Back when this particular physiology was being selected because it helped humans survive, stress chemistry was needed inside the body to help it fight for its life, run for its life, or freeze in hopes of sustaining its life.
Most of those ancient stress situations lasted just a few minutes, and if successful in the survival activity, humans rested for awhile until the stress physiology went away.
If not successful, then there was no need to worry about stress management.
According to John Gottman,Ph.D. in his the Art and Science of Love workshop, men need about 20 minutes to clear stress hormones and neurotransmitters, and Gottman recommends that a key piece of that process is paying attention to what he calls ‘justified victim’ thoughts.
Victim thoughts keep the stress physiology going, and a key piece of any relaxation process is changing the thinking to changing the feeling.
However, we in the United States have perverted the stress response a bit, keeping it going inside our body to increase productivity and income, which is a successful strategy for only a bit.
In fact, I remember reading about Barry Sterman’s research with the real Navy Top Gun pilots which indicated that the pilots who were most successful at that training were the pilots who moved into beta brain waves associated with focused external attention into alpha brain waves associated with relaxed external focus and back again easily and quickly.
In other words, the pilots who were most successful in this serious training were those who regularly relaxed for short periods of time in the middle of their very stressful training.
Brainwaves cycle quickly, in cycles per second, so self help stress management should involve a practice which teaches us to manage the inside of your body in quick bursts.
In other words, while the phone is ringing, and I am typing on my keyboard, and my children want to eat, and the cat needs to be fed, and is looking to me for that, I can generate a relaxed physiology with a deep breath, a quick visualization of a mountain meadow with stream, and a breeze, and change my physiology from stress hormones to DHEA, the anti-aging hormone.
I only need to hold it for a short time for the stress to begin to change in my body, and regular practice of that technique, perhaps every five minutes for as long as two heart beats will help my body recalibrate itself.
After all, those competing stimuli I mentioned above, while important, are not life threatening.
The most effective and most economical self help stress management tool we humans have available to us is deep breathing.
And if you are like most of us, you will nod your head in agreement and go back to your shallow breathing or panting which actually cues the stress chemistry in your body.
So you may be looking for a technological answer to the stress management issue.
Well, there are some very interesting tools available now to train your thinking and even your heart rate variability coherence.
Not too many years ago, a brand new scientific discipline emerged called neurocardiology, which studies the heart’s nervous system.
Our heart has a sophisticated nervous system, a brain of its own, which sends a lot of information about feelings to the other brain. In fact, this heart brain sends more data up than it receives from our cranial brain.
The heart brain can learn and make decisions independently of the other brains we have, and that intelligence of the heart is affiliative and cooperative and when I cue that “heart rate variability coherence” with a cue thought and breathing, I change the physiology in my body from stress to relaxation in a heart beat, and my heart will keep its beat coherent for as long as I remind myself to breathe through my heart for example.
Then if I want to entertain a thought about the task at hand, generating a bit of stress hormones, I can, because in a few moments I will generate a heart intelligence thought to move internally into relaxation, consciously generating the pattern Barry Sterman, Ph.D. discovered in the Top Gun pilots.
The great thing about heart rate variability biofeedback is that it is very easy to learn.
Self help stress management was never easier and healthier.
It incorporates the change the thought to change the feeling Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools and the deep breathing that we seldom do on our own, with biofeedback which makes the learning easily repeatable.
And did you know that stress management is one of the important things we need to do for our brain’s fitness/
In fact one of the pioneers in this field has spoken of the heart rate variability tool as a self help stress management tool.
All I need to do is cue the physiology, adjust the accelerator, so to speak, and set the cruise control on self help stress.