Stress Management

Stress can be seen as positive or negative. Challenges can be stressful yet growth producing! With too little stress we may
become bored with life. As our daily stress increases, it becomes very important to learn how to manage stress to remain healthy and to
reach our true potential. In this presentation we will examine the physical, psychological and spiritual factors in stress management.
Wellness is within our reach.

Understanding Stress
Stress can be defined as a feeling of tension that is physical, emotional, or psychological. Individuals react differently to situations that may be perceived as stressful. For example, we might imagine a group of children preparing to ride a roller coaster. For some kids, this is great fun! “Let’s sit up at the front, Mom”. For other kids, the middle seat is good enough. And for those timid ones, this situation may be actually be anxiety provoking. The last few seats may or may
not be taken… “maybe I’ll just sit this one out, Okay Dad?” Same external situation, but very different reactions.
All of us experience unwanted stresses in our lives: traffic jams, unsafe drivers, waiting in line, computer downtime or hang-ups, high caseloads, irresponsible behavior from clients or personality conflicts with co-workers. It is helpful to be aware of some of the warning signs of stress. Awareness is often the first step to making constructive changes either in our work or in our personal lives to reduce stress.

Physical Symptoms

Headaches (Tension Migraine) Back Pain Tense Neck and Jaw
Shoulder Stiffness Insomnia Fatigue
Frequent Colds /Bronchitis /Flu High Blood Pressure Shortness of Breath
Grinding of Teeth Over Eating Loss of Appetite
Mental Symptoms
Forgetfulness Negating Your Own Ideas! Mental Chatter
Lack of Concentration Worry Inability to Prioritize
Emotional Symptoms
Anger /Irritability Anxiety /Fear Depressed /Sad
Lack of Concentration Worry Inability to Prioritize

Pessimism Blaming Feel Inadequate
Personal Behavioral Signs
Won’t Take Risks Avoid Change /Challenges
Poor Love Relationships Alienation Critical /Over Reacting
Lack Compassion Inability to Forgive Life Seems Unfair

Work Behavior Signs
Rigidity/By the Book Low Motivation Absenteeism
Poor Time Management Lose Clarity of Goals
Lose Creativity Lack of Respect for Self/Others

step 2) Reducing or Erasing Stress (Physical Factors)
Get a good night’s sleep! Recommendations:
• Reduce or eliminate caffeine and sugar consumption.
• Practice time management skills to plan your day ahead before leaving the
office if possible. This helps you to build confidence in your ability to
accomplish those tasks which are top priority for the next day.
• Do not rely upon alcohol for relaxation or as an aide to sleep.
• Go to bed and get up the same time each day.
• Regular exercise during the day helps to promote nighttime sleep.
• Take time to wind down before sleep. (TV news is not relaxing!)
• Develop a bedtime routine (reading, herb tea, stretching, relaxation exercises,
a warm bath while listening to classical music, praying.

Physical Exercise:

• Inadequate physical activity can result in (by itself) a stressful state for the
body). Exercise is a natural antidote to stress. It reduces tension and
dispense pent up energy.
• A consistent program of physical activity can reduce depression, if it exists,
and add to a feeling of well-being.
• Consider walking, swimming, dancing, singing! Even walking the stairs
during the day or taking a walk at lunchtime can be very helpful.
A Healthy Diet:
• Promotes a strong immune system needed to overcome stress
• Adds to a positive self image by helping us to feel good about ourselves
• A poor nutritional state can be related to unhealthy food choices, inadequate
food intake, or an erratic eating schedule. Take time to eat right! Some basic
guidelines are:
? Mostly stay on rice and avoid breads. Avoid animal sources of foods such as milk, dairy foods, meats, fish and eggs.

Choose foods made from whole grains—whole wheat, oats, rye and
barley—more often than those made with refined wheat flour. Try
organic corn chips or rice cakes for a snack instead of a candy bar.
? Fruits
Choose fresh fruits, frozen fruits, canned fruits in water or juice or
100% fruit juice rather than fruit canned in syrup or drinks made with
sugar. Be fruitful and your body will thank you.
? Vegetables
Choose fresh veggies, frozen without sauces, or canned vegetables
more often than those frozen in sauces or fried vegetables.

? Vitamins and herbal supplements
Many people find it difficult to obtain all the vitamins and minerals they
need in their daily diet. Vitamins and herbal supplements can help our
bodies to maintain strong immune systems and resist illness which
may result from prolonged periods of stress ands fatigue.Step 3) Cultivate Good Relationships (Psychological factors)
• Stay in touch with old friends and be open and willing to make new ones.
Relationships are shields that protect us from distress—nurture them.
• Become friends with yourself! Value occasional periods of solitude for things
your really enjoy!
• Spend time in nature either by yourself or with a friend. Listen to the sound of
a running stream, birds singing, or the laughter of a child playing.
• Treasure your family. Make time for recreation.
• Isolation makes us increasingly vulnerable to illness or unable to cope with
• Talk to someone you trust, and don’t be afraid to laugh or to cry.
• Be assertive. Express your feelings with respect for yourself and others.
• Never miss an opportunity to laugh! Humor is like a pressure valve that
relieves tension, releases pleasure producing brain hormones, and stimulates
the immune system.

