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What is stress?
Stress is a strain. The dictionary describes it as a specific response by the body to a stimulus, such as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism – in this case the human body.
We all have stress on one level or another. Consider how stressful childbirth is – not just for the mother but for the baby! It goes from this dark, comfortable, warm environment to cold air, usually glaring lights, loud noises, fingers in its mouth and sometimes getting slapped!
So, from the moment of our birth until the day that we die, we encounter stress.
The reason why is because we encounter problems, conflicts, differences of opinion, create goals, pressures, have expectations and fears, all of which puts us under stress.
But fear is the underlying component of all stress.
Biologically we have a stress reaction because our ancient ancestors lived off of the land and there were some pretty mean predators roaming the globe with very large, sharp teeth and claws. Today we think of ourselves as being at the top of the food chain but that wasn’t the case tens of thousands of years ago.
Back then, the stress reaction was a survival tool. When the threat of being eaten presented itself our forerunners had to be prepared to fight, run away really fast or sometimes freeze and do nothing. This is known as the fight/flight/freeze response.
Because fighting and running demands more strength and stamina than sitting around a campfire telling stories, the body requires a chemical reaction to shift from one state to the other and it goes something like this.
Pretend that you are prehistoric man. You suddenly see the resident sabre tooth tiger starring at you with hunger in his eyes and you become afraid. The amygdala, a tiny almond shaped component of the limbic system in your brain that processes emotions, is activated and sends a signal to the brain’s hypothalamus, the command center of the body. Communicating through the nervous system, the hypothalamus commands the adrenal glands to produce an abundance of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline and activate your defense system.
When you are in this high alert state there is no need for you to waste energy digesting food or thinking about how much wood you will need to keep the fire going overnight. You need to be able to react quickly, run fast and climb high. To do this the cortisol and adrenaline cause your muscles to tighten and your blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar to rise. Since you are in survival mode and don’t need to make plans for the rest of the day, your brain’s frontal lobe activity slows and the more primitive part of the brain, that decides which way to go to escape, kicks into high gear.
You fight off the tiger, maybe even have him for dinner, and your body returns to a calm, relaxed state.
Today, 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago.
We are not living in primitive times. We are no longer fighting for our survival in the same way. Our survival scenarios involve traffic jams and getting to work or home on time; deadlines for meetings and projects; the demands of family life; scheduling too many commitments in too little time. We are seldom not stressed in the modern-day world that we have created.
The top stress triggers are:
Job pressure – Deadlines, competition for raises, doing too much in the time available.
Money – 14.5% or 45.3 million in the U.S. live below the poverty level and 33% or 97.3 million are living in low income households for a total of 142.6 million people in the United States,
Health – there are more Americans with chronic illness now than ever before,
Relationships – consider the divorce rate is roughly 50% in the U.S.,
Poor nutrition – we are a nation that is overfed and undernourished,
Media overload – 85% of Americans own Smartphones making them “connected” 24/7,
Sleep deprivation – more than 1/3 of all Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
And now experts are not just measuring stress but extreme stress. The American Psychological Association found that average stress levels in the U.S. rose from 4.9 in 2014 to 5.1 in 2015 on a 10-point stress scale. And adults reporting “extreme stress” conditions went from 18% in 2014 to 24% in 2015. These adults may experience symptoms such as shaking, heart palpitations and depression.
Stress and Health
Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease – primarily because long term stress causes chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation is the main factor in all autoimmune diseases. The National Institute of Health estimates 80 diseases occur as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s own organs, tissues and cells.
Some of the more common autoimmune diseases are:
Diabetes – as of June of 2014 over 30 million Americans have diabetes,
Rheumatoid arthritis – Over 50 million adults in the U.S. (22.7 % of all adults) have doctor diagnosed arthritis.
Diseases like Lupus and Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBS are less prevalent, but their numbers are steadily growing.
This all results in three out of four doctor visits are for stress related ailments.
Stress increases the risk of:
Heart disease 40%
Heart attack 25%
Work stress causes 10% of strokes which is why Monday is the day of the week when most heart attacks and strokes occur.
Besides the prevalence of autoimmune diseases potentially related to stress there are other indicators of a stressed body.
