I’ve been writing a lot about stress lately, because it’s a universal issue we all face. There are many underlying causes of stress, one of which is perfectionism, which I’ve addressed in the last couple of weeks. If you enjoyed the Three Simple Steps to Calm Your Inner Perfectionist post, you might want to check out this video by Martha Beck. It’s fantastic!
This thing we call stress seems to interfere with our feel-good on a daily basis. Yet, what exactly is it? It’s not an emotion, though we often think of it as one. One of my favorite authors, Karla McLaren, explains that stress is the result of not knowing what our emotions are, in this moment. Avoiding or suppressing them results in an internal sense of pressure building, like steam collecting in a pot with no release mechanism. Pretty soon, the lid starts to rattle and water splashes down the sides of the pot onto the stove. If you’re cooking, this is the point where you dash into the kitchen and turn down the heat.
This is exactly what you can do for yourself, too, when internal pressure builds and you’re a moment away from snapping at your spouse simply for existing. When you feel the urge to say, “I’m so stressed,” it’s time to turn down the heat. The quickest way to do that for humans includes taking a few deep breaths, resting for a minute, and finding a way to connect to what you’re actually feeling. Take a moment to find out what is in your pot. Is it an anger-fear stew? Is it sadness with a dash of anxiety?
If the pressure has been building for a while, it’s likely you have a mix of things going on. First, you’ve probably been suppressing or avoiding emotions that want to surface. The effort it takes to hold those at arm’s length builds internal pressure. Second, you’ve probably been using a lot of mental effort to figure out how to deal with current problems in your life. This means you are likely not connected to your inner intuitive genius, or wisdom. This leaves you feeling a bit lost, disconnected from yourself, and yes—stressed.
If it’s come to that point, you can employ a technique that takes advantage of technological advances and knowledge of the human brain. When you are thinking hard in problem-solving, analysis mode, your brain is producing what is called beta brain waves. If we hooked you up to an EEG, you’d see the results on-screen; your electrical activity in your brain would be largely beta brainwaves. When your brain produces excessive beta brainwaves, you start to feel frazzled and stressed. You lose touch with your emotions and your intuitive awareness. It’s time to help your brain shift into alpha or even theta brain waves, which feel relaxed, gently alert, creative, and peaceful. In this mode, you can access stored emotions, reconnect to your inner genius, and release stress. (There is a fourth type of brain wave—delta—but you experience that primarily while asleep.)
There are many ways to shift your brainwave patterns, but one of my favorites is to put on a pair of headphones and listen to what is called “binaural beats.” Here’s the Wikipedia definition for you: Binaural beats reportedly influence the brain in more subtle ways through the entrainment of brainwaves38 and have been claimed to reduce anxiety9 and provide other health benefits such as control over pain.
Many companies out there make recordings of music or ambient noise mixed with binaural beats, or of binaural beats alone. I enjoy both, and I have collected a few different CD’s and mp3’s, to say the least. My latest favorite, however, is an iPad/iPhone app called Brain Wave. I’ve tried several apps for binaural beats, but this one is my fave. It has a mix of different ambient noise choices with different binaural beat patterns. Ahh, sweet stress relief!
If you’d rather stick with regular old recordings, I highly recommend a company called Hemi-Sync. I enjoy their variety and have amassed a sizeable collection of recordings. However, there are many other companies out there, so see what resonates for you. (One caveat—if you’re transferring CD’s into iTunes, make sure your settings are set for stereo, not mono, when you do the import. Binaural beats must be listened to with headphones for maximum effect, because different beats are played in each ear.)
I’m not an affiliate of any of these recommended products. I’m just an enthusiastic enjoyer and wanted to share with you these resources that have helped me and my clients. So, if you’re feeling stressed, grab your i-something, be it iPod, iPad, or iPhone, and change your brainwaves. Let your brain rest. Then, feel what you need to feel. Sad, mad, afraid, content … whatever it may be, or whatever mix of emotions might arise. Finally, check in with your inner genius for some guidance. (I like to do this by simply asking, “Hey Inner Genius/Wisdom, what can you tell me to help me out right now?”) You’ll not only feel less stressed, but you’ll likely end up solving problems in creative, calm, and resourceful ways.