De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times
HeartMath has released this free article for anyone who is experiencing extra stress due to the cascading effects of th...
De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times
Doc Childre Founder of HeartMath®
De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times from Doc Childre, founder of HeartMath®
This booklet is for anyone who is experiencing extra stress due to the cascading
eects of the nancial meltdown, natural disasters, ongoing wars, or any personal challenges during these rapidly changing mes. The current economic crisis marks a signicant turning point in the global changes taking place. The global community is being called on to shi from the pursuit of self-gain at the expense of others—to a more balanced system of care for the rights and needs of the people. Systems and sociees have veered far from the heart and the core values of cooperaon, fairness, and care for one another and the whole. For many people, hope is fading. Yet, many feel that things are being turned upside down to become right-side up. Unfortunately, this realignment is causing increased stress and tremendous economic fallout that aects us all. It’s obvious that the nancial realignment process won’t move in the express lane, but it can eventually stabilize. Each step the decision-makers take to signicantly take care of Main Street will be a step closer to the me when the middle class and the poor can breathe more easily. With compassion, I realize that it is much tougher for some than others. When a crisis occurs, there are dierent emoonal stages that people go through: shock, denial, anger, blame, despair and more. This process is painful, yet it helps to clear out the shock-overload on our mind, emoons and nervous system. Aer this phase, it’s easier for the heart to reopen. Then, with some genuine eort, people can start to rebuild their coping capacity as they gain more clarity and condence to move forward. The process of recovery won’t be the same for everyone because of dierent situaons and dierences in individual makeup. But be encouraged that you can create a psychological turnaround along the way and increase your ability to cope eecvely—especially if you work through your challenges with others.
Creang a Turnaround
When a signicant crisis happens (such as the current economic upheaval upheaval that is aecng so many), our stress tolerance level depletes from the inial shock and emoonal pain. We become overwhelmed which inhibits our capacity to cope. Yet, it’s completely understandable why we feel the way we do. In the rst phase, it can be helpful to experience and release the emoonal buildup from shock, grief, anger and despair, or to just sit quietly with ourselves in the privacy of our own pain. Aer this rst phase, however long it takes, eventually we need to engage in thoughts of self-care and remember our health concerns. Then we can take some simple steps to start to oset the eects of stress, which will make our recovery much easier. easier. I understand it’s hard at rst, but the simple suggesons in this booklet can help make it easier to reconnect with our inner strength and security. Though we can’t necessarily make our challenges and anxiees suddenly disappear, we can reset our capacity to maintain more easily. As we take steps to reduce the stress where we can, it adds strength and clarity for sorng our way through the more dicult challenges. Even though things “are as they are,” we can start to make a psychological turnaround within ourselves, so that excess stress won’t create a downward spiral in health. We can oset stress with some simple pracces that facilitate atude shis and reduce energy drain. This will increase clear thinking as to how we can get the needed help for ourselves and our families. When we are experiencing increased stress, it’s oen hard to hear some of the points that can most eecvely help us. So in this booklet I will cover in a few dierent ways some important themes that I feel could be the most useful.
Here are some pracces to help us reduce stress and reset our system to move forward in these changing mes. 1. Communicate and interact with others.
One of the most important things that you can do is to communicate your feelings to someone or to a group of people going through similar experiences. Then engage engage in caring about others and oering emoonal support. This especially helps to reopen 2
your heart, which increases fortude and emoonal balance. Whether you laugh together or cry together, there is oen tremendous benecial release. When people gather to support each other, the energy of the collecve whole mulplies the benet to the individual. It’s known that collecve energec cooperaon can increase intuive guidance and eecve soluons for the problems at hand. When a group of people are “in their hearts,” and not just their minds, the collecve support helps to li their spirits, which in turn releases stress buildup and anxiety overload. If you inquire it’s likely that you will be able to nd a group of people who meet to address the same issues that concern you. Many people can feel a resistance to being around others; but in mes of crisis and stress, group support can be helpful. Oen it can prevent the acute stress overload that puts your health at risk. You can also nd interacve interacve groups, blogs and helpful services on the Internet. 2. Re-opening the heart feeling.
