Your emotional & physical reactions to stress
are partly determined by the sensitivity of your sympathetic nervous system.
This system produces the
"fight or flight reaction" in response to stress & excitement, speeding up & heightening the pulse rate, respiration,
muscle tension, glandular function, & circulation of the blood.
If you have recurrent anxiety symptoms, either major or minor lifestyle & emotional upsets may cause an
overreaction of your sympathetic system. If you have an especially stressful life, your sympathetic nervous system may always
be poised to react to a crisis, putting you in a state of constant tension. - This is called a "hyper-vigilient state."
In this mode, you tend to react
to small stresses the same way you would react to real emergencies. The energy that accumulates in the body to meet this "emergency"
must be discharged in order to bring your body back into balance.
Repeated episodes of the fight or
flight reaction deplete your energy reserves &, if they continue, cause a downward spiral that can lead to emotional burnout
& eventually complete exhaustion.
You can break this spiral only
by learning to manage stress in a way that protects & even increases your energy level. Relaxation Techniques are the key to overcoming lashing out in your state of hyper-vigilence. Practicing the relaxation techniques here at changes,.,,
will enable you to make an automatic switchover whenever additional stress comes your way.
the first two exercises on the Relaxation Techniques page are great beginning techniques to use when you are making the switchover from a hyper-vigilent
mode that is escalating with additional stress.... to calm, controlled & relaxed. Continue to practice and use this
technique with any bothersome or stressful event or duty in your day.
Regaining Control of yourself is what achieving that calmed, quieted & relaxed state is all about...
Quieting your Mind....
Quieting your mind allows you to be in control
of your body & your mind. Controllling your breathing will allow your body to relax & alleviate the symptoms that
could occur if your body were to become involved with the additional stressors.
Quieting the Mind & Body
w/recurring symptoms of anxiety & nervous tension are usually barraged by a constant stream of negative "self-talk."
the day your conscious mind may be inundated w/ thoughts, feelings, & fantasies that trigger feelings of upset. Many of
these thoughts replay unresolved issues of:
- Personal &
This relentless mental replay of unresolved issues can reinforce the anxiety symptoms & be exhausting. It
is important to know how to shut off the constant inner dialogue & quiet the mind.
The first 2 exercises on the Relaxation Techniques page, require you to sit quietly & engage in a simple repetitive activity. By emptying
your mind, you give yourself a rest. Meditation allows you to create a state of deep relaxation, which is very healing to the entire body.
Metabolism slows, as do physiological functions such as heart rate & blood pressure. Muscle tension decreases.
Brain wave patterns shift from the fast beta waves that occur during a normal active day to the slower alpha waves, which
appear just before falling asleep or in times of deep relaxation. If you practice these exercises regularly, they can help relieve anxiety
by resting your mind & turning off upsetting thoughts.
Releasing Muscle Tension
The next 3 exercises will help you get in touch w/your areas of muscle tension & then help you learn to release
this tension. This is an important sequence for women w/emotional symptoms of anxiety & nervous tension since habitual
emotional patterns cause certain muscle groups to tense & tighten.
For example, if a person has difficulty in expressing feelings, the neck muscles may be chronically
tense. A person with a lot of repressed anger may have chest pain & tight chest muscles. Contracted muscles limit movement
& energy flow in the body, since they tend to have decreased blood circulation & oxygenation & accumulate an excess
of waste products, such as carbon dioxide & lactic acid.
Therefore, muscle tension can be
a significant cause of the fatigue that often accompanies chronic stress. The following exercises help release tension &
the blocked emotions held in tight muscles.
Erasing Stress & Tension
Often the situations & beliefs
that make us feel anxious & tense look large & insurmountable. We tend to form representations in our mind that empower
stress. In these representations, we look tiny & helpless, while the stressors look huge & unsolvable.
You can change these mental representations & cut stressors down to size. The next 2 exercises
will help you to gain mastery over stress by learning to shrink it or even erase it w/your mind.