Muscle tension – mostly in the neck and shoulders,
Change in appetite,
Teeth grinding – usually at night while sleeping,
Change in sex drive,
Feeling dizzy – possibly due to drop in blood pressure. Remember that when stressed your blood flows away from your core and brain into your arms and legs to power you away from danger.
This all adds up to a staggering $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity due to sick days and doctor visits. This is $100 billion more than what obesity costs Americans in health care and sick days lost.
How We Cope with Stress
The coping mechanisms to stress may also lead to health problems because they involve mostly unhealthy habits and sedentary lifestyles.
40% of people watch more than 2 hours of TV and movies per day.
38% will surf the internet, another sedentary behavior.
42% will nap or sleep. At least this gives the brain a time out.
23% turn to food – usually unhealthy snack foods with no nutritional value, considered comfort foods, which leads to obesity.
14% drink alcohol – some is good, too much contributes to the rate of alcoholism in the country.
By now your eyes are probably glazing over at all the statistics but it is important to understand the vast numbers of people and how they are affected by daily stress. You may even count yourself among some of the statistics.
Why EFT/Tapping Reduces Stress and Boosts Your Odds for Resolution Success
Stress exists to ensure the continuation of our species but, as illustrated above, it may be having the opposite effect.
There are dozens of ways to decrease stress and minimize the frequency and intensity of what stresses us. The most effective is to reduce what triggers you. And the tool to do that is, you guessed it, EFT!
Earlier in this module you learned that parts of the limbic system of the brain called the amygdala and the hypothalamus were instrumental in the stress response. The following is a more detailed explanation of the amygdala’s functions and how EFT works directly with the amygdala to calm emotional distress.
The amygdala is highly involved with different emotions, reactions to stimuli and memory processing. Fear is one of the strongest of human emotions because it is associated with survival and the fight or flight response. Depending on how fearful a situation we may find ourselves in, the amygdala may not let go of it. These types of situations can be extreme, such as a bad car accident, or something that has a major impact on us such as being humiliated in front of an audience or rejected by a loved one. The amygdala then filters the memories and emotions, decides which memories it will keep and where they will be stored in the brain. The more intense the emotions, the more likely the amygdala will store it in memory.
Recalling a memory and the related emotions of a troubling/traumatic incident, reactivates the amygdala and your original reaction to it. This is why when something happens, that your subconscious mind associates with that incident, you automatically react just like you did when it first happened. Consciously you don’t have a clue as to why you behaved that way, you just did.
Using EFT/Tapping, while thinking of the memory and emotions, calms the amygdala and persuades the body that there isn’t a threat. The emotional intensity of the memory decreases and a new perspective of what happened may surface. Cortisol and adrenaline levels recede and the body “unlearns” the trauma and relaxes into a more functioning, optimal mode. The stress-fest for that incident is over.
When trying to stick to a resolution, stress is the main reason we slide back into old behaviors. Because eating or drinking or smoking has been the way you may have coped with the stress to begin with, identifying the original incident(s) and emotions that made you turn to these comforting habits is the first step in helping you break the cycle. Then, the best tool to use to immediately calm your stress response and open the path to your resolution success is EFT/Tapping. It is easy to do and literally always at your fingertips.
10 Other Ways to Effectively Handle Stress
Although EFT is the stress solution I recommend the most, there are dozens of other ways to help you manage it. The main objective is to get your mind off of what is stressing you. Remember fear is the biggest source of stress, so If you are not thinking about what you are afraid of you will be less stressed.
Here are some ideas for you to try.
1. Acknowledge that you are stressed. Taking a moment to become aware of how you are feeling is really the first step. Then you can take other actions to help you manage it based on your current circumstances. You can’t very well close your eyes and meditate if you are driving on the freeway. Review Steps 6 and 7 of The Plan in Module 1 to help you become more aware of what triggers you.
2. Breathe! When we are under pressure, our breathing is usually short and shallow. Once you recognize that you are stressed, take a moment and just stop. Collect your thoughts and take a several deep breaths in through your nose, briefly hold it and release out through your mouth. Do this purposefully and really focus on your breaths. This will do a couple of things. One, it will get your mind off of what you are stressing about and two, you will be conscious of how long and deep your breaths are. Do at least three deep breaths and work to slow each one down a little more and to be a little bit deeper each time.