It is normal at the onset of a crisis for our heart feelings to shut down, especially during the inial shock and anger phase. When our mind operates too long without the heart’s wisdom, it tends to overload from the sense of loss, and then our system gridlocks in anger, fear and despair. It’s understandable to experience this, but it’s really important important to reopen your heart connecon with people, as you can. When your heart reopens, self-security and condence can gradually return. Be paent with the process and have compassion for yourself. A good way to reopen your heart feelings is by oering kindness and compassionate support to others or volunteering somewhere somewhere to help others in need, even when you are in need yourself. Even small acts of kindness and compassion can make a big dierence. This is one of the quickest ways to reestablish your foong and reduce the stress that could otherwise aect your health. Research has shown that care and compassion release benecial hormones that help balance and restore your system. Worry and uncertainty increase stress hormones, even when you feel that you have good reasons to worry. Much stress can be reduced by caring for and interacng more with others. If health problems prevent you from meeng with people, you can sll benet by sending genuine care and compassion to others. If you are homebound, try to have visitors so you can communicate your feelings to help release some of the emoonal
pressure. If that’s not possible, try to at least communicate with others by leer, phone or e-mail. 3. Pracce appreciaon and gratude.
A helpful exercise for reducing stress and restoring emoonal balance is to spend some me each day sending genuine feelings of appreciaon to someone or something—be it children, family members, pets or others for whom you feel sincere appreciaon. It’s important that the appreciaon be hearelt (not just from the mind), since appreciave feelings acvate the body’s biochemical systems that help diminish stress and stabilize the psyche. The pracce of appreciaon and gratude has been proven to help people reconnect with feelings of hope and the heart iniave to progressively move forward. 4. Decrease drama.
Another eecve way to help stop energy drain and reduce anxiety is this: Pracce not feeding the tendency towards “drama” during this crical me. When we constantly constantly spin thoughts of blame, anger and “doom “doom and gloom” projecons about the future, it increases drama, which always makes things worse. Adding drama to a situaon blinds intuive discernment, which we need to nd the most eecve ways to navigate through challenges. Start praccing by trying to decrease drama when sharing with others. When we genuinely share feelings from the heart with others, this reduces the tendency to keep amplifying and repeang the downside of situaons—and increases the tendency to strengthen and encourage sober support and soluons. Naturally, there will be some drama while expressing our feelings to others. But when excessive drama connues, connues, it blocks soluons because it drains the mind and emoons, leaving us feeling worse. Pracce reducing drama, but try not to judge yourself or others for creang it. Everyone is doing the best they can unl they get more stable and secure. Try to proceed with compassion through all your interacons. More suggesons for decreasing drama:
When you catch your inner dialogue looping with excessive worry or fearful projecons, or when you nd yourself overdramazing the downside of things, gently tell yourself: yourself: “That’s not helping to change something that’s that’s already done; it can only make it worse.” Then make a genuine aempt to realign your thoughts and
feelings with those that support your needs and objecves. You may not be able to stop all the internal drama, but, you can eecvely reduce your energy drain and oset your stress decit with this exercise. Connuously amping-up anger, anxiety and fear releases excessive levels of stress hormones, like corsol and adrenalin, throughout the body. The long-play version of this can cause a cascade of physical health symptoms, along with potenal mental and emoonal imbalances. As you pracce reducing drama, the energy you save helps restore balance, clarity and posive iniave. Take care not to judge yourself if you slip backwards at mes. It’s okay. We all do. Just reinstate your heart commitment to pracce, and then move on. Each small eort you make really helps. 5. Manage your reacons to the news.
During this me of economic and global instability, it’s important not to compound our stress by projecng worst-case scenarios as we watch the news. That’s why it’s of neutral , and resist so important to pracce listening to the news from a state of neutral the temptaon to emote and obsess over the negave downsides of each issue discussed. We can maintain maintain our own posions and keep our own opinions while sll managing how much negave emoonal drama we aach to events or disappoinng informaon during and aer news broadcasts. This is where a large poron of our stress accumulates. By listening or watching the news from a more neutral posion, we can avoid pouring excessive emoonal energy into replaying the issues, which can intensify anger, fear or anxiety. There’s a dierence between evaluang an issue and emoonally obsessing over it. By praccing neutral, it can help us manage our emoonal energy expenditures and avoid stress overload. When we’re under extreme stress and anxiety, it can be helpful to manage the amount of news we watch. Many people are afraid to watch the news because of dreading what they might see and yet also afraid not to watch it in case they might miss something important. When experiencing high anxiety and depression, cung back on news occasionally can help lower the intensity of our fear and anxiety. It’s the intensity that makes fear and anxiety seem unbearable at mes. You have to experiment to see if cung back helps you, as it has many others who are experiencing high anxiety. You have to decide based on your stress load and how sensive your emoonal nature is to constant media drama around issues that amplify anger or fear. It’s about managing your media intake according to honest 5
assessment of your parcular situaon. We shouldn’t judge the media, as we are responsible for what we watch and how we react to it. It ’s our job to balance and manage our exposure and our percepons of how the news aects us. 6. Prayer or meditaon.
