My personal stress management technique has got to be very
powerful, whatever it is. Doesn’t seem that there is any let
up in stress these days, does there?
However, once I give some thought to where stress exists, or
is experienced, and the sequence of events leading to the
physiology of stress, a body full of hormones and
neurotransmitters more appropriate to combating an attack
than the board room or the living room, I can recognize that
there are some interventions I can work on to change the
chemistry inside my body.
I can change my thoughts, which will change my feelings,
which will give me more time to make choices about my
And according to Dr. Daniel Amen, relaxation actually
activates the higher perceptual centers of my brain for
better decision making.
That is a good payoff for learning a stress management
Perhaps the most important stress management technique to
learn is that my thoughts, my interpretations of sensory
data, are what brings the chemistry of stress into my body.
And that process happens very fast, about twice as fast as I
can blink my eyes.
And one stressful thought can bring on another and another,
and before a second has elapsed, (that is right, one second)
I may have generated a sequence of thoughts that leave me
filled with enough adrenalin and cortisol to move me into
distress rather than eustress, and then I can keep myself
there long enough to begin to impact my brain fitness, my
heart fitness, and the rest of my body too.
My first really successful stress management technique was
to say the phrase; “Gratitude is the attitude” to myself,
and that worked, because someone always has it worse off
than I do, but the relief I felt when saying that phrase to
myself was short lived.
Somewhere I had picked up the idea that I was supposed to
have long periods of contentment, sort of like a drug
experience, and that is not how your body normally works.
In other words, I need to practice gratitude frequently,
starting with thoughts (and/or breathing) and my body will
eventually follow along and learn that the physiology of
contentment is what I want it to learn, and stay near.
In my early days of seeking a seeking a stress management
technique, I looked at many different tools, and there are a
lot of good meditative and cognitive tools out there,
including Open Focus, Transcendental Meditation, working
out, but for my money, I want a tool that does not require
me to stop what I am doing and sit quietly meditating.
In other words it has to be usable while I am going about my
daily business, and of all the tools I have tried, the one
that has worked best for me is learning how to do the heart
rate variability biofeedback.
I can feel the change using heart rate variability
biofeedback, and since I learned the skill on a computer, I
know that my physiology changes when I do the Quick
So when I feel myself getting critical or judgemental or
snappy, (and I still use gratitude thoughts by the way) I
can switch my thoughts to the area around my heart, place my
children’s faces there, and feel my heart become more
coherent, and since I have some experience with Heartmath
heart rate variability biofeedback, my body switches back to
a cooperative and affiliative physiology within a heart beat.
Not quite the speed of thought but close, and that tool has
saved me a lot of regrets over the years. I have been able
to operate from a heartfelt cooperation and affiliation more
and more often.
In fact, the practice of heart rate variability has given
me a felt experience of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
concept that you do not have to accept thoughts as truths.
You can dispute them. In other words, I can fill myself with
love and then think one distressing thought and fill myself
with the feeling of stress or despair, and then think the
loving thought, and feel the love come right back into my
body. You can even dispute the thoughts that make you feel
good, if you want.
So we have managed to move ourselves from the realm of the
external making me feel stressed, because it is my thought
about the external that brings on the adrenalin and cortisol
inside my body, and using and some mindfulness coupled with
some practice, I can steer my physiology like I steer my car
with thousands of small adjustments.
In fact, I may get so good at heart rate variability
biofeedback that it runs in the background of my brain,
popping into the foreground for a heart beat’s worth of
attention on an as-needed basis.
It is important to recognize for some folks that heart rate
variability biofeedback is a learned skill and does not
override any basic biological process. In other words, I can
still activate my fight or flight chemistry if needed for a
If you want to check out the benefits of having your own
personal stress management technique for your neurogenesis,
or the growth of new brain cells, then read Brainfit for
Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D.
Hope you enjoy your coherence!
About the Author:
Michael S. Logan is a brain fitness expert, counselor, a
student of Chi Gong, and a licensed one on one HeartMath
provider. I enjoy the spiritual, the mythological, and
psychological, and I am a late life father to Shane, 10, and
Hannah Marie, 4, whose brains are so amazing.