Getting A Handle On Your Stress:
Stress is needed to be creative and to live life
by
Dr. Rae Baum, Ph.D.

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This information is intended for your general knowledge.
You must seek prompt attention for any specific health condition.

Stress is your body's biochemical reaction to how you live your life. Stress can develop into distress (or eustress) and disease, through your personal adaptation to internal and external environments. When your energy production is higher than your body can discharge, distress (or eustress) occurs. This can result in feelings such as loss of control, being overwhelmed, stuck and/or agitated. Each person reacts differently to the different stressors (causes). It is important for you to know what causes your distress (or eustress) and recognize the stress indicators (symptoms) and the signal they give.

Some signs and symptoms of stress (distress or eustress) are tension and physical illness; low energy and fatigue; irritability; insomnia; headaches; and backaches. According to Hans Selye, M.D. "Stress is not something to be avoided." It is a "response of the body to any demand made upon it."

Since stress is a body response, we only know that we are stressed, or more correctly in distress (or eustress), when our body tells us, that is, when we feel symptoms known as stress indicators. It appears that stress is good. It is when you feel distress (or eustress) that you need to take another look at your lifestyle, and the choices and decisions you are making.

Help in becoming aware of your body, and locating both physical and emotional feelings can be very constructive. Making contact with yourself generates enthusiasm about your goals, fosters an appreciation and acceptance of yourself, and makes your actions more diversified.  Specifically, being aware of your breath (in particular your exhale) helps you let go of your fear and procrastination.

Bioenergetic Analysis,, a body-oriented approach to stress management, teaches you to stay in touch with your body for messages and cues in order to make decisions that are conducive to good physical and emotional health. It is important that you become aware and accept what you are feeling rather than deny what you are feeling.

Eustress, the opposite of distress, is stress that is somewhat beneficial - but not too much; since your body cannot differentiate what stressors cause distress and what stressors cause eustress. In both cases your adrenal glands secrete adrenaline. According to Dr. Selye, too much adrenaline in your body is worse than intoxication. You must manage the stress that your attitudes, nutrition, environment and breathing present to you and to the people you love. It is essential for you to review your lifestyle and goals.

You must discover alternatives to stressors, such as resentment, caffeine, fluorescent lights, and holding your breath. You must choose alternatives and support your choice. One way to know that you are making the right choice is to listen to your body signals. Identification and management of stress indicators and stressors through body and feeling awareness, acceptance and choice encourages you and helps you take responsibility for your physical and emotional health and well-being.

The process of managing stress is idiosyncratic, for each one of us has our own unique way of internalizing stressors. You respond to life as a result of the learning you acquired during a very dependent part of your life. Attitudes, beliefs and values that move your behavior are learned during this period of time. As an adult, you now have the power to create your own environment; but first you must become aware of the "old issues", attitudes, beliefs and values, especially those behaviors that are not workable nor effective for you at this stage of your life. There are alternatives to becoming ill or dependent on drugs and alcohol. Decisions that change your behavior can be accomplished with attitude and body-work, such as Bioenergetic Analysis.

Bioenergetically, each one of us reacts differently to stress, because stress as an energetic condition is related to our character structure. Our character structure is our way of surviving, and must be accepted as such. The following reaction patterns to stress have been identified and defined by Alexander Lowen, M.D., the founder and prime mover of Bioenergetic Analysis. The schizoid character structure under stress feels fragmented and spacy; the oral character structure feels needy, dependent, and physically-emotionally collapses; the masochist character structure whines, complains, feels stuck and trapped; the psychopathic character structure denies that he/she is stressed; the rigid character structure becomes hysterical and aggressive.

According to John C. Pierrakos, M.D., co-founder of The Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis and founder of Core-energetics, "...each one of us desperately attempts to run away from the pain of actual experience through our emotions and body. We are afraid to perceive our negativities, for fear of losing control over them, and we drive them into our unconscious, thus acting them out indirectly and in a destructive way, and by intellectualizing the basics of life."

Dr. Pierrakos goes on to say that "...the concept of psychosomatic identity--that is, whatever happens in the mind...occurs simultaneously in the body. ...is different from the concept of psychosomatic parallelism in present-day medicine and psychiatry, where the physical functions are considered to occur in parallel with the emotional expressions, thus splitting their unity."

Awareness, acknowledgment and acceptance of your behavior, thoughts, and feelings helps you manage your stress. You reinvest in your life when you talk about your expectations, your goals and your needs. Further, your reasons for participating in a particular group, and sharing what you want from each member reveals as well as influences where you are and where you are going. Rather than avoid, it is helpful to look at your problems and make choices about what you can do differently. The attitudes, beliefs and values you hold play an important role in this process, since the choices you make create what happens to you.

Visualization helps you become aware of your attitudes, beliefs and values as they relate to any situation or problem. Since you behave according to your expectations and the expectations of others, you can change your life by setting clearly defined goals. Setting goals helps you accept responsibility for your personal experiences. Further, you create a positive expectation to your problem and/or goal by objectifying the subjective. Since your imagery is a statement of your beliefs and represent your outcome expectations, the importance of visualizing positive images rather than negative ones becomes obvious.

Contact with yourself, and supporting your physical and emotional feelings, and not acting on or from your feelings, (for by their very nature feelings are irrational) help you create a positive self-image, and experience personal gains that are by-products of "staying healthy". To live healthy, creative and constructive, you must learn to manage your feelings of failure and ridicule. Healthy, creative and constructive living requires that you be aware of, acknowledge, and accept your feelings and behaviors and choose alternatives to the behavior that is not working for you. You only fail when you do not try.

Goal setting creates a purpose and a direction, as well as a sense of taking charge and being in charge of your life. Making things happen for you provides you with what you want from life. It is important that your goals and your action steps be kept as flexible and open to conscious attention as possible, so that, if needed, and when necessary they can be changed. Start by looking at the goals you have always wanted and never had the time nor energy to explore. These goals must be clearly defined. They must be concrete, specific, measurable and time specific as well as realistic. These goals are what you want today. You have succeeded if the goal has helped you establish meaning and purpose to your life.

To sum up, stress management requires education. Managing stress is a way of life. Staying in the here-and-now, and focusing on your body signals helps you acknowledge that distress and eustress are a result of too much or too little energy in your body. Your body moves to distress or eustress depending on how you use your energy. Even though stress is needed to do the job of living, too much good stress (eustress) or too much bad stress (distress) may result in disorientation, fatigue, depression and feeling of being "out of control". Monitoring by a holistic health professional is essential to work through these feelings.

Make no mistake, we are all success stories. We all have survived; but at what cost to our health and well-being? There is a lot of avoidance to health and well-being. You are "getting a handle on your stress" when you make use of your mind and your body. The choice is yours. With choice comes responsibility for your actions and your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Copyright 1995 Dr. Rae Baum, Ph.D. All rights reserved

Getting A Handle On Your Stress by Dr. Rae Baum, Ph.D. ($14.99) "...presentation...well organized, direct and dynamic.  ...Beneficial for anyone desiring a fuller life experience.  It encourages one to see and feel the bigger picture of human interaction.  Valuable because it offers new...basic knowledge..." (From "What Dr. Rae Has Done For Others" - Back Cover)

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