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Art of Stress-Free Living


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"Diet and exercise alone are like a two-legged stool,” says Dr. Redford Williams, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University . "It's more stable with the third leg, stress management.”


      Dr. Ted*, a surgeon five feet nine, weighs 150 pounds, plays tennis, a slim healthy doctor who maintained his cholesterol, had by pass surgery in 1998 at the age of 57.  Dr. Bal*, a scientist, who had less than 200 cholesterol level had by pass surgery in 2002 at the age of 69.  While Dr. Amar*, a sociology professor five feet seven, weighs 200 pounds, and Jit* an anthropologist five feet nine, weighs 220 pounds, both in their sixties had no heart problem so far.  What is common between Drs. Ted and Bal: the stress of job, no social security pension (because Bal moved to USA very late and had not contributed), family dealings, divorce in a family, all had stressed both of them.  Ted retired early at age 60. (*Real names withheld to protect privacy.)

      Dr. Amar and Jit had regular university jobs, had happy go lucky attitude and show no signs of stress.  Dr. Amar retired as department head with good retirement benefits.  Jit continues to work.

      The above examples are not to suggest that we should be over-weight and not bother about cholesterol and other common sense health approaches such as good nutrition and exercise, but suggest stress and life attitude cannot be ignored.

      Frustration at the work place, niggling issues at home and strained inter-personal relationships have become common in today's lifestyle of most people. A steadily rising workload and an intense competitive ambience have left people with very little time to nurture and cultivate their relationships and for regular introspection. In such a stressful milieu, stress-management techniques from the East and West have gained gradual importance and some of them are proving to be quite effective. 

      Stress management, which is the foundation of the stress business, is a wide open field. The term encompasses a wide variety of lectures, seminars and other programs offered in physicians' offices, corporate headquarters, spas, schools and centers for elderly people and on cruise ships. Programs typically incorporate biofeedback training, relaxation therapy, mental imagery, behavior modification and exercise, either alone or in combination. Also on the market are books, videotapes, computer programs, vitamins and cosmetics that promise relief from stress.

      There is increasing interest in job stress as a major health problem. Many corporations are increasingly under pressure to have stress-management programs because of the tremendous rise in workers' compensation claims for stress-induced illnesses.


      Here’s some data on “The High Cost of Stress.” in terms of wealth as well as health.

1.   $200 billion a year is lost to industry from stress­ related ailments.

      George Pfeiffer, Work Care Group

2.   75-90% of employee visits to hospitals are for ailments linked to stress.

      American Institute of Stress

3.   Chronic pain, hypertension, and headaches account for 54% of all job absences-all stress related ailments.

      Alternative Therapies Journal, 1996

4.   30% of adults report high job stress nearly every day. One study reported that more than a third of respondents were considering changing work because of job stress.

      Northwestern National Life Insurance, 1991

5.   Those who reported a history of workplace stress over the past 10 years developed colon and rectal cancers at 5.5 times the rate of the control group.

      Joseph Courtney, UCLA School of Public Health, Epidemiology, September, 1994

6.   Stress is more powerful than diet in influencing cholesterol levels. Several studies, including one of medical students around exam time and another of accountants during tax season, have shown significant increases in cholesterol levels during stressful events, when there was little change in diet.

      Dr. Paul Rosch, Professor of Medicine, New York Medical College

7.   Stress is linked to the following illnesses: hyper­tension, heart attacks, diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, allergies, headache, backache, various skin disorders, cancer, immune system weakness, and decreases in the number of white blood cells and changes in their function.

      Nation's Business, December, 1994

8.   High levels of stress cause nerve factor growth, which hinders the ability of disease­fighting cells to ward off infections, suppressing the immune system.

      Reported in Psychology Today, January, 1996

9.   Four hundred people were intentionally exposed to common-cold viruses. Those who scored highest on a test of stressful life events were more than twice as likely to develop colds after exposure than people who scored lowest.

      Dr. Sheldon Cohen, Carnegie Mellon University, National Institute of Health Conference

10. Severe stress is one of the most potent risk factors for stroke--more so than high blood pressure--even 50 years after the initial trauma. In a study of 556 veterans of World War II, the rate of stroke among those who had been prisoners of war was 8 times higher than among those not captured.

