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Five minute stress reduction note

STRESS REDUCTION Learning to be confident and relaxed in the face of everyday stress.

Before we even start:   Right now: Pretend to steam up a mirror. Hold up your hand in front of your mouth and pretend it is a mirror that you want to steam up. Breathe out with an open mouth and an open throat. Hot breath. This can usefully turn into a Yawn.   Three breaths.  Good?

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The basic point of this note is this: as soon as we become anxious the body reflects and expresses this…. in three main ways – 1. holding the breath. 2. tensing the muscles3. the racing mind.  The classic response to threats and stress is Fight and Flight.  But very often neither of those actions are possible. If Fight and Flight are impossible we get stuck in Freeze and Search -i. e the three reactions mentioned above. .

The next major point is that this is not just a one way traffic – the brain sending messages to body. It is a loop: the body sends messages back to the brain.

The body’s breath holding and muscular tension sends message to the brain. Imagine for an animal ..It says : “Careful. Danger of some kind. Maybe we are under attack – therefore freeze, be super alert, search for the dangers, the negatives, the threats, assume the worst, exaggerate the problems, see them before they get to us…..search to find solutions..”

This searching for threats is experienced as loss of confidence. Fear. Pessimism. Catastrophising.

Obviously, this is a perfect recipe for more anxiety: so this is the Vicious Circle. Anxious > tense breath holding > hyper-alert > seeing threats > more anxiety etc.

This keeps a person trapped in a state of anxiety for longer than they need to be. The logic of the circle is very powerful..

Hormonally we keep cortisol, the fear hormone circulating. And adrenaline -trying to offset fear with excitement. Anaethetising the fear. And, like any anaesthetic, it can become addictive.

But by the very same logic we have a magic answer: The logic of the circle is very powerful. This therefore gives us a marvellous opportunity to interrupt that circle and start a very powerful ‘benign circle’.

If we can achieve less physical stress – ie less bodily tension and breath holding – we can achieve less messages being sent to the brain , leading to less hyper-alertness and less anxiety > leading to less tense breath holding etc. We can escape the trap.

So the immediate solution to immediate stress is physical – to do with breath and with physical muscular tensing.  This note only deal with the breathing aspect.   Other posts on this website deal with both breathing and body tension.

ANSWER: The solution is not just deep breathing. Breathing in the right way is not simply about driving large amounts of air in and out of the lungs.  It is open throat breathing. And then the best body language – posture when breathing.

So start with this thought: It is about the state of the muscles of the throat.

This is because the actual holding of the breath is not done by chest or lung muscles; it is done by closing the throat.

This may sound surprising but it is very easy to check. Right now – as you read this. Breathe in. Hold the breath for a moment and then release the breath sharply and watch which bit of the body is mainly involved. It is the epiglottis and the vocal chords. You may need to do this several times before it is clear. Make a noise and it is more obvious. The chest moves but the control comes from the throat.

The fact that the vocal chords are involved is fairly clear from the fact that in certain stressful situation we speak with a higher pitched voice, or even lose our voice entirely.

Fear tends to make us squeak with alarm or panic. People also squeak with indignation – a frightened, controlled anger. Awe – where we gasp and whisper in a hoarse tone? People suffering from stifled grief sometimes suffer from the ‘fish bone in the throat’ feeling – which is muscles in the throat in spasm.

Now consider the opposite – the moment when the throat is opened. Laughing, crying openly, howling, shouting in a confident way (strong anger), singing for joy. Saying ‘phew’. These are all situation of uninhibited emotion expression.

Possible exercises to try – anytime –  in fact right now as you read this!  Hopefully you have already started with this one – so maybe repeat it?

1. Pretending to steam up a mirror. Hold up your hand in front of your mouth and pretend it is a mirror that you want to steam up. That opens the throat very well. This can usefully turn into a Yawn.

Stop reading this and do that for at least three good out-breaths.

2. Then try breathing very slowly and as silently as possible with the mouth wide open.

3. Breathe out fully. Then breathe out some more. There is always more to come. Then some More! And More! It is quite surprising – and it can perhaps make us realise how the bottom of the lungs are never fully used. I like to think that I am expelling old stale air that’s been there for weeks!