This places stress in a much more
manageable & realistic perspective. These 2 exercises will also help engender a sense of power & mastery, thereby
reducing anxiety & restoring a sense of calm.
The following 2 exercises give you healthful affirmations
that are very useful for women w/anxiety. As described earlier, anxiety symptoms are due to a complex interplay between the
mind & body. Your state of emotional & physical health is determined in part by the thousands of mental messages you
send yourself each day with your thoughts.
For example, if fear of public places triggers your anxiety symptoms, the mind will send a constant
stream of messages to you reinforcing your beliefs about the dangers & mishaps that can occur in public places. The fright
triggers muscle tension & shallow breathing. Similarly, if you constantly criticize the way you look, your lack of self-love
may be reflected in your body.
For example, your shoulders will slump & you may have a dull & lackluster countenance.
a method to change these negative belief systems to thoughts that preserve peace & calm. Positive statements replace the
anxiety inducing messages w/thoughts that make you feel good.
The first affirmation
exercise gives you a series of statements to promote a sense of emotional & physical health & well being. Using these
affirmations may create a feeling of emotional peace by changing your negative beliefs about your body & health into positive
The second affirmation
exercise helps promote self-esteem & self-confidence & also helps to reduce anxiety. Many women w/ high anxiety lose
their self-confidence & feel depressed & defeated by their condition. They feel frustrated & somehow at fault
for not finding a solution. Repeat each affirmation to yourself
or say them out loud 3 to 5 minutes. Use either or both exercises on a regular basis to promote healthful, positive thought
Calm Your Nerves & Combat Anxiety
With Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D., author
of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook
This workshop will benefit anyone experiencing normal, ordinary anxiety reactions (everyone, in other words). It's also intended
for those of you who are dealing w/specific anxiety disorders.
Here, you'll learn how to
identify & eliminate whatever triggers your anxiety & combat
the negative self-talk that may perpetuate your problems. You'll learn relaxation techniques you can count on at any moment of the day. Start
by finding out what could be causing your anxiety.
Learn Deep Relaxation
Deep relaxation refers
to a distinct physiological state that's the exact opposite of the way your body reacts under stress or during a panic attack.
This state was originally
described by Herbert Benson in 1975 as the relaxation
response. It involves a series of physiological changes including:
in heart rate
in respiration rate
in blood pressure
in skeletal muscle tension
in metabolic rate & oxygen consumption
in analytical thinking
in skin resistance
in alpha wave activity in the brain
Regular practice of deep relaxation for 20 - 30 minutes on a daily basis can produce,
over time, a generalization of relaxation to the rest of your life.
After several weeks of practicing deep relaxation once per day, you will tend to
feel more relaxed all the time.
Numerous other benefits of deep relaxation have been documented over
the past 20 years. These include:
- Reduction of generalized anxiety.
Many people have found that regular practice also reduces the frequency & severity of panic attacks.
- Preventing stress from becoming cumulative. Unabated stress tends to build up over time.
Entering into a state of physiological quiescence once a day gives your body the opportunity to recover from the effects of
stress. Even sleep can fail to break the cumulative stress cycle unless you've given yourself permission to deeply relax while
- Increased energy level & productivity. (When under stress, you may work against yourself
& become less efficient, this is when relaxation breathing is useful.)
- Improved concentration & memory. Regular practice of deep relaxation tends to increase your ability to focus & keeps your mind from "racing." (Program yourself
to focus on positive self affirmations instead of negative self talk.)
- Reduction of insomnia & fatigue. Learning to relax leads to sleep that is deeper & sounder. Relaxation is a part of good sleep hygiene.
- Prevention &/or reduction of psychosomatic disorders such as hypertension, migraines,
headaches, asthma, ulcers, & so on.
- Increased self-confidence & reduced self-blame. For many people, stress & excessive
self-criticism or feelings of inadequacy go hand in hand. You can perform better, as well as feel better, when you are relaxed.
