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Diplomacy in Action

Stress Busters to the Rescue!


You have just gone into a test and instead of it being the multiple choice review of the Civil War that you are prepared to take, it is an essay test on the motivation of General Lee at Gettysburg.


Imagine that you get called into the principal's office and without shutting the door the principal immediately launches into a loud, inappropriate tirade of insulting remarks overheard by your friends and colleagues in the outer office.

What do you do? You can't run away, and if you pick up a spear and fight, well that would be good stress hormone management but it would create other problems like jail!

These kinds of situations call for stress busters. Stress busters are strategies intended to help manage immediate stress. They can reduce the short term effect of stress to help us get calmed and relaxed after some stressful experience. They can help improve focus and concentration. They should be used whenever we feel a stress response and need or want to calm back down.

1. Focus on breathing to very quickly will lower the stress response. Take deep deliberate breaths, filling your lungs. Hold breath as you count slowly to five. Gently exhale completely emptying your lungs. Repeat three to ten times.

2. Neck exercises or head tucks can be used to relieve tight muscles. In the head, neck and shoulders. Sitting straight up in a chair, with the back against the back rest, move the head slowly and steadily backwards as far back as you are able. Keep you chin tucked down and in as you do this. Do five repetitions. Neck Rolls. Still sitting straight up in your chair, after doing your head tucks, lift your chin and tilt your head backwards as though you were going to look at the ceiling. With your head all the way back (your nose is pointing straight up) tilt your nose % an inch to the right and try to tilt your head even further back., then tilt your nose % an inch to the left and try to tilt your head even further back. Combine exercise 1 with exercise 2, repeat 10 times. Inhale before you begin each tilt and exhale with each tilt.

3. Disassociation is a technique that can help to reduce stressful thoughts. The human body cannot tell the difference between an event vividly imagined and one that is real. Do you remember awaking from a nightmare or a bad dream? You might have felt a pounding heart, true fear, sweaty and tired. That was the power of a vivid imagination. The same power can be used to practice a stress management technique called disassociation. It is a stress management skill learned by prisoners of war, athletes, long distance runners, people stranded on rafts, or anyone forced to engage in undesirable activities for any length of time. Disassociation can also be called daydreaming. When stressed and have a need to escape, you should try to: pick a favorite place or activity. Close your eyes and imagine yourself going there.  Remember the fine details, the sights, the sounds, and the smells.  Disassociation is sometimes also called visualization or mediation. You should practice trying disassociation alone or with a trusted friend. Try writing down descriptions of the perfect place. This could be a relaxing place where you would be totally happy and peaceful. Imagine what you wish. You are stronger, smarter, healthier, more successful, less stressed whatever you wish. Disassociation and music work well together but be careful not to disassociate while you are taking a test, doing something physical that requires your attention or in the presence of people who need you to participate and pay attention. Don't use disassociation in class!

4. Music is a wonderful stress buster. But what music works best? The answer should be obvious. The music you like is the music you should use. Different music can work different miracles. The music you use for disassociation might be different than the music you might use to relax with friends. The answer is use the music you enjoy when trying to reduce stress.

5. Exercise is another ideal stress buster. When you exercise you do what nature and evolution intended when you were stressed. It is not necessary to fight or flee. It is perfectly OK to go for a walk, jog, stack wood, ride a bike, swim or do any other physical activity. To get the best effect you should try aerobic exercise though. That means you would be walking fast enough that talking would interfere with your pace. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to burn up the most stubborn epinephrine rush, and this was what nature intended to do with that epinephrine.

6. Laughing & crying are among the best of the stress busters as well. In 1975 two doctors discovered natural chemicals in the body called endorphins.  This natural chemical is released when you sleep, exercise, and do other things that make you feel good. More than twenty different types of endorphins have been discovered in the nervous system. The most effective, beta-endorphin gives a euphoric effect to the brain and has been found to be composed of 31 amino acids. The word endorphin is abbreviated from "endogenous morphine", which means morphine produced naturally in the body. It is a legal, natural, safe high. Endorphins are renowned worldwide as anti-stress hormones that help to relieve pain naturally. They are secreted by the nervous system to help manage stress or pain. They work to block the signal of pain to the nervous system.  Endorphins can be released in extra amounts when you laugh and when you cry.  It is thought that twenty minutes of laughing or twenty minutes of crying releases about the same amount of endorphins as two hours of sleep. If you want to manage stress with a boost of endorphins, try laughing or crying. In fact, even forced laughing like belly laughs can work to help release endorphins. When you laugh, your blood pressure and pulse momentarily increase, just as they do in exercise. Afterwards, again like with exercise they go back down. Laughter helps increase oxygen in your blood, stimulating circulation. A good belly laugh also helps strengthen your abdominal muscles - a really neat way to exercise.  Researchers believe that laughter and humor can stimulate the immune system to better fight off disease. BUT an important thing to remember is that laughter and humor have to be constructive. Jokes and humor that are hurtful or that tear someone down do not have the same positive benefits as laughter and humor done in good spirit.

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