in school; when we had an excuse not to go to school and instead we could play in the snow.

I really needed a break from the projects and with this spontaneous gift; I decided to fully enjoy myself. Instead of worrying about all the things I “should” be doing, I decided to listen to my heart. I took a long walk and then sat outside and finished a novel. I met a friend for a leisurely lunch and browsed stores that I had been wanting to explore. I purchased spontaneous gifts to surprise loved ones. By early evening the power was restored but not before I had experienced a wonderful, energizing day!

I learned two things from this day. The first was to quickly shift to see the opportunity in an apparent problem. The second was the benefit of spontaneous play. After the much needed break, I returned more creative and revitalized for my projects.

Where do you need a break in your life right now? Are there some opportunities disguised as problems? Look at something you are labeling as a problem right now. If you ‘flipped the coin’, what is the opportunity in the situation? Watch for the signs that your need a break: frustration, short-tempered, low energy, no motivation. What would happen to your outlook, creativity and energy if you had a day or hour to follow your heart? Think of something fun you would love to do if you had an unexpected break and then create one!

Vicki Miller Copyright July 2005

As a Life Transition Coach I work with clients to identify what’s most important to them and prioritize around these values. I help my clients identify and remove obstacles in the way and bring clarity and focus to their dreams. What is your dream? Are you undergoing a major transition and not clear where to turn? Call (972-306-4489) or email me, (coach.v.miller@stressmanagementarticles.com), to set up a complimentary, no obligation 30 minute coaching session. Download my FREE e-Book, 12 Fun Ways to Change Your Life, or sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at http://www.thrivingthroughchange.com

Posted on Oct 14th, 2006

At what age does the benefit of play cease? Child development experts agree that play is very important in the learning and emotional development of all children. But do we ever grow out of a need for play? I answer with an emphatic no. All the benefits of play continue into adulthood. Would you like to enjoy the following benefits daily?

- Experience fun and joy

- Further develop skills such as reading, problem solving, and strength & flexibility

- Work through emotions and develop values and ethics

- Improve your feelings of self-worth

- Better understanding of the world around you

- Develop social skills and deeper relationships

That’s just a short list of what experts say children gain when they play. Humanity has robed itself of humanity when play is removed from our lives. As we age we continue to learn and grow. In some ways we are always children. Exploration and discovery should not end when we become adults. If anything, play should become more exciting and expansive.

Let me apply this to the work world. If you take a little time to play with your tools and explore what they can do, you will find yourself becoming more efficient and skilled with them. The quality of your work will increase because you’ve been honoring recess and allowing your sub-conscious mind to get involved in the problem solving. Your job will continue to excite you because you will always be finding something new.

In addition, play is a stress relief. If you keep a bow constantly strung up, it will lose it’s spring and cease to function. If you continue to tighten the stings on an instrument, they will eventually break and there will be no more music. Playing allows you to loosen the strings and maintain your flexibility. Without play, we can become so focused on one thing that we sacrifice all other possibilities. Concentrate too hard on a single tree trunk long enough and not only will you miss the forest, you’ll miss the approaching forest fire!

Take a little time and have some fun today. It will not matter what you accomplish in life, if in the end you never enjoyed it.

Dare to Soar with Carolyn Frances,
Life Coach & Spiritual Guide,
http://www.ClaimingGreatness.cc

Posted on Oct 13th, 2006

Seventy-five percent of all our problems – both emotional and physical problems – come from the same source. If you could identify that source, would you want to eliminate it?

For most people, the answer is obvious. Unfortunately, few people are able to identify the core of their problems. And those who do typically don’t know the steps to take to alleviate their challenges.

So what is the course of most of our problems? It is stress. That’s right; stress is the source of 75 percent of all our problems and a major epidemic in people’s lives. Finding ways to control stress is vital, because if your don’t control stress, it will control you.

What Exactly Is Stress?

The concept of stress isn’t new to anyone. But few people truly know what stress is. Physical stress is the depletion of the body’s resources by illness or exhaustion. The most devastating stress, however, is psychological and emotional stress. There are many sources of emotional stress: family problems, social obligations, life changes, work, decision making, phobias, etc.

Emotional stress is powerful and debilitating because it takes away any sense of control we have over our lives. And this feeling of control over our environment and our self is one of our most basic human needs. If it isn’t met, emotional or physical illness can result. For example, a number of studies directly link stress and heart disease.

