Our parasympathetic nervous system helps us recover from stress. When we breathe at a slow pace, generally between 5 and 7 breaths per minute for adults, our physiology shifts into a recovery state in which natural restorative processes become more active. This is associated with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and it will occur within a few seconds of beginning that breathing pattern.
The link below points to a page with a series of videos that you can use to breathe with. Pick a pace and breathe with it. If a particular pace does not feel soothing then try a different pace. You are looking for a breathing pace that feels effortless and soothing. Your body should settle into it effortlessly. Most people like a pace between 5 and 7 breaths per minute. Continue reading Paced Breathing for Brief Relaxation→
Here is a video of my colleague Dr. Judith Andersen being interviewed for a Finnish show, Successful Mind, hosted by Teemu Karppinen. We were in Finland working on a stress-management program with Dr. Harri Gustafsberg. Judith and Harri created a successful program to reduce use-of-force errors by police officers, the International Performance Resilience and Efficiency Program.
After months of work the research article I was working on has been published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. The article describes a new model for stress by breaking stress down into several components. These components are:
Sympathetic Activation (SMP)
Parasympathetic Activation (PMP)
These components affect how we experience the world and how we respond to it. Unease has more influence and so learning to modulate unease is the most important part of dealing with stress.
I have not posted here for awhile because I am working on a couple of research articles, as well as developing apps and a training program. Those have been absorbing all the time and energy I have to spare and will continue to do so for the next couple of months.
After those projects are completed this site will be redone to include new material and to make it more organized. Thanks for your patience.
I had taken this video down because I have some important revisions to make, however I received a few requests from people who wanted to review it. So I am reposting it. I hope to get the revisions done by next month.
Stress and Resilience
The video here introduces a model of stress, strain, and resilience. It breaks stress down into three components, pressure, strain and feeling, and the processes from which those components arise, assessment, activation and appraisal. It then introduces some methods for developing resilience. Continue reading Stress and Resilience v1→
This is a TED talk from Cathy O’Neill, author of Weapons of Math Destruction.
I think she makes an important critique of how algorithms are too often used to rate people in absurdly biased ways with no accountability on the part of those who create the algorithms and profit from their use. In my field, medicine, the “patient satisfaction” scores are a perfect example of this perversion.
This is a summary of what we covered in the last class on changing habits. I was impressed by how engaged people were and how many ideas they shared. (I apologize for the delay in posting.)
Everyone caught on to the concepts well. We could all see how the various types of stress, i.e. pressure from demands, distress from negative emotions, and strain from sympathetic activation could all make it difficult to change a habit. With this framework people came up with ideas for reducing these different components in order to make developing a healthy habit easier and more successful.
One of the more subtle and more important points that I want to emphasize here is how the feedback between distress from negative emotions and sympathetic activation can be a major source of difficulty.
A short note to communicate why I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks.
I have been developing materials for the International Performance, Resilience and Efficiency Program , iPREP. They use scientifically based training methods to train law enforcement officers and first-responders to make more effective decisions under extreme stress. They are an awesome team and I am excited to be working with them.
I have also been working on an iOS app which just got approved by Apple. The app is HRV Trace and it uses data from a chest-strap heart rate monitor to augment stress-management and resilience training. HRV Trace is being used by the iPREP team as a part of their training program.
We had a lot of discussion in class. Many people talked about how much difficulty they had making a habit of exercising or of avoiding certain eating habits. We came up with some points to help with these.
Some principles involved in changing a habit are:
The habit reduces discontent and that is what reinforces the behavior. The greater the reduction in discontent and the faster the reduction the greater the reinforcement.
Negative emotions increase discontent and so we need to find ways of dealing with them that do not involve the habit we want to change.
Pressure tends to increase discontent, so if the habit causes an increase in pressure then the discontent will come back quickly. We need to make sure that we find new habits that decrease pressure in the long run.
Sympathetic arousal also tends to increase discontent. So when we are feeling tense, stressed or in pain we may be more likely to engage in the habit. We need to work on healthier ways to deal with those.
We need to practice experiencing discontent without having our body respond with tension or strain. We develop discontent tolerance.
Many of us have habits we think we would be better without. Usually we have tried to change those, but too often without long term success. In this and the next two classes we will be looking at habits, the ways that habits develop, and methods and techniques for changing habits effectively and sustainably.