In his book, "The Body Bears the Burden", Dr. Robert Scaer talks about how animals handle a surprise visit from a predator, where they are caught in the open and their best survival chance is to freeze, which is part of the mammilian stress response. The hope by the prey animal is that the predator has recently dined, and is full, and will wander off.
If such is the case, the prey animal will literally fall over and seize, shaking uncontrollably until all the adrenalin like energy frozen in the body is released. The prey animal staggers to its feet, and wanders off, slowly regaining its composure, presumably a little more vigilant.
So the stress response is meant to supply us with a very rapid (1/18th second) chemical change inside the body when one becomes aware of a danger in the external world. The stress response is designed to help me survive a perception, based on an interpretation inside my brain, that my life is in danger.
That same stress response, so perfectly adapted to survival in the wild, is cued whenever the natural gas bill is larger than I expected, or the a letter from the IRS arrives, or the car breaks down, for example, and if I am not in the habit of falling to the floor and seizing for a bit (you have to have a private office for that one), I may not effectively clear the physiology of the stress response.
In fact, I may become habituated to that physiology of stress, which has tremendous ramifications for my health.
When I experience the stress response as I sit at a traffic light, the elaborate preparations my body makes are wasted. Worse than wasted: every heartbeat at elevated blood pressure takes its toll on the arteries. The excess fats and glucose called up by my body to defeat the gas bill predator don’t get metabolized right away, so they stay in the blood stream.
The fats contribute to the plaques that form inside blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease or strokes; high levels of glucose are a step in the direction of diabetes. Stress not managed is truely a slow killer.
The best stress management tool, and the cheapest, is to breathe correctly. That means deep breaths, like a baby breathes, where the belly moves. This is a breathing technique the baby uses naturally until we train them to breathe shallowly, which actually induces the stress response platform. When I am not attending to my breathing, and making my belly move, I will be dripping stress hormones into my bloodstream, and aging far more rapidly than I need to. Yes, deep breathing actually changes the hormonal bath in my blood stream to DHEA, which is the anti-aging hormone.
If you are like me, you seldom have time to dedicate to a contemplative or meditative practice for itself. In other words, I need to multi-task, and deep breathe while I am in session, while I am parenting, while I am opening bills, or writing checks or chatting with my wife, and if I do not have a reminder, which helps me make deep breathing a habit, I will take two or three deep breaths and go back to shallow breathing, as soon as my thinking switches from breathing to the next problem, so I need to build in some practices and cues.
How about when you are driving? I can play this music in the background while driving and it focuses me and energizes me, while I practice my deep breathing, and traffic lights now become an opportunity to lengthen the training and feel good.
And when you take that breath,inhale it for a two counts, hold it for two counts, then exhale for two counts. Say to yourself, "I am now going to manage my breathing."
And if you get distracted, that is just the human orienting response in action. That is the tool advertisers use to keep your attention on the TV advertisement. Regular practice is the key, not continuous practice.
It will then become easier for me to remember to take two deep breaths every five minutes, at least, so that I cue the relaxation response rather than the stress response.
Relaxation Stress Management
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.