Assignment #22: Stress Management

In search of some new and interesting methods to manage stress I came across a solution to stress which I found very unique and would like to try myself. This new method is called self-hypnosis. This method first caught my interest I believe because in high-school my mom encouraged me to go to weekly yoga classes. Although I originally signed up for the classes as a source of exercise and strength building, after attended the first few classes I really was able to recognize the calming element of yoga. At the end of each yoga session we would have ten minutes of hypnosis and deep relaxation. This was the part of the class I most looked forward too because it was ten minutes of not worrying about holding a pose or thinking about whatever else was going on in my life. Anyway, self-hypnosis intrigued me because from first hand experience, I know that regular hypnosis can be a very relaxing experience.

Although I have experience with regular hypnosis, this also made me more skeptical of a technique called “self-hypnosis,” for from all my past experiences with hypnosis I thought it only had the effect it did because it was led by an experienced professional. So the idea of being able to hypnotize myself was something new to me.

The first article I read on self-hypnosis separates hypnosis from meditation by stating that, “Unlike meditation, we often use affirmations as part of self-hypnosis to manage stress and build self-confidence.” This difference made the idea of self-hypnosis appeal even more to me personally. For self-hypnosis can kill two birds with one stone for it can be used to cope with stress as well as build self-confidence, two qualities I could definitely benefit from. Some of the benefits of self-hypnosis mentioned in the article were things such as the matter of convince. With self-hypnosis it can be preformed anywhere, by anyone, and as a result can be used on a daily basis.  The article also provides step by step instructions on how to begin. One of the methods I see to be the most important is the method mentioned as way of relaxing your body, “A good way of doing this is to close your eyes and imagine waves of relaxation running down your body from your scalp downwards, washing out stress. Let the waves run in time with your breathing, first washing down over your head, then your neck, then your torso, then arms, and finally your legs. Feel the muscles in your body relaxing as the waves of relaxation wash over them.”

After reading the first article, self-hypnosis sounded like a pretty simple and effect way of managing stress. However, being the skeptic that I am I wanted to research self-hypnosis more and see if there are any downsides to this technique. One of the cons I found is that self-hypnosis may not always be successful. One of the most important factors of self-hypnosis that makes it successful is being in the right mind set going into it. In order for self-hypnosis to work you have to begin ready to fully commit and believing that afterwards you will feel more relaxed. I also found many videos online of guided hypnosis for those who want to try self-hypnosis but don’t know where to begin.


Ways to Keep Your Cool

I came across an article, that was published in a past issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine, and I guess men have been complaining about how “bitchy” women can get when they’re stress, because this article lists ten Ways To Stop Stress and the bitchiness that can come with it.

While some of the stress management techniques listed are ones that I have heard or read about before I was surprised to see some techniques mentioned that I had never heard of before. One example of a new and interesting technique that I learned from this article was that if you take a coffee break to get away for a few moments during a busy day, go with a group of friends. According to Cosmo’s number 2 de-stress method, “A study found that getting a caffeine fix in a group lowered stress levels. But sipping coffee alone left people feeling more stressed.” I found this relationship between caffeine and social interaction very interesting. Another technique mentioned that surprised me was number 9 on the list. Number 9 tells readers that when they feel ready to snap it is better to talk slower, “When you’re tense, you speak more rapidly, which changes your body’s chemistry and turns you into an F-bomb-dropping machine. Talking at a calmer pace will chill you out, and you’ll be more likely to get what you want.” I had never really thought about this before but the more I see the truth behind it, and it is just one more example of how our psychological state directly connects to our body’s chemistry.

I also really liked this article because I felt as though it targeted people in my demographic. The methods mentioned are definitely ones that I can see applying to my everyday life. Learning how to budget and say the word no, are two techniques mentioned that I personally could definitely benefit from.

Going Gray

The other day I was horrified when I was outside talking to one of my friends and she stopped mid-sentence and said, “Oh my God you have two gray hairs!” My friend immediately went on to ask me “have you been stressed lately?” This question got me thinking with exams coming up and the school year coming to a close I had been extra stressed lately, not to mention I’m only in college I shouldn’t be getting gray hairs! Not to mention after taking a personality test online I learned that I have a tendency to worry a lot. All of these factors got me to ask myself the same question as my friend, can too much stress really cause gray hair?

When I was younger I remember my mom and teachers using the expression that I was giving them gray hairs. But this expression goes back way further than my childhood. It was said that Marie Antoinette’s hair turned completely white the night before she was sent to the guillotine. But that’s just a legend right? Well I didn’t know and after learning exactly what a big impact stress can have on our body’s physically as well as mentally I started to believe that maybe there is some truth behind this idea.

Well as it turns out even though scientist say it is extremely unlikely for Marie Antoinette’s hair to have turned completely gray overnight, it is a known fact that stress ages us, and as part of that aging some can be left with an increased amount of gray hairs. How ever after reading an article which also attempts to bust this myth I discovered that the biology of hair color is a lot more complicated than worrying about an upcoming exam and as a result a gray hair starts to grow.

If there really is any connection between stress and going gray, I mean it makes sense that older people have more gray they have had to go through a whole life time of stressors while a younger person for the most part is stress free- until they get to college that is. However, according to professor David Fisher he makes this final statement about the connection between stress and gray hair, “Stress hormones may impact the survival and / or activity of melanocytes, but no clear link has been found between stress and gray hair.” So weather or not it was my extra stressful week that caused those two gray hairs, scientists say not.

Aromatherapy: How does it work?

