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Changing Stress


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Title: Changing Stress

Changing Stress
  • February 2006

Changing Stress
  • The Nature and Origin of Stress
  • Avoiding and Managing Stress
  • Exercises
  • Appendices

The Nature and Origin of Stress
A Brief History
  • Charles Darwin defined the role of fear as a key
  • 1932 Walter Cannon established the existence of
    the fight-or-flight response
  • 1936 Hans Selye coined the term General
    Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S.)
  • 1950s First public definitions of stress The
    collective reactions of an organism undergoing
    demands from its environment
  • 1950s Medical books speak of stress factors
    relating to the psychological sources of conflict
    or circumstances that provoke psychosomatic
  • Past ten years Major focus on the biology of
    stress, which is intensifying in complexity

Stress Statistics
  • European Foundation
  • 1996 Survey on Working Conditions in EU
  • 28 of workers have stress-related health
    problems in the EU 41million workers
  • 600 million total days lost due to health issues
  • Work related stress accounts for more than 25 of
    absences from work
  • 1999 20 billion annual cost to member states
  • Health Enhancement
  • Research Organization
  • 1999 study
  • 46,000 workers
  • Health costs 147 higher for stressed or
    depressed individuals independent of their health

Harvard Business Review July 2003
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
Stress Definition
A condition or feeling experienced when a person
perceives that demands exceed the personal
resources the individual is able to
mobilize Richard S. Lazarus (1966)  
Personal Resources
Adapted from Stress Management on, 2004 and Powell, Trevor, Free
Yourself from Harmful Stress, 1997.
Key Ideas
  • Stress in not a sickness, but a normal part of a
    human beings innate functioning
  • Stress is the product of a complex set of
    internal biological reactions that warn us
    against stressors and ready us for action
  • Stress is not the same as anxiety and depression
  • Anxiety, depression and other human pathologies
    can be generated by stress, if stress is
  • Stress can be prolonged artificially -- even
    after the original stressor has come and gone

Personal Stressors and Stress
  • Physical environment
  • Work environment
  • Daily hassles
  • Accidents
  • Personal relationships
  • Major life events
  • Negative information
  • Natural environment
  • Life style
  • Sickness and pain
  • Nutrition
  • Medication
  • Thinking and thought patterns
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dilated bronchioles and increased oxygen flow
  • Pupil dilation and horripilation
  • Decreased motility
  • Decrease bodily secretions
  • Glycogen converted to Glucose and sent to power
  • Increased sweating to cool the muscles
  • Blood diverted away from the skin to the core of
    our bodies

  • Physical symptoms
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Fatigue
  • Digestion changes
  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Aches and pains
  • Infections
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Breathlessness
  • Palpitations/missed heartbeats
  • Ringing ears
  • Ulcers
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Immune system disease
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Appetite changes
  • Eating disorders
  • Increased intake of alcohol and other drugs
  • Increased smoking
  • Restlessness and fidgeting
  • Excitability, jumpiness
  • Irritability
  • Nail biting
  • Hypochondria
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Bouts of depression
  • Impatience
  • Fits of rage
  • Tearfulness
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance
  • Mental symptoms
  • Lack of concentration and focus
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

Organization Stressors and Symptoms
  • Drive for performance and success
  • Heavy work loads and insufficient time
  • Light work loads
  • Poor results
  • Business cycles
  • Negative reinforcements and consequences
  • Role ambiguity / Role conflicts
  • Over- and under-qualification
  • Directional uncertainty
  • Organizational instability
  • Change programs
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Responsibility for the work of others
  • Lack of follow up or feedback on work performed
  • Lack of participation in decision making
  • Conflict of values
  • Poor ergonomics
  • Lower employee morale
  • Unmet deadlines
  • Bad meeting atmosphere
  • Absenteeism and tardiness
  • Increasing demand for switching units
  • Burnout and departures
  • Blaming and pointing fingers
  • Hiring difficulties
  • Increasing request for formalities and
    bureaucracy to create control
  • Decreased productivity and performance
  • Hiring difficulties
  • Lower customer satisfaction
  • Increasing illegal use of work tools
  • Lower profitability

Adapted from André, Lélord Légeron, Le
Stress, 1998.
Avoiding and Managing Stress
The 3 Strategies
  • Impact the Stressors
  • Shift Behaviors
  • Shift Thinking

1 Impact the Stressors
  • There are many stressors that occur around us
    that we can impact directly
  • These stressors are very familiar to us yet we
    do not always know that they are causing us
  • Sound
  • Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Color
  • Odor
  • Clothing
  • Ergonomics
  • Visuals
  • Physical Environment
  • Often, a slight adjustment in one of the above
    can reduce our stress significantly