3. Put on a happy face! Smiling and laughing release “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine, endorphins and serotonins which helps relieve stress and reduces heart rates and blood pressure. A “Duchenne smile”, a full smile that involves facial muscles around the eyes, has an even greater effect at relieving stress than a fake smile. So, when you are stressed, take a moment and smile. Think of something that is really funny to you. It could be a great joke, a fun time with friends/family, a video of funny cats or dogs that had you laughing uncontrollably. When you are feeling weak about sticking to your resolution, smile and laugh to break the tension.
4. Move your body! Walking, running, lifting weights, aerobics, dancing, playing with children or pets all move your body. These activities also release chemicals in your brain called endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Engaging in an activity helps you physically and mentally disconnect you from daily fears that trigger stress. And if you are in a natural setting, the scenery creates an instinctive calming reaction. If you live and work primarily in a city setting, then hang pictures of natural scenes in your office and home or create a wallpaper and screensaver of beautiful landscapes.
5. Get a massage. A full-body Swedish massage, hand massage, facial massage or reflexology session will do wonders to relieve stress. First, it disengages you from what is causing your stress. It is your time-out, your personal time to just be with you and detox. Second, it helps to relax muscles that tense and tighten under stress. Third, when you are relaxed and feel good, stress hormone levels reduce and endorphins increase.
6. Meditate, pray, visualize, recite mantras. All of these allow you to disconnect your mind from the thoughts that are causing you stress. Regular use of these quiet times can help you gain better control over your thoughts and yield greater wisdom about your purpose and mission in life. Practice welcoming peace and tranquility into your mind which will spill over into how you choose to live your life. You will then be more fully able to concentrate on the things that are important to you each day. Begin with a few minutes at a time and work up to longer periods. You may make the sessions as short or long as you want based on the time available.
7. Turn on the tunes. You can relax to a great symphony or get up and dance a jig with your favorite country/western song. Music has a unique link to our emotions, grabs our attention and distracts us from everyday routines. Accessing it is as easy as turning on your radio in the car and at home. Load up your Smart phone or iPod with your favorites and listen when you are walking the dog, at the gym or at work. Singing (or shouting) along is a great release of tension and playing some peaceful music before bedtime helps to calm stress hormones and induce sleep.
8. Spend time with a pet, friend or loved one. Many times, when we are stressed, we feel alone. We feel like we are the only one having a bad day. This is when some companionship and a friendly ear will help you feel supported. Who hasn’t talked to their cat or dog? We hold complete conversations, asking them how they are doing and we tell them about ourselves. Stroking a pet or talking to another human about our problems lifts the load. These actions also release the good feeling hormones like oxytocin which slows the heart rate, breathing, quiets blood pressure and inhibits the production of stress hormones. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are also released. So, call a friend or family member that you trust will just listen and snuggle up with your pet and relax.
9. Stretch and straighten your posture. Stress causes muscles to contract, stretching lengthens them and improves your posture. For many of us, our work and home lifestyles require us to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time. This can lead to back pain, neck pain, hunched shoulders and tilted pelvises – and regular visits to the Chiropractor. Regular stretching sessions throughout the day reverses muscle contraction and opens the body to better postural alignment. When there is less stress on your body parts, there is less pain and ultimately less emotional stress. To remind yourself to stretch, set a timer at your desk and get up every hour and take a short walk and do a simple stretching routine. Schedule regular yoga or dance classes which focus on elongating your muscles. Set up an inversion table at home and use it daily to stretch your entire body. Or look for exercise programs on TV that offer full-body stretching and record them so that you can work them into your schedule.
10. Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Chronic stress causes inflammation in the body. Until you find a way to manage your stress factors, you can aid your body by eating anti-inflammatory foods. Foods that contain sugar, simple carbohydrates and proteins are largely inflammatory (acidic). Anti-inflammatory (alkaline) foods are primarily vegetables and fruits. Click on The Acid/Alkaline Food Chart link below to download a table of dozens of foods and their acid/alkaline tendencies. Then use it to plan your daily meals with emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods.
Although the list above is a bit long, it is comprehensive enough to give you many, many options. Find what works best for you and make it part of your daily/weekly routine.
