Now that December has arrived I definitely feel justified in continuing my minimalist imitation of creativity and will issue a part 2 of my suggestions for dealing with the never ending struggles of everyday living. Happy Holidays…Bells and Lights, Carols and Big Red Bows, tis the Season to be jolly, etc. Yadda, Yadda.
Hold that urge to push that ESC button or the OFF switch, I’m not going to diss the holiday spirit thing. But, especially this year, the spirit needs a substantial tweak – not more tweets. But since my personal treatise on how to reduce one’s counter-productive stress level, Part II, complete with relaxation tips and basic meditation exercises take up so much room on the blog and so great a demand on your time and energy, I’ll save the finer points of my home-made Life-philos-marmalade all purpose stuffing for my next blog offering. A kind of post-holiday treat to soberly introduce a 2018 version of a life sentence of “Illusion, with no possibility of Disillusion”.
Please accept my invitation to peruse the following treatise on reducing stress and accompanying anger/frustration issues while at the same time finding ways to enrich your over-all appreciation of life’s positive moments. There are many challenges in trying to re-frame our personal interpretations of what life hands us, but it can be enlightening and rewarding to understand how much we contribute to our own emotional distress at times. We are not 100% victims of circumstances.
(“Permanent Stress Reduction” is a personal, unpublished strategy devised by this writer for use in mental health settings when I was an active psychotherapist. The information herein is in keeping with behavioral therapy principles but the illustrations and conclusions are strictly those of the author. Persons experiencing severe, clinical symptoms of stress, anxiety or anger, should seek professional assessment regarding possible treatment.)
Happy Days all come at a price. Here’s hoping you find something in Permanent Stress Reduction, and the Meditation series withing, that adds something positive to your everyday experiences.
Peace, Joy and Love,
(II) Learning to Cope.
How we react to Emotional Stimuli.
Emotional Reactions occur when a situation or remark evokes a feeling within you and prompts you to react in a way that may not be positive. These types of reactions typically occur when the situation or remark reminds you of previous, similar, events in your life or when your belief about a subject is challenged. When you experience an emotional reaction to a situation you may not be understanding it objectively. Sometimes you might say or do things you wish you hadn’t. “Shoot first, ask questions later” is not always the best response.
Have you ever experience a situation where you really could not tell if a person was laughing or crying; frightened or excited, sad or just lost in deep thought? How many different ways could we react to them and how many responses might convey a very wrong message?
What makes emotional reactions different is often only the mental labels we put on the stressors. My interpretation of a perceived threat for example or my reading of a person’s facial expression or tone of voice might not be accurate at all. If I put the wrong label on a situation I may get a completely wrong emotional response. This labeling process is referred to as self-talk or what my perception is telling me about this situation. Self-talk is the habit of interpretation I have developed over a lifetime. It is a shortcut I use to evaluate the many thoughts, persons, and events, the phenomena, that I encounter every waking moment. Self-talk messages are often automatic judgments and, as such, often ignore the facts, and lead us to inaccurate conclusions.
This lightning fast, automatic judgment process can get us into trouble if we constantly make snap, erroneous, decisions and there are many situations in which I cannot afford to say or do the wrong thing.
Is it possible to change my responses to achieve better outcomes?
Not only is it possible, it is essential, if the responses are producing stress and disrupting your life on a regular basis. Change can be achieved by practicing the techniques in our Permanent Stress Reduction program.
Coping Skills and the ThinkingBody; How the whole body thinks.
Positive coping skills result from understanding the above emotional reaction process in order to minimize negative emotional consequences. The ThinkingBody concept is about taking ownership of and mastering the way your mind/body processes information in order to control your emotional reactions. When a person thinks or feels it is a whole body event.
Eliminating the idea that there is a great separation between mind and body gives us a new way of interpreting our beliefs. Obviously, the brain is connected to our hearts, stomachs, lungs, reproductive organs, etc. Our culture constantly sings to us of body and soul as if we are two different things, somehow thrown together, different from and often regarded as, superior to all other creatures in the universe.
Once we more directly connect our physical reactions to our thinking process (and vice-versa), we will have a new tool to manage perceptions and avoid becoming victims of negative emotional reactions. Being able to manage emotional reactions allows one to experience positive feelings and make better choices when confronted with stressful situations.
