Prescription Audio Presents


and what you can do about it

Introduction: Stress the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Chapter 1 Stress - Why Worry?

Chapter 2 Meditation: Keystone of a Happy Life

Chapter 3 Nutritional Intensity for Lifeʼs Intensity

Chapter 4 Exercise - Just Do It!

Chapter 5 Mind Body Exercise: West meets East

Chapter 6 The Awesome Power of Touch

Chapter 7 50 Instant Ways to Reduce Your Stress

Copyright 2010 Prescription Audio LLC


Stress – the good, the bad, and the ugly

Stress is an essential component of life on earth. Without it, nothing would move in a positive direction. Without the stress of physical activity for example, your bones melt away and your muscles become flaccid and useless. Without the stress of learning new concepts and skills, your brain cells decrease their connections and you no longer possess a sharp and vital mind. Without the stress of a personal challenge, you never experience the exhilaration of achievement and life loses its meaning. Successful centurions have a willingness to continue to experience these kinds of positive stresses and do so for a lifetime. Not just the first 55 or 65 years, but over the course of their entire life. If stress is this good for us, why do we hear so much bad news about stress?

The problem is that the predominant stress in our lives today is not positive stress that leads to improvement but instead negative stress that leads to breakdown. In addition, this negative stress has become so ever present that we often do not recognize its warning signs. Do not be complacent however just because you may not feel anything wrong. This chronic negative stress destroys our physical, mental and emotional well being. It is a major contributor to disease with many experts believing it to be the single most important factor. Chronic stress is so powerful that millions of hours of sickness and disability and thousands of untimely deaths are attributed to it each year. The physical responses to modern stress come from our ancient wiring and the fight or flight response. This response activates a part of your nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. We could call this the “gas pedal”. When this “gas pedal” is activated, physical changes occur that begin when an area of the brain called the hypothalamus stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar to give your muscles what they will need to act now! Your muscles tense and all other systems not immediately necessary for survival shut down including digestion, and immune system function. The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is that portion of our nervous system that allows us to recover from the effects of the sympathetic. It is the “brakes”.When active, our “brakes” will lower heart rate and blood pressure and increase immune system activity. Growth, healing and repair are the business of this braking system designed to slow us down,

and this is when the body has an opportunity to build strong bones and increase muscle tissue. Athletes know that training without rest results in breakdown not improvement. This is true for all systems in the body. Our braking system also allows for the full functioning of the portions of our brain reserved for higher levels of thought, reasoning, and creativity – functions not usually necessary in a survival moment. Modern life constantly presses our sympathetic gas pedal while allowing little time and few mechanisms to engage the parasympathetic braking response. This chronic stress is very harmful to our bodies and our minds. Heart disease, strokes, cancer, auto- immune diseases, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes – all increase when we are under chronic stress. This makes perfect sense when you understand what happens in the body when under control of the sympathetic gas pedal. Congratulations on your choice to learn about and take action to reduce the chronic stress in your own life. This e-book will not only provide you with real practical ways to reduce chronic stress and its debilitating effects in your life but will also impart to you the knowledge to understand why.Knowledge will empower you and motivate you even when the circumstances of your life try to throw you off track. When you understand why it is important to exercise, for example, you will be far more inspired to “just do it” than simply being told that you should. When you begin to tell yourself that “relaxing” on the couch in front of the TV is just as good for you as getting out and taking your daily walk, your knowledge of why will be the motivation to stay focused on the truth and to get out there and move!

Be well ~

Chapter One

Stress - Why worry?

Modern life is a veritable hurricane compared to life at the turn of the twentieth century. Daily you are bombarded with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of getting it all done. People are counting on you. Bills must get paid. You are being pushed and pulled from countless directions. Problems rise at every turn.Relationships are challenged and challenging. Nothing seems to goes smoothly. Life has become a struggle.

Modern conveniences have served to increase, not decrease our workload. According to records maintained by the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Americans are working 163 hours (the equivalent of one month!) more per year than we did in 1969. In 2004 alone, 415 million vacation days went unused by American workers.Imagine however the number of people who took their vacation days but also brought along their cell phones and lap tops. Were you one of them?

Stress is arguably the single greatest controllable factor affecting your health today. Hundreds of studies demonstrate that the physiological conditions associated with disease are increased when we are under chronic stress.This means that stress causes directly or contributes to every case of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure/stroke, auto-immune dysfunction,

depression/anxiety and other mental health disorders, digestive disorders, metabolic dysfunction, obesity and virtually any and every other disease (dis- ease) known. What is this enemy called stress? You can’t see it. You can’t touch it. It is not something that can be seen under a microscope or measured in your blood. How can stress, this thing that cannot be seen or measured by even the most advanced diagnostics, be the fundamental cause of the most serious diseases known to man? Let’s take a look at the physiology of stress and find out. The fight or flight response is the starting point for understanding what happens in the body when you are under chronic stress.This response was essential for early man to survive, but it is wreaking havoc on us now. George P. Chrousos, MD and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health have greatly contributed to our understanding of the complex hormonal system known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.Dr. Chrousos’ work demonstrates how the HPA axis sets us up for problems and eventually disease.