- Increased availability of feelings. Muscle tension is one of the chief impediments to
an awareness of your feelings.
can you achieve a state of deep relaxation? By teaching yourself abdominal breathing exercises.
Your breathing directly reflects
the level of tension you carry in your body. Under tension, your breathing usually becomes shallow
& rapid & occurs high in the chest.
relaxed, you breathe more fully, more deeply & from your abdomen. It's difficult to be tense & to breathe from your abdomen at the same time. A few benefits of abdominal breathing include:
- Greater feelings of connectedness between mind & body. Anxiety & worry tend to
keep you "up in your head." A few minutes of deep abdominal breathing will help bring you down into your whole body.
breathing by itself can trigger a relaxation
Many women suffering from anxiety episodes often feel ungrounded & disorganized.
is a pervasive sense of "things falling apart." When anxiety episodes occur, it often takes a concentrated effort just to
get through the day, accomplishing such basic daily tasks as cooking, housecleaning, taking care of children, or getting to
work or school.
Exercises 3 & 4 on the Relaxation Techniques page are grounding techniques that will help you feel more centered & focused. Practicing
either of these exercises will allow you to organize your energies & proceed more effectively w/your daily routine.
are you overstimulated?
Too much can be a
bad thing. Find out whether you're suffering from sensory overload.
by Sara Eckel
to stadium-sized superstores, checking voice mail as we navigate traffic. We mulittask at the office, sending e-mails as we
chatter on the phone & pump ourselves w/double espressos.
the day is done, we crash on the couch w/the remote control, trying to decide between hundreds of options.
No doubt about it: The world can
be a pretty overstimulating place. So much so that Steven Alper, director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program
at the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, California, says that we don't even realize how stressed the constant barrage of sights & sounds makes
"We're in a constant state of arousal,"
says Alper. "It's like a fish [that] doesn't know it's wet."
In other words, you may
be so used to being in this hyperalert state that you don't even realize it's abnormal, says Alper. Do you need a stimulation
vacation? Take this quiz to find out.
For centuries, people have used warm water as a way to calm moods
& relax muscles. You can have your own "spa" at home by adding relaxing ingredients to the bath water. I have found the
following formula to be extremely useful in relieving muscle pain & tension.
Alkaline Bath. Run a tub of warm water. Heat will increase your menstrual flow, so keep the water a little cooler if heavy flow is
Add one cup
of sea salt & one cup of bicarbonate of soda to the tub. This is a highly alkaline mixture & I recommend using it
only once or twice a month.
I've found it
very helpful in reducing cramps & calming anxiety & irritability. Soak for 20 minutes. You will probably feel very
relaxed & sleepy after this bath; use it at night before going to sleep.
You will probably
wake up feeling refreshed & energized the following day. Heat of any kind helps to release muscle tension. Many women
find that saunas & baths also help to calm their moods.
Music can have a tremendously relaxing effect on our minds &
bodies. For women w/anxiety & nervous tension, I recommend slow, quiet music classical music is particularly good.
This type of
music can have a pronounced beneficial effect on your physiological functions. It can slow your pulse & heart rate, lower
your blood pressure & decrease your levels of stress hormones. It promotes peace & relaxation & helps to induce
such as ocean waves & rainfall, can also induce a sense of peace & relaxation. I have patients who keep tapes of nature
sounds in their cars & at home for use when they feel more stressed.
music often when you are aware of increased emotional & physical tension.
Massage can be extremely therapeutic for
women who feel anxious. Gentle touching either by a trained massage therapist, your relationship partner, or even yourself
can be very relaxing.
Tension usually fades away relatively quickly
w/gentle, relaxed touching. The kneading & stroking movement of a good massage relaxes tight muscles & improves circulation.
If you can afford to do so, I recommend treating
yourself to a professional massage during times of stress. Otherwise, trade w/a friend or partner.
There are also many books available that instruct
people how to massage themselves.