Prayer or meditaon can make atude adjustments easier, especially as you center in your heart and try to nd a more objecve state. Feeling compassion for yourself and others or feeling gratude can be a form of prayer or meditaon. These pracces help quiet the mind and can bring you new perspecves that restore hope and direcon. Research has shown that sending appreciave or compassionate feelings to other people or issues can have a benecial eect on the hormonal and immune systems. Anything that boosts the immune system is worth praccing, especially during periods of prolonged prolonged stress. Sending appreciaon, care or compassion to others also helps to balance the nervous system and create more harmonious heart rhythms. This, in turn, helps balance your mental and emoonal system, which helps reduce anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. Whatever your religious or spiritual pracces may be, genuinely applying them through these challenging mes can be very benecial. Such pracces have been shown to restore hope and increase condence. While stress can cause a disconnecon from your heart feelings, this connecon can be re-established. re-established. Many people have made comebacks from painful places. I have and you can as well, with genuine commitment and self-applicaon. The most important step I took in recovering from a past crisis was reopening my heart through deeper care, compassion and appreciaon for others. This sparked the gradual return of my inner self-security—the missing piece in moving on and recreang my life. 7. Heart-focused breathing to reduce stress and anxiety.
Pracce breathing while imagining your breath passing in and out through your heart area or the center of your chest. Envision yourself yourself as taking a me out to refuel your system by breathing in an atude of calm and balance (like breathing in an emoonal tonic to take the rough edges o). The key to making this exercise eecve is to generate the true feeling of calm and balance. You can substute calm and balance at mes with breathing the feeling of appreciaon or compassion (or whatever atude you choose to breathe). This can be done in a quiet place or while walking, jogging, and even in a conversaon conversaon
once you get familiar with it. It’s very helpful for reducing anxiety, anger and mild depression. Here is the short version of the above technique for quick reference: 1.
Imagine the breath passing in and out through the heart or the center of the chest.
Breathe an atude of calm or balance (or whatever posive feeling you choose) to help restore balance.
Heart-focused breathing is being taught by doctors, nurses and clinics throughout the world. It’s especially helpful during mes of crisis or whenever you experience anger, anxiety or emoonal overload. Heart-focused breathing exercises can help you shi stress-producing atudes more quickly and reset your stress tolerance baseline. 8. Sleep.
Sleep is especially important during mes of increased stress. However, many people can’t sleep well due to increased stress. If you have a hard me sleeping, get what sleep you can and try not to overdramaze your concerns about it, as that only makes it worse. Breathing an atude of calm and relaxaon for ve minutes or so before bed has helped many people get more resul sleep . The Internet oers many suggesons for improving sleep, including diet, exercise and stretching. But as with most advice on the Internet, you have to use discreon. Due to increasing problems with sleep issues, many are turning to prescripon medicaons. While medicaon may be necessary in some situaons, people have a tendency to overmedicate in the pursuit of quick xes. It’s worth checking out alternave methods, in case something simple helps. If medicaon is necessary, it is wise to follow the advice of a physician. physician. 9. Exercise.
Exercise can be very benecial when you are feeling stressed. Oen when experiencing anxiety and emoonal pain, people don’t have the iniave to exercise. However, if you can exercise even a lile, it can help clear the fog and tension accumulated from anxiety, anger and worry. Exercise won’t take away your reasons for geng stressed, but it strengthens your capacity to manage stress with less energy loss.