Then hold it there – throat open, lungs empty. Peaceful. Strange.

Later you can experiment with other techniques and you may find one or two that really suit you:

4. Pretending to smoke a cigarette. Breathe in deep, then breathe out – slowly, luxuriantly, savouring the moment. I suspect half of the pleasure of smoking comes from this enforced or encouraged good breathing. The use of nicotine is a sad, ironic poison and an unnecessary addition. Using this technique, we can get the benefit without the poison.

5. It can help to cover the mouth. Pressing something to the lips. Covering the face as in prayer or extreme emotion. Being under a cover.

6. Counting the breaths. Or focussing really hard on the throat and the movement of air.

7. One you cannot do in public : Experiment with different sounds as you breathe out – A, E, I, O, U, – the classic ‘Om’. Watch how the throat changes with the different noises.

I find the best are: AAAAH (in) then HAAAAA (out). You can do them silently.

Belly breathing –v- Chest breathing.

There is another aspect of holding back the breath: The seven exercises or techniques mentioned above focus on opening the throat on the out-breath – but one aspect of tension is that stressed breathing becomes shallow and confined to the top of the lungs.

A closed throat goes with upper chest breathing. What is needed is to open the throat and then also breathe with the belly and then the chest. Breathe in – extend the stomach. What is happening is that the diaphragm is drawing down.

So, like many people writing about this subject, I have emphasised the benefits of the out-breath. If you want to check it out, technically speaking this is called “the parasympathetic nervous system” trigger and it brings somebody out of the freeze, flight, flight,search mode into what is sometimes described as the “rest and digest “state.   And that can refer to digesting events and emotional reactions.

Most people agree that this is indeed effective in heading off anxiety and panic, but I have been hearing therapy clients who tell me that their main problem is the in-breath. They say that to try and breathe in fully is hard or even actually painful.

In the literature the in-breath – (again check it out as being the “sympathetic nervous system trigger”) – you may see it wrongly identified simply with fight and flight. This is because it can be simply associated with the sharp intake of breath caused by an acute stress and then the state of having the held breath as described above.

But this is not the only form of in-breath. A calmer, fuller in-breath which is followed by a calm out-breath is in fact a source of strength and confidence. The readiness and ability to act but not the anxiety state created by the shallow breathing.

Accordingly, with myself and with clients, I have been exploring and encouraging the fuller in-breath; first to the belly and then to the upper chest. Personally I can also certainly feel a form of resistance this causes in me, as if it requires courage simply to take my full space, take my full oxygen, and the associated body language of standing up taller and prouder.

You may indeed find that it does automatically that makes you stand – or even sit – tall and proud. And then the out-breath causes the shoulders to drop and a sense of relaxation to come over you.

Try that now, as you read this? Dare to breathe in – then to breathe out fully?

You then have the apparently paradoxical but in fact perfectly sensible indeed brilliant combination of confidence and relaxation.

It may be good to think: “As I breathe in I am daring to breathe in. I am breathing in courage and confidence and strength. I have the right to be here.”

” When I breathe out I am daring to relax, to come out of emergency mode. I am safe.”

And it’s free and legal and healthy.

That deals with breathing.  What about the frozen body ?   Yoga has addressed that for centuries and it is increasingly popular.  Doing yoga often means going to a class once or twice a  week , travelling, paying money and being told what to do by one person – the same exercise and postures for everyone.

Do it on our own has many advantages –  ten or twenty minutes a day is far healthier than a weekly one hour intensive.  And, listening to our bodies,  we can in fact tailor our practice to what we need most.

I offer some simple exercise routine at:  Breathing, Stretching and Bending – the essence of Yoga. Standing poses that you may actually do regularly.

Breathing, Stretching and Bending – the essence of Yoga. Standing poses that you may actually do regularly.

