Stress Reduction and Relaxation

SR- Relaxation, Inspiration & Flow
Stress is an ever-present fact of life for most people at some time in their lives. For our purposes, when I refer to stress, I’m speaking of the physiological response to some event or situation that causes what is known as the “fight or flight response”. This is a thousands of years old evolutionary development that caused us to be able to react quickly when we saw a tiger coming for our group on the savannah. It developed for good reason, and it’s still really necessary, when all sorts of daily situations call for that type of quick response, both physically and mentally. The problem we have in our modern society is that we have difficulty distinguishing from real stress situations and responses and those that may not be life threatening. When that happens, the difficulty comes in not being able to return to baseline, or reset our bodies to a state where we’re not in a heightened response state. Over a period of time, our bodies and minds become “tuned for stress” and we go through life at a low level of fight or flight. The physiological effects of this can cause damage both in the short and long term. Some long term physical effects of constant stress are increased cholesterol that leads to heart disease, an impaired immune system, and increased inflammation, which is linked to a variety of health problems. There are also mental effects, which can be even more important for creatives to consider, since we are depending on the flexibility and quickness of our thoughts and ability to create. Ongoing stress can shorten the attention span, cause automatic or chronic habitual behavior, and cause people to be less likely to notice detail or perceive subtlety.
It can be hard to tease apart automatic stress responses and those that we bring on ourselves. Subjecting ourselves to deadlines, engaging in negative behaviors, allowing ourselves to be in a state of constant worry or anxiety are all ways that mental activity can cause mental and physiological stress responses.
There are 6 basic types of stress, 3 physiological and 3 psychological, as well as 6 basic types of relaxation techniques, which can counteract the response to stress events. Relaxation is a state of reduced tension, anxiety and stress. It can be considered the “baseline” or how we feel in the absence of some sort of stressful event or situation. Relaxation (R) states can be brought on with combinations of these 6 physical and mental techniques.

Sympathetic Nervous response:

holding a posture, crouching

holding muscles in chronic tension

short, shallow, rapid, breaths

autonomic stress/anxiety

negative imagery, self talk, thoughts

stressed attention focused negative aspect   -or-
divided attention multitasking/monkeymind

Parasympathetic response:

Stretching (Yoga, Pilates, Alexander)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Deep Breathing (diaphragmatic)

Autogenic Training


Meditation- centered, concentrated focus

Mindfulness- free, open focus/perception


Relaxation (R) states can either eliminate or bring on a type of feeling. It’s good to remember that with discipline we can control how we feel, and are not at the mercy of emotions, anxieties and fears that can bedevil us. Increased ability to attain these states can have a direct impact on mental and physical health, immune system functioning and longevity. They can also have effects and achieve goals beyond stress relief, such as changing mood or heightening sensation.

disengaged (spatial, attitudinal, somatic)
physical relaxation
at ease/ calm (the feeling one gets upon the release of tension)

aware, focused, clear
quiet, stillness
mindful acceptance

deep mystery