In this post I will describe unease, one of the components of stress. I will explain how unease is related to emotions. I will also give an example of a meditation technique to reduce the effect of unease on our nervous system. An audio version of the text is below. A meditation track is at the end of the post.
I am working on various ways of presenting material. I had a request for an audio version of posts so I will include that here as well as the text version.
I read a recent report on scammers preying on people’s fear of COVID-19 to sell them bogus cures. I thought it would be interesting to apply the unease modulation model of stress to understand how scammers work and how to protect ourselves.
The video in this post applies a model of stress that I have been using for years to the particular situation of being required to remain at home due to COVID-19. The presentation describes how several components of stress interact in this situation and how to deal with them.
The model was published last year as a scientific research article in Frontiers in Psychiatry. This video is my attempt to use simple animations to capture the dynamic nature of stress and how different techniques can be combined to have synergistic effects.
If people follow the recommendations on social isolation then it is likely that many of us will escape being infected with COVID-19. However, each of us is being affected by the stress from the virus and the unprecedented actions required to halt its spread.
Since I am an expert in stress and stress-management I am going to be posting tools to help people cope with the stress associated with the COVID-19 epidemic. These posts will all be under the categories COVID and Stress.
Please use the comments section for this post to requests for specific techniques or ask questions.
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
I was interviewed by Teemu Karppinen for his Finnish program Successful Mind after my colleague Judith. Here is my interview.
I did like the answer I came up with for his question toward the end of the show on how I would define a successful mind.
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.
The article is free to read and the link is
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 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.
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.
In our first session we will explore habits and the processes which create and maintain them. Continue reading Changing Habits – I
One common complaint I hear is the sense that the person is trapped in their thoughts, especially worried thoughts. This is a technique to train your mind to shift attention away from thoughts into your body, without trying to stop thoughts. It teaches you to get out of your head. The more skill you have shifting your attention away from thoughts to sensations the easier it will be to ignore worried or other unhelpful thoughts without having to stop them or change them. Continue reading Escaping From Thoughts – Fast
I have had a couple of patients recently who described their intense emotional pain after hearing people make derogatory comments at them while they were shopping for food or in other public places. I think its obscene how it seems OK in our society to bash fat people for being fat. You’re not supposed to bash people because of their gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever (which is good), but if someone is fat then its OK (which is just wrong).
I want to explain why making people feel guilty about being fat just makes things worse, This has nothing to do with being politically correct, and everything to do with neuroendocrinology. Along the way I hope to give you some insights into the way the body deals with weight and fat that may help you understand how we can attain and maintain a healthy weight. Here we go. Continue reading Stress and Obesity, part I