Control your physical response to stress 33
Rest and relaxation are an essen-
tial part of dealing effectively with
stress. As we become more stressed
we nd it harder to relax and sleep
well. And, as we get less sleep, our
ability to put events into perspective
and cope with stressors diminishes. Rest and stress are part of
a feedback loop, so take control and move from a vicious cycle
into a virtuous cycle of good rest leading to resourceful attitudes,
bringing about effective actions, that allow you to relax properly
and sleep well.
Stand up, feet about shoulder width apart, ﬁrmly on the ﬂoor
and make yourself comfortable. Allow your puppet string to draw
you up into a good posture, with your arms comfortably by your
Now let your ﬁngers wiggle and, as they do, let your wrists start to
shake. Let the shaking increase to include your whole arms. Then let
your shoulders move too and, eventually, allow your whole body to
rise up and down, on the balls of your feet.
Now, progressively reverse this. Take all your weight on your feet
and then slow the shaking in your trunk, then your shoulders,
gradually still your arms, and then your wrists and, ﬁnally, let your
ﬁngers come to rest.
You should notice a little tingling in the tips of your ﬁngers. That
is the sensation of oxygenated blood ﬂowing. If it’s ﬂowing in your
ﬁngers, then it is also ﬂowing into your head and giving your brain
a good boost of oxygen.
rest and relaxation are
an essential part of
dealing effectively with
34 brilliant stress management
Relaxation triggers a physiological response that is the opposite
to the stress response. Now your sympathetic nervous system
will reduce its activity, slowing your breathing and heart rates,
while your parasympathetic nervous system takes control, re-
activating your immune response, your digestive system and
your natural sleep cycles. Your sex drive will surely follow.
If only you could then boost your relaxation and create a
powerful sense of wellbeing. Perhaps incredibly powerful drugs
might help. Drugs that are legal and completely safe to use
would be ideal – and better still, free.
The drugs we are talking about are a group of natural brain
chemicals called endorphins, which are responsible, wholly or in
part, for senses of elation, relaxation, and pain relief. Our hypo-
thalamus and pituitary glands (which also play a big part in our
ght-or-ight response – see Chapter 1) produce them naturally
at times when we exercise hard, feel love or excitement, eat spicy
food, and have an orgasm.
You can also fool your brain into releasing endorphins by
allowing yourself to think about a pleasurable memory in great
detail. Take about 10 minutes to close your eyes and wallow in
that memory, seeing the scenes you saw, hearing the sounds,
smelling the smells and feeling the textures and temperature.
Make it as real as you can and feel free to amplify how good it
was in your memory. You can use this technique to conjure up
a sense of calm, happiness, joy or anything else. Build a library
of recollections or even fantasies that you can call on when you
The perfect relaxing posture
We met the Alexander Technique earlier in this chapter, with
some tips for standing up and sitting down. To relax completely,
try lying down the Alexander way.