Action: BreathingComment:Because in stress…
Open throatYawn, steam up a mirror.We close our throats to hold our breath. Squeaky voice
Breath from bellyStick it out. Pull it in.We only use top of lungs
Really empty lungsBreathe out. Hah. Then more. HahhhhhWe hold back
Hold it thereStill small point of calmWe are usually in a hurry
10 timesFocusWe are often distracted
Then use top of lungsShoulder back. Proud.We are too frightened to
Put them all togetherNew habitWe have damaging habits
Then explore powerful body language  
Hang headSurrenderWe are too proud to do so
Tilt, rotate headLoosen up, stretchWe are tight and stiff
Open mouth wideYoga Lion faceWe are tight lipped, controlled
Loosen, flex jawLoosen up, wiggleWe clench our teeth
Pull facesPuzzled, angry etcWe overcontrol our faces
Raise then lower shouldersExaggerate. Fast then slowWe both display and suppress our fear in our shoulders
Rotate shouldersWindmill, swim, punchDitto. And anger
Twist trunkLook behind youWe are rigid
Touch the groundWith bent knees and then straightWe get very bad lower back problems
PelvisDirty dancing – Pelvic  thrusts, shake that assWe are too embarrassed about sexual display
   
Do it slow and long: First for 5 minutes, later for 10 minutes.   Keep breathing all the time. I.e. put the two things together: breathing and movement.Think of Nelson Mandela who did (much harder) exercise every day to stay sane. Note how hard to keep motivation. Left brain snobbery. Use a clock.In stress we produce hormones and our bodies express emotions/impulses: Freeze, Fight, Flight, Search, Flirt, Surrender. But we are ashamed and suppress them. We lock the emotions/impulses in. Our bodies then feed back stress to our minds.   This is a vicious circle. It can be reversed and made into a virtuous circle: Release stress. Clean up the blood. New messages to the mind. Quick, free, safe anti-anxiety treatment.

Some notes about counselling and therapy with NHS intensive care staff.

I hope this note is useful for therapy practitioners and the clients themselves – as well as any supporters of front line staff including friends, colleagues and family members.

Before starting work at Frontline19 I was anxious about working with people on the front line who had been exposed to the unprecedented situation of Covid and associated stress and trauma.  I have a fairly standard private therapy practice, having trained at Spectrum Therapy, and I now practice as a humanistic and integrative therapist. I have also worked for many years as a volunteer at our local Bereavement Service. I was not sure how this background would prepare me for working with people like intensive care nurses and doctors who carried on during the height of the Covid epidemic.

I was very pleased to find that time-honoured, simple, conventional counselling skills were in fact extremely effective in allowing them to have their experiences and emotions heard, acknowledged and, to some useful degree, processed. 

I have now worked with four intensive care health professionals and every single one talked about having to shut down their emotions during the crisis. “Going into robot mode“ was a phrase that all of them independently used.

Obviously that degree of immediate self-repression can lead to significant later emotional consequences in terms of exhaustion, demoralisation, depression and / or generalised anxiety.

Detailed history:  My approach was simply to ask them to describe in great detail exactly what their experiences had been. I explained that I was not medically qualified, so I asked them to explain some of the terminology and some of the techniques. I said that this was educational for me and would be of benefit therefore to the other work I was doing at Frontline 19 and maybe even something I could pass on to other colleagues.

List of medical terms and abbreviations for Frontline 19  March 2022  

Importantly, this seemed to give them a degree of agency and power which is precisely what had been missing during those traumatic months.

It also evened up our relationship in a way that I appreciated as a humanistic practitioner.

Initially some of them talked very much about the objective clinical circumstances but avoided mentioning the deaths that occurred; but after a few sessions like that, they begin to be able to talk about that subject – although initially still in quite a detached way.

On several occasions I heard the remark that they had not actually realised what they had been through until they told me about it.

Acknowledging and naming.  During the telling of their experiences, I made very strong acknowledging remarks including helping them name it in the words that they had never dared to use before – eg “a complete nightmare … way beyond anything that we had ever had before”. “All the techniques which we had relied upon to save lives previously were now failing.” “We were facing this unknown illness which seemed to go on and on.”

The fact was that they were nursing other young people – indeed some of their own colleagues – but they had initially been in complete denial about the possibility of them becoming ill and dying. Then a sort of sick humour took hold of the ward but the explicit word “fear“ was never used by them until they spoke with me about it.

Shame.  One aspect which took me some time to identify was the fact that going into robot mode meant that they let go of their normal level of empathy and connectedness with their patients that they had always had before and prided themselves on. They were often on the edge of endurance on a 13 hour shift, wearing full PPE and coping with hopeless cases and deaths and they were simply looking at the clock and longing for the shift to end. 