Over spring break I went to a spa for a pedicure I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to select my nail polish color, however I was rather surprised when the nail technician asked me to choose from a variety of four different scents that would be added to the foot bath. The purpose of the different scented salts is to create a calming affect. I also remember reading in a book with tips on how to get a better nights sleep to rub some lavender oil on your pillow case before going to sleep. Both these smelly tricks to relax got me thinking how does this aromatherapy really work and why do our bodies have different reactions to different smells?
As a result of my curiosity I decided to do some research and what I found is extremely interesting. According to the website Essentials-of-Aromatherapy there are different essential oils or smells which can control different forms of stressors. For example anxiety is supposedly soothed by scents such as lavender, geranium, palma rosa, jonquil, bergamot, chamomile, basil, cypress, frankincense, geranium jasmine, juniper, melissa, neroli, and ylang ylang. This explains why a little bit of lavender oil on your pillow or a cup of chamomile tea helps you fall asleep at night by relieving on of the main causes of insomnia- anxiety. Perhaps the most interesting scent mood relationship I discovered is that the smell of grapefruit is good for soothing feelings of helplessness. Although reading the specifics on what smells related to certain moods my bigger question of why this occurs was still unanswered.
In my further research I was surprised to discovered that aromatherapy is no new healing method and is in fact a tradition that originated over two thousand years ago. In order to determine the biological components of aromatherapy I decided to focus on one particular scent or essential oil and take a closer look at its chemistry and what exactly about its smell that makes us relax. Jasmine is a type of flower that is pretty well-known, what may not be as well-known is the fact that jasmine has some stress relieving properties as well. The principal constituents of jasmine are: ketone jasmone, alpha terpineol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, indol, linalol, linalyl acetate, phenylacetic acid, and farnesol. All these constituents combined sedate the nervous system making jasmine the perfect scent to calm nerves and relieving stress. Studies at Toho University School of Medicine in Tokyo show that jasmine also may have the ability to enhance mental alertness and stimulate brain waves. aromatherapy

Seeing how stress can be relieved by aromatherapy really shows just how deep the connection between both the psychological and physical components of stress. Aromatherapy is a perfect example of how stress can not only affect us physically but can also be reduced by smells in the physical world.

Stressful Living

According to Sarah Lynch as she states in her article entitled, “America’s Most Stressful Cities,” the current top three most stressful cities to live in are Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; and New York, New York. But what is it exactly that makes these cities stand out as being more stressful places to live in than any other city in America? Lynch believes that Chicago has been nominated for the second year in a row as America’s most stressful city due to environmental conditions such as crowding, poor air quality, high unemployment rates, and decreasing home values. However, weather is also mentioned as a key component in determining the stressfulness of a location. For example Pittsburgh (which also made the list) comes in second for the least amount of sunny days and ninth for lowest air quality. In regards to the sunny days, new research showed a link between low levels of vitamin D and increased propensity to the common cold, so if you’re healthy you’re less stressed. It’s also interesting when looking at not just the top three most stressful cities to live but the top 40 all of the cities listed are big, industrialized cities, not a single city in Virginia made the cut. I related this trend to my previous blog about how technology makes our lives more stressful. Industrialized cities are communities which center around new technologies. So could the technology of big cities also be a factor adding to the stress of living there. It is amazing how all of these different stress triggers can be pulled together and based on certain statistics can generate generalizations such as what city in America is the most stressful to live in.

Is technology making our lives easier or more stressful?

While determining how I personally spend each hour in my week I included the time I spend on my computer doing things other than homework, such as Facebook, under the category of relaxation. This got me thinking I seem to spend an awful lot of time on Facebook, texting, Skyping friends, and listening to music or watching movies on my computer, time that I see as qualifying as relaxation, but is the time I spend on my computer really helping me relax or has technology just become another added stressor in my life?

I personally find myself logging on to Facebook at the worst possible times; late at night when I should be sleeping or while I’m studying for a big exam in the library or attempting to write a five page paper due the next day. Facebook seems to be a stress free engagement when compared to the stressful tasks at hand. However, having the option of Facebooking or tweeting while I should be studying or sleeping in reality adds more stress to my life rather than less. Temporally logging on to Facebook does not help me become less stressed by coming closer to my goal of finishing my paper or preparing for an exam, instead Facebook is a time sucker which in the end adds more stress to my life. The more and more time I spend on Facebook the less time I have to stop stressing about my school work that I have yet to complete. Facebook can also be a stressful experience just by logging on. Say you sign into Facebook and there is a inappropriate picture someone put up of you from the previous weekend and you worry that your mom may have seen it before you got the chance to de-tag. Or if you are constantly stressing over what your ex-boyfriend’s next status updates going to be. In her blog entry entitled Is There Such Thing as Facebook Stress Syndrome?, blogger Lisa Ponte Fazio compares managing her Facebook page to a part-time job. Does this mean that having a Facebook comes with the same number of stressors as having a job?

Facebook is not the only form of technology adding stress to our lives, with texting especially there is always the added stress of being in constant contact with other people, the pressure to respond to a text message right away or waiting for someone else to respond to you. Not to mention the acute psychological stress that can arise from the embarrassment of your cell phone going off in class. So although the thought of having my cell phone with me at times may seem to offer some comfort in knowing that I can easily connect to the rest of the world is the stress that comes with owning a cell phone worth it? Drascus makes a good point on how technology could be adding more stress to our lives on his blog entry entitled Does technology add Unneeded Stress to our Lives?, when he states that among young people there is also the added stress that comes with the pressures of being the first to own the newest form of technology. So although technology such as cell phones and personal computers may first appear to be important tools in the stress relief process when examined closely enough our smart phones and laptops may just be complicating our lives with unneeded stress.

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