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What is Diaphragmatic Breathing?

Breathing with your belly

Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of a breathing exercise that helps strengthen your diaphragm, an important muscle that helps you breathe. This breathing exercise is also sometimes called belly breathing or abdominal breathing.

It has a number of benefits that affect your entire body. It’s the basis for almost all meditation or relaxation techniques, which can lower your stress levels, reduce your blood pressure, and regulate other important bodily processes.

Let’s learn more about how diaphragmatic breathing benefits you, how to get started, and what the research says about it.

Diaphragmatic breathing benefits

Diaphragmatic breathing has a ton of benefits. It’s at the center of the practice of meditation, which is known to help manage the symptoms of conditions as wide-ranging as irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety, and sleeplessness.

Here are more benefits this type of breathing can have:

  • It helps you relax, lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol on your body.
  • It lowers your heart rate
  • It helps lower your blood pressure
  • It helps you cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • It improves your core muscle stability.
  • It improves your body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise.
  • It lowers your chances of injuring or wearing out your muscles.
  • It slows your rate of breathing so that it expends less energy.

One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is reducing stress.

Being stressed keeps your immune system from working at full capacity. This can make you more susceptible to numerous conditions. And over time, long-term (chronic) stress, even from seemingly minor inconveniences like traffic, issues with loved ones, or other daily concerns can cause you to develop anxiety or depression. Some deep breathing exercises can help you reduce these effects of stress.

It’s often recommended for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD causes the diaphragm to be less effective, so doing breathing exercises that benefit the diaphragm specifically can help strengthen the diaphragm and improve your breathing. Here’s how it helps:

  • With healthy lungs, your diaphragm does most of the work when you inhale to bring fresh air in and exhale to get carbon dioxide and other gases out of your lungs.
  • With COPD and similar respiratory conditions, such as asthma, your lungs lose some of their elasticity, or stretchiness, so they don’t go back to their original state when you exhale.
  • Losing lung elasticity can cause air to build up in the lungs, so there’s not as much space for the diaphragm to contract for you to breathe in oxygen.
  • As a result, your body uses neck, back, and chest muscles to help you breathe. This means that you can’t take in as much oxygen. This can affect how much oxygen you have for exercise and other physical activities.
  • Breathing exercises help you force out the air buildup in your lungs. This helps increase how much oxygen’s in your blood and strengthens the diaphragm.
Diaphragmatic breathing instructions

The most basic type of diaphragmatic breathing is done by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth.

Diaphragm breathing basics

Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
  2. Relax your shoulders.
  3. Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
  4. Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
  5. Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
  6. Repeat these steps several times for best results.

Rib-stretch breathing

The rib stretch is another helpful deep breathing exercise. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand up straight and arch your back.
  2. Breathe out until you just can’t anymore.
  3. Inhale slowly and gradually, taking in as much air as possible until you can’t breathe in anymore.
  4. Hold your breath for about 10 seconds.
  5. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. You can do this normally or with pursed lips.

Numbered breathing

Numbered breathing is a good exercise for gaining control over your breathing patterns. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Stand up, staying still, and close your eyes.
  2. Inhale deeply until you can’t take in anymore air.
  3. Exhale until all air has been emptied from your lungs.
  4. Keep your eyes closed! Now, inhale again while picturing the number 1.
  5. Keep the air in your lungs for a few seconds, then let it all out.
  6. Inhale again while picturing the number 2.
  7. Hold your breath while counting silently to 3, then let it all out again.
  8. Repeat these steps until you’ve reached 8. Feel free to count higher if you feel comfortable.
What happens during diaphragmatic breathing?

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped respiratory muscle found near the bottom of your ribcage, right below your chest. When you inhale and exhale air, the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles around your lungs contract. The diaphragm does most of the work during the inhalation part. During inhalation, your diaphragm contracts so that your lungs can expand into the extra space and let in as much air as is necessary.

Muscles in between your ribs, known as intercostal muscles, raise your rib cage in order to help your diaphragm let enough air into your lungs.

Muscles near your collarbone and neck also help these muscles when something makes it harder for you to breathe properly; they all contribute to how quickly and how much your ribs can move and make space for your lungs.

Some of these muscles include:

  • scalenes
  • pectoralis minor
  • serratus anterior
  • sternocleidomastoid

Autonomic nervous system and your breath

Also, breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is in charge of essential bodily processes that you don’t need to put any thought into, such as:

  • digestive processes
  • how quickly you breathe
  • metabolic process that affect your weight
  • overall body temperature
  • blood pressure

The ANS has two main components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions. Each division is responsible for different bodily functions.

The sympathetic usually gets these processes going, while the parasympathetic stops them from happening. And while the sympathetic controls your fight-or-flight response, the parasympathetic is in charge of everyday processes.

