Performance by Breaking the Stress Cycle
How many times have we seen people pushing too hard, worried about deadlines or
problems, and eventually becoming sick. Thankfully, most often this
sickness is just a call from our weakest link (eg a cold, ulcers, sore throat,
stomach upsets) telling us to slow down. Our weak link acts as our canary
in mines. This, at least gives us defined boundaries, which say now is the
time to change what we are doing to reduce the stress on our body.
Also, many times we see people that have battled to make deadlines, become sick
immediately after the deadline passes. It is almost as if the body has
said, “You promised me some time out when we reached Friday. Now I am
going to make sure we take it. I’ll make you have a cold or ulcers, etc,
just to make sure we rest.” How well do you recognise the
role of stress in
The working life of business owners and managers is often littered with stress
mines. Too many deadlines to meet or not enough resources. If these
stress mines explode, the effectiveness of the person and so their value to the
organisation can rapidly decline. A guide to defusing these stress mines was
provide by Hans Selye, who in 1978 coined the term GAS. (General Adaptive
Syndrome) to describe the process by which we “attempt to cope with 'nonspecific'
stress – as opposed to short duration stresses such as injury, the flu,
According to Alman & Lambrou (Self-Hypnosis) GAS has 3 stages:
Period of resistance
immune system is subject to break down during stages 2 & 3. The first
warning signal is likely to come from the body’s weak link. A holistic
program is required to support and strengthen the immune system and reduce the
impact of things that attack the immune system. The holistic approach would pay
attention to issues such as diet, exercise and rest, as well as the provision of
powerful mental tools utilizing altered states of consciousness and post
hypnotic suggestion. According to Korn and Johnson (p34, Visualization:
The Uses of Imagery in the Health Professions) high on the agenda of mental
tools would be the Relaxation Response. The Relaxation Response
effectively provides an exit loop for the fight or flight response.
Johnson go on to point out that 10 to 20 minutes (p35) of experience with
relaxation response once a day is an appropriate stress release. “Most of
us, exposed to numerous stresses over a long period of time, experience a
gradual elevation in the stress threshold, or basal level, until we reach a
point at which the body can no longer adapt. At that point we experience
illness” (p 36). However, when we experience the relaxation
response, we release currently accumulated stressors.
In part, this is the result of human evolution. In more primitive times,
stressful events and their boundaries were more easily defined and recognised.
When a stressful event was completed, (eg being chased by an animal), we could
then commence the recovery process. However, boundaries on many stressful
events are more obscure (eg guilt, shame, remorse) and we can be thrust into a
continual process of coping. Many of us have not yet developed exit points and
escape routes (eg meditation). This can lead to a downward spiral of
exhaustion of resources.
This occurs because the diencephalic portion of the brain reacts to threats (or
perceived threats) by activating basic instincts. The cortical portions of
the brain then interprets these instincts as behaving abnormally and provide
this information as feedback to the diencephalic portion of the brain. The
diencephalic portion of the brain interprets this as a threat and so the process
continues. Our tension moves to hypertension and many of our internal
resources are depleted.
The result is a vulnerable state and a fertile environment for under performance
or at worst the development of disease. Appreciate that the message received
from our weak link (a headache, sore back, ulcers, flu, etc) is not a problem
but a friend that should act as a cue to STOP (Start To Observe Purposely) and
thus kick into gear with a program to lead us away from stress and towards
increased wellness, energy, vitality and happiness.
Wellness is the result of how we construct our lifestyle. It involves the
interaction of mind body and spirit. Key ingredients of wellness are:
exercise, diet, avoidance of toxins and mental disposition.
The road to wellness is shortened when the process is actively addressed on the
conscious as well as the unconscious level.
Factors in the wellness action plan would include:
Avoidance of toxins –
especially those we have control over – alcohol, tobacco, large quantities
of refined sugar, caffeine and drugs.
Overcoming fatigue –
contributed to by obesity, lack of exercise and unhappiness
Regular exercise –
including both aerobic and flexibility activities that ensure that all
joints are put through the full range of motions on a daily basis.
Utilising the power
of mind – “the most powerful tool we have at our disposal is the mind”, (Korn
& Johnson p128). Some of the uses of this powerful tool include:
End result imagery
Other altered states
We can use the mind to create our end result, to help us be more relaxed and to
let go of tensions, to help us recover more quickly from ill health, to break
cycles of tension.
A valuable starting point for enhancing our mind power is through self hypnosis
and related areas.
See section on self hypnosis techniques to read about ways of developing the
A Practical example of the GAS Recovery process
The following practical example displays the recovery process from GAS.
Imagine a middle aged male who just had one week off on sick leave and this is
the first sick leave he has ever had.
Prior to his week off he had not been performing at his best – he had several
colds, an upset stomach, was ineffective at work, missing deadlines, becoming
angry and feeling generally stressed. This man was GASing himself.
Step 1 STOP
STOP stands for Start To Observe Purposefully – to determine the current
situation, the desired outcome and the action to be taken to achieve this
outcome. STOP from not only the business perspective but also the personal
Food (and to a lesser extent
alcohol) was being used as a mechanism to cope with stress – as a result the
wrong types of foods were being eaten and a little too much alcohol was been
Drinking too much caffeine
There was a lack of
He was irritable at home
He was putting on
He was experiencing lack of sleep
When he parked his car in the
parking lot he began to feel more tense and this tension increased as he got
closer to his office
His tension increased further when
he was reminded how much he had to do by the mess on his desk
Feel motivated and positive when
sits at desk
Not to get tense when he parked in
the parking lot
Exercise at least four times per
week for 35 minutes in target heart range
Moderation with alcohol
Free of caffeine
Loose 5 kgs
Strategies to achieve outcomes
Learn how to
set appropriate BRATES and Goals
information about setting brates and goals in addressed in more detail in "Seven
Action Steps to Increase Returns".
Learn progressive relaxation and at
least one other self hypnosis technique
Do this first thing upon waking and
upon getting home for the day (or what is appropriate)
motivated and positive when sits at desk
Clear the desk, organise all the
projects that were previously scattered on desk. Only one project to be
bought to desk at each time. This has the added advantage that it is a
very tangible sign of a positive step forward
Consider use of post hypnotic
suggestions in relaxation process, dealing with the:
relaxed and motivated when we park in the parking lot
number of minor changes would assist here:
Use the last 30 minutes of each working day to
plan the activities of the next day and start each working day with an
interesting, enjoyable project
Park the car in a different parking lot, maybe
one that involves more walking
Post hypnotic suggestion regarding how
enjoyable, satisfying the days' works will be, especially the first project,
with the trigger getting out of car in new parking lot and sense of
anticipation increasing with each step towards work
least four times per week
This may take some time to build too but needs
to be built into the diary – timetabled so that it can be a productive time
for work – used for creative thinking time
Post hypnotic suggestions regarding:
diet and moderation with alcohol
Given that much of this was associated with attempts to cope with stress
immediately upon arriving home from work, the self relaxation exercises
(Strategy 1) may well be sufficient. We could support this by post
hypnotic suggestion, the use of self suggestions in the relaxation exercises
and, of course, ensuring that adequate healthy food was available. Visit
to find out more.
This was an idea that seemed like a good idea at the time but may not be
necessary. In the short run, determine what the trigger for having
caffeine products and use post hypnotic suggestions to have this trigger a
substitute activity for caffeine consumption.
The proceeding will all make a significant contribution to sleeping habits.
The other activities listed previously will result in the appropriate weight
loss. This goal is more a measure of the effectiveness of other objectives
than an end in itself.Channel
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