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Hayes FM Live Radio: December 2011

Now we know that people have stressful Christmas’s for many reasons, some when remembering traumatic times, or trying to recapture ‘that perfect Christmas”. However, Ingrid was interested in talking to us about stress that may be generally felt by most people.

Stress, anger and anxiety comes from a personal feeling of threat and vulnerability. It is well known that stress causes physiological changes that are dangerous when prolonged negative hormone levels- Cortisol levels and blood pressure are elevated and the heart rate is increased amongst a host of other stress triggered responses, such as compromised immune systems. The problem comes when our body doesn’t know when to stop producing it. When under constant stress, we keep our body’s survival mechanism, thus its cortisol production, dangerously elevated. We need to build inner resilience so that we can ‘bounce back’ from our stresses and cope with them, reducing the dangerous natural chemicals that are loaded in our bodies.

When we are becoming stressed, our body has a way of telling us- we display negative emotions and have psychical symptoms:
We become tense, get headaches, foot tap, sweat, get jittery, shout at our partners, sleep poorly, and even have stomach aches.

Some of the ways we use to cope with stress is overeating and drinking- especially at Christmas, when we some how feel we have permission to over indulge!
Typically, at Agency for Life, we try and work through stress by building your inner resources:
1. enabling people to resolve the feelings that they get when faced with a stressor
2. enabling people to identify and find practical ways to resolve the stressor in the first place.
3. identifying and building on inner resources we already have, such as positive emotions, optimism, self esteem.

We look at what people currently possess in their own resource ‘kit bag’ things they can do that they can draw on them- so e.g.
Look at all aspects of your life and think of one in which you are not stressed- what does that look like- what are you doing that is not causing stress- can you find strengths you are using that you can transfer to the stressful scenario?
so that people have a range of tools and techniques to choose from.

Yasmin recounted a story about a stressful shopping trip when she chose to resolve her stress in a chaotic travel environment, by recognising her stressful feelings, distancing herself from them by slowing down and taking a few moments to take deep breaths and step away from the stressful situation.
This year I have been practicing mindfulness as I slowly realized that I was rushing around and not really being part of of life- it was going past me. We all know that feeling of rushing to the tube on the way to work, and not noticing the world around us- especially true when we are shopping this Christmas and facing similar stress that Yasmin faced.

We need to take a step back, and start to really look at what is out there, savour and enjoy every bit of life- even the noisy and busy bits!. One way we can do this is by learning how to slow down and relax, then look at the world around you- once you learn how to do this, you can do it anywhere…
So people at home can try this….
Sit straight up in a chair, feet on the floor, hands in lap.
1. Inhale through your nose until you feel your abdomen expand. As you inhale count to 4, hold for 4 and exhale slowly for 4. Repeat.
2. Focus your thoughts on your breathing. Notice how your body feels as you breathe. Any thoughts/ images you have should be gently escorted away- try and shift your attention to your breathing. Imagine your abdomen is a balloon, slowly expanding and deflating. If you find this hard, imagine putting the thoughts into balloons and letting them drift away.
When we have put our thoughts and worries into the the balloons- we may need to address them- so set aside some regular worry time, so you can deal with them- rather than ruminate on them all the time.

When you refocus, look at the world around you- be aware of what is out there, dont let life pass you by. Try this every day for a week and see how it goes.

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