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Cope with Stress

 

I’m always loosing stuff, being clumsy, and I sometimes can’t talk straight. My family acts like I’m stupid because of it. Allie, 14, f, California

Stress can get us unbalanced, so we become clumsy and can’t think clearly. It’s called being homolateral, when the body is connected up and down rather than crossing. People with ADD are often homolateral. A healthy body is bilateral, where the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Author Donna Eden (author of Energy Medicine) writes, “To change homolateral patterning, a simple and pleasurable technique, is to turn on music you like and move your hips rhythmically. You will find that they sway quite naturally in a figure 8, which helps the crossover pattern.” Just moving your eyes in figure 8s in different directions can help get balanced—any movement that crosses the midline of the body.

You can muscle test (MT) to see if you are homolateral. (For how to MT see the endnote.[1]) Look at a picture of an “X” and the MT should be strong. Then look at a picture of two parallel lines and the MT should be weak. If the results are opposite, you are homolateral. Ms. Eden suggests doing 12 repetitions of lateral crawl, where you touch right elbow to right knee and left elbow to left knee, then switch to about 24 cross-crawls where your right elbow touches your left knee, and your left elbow touches your right knee. You can see her website or Energy Medicine book to learn how to do other balancing exercises.[1]

 

I get very sleepy during major examinations and tests or during the days when I have a lot of homework. And a friend of mine told me: “Whenever I try to stay on task and finish all my work, I get sleepy within five minutes of doing that work. What is wrong with me? In other words: I AM LAZY and I KEEP GETTING MORE AND MORE LAZY. At night I get sufficient sleep but still I am sleepy the whole day.” Why? Shehroz, 17, m, Pakistan

When we need to do something mentally challenging, we think of distractions like “I need to clean my room,” or call someone. Sleep is another way out. It helps to know the inner child is going to try these distracting tricks so we don’t fall in the trap, but also give the inner child a reward by taking a break every hour and taking a walk or stretching. The brain balancing exercises mentioned above help, as does a simple exercise where you touch each ear with the opposite hand while doing squats.[1]

 

The college entrance exam is a turning point of people’s life because in China, the families also give their children much stress. A student is a useless person who hasn’t passed the college entrance exam and he has no future because everyone thinks knowledge is very important and you will learn a lot of knowledge in the college. Becky, Chinese college student

Marie Altman taught English to college students in central China. She reported, “I think overall that students worry way too much and their fears don’t all come to realization. Before tests they would fret and worry (cheating is rampant; and a moneymaking business). When I told them they worry way too much, they relaxed.” See more on school pressures in Chapter

Shehroz adds, “That is also true for Pakistan.” It’s true for Asia in general.

 

Sometime I feel so tired, maybe it just because there are so many works to complete. Zheng, 20, m, China

Fatigue can be a symptom of a physical problem. Low blood sugar or low thyroid function can decrease energy. Check thyroid hormone levels, as hypothyroidism causes fatigue, as well as intolerance to the cold. Anemia and eyestrain can also contribute to tiredness. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may have multiple causes including viruses, herpes, candida albicans yeast, and parasites. Its symptoms include severe fatigue for six months or longer, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, joint pain without swelling, sore throat, and headaches. Fibromyalgia has similar symptoms of fatigue and pain, plus stomach discomfort.

Fatigue is a common problem and people turn to caffeine and sugar to get going, but these drugs drain energy over the long run. Exercise daily to keep your endorphins flowing and oxygenate your body. We know daily exercise, adequate sleep, healthy natural foods, being in nature, meditation or prayer or other quiet time, positive thinking and social support maintain health and vitality.  Eat unprocessed fresh food that your great-grandparents would recognize. Avoid white foods like white flour, sugar and rice, and other refined foods you might crave, as remember we often want what we’re allergic to. Healthy foods are listed in the endnote.[1]

The main energy robbers include trauma, grievances, physical pain, living with a low-energy person, critical self-talk, negative beliefs, repressed feelings, and criticism, according to Tucson therapists Masci, Barker, and Beck.[1] The main causes of fatigue I see are procrastination, self-criticism, trying to do too much, eating junk food, and not enough fun and exercise. Make a commitment to praise yourself and others, at least as much as you criticize or judge. If you didn’t do something well, make a point to learn from that effort rather than blaming.