It isn’t necessary to do a total workout to help clear your thinking and stabilize your emoons. Experiment and nd what’s comfortable for you, but at least try to get your heart rate up a lile even for a short me. As you exercise, try to be conscious not to replay negave negave mind loops. It helps to balance the emoons and calm the mind by praccing the atude breathing techniques (described in #7) while exercising. 10. Reduce comparing the present with the past.
Aer a crisis or major change, one of the hardest things for any of us is to stop comparing the way life was before with how it is now. That’s really okay and understandable. The me it takes to recover from loss can be dierent for all of us— and me can’t be forced because healing heartache doesn’t respond to schedules or agendas. Yet, in our own me, we will start to regain some stability and be able to move forward with life. I have had experience with this. In a past personal crisis, eventually I realized that to move forward, it was me to redirect my thoughts and feelings from the past situaons I couldn’t change, in order to be at peace in the now and build the future. Aer I experienced an understandable period of grief, I started to realize that I was perpetuang deep pain and depression because of constant comparison. Oen, my heart’s intuion would would whisper: “Constantly “Constantly comparing what is going on now with what happened in the past is not helpful for you. It’s me to use your energy to move forward with life and your responsibilies.” This was hard at rst, but, being honest with myself, I knew it was an important step towards reducing the emoonal toll and inera that come from dwelling in the past. Below is a pracce that helped me. Generally, it is most helpful aer the rst phase of anger, grief or despair. No one would expect us to be able to stop comparing the present with the past during that period. Comparing is part of that. Be comfortable with your own ming, however long it takes. Some people do not experience as much loss, pain or despair as others because their situaon is dierent. dierent. For them, the rst phase could be much shorter, so they may choose to use this pracce earlier in their emoonal recovery process. Suggested pracce:
With compassion and paence for yourself, make a genuine heart commitment to pracce recognizing recognizing some of your thoughts and feelings of comparison with the
past. As you become aware of those thought loops and feel your energy downspiraling, realize that it’s normal to have these thoughts and feelings. Yet know that constant comparison can drain and repress your spirit, which you need at this me to re-stabilize and move forward. Then, in an easygoing way without force, choose something to focus on that doesn’t cause as much pain and energy drain. You can pracce switching your focus to another subject maer or change what you’re doing in the moment if your situaon allows it. You can also replace the thoughts with appreciaon for someone you care about in the present. Of course this is easier at certain mes than at others. With pracce you will be able to recognize the thoughts and feelings and then shi your focus to something that doesn’t bring you down and leave you with depressed feelings. When this is done from the heart and not just the mind, then you are transforming feelings—not feelings—not repressing them. We can all make progress in restoring our peace, yet we have to play an acve part in it. Emoonal self-maintenance is an important part of the process. I’m not suggesng that you never have thoughts or feelings about your past. Your own heart discernment knows when you’re caught in a depressive mind loop or when you’re just appreciang the past with good memories. We can save lots of energy with this pracce and it can be especially helpful in prevenng prevenng or soening some of the normal depression that accompanies an emoonal setback. With self-compassion and paence, you can emerge from the depths of challenging mes, especially if you connect with the strength that comes from truly pung your heart into the intenon to move forward. In the past I tried to move forward but without much progress unl I became aware that I was doing it mostly from the mind with lile heart involvement. When you approach your situaon with humility and genuine care, it acvates the power of your heart, which quickens your recovery and re-stabilizaon. 11. Reducing Fear.
