By Luis S R Vas
Handle your stress with these easy-to-practice measures
Stress is subjective. What stresses one person may leave another unperturbed, for it is related to our ability to cope with the circumstances of our lives. Given that we lead such highly pressured lives today, stress is at its pitch, but fortunately, more and more techniques to control and relieve it, are present. Here below are a few easy and effective approaches.
Francine Shapiro, a clinical psychologist, returned home one day feeling somewhat stressed and decided to go for a walk in the park. As she did so, she found her eyes darting from left to right and again to the left and while doing so, her stress dramatically subsided.
Knowing that something unusual was going on in her psyche, she proceeded to experiment further with her patients and discovered what became known as EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (see: www.emdr.com), a technique later found particularly useful in tackling Post Traumatic Stress Disorders or PTSD.
Many of us who have been through a painful emotional trauma are unable to face the conditions attending it. Shapiro asked her patients to rate their emotional distress on 0 to 10 scale. Let’s say a patient rated her distress at 8. She was asked to keep her distress in mind while Shapiro slowly waved a white rod from left to right to left in front of the patient’s eyes. Within minutes, the distress would subside, and after a few repetitions it would disappear completely.
Other researchers discovered that not only was eye movement useful in tackling acute stress, but tapping your knees alternately or a butterfly hug where you hug yourself, tapping your arms alternately, turned out to be equally useful.
Shapiro, Gary Craig used the Meridian Based Therapy (MBT) of tapping on 14 chakras to develop his own Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT).
Psychiatrist J. Benor developed his own Holistic Hybrid EMDR-EFT, or WHEE. He wrote: “I constantly sought to develop ways of providing psychotherapy along with the medications, but was unable within my limited timeframe to use the psychodynamic approaches I was taught as a psychiatric resident. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing was a blessing to me, as well as to my clients. I was able to use EMDR with children who had post-traumatic stress disorders, as children respond very quickly to this approach – not having barnacles on their problems like adults do. I also used EMDR to de-stress myself.
I then learned to use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) of Gary Craig (www.emofree.com) and other meridian-based therapy approaches. In EFT and related therapies, you tap or press a finger at a series of acupuncture points on your face, chest and hand, while reciting an affirmation. Because it works more rapidly than EMDR and does not evoke intense emotional releases, it can be used as self-healing. This works more quickly than EMDR and has extra advantages.
In an introductory workshop by Asha Nahoma Clinton on Matrix Therapy, Asha observed that alternating tapping the eyebrow points while reciting an affirmation works just as well as the entire series of EFT points. (Here is a generic affirmation from EFT: “Even though I have this [anxiety, panic, fear, etc. – be specific when filling in the blank], I completely and totally love and accept myself, and know that God loves and accepts me unconditionally [or use whatever strong positive statement suits you best at the time you need it].)
“Ever conscious of my time limitations, I immediately started exploring this hybrid approach, that combines aspects of EMDR and EFT (which I now call the Holistic Hybrid EMDR-EFT, or WHEE).”
In 1952, at the age of 42, physicist Lester Levenson was sent home – in New Jersey, USA – to die from his second coronary. The doctor gave him two weeks to live but he didn’t give up. He went within himself and discovered we all have a natural ability to let go of unwanted emotions. In just three months, he went from a physical and emotional wreck to perfect health. Levenson lived another 42 years. He had discovered the Sedona Method.
Here is the technique: Make yourself comfortable and focus inwardly. Your eyes may be open or closed.
• Step 1: Focus on an issue that you would like to feel better about, and then allow yourself to feel whatever you are
It feels like clods of dirt are falling away from me, and something that’s been trapped by them is rushing out…
feeling in this moment. This doesn’t have to be a strong feeling. In fact, you can even check on how you feel about this exercise and what you want to get from it. Just welcome the feeling and allow it to be as fully or as best you can.
• Step 2: Ask yourself the following question:
Can I let go of this feeling?
“Yes” or “no” are both acceptable answers. You will often let go even if you say “no.” As best you can, answer the question with a minimum of thought, staying away from second-guessing yourself or getting into an internal debate about the merits of that action or its consequences. Go on to Step 3 no matter how you answered the first question.
• Step 3: Ask yourself this simple question: Would I? In other words: Am I willing to let go? Even if the answer is still “no”, go on to Step 4.
• Step 4: Ask yourself this simpler question: When?
This is an invitation to just let it go NOW. You may find yourself easily letting go. Remember that letting go is a decision you can make any time you choose.
• Step 5: Repeat the preceding four steps as often as needed until you feel free of that particular feeling.
You will probably find yourself letting go a little more on each step of the process. The results at first may be quite subtle. Very quickly, if you are persistent, the results will get more and more noticeable. You may find that you have layers of feelings about a particular topic. However, what you let go of is gone for good.