The only wan to combat stress and stay healthy is to create a complete physical, mental and spiritual equilibrium within the body. Although we used to believe that the mind and body are two separate entities, we now know that all facets of our being are interconnected. Everything that happens to your body and your mind affects your health and stress level in some way. Every thought you have, every feeling and emotion you experience affects your longevity. That is why you must take a total body approach to eliminate stress and balance your life.

Physical And Emotional Stress Relief

If you want to reduce your stress level and live a happier and healthier life, use the physical and emotional stress relief techniques outlined below.

Physical Relief

· Say No

The pressure to perform in today’s world is intense. As a result, people work long hours and take on much more than they can bear. They juggle multiple roles throughout the day and sacrifice sleep or personal time just so they can get everything done. Saying “no” to a demand is out of the question, resulting in increased stress, both at work and at home.

Unfortunately, for most people, saying “no” to another’s request is a challenge. They are anxious to please others, so they put their own needs aside. They fail to realize that no one can be on call 24 hours a day, and that we all need some personal time to rest and rejuvenate.

The next time someone demands more than you can give, remember that you have to take care of yourself first. You simply can’t handle everything. Say “no” gracefully while respecting the other person and letting him or her know that you care. While you may feel some initial guilt for denying the request that feeling will quickly pass and your stress level diminishes.

· Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body helps you take control of your stress

because you become aware of the signals your body gives you regarding comfort and discomfort. Once you’re attuned to what your body is telling you, you can learn which events trigger stress and which events reduce it. Your body talks to you everyday. How often do you listen?

The most common warning of too much stress is a condition called angina. Angina consists of chest pain or tightness in the neck, arms, jaw, and upper back that is the result of a reduced blood supply to the heart. Other indicators of excessive emotional stress are arrhythmias or irregular heartbeat.

In order to listen to your body, you must become responsible for your health and your stress. Having trust in your doctors or in medical tests is now enough. The real solution lies with you and with your own awareness and responsibility for your health. This responsibility may involve doing some things that are difficult for you, such as changing your diet, stopping smoking, learning to control emotions, etc. Whatever change is necessary for you, your body will tell you. You need only to listen.

Physical Relief

· Communicate With Your Heart

Your heart has an important job, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body each day. This merits the heart receiving your attention. To reduce emotional stress your heart needs encouragement, appreciation, and love.

Start your heart talk, your communication with your heart, by placing your right hand over the left side of your chest. Become aware of your heartbeat. Stay in that position for a few moments. Soon you’ll notice that the heating sensation becomes less forceful. It is as if your heart knows that you’re in touch with it. With your hand still over your chest ask your heart to help you be peaceful. Ask your heart to create an emotional shield that protects you from whatever the world around you may be fighting with.

Within your heart is an infinite intelligence that is sensitive to your needs. So pose a question to your heart or discuss a problem that’s causing you stress. Your heart will reciprocate with the proper answer. By doing this, you are telling your creative mind to quiet down so you can uncover new solutions to your problems. The more you become aware of your heart and what it tells you to do, the less stress you will experience. You will achieve a sense of peace and calmness knowing that you are doing what is best for you.

· Clear Out the Past Clutter

Just as you do a spring cleaning of your house, you should also do a spring cleaning of your heart to wipe away the old memories and messages that are causing you stress. This is important, because the way we fell from moment to moment, the way we behave, and the actions we take are all conditioned to how we feel inside.

Negative feelings that we harbor from our past – feelings of loneliness, feelings of low self-worth, feelings of sadness, worry, and fear – cause a great deal of emotional stress in our adult lives. It’s similar to carrying a weight on your back. The weight becomes heavier and heavier. You eventually have to walk bent over because the weight is excessive, but you are still not willing to let it go. As you clear out the chatter, you let go of the weight; you regain a sense of peace and are able to walk upright again.

To discover the past chatter that’s causing you stress, think back over your life and identify the most painful experience you have had – the one you thought you needed to hide from the world. What was that mistake or event? What message did the event trigger in your mind? Acknowledge the event, forgive yourself for it, and then release it and the accompanying stress from your heart.

Stress-Free Today

If you want to eliminate 75 percent of your physical and emotional problems, you must first reduce the stress you feel in your life. By practicing the self-communication strategies explained above, you can take the steps to talk yourself out of daily stress. When you do, you’ll gain a sense of balance and inner peace that enables you to accomplish more, enjoy life, and live your dreams.

Bruno Cortis, M.D., is a cardiologist with a major interest in Spirituality and Health. He authored two books, The Spiritual Heart and also Heart & Soul. He is a member of NSA, Illinois Chapter and he delivers speeches and seminars across North America.

