Endless political and social turmoil and full-on uprisings around the world coupled with a series of devastating natural disasters in every corner of the planet and the dismal economy means that not many articles can start out positively. But that’s exactly what the next few pages are all about. Herewith: some quick and handy expert advice on how to de-stress and get more out of life in the current environment. After all, if you can’t reduce stress in lovely, lush South Florida, where can you relax?
Humans Are Not Computers
If you live life like a computer running 5 programs at once, your system will constantly run sluggishly and you’ll often crashed. “Human lives have become too complicated — people have too many simultaneous goals and are always multi-tasking,” says Dr. Andrew Rosen, Founder & Director of South Florida’s The Center for Treatment of Anxiety Disorders.
“Some text and watch the news while having dinner. That is the worst for the brain, yet some people actually believe that multi-tasking improves their brain ability like exercising a muscle. When what it really does is overload the neurons, deplete the brain chemicals we need and overload the central nervous system.”
In addition, we need outlets to reduce stress. Regular exercise and meditation are common recommendations, but what about humor? “We play comedies on our waiting room television,” says Dr. Rosen. “Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live. Watching funny movies and television shows or even walking around with a forced smile on your face can change the chemicals in the brain and reduce stress.”
Another key factor is to lessen exposure to negativity, adds Dr. Rosen. “When we read a child a bedtime story, we don’t choose something that will frighten them, we pick one with a happy ending. It’s the same with watching the news or a horrific movie before going to bed.”
Keeping Stress in Perspective
There are two types of stressors. External stressors such as illness in the family or the current economy — things we can’t control. And internal stressors, which is how one reacts to the external stressors. “Perspective is very important when it comes to stress,” says Dr. Stan Hyman, Founder & Director of Aventura Stress Relief Center and author of Fearless Driving. “Some people look at the world in a way that frightens them and pours adrenaline through their system. They feel as if their life may depend on their decisions. These people need to evaluate life in a new way and begin to see things in a manner that is best for them. They need to stop not responding so quickly and stop knee-jerk reactions.”
In addition to being a top licensed psychotherapist, Dr. Hyman is also a clinical hypnotherapist. “All hypnosis is self-hypnosis,” he says. “It’s a tool anyone can learn. Most people fall into a trance more often than they realize. A very good example is when driving and you get to a destination and you don’t remember all the details of getting there. From the first visit, a patient leaves the office with strategies and an exercise they can use toward impacting stress.”
Life, Sex & Work
“Stress comes primarily from how we interpret life,” affirms Life Coach & Clinical Hypnotherapist Michelle Miller of Creative Life Management in Miami. “When we start thinking about the future, the “What if?”…or the past, the “Why did I?” — we are raising our stress level. We also have to take responsibility for our thoughts and change our negative reactions. I call it the ‘Creative Solution.’ We can always create a positive outlook. One way is to start with gratitude for what we do have: a beautiful home, a loving family, good health. It’s all about balance.”
Some believe sex may be the answer to leading a more stress-free life. But let’s face it: Stress and anxiety wreak havoc on the libido. But according to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, you want to keep that libido high, because sex lowers blood pressure, releases endorphins and can even boost immunity. “The French have an expression, “L’appetit vient en mangeant,” which means “Your appetite comes as you eat,” says the internationally renowned sex expert, who lectures regularly in South Florida. “Even if a couple doesn’t feel like making love, they should make an appointment [to be intimate]. Couples can draw much-needed strength by clinging to one another. This doesn’t always have to lead to sex, but it could — and, at least from time to time, it should. Sex is the glue that holds a relationship together.”
Almost always directly correlated with relationship stress is job stress, one of the leading causes of stress in most Americans. Dr. Gabrielle Cora, President of the Executive Health & Wealth Institute in Miami and author of Leading Under Pressure: Maximize Your Health While Building Your Wealth has her finger on the pulse of what drives executive and entrepreneurial South Floridians. Her advice? “One of the key aspects I’ve always worked on with executives and entrepreneurs, particularly if they are not feeling the joy of their accomplishments, is to help them take a little time to celebrate when they have a great victory,” she says. “What usually happens is that people have their victory, but they don’t have time to savor it, they move right on to the next quest.”
Stress Reduction On Demand
“The power of the mind to create stress reduction has been well documented,” says Dr. Peter A. Sanders, author of You Are Psychic!. “The goal is to trigger what we call the “Relaxation Response” which is literally the reverse of the adrenaline reflex,” he explains, elaborating on one of the rapid mind/body techniques he presents in the self-healing chapter of his book. “The key to rapid stress reduction is to find your personal ‘Relaxation Breath Pattern.’ This is not yoga deep breathing. The secret is to find the rate where breathing even a little bit slower or deeper feels uncomfortable. That is your personal pattern. Gradually slow and deepen your breath until it feels like you don’t want to…it’s an effort. This may be the most important thing you learn, because stress and tension is not only what kills us physically, but what robs our enjoyment of life. Once you find your most effective breathing pattern, you can trigger stress reduction in seconds.” Now that’s reason to breathe a sigh of relief!
South Florida is a magnet for the rich and famous who choose to live here… or at least visit often. The following is an insight into how some of these celebrities reduce stress.
“I’ll put fun things on my to-do list to cross off. I include stuff like Surf For An Hour or Watch Monday Night Football.”
“I scream a lot. Sometimes I handle stress well, sometimes I don’t. It’s nice to go run really fast on a treadmill for half an hour and get out aggression.”
“I plan everything in advance: who’s dropping off the kids, who’s picking them up. We have charts, maps and lists on the fridge and all over the house.”
“With my daughter, I get instant perspective. I can be hard on myself if I don’t do everything perfectly. But with her, there’s no time for that.”
“Yoga is the best holistic workout there is. It sorts out a chaotic mind and calms the body — it is how I de-stress — or stop myself from getting stressed.
“Do what you love, even as a hobby. Architecture is like play. As a boy, you play with Lincoln Logs, LEGO’s, you get interested in how things are made.”
“I’m making an effort to minimize stress in my life. I’m focused on mind, body & soul, and doing Harley Pasternak’s 5-Factor Fitness routines.”