What is stress?

Stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts their normal balance.  It occurs when our perceptions of events don’t meet our expectations and we don’t manage our reaction to the disappointment.

Stress occurs when the Autonomic Nervous System, your stress control centre, fails to manage the reaction to such a situation, expressing resistance, tension, strain or frustration instead and thus throwing us out of physical and psychological equilibrium and sync.  Overtime, other organs including the stomach and kidneys also pour out hormones to accomplish the body’s vast response to stress.

Stress can be a positive reaction. We need stress in our lives to make things happen, to motivate us toward our aims and goals and to protect us from danger. Stress can also be a positive stimulus promoting curiosity, creativity and generating challenging, stimulating and rewarding reactions to situations.

However, stress can be damaging because our bodies are made to tolerate some levels of stress.  No one is free of stress and your ability to recover from and resist the impact of stress is what determines how much stress you can deal with and manage.

There is a sense that life is speeding up, information and energy are racing, events are happening at a frenzied pace, as a result stress is on the rise. We are being asked to shift concepts anyone from 10 to 20 times per hr up to over 100 times per hour, this interrupts our body’s attempts of coherence.  Lack of coherence can also effect our levels of fulfilment and real satisfaction.  When we are out of sync we only feel a limited portion of fulfilment.

It doesn’t take a lot for our perception and reactions to be impaired by being thrown out of sync. For example, a remark makes us angry, we want to respond but can’t find the right words.  When we calm down and are in more sync we are thinking more clearly and see things in a calmer, less stressful perspective and know what we wish we had said… ‘I should have said…’

The Stress Circle: stress destroys coherence and incoherence causes stress.

On-going stress along with negative attitudes such as anger, hostility and depression can have long term health effects including high blood pressure, heart disease and hyper-tension. Stress is reaching epidemic proportions. More and more people are seeking medical and psychological help for the relief of stress-related illness than ever before.

The key elements behind the Stress Circle are the Stressor and the Stress Response. 

The Stressor- this is an internal or external event or action that generates an internal stress response. It is something that causes us to adapt to maintain our mind/body balance and current brain and emotional rhythm.

Stress Response- this is the biological and biochemical process that begins in the brain and, through the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), releases a range of powerful hormones that prepare the body to deal with the reaction to the stressor (fight-or-flight). A healthy stress response features the ability to recover by activating the other part of the ANS called the "relaxation response" once the stressor has subsided. It’s the restriction of this relaxation response and the switch to an ‘over-respond’ mode that causes on-going stress.

We live under a constant barrage of social, psychological and environmental challenges that can, if left unchecked, lead to the exhaustion of our stress response-ability and eventually the collapse of the mental and physiological systems of the body.

The Inner Leadership Stress Management Workshops use the measurement and control of Heart Rate Variability as the cornerstone of its stress management programme/solution. Research suggests that HRV is one of the most powerful assessments of stress resiliency.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

HRV is the natural rise and fall of your heart rate in response to your breathing, blood pressure, hormones, stress and emotions. These changing heart rhythms affect not only the heart but also the brain’s ability to process information, including decision-making, problem-solving and creativity. They also directly affect how we feel. Thus, the study of heart rate variability is a powerful, objective and non-invasive tool to explore the dynamic interactions between physiological, mental, emotional and behavioural processes.

In a healthy individual, heart rate should increase as you inhale and decrease as you exhale. The greater the heart rate variability, the healthier the heart and the nervous system that provides its feedback loop with the brain. Even more critical, HRV is reflective and predictive of general health and overall psycho-physiological (mind-body) wellness. It is a measure of the amount of "response-ability" in your nervous system to deal with stress.

When you face a stressor, your body must mount an appropriate response. This fight-or-flight response takes the form of increased heart rate and blood pressure, the release of special hormones, the tensing of muscles, etc. All of these actions are natural and necessary.  Physical problems can arise when, you use this response too often or don't give your body a chance to rest and reset to its normal balance between challenging situations.

When this occurs, the parasympathetic branch that provides the relaxation or reset function may become exhausted and no longer be able to stop the stress response. The result is consistently increased heart rate, reduced HRV, a continued extreme level of damaging stress hormones and the onset of stress-related symptoms and illness. Quite simply, you have lost your body’s ability to respond to stress.

This Inner Leadership Stress Management Training uses a range of mind/body techniques to help you react more appropriately to stressful situations, the day-to-day tools help you entrain your brain waves and HRV to ensure you are able to re-set your ‘relaxation function’.

Our stress management techniques create a synchronization of the respiratory and cardiac systems and reflects the healthy interaction of the two branches of the Autonomic Nervous System -  the sympathetic branch, which controls the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic branch, which controls the relaxation response.

Inner Leadership will help you reduce the current effects of workplace stress and build resiliency to future stress. The end result is you feel better, think more clearly, have more energy and you can respond to workplace stress with peak performance.