The HPA axis is a complex system by which signals from the brain trigger the release of the hormones needed to respond to danger. The release begins with the hypothalamus and cascades through the entire system. A few early warning signs that stress is taking its toll:

• Inability to sleep • Unexplained anxiety • Fatigue • Weight gain/loss • Irritability • “Senior moments” • Head aches • Back pain • Depression • Disorganized • Low or no energy • Lack of motivation

The hormones of the adrenals - epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol all enable the body to respond to effectively to physical danger. The cortisol is also involved in a feedback loop that brings the entire process back down once the threat has passed. Of course in the modern world the saber toothed tiger has been replaced by the boss and the bills and these threats do not go away so easily. We compound them and keep them alive with the non-stop chatter of our thinking. A bad commute to work turns into a day filled with conflict and challenge all because the events of the morning continue to be replayed over and over. The body cannot differentiate between a real and an imagined danger so each time we relive the experience in our mind, the body responds with the activation of the HPA axis. This affects each and every system of the body and in unexpected ways.

While the HPA axis is stimulated, blood vessels remain constricted, blood pressure and heart rate remain elevated and the digestive and immune systems are kept in stand-by mode. This greatly challenges the cardiovascular system with the endothelial lining of the arteries taking the brunt of the abuse. This results in heart attacks, strokes and significant circulatory problems.

Additional and perhaps surprising effects of an overactive HPA axis include the inhibition of

the reproductive system in both men and women leading to infertility and inhibition of the hormones necessary for growth in children. Dr. Bruce McEwen, head of neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University in New York City has presented data showing that stress can shrink and age your brain. This loss of elasticity and function occurs both in the hippocampus, the area associated with memory, and also in the prefrontal cortex which is the area responsible for crucial decision making and attention. Ever wonder why so many of us are so fat and tired? Weight gain caused by metabolic and adrenal dysfunction are epidemic and are directly linked to an over stimulated HPA axis. New cases of Type II diabetes are being diagnosed at an astounding rate and it is becoming common place even in the pediatric practice. Additionally, the ability to sleep and to achieve the deepest levels of delta sleep is significantly diminished when cortisol levels are high. Deep, delta sleep is essential in order for the cells to regenerate. Put another way: a daily dose of delta is essential if physical healing is to occur. In many individuals the chronic pushing of the HPA axis can lead to eventual exhaustion of the system especially the adrenals. There is evidence to suggest that this can lead to a hyperactive immune response and may be indicated in auto-immune dysfunction. Other symptoms of depleted adrenals include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, joint pain, depression and hair loss. This is a very serious situation as it is at this point that an individual can experience a complete physical and/or mental breakdown. What is happening right now inside your body? The list identifies a few of the early warning signs that stress is taking its toll on your health, but there is hope. The next chapters of Feel Good will identify ways that you can begin to build your immunity to the harmful effects of stress.

Chapter 2

Meditation: Keystone of a Happy Life

Meditation is for everybody, and it just may save your life. Meditation is neither a religion nor a belief system but rather refers to the act of focused attention to a specifically chosen thing. This “thing” might be a single flower, a string of beads, a holy relic, your breath, a word or phrase repeated over and over, or simply what is in the moment.

There are as many ways to practice meditation as there are people to practice it. Spiritual seekers and members of virtually every religion and faith tradition have developed meditation practices over the course of human existence. In recent years techniques have been developed by allopathic physicians that are referred to as “medical meditation”. Herbert Bensen, MD a Harvard University Medical School professor pioneered the concept of medical meditation in a book titled The Relaxation Response published in 1975. It has taken 30 years, but this ground breaking work has brought discussion and recommendation of meditation out of the ashrams and monasteries and into the doctors’ offices and living rooms of middle- America. Today, there are hundreds of excellent research studies as well as full length books on the physiological benefits of meditation for anyone and especially those experiencing the symptoms of chronic stress.

The impressive list of research demonstrates changes to both physical, mental and emotional parameters including: lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, enhancement of athletic performance, increased creativity, improved learning ability, improved memory, improved reaction time, higher levels of reasoning, improved academic achievement, improved self- confidence, reduced anxiety, improved relationships, greater tolerance, improved job performance, and more job satisfaction to list a few. These studies are being funded by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and The American Heart Association and published in major peer reviewed medical journals including the American Journal of Hypertension, Stroke, and The New England Journal of Medicine. An eye opening study of students in a Detroit middle school showed scheduled meditation breaks reduced verbal and physical aggression between students. One thing is clear, a meditation practice adheres to the most fundamental principal of the Hippocratic Oath: to do no harm, and the evidence is strong and becoming stronger that it may be one of our most potent medicines.

