Institute of HeartMath Newsletter
Today's Stress Is Different

Today’s Stress Is Different

Some Tips For Managing It

Stress is your body’s way of signaling that you are out of balance, compromising your mental, emotional or physical health and depleting vital energy faster than you’re replenishing it. Stress is different today. Much of what we do in these fast-paced and constantly changing times to relieve our stress doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did.

Today’s stress is more persistent than ever because of the accelerating pace of modern life and constant change, but most people have resigned themselves to high levels of stress, believing it is inescapable.

Researchers at the Institute of HeartMath, www.heartmath.org, have researched stress and human emotions for more than 20 years, and their findings show today’s stress is caused by our perceptions of events in our lives, rather than the events themselves. The unfortunate result of our hurried world is widespread.


Effects of Today’s Stress

Until the turn of the millennium, stress was considered a major problem only after a life crisis, but today it goes beyond a single-incident type of stress, such as you might experience following trauma, illness, home foreclosure, layoff, divorce, death of a loved one or other major life event.

Effects of Today's Stress Day-to-day life used to be a lot different for most people. We had more time between events such as eating, sleeping, working, spending time with family and hobbies. We had time to unwind and recoup from stressful events. We could go on vacations without worrying about our e-mails piling up to the point we’d regret ever going.

Advances in technology have enabled us to constantly multitask and take on more and more. We’ve reached the point that many people are under such relentless time pressures and in constant motion that an increasing number are on overload, overwhelmed and even burned out. We have difficulty keeping our energy levels up and building and sustaining our resilience.

Instead of addressing today’s stress, most people focus on the ailments and diseases caused by persistent stress and their cost. The American Institute of Stress reports that 70% to 90% of visits to primary-care physicians involve stress-related complaints.

"Stress could easily become our next public health crisis," said Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association (APA). An APA survey found that 33% of Americans reported suffering from extreme stress and half of those reported high levels of stress at least 15 days per month.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that workplace stress is as bad for your heart as smoking and high cholesterol, and the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that employees with high stress have 46% higher health-care costs.


Stress

Some Causes

Although stress affects health, relationships, career and overall quality of life, many people aren’t conscious of the impact it is having on them.

Stress frequently is not effectively addressed in the workplace because many employers still believe it is essential for high performance and productivity, even though study after study has found that workers under emotional stress are less productive.


Each of us can participate in reducing personal and collective stress by learning to self-manage our emotions and opening our heart to increased cooperation, care and discernment as we go forward.

It is well established that stress interferes with memory, concentration, judgment and decision-making. The Centers for Disease Control substantiated these facts with data showing that stress is the single highest cause of worker absenteeism, double that of all other illnesses and injuries.

A major reason employers don’t address stress in the workplace is because they don’t know what to do about it, but each of us can take personal responsibility for managing our stress in these rapidly changing times. There are lots of interventions, most of which provide only temporary relief.

Today’s stress is different and we have to learn how to manage it "from the inside out."


Five Tips From HeartMath That Have Worked for Thousands of People:

  1. Heart-Focused Breathing™

    This is a very useful tool for reducing anxiety, irritation and time pressure.

    Heart-Focused Breathing can help you reduce stressful feelings. It’s especially helpful during times of overwhelm, or whenever you experience anger, anxiety, emotional overload and mild depression. It’s easy and takes only a few minutes.

    Imagine your breath passing in and out through your heart area, or the center of your chest. Envision yourself taking a timeout to refuel your system by breathing in an attitude of calm and balance, again through your heart area. You also can substitute breathing a feeling of appreciation, compassion or whatever soothing attitude, or emotion you choose.

    Practice Heart-Focused Breathing in a quiet place, while walking or jogging, and even in a conversation, once you are familiar with it.

    Learn more about attitude replacements from the Institute of HeartMath.

  2. Decrease Drama

    Another effective way to help stop energy drain from stress and reduce anxiety is to practice not feeding drama into your thoughts and conversations. When we constantly spin thoughts of blame, anger and doom-and-gloom projections about the future, it increases drama. Adding drama to a situation blinds our intuitive discernment, which we need to find the most effective ways of navigating through challenges.

    Try to decrease drama when sharing with others. Genuinely sharing feelings from the heart reduces the tendency to continually amplify and repeat the downside of situations and increases the tendency to strengthen and encourage sober support and solutions.

  3. Manage Your Reactions to the News

    Watching the news easily can trigger stressful feelings. Continuously amping up anger, anxiety or fear releases excessive levels of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, throughout your body. The long-play version of this can cause a cascade of physical health symptoms, along with potential mental and emotional imbalances. Practice reducing your internal drama as you watch the news, or even turn the news off at times.

  4. Communicate and Interact with Others

    When a major crisis happens, our stress tolerance level depletes because of the shock and emotional pain. We become overwhelmed, which inhibits our capacity to cope. You can create a psychological turnaround along the way and increase your ability to cope effectively. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate your feelings to someone or a group of people going through similar experiences. Then, engage in caring about them and offering emotional support. This especially helps to reopen the heart, which increases your fortitude and emotional balance.

    When people gather to support each other, the energy of the collective whole multiplies the benefit to the individual. It’s known that collective energetic cooperation can increase intuitive guidance and effective solutions for problems at hand. Be patient with the process and have compassion.

  5. Reduce Comparison with the Past

    In times of 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 OK and understandable. The time it takes to recover from a major loss can be different for all of us. Be comfortable with your own timing.

    The rapid changes we see in today’s world affect all of us, and they are going to continue, so have compassion for yourself and others as you try to adjust to them. Practice these tips and encourage your loved ones to practice them. You can download these and other tips in the De-Stress Kit for the Changing Times.


Suggested Practice:

Institute of HeartMath studies have led to the development of many practical simple-to-learn techniques that are being used around the world. You can learn more about using these tools to reduce stress in the institute’s comprehensive web pages at www.heartmath.org.

Make a genuine heart commitment to practice recognizing some of your thoughts and feelings of comparison with the past. It is normal to have these thoughts and feelings, but constantly comparing with the past can drain and repress your spirit, which you need to stabilize and move forward.

Choose something to focus on that doesn’t cause as much pain and energy drain. You can practice switching your focus to another subject matter or change what you’re doing in the moment if your situation allows it.

You also can replace the thoughts with feelings of appreciation for someone you care about in the present. With practice you will be able to recognize the thoughts and feelings that bring you down and shift your focus to something that doesn’t leave you with negative or depressed feelings.

Read more about time pressures and burnout and fatigue in IHM’s Solutions for Stress pages.