Procrastination robs us of lots of energy, so make a list of your responsibilities and prioritize them. If we do a little bit each day, we feel empowered, which strengthens the immune system, while fear drains it into defense. Do a little each day on a big task, say a half hour of work, then reward yourself with a break, such as a walk or stretching. For items low on your list, give up expectation that you should do it, delegate it to someone else, or trade someone to do it for you. Schedule in time for fun and nurturance on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed aside by more pressing demands. You must recharge your batteries or you won’t have zest to do your schoolwork and nurture others.

Prioritize, thinking about what’s really important. Keep your values to the forefront, such as the belief that people are more important than things or a neat desk. Schedule relaxing time for a bubble bath, reading for pleasure, exercise, and other activities that make you happy need on the calendar. Look at yourself as a well and fill it with what renews your vitality. If the well runs dry, it can’t offer water to thirsty people. Ask yourself what you’ll remember at the end of your life, what you value.

 

 

Physical Ways To Increase Your Energy

*Get enough sleep and try to rise and shine at about the same hours (www.circadian.com).

*Spend some time in the sun and use full-spectrum light bulbs.

*Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj explains how thirst leads to chronic diseases.

*Eat protein such as spirulina algae, fish, or poultry. When digested, protein releases tyrosine, an amino acid that increased alertness, while complex carbohydrates (whole grains, root vegetable, squash, etc.) are calming and stimulate serotonin. Eat protein earlier in the day rather than before bedtime for restful sleep.

*Get a physical checkup including your thyroid hormones.

*Be positive, as optimists have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

*Relax and avoid chronic stress, which damages the adrenal glands. Ask if a current upset will matter in three months.

*Rest when you’re tired instead of being a martyr and pushing yourself to do too much for the sake of others.

*Regularly do deep breathing exercises; breathe in on the count of six, hold six, and blow out six. Tai chi exercises help generate and move qi/energy. Blow out any fatigue, as if blowing out a candle, and breathe in an energizing color. Disease doesn’t thrive in oxygenated areas, so breathe from your diaphragm to increase oxygen intake, not your upper chest.

*Traditional Chinese medicine suggests ginseng and Angelica (also called Dong Quai) to strengthen adrenal glands.

*Avoid stimulants such as coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate.

*Eat healthy food such as the Mediterranean or Japanese diets.

*Supplement with the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10. It acts as a natural energy “spark,” explains Dr. Susan Lark, who adds that pregnant and lactating mothers should not use it. She also recommends the herb Rhodiola Rosea to support energy level, mood, and concentration. Dr. Lark also supplements with calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc, and vitamins B, E and C.

*Avoid toxins in mercury, aluminum, lead, and filter drinking and shower water. *Remove dental fillings with mercury and make sure vaccinations don’t contain mercury called Thimerosal.

*Exercise daily.

 

My little sister looks very very thin and her bones are revealing more than ever. My friends have been telling me this for a while and I sometimes thought she was doing drugs but now I have seen her eat and I think she has an eating disorder. She is obsessed with portion control and won’t eat anything she used to.

How can I help her without worrying about her? I have noticed I worry when I’m around her, so I take deep breaths and try to kindly offer healthy food and role modeling. Anyway, it’s one of my new guilt issues and fears.

Jacqueline, 20, f, California

She does sound anorexic. Your mom should insist on getting her to a counselor who specializes in eating disorders. She may have to go to a treatment center. Eating disorders have long-term health consequences, including death. Your sister must get professional help now. You can’t solve her problem except to encourage your mother to take action. Guilt doesn’t do anyone any good; focus on the intention of a healthy outcome.