1 Impact the Stressors
1 Impact the Stressors
2 Shift Behaviors
2 Shift Behaviors
2 Shift Behaviors
2 Shift Behaviors
1. C. André, F. Lélord P. Légeron, Le Stress,
2 Shift Behaviors
2 Shift Behaviors
  • Relaxation Exercises
  • Breathing (see Appendices)
  • Office Stretching
  • Jacobsons Progressive Relaxation

3 Shift Thinking
Our Belief Most of the prolonged stress we
experience and the associated negative symptoms
related to this prolonged stress are the result
of internally generated thought-based processes
Our Thinking Impacts our State of Mind
Passionate, Inspirational
Creative, Insightful
Creative, Innovative
Focused, Aligned
Expansive, Generous
Effective, Productive
Calm, Clear
Okay, but Stressed
Uncertain, Worried
50/50, Inconsistent
Unhappy, Distracted
Off, Fragmented
Chaotic, Dispersed
Confusion, Frazzled
Barely Functional
Retired on the Job
Despair, Resignation
Three Modes of Thinking
Automatic Thinking
Process Thinking
I take action automatically
I use what I know to be true to assess what I
sense and act in alignment with what I already
know to be true
I suspend what I know to be true, inquire and
listen to what I sense, acquire new experiences
and perspectives, and act in creative and novel
The Impact of Reflection on Stress
By engaging in reflection, we have a better
chance of seeing and turning off our stress.
This will help in the prevention of stress
related symptoms.
Stress Action Plan
Stressor _______________________ ________________
  • Relaxation Exercises
  • The Biology of Stress

Breathing Pranayama
  • Pranayama is loosely translated as prana or
    breath control. Pranayama is used in yoga as a
    separate practice to help clear and cleanse the
    body and mind. It is also used to help focus the
  • Practice pranayama for 10 minutes daily --
    and/or at any time when you want to feel more
  • Select from one of the following two forms of
  • Uijayi Ocean Sounding
  • Channel Cleansing Breathing

Hindu name Nadi Shodhana Adapted from
Demeter Matrix.
Breathing Pranayama
  • Ujjayi Ocean Sounding
  • Sometimes called the Darth Vader breath. It
    involves constricting the back of the throat
    while breathing to create an ah sound.
  • Come into a comfortable seated position with your
    spine erect, or lie down on your back. Begin
    taking long, slow, deep breaths through the
  • Allow the breath to be gentle and relaxed as you
    slightly contract the back of your throat,
    creating a steady hissing sound as you breathe in
    and out. The sound need not be forced, but it
    should be loud enough so that if someone came
    close to you, they would hear it.
  • Lengthen the inhalation and the exhalation as
    much as possible without creating tension
    anywhere in your body, and allow the sound of the
    breath to be continuous and smooth.
  • (To help create the proper ah or Darth Vader
    sound, you may hold your hand up to your mouth
    and exhale as if trying to fog a mirror.
    Inhale the same way. Notice how you constrict
    the back of the throat to create the fog effect.
    Now close your mouth and do the same thing while
    breathing through the nose.)

Adapted from Demeter Matrix.
Breathing Pranayama
  • Channel Cleansing Breathing or The Sweet Breath
  • Hold your right hand up and curl your index and
    middle fingers toward your palm.
  • Place your thumb next to your right nostril,
    your ring finger and pinky by your left.
  • Close the left nostril by pressing gently against
    it with your ring finger and pinky, and inhale
    through the right nostril. The breath should be
    slow, steady, full.
  • Close the right nostril by pressing gently
    against it with your thumb open your left
    nostril by relaxing your ring finger/pinky
    exhale fully with a slow and steady breath.
  • Inhale through the left nostril, close it, and
    then exhale through the right nostril.
  • Thats one complete round of Channel Cleansing
  • Inhale through the right nostril
  • Exhale through the left
  • Inhale through the left
  • Exhale through the right
  • At any time when you start to feel stressed out,
    or if you anticipate a fearful or stressful
    situation, 10-or-so rounds of Channel Cleansing
    Breathing will help calm you down. And keep you

Adapted from Demeter Matrix.
Jacobsons Progressive Relaxation
  • Edmund Jacobson American researcher 1930s
  • Key ideas
  • Muscular tension is due to the contraction of
    muscular fiber, generated through stress events
    and sustained by long term stress symptoms.
  • Sustained muscular tension bombards our limbic
    system, therefore reactivating the sympathetic
    nervous system to create more stress a vicious
  • By relaxing the muscular fiber, muscular tension
    goes away so do stress symptom.
  • Relaxation can be artificially created through
    the active experience of the difference between
    contracted and relaxed muscle.
  • Process
  • Loosen any uncomfortable clothing. Sit
    comfortably and engage deep breathing.
  • Begin with your feet and legs move sequentially
    to abdomen, chest, arms finish with your face.
  • In each area, focus on a particular muscle and
    contract it for seven to ten seconds, then
    completely relax it for 20 to 45 seconds.
  • Move to the next muscle, and repeat the exercise.
  • Move through as many muscles as you can in the
    time that you have.
  • When finished, quietly review all of the muscles
    to further relax them, close your eyes and evoke
    pleasant imagery.
  • Stand up stretch and get back to what you were
    doing prior to the exercise.