They were able eventually to say that they had been secretly suffering a great deal of shame about the fact that they lost that empathy and connectedness. They had never talked about this subject before. Again, talking it through represented a massive lifting of that unnecessary and unwarranted sense of shame or guilt.

There was also another sense of shame which was really unhelpful – and unnecessary: the shame about being anxious, stressed, angry – in fact shame about being emotional at all! To some extent it seems this comes from their own histories but it is greatly exacerbated by the deeply unhealthy culture of the NHS – or at least those parts that I am hearing about.

Just to explore that and to explore the damaging cost of self repression and the simple fact that we all totally need to be emotional seems to have been a revelation to some clients – and a very healthy one.

Moral Injury. Another emotional issue which is related to shame is Moral Injury. This is not a phrase I had heard before but it is well known in medical circles. It refers to the emotional impact – often shame and guilt – of not being able to do one’s duty – often because of lack of resources. “There were not enough beds, enough ventilators, enough time – to do things properly – to do thing in the way I knew they should be done.” The sense of powerlessness, helplessness is massive and destructive. And not much discussed.

In terms of understanding the trauma of our clients, a worthwhile distinction may be that the intensive care world is a world of high drama.

But drama does not always mean trauma.

Even when it involves gruesome images and experiences, there is a protective factor if the person concerned has agency – some degree of power – in their involvement in medical treatment. 

Obviously that is at its strongest if treatment is successful and the patient recovers but It may be present even perhaps if it is ultimately futile and the patient dies so long as the client knows that all proper steps were taken. ie the moral injury element is not present.

Working with NHS staff both generally and especially during their experiences during the Covid crisis, what is striking is the extent to which the traumatic legacy is far greater in situations where they are powerless.

General powerlessness for NHS staff.
However powerlessness is also present generally and less obviously in the fact that they work in a large, very hierarchical organisation where others inevitably have power over them.

Even if that power is exercised in a benign and skilful way, there might be a degree of added stress for the client but sadly the cliche that power corrupts is very evident in the NHS. And that doesn’t only refer to bullying and harassment but even to a very generalised insensitivity and lack of skill by management and by senior staff.

Unspoken anger. The result is that our clients will often have experienced huge levels of frustration throughout their working life and it may continue even when we are speaking with them. And “frustration“ can sometimes be examined and understood as being a polite and a half repressed emotion of anger But, precisely because they are in a position of powerlessness, it is an anger which dares not say its name.

I have found that helping clients identify and  name that frustration and resulting anger has actually been very helpful for them.

One phrase that has come up is one that sounds childish and therefore we tend to suppress it – and therefore to repress the background emotion – of anger: “It’s not fair”. That is what people feel about the fact that they are blamed or blame themselves for things that are not their fault. And it really helps to have that acknowledged and the client allowed to say those words – loudly.

This is hugely true of the situation , in the early days of Covid when there was simply not enough PPE and staff were being forced to put themselves in huge danger. Many died as a result. And all the while the government were denying this reality, effectively gaslighting the medical profession – and the country. Some people have said they didn’t have time or energy to be angry. Maybe not explicitly but I am aware that the anger remains now – and needs to be expressed.

Those early days are now two years ago but the results continue for our clients. Se below the note: “What now that the hospital crisis seems to have eased? ”

Pride in working for the NHS is reducing . A new matter that is coming up is the loss of public trust and respect for the NHS. Previously that was a major protective factor for the staff. Whatever local or temporary failings there were because of the exceptional demands of Covid, basically the NHS was seen as world leading and highly respected and valued. So staff felt supported by that respect and value.

However that is being significantly eroded with the recent enquiry of Shrewsbury Maternity Department scandal with others to come.

https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/public-satisfaction-nhs-social-care-2021#reasons

Satisfaction with the NHS overall in 2021: Overall satisfaction with the NHS fell to 36 per cent – an unprecedented 17 percentage point decrease on 2020. This is the lowest level of satisfaction recorded since 1997, when satisfaction fell to 34 per cent. More people (41 per cent) were dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied.

Does counselling work? Answer: Yes!

