Saturday, October 22, 2011

Your Own Personal Stress Management Technique by Michael Logan

My personal stress management technique has got to be very powerful, whatever it is. Doesn't seem that there is any let up in stress these days, does there?

However, once I give some thought to where stress exists, or is experienced, and the sequence of events leading to the physiology of stress, a body full of hormones and neurotransmitters more appropriate to combating an attack than the board room or the living room, I can recognize that there are some interventions I can work on to change the chemistry inside my body.

I can change my thoughts, which will change my feelings, which will give me more time to make choices about my behavior.

And according to Dr. Daniel Amen, relaxation actually activates the higher perceptual centers of my brain for better decision making.

That is a good payoff for learning a stress management technique.

Perhaps the most important stress management technique to learn is that my thoughts, my interpretations of sensory data, are what brings the chemistry of stress into my body.

And that process happens very fast, about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes.

And one stressful thought can bring on another and another, and before a second has elapsed, (that is right, one second) I may have generated a sequence of thoughts that leave me filled with enough adrenalin and cortisol to move me into distress rather than eustress, and then I can keep myself there long enough to begin to impact my brain fitness, my heart fitness, and the rest of my body too.

My first really successful stress management technique was to say the phrase; "Gratitude is the attitude" to myself, and that worked, because someone always has it worse off than I do, but the relief I felt when saying that phrase to myself was short lived.

Somewhere I had picked up the idea that I was supposed to have long periods of contentment, sort of like a drug experience, and that is not how your body normally works.

In other words, I need to practice gratitude frequently, starting with thoughts (and/or breathing) and my body will eventually follow along and learn that the physiology of contentment is what I want it to learn, and stay near.

In my early days of seeking a seeking a stress management technique, I looked at many different tools, and there are a lot of good meditative and cognitive tools out there, including Open Focus, Transcendental Meditation, working out, but for my money, I want a tool that does not require me to stop what I am doing and sit quietly meditating.

In other words it has to be usable while I am going about my daily business, and of all the tools I have tried, the one that has worked best for me is learning how to do the heart rate variability biofeedback.

I can feel the change using heart rate variability biofeedback, and since I learned the skill on a computer, I know that my physiology changes when I do the Quick Coherence Technique.

So when I feel myself getting critical or judgemental or snappy, (and I still use gratitude thoughts by the way) I can switch my thoughts to the area around my heart, place my children's faces there, and feel my heart become more coherent, and since I have some experience with Heartmath heart rate variability biofeedback, my body switches back to a cooperative and affiliative physiology within a heart beat.

Not quite the speed of thought but close, and that tool has saved me a lot of regrets over the years. I have been able to operate from a heartfelt cooperation and affiliation more and more often.

In fact, the practice of heart rate variability has given me a felt experience of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy concept that you do not have to accept thoughts as truths. You can dispute them. In other words, I can fill myself with love and then think one distressing thought and fill myself with the feeling of stress or despair, and then think the loving thought, and feel the love come right back into my body. You can even dispute the thoughts that make you feel good, if you want.

So we have managed to move ourselves from the realm of the external making me feel stressed, because it is my thought about the external that brings on the adrenalin and cortisol inside my body, and using and some mindfulness coupled with some practice, I can steer my physiology like I steer my car with thousands of small adjustments.

In fact, I may get so good at heart rate variability biofeedback that it runs in the background of my brain, popping into the foreground for a heart beat's worth of attention on an as-needed basis.

It is important to recognize for some folks that heart rate variability biofeedback is a learned skill and does not override any basic biological process. In other words, I can still activate my fight or flight chemistry if needed for a real attack.

If you want to check out the benefits of having your own personal stress management technique for your neurogenesis, or the growth of new brain cells, then read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D.

Hope you enjoy your coherence!