As I have been in practice for over 20 years it has become apparent that stress is a pervasive factor in everybody’s life. Stress is a factor in most people’s physical pain and ill health. When people are under stress they go into the fight or flight mode. This is an activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
The basic overview of what happens in the fight or flight mode is that the body changes so that it is ready for action. Blood is shunted to the muscles, lungs and heart. Digestion and the process of extracting nutrition from food is greatly reduced. The body breaks down different parts of itself in order to make these substances readily available for the muscles and other tissues to use during the perceived danger. Blood cholesterol will be increased as well as blood sugar and insulin levels. And over the long term the immune system will be weakened as well as new cell growth.
Normally in the past, humans were not exposed to the daily stressors that we tend to have now. Usually the fight or flight mechanism was a temporary thing that passed once the danger past. And then the nervous system would restore order by going into the rest and restore mode characterized by an increase in the parasympathetic nervous system activity (PNS). The PNS would reverse the changes that occurred in the fight or flight mode allowing the body to reestablish proper digestion and metabolism and repair the tissues that were broken down.
What happens typically in our society today is that stress is always present. We don’t have that rest and restore mode that would repair the damage that occurs from being in fight or flight. So with each passing year our bodies are slowly breaking down, and over time we develop the diseases that come with aging.
The most interesting thing is that the vast majority of people don’t think they have stress. It has just become so habitual that the state is “normal”. To learn more about stress do a search for “stress” and “Hans Selye”…the first major researcher on stress.
So what can we do to reduce and eliminate stress on a daily basis? I have assembled below four different, powerful means of stress reduction.
Emotional freedom techniques (EFT)
Over the last seven or so years I’ve been teaching many people EFT. EFT is a very simple technique to do that involves tapping acupuncture points with your fingertips while remembering a negative event or emotion that is occurring in the present or has happened in the past. What happens we have a negative thought or emotion is that we relive a fight or flight response that sets up the physiological response that I outlined above. Tapping the EFT points essentially resets are nervous system to function with the parasympathetic nervous system in charge. The previously disturbing emotion or thought becomes associated with the rest and restore response and soon it does not bother our equanimity. And as a result, the previously negatively charged motion or thought ceases to bother us anymore.
The basic EFT recipe is as follows:
First identify a problem that you’d like to work on and try to be as specific as possible. Rate the intensity on a 0 to 10 scale where zero is no intensity and 10 is extreme intensity. And just make a note of what your rating is.
When you’re ready to do EFT just hold the problem in your mind. I begin tapping the point on the top my head and work down the body. See the picture below for the points. Tap each point for as long as you say the phrase. You can tap either side of the body or both sides.
At each point use the phrase “Even though I have this_______ I deeply and completely accept myself”. In the blank space of this phrase put in the best description of the problem you want to resolve. Once you have completed tapping all the points reassess the intensity of your problem again on a 0 to 10 scale and see how it’s changed. Repeat tapping the points and saying the phrase until the intensity is zero or very close to zero. There is another area that I tap that is not included in this picture and that is on the palm side of the wrist. The easiest way to do this area is just to bang your wrists together.
This is a very short description of EFT but here are some resources that will provide you in-depth information about EFT.
This link is to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website about EFT. I have used the information that he provides and have printed it out as a small booklet that I have given to many hundreds of people.http://eft.mercola.com/
Another great source of information is EFT Universe:http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?af=1396093.
There are quite a few videos to watch of people clearing issues. There is also a tutorial page. One procedure on the tutorial page is called the Personal Peace Procedure. The Personal Peace Procedure consists of sitting down and writing down things that have gotten you upset in the past. It may take you a while to complete this process but it is well worth it. After you have made your list, pick out one of the biggest issues and use EFT to reduce the intensity.
EFT can be used with children and it is especially effective. One of the ways to use EFT with kids is at bedtime. Have them tell you anything that bothered them during the day and as they tell you just simply tap on the EFT points as they speak. In a very short time they will feel better about it.
Another great source of information is provided by Gary Craig who originated EFT. His website is this: http://www.emofree.com/EFT/?aft=450.
Try to use EFT throughout the day to clear your stresses. Use it at the beginning of your day when you know you may be stressed by something. Use it at the end of the day discharge the stress that has occurred. As you use EFT on a daily basis, things that used to bother you in the past will no longer do so. And as I tell everybody that I teach them EFT “the hardest thing about EFT is to remember to do it”.
Reflexercise is a body-based stress reduction technique compiled by Scott Musgrave, a Colorado physical therapist. It is really simple to do and takes less than 30 seconds. In order to feel how it works as a test do this first. Pinch the muscle on top of your shoulder and note its thickness and how much pressure it takes to be uncomfortable. Reflexercise can be done lying down sitting or standing. Here are the Reflexercise instructions:
Gently curl your toes, don’t do it too hard or you may get a cramp in your foot
Put your arms by your side palms facing forward and spread your fingers gently
Slightly rotate your head
Close your eyes
Gently, but firmly, bite the tip of your tongue
Focus your attention into your heart region and generate a positive feeling
Take in four deep breaths with your focus at your heart region
After the four breaths you can relax the pose.