Talking about all of this really does help clients. They have all said that offloading this material did indeed make them feel much lighter and more able to cope in the future. With her permission I quote one client who said “My guilt from the situation has quite drastically faded.” and “The change in my thought patterns over the last few weeks has been outstanding and is reflected quite clearly in my mood and behaviour”

I do find that eight to ten counselling sessions were enough for most of the people I have been working with although we have put in the diary some extra sessions, as a sort of check-in, three weeks and then four weeks further on.

It is my particular style to make a brief note of the contents of the sessions and send it back to the client later and this was particularly appreciated by them. Seeing it written down made it even more real and acknowledged. But that may not be possible for most professional with full time other work, nor appropriate for non-professional supporters.

Polarised thinking. Like many people under extreme stress, they had sometimes gone into quite rigid, black-and-white thinking. “Either you remain cold and hard and robot-like or you’d inevitably collapse into a complete heap.”

It took time for them to explore and accept that they could healthily and safely move in and out of a state of being warmer, softer and more emotionally in touch, without the feared opening of the floodgates of endless, debilitating grief.

Self care, self soothing. Breathing. Suggesting and exploring with them good breathing techniques, particularly of course the parasympathetic, open throat, full out breath, enabled them to see that there are safe ways of lowering their guard and coming out of robot mode. Equally other self soothing such as exercise, yoga, dance, swimming, massage and hugs – even self massage and self hugs.

Five minute stress reduction note

Yoga doesn’t have to be formal group yoga. I offer my very simple 15 minute standing poses exercises. This is so undemanding and simple that I actually do manage to do them almost every morning !

Breathing, Stretching and Bending – the essence of Yoga. Standing poses that you may actually do regularly.

Other support. Curiously with each single one I asked them about who they have been able to talk with honestly during the crisis and since; and they had all hugely limited that possibility, projecting onto their partner, family and friends the belief that they would be overwhelmed – even when those people were asking for more information and protesting their readiness to hear it.

Encouraging them to negotiate and establish quite a considered approach – almost a regular routine – for some limited offloading – proved to be highly effective. This is also something they could continue after we have finished our work together.

NHS and career stress.  As mentioned above, sometimes the way that they were managed or aggressive treatment by other members of staff were a source of great stress and distress and they had never been able to share this before. 

This included oppressive behaviour by senior staff or even, in the case of one non-English doctor, being undermined and suffering prejudice by nursing staff. They had no faith in the internal NHS complaints procedures.  The very extended, demanding and ruthless process of doctors’ training and their career structure can also contribute to high levels of stress and unhappiness. 

Talking all this through has clearly been very helpful to many clients. On some occasions it has even allowed them to make certain career decisions, for example changing hospitals or departments.

What if the hospital crisis seems to ease? At one point some clients seemed to be struggling with the fact that the hospital pressures were at that moment far less. The time of total nightmare was receding – while Covid rates are very high and hospital admissions are increasing, deaths are very much down. The real nightmare was two years ago for some people. So the doubt creeps in – surely things are ok now? What will people say? Do I really still need counselling? Answer: maybe very much so. The trauma often remains as a post-traumatic legacy of anxiety, jumpiness, depression and detachment.

And the doubts creeping in may connect with a pre-existing strong tendency to deny or minimise the reality of what happened. This issue needs to be explored and confronted or the really significant impact of the events will go on and on.

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Trauma counselling and deeper therapy? Since writing the above, I have been discussing this in my supervision – this is not a part of Frontline 19 so it is with my normal therapy supervisor.

And it was therefore quite useful to realise a major difference between my ordinary work as a therapist and my work with FL19.

As an ordinary therapist – and I suspect this is true for most of the other volunteers at Frontline 19 – I am used to working with people whose main problem is CPTSD – which I believe should stand for Childhood PTSD. Complex (or childhood) PTSD – Adverse childhood experiences

Or even CPTSC – Condition – picking up on the move from talking about ASD to ASC. Post traumatic growth connects with compassion and pride in the positive consequences of their adverse childhood experiences – ACEs.