You can visit Dr. Cortis at http://www.BrunoCortis.com or e-mail him at DrCortis@stressmanagementarticles.com. His telephone number is 708-366-0117.

Posted on Oct 9th, 2006

During the Katrina Hurricane disaster, I read about a couple who migrated from Louisiana to the State of Florida. They were very fortunate that their home and cars were untouched but because of the threat of disease due to flooding and the lack of drinking water, they were forced to leave. The husband was in the Navy and he, his wife, children and what belongings they could salvage to stay with a friend. Their car was parked in a lot within view of their motel dwelling unit. The next morning, the wife noticed that the car was missing and another parked in its place. They had placed over $10,000 worth of their belongings in the vehicle. Later, the car was found and returned without too much damage but their belongings were gone including his Navy uniforms. He said that he was beginning to feel angry bit realized that he could do nothing about the occurrence. Then he indicated that he needed all the energy he could muster to do what needed to be done for his wife and children in light of the circumstances.

A “double whammy”! How much stress can people endure? In my research and work with people to help them manage the stress in their lives, I was always amazed at the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of misfortune. Although they were hard pressed to realize it because of the trauma of whatever befell them, most people demonstrated amazing strength and endurance. It seems that the thrust of the stress that they experience enables them to muster their resources in a manner so as to deal forthrightly with whatever the circumstances might be. It might be after the fact that they will feel very vulnerable and incapable of functioning for a time but not during the episode.

I remember a time when, as a new parent, I could hear my son thrashing in his bed upstairs shortly after we had put him up for the night. I ran up the stairs two at a time to find that he was having a convulsive seizure as a result of a spiked temperature. Now, I had never experienced anything like this before but somehow I remembered reading about placing the child in the bathtub in lukewarm water. My wife followed me upstairs and although she was a pediatric nurse, she panicked. I told her to tend to the child while I drew the bathwater. I took him from her and placed him in the tub, splashing the water over his body in a methodical manner. In the meantime, she ran to a neighbor’s home for help. When they returned, my son was fine and I handed him over to my wife who had since calmed down. However as I sat on the tub’s edge, I began to feel faint and my neighbor grabbed me to stabilize my balance so that I wouldn’t fall into the tub.

How interesting! I don’t know how I remembered reading that piece about how to treat a convulsive reaction but I know it had been some time previous to the incident that I did. I don’t know how I had the presence of mind to calmly implement the solution in the midst of what was a very frightening episode but I did. I don’t know why my wife was prone to panic while I was calm and why I “folded” when she recovered but it all happened as I described it. Now, I know that the endorphins that come into play offer a physiological explanation but there is also a psychological element that takes over enabling those kinds of reactions as well.

I would define stress as the result of an event that occurs over which we have little or no control. It would seem that the keyword here is “control”. The more that we need to maintain our need to be in control, the less able we are to deal with whatever the stress is that might come our way. The reason for this is that our control tends to limit our ability to accept what has happened “for what it is”…something that is quite necessary in order to bring whatever forces to bear that are necessary in order to deal with a given situation. The reality of the occurrence is, of course, very difficult to accept…perhaps even to imagine as with the Katrina disaster. However, it did happen! Once we can accept reality for what it really is, we can then begin to apply whatever remedies to the occurrence that might be necessary.

Many of us, though, have a great deal of difficulty accepting reality and try to change it…if only in our minds and emotions. We call that avoidance. It’s like a “temporary fix” that helps us to feel better for a short period of time…or maybe even for a long period of time. Avoidance is a normal, natural phenomenon that allows us to recover from certain traumas. However, I’m not talking about an initial psychological reaction to stress. I’m talking about those who tend to use avoidance as a “way of life” that can severely interfere with their life adjustment/management process. We need to be aware that avoidance doesn’t change the reality of what happened at all and, if time is of the essence in dealing with a situation, then we’ve “boxed ourselves in” by doing that.

Sometimes we can practice a sense of avoidance from the time we are very young. Perhaps a vignette about a man that I worked with will illustrate more this point more effectively.

VIGNETTE

He was the eldest of seven children in a family that demonstrated very little emotion in their relationships with one another. A particularly important facet of his growing up was the manner in which his father treated his mother. She had a drinking problem and was constantly belittled by her husband in the children’s presence. As a result, the children had little respect for her either as a mother or as a person. Essentially, she was persona non grata in the family. My client unknowingly brought that sense of a woman’s role into his adult life.