Fear is a normal response to uncertain and challenging mes. It is compounded by over-dramazing what causes us to be fearful. Aer the shockwave of the economic crisis, how could millions of people not be imprinted with fear and uncertainty about the future? And now, we are oen confused by conicng opinions on TV news shows and the Internet. It’s really okay if your reacons to the ongoing crises are fear from uncertainty and lack of trust. When uncertainty overshadows spaces 9
that we were once secure in, then fear is set in moon to embrace and protect us. Fear can benet us as an alarm in ght or ight situaons. However, prolonged fear exaggerated by drama eventually creates harmful hormonal and immune system fear when responses that compromise our health. We oen produce an overload of fear praccal cauon would suce in many situaons. Fear and cauon can sound just praccal cauon like the same thing, but the dierence between them can make a big dierence in what hormones are released in your system. system. Prolonged fear increases hormones that are harmful to your system. Take as long as you need, but aer the rst phase of shock, anger and inial fear during a crisis, then it’s benecial to pracce reducing reducing the state of fear to an atude of balanced cauon . There’s a dierence in how these two states aect you mentally and emoonally. Constant fear represses your spirit and numbs your heart connecon with yourself, your family and others. This blocks hope, while exhausng the iniave of those around you. When living from the state of fear it owns you and can eventually erode your discernment and cognive funcon which you need through challenging mes. Living from the atude of balanced cauon is dierent: the atude of cauon is protecve yet it allows you to maintain balance. fear to atudes of With pracce you can eventually reduce some of your feelings of fear balanced cauon and discernment . I respect the fact that it’s hard not to experience frequent waves of fear when life is crumbling around us, no maer what form of emoonal management we try. Somemes circumstances leave us with fear that just can’t be helped immediately. Here are some suggesons that helped me aer I experienced a personal crisis. In me, I became red of living repressed by fear and decided I had to do something about it. Apply these suggesons as you can and don’t be hard on yourself if your progress feels stuck at mes.
These exercises have helped many people start the process of reducing and replacing fear with a more benecial state of mind. Exercise1:
Having an honest “self-talk” can help replace feelings of fear with more posive atudes. For example, you can tell yourself the following: “I understand why I’m living in fear and anxiety, but it’s draining my energy, pung my health at risk and interfering with clear decision-making.” “I’m red of being restricted by fear and I’m ready to shi to an atude that’s easier 10
on my nervous system, my health, and those around me.” “I’m aware that fear has sed my spirit and my ability to make eecve choices. My constant fear hasn’t changed anything for the beer, so I have nothing to lose by exploring a new atude for moving forward.” “I don’t expect to eliminate all my fears and projecons overnight, but I commit now praccal cauon to at least pracce reducing my fear to a more balanced atude of praccal and discernment where I can.” “I realize that any progress can help free up my mind, emoons and spirit to move on with what needs to be done and to feel beer while doing it. I’ll set my own pace in reducing my fears and will have compassion for myself in the process.” Reading this daily for awhile can help you pracce downshiing feelings of fear to more balanced feelings of cauon and discernment. Re-reading Re-reading with feeling also helps to anchor this in your emoonal nature which makes commitment and progress easier. Exercise 2:
Sit quietly and from your heart remember that enough stress is already going on, without having to wear a backpack of fear on top of that. Breathe quietly through the area around your heart and imagine that you are breathing in the atude of courage and strength to do what you have to do, without being preoccupied with fear. Doing this with a genuine atude helps take the signicance out of fear. Pracce this for a few minutes a day and anyme you feel a strong wave of fear. It can begin to make a dierence. I understand and have experienced the grip that fear can have on us. Connue to pracce taking the signicance out of fear a lile at a me, as you can. Be easy on yourself; and know that it’s really okay when you can’t eliminate all fear or anxiety as it comes up. Understand that any progress counts —which encourages more progress. 12. Engage with your family.
It is helpful if we can keep open communicaon within our family and circle of close friends about the stress that everyone is going through. It’s important that family members not repress stress or bole up feelings, as this only makes things worse. Make agreements agreements to give more allowance and latude to one another and if 11
someone is snappy or irritable at mes not to take it as personally. Especially explain this to children, because they usually can’t understand the depth of what the adults are experiencing. It’s important to be as posive around children as we can and reassure them that although mes are tough now, we can work things out in me. 13. Don’t blame yourself.
Blaming yourself for for the eects of the crisis is not benecial and only increases stress. It is not helpful to keep replaying thoughts of all the things you could have done to prevent your situaon. Everyone has been caught o guard by unexpected events and changes, so be easy on yourself. Moving forward is easier without carrying baggage and guilt about what you could have or should have done. 14. Write a leer from your heart to yourself. (Let the leer be an acknowledgement of where you’re at, and then let it arm your commitment to move forward with your life.) You can use the following leer as a guide, while mentally inserng changes to suit your situaon.
(Speak to yourself from your heart as you do this.)