So even though most ANS functions are involuntary, you can control some of your ANS processes by doing deep breathing exercises.

Taking deep breaths can help you voluntarily regulate your ANS, which can have many benefits — especially by lowering your heart rate, regulating blood pressure, and helping you relax, all of which help decrease how much of the stress hormone cortisol is released into your body.

Risks and research

Diaphragmatic breathing isn’t always useful on its own. Research on ANS-related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have found that deep breathing is often most effective as a treatment when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy.

Deep breathing exercises aren’t always helpful if you have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or another similar mental health condition.

GAD can last for up to several months or years, and the numerous worries or anxieties that accompany it may feel hard to control. Deep breathing exercises may cause more anxiety if they don’t appear to be working.

Techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are usually a better option for helping someone cope with anxiety or other matters of mental health.

Trained to help with your health

There are a lot of different breathing exercises out there, but they may not all be the right choice for you.

Talk to one or more of the following professionals for advice on breathing exercises:

  • Your primary care physician. They likely know more about your overall health than anyone, so they may give good advice tailored to your needs.
  • A respiratory specialist. If you have a respiratory condition like COPD, a specialist can give you specific treatments and advice on your breathing.
  • A cardiac specialist. If you have a condition that affects your heart or bloodstream, a cardiac expert can guide you through the benefits of breathing for your heart.
  • A mental health professional. If you’re thinking about breathing to help reduce stress, talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you gauge if breathing exercises will help.
  • A physical therapist. Your muscles and posture can affect your breathing, and a physical therapist can help you learn how to best use your muscles and movement to assist you in breathing better.
  • A licensed fitness professional. If you just want to use breathing for daily stressors, talk to a personal trainer or yoga teacher, or go to the gym and learn the best breathing exercises for your health and fitness.
Tips to get started and to keep going

Creating a routine can be a good way to get in the habit of diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Try the following to get into a good groove:

  • Do your exercises in the same place every day. Somewhere that’s peaceful and quiet.
  • Don’t worry if you’re not doing it right or enough. This may just cause additional stress.
  • Clear your mind of the things that are stressing you out. Focus instead on the sounds and rhythm of your breathing or the environment around you.
  • Do breathing exercises at least once or twice daily. Try to do them at the same time each day to reinforce the habit.
  • Do these exercises for about 10–20 minutes at a time.
The takeaway

Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist if you’re interested in using this exercise to improve your breathing if you have COPD.

Diaphragmatic breathing may help relieve some of your symptoms in the case of COPD or other conditions related to your ANS, but it’s always best to get a medical professional’s opinion to see if it’s worth your time or if it will have any drawbacks.

Diaphragmatic breathing is most effective when you’re feeling rested. Try one or more techniques to see which one works best for you by giving you the most relief or feelings of relaxation.

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7 Ways That Elon Musk Deals With Stress That You Can Emulate

Elon Musk handles an enormous amount of responsibility and stress. He is currently the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, which, combined, are worth over $70 billion. He is also the founder of Neuralink, The Boring Company, is working on a Hyperloop, and always has other small projects on hand.

In the past, he worked through near concurrent collapses of Tesla and SpaceX as well as a significant amount of family strife and other struggles. The fact that he has continued to persevere and is handling as much of a load as he is now is remarkable.

Here are 7 ways that Musk is able to deal with stress that you can emulate to become both a happier and more productive professional:

1. He uses it as fuel.

Musk was quoted saying, “Don’t let stress sideline you. Instead, use it as fuel to keep rocketing ahead, maybe even all the way to Mars.”

Instead of falling victim to his stress or letting it paralyze him, Musk uses it as energy. He takes the sheer enormity of responsibilities that he has, as well as the burdens on his plate, and uses them to work even harder.

He goes through his days with a sense of urgency, allowing him to be significantly more productive. If he didn’t do so, there is no way he would have made it this far.

2. He understands what he got himself into. 

Musk has no problem sharing that his life challenging. He is able to deal with that challenge and stress, though, because he made the conscious choice to take it on.

He did not accidentally end up with two huge companies or a mission to bring the human population to space. Rather, he made the decision to work on high-impact projects. This helps him because he sees his stress as his own doing. He was prepared for what he was getting himself into. Or, at least as prepared as he could be.

3. He tries to be logical.

Musk once said, “people should certainly ignore fear if it’s irrational. Even if it’s rational and the stake is worth it, it’s still worth proceeding.”

Some of the biggest praises that Elon Musk gets are his pragmatism and first-principle thinking. He looks at the world as rationally as one can. That allows him to take a step back from his situation and see the bigger picture. Being able to do so is dramatically helpful in managing stress levels because he is solution-oriented. Plus, this outlook promotes long-term thinking.