At this point in the program we take time to focus on some “body issues” as they relate to creating a calm, collected, “even-tempered” personal environment, necessity for bringing about a change in our emotional responses.
Please note: we realize that not all outbursts of excessive emotion are problematic or unwelcome. Everyone is different in how the display their emotions and that makes for an exciting world to live in, to say the least.
But we all know that a person under stress can often have exaggerated responses and the more intense their emotions, the more likely their behavior will result in negative consequences. For these folks and for these situations, a cool, reasonable response will be far more productive. Escalating our with negative behaviors will only increase an already stressful situation. None of us can afford to let our reactions get out of control. Therefore, the more we understand about the process and learn to manage it evenly, over time, the better off we will be. The oft’ heard plea. “I just lost it”, makes a lousy defense, in or out of a court of law.
These topics are explored as well in Segment 4 , “Rational Response to Anger.”
(III) Working with the ThinkingBody.
Techniques of Deep/Diaphragmatic Breathing
and Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Relaxation is of great importance in our program. We offer here a brief description of methods used to practice deep breathing and bring about total body relaxation. Humans cannot be majorly agitated and relaxed at the same time. We want to reduce our stress responses, not make them worse.
Most of us breathe using what is called shallow or chest breathing. This of course is fine as it keeps us upright and alive. But we are all familiar with the advice given when we face a tense situation, “take a deep breath” or “count to 10”. Deep breathing is a key element to relaxation and since this program is aiming at a lifestyle change, we advocate mastery of the deep breathing technique.
The process is outlined here and is sufficient for getting started in induced relaxation as a counter-measure to stress, as well as in meditation. A separate Segment (3), Mastering Relaxation, will give greater detail.
- Begin by sitting upright with shoulders square and lifted up.
- Now slowly exhale.
- Begin to inhale a new breath: push the stomach out, pulling down on the diaphragm muscle and fill the lungs with air while raising the shoulders to get as much air intake as possible. Do this slowly. Be concentrate on the refreshing air coming in. Count 5 or 10 seconds of inhaling, or more if possible.
- At the “top”, or maximum intake of the breath, hold the fresh air in your body for a few seconds, counting the same number of seconds as you have inhaled. This allows adequate exchange of incoming, positive oxygen, with outgoing, negative carbon dioxide in the lungs.
- Gently force all the air out of you lungs entirely and begin taking the next breath just as before.
Note: Don’t just blow the air out on the exhale. Control the process by slowly pulling the stomach back in and push up against the diaphragm muscle, trying to push as much carbon dioxide out as possible.
Then return to the stomach-extending, shoulder-raising inhale and holding of the breath.
That’s all there is to it. It may feel a little strange at first but this technique is immensely helpful in the relaxation process. You might even feel a little light-headed at in the beginning. Practice this breathing technique often, as the goal is to make it an unconscious good habit – your normal way of breathing, that will enable more control over what is going on with your emotional response at any given time.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
A second technique for stress reduction is progressive muscle relaxation.
- Start by focusing on either your head and neck area or your feet and ankles.
- Consciously put your awareness on a muscle group in the selected area.
- Mentally see the muscles and flex them, squeezing them tight, holding that tension for 4 or 5 seconds, then letting them relax completely. Enjoy the relaxed feeling.
- Repeat the tensing, holding and relaxing sequence over again, moving to the shoulders, chest, arms, stomach area, pelvic area, quads, ankles/feet.
Immediately reverse the order and go back through all the muscle groups. Repeat as needed until a euphoric relaxation is felt or the sense of tightness has left the body and neutralized your stressful reaction.Practice both techniques regularly so they become second nature to you.
A calm, cool and collected person will be in control of any stress situation
Incorporating Meditation into the process.
A way to sustain calm, cool and collected, clear perceptions over a lifetime of dealing with stress is to practice frequent or daily meditation. We use meditation in this presentation as a fundamental aide to reducing stress effects in our lives.
Using the body relaxation techniques above, this would be a good time to try a change of behavior exercise using a meditation to give us some new ideas about how we can approach stress differently. Take a few minutes to relax, study and practice this Introductory Meditation information and examples below.
(1) “What is Meditation” Click the link below, enlarge to screen if needed, then arrow through the presentation at your own pace. If slides do not appear, copy the link below and paste it into you browser,