People are addicted, not just to drugs and alcohol, but also to food, gambling, sex, food, shopping, stealing, work, TV, or computer games. If you’re addicted you lose control, are preoccupied with getting more, obsessed, compulsive, and dependent. Robert Sarmiento, Ph.D. says it’s what you do with an urge that counts, rather than the urge itself. He has these suggestions: Separate yourself from the compulsion by thinking of the habit as “it” or give it a name, analyze its strength on a 1-10 scale, or think of the urge as a thought going in one ear and out the other. Focus on something else by doing something active or imaging a relaxing beautiful place in nature. Visualize feeling good about not giving in to “it,” and think about how you’ve resisted other urges like when you wanted to yell at someone and didn’t.[1]

To change any habit, be aware of your reaction, just observe when it surfaces. Praise yourself for noticing, thinking about it, taking time for deep breaths before acting in your habitual way. Keep a journal where you document the triggers that evoke the old habit, so that you’ll be especially mindful when a trigger occurs. If I tell you, “Do not eat candy,” you’ll want to do it, so avoid telling yourself “don’t.” Focus on what to DO. Also avoid judging yourself: Stick to positive programming such as “I honor my body by eating healthy food when I’m hungry.” Think about ways you can positively fulfill the need that generated the habit; for example, coping with stress by taking a walk, and using positive self-talk (the conversation you have internally about how you’re doing), instead of ingesting something unhealthy.

Identify the triggers for the craving, such as after dinner or when bored, and substitute new rituals, such as a walk or calling a friend. I’d dialogue with the inner child and ask her what she really wants when she thinks she wants to smoke, for example. If the craving wins for a while, really focus on your addiction, not doing or thinking about anything else than the cigarette or eating, etc. Notice when it stops being gratifying and stop there. Use positive reinforcement and praise yourself when you stick to good behaviors. Most addicts need a support group to stay on task, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight Watchers, or the local Lung Association to find out about their groups for smokers.

The child sub-personality is the addict, who is running the show from the unconscious mind. When the child demands unhealthy action, call on your wise self to treat it as you would any child. Distract it with a fun activity or exercise. Gratify it with something enjoyable and healthy to keep the mouth busy. Tell it firmly and simply, “That’s bad for me and I’m not going to do it anymore. What would you like to do instead?” It doesn’t work to simply say no because then the child really gets determined to get its way, so give the inner child a substitute like a parent gives a child a toy and takes away a dangerous tool. Use positive reinforcement and praise your inner child when it sticks to good behaviors.

To change habits with Neuro Linguist Programming techniques—interrupt or scramble your patterns. See the problem as a movie, watch it, then turn it into a cartoon, run it backwards, and change it into black and white. Create new habits with deep breathing, exercise, etc. Imagine healthy behaviors, rehearsing them in your mind. Rehearse a likely future trigger and imagine using new ways of coping using your visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses as you visualize the healthy behavior. Plan something enjoyable every day to reward yourself.

Pick one or two important goals at the most. Find a buddy to remind you, praise you, reinforce good behavior and you do the same for your partner. Post reminder notes with positive present time statement like “I exercise every day.” Schedule your goal on your calendar such as regular time to jog or for meditation/prayer.

Shehroz adds, “To do all this, a person needs strong will power and determination. Most people fail because they don’t have a strong will. Positive reinforcement and ‘token economy’ is a good way.” Token economy involves rewarding desired actions with chips, points, or other markers that can be exchanged for a treat such as a fun outing.

 

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper asked that question of nine teens in 2005. They use music to relax, dancing, sleep, journal writing, screaming out angry feelings, sports, playing with pets, resisting peer pressure to act like a gangster by hanging out with the nerds, and video games blasting characters on the screen. “It just feels so good to see your character blasting another character’s head off while having a tank come up from behind to blow the enemy encampment to hell.[1]

 

I focused on what exactly made me anxious about starting the police academy. I realized that I have a strong will to please myself and others. Unfortunately, this will to please others was frequently higher than the will to please myself. I felt like I had all these eyes watching me to see how I will fare in the academy. I felt like I was going to let them all down if I was to fail. This is an awfully heavy burden to carry. The methods for stress reduction that work the best for me include stretching, slowing down and visualization. I began to realize the pressure I was feeling was almost all self-inflicted and the weight of this burden began to lift. Now I am much more confident in my abilities. I think your energy tools really made a difference in my preparation for the academy. Drew, 19, m, California

 

Meditation

Candace Pert, Ph.D., explains in Molecules of Emotion that stress causes,

. . . the largely autonomic processes that are regulated by peptide flow, such as breathing, immunity, digestion, and elimination, to collapse down to a few simple feedback loops and upset the normal healing response. Meditation, by allowing long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, is a way of getting the peptides flowing again, returning the body, and the emotions, to health.

