Tips from Doc Childre founder of HeartMath
The current economic crisis marks a significant turning point in the global changes. The global community is being called on to shift 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 societies have veered far from the heart and the core values of cooperation, 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 affects all. It’s obvious that the financial realignment process won’t move in the express lane, but it can eventually stabilize. Each step will be a step closer to the time 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 different emotional 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, emotions and nervous system. After this phase, it’s easier for the heart to reopen. Then, with some genuine effort, people can start to rebuild their coping capacity as they gain more clarity and confidence to move forward. The process of recovery won’t be the same for everyone because of different situations and differences in individual makeup. But be encouraged that you can create a psychological turnaround along the way and increase your ability to cope effectively – especially if you work through your challenges with others.
Creating a Turnaround
When a significant crisis happens, our stress tolerance level depletes from the initial shock and emotional pain. We become overwhelmed which inhibits our capacity to cope. Yet, it’s completely understandable why we feel the way we do.
In the first phase, it can be helpful to experience and release the emotional build-up from shock, grief, anger, and despair, or to just sit quietly with ourselves in the privacy of our own pain. After this 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 simle steps to start to offset the effects of stress, which will make our recovery much easier. I understand it’s hard at first, but the… simple suggestions can help to make it easier to reconnect with our inner strength and security.
Though we can’t necessarily make our challenges and anxiety disappear, we can reset our capacity to maintain more easily. As e take steps to reduce the stress where we can, it adds strength and clarity for sorting our way through the more difficult challenges.
Even though things “as they are,” we can start to ,ake a psychological turnaround within ourselves, so that excess stress wont create a downward spiral in health. We can offset stress with some simple practices that facilitate attitude shifts and reduce energy drain. This will increase clear thinking as to how we can get the needed for ourselves and our families.
When we are experiencing increased stress, it’s often harder to hear some of the points that can most effectively help us.
Here are some practices to help is reduce and reset our system to move forward in these changing times.
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 in caring about others and offering emotional support. This especially helps to reopen your heart, which increases fortitude and emotional balance. Whether you laugh together or vry together, there is often tremendous beneficial release.
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 intutive guidiance and effective solutions for the problems at hand. When a group of people are “in their hearts,” and not just in their minds, the collective support helps to lift their spirits, which in turn releases stress buildup and anxiety overload.
If you inquire it’s likely that you will be able to find 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 times of crisis and stress, group support can be helpful. Often it can prevent the acute stress overload that puts your health at risk. You can also find interactive 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 initial 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 understandale to experience this, but it’s really important to reopen your heart connection with people, as you can. When your heart reopens, self security and confidence can gradually return. Be patient with the process, and be compassionate with yourself.
Good way to reopen your heart feelings is by offering kindness and compassion support to others or volunteering somewhere to help others in need, even when you are in need yourself. Even small acts of kindness and compassion can make a big difference. This is one of the quickest way to reestablish your footing and reduce the stress that could otherwise effe t your health. Research has shown that care and compassion release beneficial hormones that help balance and restore yoursystem. Worry and uncertainty increases your stress hormones, when you feel that you have good reasons to worry. Much stress can be reduced by caring for and interacting more with others.
If health problems prevent you from meeting people, you can still benefit by sending genuine care and compassion to others. If you are homebound, try to have visitors so you can commincate your feelings to helpr reduce some of the emotional pressure. If that’s not possible, try to at least communicate with others by letter, phone or email.
3) Practice appreciation and gratitude.
A helpful exercise for reducing stress and restoring emotional balance is to spend some time each day sending genuine feelings of appreciation to someone or something – be it children, family members, pets or others for whom you feel sincere appreciation. It’s important that appreciation be heartfelt (not just from the mind), since appreciative feelings activate the body’s biochemical systems that help diminish stress, and stabilize the psyche. The practice of appreciation and gratitude has been proven to help people reconnect with feelings of hope and the heart initiative to progressively move forward.
4) Decrease drama.