4. He doesn’t point fingers.

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

Yeah

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

If you buy a ticket to hell, it isn’t fair to blame hell …

423 people are talking about this

Elon Musk also makes no excuses. He does not spend time blaming others for his stress or the challenges that he deals with. Rather, he accepts his responsibilities. This allows him to spend more time focusing on how to become more effective and less time blaming others for his shortcomings or struggles.

5. He picked something he cares a lot about.

Maybe most importantly of all, Musk chose to work on problems that he is obsessed with solving.

He would have had no other way to sustain all that is on his plate for so long without loving what he was doing. Even in the down moments, consequently, he can remember why he is putting himself through so much. That sheer passion and desire always outweighs the voice telling him that he is in too deep.

Robert Gaal

@robertgaal

Respectfully: I bet a lot of fellow founders would love to hear about the lows and the stress and how you’ve dealt with them.

Elon Musk

@elonmusk

I’m sure there are better answers than what I do, which is just take the pain and make sure you really care about what you’re doing

486 people are talking about this

6. He maximizes his time.

Musk has also become one of the most efficient and productive workers on the planet. With so many responsibilities and even a family, he has to be.

This skillset drastically helps him with his levels of stress. He knows what he can accomplish and how quickly he can accomplish it. Despite feeling overwhelmed by certain problems, he has the tools to tackle those situations head on. They are not always easy and he does not always have the answers, but he is as equipped as anyone to go solve them.

His personal commitment to high-output and constant improvement in that regard allows him to handle significantly more at once.

7. He does not take things personally.

One thing that adds to people’s stress is the ego. When they fall short or realize they have been going down the wrong path, many take it personally. That adds an extra layer or pressure because it means amid all else that is happening, one has to also maintain their ego.

Musk is the exact opposite. He has been quoted saying “you should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong,” and “failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

He questions every single thing about himself and the world. There is no way he would have been able to build rockets and electric cars so cheaply, otherwise. In regards to his stress, as well, it means he challenges himself in a productive way. He is willing to change, fail, and improve. This allows him to constantly adapt and question, widening his skill set and capability to handle diverse situations.

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When Stress Is Actually Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

 

We rarely hear people say, “I’m really feeling stressed. Isn’t that great?” But if we didn’t have some stress in our lives—the “good stress” variety—we’d feel rudderless and unhappy. If we define stress as anything that alters our homeostasis, then good stress, in its many forms, is vital for a healthy life. Bad stress can even turn into good stress, and vice versa.

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

“Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we feel excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Another type of stress is acute stress. It comes from quick surprises that need a response. Acute stress triggers the body’s stress response as well, but the triggers aren’t always happy and exciting. This is what we normally think of as “stress” (or “bad stress”). Acute stress in itself doesn’t take a heavy toll if we find ways to relax quickly. Once the stressor has been dealt with, we need to return our body to homeostasis, or its pre-stress state, to be healthy and happy.

Chronic stress is another form of bad stress. It occurs when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. A stressful job or an unhappy home life can bring chronic stress. This is what we normally think of as serious stress. Because our bodies aren’t designed for chronic stress, we can face negative health effects (both physical and emotional) if we deal with chronic stress for an extended period of time.

Sources of Good Stress

Yes, you can add good stress to your life! Ideally, you choose activities and set goals that make you feel good, happy, and excited. To gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time, pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel. Do you feel excited? Is it a “want to,” or a “have to”? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.

How Good Stress Can Become Bad Stress

Good stress can become bad for you if you experience too much of it. (Adrenaline junkies know this firsthand.) This is because your stress response is triggered either way, and if you’re adding that to chronic stress, or several other stressors, there is a cumulative effect.

Be in tune with yourself and acknowledge when you’ve had too much. You may not be able to eliminate all stress, but there are often ways that you can minimize or avoid some of the stress in your life, and this can make it easier to handle the rest.

If you can avoid the most taxing forms of stress, you’ll have more resilience against other types of stress that are unavoidable.

How Bad Stress Can Become Good Stress

Not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life. This shift can change your experience of stress.

The body’s stress response reacts strongly to perceived threats. If you don’t perceive something as a threat, there is generally no threat-based stress response. If you perceive something as a challenge instead, the fear you would normally experience may turn into excitement and anticipation, or at least resolve. You can often make the shift in perception by:

  • Focusing on the resources you have to meet the challenge
  • Seeing the potential benefits of a situation
  • Reminding yourself of your strengths
  • Having a positive mindset (getting into the habit of thinking like an optimist)

As you practice looking at threats as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic, and you experience more good stress and less bad stress.

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What is Norbu Stress Control?