Mediation involves quieting the mind by concentrating on one thing, such as your breathing in or out, or a phrase, a picture. Robert Frost’s poem reminds us to be in the “still point of the turning world, there the dance is.” The Buddha talked about this peaceful state in terms of the middle path and non-attachment. Jesus advised to be in the world, but not of it. The Dalai Lama suggested allowing the mind in meditation to be like clear water; “stay with this unfabricated mind without allowing conceptions to be generated.”

It may, however, take the body a while to get used to being quiet and still in the meditative process. Researchers found meditation lowers blood pressure, decreases heart and respiratory rates, increases blood flow, and other signs of the relaxation response, plus strengthens immune function, and provides pain relief. A study found that African-American teenage boys with high normal blood pressure were able to bring their blood pressure down over four months while they practiced Transcendental Meditation (a phrase or mantra is repeated about 20 minutes while sitting quietly). After the study, the teens reported that they were able to concentrate better, felt less anger and had improved relationships with others.[1]

Shehroz realized, “It is interesting how meditation is a pretty important component in Islam and no one notices it. When we pray five times a day, it is like meditation or alone time for oneself. When we read the Holy Quran, it is like meditation. When we are in trouble, we often recite a small word from the Quran in Arabic or a small phrase many times like a thousand times without talking in the middle.”

Changing your attitude and self-talk is a major tool to reduce stress. As Mark Twain said, ”I have had a great many troubles in my life, and most never happened.” Much earlier, the Greek philosopher Epictetus observed, “People are disturbed, not by events, but by their view of those events.” Zahara observed, “In Uganda, no one complains about how stressful things are, and there’s a lot of joy in people, especially in the kids. Here, there are so many enjoyments, but the people are stressed out. They talk about their stresses all the time….”[1] Zahara was raised in Uganda until her parents died of AIDS, and a California family adopted her when she was 12 (her adoptive mother started a group to help other orphans, called “Children of Grace”).

To deal with stress, take breaks throughout the day to breathe and smile. Shrug your shoulders and let them drop and say, “I am relaxed.” Build a support system of family and friends. “Pakistani lifestyle includes a very strong support system of family and friends and may be that is why I think Pakistani people are able to cope with stress easily compared to Americans. Plus, a lot of people turn to the Divine as an escape route from stress,” Shehroz tells us.

Express your emotions in a safe place—you may need to punch pillows and kick a ball or cardboard box, exercise to stimulate feel good endorphins in the brain, eat healthy fresh food, engage in enjoyable hobbies like playing music, remind yourself of past problems you’ve overcome, and do deep breathing.

To cope with time pressures, it helps to write down how you spend your time, prioritize, and do what’s highest on your list first. Also, we respond to rewards. Give yourself something simple like a walk around the block after each hour of focused study to motivate yourself to use your time efficiently. This is what Shehroz does: “Whenever my mind would get distracted from my task, I would put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it and then start focusing on my task again. When I have successfully finished a significant portion of my task I would reward myself with a small treat like chocolate or half hour of TV.” Keep a monthly calendar with due dates. Put each task on a card. Write on the back the steps you need to take to complete the task. Take all the cards, putting them in order with the most important one on top and the least on the bottom.

Breathing

Just breathe deep. Stephen, 13, m, Australia

 

*Breathe in with the tongue behind the top teeth. Exhale with the tongue behind the bottom teeth.

*Take deep breaths from your belly. Count to 10 with the in-breath, hold, and with the out-breath, blow out any tension or worry as if through a straw. Exhale any discomfort out into the stream of your breath. Stretch and roll your spine.

*Crunch up your shoulders and face tightly and count to six. Hold your breath, then release your breath and tension while counting to six again. Stress equates with tension; relax to reduce stress, as by remembering your favorite place in nature or stretching. Release your jaw as well as your shoulders.