A regular meditation practice will bring about a change in the way you perceive your world by

increasing understanding, compassion, and clarity of your life’s experience. Although we may prefer to think of stress as the circumstances in our life that are “making us” uncomfortable, in fact, stress is your internal response to those circumstances not the circumstances themselves. This externalization of blame allows us to remain victims of our experiences rather than taking full responsibility for changing

our situation. Responsibility is always more challenging to the human psych than playing the victim and therefore the road less traveled. Additionally, what is an anxiety riddled situation for one person is an exhilarating challenge for another. A greater capacity to absorb input from the environment results in a greater capacity to cope, reducing the internal resistance we feel as stress. Coping does not mean suffering in silence, or trudging forward in spite of it all.Rather, coping is the mental and emotional skills necessary to become detached from the situation, to remain centered and balanced in spite of external chaos. The good news is that those who are not good at coping with challenging situations can learn coping behaviors and expand the capacity of their mind, so that they can live in a less stressful and more balanced way. Since the stress response is entirely internal, bringing the qualities of understanding, compassion and clarity will transform inner chaos into inner calmness and greatly reduce the need for the fight or flight response. Meditation can be challenging for anyone raised in a modern culture. We have never been taught how to quiet the mind so we simply have no idea how to begin. Television and other forms of constant stimulation further disconnect us from any concept of stillness. We are like Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and “want it NOW!” This demand for instant gratification gets in the way of remaining consistent with the learning process, especially when our demand for results is not met, and in short order, we quit.If we are to realize the benefits of meditation, modern minds need a tool that assists us in achieving the states of mind associated with meditation quickly and easily. We also need a way to make the entire experience more immediately enjoyable thereby providing a way for both instant gratification and long term benefits. The Life Program uses not one but four distinct and harmonious vibrational technologies to assist new or seasoned practioners of meditation in achieving a meditative state of mind in a way that is easy and instantly pleasing.

In the early 1970’s two researchers separately began studying the effects on the brain of a phenomenon called binaural beats. The existence of binaural beats was originally discovered in 1839 by a German researcher, H.W. Dove. Dove discovered that the ability of human beings to accurately locate the source of a sound was due to the slight waveform phase

difference that is created when sound enters one ear at a slightly different time than the other ear. Almost 150 years later Dr. Gerald Oster of Mt. Sinai Medical Center published a paper in the October, 1973 issue of Scientific American. The paper titled “Auditory Beats in the Brain” described how binaural beats can be created in the brain when tones of different frequencies are presented independently into each ear such as when the listener is using headphones. What was really exciting about this discovery however was that Dr. Oster noted that the electrical brain wave activity would begin to match the frequency difference between the right ear tone and the left ear tone. This frequency following response created by the binaural tones is one of four vibrational technologies used by the creators of Prescription Audio. Prescription Audio however is far more than simply a program that utilizes binaural beats. We might think of the binaural technology as the backbone, but the flesh and blood of the program is the layering of three more distinct vibrational technologies that serve to create the most advanced and effective vibrational therapy product available.

The second layer of harmonics is the unique musical score that has been composed and recorded in live time while in the meditative state evoked by the unique binaural track used for that specific journey. This is much more expensive and time consuming than the use of royalty free classical music, that was never intended to evoke a relaxation response, or poorly produced “New Age” noise. However, your experience and results are exponentially enhanced by this attention to sound quality and vibrational integrity. The third layer of harmonics is the pure, clear tones of perfectly pitched silicon crystal bowls. The vibrations emitted from these bowls cleanse and charge your body’s energy systems leaving you feeling both deeply relaxed and energized as you emerge from your vibrational journey.

The fourth and final layer of the vibrational experience is the addition of sounds from nature. No monotonous loop recordings are used on Prescription Audio’s journeys. Instead, a unique, time consuming technology has been employed to capture the sounds of nature, complete with a sense of location, into your experience. Sounds of our earth home such as ocean waves or a gentle thunderstorm are very grounding and comforting to us as human beings. Prescription Audio not only brings you the sounds but the actual visceral experience of being there! As we will discuss in a Chapter 5, breath both matches and controls the body’s response to stress. The journeys of the Life Program, Level One include a voice guide coaching you on how to adjust your breath for maximum relaxation. Even if you have never done it before, you

will be a pro in no time. Go ahead try it now: Breathe in 1 - 2 - 3; pause and now breathe out 1 – 2- 3... Don’t you feel better already! The electrical activity of the brain can be measured and recorded by an EEG. Four primary brain wave patterns have been identified: beta, alpha, theta and delta. Each is unique as to brain wave frequency measured in Hertz (Hz), state of consciousness (depth of meditation) and corresponding physiological changes. The chart below is a summary:

Classification of Brain Wave Patterns and Their Effects on the Brain and Body

Beta 14 – 100 Hz Normal waking state, alertness, cognitive thinking, analysis, arousal, agitation/anxiety (higher levels), action, flight or fight response (higher levels) Associated with release of cortisol, epinephrine, insulin, constriction of arteries, increased heart rate and respiration, decreased digestive action, and dis-ease if unchecked Alpha 8 – 13.9 Hz Relaxed waking state, relaxed focus, creative problem solving (non-analysis), super learning, pre-awake or pre- sleep drowsiness (lower levels), access to sub-conscious mind, spiritual awareness; light meditative state Associated with release of serotonin and nor-epinephrine, activation of parasympathetic nervous system, body repair and rejuvenation, opening of arteries, slow deep breath and slow heart rate Theta 4 – 7.9 Hz Dream or REM sleep, deep creative flow/contact with “the muse”, deep meditation, access to unconscious mind, profound spiritual awareness Associated with increased production of catecholamines, improved memory and increased capacity for learning, release of melatonin, integration of emotional change Delta 0.1 – 3.9 Hz Deep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness, if awake, awareness is void of physical Associated with slowest heart rate/respiration rate, significant increase in melatonin production, deep physical healing and rejuvenation, deep integration of positive mental and emotional change

Chapter 3

Nutritional Intensity for Life’s Intensity

Food can be healing and regenerating to the body or it can be pure poison adding to our stress level.This chapter will not attempt to compete with the literally thousands of diet books on the market. The focus in this chapter will be on how stress affects our food choices and what food choices are necessary if we are to activate a protective nutritional shield against the effects of stress.