What is Norbu Stress Control?

Nowadays people are facing a significant stress impact. It becomes vitally important for an individual to be able to manage stress in order to adapt to dramatic changes. Norbu Stress Control app trains stress management skills.

Most techniques for stress reduction use relaxing melodies and soothing meditations to fight stress. Unfortunately, these techniques of passive adaptation gives only a short-term effect, and rarely helps when facing the challenges of everyday reality.

NORBU Stress Control or stress management is the Mindfulness Based Stress Control (MBSC) technique of active adaptation to changes

Norbu app teaches stress recognition and trains the adaptive skill of stress control through a sequence of exercises: 

1.Problem focusing and it’s assessment

2.The game “Neuron Massage” switches the attention from the problem. 

3.During a parasympathetic breathing exercise, the brain’s stress patterns are disabled and new opportunities for creativity and inspiration are opened. 

4.Meditation consolidates the effect of the breathing.  

5.The self-assessment of the training result clearly shows the user the effectiveness of the training. 

6.Statistics on the progress of adaptation to stress, form a steady habit for the user to cope with stress.

At regular training for 6-8 weeks, the app forms a habit to discover the cause of stress and adapt to the changes without falling into anxiety or depression.

The training methodology has been compiled and based on research in the PubMed scientific base and confirmed by our own experience.

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How to cope with self-isolation and quarantine

How to cope with self-isolation and quarantine

how to cope with self-isolation and quarantine

Analysis: as thousands of us face a period of quarantine or Isolation, here’s what to expect and how to cope 

Thousands of people on this island are in or facing a period of quarantine or Isolation as a result of coronavirus risk or infection. At the best of times, staying away from loved ones, peers and colleagues would be a challenge, but adding the spectre of a life threatening infection to the mix elevates this to a high stress experience. Thankfully, psychological research during other disaster situations such as SARS, Zika virus, Ebola and the Boston Marathon bombing has delivered some instructive insights on how we react to these situations and how best to manage them.

Those who have experienced quarantine or Isolation speak of a series of burdens that take their toll on feeling of well-being. The limiting of natural social contact, the cessation of a natural daily routine and the experience of a lack of control over one’s life can be debilitating and exhausting. The consequences experienced include the following.

Fear and anxiety: Being in quarantine or Isolation means a loss of control over normal life routine. When we feel things are beyond our control our levels of fear increases because of the risk we perceive. Our anxiety is exacerbated by the worry, not just about one’s own health and well-being, but also that of family, particularly if you are a chief carer or bread winner. Can I provide the natural nurture and care for my loved ones, how do I ensure my loved ones will have the everyday essentials? What will the future hold for me, my loved ones, for my community…? The daily announcements of the bounce in numbers infected can heighten our sense of lack of control.

Boredom to depression: our work roles form an important part of our personal and social identity and purpose. Being without work, or at least not having our normal rhythm, can lead to feelings of ineffectiveness. The lack of opportunities to use our abilities can dampen moods leading to a general sense of sadness. For many, being deprived of their natural physical activity regime, be that sport or gym visits, means unfamiliar lethargy and depressed energy levels which are not positive for well-being.

Frustration and anger: enforced confinement, restricted movement and not being able to engage in everyday activities elevates frustration levels. This frustration may spillover not just to loved ones in our environs, but also to those not heeding official guidelines, or others not subject to quarantine or Isolation

Stigmatisation: being identified as being in quarantine or Isolation, whether self-imposed or not, can lead to the experience of feeling stigmatised. Guilt and fear not just about the unknown but how others might perceive us now or in the future adds to the malaise.

Thankfully psychological research offers some insights on how to cope with the feelings associated with this adversity.

(1) Take a proactive approach

Making a plan and identifying what we can control is associated with sense of purpose and progress. Sketch a daily timetable or routine and post it where you and others can see it, as doing so increases our probability of sticking to it. Ensure variety in the schedule, work, leisure, exercise, learning, etc. Consider engaging in something new – a project – that sparks your intrinsic motivation and curiosity. We can manage our moods and feelings, so try to be aware of what you are feeling, and understanding why you are experiencing these feelings is the first step to putting one back in control.

(2) Stay connected

Whether one is extrovert or introvert, we are a social species and connecting with friends and family has positive effects on our well-being. Whether it’s text, video chat, social media or phone, just staying connected keeps us centred. In particular, it is good to share what you feel. While a problem shared may not be a problem halved, there is a host of research to support that sharing concerns with trusted others has significant positive psychological benefits.