There are good reasons why I am feeling stress, anger and pain. Who wouldn’t, in my situaon? I am aware of my increasing personal stress because of all the anxiety over trying to make survival decisions for myself and my family; nding it hard to get to sleep and when I do, it’s not deep enough to restore my energy; having racing thought loops that only project a hopeless future; fearing job loss, mortgage pressures, rerement insecurity, etc. (Make your own list to suit your situaon.) I’m aware that if I don’t get o of this stress-express, it could bring down my health, regardless of my reasons, even good ones. I’m not a bad person for experiencing these emoons for the last while. I needed some me to experience the anger, grief, and despair as it has helped me release some of the pain, though not all of it. Yet now, I’m starng to feel that for the sake of my health, my family and my future, it’s me to reestablish my grip and move forward. Even if I can’t completely erase the anxiety of the future just yet, I realize that small steps can sll cross a large room, in me.
In the past, there have been mes when I’ve had to connect with a deeper strength, to pick myself up from tough situaons and move on. I can do this again. I’ll pracce releasing the losses that I can’t change and commit to the changes that will make now and the future beer. I’m looking forward to helping others through this and being more open to help from others. I’ll pracce each day, listening to the feelings in my heart to discern my steps, while making sure I at least move my feet when it’s me to step forward. I now can handle what needs to be done. I just needed to reach deep into my heart to reconnect with my inner strength and gain a sober view. I’m back now. (P.S. From the heart, tell your mind to join you in making this turnaround. If your mind is reluctant and resistant at mes, know that when your heart commitment is strong enough, the mind will nally “come on board.”)
In closing, right now the rst shockwaves shockwaves of the nancial meltdown are sll reverberang. And new stress waves are occurring regularly, with each report of a major job layo, another big company going bankrupt, mortgage foreclosures, and more. We can help oset these stress waves in ourselves as we work together and increase our care for one another. When the heart reopens, it always increases creave soluons both on personal and collecve levels. This booklet is not intended to be a complete package for dealing with the stress of these mes. There are many other resources both in the community and on the Internet that may provide informaon and services. The important thing is to nd something that helps and then commit to it. If any parts of this booklet assist you in any way, consider highlighng them for easy reference. Rereading anything that is helpful in stressful mes supports iniave and condence. Don’t underesmate your capacity for inner strength and emoonal management, management, once you put genuine heart into your commitments. commitments. A lile pracce is a small price to pay for accessing the connecon to the caretaker within. Realize Realize that thousands are in similar situaons during these changing mes. Together we can all move through these challenges and help create a world that is more fair and balanced for all. With Deep Care,
Doc Childre 13
• If you would like like to contribute $1.00 to provide provide printed copies copies of the De-Stress Kit to people in need, it would be appreciated. Go to hp://store.heartmath.org/store/Donaons/De-Stress-Donaon • If you would like to receive future Stress Relief Informaon for these challenging mes, go to hp://www.heartmath.org/signup
If you choose, please help us distribute this booklet to others during this me of increased stress by: —Downloading the online version of the De-Stress Kit at hp://www.heartmath.org/ destresskit forwarding it to other people and posng it on your Web site — Forwarding the De-Stress Kit to other Web sites and blogs to post
— Prinng copies for friends, family, associates and organizaons • For more Stress Relief Relief Resources, go to hp://www.heartmath.org/destress To donate by mail: De-Stress Kit Instute of HeartMath 14700 West Park Ave. Boulder Creek, California 95006
© Copyright 2008 by Doc Childre. HeartMath is a registered trademark of the Instute of HeartMath, 14700 West Park Ave., Boulder Creek, California 95006 www.heartmath.or www.heartmath.orgg Instute of HeartMath is a 501(c)(3) nonprot research and educaon organizaon.
About Doc Childre
Doc Childre is the founder of the Instute of HeartMath, a non-prot 501 (c) 3 research and educaon organizaon. For many years, the Instute of HeartMath has been dedicated to mapping and validang the importance of the heart-mind connecon in intuive development and personal growth. The Instute’s research on stress, intuion and emoonal physiology has been published in peer-reviewed scienc journals and presented at numerous scienc conferences worldwide. HeartMath tools for stress relief and emoonal management are being used by companies, government, the military, military, hospitals, clinics and schools. Doc Childre is the co-author of the following books: The HeartMath Soluon, From Chaos to Coherence , Transforming Stress , Transforming Anxiety , Transforming Anger Ange r, Transforming Depression and The HeartMath Approach to Managing Hypertension .