Weight gain is often a symptom of chronic stress. Food can be a great pacifier, and there is no argument that most eat for comfort at least occasionally. The degree to which we fall into this pattern depends largely upon our family programming both genetic and behavioral.

Mindfulness is the process of becoming aware of our inner motives that will help us break free of familial stress eating patterns that do not serve us. The process is simple (not easy, simple). Next time you feel the urge to eat something, and you know hunger is not the reason, check in with your emotions. Notice, and take note with pen and paper if possible, of the feelings you are experiencing in that moment. Just notice and take note; try not to judge yourself. As you write, you may be able to expand further from the feeling you are experiencing in that moment to feelings you had as a child and how your parents, care givers or others in your environment reacted to those feelings. Was it by eating or giving you what you are about to eat? Once the practice of mindfulness leads to awareness, you are empowered to make a different choice, effectively breaking the pattern.This may take a while. You didn’t develop these patterns overnight and they will not be instantly cured, but stay alert and you will soon find yourself releasing rather than feeding stress. Another reason for weight gain during times of chronic stress has to do with the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis that was discussed in Chapter 1.This HPA axis is responsible for the cascade of hormones that allow us to be immediately ready to fight or flee in the event of an emergency. The effect of chronic stress on metabolism, energy production and fat storage is currently an important area of study for researchers. Insulin response and the role of leptin, a hormone produced by fat, have both been shown to move the system towards fat accumulation when the HPA axis is over stimulated. More research will surely follow as our population moves towards an alarmingly high incidence of metabolic dysfunction and obesity.

Weight loss can be a symptom of stress for some. This is especially true when substances including nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and drugs are being used to self medicate against the negative feelings caused by stress. Whether the scale is going up or going down, the bottom line with food and chronic stress is that you are very likely malnourished. Eating on the run and choosing quick, low nutrient “junk foods” goes hand in hand with chronic stress. Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, probiotics, etc.) are virtually non-existent in these foods but are essential if we are to be optimally nourished. Don’t expect to make up the deficit by popping a daily vitamin as the currently known vitamins are only one type of the micronutrient components of healthy foods.

Malnutrition decreases the function of every single system in the body. You have less energy available to get through required tasks. You are less mentally sharp and less able to find creative non-linear solutions to the challenges at hand. Children will struggle in school and may even be prescribed medication for emotional and behavioral problems. Athletes and recreational sports enthusiasts of all ages experience lower levels of performance, higher levels of fatigue and injury and longer recovery times. Choosing foods of high micronutrient and low macronutrient values is the key to reversing this trend. The book Nutripoints by Roy Vartebedian, PhD. is an excellent resource of thousands of nutrient dense/low calorie foods that meet the criteria.

The physiological changes that accompany a high stress, high intensity life style include the increased production of a toxic group of metabolites called free radicals. Free radicals are chemically active and cause oxidative damage to everything they come in contact with, from cell membranes to blood fats to DNA. Protecting DNA from damage by free radicals is crucial because DNA is essential for healthy cellular function and successful cellular turnover. We cannot stop the clock but healthier DNA effectively reduces you physiological age.

An easy way to think about free radicals is that they are the “smoke” from you’re “fire” or metabolism. The oxidative stress caused by free radicals is a fundamental cause of aging and the diseases associated with it. As cells become damaged, especially the telomeres at the end of each DNA strand, the cell becomes less and less efficient at doing its job. Eventually, when enough damage has accumulated, the cell dies and the system becomes significantly weaker. When muscle cells become less able to contract, the body loses the ability to perform daily tasks with ease. When the endothelial cells lining the arteries are damaged and this damage is combined with oxidized cholesterol, plaques form that can become inflamed and

rupture effectively blocking the artery causing a heart attack or stroke. When the oxidative stress damages the brain cells dementia and Alzheimer’s can result.Free radical damage to the DNA is one mechanism by which healthy cells become cancer cells. Excessive free radicals also tax the immune system leaving the body more vulnerable to invasion from bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungus and of course a reduced capacity to isolate and kill cancer cells.

Free radicals, this collective group of cell damaging compounds may be thought of as the smoke from a fire because in fact, you are a fire. When a fire is burned in a fire place, it is very important the chimney is of sufficient size to accommodate the volume of smoke that is produced. If the fire is built too large for the chimney, smoke will enter the house and severely damage the interior. The damage done is directly proportional to the volume of smoke that escapes from the fire place and how long it is allowed to continue. The same is true in your body. The greater the intensity of your life, the higher your free radical production will be.

If you are like many, your life would qualify as a forest fire! The longer this continues without expanding the body’s capacity to neutralize the free radicals, the more damage is done. So how does a person effectively increase the size of their metabolic chimney? By now most people have heard the term anti-oxidants, but most do not have a clear understanding of what are. Anti-oxidants are simply free radical neutralizers. They are your personal metabolic “chimney”. They allow your fire to burn bright without damaging your interior. The confusion around anti-oxidants is that they are a classification of micronutrients based on function. Some are vitamins, some are not. Some are made by the body, some are not. Some are found only in plants, some are not. Confused? Of course you are!

