Stress management to me means learning that the inside of my body is mine to control no matter what is happening outside of it.
Stress, stress chemistry, whatever you want to call it, is an option then, unless I need to respond quickly to a real threat.
Think driving home and someone swerves into your lane, and I bet just thinking about that brought a bit of a jangle to your body.
That jangle was the result of an image or maybe the very rapid recall of that kind of experience from your past, which means that you had a stress response, or what John Gottman, Ph.D. calls DPA, or diffuse physiological arousal, and that stress response in this case came based on a remembered thought which occurred while you were reading information at your computer.
Stress management must be based on that very simple experience. The chemistry in your body, in this case adrenalin and cortisol, follows closely on your thoughts, so closely that it is faster than you can blink your eyes, which takes all of 1/10th second.
The stress response, or DPA as Gottman calls it, will limit us to three behavioral options at its strongest, run for your life, flee for your life, or freeze, none of which are going to help your gracefully accept a gift of fruit cake from your aging Aunt this Christmas, although you may consider fruit cake to be a deadly threat.
The key to stress management then is not to eliminate stress but to learn management tools that allow you to steer your body like you steer your car, with lots of small changes.
If you think about how you drive, you are attending to a significant number or variables and adjusting the position of the vehicle on the road, accelerating, slowing, ect. constantly.
If we can do that with the inside of our body frequently, and adjust our thoughts and breathing, we can quickly manage a stress response.
Ever heard of EEG biofeedback, or heart rate variability biofeedback?
EEG biofeedback is a tool which helps folks learn how to manage brainwaves which can cycle anywhere from around 4 cycles per second to 42 cycles per second.
Heart rate variability biofeedback can work at your pulse rate, which we will say is 70 beats per minute for the sake of discussion.
While not as fast as EEG Biofeedback, heart rate variability biofeedback is plenty fast for my stress management process, and since technology is so wonderful, I do have a program to recommend that you learn for very rapid stress management, literally heart beat by heart beat.
Earlier I mentioned John Gottman,Ph.D., who has done some amazing research about marriage, and about the masters of marriage.
He says the masters of marriage have developed the ability to recognize and soothe themselves when they are flooded, and Gottman's recommended tool for that recognition is to take your pulse and if your pulse rate is over 100 beats per minute, then take a time out for 20 minutes.
The program I like for a quicker version of this recognition and choice process is Heartmath.
Not only can I use Heartmath as a stress management antidote, I can practice it for joyful generativity.
I mean why not keep the inside of my body coherent, based on my heart rate coherence, until such time as someone swerves their car into my lane?
(That swerving cannot happen near me until I am actually driving, right)?
Stress Management or Joyful Generativity
Lots of my anger management and domestic violence clients report that since they only get mad every so oftent, they are not in need of anger management or domestic violence services.
Most of us who are not suffering heart attacks routinely may look at stress management the same way, I only need to manage stress when the boogey man attacks.
I want to suggest that waiting to manage stress is deadly. I also want to suggest that if stress is optional, so is joy.
Since my feelings follow only my thoughts, not anything external, I see no reason not to generate some joy or contentment on a regular basis, say every five minutes, for two heart beats.
Heartmath is a biofeedback tool that has grown out of the study of neurocardiology, which is a new field studying the heart's own nervous system, or the heart's own brain.
The heart's brain is a sophisticated brain which can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and with a biofeedback regimen, I can train the brain in my heart to respond with a coherent heart beat, which is a feel good experience, and with a few hours practice, I can have this ability to generate a coherent heart beat on any given heart beat.
So if I have a thought that leaves me feeling "jangley", my next thought could be of my children and my heart will get coherent, and the jangley feeling will diminish much faster that Gottman's 20 minutes.
Instead of adrenalin and cortisol, and the jangley feeling, I can feel contentment and have a lot of DHEA flowing through my body, which is the anti aging hormone by the way, and all that joyful generativity comes from learning Heartmath.
In fact, if you are a business person, your entire staff should learn Heartmath, so staff meetings could have a coherent heart beat.
If you are a golfer, or a student preparing for the SAT or ACT exam or a Senior working on brain fitness, then the Heartmath tool is the fastest, cheapest way to go. Just remember that a relaxed brain is the brain that has available its highest perceptual centers.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
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.