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Module 5 Tapping Script – The Stress Buster
The first part of this script is to neutralize the stress, anxiety, pressure and feelings of overwhelm about whatever is causing you discomfort. Continue doing the script over and over again until the intensity of how you feel about the emotions that surface are around a five.
Then go to the second part which will help you to release more of the stress until it gets below a five.
Finally, tap along to the positive statements in the third part which will move you into a more positive, relaxed state.
Use this script over and over again any time you need to reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
Side of Hand: Even though I am feeling so agitated and anxious I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
Side of Hand: Even though this stress is making me so anxious, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
Side of Hand: Even though this stress is just making me want to _(Fill in what the stress is tempting you to do) __, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
Eyebrow: I am feeling so stressed and anxious.
Side of Eye: I just feel so much pressure.
Under Eye: I am angry that I feel this way.
Under Nose: I am angry that I am feeling tempted to _______________. (Fill in what you feel like doing that you would rather not.)
Chin: So much stress.
Collarbone: Feeling overwhelmed.
Under Arm: I have to fight off this temptation to ___________(Fill in what you are being tempted to do.)_____.
Top of Head: So much pressure and stress.
Eyebrow: I don’t like feeling this way.
Side of Eye: I feel the tension in my ___(What parts of your body are tense?)____.
Under Eye: This stress and tension is overwhelming.
Under Nose: All of this stress and pressure to ___(What are you feeling pressured to do?)___.
Chin: I just can’t relax.
Collarbone: I feel so stressed.
Under Arm: I am so tense.
Top of Head: Feeling so overwhelmed.
Eyebrow: I wish I could escape from all of this stress.
Side of Eye: It has such a tight hold on me.
Under Eye: I don’t think I can let go.
Under Nose: But I know that I need to let it go.
Chin: But it feels so overwhelming.
Collarbone: Still feeling stressed and anxious.
Under Arm: It feels like my life is so stressful right now.
Top of Head: I have to release this stress.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
How are you feeling about your stress levels? Are you still feeling overwhelmed and pressured? If you are still feeling anxiety, then continue to repeat the above script until you begin to feel a release. Then move onto the second part which will help you let it go. If the intensity of your emotions around it are below an intensity of a 5, then continue on to the positive statement script below and repeat it as often as needed to feel excited, motivated and ready to move on.
Side of Hand: Even though I still have some stress, I am beginning to feel better now and I love and accept myself.
Side of Hand: Even though there is still some remaining pressure to ___(Fill in what you feel like doing that you would rather not.)___, I love and accept myself anyway.
Side of Hand: Even though this stress, anxiety and overwhelm is not completely gone, I love and accept myself.
Eyebrow: This remaining stress.
Side of Eye: It is beginning to lessen.
Under Eye: I am tapping away the stress, anxiety and tension.
Under Nose: This remaining overwhelm.
Chin: This remaining anxiety.
Collarbone: This remaining tension and pressure.
Under Arm: Tapping all of this away to calm down and relax.
Top of Head: Tapping all of this stress away to think and act more clearly.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
How are you feeling about your stress levels? If the intensity of your emotions around it are below an intensity of a 5, then continue on to the positive statement script below until your stress levels are at a 0.
Eyebrow: I am feeling better now.
Side of Eye: My breathing is deeper and easier.
Under Eye: Feeling more in control now.
Under Nose: I can do this.
Chin: I have a better handle on what just happened.
Collarbone: Feeling calmer.
Under Arm: Thinking more clearly about what I need to do.
Top of Head: I choose to be calm and confident and work my way through this little by little.
Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Be sure to drink water during and for the entire day after tapping just as you would after a massage or acupuncture treatment. Tapping helps you to release long held emotions and energy blockages in your body. The water assists the body in flushing these toxins out.
Christine Hunt hereafter known as “The Coach” is a Certified EFT Practitioner but not a medical professional. The information The Coach conveys during the Resolution Obstacle Buster program is primarily from her experience as an EFT Coach or from books, articles, newsletters and papers, written by medical professionals or experts in the health & wellness fields. Your participation in this program signifies your acceptance of complete and full responsibility in your use of this information and will in no way hold The Coach liable. The Coach cannot guarantee participants’ expected outcomes, from use of this information, since participants’ results will vary based on their diligence in applying the recommended work and the complexity of their life history. It is recommended that you consult a medical/psychological professional if you have any concerns.