Recheck your tight shoulder muscle and it will probably be significantly looser.
It is suggested that Reflexercise be done every hour. If you’re sitting in front of the computer is good way to take a break.
For more information on Reflexercise go here: http://www.wellnessandperformance.com?AFFID=85254&n=[networkID]&tsi=[subid]&p=[SubSubid]
TRAUMA RELEASING EXERCISES (TRE)
Dr. David Berceli, PhD, is a former priest and has spent a number of years studying how people experience trauma in worn- torn countries, earthquake zones and countries that have experienced genocide. He has developed a system TRE to help people release trauma from their bodies.
Humans and animals the three same reactions to a traumatic event: Fight, flee or freeze. The body will then release massive doses of chemicals like adrenalin to assist the body with whatever response it has chosen to go with.
However where animals and humans differ is after the traumatic event.
Many animals will shake violently- this may look disturbing but they are actually releasing the trauma and extra chemicals from their bodies. Once they are done they will gone with their lives, trauma forgotten. Humans on the other hand, have lost this ability. Who of you during a traumatic event will put on a brave face, suck it up and resist the shaking that tries to happen? Unfortunately by doing this the traumatic memory is stored in our brains and in our bodies at a cellular level and this causes all types of problems.
Dr Berceli’s solution to this is simple: SHAKE IT OUT. And he has developed a few simple exercises to help us do so. The main muscle that he focuses on is the Psoas muscles which is the gravitational center of the body. The first few exercises are all about stretching you hip and leg muscles then you have to lie on your back with your feet together, legs apart and that’s when most of the shaking will take place.
Dr Berceli has traveled the world with this technique and has helped solders in Afghanistan and Iraq and has been to places where mass trauma has occurred. Originally TRE was design for PTSD but he found that it could be used as a relief from every day stresses and anxiety. It has been particularly helpful to people with depression.
Stand with your feet hips-width apart. Roll your feet onto the outer edge of one foot and inner edge of the other foot. Put all your weight equally on both feet. Then role your feet to the other side. Repeat x10 on each side.
Stand with one foot forward, put your full weight on that foot, using the foot behind for balance. Rise up on your toes, let your back foot leave the ground. Stand on your toe for a few minutes (you can hold on to something for balance). Repeat x10 on each foot.
Stand on one foot, bend the other knee behind you in the air. Put both hands down on the ground, on either side of the foot for balance. Bend and straighten the leg that you are standing on. Repeat x10 on both legs
Stretch your feet wide apart. Put your fists on the small of your back. Bend knees, push your pelvis forward and lean your head back and breathe. Repeat x3 times
Straighten up then turn and look as far as you can over your shoulder and breathe(legs still apart, hands still on back). Change and look over the other shoulder. Repeat x3 for each side
Legs wide apart bend forwards, stretch your arms out with your fingers touching the floor. Bend one knee and walk your hands to that foot and breathe. Bend other knee and do the same. Repeat x3 for each foot
Shake body out. Stand with your back against the wall, feet apart and bend your knees- you should be able to see your toes. Rest your hands against your sides. 5 minutes
Step 7- The crunch!
Lie on the floor, push the soles of your feet together, legs apart. Left pelvis about 1 inch off the ground and hold. 5 minutes or for as long as you can make it without pain!.
Drop pelvis, with soles of your feet touching lift knees 1-2 inches off the ground for 5 minutes, then 4 inches for 5 minutes and finally 10 inches for 5 minutes. Rest.
The trembling varies from person to person. Some people start of furiously trembling while others will barely feel a thing. The more you do it the more the trembling will spread, starting in your legs and hips, moving to your stomach, then chest and head. For you to see any difference you need to commit to doing the exercises every day for ten days.
I do TRE on a regular basis…..Most of the time I just do Step 7 because of time constraints and this one causes the most trembling for me. There is more info here: http://traumaprevention.com/
The heart at rest was once thought to operate much like a metronome, faithfully beating out a regular, steady rhythm. Scientists and physicians now know, however, that this is far from the case. Rather than being monotonously regular, the rhythm of a healthy heart-even under resting conditions—is actually surprisingly irregular, with the time interval between consecutive heartbeats constantly changing. This naturally occurring beat-to-beat variation in heart rate is called heart rate variability (HRV).
Heart rate variability is a measure of the beat-to-beat changes in heart rate. This diagram shows three heartbeats recorded on an electrocardiogram (ECG). Note that variation in the time interval between consecutive heartbeats, giving a different heart rate (in beats per minute) for each interbeat interval.
