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Stress Management and Creative Relaxation

Stress Management and Creative Relaxation

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Published by rsabella
This article serves as an important reminder about what you already know but may find difficult to do – stay relaxed, focused, and balanced.
This article serves as an important reminder about what you already know but may find difficult to do – stay relaxed, focused, and balanced.

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Published by: rsabella on Oct 22, 2009
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Stress Management and Creative Relaxation
Russell A. Sabella, Ph.D.sabella@schoolcounselor.com Dealing with stress can be a daily challenge given the large number andvariety of stressors that school counselors face each day. Professional and personalstress, in moderate amounts (eustress), can help us to focus and excel in our duties. Too little stress in our lives, sometimes a sign of apathy or even depression, isusually evidenced by disinterest, flat affect, low energy, or perhaps even socialisolation. On the other hand, too much stress in our lives (distress) can causevarious negative outcomes to say the least. For instance, common reactions todistress include increase in anxiety, fear, sorrow or loss; resistance; isolation;violence; exhaustion; and overall diminished effectiveness or burnout. The trick is tomaintain a healthy level of moderate stress, just enough to keep the “pep in yourstep.”
How do you know when you are stressed?
A common response to this question typically includes examples includingovert, physical or behavioral symptoms such as “biting my nails,” “eating/sleepingdifferently,” “headaches,” “nausea,” and “restlessness.” A deeper look at theanswer to this question will help you to identify other reactions to stress such as“being highly irritable,” “being short with others,” and “not caring anymore.” Beforetaking a serious look at this question, you may not have even recognized these asstress reactions but perhaps explained them away as “personality flaws” or being“part of the job.” In fact, I believe that school counselors have are highly adaptablepeople and may have inadvertently incorporated such negative stress reactions intotheir lives as simply being normal or “par for the course.” Herein lies theimportance of this question, “ How do you know when you are stressed?” Beingaware of stress symptoms can serve as a trigger for you to move into actiontowards creative relaxation. Rather than adapting or reacting to the stress anddebilitating thoughts, behaviors, or attitudes, stress symptoms should signal you toremove or replace the stress with relaxation. Understand that the symptoms of distress can creep into many areas of your life beyond the physical – emotional,spiritual, academic, career, personal, and social to name a few.
What Are Your Stressors?
Stressors are simply stimuli that cause stress – triggers or antecedents tostress reactions, if you will. By identifying what causes stress in your life, you aremore apt to avoid or prevent them from occurring. Stressors can take various formssuch as:$Internal stressors which may include drinking large amounts of caffeine,subscribing to highly irrational beliefs, or eating poorly.$Time stressors which includes work overload or taking responsibility for taskswhich you are not equipped to handle or have adequate time to successfullycomplete.
 
$Encounter stressors are those dealing with others, especially in your job,regarding issues, roles, and actions.$Situational stressors may include unfavorable working conditions, dealingwith rapid change (e.g., role or duty transition), and the stressors that comewith dealing with unpredictable or ambiguous environments.
What Do You Do When it is You are Relaxed?
In my opinion, this is a more important question than the first one concerningstressors because it allows you to take a more solution focused approach torelaxation. That is, instead of focusing on that which you want to eliminate orreduce which can be quite difficult, focus on that which you would like to enhanceor amplify which is typically somewhat easier to do. You might begin by making alist of the types of thoughts, behaviors, situations, attitudes, and feelings that occurwhen you are relaxed or rejuvenated. Then, concentrate on how exactly you areable to achieve these. Finally, promise yourself to do these more in spite of being indifficult or seemingly impossible situations.
Creative Relaxation Techniques
Following are brief descriptions of several popular relaxation methods whichwill get you started towards a more balanced, focused, and energized life – bothpersonal and professional.
Be Rational.
Although you may believe a certain stressor caused you distress, theculprit may actually lie with you in the form of thoughts and beliefs. In other words,it may very well be that the events or situations in your life are not causing youstress. Instead, it is the beliefs you have about them, often in the form of highlyirrational thoughts or demands about self or others, which lead to stress. Dr. AlbertEllis, founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy or REBT, is considered one of the pioneers in helping others in areas such as stress by teaching people to replacetheir self-defeating thoughts, feelings and actions with new and more effectiveones. REBT teaches individuals to be responsible for their own emotions and givesthem the power to change and overcome their unhealthy behaviors that interferewith their ability to function and enjoy life (e.g., seehttp://www.rebt.organdhttp://drednottingham.com/pdf/stress.pdf ).
Biofeedback 
. According to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology andBiofeedback (http://www.aapb.org/), biofeedback is a training technique in whichpeople are taught to improve their health and performance by using signals fromtheir own bodies. It is scientifically based and validated by studies and clinicalpractice. People learn to associate sensations from their muscles with actual levelsof tension and develop a new, healthy habit of keeping muscles only as tense as isnecessary for as long as necessary. After treatment, individuals are then able torepeat this response at will without being attached to sensors. Other biologicalfunctions which are commonly measured and used in similar ways to help peoplelearn to control their physical functioning are skin temperature, heart rate, sweatgland activity, and brainwave activity.
 
Guided Imagery.
Myrick and Myrick (1993) wrote that in Guided Imagery (GI) aperson is led through a thinking process by a leader who provides stimulus words orsounds that serve as catalysts for participants to create mental pictures or reflecton a series of imagined events. The leader's words and comments guideparticipants through a personal experience in which they self-generate mentalpictures in response to the stimulus words or sounds. Although individuals vary intheir ability to produce mental images and to feel comfortable with imagery, theseskills can be improved through teaching and practice. Guided imagery may bepracticed independently, with a coach or with an audio or videotape and mayrequire only a few minutes.
Health and Exercise
. One way of coping with stress is exercise which contributesto physical fitness. People who are more physically fit tend to have fewer stress-related health problems. They are likely to have fewer symptoms of depression,such as trouble sleeping at night, sleeping too much during the day, overeating, ornot eating when they exercise regularly (see e.g.,http://www.uihealthcare.com/topics/stressandcope/stre3212.html).
 Journaling
. Keeping a journal of your thoughts, emotions, or other importantexpressions may help you to vent frustrations, a form or release leading torelaxation. Paper and pencil journals are the most common although you may alsoincorporate other media such as using tape recorders, web logs, or other publishingsoftware. Journals can be just the tool you need to “get things off your chest” in theform of words, pictures, doodles, or poetry to name a few.
Progressive Relaxation.
One of the most simple and easily learned techniques forrelaxation is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), a widely-used procedure todaythat was originally developed by Edmund Jacobson in 1939.
 
According to oneProgressiveMuscle Relaxation Guide (http://www.guidetopsychology.com/pmr.htm) the PMRprocedure teaches you to relax your muscles through a two-step process. First youdeliberately apply tension to certain muscle groups, and then you stop the tensionand turn your attention to noticing how the muscles relax as the tension flowsaway. Through repetitive practice you quickly learn to recognize—and distinguish—the associated feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle. Withthis simple knowledge, you can then induce physical muscular relaxation at the firstsigns of the tension that accompanies anxiety. And with physical relaxation comesmental calmness—in any situation.
Relaxation Reminders
Here are various tips or reminders that you may use as part of yourcommitment to managing stress and dedication to creative relaxation:
Stay competent and renewed.
 You are responsible for your professionaldevelopment. Being highly competent will help you to feel in control, confident, andenergetic. Make certain that your professional development plan is adequate andwell supported.

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