(3) Focus on your health

While obvious, we sometimes fail to control what we can with reference to our health. Quarantine and isolation s stressful and stress weakens our immune system, so being proactive about staying healthy becomes even more important. Stick to regular meals with the correct nutritional variety and avoid snacking. Anxiety can sometimes prompt us to comfort eat, so we need to manage these urges. Daily exercise will help regularise sleep patterns all of which boosts psychological health. Needless to say, the misuse of alcohol and drugs will not help longer term adjustment despite how the relaxing effect of alcohol may be appealing in a time of stress.

(4) Manage your media consumption

We have learned from the Zika virus crisis in 2016 that those who relied on social media sources such as Twitter recorded higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who depended on traditional media sources for their news updates. In fact, consuming too much media in a crisis situation is associated with increased levels of experienced stress. Restrict your consumption of news and avoid social media and depend on traditional national media with direct lines to the trustworthy medical decision-makers when accessing news.

If you are subject to quarantine or isolation, remember you are doing so not just for your own good, but that of your community. It is the ultimate act of altruism and it might be said you are among our nation’s silent heroes. We owe you and thank you!

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Pandemic and Evolution

Pandemic and Evolution

pandemic and evolution

Our Earth is a unique planet that is still on an evolutionary path, and all its inhabitants are also on the path of evolution. People are now facing a new challenge. Will mankind be able to give an adequate answer, will it change its old traditions, will it give up its usual way of life or will it take a waiting position? The answers to these questions will be found in the near future. Today this challenge affects not only people of one country, nationality or religion, but all humanity, because everyone is facing a new type of threat – coronavirus pandemics – poor, rich, eminent, rulers, politicians and just citizens.

If you try to remember situations, when the whole world was holding its breath while watching the news, the following tragic accidents appear in front of our eyes: the explosion of the twin towers in 2001, the explosion of the oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the accident at the nuclear power plant Fukushima in 2011, the rapid fall of the Chelyabinsk meteorite in 2013. Usually, such events take people by surprise. They demonstrate the fragility and value of life by reminding us that we are all inhabitants of one planet.

Another situation 911 showed that we are not ready for changes in life, for limitations, but if we do not change and evolve, we may find ourselves on the sidelines of life, not only as individuals but also as a species.

Mankind is now in a sense at a stage of evolution that is reminiscent of how once fish were left without water on land and had to learn to breathe air rather than oxygen from water. At that time, the fish were able to get out of the water and began to master the land. To do this, new organs had to be formed – lungs instead of gills, paws instead of fins. We cannot yet understand the entire global plan of evolution for mankind, but we can already draw the first conclusions from the recent event- the coronavirus impact. We all are under stress, not only because of bad news but also because we had to change a lot in our lives and daily routine:

  • We had to urgently revise our habits because some of them became death traps not only for us but also for our loved ones. A simple habit of neglecting hygiene rules (washing your hands, not sneezing openly, keeping distance, refrain from touching face and metal surfaces) became an unacceptable whim.
  • Someone had to quit smoking or start doing exercises, buy a treadmill, etc.
  • It became important to monitor the condition of loved ones on a daily basis, especially elderly people, teaching them new rules and helping them to adapt.
  • We had to learn to exist in informational and cultural isolation (closed theatres, unavailable entertainments, isolated friends, etc.).
  • We need to live without usually available services such as hairdresser visits, beauty services, etc. and accept ourselves as we are.
  • All of us had to restrict movement in space.
  • Some are sitting at home with children, assisting in their homeschooling, keeping them busy 24/7.
  • Many of us have to cook dishes 3-4 times a day.
  • We need to plan our time and activities thoroughly
  • Face new fear of breathing without a mask and getting infected.

What conclusion can be drawn from what is happening to us now? We need to be internally prepared for the constant changes that will inevitably continue to happen in our lives. This is a key quality that people, like the new organ, must obtain in the course of evolution. This organ is our brain, which must learn to use its innate quality of neuroplasticity more. Neuroplasticity allows us to adapt quickly, learn and make right decisions.

Norbu’s stress management application is based on developing the quality of neuroplasticity. In the next article, we will consider how stress, adaptation and neuroplasticity are related to each other.

Author: Dmitry Dolgov

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How to Adapt to a Stressful Situation

How to Adapt to a Stressful Situation

 

Often when people face a new and stressful situation—a job that’s a bit too challenging, a thorny relationship hurdle that will take a while to sort through, a change in lifestyle that feels like a step down from what they had—they feel overwhelmed at the thought that they may have to deal with this stress for an extended period of time. People who worry about this long-term stress have reason to be concerned: chronic stress, the stress type of stress that is continual and unchanging, can take the heaviest toll. People who face chronic stressors may wonder if things will get easier—if they will adapt.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to mitigate the stress of virtually any situation, even if the situation itself is there to stay for a while. If you are facing a new hurdle, a challenging life situation, or are just wondering if it gets easier and how to speed the process, the following are some stress relief strategies that can help.