Step 4) Monitoring our thoughts (Psychological and Spiritual factors)
• Even though we often times do not have control over external events, we do
have a choice in how we respond to those events. It’s what we think about an
event that causes stress.
• “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – Shakespeare
• We often create our own stress because of faulty perceptions (for example, a
rope lying in tall grass may be perceived as a snake!)
• The ABC’s of stress: Activating event, Belief or Interpretation, Consequences
(physiological hormones such as adrenaline)
• Problems can be viewed as challenges to growth rather than as negative
events which are outside our control.
• It takes courage to change what we can, patience to accept and learn from
those experiences (and circumstances) we cannot change in the present.
• Consider keeping a journal and express your feelings and relieve tensions
• Use affirmations and “positive self-talk” rather than dwelling upon the negative
• Consider the idea that thought creates reality
• Practice relaxation techniques and/or visualizations
• Use prayer and meditation to open ourselves up to spiritual sources of
strength and inspiration on a daily basis. Physical recreation is of course optimal for relaxation, but even if we cannot
spend regular periods of time out in nature, we can practice visualization and
deep breathing exercises which can be very helpful. Deep Breathing and Affirmation
Sit in a comfortable chair, relaxed and with your back straight.
Focus your eyes on a beautiful scene such as the one pictured above, then
gently close your eyes.
Image yourself seated just downstream from this waterfall

, absorbed in the
sights, smells and sounds of this beautiful scene.
Begin by exhaling slowly the “stale” air from your lungs, then inhale slowly and
deeply through your nose to a count of three to five. Initially expand your
abdomen, then your chest will rise naturally as you inhale (deep abdominalbreathing is best for relaxation). Hold the breath for a few seconds. Then slowly
exhale while gently squeezing your abdomen and pursing your lips to a count of
about 5 to 7 (a little longer than the inhalation)
Repeat this deep breathing 2 times. Then take a 3
deep breath, but this time
on the exhalation say to yourself “I am completely at peace” or some other phrase which feels right to you. Some additional suggestions: “I am feeling fine”, “all tension falls away from me”, or perhaps a spiritual affirmation such as “divine light is in me”. It is good practice to do this exercise several times daily, even if you are not feeling stressed out! Then the mental association and feeling of relaxation will gradually build up for you and become more effective when the need to relax is more pressing. The same principle, of course, is true for regular meditation practice and/or prayer.
On the lighter side… another useful tool as an aide in relaxation, even if only a few minutes, is music. If possible during periods of routine work, or at lunchtime, put on a CD and listen to a favorite short selection (with headphones, of course). Close your eyes briefly and imagine you are viewing a live performance! This is an easy way to refresh yourself mentally and emotionally when tired or feeling frustrated.`

Some people find it useful to imagine an abstract symbol such as this six pointed Star radiating light, love and beauty in all directions. The symbol of the Star can be seen, felt and thought of—engaging both heart and mind—as helping you as an individual to find perfect balance and inner strength in the midst of life’s challenges. The thought projection of the Star and its inner light can be done for the purpose of helping a group or particular work that is for the benefit of humanity. This can easily be used in conjunction with the deep breathing and
affirmation exercise outlined above.

 Positive Relaxation Imagery
Let’s begin with deep breathing. Add music from CD or tape if
available (ocean waves, bird sounds)…
Gently close your eyes and feel the slow, deep inhalation and
exhalation of your breath, like the waves of an ocean rolling across
the small stones, shells and sand of a beautiful beach. Take a slow,
deep breath and feel the refreshingly warm, moist air as you breathe
in and out with the sound of the waves. As you continue with the
slow, rhythmic breathing, become aware in your imagination of
golden sunlight sparkling upon the clear, blue water near the edge of
the beach. Feel the sunlight on your face calming your mind, letting
go of any tensions or problems as you simply allow yourself to be
fully present in this wonderful moment of relaxation. Imagine this
peaceful golden sunlight entering your body, and in your heart center
this inner light forms a perfectly balanced six pointed Star, radiating
it’s healing energy to every cell of your body. Say to yourself, “I am
completely at peace in this golden light.” Rest in this thought,
continuing with the slow, rhythmic breathing for one minute of
silence… Now let’s open our eyes when we are ready and return to
our normal awareness feeling deeply relaxed and refreshed.

“Published research related to the work of the Stress Reduction Clinic documents that a majority of patients report lasting decreases in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as increased ability to relax, greater energy and enthusiasm for life, improved self esteem, and increased ability to cope more effectively with both short-term and long-term stressful situations. Research from our corporate programs indicates that these programs can have similarly dramatic effects. Corporate program participants display changes in a variety of
physical and mental behaviors and attitudes that are directly related to positive changes in work-related performance. These include enhanced ability to consciously respond to situations rather than simply react, to bring greater concentration and focus to their work, and to monitor their level of stress and take effective steps to address it.”
—Quoted with permission from the Center for Mindfulness brochure titled
The Power of Mindfulness in the Workplace.
For a more detailed review of recent research, please see . Do a search (use Edit, Find) on Kabat-Zinn for a summary of 2 well documented studies. 11
Numerous studies have also shown that Transcendental Meditation has been found effective in the treatment of hypertension and in the reduction of stress related hormones. These studies have been published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Hypertension, 1995 and 1996.