He was a very good athlete but no one from his family ever came to any of the many competitive sports in which he engaged. To add insult to injury, on one occasion he tried out for the school basketball team and was invited to be a part of the newly picked team’s introduction to the student body. Everyone who was to make up the team was introduced and recognized except for him. This was just one more experience that reinforced his sense of not being “good enough”.

He dated several women before he met his wife. His description of those relationships tended to approximate the treatment of women to which he was accustomed. His wife-to-be was a very attractive, warm, loving, intelligent and expressive woman. As it turned out, both partners had some reservations about whether to get married because of the problems that he had expressing feelings and attuning himself to her emotions. However, love prevailed and they married despite those reservations. Now, several years into the marriage with children, the problems persist on an even more intensive level. Despite several suggestions made for him to try, it proved to be extremely difficult for him to relate to her on an emotional level despite his deep love for her. The issues that were discussed would leave him feeling very vulnerable and exhausted. He would often say that he was overwhelmed by it all and felt that when his wife would let him know what she needed that he wasn’t “good enough” and rejected by her.

Essentially, he never resolved the feelings he had in reserve regarding his relationship to his mother. Even as an adult, he would avoid her in much the same manner in which he avoided his wife’s expressing her emotional needs to him. In addition, the guilt that he unknowingly suffered as a result of his treatment of his mother did not allow him to change the adult pattern that plagued him and their relationship. This was truly a sad situation especially in light of the love that each partner felt for the other. It is, however, an example of how avoidance can be carried on for many years resulting in the pattern becoming so rigidified that changing it was nearly impossible. Thankfully, the couple resolved their differences and did not split. Fortunately, the wife was not only supportive but insistent that her husband “come around” to deal with his feelings toward her which he was able to do albeit with great difficulty

And so, as we experience stress one of the vital issues demanding our attention is the role that our emotions play in any given situation. Despite the fact that we may have dealt with all of the other factors surrounding the event, if we don’t pay attention to the feelings that we experience, there cannot be complete resolution. I have an adolescent granddaughter living in Vermont who is going through some relationship problems. She uttered these words in an e-mail: “Life can be sooooooo hard at times.” I replied that that was a true statement but “sometimes we tend to make it much harder.” I also pointed out that instead of her looking to others to tell her what the “right thing” to do might be that she “make herself proud” by listening to her feelings instead. Maybe we all need to practice that philosophy.

REFER TO PREVIOUS BIO

Posted on Oct 8th, 2006

Perhaps it’s due to a boss who seems to be making unreasonable demands. Or it’s the result of a co-worker who seems to routinely pass her work onto you. Or maybe you’re in a profession where tension is great, such as medicine or law. While a little bit of stress on the job can be healthy, too much can be a killer—literally. It’s been shown that there appears to be a direct correlation between stress and heart disease.

As a result of this, it is important that you learn to deal effectively with stress on the job. This can be difficult, because a number of stress-inducing factors may be out of your control. For instance, you have no say in who your boss is or who your customers are. You may not be able to determine when you start your day, or how much time you have for lunch.

Are you one of those people who wishes you had a 30-hour day? Do you long for having enough time to homeschool your children, cook gourmet meals, tend a garden, care for a large, five-bedroom house, play the piano, and sit by the fire reading a good book? The fact of the matter is many Americans today are operating under a time crunch.

We simply don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish all that we want to. However, it is important for you to recognize that job stress is a serious health problem.

The statistics tell the story. A study conducted in 1999 discovered that we are working longer hours.One out of five of us works as much as 49 hours a week. We are a nation of workaholics. This can cause a great deal of stress, not only on the job, but on the homefront as well.

A number of divorces are attributed each year to the workaholic syndrome.To put things in perspective, consider this: the average American works three months more each year than workers in Germany. The U.S. leads the industrialized world in the number of hours worked.The workplace has become so competitive in the U.S.

In order to help reduce your stress on the job, you need to make a realistic assessment of your hours. Is it possible for you to cut back and still perform your duties? Are you wasting time on the job that would be better spent at home? Can you delegate some of your duties to someone else in the office? If you design a more workable work schedule, you might find your job-related stress decreasing significantly.

It is entirely possible that you will actually become ill working those extra hours. Over a four-year period, from 1996 to 2000, the proportion of employees taking sick time due to stress rose by three fold. Each day, as many as a million American workers have called in sick because they are under too much stress. This absenteeism is costing American companies money and productivity.

