Understanding Stress: Beyond Reduction, Management and Coping

David Bedrick 
Speaker, Counselor, Author of "Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology"
Posted: 05/08/2014 12:31 pm EDT Updated: 05/08/2014 12:59 pm EDT
Article from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Sometimes it appears as if "stress" is the cause for all that ails us. We are told everything from sleep and laugh more to get massages, exercise, and deep breathe. So how come we're all still so stressed?

Everyone's talking about stress these days. Each day I hear people say "I'm so stressed," and it is one of the most written about areas in psychology today. Listening and reading, we could easily conclude that stress is the cause for all that ails us. Feeling physically ill? Stress. Not sleeping? Stress. Having relationship problems? Stress. Forgetting things? Stress. Feeling depressed? Stress. Eating, drinking, drugging too much? Stress.

The literature is more than ample with research, implication, and assertion strengthening this assumption. Accordingly, stress can make us ill, weaken our immune systems, make it hard to manage our emotions, damage our relationships, cause us to drink, smoke and use substances, cause us to age more quickly, impair our memory, keep us awake at night, bring on anxiety, depression, and anger, and interfere with our sex life. [1] It wouldn't be too much to say that stress kills.

Not to worry -- the cure is nearby waiting to descend on anyone open to "getting help" from their friends, blogs, writers, counselors, and more. I am reminded of that old adage, "If all we have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Well, if the notion of "stress" dominates our diagnosis and understanding of everything that ails us, we shouldn't be surprised to find indicators of stress everywhere we look. All we need now is the "cure" for stress and we'd all feel a lot happier.

The so-called "cures" are indeed prevalent. We are told to unwind with friends, sleep more, change our diets, laugh, think positively, get massages, meditate, take more quiet time, exercise, pray, practice yoga, listen to relaxation tapes, and deep breathe. [2]

The advice from the literature is essentially the same, telling us how to calm down, relax, and take it easy. This counsel is packaged in the notions and language of "stress reduction," "stress management," and "coping with stress" -- all phrases that assume that the stress itself has little or no usefulness or is not in need of deeper understanding and transformation. Stress is to be gotten rid of like an illness. [3]

This bias, however, has serious drawbacks to it, causing us to misunderstand the background psychological process and dynamics of stress.

First, some stress needs to be amplified rather than relieved, and the power behind the stressor needs to be integrated. For example, while teaching a psychology class to massage school students, I asked them what they would do with the tension in my shoulders. One after another they came over to me and rubbed my shoulders in order to relax them. In response to some students, I eased my shoulders, allowing them to drop; for other students I moved my shoulders around as if I were almost stretching them mostly pushing them up against their hands. For people who would simply automatically relax, their interventions were just right. But there is another kind of person whose tension indicates that they have more energy in their shoulders and selves and they may need to use that energy in order to later relax. The same is true for people in more psychological areas of their lives. Some need to relax, take it easy, or be gentler with themselves. But others need to push back and really use the power and force that is in them. For the second kind of person, stress "reduction" in the form of advice to take it easy and relax will be unsuccessful. If you try to relieve this stress, the stress will simply re-arise because the person needs to learn to use the energy in their system instead of letting it go.

Secondly, some stress is caused by a background neglect of something -- a calling, a project, or a passion. For example, consider a client who had a big dream for his life, but after entering a serious and committed relationship began to let go of his dream so that he could be more present and available to his partner. This man described himself as incredibly stressed out; it would be easy for most people to quickly jump in and try to help him manage and reduce his stress. However, pregnant in the energy of what he called "stress" was a power and desire to go back to his dream and work to fulfill it. This general principle is true for many of us. Most people are not free to be as powerful, direct, and intense as they really are. When this is the case, this energy becomes somatized and psychologized -- meaning it feels in our bodies like tension and often gets labeled as "stress." This man didn't need to relax more, he needed to use the tension inside of him to resist a patriarchal role in relationship and take on the heavy lifting of his deeper dreams. Relieving his stress will not be sustainable because what he considers "stress" is actually the result of something in his life that is not getting attention.