*To relax, breath should begin in the diaphragm laterally, expanding the ribs. Imagine breathing in an appealing color. Press in an inch or two in an acupressure point three finger widths below the navel and hold for one to three minutes.

*Relax with mini-breaks during the day. Do deep breathing, let your shoulders drop, say, “With every exhalation I release tension and with every inhalation I breathe in relaxation.”

 

Positive Emotions

Zahara observed, “In Uganda, no one complains about how stressful things are, and there’s a lot of joy in people, especially in the kids. Here, there are so many enjoyments, but the people are stressed out. They talk about their stresses all the time….”[1] Zahara was raised in Uganda until her parents died of AIDS, and a California family adopted her when she was 12 (her adoptive mother started a group to help other orphans, called “Children of Grace”).

Social support is a major help to counter stress.

Why do some people get through stressful events less defeated than others? A professor of psychiatry explained, “Resilient people are like trees bending in the wind. They bounce back.” [1] They also get support from and help other people, they think of the glass as half full rather than half empty, they’re spiritual, they’re playful, and they take good care of themselves. Identify sources you have now and could cultivate at home, school, and in the community. Hug a tree, pet, family member, or friend. Shehroz adds, “My best stress reliever is my little cousin or any small kid. My cousin is one-year-old. He makes me laugh by just looking at him trying to stand up or figuring out the world. My grandparents say that seeing kids grow up is the best way to cope with stress.”

*Communication skills make all the difference in getting needs met. Don’t blame. Stick to how you feel and suggest solutions.  Read about effective communication skills, as in my book Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College.

*As humans, we need purpose. Write down your goals for the next six months, year, five years, and so on. To gain perspective, write your obituary as you would like it to read. See if you need to change course to be true to your values and priorities.

*Give yourself and others more praise than criticism. Look for the positive lessons in a challenging problem. If you didn’t do well, think about what you learned from the experience rather than beating yourself up.

*Draw with crayons the colors and energy of your stress level now. Brainstorm the causes of stress. Common problems are too much to do in too short a time, perfectionism, self-criticism, and conflict with family members. What can you change?

*Have realistic expectations, such as knowing that just because someone is an adult doesn’t guarantee he or she will act like one.

*Ask yourself if this will matter two months from now? And, what can I learn from this problem? Change from thinking the glass is half empty to it’s half full. Count your blessings.

*Pray or meditate daily. Sit on a chair with your spine straight. Count your inhalations and exhalations, or look at a candle flame or a mandala (search for one on the Internet).

*Keep a journal.

*Listen to relaxing music and self-help tapes or CDs.

 

Visualizations to Reduce Stress

*Imagine a secret garden of your own where you can plant flowers and trees, create ponds and waterfalls, and watch wild animals move around your garden. See it change with the seasons as you visit month after month. When you want an answer to a question, go to your garden, sit on your favorite bench under your special tree, and ask the wisest creature in your garden to sit by you on the bench with an answer to your question. See a scroll with the answer in the animal’s beak, paw, or mouth.

*Create a new grounding cord and release worry or stress down into mother earth to recycle. Bring in a gold sun radiating calm and enjoyment.

*Think about your day as a song, and set the tempo and mood you want as you get ready in the morning.

 

The Institute of Heart Math (www.webcom.com/hrtmath) developed stress-reduction techniques. The institute does scientific studies about the heart, showing it’s much more than a pump. Its powerful electromagnetic field influences the brain and people around us. HeartMath studies prove the effectiveness of their technique called “Freeze Frame” in making the heartbeat more coherent and peaceful.

 

Freeze Frame to Reduce Stress

1. Freeze frame the stressful feeling, as you would put a video on pause.

2. Shift your focus to your heart by imagining you’re breathing deeply through it, for at least 10 seconds. Keep your awareness here rather than on the problem.

3. Remember a positive time, as when you felt deep love, caring, forgiveness or appreciation, and experience that feeling. Don’t visualize, as this takes you to your head, just sense and feel. This memory causes the heart rate to move to a coherent rhythm.

4. Using your intuition and common sense, ask your heart what would be a more effective response to the situation that would reduce stress? Listen to the answer.

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