Americans are also feeling stressed out because they no longer think they’re jobs are secure. Over a ten year period, the number of employees who were afraid they would become unemployed doubled. And a survey conducted in the year 2000 discovered that half of all workers worried that they could lose their jobs.

The dot.com burst, corporate bankruptcies, and massive layoffs have scared the American workforce.With little job security, workers live in fear of being tossed onto the unemployment line.A number of people have come to realize that they cannot expect to retire from the company for which they are now working.

It would be wonderful if the economy could be changed so that long-term employment at a single company was still possible, but that may be wishful thinking. As a result, workers need to try to lessen their stress—knowing that they may be in a volatile position. For many workers, this might mean making sure that they contribute to a 401-K plan so that they have money socked away for retirement.

For others, it might mean starting their own businesses so that they do not have to rely on someone else for their employment. If you try to think ahead, chances are you will lessen your stress level.You have to realize that you are ultimately responsible for your own fate.If you are in the driver’s seat, you will feel a sense of control which could lessen your stress level considerably.

For more related information visit: http://www.AnxietyAttacksCure.com - a site that offers advice for avoiding, coping with anxiety and panic attacks. Get professional knowledge on dealing with symptoms, drug side effects and improving your life!

Posted on Oct 7th, 2006

Most of us can attest to the fact that stress is reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. Balancing work, family, health, money, etc. is a challenge that many of us feel ill equipped to face. Eighty percent of the doctor visits in our country are stress related. Our quality of life and health is largely determined by how we adapt and relate to daily stressors. Here are a few ancient techniques for eliminating stress, increasing energy, and creating emotional balance. These are some of the most powerful tools we have for achieving optimal health and preventing future disease.

1) Meditation: Practiced for thousands of years in many Asian cultures, meditation has long been recognized as one of the most powerful tools we have for cultivating peace of mind and balance. Numerous studies have proven the incredibly positive effect that meditation has on stress reduction. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques taught around the world. For beginners, the most helpful approach is to start with basic mindfulness techniques that develop both relaxation and alertness. Once a basic ground of awareness has been stabilized, then more advanced meditation practices can be undertaken. If you need help getting started, go to http://www.havinghealthnow.com/meditationcd.html

2) Yoga: This ancient practice has also been utilized by millions of people throughout history. Yoga is typically considered a form of meditation that involves putting the body into a variety of poses in combination with deep breathing to induce mental clarity, increased energy, and physical strength and flexibility. The healing benefits of yoga have been repeatedly documented by a variety of clinical studies. There are many forms of yoga and it is best to experiment to determine which form feels the most helpful for your needs.

3) Acupuncture: One of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. Perhaps one of the last truly holistic forms of healthcare remaining on the planet, acupuncture works with the Qi (life force ) of the body in order to induce a variety of therapeutic effects. The safety and efficacy of this practice are well documented which accounts for its incredible surge in popularity in the Western world. Acupuncture is considered one of the most powerful treatment options for stress reduction. Only seek acupuncture treatment from licensed acupuncturists ( as opposed to chiropractors or MD’s who practice acupuncture).

4) Herbal medicine: There are a variety of both Chinese and Western herbal formulas that have been clinically proven to reduce stress and create emotional balance. Herbs are much less concentrated than pharmaceuticals, which is why they have far less side effects (but can still be as effective). If you are interested in this treatment option, many acupuncturists can skillfully prescribe herbal formulas. This is recommended over buying herbs over the counter with little knowledge of their intended usage.

5) Nutrition: Eating a diet high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and low glycemic carbohydrates can go a long ways in healing stress. The standard American diet (high in processed foods, saturated fat, sugar, and transfats) has been linked to anxiety, depression, and increased stress in numerous studies. Change your diet to an organic, whole foods approach and both your body and mind will reward you beyond measure.

Making these lifestyle changes may not be easy in the initial phases and it is often helpful to seek out the support of a health care practitioner to guide you through these transitions. Once you start feeling the enormous payoff of making such changes, there truly is no turning back. Your stress will dissolve, your weight will decrease, and your energy will skyrocket. Isn’t that enough to warrant making a few changes?

Kevin Doherty, L.Ac., MS is a licensed acupuncturist in private practice in Superior, Colorado and the staff acupuncturist for the integrative care department at Exempla Good Samaritan hospital in Lafayette, Colorado. Kevin treats a variety of stress-related health concerns in his practice. For more information, please visit http://www.havinghealthnow.com

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