Note: If you face a life crisis or overwhelming stressor, these techniques can help significantly, but seeking the help of a professional may be necessary at some point if the stress does not become manageable.

Have The Right Attitude

We can’t always control what we are facing, but we do have a choice in how we face it. We can choose the attitude we take, and whether we face each challenge as a threat or a challenge.

Research shows that viewing something as a challenge helps you to mobilize your resources and bring your “A game” to the situation more easily, while viewing the same situation as a threat can lead to a greater tendency to feel stressed and shut down

If you read about avoidant coping, you can see some of the problems that are associated with shutting down or avoiding your stressor. The following steps can help you to move into a more empowered frame of mind if you need to.

  • Understand the Role of Attitude
    • Your attitude can help to determine how stressful a situation feels for you, and how you approach your options. In fact, attitude can affect which options you see and do not see, which can also affect your stress levels and the outcome of your actions.
  • Examine Your Thought Patterns
    • Your thought patterns may feel automatic, but you can choose where your focus lies. To begin to make that choice, it helps to become aware of your habitual thinking patterns. This exercise can help you to see these patterns more clearly and can help you to relieve stress in the process.
  • Practice Positive Self-Talk
    • Positive self-talk means using more optimistic language in your head, and focusing more on possibilities. It involves more than merely trying to look on the bright side, although that is part of it. Learn the specific areas where you can shift your focus and in the process, alter what is possible for you, and how stressful or stress-free your life feels.

Change What You Can

Sometimes there are certain aspects of a situation you can change, even if you cannot change the situation as a whole. For example, you may, for financial reasons, be unable to quit a job you don’t enjoy, but you can connect with co-workers more, alter your attitude while you’re at work, and use your break time for stress management activities, all of which can alter how you feel when you are at this job. The following steps can help you to make changes where you can and relieve stress as you do.

  • Try Solution-Focused Coping
    • Solution-focused coping means taking action to change your life where you are able. These changes can be large in scale, or small but targeted. Change itself can bring stress, so it’s important to choose the changes that will matter the most.
  • Find and Eliminate Tolerations
    • Tolerations are those nagging stressors in your lifestyle that you put up with almost without realizing it, but which bring you constant low-grade stress. The thing about tolerations is that they add up to bigger stress. Cutting out tolerations can bring stress relief so you can tolerate more of the things you can’t change.
  • Create a New Life Plan
    • Knowing where you want to go, having a plan for the future, can help to minimize stress in the present. Planning changes according to your values and priorities can be helpful and inspiring, even if you can’t bring those plans to fruition for a little while longer.

Build Resilience Through Healthy Habits

If you can’t do any more to change your situation, you can still reduce the stress you feel as you manage your daily life. Certain activities can promote resilience and help you to feel less stressed overall, and less reactive to the stressors you face when they rear their ugly heads. The following are a few resilience-building activities to add to your life—the more they become an automatic habit, the less your stressors will bother you!

  • Self Care
    • When we are tired, hungry, and run-down, everything feels more stressful, and we have fewer coping resources at our disposal. We tend to react to stress rather than respond to it. We let things snowball. Focus on taking care of your body, and you will have a greater ability to handle frustration and stress in your life overall.
  • Exercise
    • Exercise is one of those wonderful stress relievers that can build resilience by helping you to blow off steam. Better still, regular exercise can help you to become less reactive toward stress. Because of that and the obvious health benefits of exercise, this is a powerhouse of a stress reliever that should be worked into your schedule when at all possible.
  • Meditation
    • Meditation can help you to remain centered in the face of stressand can help you to regain a sense of peace when you are feeling off-balance. There are many meditation techniques that work well, so try a few and stick with a favorite technique or two that really feel right. Over time, you should find yourself reacting to stress with less intensity and more able to remain calm and peaceful.
  • Positive Attitude
    • Maintaining a positive attitude is one thing you can do to make everything in your life feel easier. A positive attitude also helps you to get along better with others (which can lead to greater social support and less conflict) and can help you to remain feeling good, even when things around you are not so great.

All in all, it would be great if we could simply avoid or eliminate the stressors in our lives. Unfortunately, that’s only possible to an extent, and there will be times in life when we are all faced with unpredictable or unavoidable stressors, when we need to rely on resilience. You may not be able to change everything in your life, but these tips can help you to adapt more easily to stressful situations you may face.

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Understanding the stress response

Understanding the stress response

Chronic activation of this survival mechanism impairs health

Understanding the stress response

A stressful situation — whether something environmental, such as a looming work deadline, or psychological, such as persistent worry about losing a job — can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes. A stressful incident can make the heart pound and breathing quicken. Muscles tense and beads of sweat appear.