Finally, stress reduction and stress management may not be the best ways to address the specific things that people are actually stressed about (the content of their stress). For example, people report being the most stressed by lack of sleep and concern for their weight. Is stress reduction and management the best medicine for these ills? As for concerns about sleep, we know that at least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. About 60 million Americans a year have insomnia frequently or for extended periods of time, which leads to even more serious sleep deficits. Insomnia tends to increase with age and affects about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men. It is often the major disabling symptom of an underlying medical disorder. Will advising people to relax, cope, or reduce their stress help them sleep? Most experts in this area recommend consistent sleep schedules, watching what we eat and drink, creating nighttime rituals, exercising during the day, and not taking naps. Stress can be important, but it's rarely on top of the list.

How about worrying about weight? Will telling people to relax offer any solace? First, it is important to note that people only sustain weight loss about 5-10 percent of the time despite it being a $60 billion industry. In addition, research indicates that people, especially women, are regularly cruel to their bodies. In my own research, I have learned that loving one's body is not about relaxing or taking it easy; instead, it is a difficult confrontation with cultural values, pressures, and norms as well as real changes in one's life-relationships, work, and more. In this case, relaxing will not help; instead we need to either change the culture's pressures and criticisms about body image or help people make propound changes in their life. Telling people to relax is relatively superficial given the dilemma people face and will likely be ineffective.

I have no doubt that some people who are stressed need help to cope, reduce, and manage their stress. I myself have benefited from this advice at times. However, this orientation risks being too shallow, dumbing down our understanding. We need more critical and psychological reflection so that the deep and powerful things people suffer from aren't made superficial by quick fix answers like, "Don't worry, be happy" or "Relax, take it easy, let go, and don't get so stressed out."

David Bedrick 
Speaker, Counselor, Author of "Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology"
Posted: 05/08/2014 12:31 pm EDT Updated: 05/08/2014 12:59 pm EDT
Article from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Five Simple Ways To Reduce Stress At Work

William Arruda, Contributor
Article from http://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/
Posted 4/15/2014 @ 8:15AM

Stress impedes success and it prevents you from building your personal brand in productive ways.  When you’re stressed, you don’t think clearly and behave in ways that are counter to who you are. You become paralyzed and less productive. You impact relationships with your team and colleagues. All of this has a negative impact on how people perceive you – on your personal brand.

Let’s face it, work can be stressful. In fact, occupational stress has been defined as a global epidemic by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization. According to ComPsych’s 2012 Stress Pulse survey on the effect of stress on daily productivity, 41% of respondents indicated they lose 15 to 30 minutes of productivity a day and 36% said they lose one hour or more per day.

Workplace stress makes people behave in off-brand ways. When they’re stressed, they become the person people avoid or complain about. Do you know that person? Are you that person?

The impact stressed people have on those around them is what workplace stress management expert Jordan Friedman, aka the Stress-Coach, calls “second-hand stress.” According to Friedman, “Second-hand stress impacts you and those around you and it’s hazardous to your brand. Stress shuts down two-way communication, hinders problem solving and sends an ‘I’m more important than you’ message.”  It is a major brand detractor. You may feel that workplace stress is outside your control – and with some stressors, that’s certainly the case.

Regardless of what causes your stress, you need to deal with it if you want to build a consistent, powerful brand. How you deal with stress is something that is under your control. That means, know your stress triggers, and learn what type of stress reduction works best for you. Friedman says “Stress impacts performance and job satisfaction. Knowing how to recognize and manage your stress is the single most valuable leadership skill you can master.” To help you find the stress reduction techniques that are right for you, here are five resources you can put to work… at work:

1. Watch. In this brief “Quick Calm” video, you’ll learn a simple but powerful technique to instantly reduce stress. Bookmark it or add it to your playlist so you can get to it quickly when stress mounts.

2. Listen. Get a free account at live365.com and subscribe to the meditation channel. When you need a calming break, listen to ‘The Cosmic Island” for a minute or so and watch the stress drip away. If you prefer Songza, the Thunderstorm Sounds playlist will do the trick.

3. Read.  This workbook by Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman and Matthew McKay  gives you step-by-step techniques for calming the body and mind.

4. Learn. Take a class. Learn it Live features hundreds of classes – many are free – focused on health and well-being. Here’s a popular webinar with some truly helpful tips:  It’s recorded, so you can watch it during your lunch hour.

