STRESS REDUCTION THROUGH RELAXATION

Abdominal breathing exercises, Yoga, meditation, T'ai Chi, biofeedback and other disciplines can direct the body toward relaxation. When you relax consistently, over time the body develops a baseline level of operation that provides a "buffer" against the effects of stress. In other words, because you take your body to a relaxed state often, the cumulative effects provide you with protection from the daily effects of stress.

This relaxation practice is different from the physical exercise you do to stay in shape. To obtain the most benefits from relaxation means you must be present attuned to how your body feels. This is just the opposite of going to the gym and reading a book or listening to music while on the StairMaster, treadmill or stationary bicycle. In this 'mindless' exercise example, your body is being worked, but your attention is elsewhere.

If you develop some skill in reducing the physical symptoms of stress and still have a nervous system which usually operates in the "red zone", you will need to investigate how your current coping strategies and your activities contribute to the level of tension or anxiety in your body. If you feel pushed, exhausted, too busy, irritable and at your wits end much of the time you are probably in the "red zone" a lot.  And if there are ongoing, unresolved issues in your relationships at home and at work that you feel you are just "putting up" with but never seem to change, you are also flirting with the "red zone". You may need to make some changes that you have been unwilling to make or have been postponing because they may upset other people or even yourself.

You can view the sympathetic (heightened) nervous system activity as an accelerator pedal and the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system activity as a brake pedal. In order to maintain health, you have to apply the brake pedal regularly in order to bring the "rpms" of your body's engines down to normal. This is what regular breathing/relaxation practice helps you do. By re-setting the nervous system back down to normal regularly, you stay out of the red zone.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Probably the hardest thing for human beings to do is change. This is especially true with conscious change, like taking up an exercise or diet program or making changes in how you do things or react to things.  We like familiarity; it gives us a feeling of certainty. We have the same routines in the morning, relate to our spouse or boss in the same way. And, here is the kicker: we stay the same even in the face of our lives not working the way we would like them to. While useful are available, we say no because change is not comfortable. Where do you think those sayings came from like "Go for the burn", or "no pain, no gain?” They all imply some degree of difficulty in order to achieve results. But the rewards are usually commensurate with the effort expended.

When people realize that stress is having a negative affect on their lives some people can accomplish reducing the effect of stress on their lives without support. If you are able to make the necessary changes and stick with them, great. If you need support, there is an abundance of help available. All that is required is a desire to begin. In the disciplines mentioned above some, like T'ai Chi and Yoga, are long term commitments and take time to see maximal results. Others, like biofeedback can quickly target the stress response for rapid stress relief. Several biofeedback units are now available for home use. The Resperate is a device that helps manage stress and lower blood pressure through slow paced abdominal breathing. The emWave PC , emWave Personal Stress Reliever and StressEraser teach relaxation skills by monitoring the heart rate. And the Healing Rhythms by Journey to Wild Divine is a hardware and software program that leads the user through a progressive course in accessing the stress response. No matter whether or not a person is interested in a rapid solution or a longer term solution there are many options available.