This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The carefully orchestrated yet near-instantaneous sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure, and family difficulties.

Over the years, researchers have learned not only how and why these reactions occur, but have also gained insight into the long-term effects chronic stress has on physical and psychological health. Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction. More preliminary research suggests that chronic stress may also contribute to obesity, both through direct mechanisms (causing people to eat more) or indirectly (decreasing sleep and exercise).

Sounding the alarm

The stress response begins in the brain (see illustration). When someone confronts an oncoming car or other danger, the eyes or ears (or both) send the information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the images and sounds. When it perceives danger, it instantly sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.

Command center

illustration of brain showing areas activated by stress

When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.

The hypothalamus is a bit like a command center. This area of the brain communicates with the rest of the body through the autonomic nervous system, which controls such involuntary body functions as breathing, blood pressure, heartbeat, and the dilation or constriction of key blood vessels and small airways in the lungs called bronchioles. The autonomic nervous system has two components, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system functions like a gas pedal in a car. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers. The parasympathetic nervous system acts like a brake. It promotes the “rest and digest” response that calms the body down after the danger has passed.

After the amygdala sends a distress signal, the hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system by sending signals through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. These glands respond by pumping the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream. As epinephrine circulates through the body, it brings on a number of physiological changes. The heart beats faster than normal, pushing blood to the muscles, heart, and other vital organs. Pulse rate and blood pressure go up. The person undergoing these changes also starts to breathe more rapidly. Small airways in the lungs open wide. This way, the lungs can take in as much oxygen as possible with each breath. Extra oxygen is sent to the brain, increasing alertness. Sight, hearing, and other senses become sharper. Meanwhile, epinephrine triggers the release of blood sugar (glucose) and fats from temporary storage sites in the body. These nutrients flood into the bloodstream, supplying energy to all parts of the body.

All of these changes happen so quickly that people aren’t aware of them. In fact, the wiring is so efficient that the amygdala and hypothalamus start this cascade even before the brain’s visual centers have had a chance to fully process what is happening. That’s why people are able to jump out of the path of an oncoming car even before they think about what they are doing.

As the initial surge of epinephrine subsides, the hypothalamus activates the second component of the stress response system — known as the HPA axis. This network consists of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands.

The HPA axis relies on a series of hormonal signals to keep the sympathetic nervous system — the “gas pedal” — pressed down. If the brain continues to perceive something as dangerous, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which travels to the pituitary gland, triggering the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone travels to the adrenal glands, prompting them to release cortisol. The body thus stays revved up and on high alert. When the threat passes, cortisol levels fall. The parasympathetic nervous system — the “brake” — then dampens the stress response.

Techniques to counter chronic stress

Many people are unable to find a way to put the brakes on stress. Chronic low-level stress keeps the HPA axis activated, much like a motor that is idling too high for too long. After a while, this has an effect on the body that contributes to the health problems associated with chronic stress.

Persistent epinephrine surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood pressure and raising risk of heart attacks or strokes. Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body’s energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. But they inadvertently contribute to the buildup of fat tissue and to weight gain. For example, cortisol increases appetite, so that people will want to eat more to obtain extra energy. It also increases storage of unused nutrients as fat.

Fortunately, people can learn techniques to counter the stress response.

Relaxation response. Dr. Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, has devoted much of his career to learning how people can counter the stress response by using a combination of approaches that elicit the relaxation response. These include deep abdominal breathing, focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm), visualization of tranquil scenes, repetitive prayer, yoga, and tai chi.

Most of the research using objective measures to evaluate how effective the relaxation response is at countering chronic stress have been conducted in people with hypertension and other forms of heart disease. Those results suggest the technique may be worth trying — although for most people it is not a cure-all. For example, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 122 patients with hypertension, ages 55 and older, in which half were assigned to relaxation response training and the other half to a control group that received information about blood pressure control. After eight weeks, 34 of the people who practiced the relaxation response — a little more than half — had achieved a systolic blood pressure reduction of more than 5 mm Hg, and were therefore eligible for the next phase of the study, in which they could reduce levels of blood pressure medication they were taking. During that second phase, 50% were able to eliminate at least one blood pressure medication — significantly more than in the control group, where only 19% eliminated their medication.

Physical activity. People can use exercise to stifle the buildup of stress in several ways. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension. Movement therapies such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combine fluid movements with deep breathing and mental focus, all of which can induce calm.

Social support. Confidants, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, spouses, and companions all provide a life-enhancing social net — and may increase longevity. It’s not clear why, but the buffering theory holds that people who enjoy close relationships with family and friends receive emotional support that indirectly helps to sustain them at times of chronic stress and crisis.