5. Download. This Stressbusters app from TheStressCoach.com is replete with stress-busting tools and techniques to make even the most type A person chill. There are so many great resources, you’re sure to find one that will take you from distressed to de-stressed. Don’t add “stress-case” to your brand attributes. Identify the best ways for you to reduce stress, then practice them when you feel a bout of ‘hair on fire’ coming on!

William Arruda, Contributor
Article from http://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/
Posted 4/15/2014 @ 8:15AM

6 Stress Management Tips for Moms

By Tara Campbell
Founder of PowerHouse Growers.com
Posted: 04/14/2014 12:03 pm EDT Updated: 04/14/2014 12:59 pm EDT

When we become parents, the way we make decisions changes forever and single parents take it to a whole other level. I've had the pleasure of staying at home with my children and working outside the home, but I have always been a "working mom" -- after all, a mom works 24/7. Each situation carries with it a set of unique circumstances, but the solutions for a mom to be healthy are the same.

My top takeaways from my experiences as a "working mom" are listed as helpful solutions for you. As a mother, it is important to take necessary steps to ensure that you don't feel guilty about your career choices or suffer from anxiety overload. Doing this is crucial to creating space for your health and your family's health.

1. Focus on Being Present

Whether you choose to work at home or at the office, the most important thing is to focus on being present. Your children and family will benefit from your quality time over quantity time -- every time. This is a hard one, but if you use the systems below it becomes much easier.

2. Transition Between the Office and Home

Whatever works for you, do it! Maybe it's a drive, a coffee or a visit with a friend but try to transition between work and home mode. You will feel more connected, far less strained and your children will thank you.

3. Hire a Housekeeper

If a clean house makes everything in your world better, why wouldn't you take care of yourself and your family by hiring a housekeeper? You can take your children on an adventure to do something fun outdoors, teach them a new skill and come home to a tidy house. You will no longer feel pressured to do both while feeling unfulfilled because neither one received your full attention. It will also create space for you to enjoy your children.

4. Find a Granny Nanny

While I was exploring the options of hiring someone to assist me with my children, I decided that I wanted my girls to have a granny nanny. Someone semi-retired that didn't have family close by that could be nurturing while I was at the office. This way they could bake, read, do homework and be exposed to multi-generational systems and ideas. This is a great option if you work at home and want to get out of the house. This will allow you the freedom to run your errands or take some personal time while your children are home baking cookies, do some gardening, get help with homework.

5. Hire a Personal Assistant

This one is my personal favorite. When my daughters were 14 and 8, I hired a law student. The interviewing process was intense because I was looking for someone who could love my girls while doing tasks with them that needed to be done. Ashley would pick up the girls up from school, take them to the park, teach them new skills, prepare healthy meals with them and enforce rules like cleaning their rooms, respecting others and practicing violin. I would text her my list of tasks before she picked up the girls from school, then they were off -- laughing and giggling while taking care of family business. This was healthy for all of us and we added a new family member. The girls had a new big sister figure, Ashley made some cash and when I came home, I was able to enjoy the girls without feeling anxious about tasks that needed to be done. But she is on to them -- not letting them get away with too much and setting boundaries because she loves them. She is my right-hand lady and friend.

6. Schedule Your Personal Time As Appointments

It took some time for me to figure this one out. Your personal time is important -- critical to your family's health. Personal time may mean getting your nails done, visiting a friend, sitting by yourself or running around for the family, but it's all important. Schedule these events as appointments and encourage your family to do the same. Sometimes as parents, we can be easily convinced that our personal appointments aren't as serious as what is going on in our children's lives.

The ROI on Moms' Health

When I was looking at the associated cost of hiring help, I had a hard time justifying it. After a very short time (two days), I realized I couldn't afford not to. Take it from me -- it took 15 years of raising children and the pressures of juggling it all to realize that these are the solutions to every mother's mental health!

As mothers, we want to give our children our time and the best versions of ourselves. These are ways you can do that. These tips will take some research, planning and budgeting, but once they are in place you will never look back.

* I may be speaking to moms but this can apply to dads as well. Mother's Day is coming up - what a great gift idea!