However, if you are concerned about your health and reducing the amount of oxidative stress in your body, you cannot afford to be confused. Some key points about anti-oxidants to remember are: Cleary, a micronutrient dense diet is essential for any well rounded program designed to counter the negative effects of stress. It both protects our cells from damage done by the physiological consequences of stress and it provides the essential nutrients for optimum functioning of all systems all of the time. So eat well and be well! An anti-oxidant Primer •Anti-oxidants are found most abundantly in fresh, raw, vine-ripened plant foods (Mom was right about those fruits and vegetables!) •Anti-oxidants can be found abundantly in foods from every hemisphere and growing

environment •They work best in complementary teams not as isolated nutrients •Some members of the team act to directly counter the free radical, others act to regenerate the front line anti-oxidants as they become used up •Most anti-oxidants have yet to be “discovered”, but they are and have always been contained in plant foods •“Anti-oxidant supplements” are a poor way to increase your anti-oxidant concentration because they are incomplete and unbalanced. (You can’t win a football game with just quarterbacks no matter how many you show up with!)

Chapter 4

Exercise – Just Do It!

We really must thank Nike for that brilliant ad campaign as it hits right to the heart of the matter.If you want a body that you can live with, then throw out your excuses because none of them can hold up to the fact that your body must, simply m-u-s-t move every single day. It doesn’t really matter if you like to exercise or not. Your body craves it and your mind will too as soon as you get with the program. In addition to stress reduction, exercise has some pretty great side effects. It will raise metabolism, increase muscle, decrease body fat, increase bone density, improve digestion and elimination, improve blood glucose and triglyceride levels, increase levels of good HDL cholesterol, improve memory, and the list goes on! The good news is that you do not need to be training for a marathon to receive the benefits of daily exercise. Let’s look first at what daily exercise does for the body under stress and then we will discuss options for you to incorporate more movement into your day. Physical activity that is sustained and intense enough to qualify as “exercise” has immediate stress countering affects on the body. That means that you will feel better after the first time you exercise and every time there after. Exercise provides for the physical release of intense negative emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety. It floods the body with endorphins, the feel good hormones. It has been shown in many studies to be far more powerful at relieving mild to moderate depression than medication. Regular moderate exercise also reduces the amount of adrenal hormones that are released when the HPA axis (discussed in Chapter 1) is activated. It helps make the system more sensitive and allows the body to return to rest and relax much more quickly.

Exercise also reduces the activity of the area of the brain associated with worry. Often people will enter into a meditative state as they focus on their movement and breath rather than the problems that seemed so acute just moments before. This will allow for spontaneous non- linear solutions to “appear out of no where” and is a top reason why you will find so many runners running major corporations.

In the previous chapter we discussed what happens at the first sign of danger. We go into the flight or fight response – heart rate increases, blood vessels constrict, blood pressure increases and respiration increases. These are all functions of our cardiovascular system and are essential for physical exertion. Most of us can relate to a time when we tried to exert at a

higher level than we were capable of. You may remember the experience as painful! Daily exercise at the appropriate intensity allows the system to build up over time so that it can, over time, handle a progressively greater work load. While exercise has an immediate affect on the body relative to stress, it also has the positive chronic effect of building a cardiovascular system that is more capable of handling the overload. It doesn’t matter if the overload comes from jogging or your reaction to a traffic jam. A “fit” system can respond more quickly and more subtly, and will return to rest much faster than an unfit system. This greatly reduces wear and tear on the cells.

What kind of exercise is best? The answer to that is simple – the one that you will do, and do consistently everyday. I am going to devote an entire chapter to yoga, tai chi and breath work, so in this chapter I will discuss more traditionally western forms of exercise.

Cardiovascular exercise, sometimes referred to as “aerobic exercise”, is anything that gets you huffing and puffing, your heart rate elevated and keeps it moderately elevated for a period of 20 – 60 minutes. Running, walking, swimming, rowing, cycling (stationary or conventional bike) – all qualify as cardiovascular exercise. This is the exercise of choice for stress relief because it is the cardiovascular system that is most challenged when we are in a fight or flight response. Schedule a minimum of 20 minutes everyday to this type of exercise. A heart rate monitor is an excellent and inexpensive tool to know whether or not you are moving with enough intensity to qualify as “exercise”. Another is the talk test. If you can speak to a friend in short, clipped phrases while exercising you are most likely exercising in your aerobic zone. If you can sing (or hum), you are not working hard enough. If you are gasping and can hardly talk at all, you are working too hard. Walking is my personal favorite for stress relief. It more than any other option is possible for the vast majority of people. It requires only a good pair of walking shoes and your commitment to do it. Walking upright is our body’s most natural position and will encourage a strong elongated spine if you walk tall and strong. Walking outside when possible is best, especially for stress reduction, but if you must walk indoors, do so without the toxic intervention of television. Music is wonderfully motivating however and can add to the overall stress reduction benefits of your exercise session. If walking is not possible or limited, then work with a qualified fitness professional to assist you in finding the best fit cardiovascular exercise for your body. Resistance training is the broad term that applies to lifting weights, doing calisthenics and

