Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the tag “psychotherapy”

Learning To Relax


I have three main sources of my visible stress, only one of which I make public, though the other two are known by select few.  The other sources of my stress end up internalized.  Given a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, my stress level is easily at 10 nearly 85% of the time.  The other 15% of the time, if I can get to sleep, there is a reduction in my stress.  I am not sure, because it probably depends on how long I sleep, if I get into a deep enough sleep, and what I am waking up to.

My doctors are more than concerned with this, because stress is not good.  There are any number of maladies that I could be facing from stroke to heart attack.  I am on several prescriptions all meant to help keep my stress down.  I see a therapist regularly for my stress (as well as survivor guilt issues).  Medically I do what I can to relax, but it is not enough.  And since I am not willing to give up my living, a job that I actually enjoy doing, I must find other ways to decompress.

There are common ways to relax such as meditation, yoga, and even jogging.  For me, I get through my work day with music.  I plug in the old ear buds, turn my Ipod up as loud as it will go, and I am off.  Yes, it is very loud.  But you know what?  I do not hear anything.  I do not hear gossip.  I do not hear complaining.  I do not hear bad news.  I am able to place myself in another totally different situation mentally.  This was huge during chemotherapy, during convalescing from my heart surgery, and many other medical times.  But at work, I need it to get through my day.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote about “positive imaging”.  This was a concept where you simply took your mind to the place that you hoped to be in the future.  In terms of a cancer patient, for me, I was done with chemo, hair had grown back, weight lost, and life had been back to normal.  I think that any time you take your mind away from your present stress, it can be relaxing. 

Deep breathing.  You want to talk about feeling differently without even moving?  I have seen the directions written differently, but the concept is to change your pattern of breathing which I believe would change your brain’s thinking.  Some exercises have you inhaling through your nose for a count of five, holding for five, then exhaling from the mouth for a count of five.  You could do 5-4-4 or 4-5-5, I would imagine any formula would work.  I do around ten sets of this breathing  technique which often helps to calm me down.

Exercising can do wonders.  Any movement with your legs, walking even with a quick gait, breathing in through the nose, and out from the mouth, will provide immediate results of relaxation. 

I recently did a post on how much my golden retriever means to me.  Simply all pets are capable of providing stress relief.  And with cats, even comic relief when a laser pen is involved.

Psychotherapy.  Unfortunately, seeing a “shrink” has such a negative connotation or stigma attached to it.  But I can admit that I see one.  I have a major issues with Survivor’s Guilt (from many incidents in my life), but she is also crucial for stress management.  I am not crazy.  I am not depressed.  But I am thankful to have her as part of my survival care.

Prescription drugs.  For me personally, this will be a last resort.  I have had the ocassional anxiety attack prior to a medical procedure, where I was encouraged to take something, but refused.  In general, I do not believe taking prescription drugs accomplish anything with eliminating the stress, as I say, “only hiding from it”.

Finally, I have found a new form of relaxation, martial arts.  I have certain limitations due to my physical survivor issues, so I believe that I am only going at half speed.  But the relaxtion comes as I am on the floor, concentrating one hundred percent on the techniques and forms.  If I do not pay attention, I will get waffled in the face.  My partners tell me that I do not seem as limited as I believe, and am fairly accurate with my moves.  But for at least that hour, I accomplish something that I have not been able to do to this point, relax.  I have totally eliminated the stress for that our, without medication, and hopefully enough that when the next day comes, my stress is at a lower level than when I left it the prior day.

I must reduce my stress.  If you doubt what stress can do, stay tuned.  I am going to show you what stress actually looks like and what it does to the body.

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