Another effective way to stop energy drain and reduce anxiety is: Practice the tendency to not feed “drama” during this critical time. When we constantly feed thoughts of blame, anger, and “doom and gloom” projections about the future, it increases drama, which always makes things worse. Adding drama to a situation linds intuitive discernment, which we need to find the most effective ways to navigate through challenges.
Start practicing 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 repeating the downside of situations – and increases the tendency to strengthen and encourage sober support and solutions. Naturally, there will be some drama while expressing our feelings to others. But when excessive drama continues, it locks solutions because it drains the mind and emotions, leaving us feeling worse. Practice reducing drama, but try not to judge yourself or others for creating it. Everyone is doing the best they can until they can get more stable and secure. Try to proceed with compassion through all your interactions.
5) Manage your reactions to news.
During thise time of economic and global instability, it’s important not to compound our stress by projecting worst –case scenarios as we watch the news. That’s why it’s so important to practice listening to the news from a state of neutral, and resist the temptation to emote and obsess over the negative downsides of each issue discussed. We can maintain our own positions and keep our own opinions while still managing how much negative emotiona drama we attach to events or disappointing information during and after news broadcasts. This is where a large portion of our stress accumulates. There’s a difference between evaluating an issue and emotionally osessing over it. By practicing neutral, it can helps us manage our emotional 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. 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 perceptions of how the news affects us.
6) Prayer or meditation.
Prayer or meditation can make attitude adjustments easier, especially as you center in the heart and try to find a more objective state. Feeling compassion for yourself and others or feelign gratitude can be a form of prayer and meditation. These practices help quiet the mind and bring you new perspectives that restore hope and direction. Research has shown that sending appreciative or compassionate feelings to other people or issues can have a beneficial effect on the hormonal and immune systems. Anything that boosts the immune system is worth practicing, especially long periods of stress. Sending appreciation, care or compassion to others also helps to balance the nervous system and create more harmonious rhythms. This, in turn, helps to balance your mental and emotional system, which reduces anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
Whatever your religious or spiritual practices may be, genuinely applying them through these challenging times can be very beneficial. While stress can cause a disconnection from your heart feelings, this connection can be reestablished. Many people have come back from painful places. I have and you can as well, with genuine commitment and application. The most important step I took from recovering from a past crisiswas reopening my heart through deeper care, compassion and appreciation of others. This sparked the gradual return of my inner self- security, the missing piece in moving on and recreating my life.
7) Heart-focused breathing to reduce stress and anxiety.
Practice breathing while imagining your breath passign in and out through your heart area or the center of your chest. Envision yourself as taking time out to refuel your system by breathing in an attitude of clam and balance at times with breathing the feeling of appreciation or compassion. This can be done in a quiet place or while walking, jogging, and even in conversation once you get familiar with it. It’s ver helpful for reducing anxiety, anger and mild depression. Here is the short version of the above technique for quick reference:
1) Imagine the breathing passing in and out of the heart or the center of the chest
2) Breathe an attitude of calm or balance (or whatever positive feelign you choose) to help restore balance.
Heart-focused breathing is taught by doctors, nurses and clinics throughout the world.
Sleep is particularly important during times of increased stress. However, many people can’t sleep well due to increased stress. If you have a hard time sleeping, get what sleep you can and try not to overdramatize your concerns about it, as that only makes it worse. Breathing an attitude of calm and relaxation for five minutes or so before bed has helped many people get more restful sleep.
Exercise can be very beneficial when you are feeling stressed. Often when experiencing anxiety and emotional pain, people don’t have the initiative to exercise. However, if you can exercise even a little, it can help to clear the fog and the tension accumulated from anxiety, anger and worry. Exercise wont take away your reasons for getting stressed, but it strengthens your capacity to manage stress with less energy loss. It isn’ necessary to do a total workout to help clear your thinking and stabilize your emotions. Experiment and find what’s comfortable to you, but at least try to get your heart rate up a little even for a short time. As you exercise, try to be conscious not to replay negative mind loops. It helps to balance the emotions and clam the mind by practicing the attitude breathing techniques (described in #7) while exercising.