working with elastic training devices. It works the peripheral muscles, the muscles of the arm, legs and trunk, harder than the cardiac muscle or heart. Sometimes this type of exercise is referred to as “anaerobic” (without oxygen) but this is inaccurate as the human body is always using oxygen! Resistance training will improve your body fat ratio by increasing your muscle mass and improve your bone density. Like cardiovascular exercise, resistance training provides an outlet for the physical release of strong emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety and has also been shown to increase the feel good endorphins. Resistance training may also be done quite successfully with a group of friends providing mutual support and camaraderie. Functional exercise is a popular new way to train using resistance but using few if any machines. It can be done with inexpensive props and can be done in virtually any setting. Seek out a certified personal trainer in your area who trains functionally to learn this time efficient and highly effective technique. And remember that is FUNctional training! Remember that although exercise is often promoted as the solution to stress, it is only part of a well rounded course of action to become less stressful and more healthful. You must also make nutritional choices that reduce rather than increase cellular stress and of course, most importantly, is to employ meditation to effectively reduce your reliance on the disease producing fight or flight response.

Chapter 5

West, meet East

Yoga, tai chi, and other forms of eastern style exercise have seen an incredible surge of participation in the past few years. It would be unlikely today to read the list of class offerings at any major health club and not find at least one body-mind class on the schedule. Yoga studios, once found only in small numbers in major cities, are now popping up in towns large and small and in areas once considered far too conservative to support such a venture. Tai chi has also seen an increase in participation and has become particularly popular for seniors because of its proven benefits to posture and balance. Both yoga and tai chi require the practitioner to become more aware of the body and its subtleties. This is the process of mindfulness that leads to self-observation. Self- observation is an essential component to becoming aware of our personal patterns that habitually lead to the stress response. Yoga means “union” and may be loosely translated as the union of body and breath. It teaches balance of mind, body and spirit and its discovery has set many people on the path to health, happiness and fulfillment.A daily practice will reap benefits that include flexibility and mental clarity regardless of your belief system, and most studios today are filled with participants from the full spectrum of spiritual and religious backgrounds. You will likely find an incredibly open, supportive and non-judgmental environment at your local yoga studio. Yoga is particularly effective in the reduction of stress but it does take time and patience - those that may need it most may find themselves the highly resistant in the early stages. The most challenging pose of all may be Savansa, or corpse pose, which is to simply lie in a state of complete and total rest of mind and body.Not so simple! There are many different styles of yoga and one is sure to be the perfect starting place for your practice. To be effective, each person’s approach to stress reduction must flow from their personality and physical preferences. Some may be drawn to a physically challenging Ashtanga, Vinyasa, power yoga, or Bikram practice. The sweaty intensity and the corresponding endorphin release of these classes may be the best way for the type A personality to begin to learn the sensation of release. As the body is flooded with chemical change and the mind quiets, the body has an opportunity to experience deep, deep rest and relaxation as the final phase of the practice.Others may prefer the supported, slower paced, and restorative postures of Iyengar or Ananda as their best anecdote to stress. Ideally,

as you grow in awareness of the shifting needs of your body, you will be able to use different style yoga classes as tools to assist you in achieving a calm, clear state of mind and an open heart. As you seek out and choose a yoga class or teacher, make sure that the emphasis is on the process not on the attainment of a challenging asana or the perfect posture. Such an ego driven environment is counter to the heart of yoga and will not serve to reduce stress. Unlike weight training and other performance driven exercise regimens, you “progress” in yoga as you release your physical and mental blocks. These blocks are discovered first as tightness and rigidity in the body then later you may become aware of the emotions held in these areas as well. Allowing what is to be without judgment is the most effective way to release these blocks. Pushing the body past its natural limits will

only compound the issues and lead to frustration and injury. There are many excellent videos and other yoga essentials available to begin a home practice, however, if you are a beginner or have physical limitations, such as a back injury, it is highly recommended that you seek out a qualified teacher.

Tai Chi is a physical exercise that both focuses the mind and strengthens the body. A person deeply absorbed in their tai chi practice is beautiful to observe. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese system of slow flowing movements with shifts of body weight and balance.The constant weight shifts of the exercises or “forms” improve both balance and body awareness, leading to more confidence and ease of movement both while practicing the forms and in the movements of everyday life. The leg muscles become stronger and the joint integrity and range of motion are improved as the tendons and ligaments of the ankles, knees, and hips are challenged by the constant shifting of the weight during the slow controlled movements. The result is greater awareness of the center of gravity leading to a greatly improved sense of balance.

Tai chi, like yoga, incorporates a significant number of spinal rotations and multi- directional movements of the trunk, producing some of the same benefits as yoga including improved spinal range of motion, release of tension in the low back muscles, correction of muscle imbalances that exist both side to side and front to back in the trunk muscles, and improved blood flow to the discs. Tai chi is also one of the best ways to condition the psoas muscle which is a deep muscle that underlies the lower abdominal organs and mediates the relationship of the spine to the pelvis and legs and is often a primary muscular source for low

back pain and instability. Tai chi engages the physical body but works at a level one step deeper than the physical. As a person practices the forms, the fascia, the fibrous tissue surrounding the muscle fibers and muscles, is worked and stimulated. The acupuncture meridians run through this fascia and by working these layers of fascia, tai chi effectively reduces chemical cross-linking. This cross- linking at the level of the muscle fiber acts like cellular rust which can turn us into squeaky, creaky machines. Stop and think for a moment – how did your body feel this morning when you got out of bed? Did you take a big stretch and bound out of bed ready for the day or did you gingerly move your limbs as you hobbled to your first destination of the waking hours?

