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Peter Guare

Stress—What It Is, How to Use It, and How to Lose It
By Peter Guare, Human HyperFormance   peterg@breathing.com

Stress seems to be an omnipresent fact of life.  It controls us mentally and physically, wearing us down and winding us up.  It has been said that over 80% of all illness is either caused or exacerbated by stress.   Stress seems to be like mosquitoes—useless.  Why does it exist?
    Let’s start at the beginning.  Ever so many thousands of years ago, our ancestors spent their lives mostly looking for food and trying to avoid being food themselves.  Whether hunting or being hunted, they needed quick, decisive action to survive.  As a result, the stress response evolved.  Under the appropriate conditions, the body shifted from the normal homeostatic functions of being alive like digestion to emergency measures.   Breathing became rapid and shallow.  Blood and oxygen were routed to the brain and large skeletal muscles.  Glucose and fatty acids were dumped into the blood to serve as energy sources. The immune system ramped up because physical harm was very possible. Various hormones were secreted that prepared the body to deal with bleeding, infection and structural damage.   The body got ready to break down damaged substances to recycle them.   Our ancestors lived another day.
    What does this have to do with you and me?  Well, the outside world has changed, but the inside world hasn’t.  We still deal with anxiety-provoking situations with the stress response, even though it is no longer appropriate.   We respond to long-term situations with what should be a short term response, but as the situation sticks around, so does the response.  And that’s bad.  Overstimulation can lead to resistance to the response when we need it.  Resources that should be keeping us healthy and happy are instead getting us ready for possible disaster.  Those hormones have to break down something, and if they can’t find damaged tissue, healthy tissue will have to do. Oh, and all that glucose and fatty acid stuff that we didn’t use gets stored as FAT.  You get the picture.
    Now let’s look at something interesting.  Notice I didn’t talk about stress.  I talked about the stress response. Because that’s what it is.  The stress is not inherent in the situation, but in our reaction to the situation.  And even more interesting, that response should really be called the FEAR response.
    So how do we use it?  If possible, as part of a response.  In the beginning, our ancestors did something to deal with the situation and the situation went away, at least temporarily.  Taking action to fix the situation is the natural way to use the stress response.  In fact, there is a law called the Yerkes-Dodson Law that states that there is a general U-shaped relation between stress level and job performance. No stress response, not much action.  Moderate stress response, and we get motivated but not pressured into mistakes.  Overwhelming stress response and performance breaks down.  Additionally, optimal stress response levels tend to be lower for difficult cognitive tasks and higher for those requiring persistence.
    So forget the worry and do something.  Make the best choice you can and go for it.  It may not be the right choice, but you are allowed to make mistakes.  Just don’t repeat them.
    Taking action is also a good way to lose stress.  Take care of the situation, dump the response.  Another strategy is to examine the situation rationally.  Remember when I said the stress response was actually the fear response?  Well, what are you afraid of?  Chances are it won’t happen.  And if it does, chances are that the outcome isn’t nearly as bad as your imagination made it out to be.  As a wise person once said, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we deal with it.   A wonderful way to deal with it is to program your body to respond the way you want it to.  Remember that breathing thing I mentioned in the beginning?  You program your body every time you breathe.  Slow, deep inhales and exhales tell your body that everything is all right.  Your parasympathetic nervous system is in charge.  Rapid, shallow breathing tells your body that you are in danger.  Your sympathetic nervous system takes over and does all that physiological stuff that we’d like to avoid unless it’s really necessary.  And it’s rarely necessary.  So, thousands of times a day you are telling yourself one thing or the other.  (Yes, breathing patterns you establish while awake carry over into sleep.)  It will take practice to change from stress response breathing to relaxation response breathing.  But Mike White has some great ways to help you, and you were clever enough to build time into your busy schedule to practice.  Yes, all that time you sit in your car you can be practicing good breathing.  Likewise when you are standing in line. It will keep you from stressing out over wasting time, and it will be one of the most important long-term changes you can make to maximize your health, happiness and productivity.  It’s your life.  Stop letting external forces pull your strings.  Taking control is a lot easier than you think.

Combining Our Trainings With Others'
Optimal Breathing Development and Meridian Flexibility and Strength Training™, Partners in Better Health and Performance  by Peter Guare, BS, OBDS,  certified level 2   MFST™ intern, www.humanhyperformance.com
Optimal Breathing Development programs your body and mind to perform the way they were designed.  The majority of our modern health concerns are really lifestyle issues—we just don’t live the lives we were designed for.  Reining in the stress response, providing your body with the oxygen it needs and eliminating the waste products respiration generates will have a major impact on your quality of life.  Eating the kinds of nutrient dense, low toxin foods our early ancestors ate (and our bodies evolved to function best with) is another huge component of a superior quality of life.  But perhaps the area 21st century humans are most deficient in is exercise.  We were designed to work physically to maintain both health and physical capacity.  Use it or lose it; it’s your choice.  Unfortunately most people choose the latter.  Aging accelerates the losses.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Regular exercise trumps nearly every other marker in determining quality of life, and Meridian Flexibility and Strength Training™
, developed by Bob Cooley,  provides a time efficient, effective conditioning program.  The program is built around the concept of resistance stretching.  Normal static stretching weakens muscles.   A muscle’s strength is measured by its ability to contract.  Lengthen it without improving that ability and you have a weaker muscle. Numerous studies have in fact shown that static stretching before exercise improves neither performance or injury prevention.  Please note that this is not the same as a proper warmup, which consists of raising the body’s core temperature and taking it through the ranges of motion to be required during the exercise.  But in MFST, muscles are stretched through their ranges of motion while maximally resisting the stretch.  This not only generates improved strength throughout the entire range of motion, it protects against over-stretching.  It also makes for a very effective workout, as you generate both the force to stretch the muscle and the maximum resistance to the stretch.  By moving rapidly through the 16 stretch protocol, a lot of work is done on all the major muscle groups and the stabilizing muscles in a time-efficient manner.  Muscle imbalances are reduced and in time eliminated.  By exhaling through the entire stretching motion, deep breathing is encouraged, actually required.  Over time, trauma or stress conditioned deep muscle tension is eliminated.  Scar tissue and adhesions between muscles and connective tissue are reduced as the muscles are brought to pre-injury performance and beyond.  And you increase range of motion and stability, or true functional flexibility. 

There’s more.  Dara Torres, Olympic Gold Medalist, said “without the flexibility training that Bob developed for me, I could have never accomplished the five Olympic medals I won in Sydney….I also know that Bob’s program single-handedly developed me psychologically in very specific ways.  With this mental edge, I felt unbelievable.  There was no part of me that wasn’t improved….What he has figured out about stretching no one knows yet.  The world will give Bob the Gold.”  By eliminating stress conditioned tension, improving flexibility and encouraging better breathing through the stretches, mental functioning is also improved.  The body’s energy flow is balanced, as each stretch corresponds to a major acupuncture meridian. You get both physiological and psychological benefits at the same time.  As a conditioning system, the cost/benefit ratio is pretty much unbeatable.

A recent published article by Peter

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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
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