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Daily routine that will make your next morning stress-free

Your The Daily Routine That Will Make Your Next Morning Stress-Free

Your judgment, focus, memory and problem-solving abilities become impaired when you are tired, run down, and well, stressed.

The Daily Routine That Will Make Your Next Morning Stress-Free

 

Hey there. How’s your day going?

Before you automatically blurt out, “Good!” or “It’s going!” like you usually do, take a deep breath, pause, and think about how you’re really doing.

Lately, have you experienced any of the following:

  • Troubling falling asleep?
  • Trouble staying asleep?
  • Weight gain (especially around your tummy)?
  • Weakened immune system (i.e., getting sniffly all the time)?
  • Low libido?
  • Stomach pain or digestive issues?
  • Panicky feelings or a racing heartbeat?
  • Headaches and muscle aches?
  • Cravings (especially for sugary and fatty foods)?
  • Moodiness or feelings of anxiety?

First things first, I apologize for sounding like a commercial. But if any of those sound familiar, you–like 80% of Americans–may be stressed out because of your job.

And stress plus work is not a good mix. One recent study indicates that going to work when you’re sleep-deprived–a common side effect of chronic stress–is just as bad as going to work buzzed on a few drinks. Your judgment, focus, memory, and problem-solving abilities become impaired when you’re tired, run down, and well, stressed. Which means it isn’t just bad for your body on a physiological level; it could also derail your performance at work, clog up your creativity, and hold you back from getting an award, promotion, or pay raise.

So what’s the solution? Can someone powerful just wave a magic wand over America and melt everyone’s stress levels away? That would be amazing–but, no.

It’s up to you to learn how to manage your emotions and keep your stress levels in check. Fortunately, it’s actually not that hard to do. You brush and floss daily to prevent plaque from forming on your teeth; you can take steps to prevent anxiety from building up, too.

Here are a few things you can do–starting tonight–to make tomorrow a much less stressful workday.

Tonight: Release Pent-up Emotions

A tension-free tomorrow begins today.

Tonight, after work, make time to do whatever you need to do to release pent-up emotions in a safe way. Run. Journal. Punch a punching bag or a pillow. Hurl paint on a canvas. Sing at the top of your lungs.

After a few minutes of the stress-relieving activity of choice, you’ll probably notice a shift in how you feel, as if a literal weight has been lifted. You’re already on your way to more relaxed workday tomorrow.

Tomorrow Morning: Start Your Day With an Empowering Reminder

When you wake up, tell yourself something like, “No matter what happens today, I am in charge of how I respond.”

Remind yourself that you can’t control what other people do, but you can always–always–remain in charge of your own choices and responses.

You can choose to munch chips in frustration as you race to meet a deadline, or you can opt to take a walk, clear your head, and then work calmly and steadily. You can choose to bottle up negative emotions, or you can elect to release them at the end of your workday–safely and in private.

As your stress levels start to climb, life can sometimes feel out of control–but it’s not. You’re in charge. You’re always in charge. Remembering this simple fact can provide a lot of peace and relief.

Throughout Your Workday: Schedule Deep Breathing Breaks

The simple act of taking a few deep, full breaths can immediately lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body.

Breathe and feel your anxiety levels drop. Breathe deeper–they’ll drop some more. This is one of the best stress-relief tools ever created, and it’s free and accessible at any time.

You may find it helpful to set a timer and schedule a breathing break once an hour or so. See if you notice a difference in how you feel as you move through your day.

At the End of Your Workday: Do an Emotional Check

Once you get home from work, take a mental inventory of your day. Ask yourself, “How did I do?” “How am I feeling?” and “Did anything make me feel especially stressed today?”

Mentally catalog or write down any situations that felt especially stressful, irritating, or anxiety-provoking. Then, later tonight, focus on releasing those emotions, just like you did last night. You’ll clear the decks for a good night’s sleep, unburdened by anxiety and negativity. And tomorrow? You can repeat these stress-management practices again.

You can’t always prevent buses from running late, bosses from planning poorly, or colleagues from stealing your yogurt or taking credit for your hard work. Irritating things happen in life and at the office. That’s the reality of our imperfect world.

But you can choose to take good care of yourself and develop healthy practices that keep you stress-free, even under the worst circumstances. Don’t wait until your body has to scream to get your attention-;with stomach pains, insomnia, or collapsing at your desk from stress-induced exhaustion. Take small steps to clear away stress every day.

When you take care of your emotions and keep your feelings in check, you’ll be amazed at how much energy you have, how much you’re able to achieve, and perhaps most importantly, how much more you enjoy your life and work.

This story first appeared on The Muse

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We all have been there, when our mind goes blank during exam…Why so?

We all have been there, when our mind goes blank during exam…Why so?