Adapted from André, Lélord Légeron, Le
Stress, 1998.
The Biology of Stress Overview
When we are stimulated or threatened by our
environment, our body prepares us for action it
produces hormones and mobilizes our reserves of
energy. We know this mobilization quite well our
hearts beat faster, our respiration quickens, our
faces turn red or pale and we perspire. Our
pupils may dilate, and we may experience
shortness of breath, cold sweats and trembling.
Walter Cannon
This is our bodys way to maintain an internal
equilibrium in spite of changes presented by the
environment. This equilibrium is essential for a
proper functioning of our organism, and involves
the maintenance of a constant rate of
concentration in the blood of certain molecules
and ions that are essential to life. It also
involves maintaining specified levels of other
parameters, such as temperature and
hydration. Claude Bernard first noticed this
property of the body in 1865. In his
Introduction to Experimental Medicine, he wrote
that the "constancy of the internal milieu was
the essential condition to a free life." This
generated great interest in the medical field
however, an understanding of all the mechanisms
that affected this regulation remained elusive.
In 1932, American physiologist Walter Cannon
coined the word homeostasis from two Greek words
meaning to remain the same. Cannon was
intrigued by "the wisdom of the body"
-- guaranteeing with such efficiency the control
of physiological equilibrium. Cannon also
established the existence of the
fight-or-flight response when an organism
experiences a shock or perceives a threat, it
quickly releases hormones that help it to react
and survive.
Adapted from Homeostasis Resistance to Change,
Principia Cybernetica Web, 1997 and Stress
Management on, 2004.
The Biology of Stress Overview (contd)
In all animals, including humans, this innate
fight or flight response exists to help us
raise our awareness of the environment, focus our
attention on a particular threat and run faster
and fight harder in relation to this
threat. Interestingly, it is not only
life-threatening situations that trigger the
flight or flight response. It actually gets
triggered every time we come across something
unexpected. Often, something is small, and we
do not notice our response to it. Other times,
something is bigger, and our response is full
blown even though our life is not
threatened.   We need to keep in mind, however,
that mobilizing the body in this way has adverse
consequences. In this state, we are excitable,
anxious and irritable. We may find it difficult
to execute precise, controlled skills. The
intensity of our focus on survival interferes
with our ability to make fine judgments by
drawing information from many sources. We find
ourselves more accident-prone and less able to
make good decisions. We can lose our cool with
others, get upset and snap back.   In fact, in
very few situations in modern work life is the
fight or flight response useful. Most situations
in our modern lives benefit from a calm, clear,
rational and socially sensitive approach.
Therefore, in the short term we need to keep this
fight-or-flight response under control to be
effective in our jobs. In the long term we need
to keep it under control to avoid problems of
poor health and burnout.
Adapted from Stress Management on, 2004.
The Biology of Stress Mechanics
  • Alarm
  • Brain (hypothalamus) launches the alarm signal
  • Sympathetic nervous system activated and
    catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline)
  • Adrenaline from central part of surrenal
  • Noradrenaline from nerve endings
  • Time delay Immediate
  • Purpose Increase awareness quicken reflexes,
    prepare the body for action and fight or flight
  • Physiological manifestations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dilated bronchioles
  • Increased oxygen flow
  • Pupil dilation
  • Horripilation

The Biology of Stress Mechanics
  • Resistance
  • Neuro-Endocrine system activated and
    cortecosteroids secreted from the external part
    of the surrenal glands and the circulatory
    system Cortisol released
  • Immune system temporarily produces more B
    lymphocytes and T lymphocytes (white blood cells)
    and macrophages (phagocytic cells in tissue)
  • Time delay Progressive
  • Purpose Focus attention increase resistance
    eliminate bacteria fight inflammation and
  • Physiological manifestations
  • Proteins converted to carbohydrates
  • Kidneys and liver convert glycogen (in fat tissue
    and the liver) into glucose (blood sugar) for
  • Oxygen and glucose sent to important muscles
  • Increased sweating to cool the muscles and help
    them stay efficient
  • Blood diverted away from the skin to the core of
    our bodies to reduce blood loss

The Biology of Stress Mechanics
  • Back to Normal
  • Individual takes action to diminish stressor
  • Brain sends an all-clear message to the body that
    it is okay to stand down (prefrontal cortex)
  • Brain learns and forms new memories from
    experience (amygdala ? hippocampus)
  • Parasympathetic nervous system cools us the body
  • Time delay Depends on amount of stress
  • Physiological manifestations
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Constricted bronchioles
  • Oxygen flow normalized
  • Saliva secretion
  • Increased motility
  • Returned excretion