      Lawrence Brass, M.D. Yale Medical School

11. Those already suffering from high levels of atherosclerotic plaque/coronary heart disease will experience even more constriction of blood vessels when under stress. On average, the most clogged arteries constricted an addi­tional 24% when the subject was experiencing stress, while the healthy vessels (in the same subject) remained unchanged. Healthy vessels can handle the stress, but the damaged ones have lost their capacity to adapt.

      Alan Young, M.D. Cardiologist, Harvard Medical

12. Epinephrine, released by adrenal glands in response to stress, triggers blood platelets (the cells responsible for repairing blood vessels) to secrete large amounts of a substance called ATP. In large amounts, ATP can trigger a heart attack or stroke by causing blood vessels to rapidly narrow, thus cutting off the blood flow.

      Thomas Pickering, M.D. Cardiologist, New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center

13. In a study of 100 people with rheumatoid arthritis, levels of prolactin were twice as high among those reporting high degrees of inter­ personal stress than among those not stressed. Prolactin migrates to joints where it initiates a cascade of events leading to swelling and pain.

      Kathleen Matt, M.D., Arizona State University


      Stress, tension, and anxiety, however, are part of everyone's lives. Stress is simply the way our body gets ready for action, which is good. But too much stress can harm us physically, emotionally, and socially; all through its effect on our mental state.  

      One's mental state can have discernible, measurable effects on such physiological processes as blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration. This fact has been recognized for centuries by faith healers and meditators and is now accepted by supporters of behavior medicine. The proponents of behavioral medicine, including Dr. H. Benson of Harvard medical school, estimate that as many as 75 percent of patients who visit doctors have complaints that cannot be treated by traditional western medical techniques. If those patients get better, it is not because of a prescribed drug or a surgical procedure or specific medical therapy, but due to something that happened in the patient's mind. 

      You don’t need to be a yogi living in a cave far away from the civilized world to practice relaxation techniques of the East. Most of us have homes, mouths to feed, bills to pay--we live in the temporal world. Here’s a temporal metaphor to explain how the daily practices enhance our lives: "Our bodies are like a car; they carry our soul around; they're a vehicle for our consciousness. And if you take good care of yourself, your ride becomes less bumpy, your human experience becomes a little more enjoyable, and you avoid many of those stresses that take you down the road to ill-health.”  You don’t need to go to some ashram in India or expensive yoga and meditation centers either, because the information is available for various relaxation techniques.  The techniques that you should be able to follow yourself.  There is a deep relationship between the pattern of our breathing and our internal emotions. When we are angry, we breathe faster and when we are happy our breath is lighter. The Specific Breathing Techniques open up the locks within the people, which is the source of all emotional and physical disturbances.

      What is called “Sudarshan Kriya” by new age gurus is a cycle of breaths—long, medium and short. Since the mind oscillates wildly between the past and the future, the breath, which is by definition necessarily in the present, is used to "rope in the wandering mind". Like Zen masters who teach that the present moment is a chink opening into eternity, Ravi Shankar (who introduced the art of living) also hauls his audience back to the here and now with posers like, "Where are you?"  

      The various approaches of meditation and other stress-relieving techniques teaches how to observe the mind, to live in gratitude and to discard expectations. These provide a value-based framework to life and tools with which to build the superstructure. The benefits of the learning these approaches include stress reduction, increased production, a resurgence of vitality, mental clarity and joy of living. Those who follow various techniques will realize relief in respiratory and spinal disorders, diabetes and heart problems.


      There is the positive (pre-distresss) aspects of stress, says Dr. Dhillon in "Art of Stress-Free Living.".


                                "The language of the head is words.

                                The language of the heart is love.

                                The language of the soul is silence."  


Courtesy "Art of Stress-Free Living"


Compete Breathing to Manage Stress. No need to register

Complete breathing techniques and much more  to relieve stress that costs more than $250 at breathing workshops such as "Art of Living" and Swami Ram Dev.  You can download FREE the entire Chapter 4 entitled "How Breathing Affects Stress" is devoted to breathing and its relationship with stress.  Actual data to show changed oxygen requirements during stress and relaxation.  You learn complete, yogic or total breathing and use of diaphragm. Breathing   to "rope in the wandering mind" that oscillates wildly between the past and the future during meditation...... 

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