10) Reduce comparing the present with the past.
After a crisis or major change, one of the hardest things for many 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 loss can be different for all of us – and time cannot be forced because healing heartache doesn’t respond to schedules or agendas. Yet, in our own time, we will start to regain some stability and be able to move forward with life.
However, constantly comparing what is going on now with what happened in the past is not helpful to you. Below is a practice that helped me. Generally it is most helpful after the first phase of anger, grief or despair. No one would expect us to stop comparing the pesent with the past during that period – comparing is a part of that.
With compassion and patience with yourself, make a genuine heart commitment to practice recognizing some of your thoughts and feelings of comparison with the past. As you become aware of those thought loops, and your energy downward spiraling, realize that its normal to have these thoughts and feelings. Yet, know that constant comparison can drain and repress your spirit, which you need to re-stabilize and move forward. Then, in an easy going way, without force, choose something to focus on that doesn’t cuase as much pain and energy drain. You can also replace those thoughts with feelings of appreciation for someone you care about in the present. Of course this is easier at certain times than others.
With practice you will be able to recognize your thoughts and feelings, and then shift your focus to something that doesn’t bring you down and leave you with depressed feelings. When this is done with the heart, and not just the mind, then you are transforming feelings – not repressing them.
11) Reducing fear.
Fear is a natural response to uncertain and challenging times. It is compounded by overdramatizing what causes us to be fearful. When uncertainty overshadows spaces that we were once secure in, then fear is set in motion to embrace and protect us. Fear can benefit us as an alarm in fight or flight situations. Fear and caution can sound like the same thing, but the difference between them can make a big difference in what hormones are released in your system.
Take as long a you need, but after the first phase of shock, anger, and initial fear during a crisis, then it is beneficial to pratice reducing the state of fear to an attitude of balanced caution. There’s a difference in how these two states affect you mentally and emotonally. Constant fear represses your spirit and numbs your heart connection with yourself, your family and others. This blocks hope, while exhausting the initiative of those around you. When living from the state of fear, it owns you, and can eventually erode your discernment and cognitive function which you need through challenging times. Living from the attitude of balanced cuation is different: the atttitude of cuation is protective yet it allows you to maintain balance. I experienced a personal crisis. In time, I became tired of living repressed by fear and decided I had to do something about it. Apply these suggestions as you can and don’t be hard on yourself if your progress feels stuck at times.
Having an honest “self-talk” can help replace feelings of fear with more positive attitudes. For example, you can tell yourself the following:
“I understand why I’m living in fear and anxiety, but its draining my energy, putting my health at risk, and interfering with clear decision-making.”
“I’m tired of being restricted by fear, and I’m ready to shift to an attitude that’s easier on my nervous system, my health, and those around me.”
Reading thise daily for a while can help you practice downshifting feelings of fear to more balanced feelings of caution and discernment.
Sit quietly, and from your heart, remember that enough stress us 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 attitude of courage and strength to do what you have to do, without being preoccupied by fear. Doing this with a genuine attitude helps take the significance out of fear.
12) Engage with your family.
It is helpful if we can keep open communication with our family and circle of close friends about the strees tha everyone is going through. It is important that family members do not repress stress or bottle up feelings as this only makes things worse. Make agreements to give more allowance and latitude to one another and if someone is snappy or irritable at times not to take it personally. Especially explain this to children, because they usually cannot understand the depth of what the adults are experiencing. It’s important to be as positive around the children as we can reassure them that although times are tough now, we can work things out in time.
13) Don’t blame yourself.
Blaming yourself dor the affect of the crisis is not beneficial and only increases stress. Everyone has been cuaght offguard by unexpected events and changes, so be easy on yourself. Moving forward is easier without carrying baggageand guilt about what you could have or should have done.
14) Write a letter from your heart to yourself.
Let the letter be an acknowledgment of where you’re at, and then let it affirm your commitment to move forward with your life.
Download the full De-Stress kit at http://www.heartmath.org/destresskit