Soon the process becomes easy, even second nature. This unleashes your overall healing and performing energies, making a whole lot of difference to people.
I love the feeling of releasing,” a practitioner testifies. “It’s as though energy is directly leaving the midsection of my body, my abdomen and thorax. It feels like clods of dirt are falling away from me, and something that’s been trapped by them is rushing out… the blocks of the prison walls are beginning to move.”
Heart coherence was first described in 1992 by physicist Dan Winter and was made popular more recently by the Institute of HeartMath, California. They developed and researched a number of techniques and practical applications of cardiac coherence.
The best way to go about this is to begin by taking two deep, slow breaths. They will immediately stimulate the parasympathetic system and begin applying a bit of physiological ‘brake’. To maximize their effect, your attention must stay focused on your breath right up until you have finished exhaling and then let your breathing pause for a few seconds before the next in-breath begins of its own accord. The point is to let your mind float with the out-breath right up to the point where it lightens up, becoming mellow and buoyant inside your chest.
Eastern meditation practices would suggest concentrating on the breath as long as possible and keeping the mind empty. But to maximize cardiac coherence, it works better to actually centre your attention on the region of your heart 10 to 15 seconds after your breathing stabilizes. At this second stage, imagine that you are breathing through your heart (or the centre of your chest, if you do not yet feel your heart directly).
As you continue breathing slowly and deeply (but effortlessly), visualize – and really feel – each inhalation and exhalation passing through that key part of your body. Imagine that each intake of oxygen nourishes your body and exhalation rids it of the waste it no longer needs. Imagine the slow and supple movement of inhalation and exhalation that bathe the body in this purifying and soothing air. Imagine that they are helping your body make the most of the gift of attention and respite it is receiving from you.
third stage consists in becoming aware of the sensation of warmth or expansiveness that is developing in your chest, and in fostering and encouraging it with your thoughts and your breath. This feeling is often shy at the beginning and emerges only discreetly. After years of emotional abuse, the heart is often like an animal awakening from long hibernation. During this exercise, people sometimes notice a gentle smile that has risen to their lips, as if it had been spread from the glow inside their chest. That is a simple sign that coherence has been established. Other signs include a sensation of lightness, warmth or expansion in your chest.
The more training we have in using this technique, the easier it becomes to induce coherence and enhance your ability to fight stress.
The Power of Stretching
“Stretching is one of the most powerful self-healing techniques there is and best of all is that it’s free,” says Jacques Gauthier, a French Canadian. He loves to tell people that there is only one side-effect to stretching, and that is flexibility! I didn’t invent stretching, he admits. It’s as old as mankind. And yet, when he started to teach stretching, no one had heard about it. That shows you what unhealthy lives we had been living, he maintains.
I found out about stretching the hard way. Sixteen years ago my doctors told me to buy a wheelchair and prepare for being a quadriplegic for the rest of my life. I was crippled by vacuities, arthritis and osteoporosis. The pain was so severe that I could barely move. My wife had to help me get out of bed in the morning, help me shower and help me with everything I had to do. All I could do on my own was lie in bed, meditate and pray.
Finally, someone told me about a healer. I traveled many miles to see him and he told me I had to stretch to get well. This is not what I wanted to hear! Any movement was extremely painful and my doctors had told me I could not do exercises. But the healer told me if I didn’t stretch, I would never get well. I had to decide what to do and I decided to give it a try. It was my only hope. It was extremely painful at first, but within six weeks I had regained 50 per cent of my function and in seven months of intense stretching I was back to normal!
Then we started experimenting with other people because people were coming and asking me how I could be in such a good shape after how sick I had been. They wanted to learn too!”
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Knees slightly bent.
Raise your arms straight up and grab your right wrist with left hand.
Lean over to your left, gently pulling on the right wrist until you feel a good stretch on your right side.
Then, lean over from your waist and turn toward the left, still pulling on your right wrist – you should feel a fantastic stretch along the right side of your upper body into your hip. (http://www.OptimumFlexibility.com)
Hold for 15 seconds.
Then come back to the start position and do the same thing going the other way. And then repeat two more times on each side.
You can do this stretch every day and you should, if it is the only one you are doing.
Try this stretch right now – you will sense a huge difference in how you feel.
A well-known antistress technique is meditation which research has shown to have beneficial physical, psychological and spiritual effect on its practitioners. There are any number of effective meditation practices that you can try. One is to repeat a mantra (wisdom from any of the great world religions, or even words like peace, joy, love) slowly and with as much focus as you can help. Two is to watch your breath. Stay with it until the mind begins to tranquillize. Thirdly, starting with the tip of your toes, deliberately go to and relax each part of your body. By the time you reach the top of your head, you should be feeling a lot calmer.
Drink soothing herbal teas; try aromatherapy; try self-hypnosis; give yourself positive affirmations, pour out your heart to God, and surrender your distress.
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