The normal variability in heart rate is due to the synergistic action of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS)—the part of the nervous system that regulates most of the body’s internal functions. The sympathetic nerves act to accelerate heart rate, while the parasympathetic (vagus) nerves slow it down. The sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS are continually interacting to maintain cardiovascular activity in its optimal range and to permit appropriate reactions to changing external and internal conditions. The analysis of HRV therefore serves as a dynamic window into the function and balance of the autonomic nervous system.
Scientists and physicians consider HRV to be an important indicator of health and fitness. As a marker of physiological resilience and behavioral flexibility, it reflects our ability to adapt effectively to stress and environmental demands. A simple analogy helps to illustrate this point: just as the shifting stance of a tennis player about to receive a serve may facilitate swift adaptation, in healthy individuals the heart remains similarly responsive and resilient, primed and ready to react when needed.
HRV is also a marker of biological aging. Our heart rate variability is greatest when we are young, and as we age the range of variation in our resting heart rate becomes smaller. Although the age-related decline in HRV is a natural process, having abnormally low HRV for one’s age group is associated with increased risk of future health problems and premature mortality. Low HRV is also observed in individuals with a wide range of diseases and disorders. By reducing stress-induced wear and tear on the nervous system and facilitating the body’s natural regenerative processes, regular practice of HeartMath coherence-building techniques can help restore low HRV to healthy values.
In general, emotional stress—including emotions such as anger, frustration, and anxiety—gives rise to heart rhythm patterns that appear irregular and erratic: the HRV waveform looks like a series of uneven, jagged peaks (an example is shown in the figure below). Scientists call this an incoherent heart rhythm pattern. Physiologically, this pattern indicates that the signals produced by the two branches of the ANS are out of sync with each other. This can be likened to driving a car with one foot on the gas pedal (the sympathetic nervous system) and the other on the brake (the parasympathetic nervous system) at the same time—this creates a jerky ride, burns more gas, and isn’t great for your car, either! Likewise, the incoherent patterns of physiological activity associated with stressful emotions can cause our body to operate inefficiently, deplete our energy, and produce extra wear and tear on our whole system. This is especially true if stress and negative emotions are prolonged or experienced often.
In contrast, positive emotions send a very different signal throughout our body. When we experience uplifting emotions such as appreciation, joy, care, and love; our heart rhythm pattern becomes highly ordered, looking like a smooth, harmonious wave (an example is shown in the figure below). This is called a coherent heart rhythm pattern. When we are generating a coherent heart rhythm, the activity in the two branches of the ANS is synchronized and the body’s systems operate with increased efficiency and harmony. It’s no wonder that positive emotions feel so good – they actually help our body’s systems synchronize and work better.
Coherence: A State of Optimal Function
The Institute of HeartMath’s research has shown that generating sustained positive emotions facilitates a body-wide shift to a specific, scientifically measurable state. This state is termed psychophysiological coherence, because it is characterized by increased order and harmony in both our psychological (mental and emotional) and physiological (bodily) processes. Psychophysiological coherence is state of optimal function. Research shows that when we activate this state, our physiological systems function more efficiently, we experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive function. Simply stated, our body and brain work better, we feel better, and we perform better.
The Quick Coherence Technique will help you reach the optimal state.
Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest to help keep your attention in the heart area.
Step 2: Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply, but normally, and imagine that your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you.
Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place you’ve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. This is the most important step.
You can do the Quick Coherence® Technique anytime, anywhere and no one will know you’re doing it. In less than a minute, it creates positive changes in your heart rhythms, sending powerful signals to the brain that can improve how you’re feeling. Apply this one-minute technique first thing in the morning, before or during phone calls or meetings, in the middle of a difficult conversation, when you feel overwhelmed or pressed for time, or anytime you simply want to practice increasing your coherence. You can also use Quick Coherence whenever you need more coordination, speed and fluidity in your reactions.
I use the emWave which allows me to watch my heart rhythms in real time and see how intentionally changing emotions affect them. With a patented, noninvasive heart-rhythm monitor, the emWave is a software/hardware program that collects pulse data through a fingertip or ear sensor and translates the information from your heart rhythms into user-friendly graphics displayed on your computer monitor. You will discover which emotions you can activate to effectively manage stress and boost vitality. Among other features, the emWave package includes the Coherence Coach™, an entertaining software application that teaches the Quick Coherence Technique. The emWave 2 is a portable device it performs similarly to the emWave. It is about the size of a deck of cards and can interface with your computer to monitor HRV and see it in a graphic form.
There are HeartMath sensors and apps for both iPhone and Android devices to moniter your Heart Rate Variability to help you get back to balance and a sense of calm.
If you’d like to get more information or to order the HeartMath product that best suits you and your situation click the HeartMath image or you can click this link…
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From Health Info Newsletter December 27, 2012:: Stress Busters: EFT, Reflexecise, TRE, HeartMath
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