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Posts Tagged ‘combatting stress’

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Last night I enjoyed the advantages of 2010 technology. I watched an episode of the show “30 Days”  on my television downloaded from Netflix! 30 Days is a TV show is about people spending 30 days in an environment fairly different from their own. The episode I watched was about a highly stressed man that visited a Life Coach and spent 30 days doing “New Age” therapies to  reduce his reaction to stress. While some of the “therapies” were of questionable merit, many of them helped the man and he ended up becoming a calmer, happier man and building a closer relationships with his wife!

One of the things the man enjoyed, and continued to keep up after the 30 days had ended, was yoga.  More and more research is coming out about the benefits of yoga. I don’t see yoga as a New Age therapy, but then I’ve been doing yoga for about 17 years. And yoga has been around for much longer than the U.S has been a  country (as has acupuncture). As more and more Western style scientific research is done on the benefits of yoga and more people in the U.S.  incorporate it into their daily lives, yoga has become more “mainstream.”

I came across a great article from Yoga Journal on “Banishing Burnout.” In the article, author Jennifer Pirtle shares some information about current research on yoga and stress relief.  She shares some insights into how doing yoga can help you learn to react less to stressors in the workplace. I am sharing some excerpts with you below:

More Bad News About Workplace Stress

Recently, a team of researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that stress may even accelerate aging at the cellular level. The study found that the blood cells of women who had spent many years caring for a child with a health condition appeared to be, genetically, about 10 years older than the cells of women whose caretaking responsibilities were less prolonged.

Although the study focused on caregivers, the findings apply to overworked employees, too. “People with other sources of life stress showed similar relationships between their levels of stress and cell aging,” says Elissa Epel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF and the study’s lead author.

Stress itself, Epel emphasizes, is neither inherently good nor bad. Instead, how you perceive and react to it determines how it will affect your health. “In the study,” she explains, “the perception of stress was more important than whether one was under the strain of caregiving or not.”

Making your work less stressful doesn’t have to mean leaving it behind for good. (And how many of us can hope to do that, anyway?) Instead, the key is to transform your relationship to the stress so that it no longer overwhelms you. More and more people are discovering that mind-body practices like yoga, qi gong, and meditation can be hugely helpful in shifting the way they react to stress.

How Does Yoga Help With Stress?

You’re likely to feel many of yoga’s benefits the first time you step onto the mat, says Timothy McCall, M.D., an internist and Yoga Journal‘s medical editor. “When you’re doing Downward-Facing Dog, your mind is saying, ‘I want to come down now; my arms are tired,’ but if your teacher tells you to hold the asana a little longer, you find the strength to do it,” he says. “At that point, you realize that you don’t have to respond to every urge you feel. At other times, when your body says it needs to come down, it really needs to. Yoga teaches you to tune in to what your body is telling you and to act accordingly.”

With practice, this awareness will spread into other areas of your life, including your work. “As you learn to separate the urge to act from the reaction, you begin to find that something like a canceled meeting or having a last-minute project handed to you may not rattle you as much as it once did,” says McCall. “You can detect stressors—what Buddhists call the spark before the flame—earlier, then pause long enough to think, ‘Well, maybe I don’t need to respond.'”

That’s what happened for David Freda, a 41-year-old software engineer in Pasadena, California. He had practiced yoga sporadically to help him deal with job-related anxiety in the past, but after he took a new position at an investment company in 1999, he decided to get serious. “I have very high standards as an engineer. As a result, I have a pattern of getting fed up with co-workers and bolting from my jobs,” he says. “When I took this job, I decided to stick it out to see what I could change in myself. I had a strong sense that yoga could help me do that.”

“When I’m doing a challenging posture such as Revolved Triangle [Parivrtta Trikonasana], I can stay in the posture, focus on my breathing, and perhaps not push quite so hard,” he says. “That approach helps me in my job. When I’m confronting someone who is making a bad technical decision, I consider what I could say that would facilitate what I want to achieve. In the past, my emotions would have gotten the best of me, but now people are more inclined to listen and to engage. Even my boss has commented on the changes.”

Read the entire article with many more great insights into how yoga can help you learn to battle workplace and life stress here.

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