How to Work with Stress

Bill Benson’s March Tip: Stress for Success

Bill Benson,  LMFT, LPCC

Bill Benson,

For years, authorities (including many therapists) have advised living as stress-free as possible, cautioning that “stress kills.”

Recent findings, however, indicate stress is not the lethal culprit we once thought: It is, rather, our negatively-held views about stress that damage our bodies and (over time) spell our demise.

When we struggle with stressful situations, our veins and vessels constrict – in much the same way our flinching muscles contract when we are threatened with a punch-to-the-face. It is this kinetic tension that taxes our bodies, triggers inflammation, and leads to disease (dis-ease).

Stress Management

By training ourselves to positively respond to life’s challenging situations, we can actually circumnavigate this biological response – and by embodying this relaxed approach, use stress to aid in our well-being.

The reason for this lies in human brain chemistry: Oxytocin, which is our bodies’ naturally-produced bonding agent, creates our impulses to nurture or be nurtured. It is sometimes referred to as “the hug drug” because babies (in constant need of care-giving) bathe in the stuff. It is also the reason communities come together when crisis arrives and why people who volunteer a portion of their time tend to be healthier.

Here’s the kicker: This vitally productive chemical, is a stress hormone.

Consider this: When we jog a mile, pick up a dumbbell or take a yoga class, we are actually stressing our bodies. yet, by addressing these activities from a relaxed perspective, our hearts (which have Oxytocin receptors) drink in this heart-strengthening hormone – creating a healthier you.

This month take your challenges more easily. Decide to stop considering Stress the enemy and, instead, embrace these Oxytocin-producing circumstances with the knowing flair that will keep you healthy and happy for years to come.

Guest Columnist Rob Hoflund’s Tip: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

Rob Hoflund

Rob Hoflund

Originating from the Caribbean, my thoughts on physical fitness and mental acuity may be a bit different than yours. However, as an athlete and fitness professional, now in Los Angeles, I hope these perspectives resonate and provide a refreshing approach for maintaining your health and happiness.

Coming to the Mainland in 2002 I was shocked that so many were overweight: Unlike the population of Mustique, 35.7% (more than one-third) of Americans are obese. This statistic baffles me – Perhaps poor diet choices, lack of exercise, cultural norms (or a combination thereof) are to blame. What soon became apparent, however, was the amount of daily stress Americans typically endured was having an impact.

The Stress Express

We have all experienced stress-response: that heart-pounding, muscle-tightening, “Superman sensation”, which pumps us up for peak-performance in an unfolding crisis. This chemical-reaction is vital and a major contributor to mankind’s overall survival.

Yet, the tension most Americans perceive as a normal part of their busy lives is not beneficial by any means: Whether missed work deadlines or difficult relationships – worrisome occurrences trigger stress-related responses that, over time, slow our metabolism and increase our blood-sugar levels: “I gained 5-pounds last week”, “my jeans don’t fit like they used to” – even a Type II Diabetes diagnosis become just a few of the unsavory consequences.

Life is an Exercise

151As a Personal Trainer I consciously use the term “movement” when demonstrating routines because the word “exercise” can trigger nausea in clients (another negative stress-response). Ironically, whether aware of it or not, we all exercise everyday: we walk the dog, take the office stairs, repeatedly open/close the car door, and carry our groceries. By re-framing the way we view exercise, we can discover how to use our bodies as tools to manage our well-being.

The American Psychological Association confirms the link between cardiovascular exercise and lowered rates of anxiety and depression. My everyday fitness regimen includes at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular activity: I do this for the health of my heart, the function of my body and the clarity of my mind.

Exercise doesn’t need to be a chore. Begin thoughtfully addressing your day by repositioning your perspective on life’s events: Breathe fully, smile brightly, and move your body.

– “Don’t worry, be happy” (I am from the Caribbean, after all).

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a personal training appointment, please contact me at [email protected].


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