Practicing tai chi just twenty minutes a day dissipates stress and reduces stress-related dis-ease in the body, increases stamina, strengthens the body, improves mental discipline, keeps the body well “oiled”. Breath work is becoming more widely known largely because it is an essential component of a well rounded yoga practice. It is also a healing and stress reduction modality in its own right and can be as simple as taking a single long, deep, slow breath. Go ahead take on now. See, don’t you feel better already!

Pranayama is the Sanskrit word meaning the control and restraint of the breath. There are several different techniques that may be used to achieve a variety of mental and physical states including relaxation, increased metabolism, mental clarity, centering and physical readiness, to name a few. Pranayama techniques are thousands of years old and were not originally designed to deal with the stresses of modern life, but they have been shown to improve the efficiency of the lungs and to be remarkably effective at calming and focusing the mind. Breath work revitalizes the body and mind by flooding it with oxygen and releasing toxins such as carbon dioxide and others.

Taking a breath is a two stage process. The passive stage is the “in” breath driven by the difference in partial pressure between the empty lungs and the atmosphere. The exhale on the other hand is an active process and ideally involves the diaphragm. A simple breath practice that can be done any time anywhere is abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. Imagine the body as a glass and the breath as water. Relax the belly and fill the “glass” beginning at the bottom filling up and expanding the rib cage until the collar bones rise. Keep the shoulders down and relaxed. Pause briefly then exhale slowly and steadily. You can practice this to a count and increase the count as you gain control and your lung volume

increases.Most breathe from the shoulders and upper ribs, only partially filling the lungs with air. Using the diaphragm and intercostal muscles between the ribs allows for a much deeper breath and will instantly de-stress you. A deep diaphragmatic breath will also significantly increase the volume of blood that exchanges its carbon dioxide waste for revitalizing oxygen as it circulates through the lung tissue. Breath is life. Take it in fully!

Chapter 6

The Awesome Power of Touch

Few things bring as instant a release of stress than the touch of someone who cares about our wellbeing. Touching where it hurts and when it hurts is not something that we need to be taught. Humans and other creatures instinctively touch or hold what has been hurt when injured either physically or emotionally.We also instinctively reach out and touch others, especially children, when an injury or trauma has occurred. Physical contact is an important component of effective first aid and essential to life. The following quote is from the premier institute for clinical research on touch therapies, The Touch Research Institute, which was founded in 1992 by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. “The first sensory input in life comes from the sense of touch while a baby is still in the womb, and touch continues to be the primary means of learning about the world throughout infancy, well into childhood. Touch is critical for children's growth, development, and health, as well as for adults' physical and mental well-being. Yet American society is dangerously touch-deprived.”

The research at TRI under Dr. Field’s direction has demonstrated clinically significant benefits of massage and other touch therapies in all age groups and for a huge variety of conditions. Life Magazine’s August 1997 cover story was titled “The Magic of Touch:

Massage's Healing Powers Make It Serious Medicine". Massage is in fact serious medicine that has been used as a healing modality for thousands of years. Hippocrates the father of modern medicine believed that "A physician must be experienced in many things but assuredly also in rubbing."Thousands of years before Hippocrates, Chinese and Aruvedic healers were already well versed in massage methods and applications. Massage is powerful medicine and this can be demonstrated by its many measurable physiological effects including: •Improving circulation, allowing the body to move more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs and more efficient removal of waste products. •Stimulating the lymphatic system, an important component of our immune system. •Relaxing tense or overused muscles

•Reducing spasms and cramping •Increasing joint range of motion •Reducing recovery time from strenuous workouts •Stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller making massage an excellent non-drug option for the management of chronic pain. •Reducing post-surgery adhesions and swelling and reducing and realigning scar tissue. •Improving mobility and decreasing discomfort of low back pain sufferers. •Relief for migraine headaches and decreased need for pain medication. •Contributing to improved birthing experiences for the mother and improved outcomes for babies when used during labor on the mother and after birth for both mother and child. Perhaps the most significant but least measurable benefit to a massage is that it greatly reduces the negative effects of stress. The expression, “your issues are in your tissues” is an accurate one. The body and mind are intimately, inextricably interwoven and your body becomes the storage point for your entire life’s emotional experience. As the therapist applies kneading techniques, targeted pressure and sweeping strokes, the physiological quality of our muscles and connective tissue shifts, and we can begin to release the emotions that created the muscle tension and trigger points in the first place. There are many different types and styles of massage, and they all have a place and purpose. Some styles are more clinical and specific in their approach, such as Rolfing (also known as Structural Integration), and some styles are strictly for relaxation and pampering.

Some, like Tai massage for example, require more active participation of the client; others use additional props such as heated stones or essential oils to enhance the work of the hands. All have multiple benefits. Sometimes the light touch of a classic Swedish massage is looked down upon as a real healing modality, but massage need not be deep to be effective. Sometimes an hour of dim lighting, soothing music, and the undivided attention of skilled and caring hands are the perfect antidotes to the harshness of modern life and may be just what is needed to return clarity to the mind and balance to the body. Massage therapist report that over time their regular massage clients become more attuned to their bodies. Cultivating awareness of our bodies through massage is another way to employ mindfulness and to reap the stress reducing benefits of awareness.

