I just realized I have been writing like mad but not posting anything on this blog! Yoiks! So I guess it is unrealistic to think I can catch up in a single post on the trajectory I have been on for the past two months. I am preparing a corporate training related to stress management, accountability and emotional intelligence. There is a huge body of knowledge, initially the work of emotional intelligence guru Daniel Goleman, the American who developed the framework most of us are familiar with.
As I go through his work and the work of a man named Gary Michael Durst, who wrote and trained on taking personal responsability at work for one’s actions and reactions, I have come to realize that all the training I have had as a natural therapist is parallel with this corporate body of work. And then, naturally, I then realize that the psychology research happened first, prior to the applied psych in the corporate world. I do like the body of knowledge once it becomes ‘corporate training material’ however, because it is so clear, so direct, and so accessible.
Where is the relevance to Roads to Wellness? Why, naturally, in the management of the stress response (frustration, anger, grief, panic, anxiety) so that the physiological responses do not cause permanent or serious damage. The real problem with high levels of stress is that over time, our bodies become less resilient and more prone to developing disease, especially coronary disease. The spikes of anger, for example, are related to everything from blood pressure to atherosclerosis and a host of other diseases. So it kind of behooves us all, especially in a high stress work environment, to learn what to do to attenuate the daily levels of stress and give our bodies a break.
Here are a few things that the average North American at work is unaware of:
1. Stress accumulates over the day and over the week. The stress response (typically the instances where we feel that ‘this makes me mad’) is more insidious when many intermittent stressors accost us during the day. Why? Because the body never recovers from one before embarking on another. The negative effects in the body begin to appear from the chronicity of the stressful events. So we need to be aware of our reactions and give ourselves a break, consciously. Learn to do meditation (good luck with Type A who don’t have the patience), do yoga, or learn energy medicine techniques. (More about that later).
2. The stress response is activated by legal office drugs! In particular, coffee and sugar are big culprits. Both may have the same effect as someone shouting at us and upsetting us. THINK ABOUT THAT! Just kidding. But when we perceive something as aggressive (like caps in an email) we have a little spike of stress hormones. When we drink coffee, same thing…. And unfortunately, red meat has the same effect. Yoiks, as I am fond of saying.
3. There are many natural techniques for reducing the stress response in the body. Many are immediate and simple to do. The simplest is one called the One Minute Breather. This is not a time out, it is a way of tuning into the parasympathetic nervous system to calm down and refocus, and should be taught to everyone on the day they receive their keycard security pass. It goes like this: Sit, quietly, and focus on the breath. Breathe in to the count of three. Hold. Breathe out to the count of four. Hold. Focus on the nostrils and the breath. Breathe in, again, this time focusing on the breath going down into the abdomen. Put your hand over the belly area, and feel the air move in. Do not move your chest. Breathe in to the count of three, hold, then out to the count of four. Hold. Repeat for at least a minute. You will feel calmer. Why? Long and short story: you trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, the repairer and calmer downer. Longer story: you move energy and refocus yourself with the breath. (More on this later).
4. Your stress response is affected by what you eat. There are things you can eat that calm you down. Avoid sugar and coffee as mentioned. Eat oats, brown rice, beans. Eat more simply, with fewer combinations of foods. If you eat a sandwich, here is a small trick to reduce the stress on your system of too many foods in combination (that physiologically stresses your system). Eat it ‘piecemeal’, that is, eat it mindfully one ingredient at a time. Sounds crazy-making, but makes a difference! Eat the meat first, if you can. Tell your stomach: here comes some protein. Eat the salad things next, noticing what you are eating. Then the last item, eat the bread. If you have any wheat in your sandwich bread (duh, usually), eating it last will at least give your system a chance to tackle the rest first before your immune system kicks in. Everyone’s immune system kicks in with processed food, not just yours or mine, and this slows us down. Incidentally, if you feel sleepy after eating, your food ingredients are responsible. (More on that, yes, at another time).
5. Your anger response to a comment or criticism is normal and natural. We all have an emotional response to the assaults from our daily life at work. We can’t help but take things ‘personally’ no matter how we try not to. What we can take charge of, however, is the way we deal with the small or large emotional response. What does help is to acknowledge the feeling. We can learn cognitive ways to reframe what we are feeling. For example, anger is often a learned response to disappointment, or sometimes hides a feeling of having been hurt or insulted. It helps to think ‘ouch’ or realize that you want to cringe or strike back so you can then deal with the feeling. What also helps is to know that such feelings are entirely normal, and in fact have been programmed in for a million years. This is the limbic system at work, just doing its job.
6. You can learn to move the anger response quickly out of your field. When your limbic brain is reacting, it has complete veto over the cognitive brain unless you learn to do something about it. What you need to do s a combination of restoring the cognitive function and moving the anger right out of your energy field. If you are sitting in a meeting and reacting in a way that you do not want others to notice (you are annoyed, say), you can restore the rational cognitive function by bringing the blood flow and function back to the cortex, the front of the brain, just by directing it there. Use your hand, put the pads of your fingers over the frontal eminences (one side only will help too), as though you are thinking. Think Rodin, the thinker. The cortex function will be revived… A second effective thing you can do, and much faster initially, is to thump your energy field gently into refocus. Here is another thing you can do, and this one comes from Donna Eden. The anger, unfortunately, or the surprise or hurt is NOT in your head. It is in your energy field. So the good news is that it is where you can do something about it. Here is what to do: Thump your chest (well, in a work environment, just bring your hand to your breastbone and lightly tap). Seriously. This brings your energy field into more coherence. You can also do the breathing into the abdomen, slowly, to move the negative energy off.
In other words, you can help yourself through emotional responses to words and surprises throughout your day by doig a couple of physical things to refocus and to move the energy of the (yes, yes I know ‘perceived’) assault out of our own personal bubble. Quickly. Another time, I would like to say a little more about tapping your body to access the meridians, or energy pathways, of the physical body that affect health, the disease process, emotions, and even our optimism. Another time.
Yours in health,