Choosing the right massage therapist for you is essential to a positive experience. Most states now require a massage therapist to maintain a state license. If required, the license and perhaps other professional credentials will be prominently posted in the office. The best way to ensure that you have the right therapist for you is to get referrals from people you trust. This could be your personal trainer, physician or another health care professional. Ask who they personally use. As a personal trainer, I make recommendations all the time for my clients, and I maintain a list of several massage therapists who I have used that I can recommend. Because I know my client and I know personally the work of the therapist, I can almost always create an excellent match. If you don’t have a trainer or similar professional resource, ask a friend who gets regular massage, especially if that friend has similar needs to you. As a last resort the phone book or local advertising outlets may lead you to a qualified therapist. You will want to ask the therapist how long they have been practicing, what type or types of massage they offer and how frequently they see clients similar to you.

Red flags indicating an inexperienced, poorly trained or careless therapist include a therapist who fails to have you fill out a detailed client intake form, a therapist who does not ask you about major health issues that you have listed on an intake form, a therapist who does not provide you with appropriate privacy, and a therapist who does not make whatever adjustments are necessary for your comfort.A good therapist will always check in with and respond to the client’s needs during the massage. Is the pressure too light or too intense? Are you too warm or too cool? Is the music to your liking? It is important too that you, the client, speak up during the massage especially regarding stroke pressure. A good therapist will speak minimally and only to improve your comfort and the quality of the session. Idle chatter and gossip have no place in the massage room because they disconnect both the therapist and you, the client, from the work at hand.

In addition to massage, there are other touch modalities that have wonderful stress reducing ability. Foot reflexology is a fabulous and effective treatment for stress. In certain settings, foot reflexology may be easier to receive than a massage because it does not require undressing, will not muss the hair and with a little training can be done on yourself or your partner in a few minutes time. Reflexology is the application of pressure on certain reflex areas of the food. These specific reflex areas of the foot correspond back to specific areas of the body. In this way we can benefit the liver or spleen for example by applying pressure to the area of the foot that corresponds to these organs.

Charts are available that show each reflex area of the foot and its corresponding body part. Energy based therapies are finding a larger and larger audience these days as scientific validation of energy work is catching up with the intuitive knowledge of the practitioners of such therapies. One popular and effective energy therapy is called Reiki. Reiki therapy is a traditional touch therapy from Japan. During a Reiki session, the client lies on a massage table, fully clothed, while the Reiki practitioner places his or her hands on or near the client's body. The Reiki energy flows from the universal Reiki source through the practitioner to the client. The practitioner does not manipulate the energy. Instead, the Reiki energy is allowed to flow as needed to the client and for this reason, can never do harm. The experience of the client varies greatly from person to person and from session to session for the same person. You may feel deeply relaxed and centered during and after a session. Rarely a person has a profound spiritual experience, more often however something closer to a super nap occurs, or just a pleasant time of relaxation. You may have images come to mind, or experience feelings or emotions, or you may not. As the saying goes, “It’s all good!” Clients often report that physical pain is diminished or gone after a Reiki session. Healing Touch is similar to Reiki and is practiced by nurses in the hospital setting. Many patients request the therapy before, during and after surgery to improve outcomes. There are many, many other systems of energy therapy being practiced around the world today. One of them may be just what you have been looking for to unlock the mysteries of your self.

Chapter 7

50 Instant Ways to Reduce Stress

1) Take a breath 2) Open a window 3) Turn off the television 4) Close your eyes and visualize someone you love 5) Give a hug 6) Receive a hug (you may have to ask!) 7) Look at a baby picture of your baby 8) Think of something you are grateful for 9) Think of someone you are grateful for 10) Spend a moment in silent prayer 11) Hum a happy tune 12) Laugh 13) Make love 14) Imagine making love 15) Remember you are love 16) Smile and say hello to a stranger 17) Take a walk 18) Soak up some sunshine 19) Take a five minute visualization vacation – you can go anywhere and it’s free! 20) Pet your pet 21) Pet your partner 22) Did we mention – take a breath? 23) Stand up and reach for the stars 24) Turn on your favorite music 25) Do a silly dance 26) Sing as loud as you can 27) Call your best friend 28) Call someone who needs a best friend 29) Give up the “news” for an entire day (a week?; a month?)

30) Be barefoot 31) Take a bubble bath 32) Take a bubble bath with your partner 33) Read a passage from your favorite inspirational book 34) Read to a child 35) Find the man in the moon 36) Take a nap 37) Skip instead of walk 38) Go fishing 39) Take a child fishing 40) Watch a funny movie 41) Step away from the computer 42) Look closely at a flower 43) Sit in a garden 44) Say out loud, “I am awesome” or “fantastic” or whatever wonderfully superlative

word comes to you in the moment. 45)Look in the mirror and do #44 46) For one hour, smile sincerely at everyone you come in contact with 47) Expect a miracle 48) Acknowledge a miracle 49) Be a miracle 50) Believe

We hope this information will help in your pursuit of health and wellness . Be well


and what you can do about it

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