And the challenge there is that their adverse childhood experiences have been repressed. Literally put out of consciousness. This obviously is on a sliding scale from the very earliest, pre-verbal experiences which are unreachable by talking therapies (which is why I have for years been engaged in body work for myself – yes I’m up for the humanistic style!) through other, later childhood experiences when the memories become gradually more factually available – although the emotional experiences crucially may not be available without considerable skill on the part of the therapist and courage on behalf of the client.

This is all in contrast to working with people for whom the trauma is relatively recent and the factual information is readily available but the repression of the emotions is also largely recent but very real.  

In some senses it is more like a surface wound that has been covered up and is not healing but which will heal if it’s uncovered. That is in contrast to much earlier wounds where the infection has gone much deeper, maybe “into the bones.”

Of course there is not always such a clear distinction. People who are attracted towards the high drama and compulsive rescuing of A&E and other front line work may well be people for whom the motivation is rooted in adverse childhood experiences, although this may not be obvious to them. 

I can feel the temptation to go too quickly to that aspect rather than deal with the recent traumas fully enough.  And this is partly because the clients are often really eager to explore some early material and, because they have often not explored this, there are some nice low hanging fruits in terms of insights and breakthroughs with real benefits. If someone is a compulsive rescuer, especially if it is to the extent that they become a victim of that compulsion, then the Drama Triangle can be quite a valuable model. The Drama Triangle. A very useful model.

Naturally this approach is not relevant to everyone so I am becoming more careful to discuss this issue explicitly with each client and be transparent about how we work.

List of medical terms and abbreviations for Frontline 19    March 2022  

Based on a list in “Life Support” by Jim Down. Some references that were just about his hospital have been removed. Some refer only to ultra-acute Covid situations.  

I also used the web generally and  https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/glossary#CCT 

‘A&E’  Accident and Emergency. Previously called ‘Casualty’ and sometime called ‘ED’ Emergency Department.  Within the medical profession the branch of medicine relating to A&E is increasingly described as ‘EM’ Emergency Medicine.  

ACT: Acute care team.    

AED: Automated External Defibrillator 

ARDS Acute respiratory distress syndrome  

ART: Acute response team.  

Ambulatory patients. A patient able to walk around.  Eg often patients who make their own way to hospital and are not brought by ambulance. 

Ambulatory care:  medical services performed on an outpatient basis including after discharge from inpatient care.  

Blood gas: A bedside blood test that measures the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, acid, haemoglobin, sodium and potassium in the blood. 

‘Bloods’: Colloquial term for blood tests, used to measure blood cell counts, electrolytes and other molecules in the blood.  

‘Blue lighted’: – emergency transport to hospital. 

CHD: Coronary heart disease, a condition in which the major blood vessels that supply the heart get clogged with deposits of cholesterol, known as plaques. A chronic condition which may lead to heart attack.  See MI below  

COVID-19 (covid) COronaVIrus Disease 2019. Disease caused by SARS-CoV 2 and discovered in 2019 

CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. Constant positive pressure applied by mask or hood to the airways. This can be air or have added oxygen. Contrast with ‘Oxygen therapy’ which delivers only pure oxygen.  

CPR:  cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Given when a patient stops breathing (respiratory arrest) or their heart stops beating (cardiac arrest). It generally refers to repeatedly pushing down very firmly on the chest but may also refer to “defib” – Defibrillator – see AED above – using electric shocks to try to restart the heart. Previously ‘mouth-to-mouth’ breathing but that is less recommended now. It can include reference to CPAP see above  

CRP: CReactive Protein. A blood marker of inflammation – typically very high in Covid. 

CT scanner. Medical scanner that gives cross sectional images of all or of parts of the body.  Sometimes referred to as a CAT scanner. Computerised tomography scan. 

DNR or DNAR: Do Not Resuscitate – or more modern language Do Not Attempt Resuscitation or DNARCPR.   

Defib – Defibrillator – see CPR above.  

“Donning and Doffing”:   Putting on and taking off PPE. Usually in separate sealed sections of the ward to avoid contamination. It can be time consuming and is needed even for toilet breaks – hence delays and under time pressure not drinking enough hence UTIs for staff.  

The Doppler: A probe that passes through the mouth into the oesophagus to measure blood flow out of the heart. 

EAU: Emergency Assessment Unit. 

ECG: Electrocardiogram. A recording of the electrical activity of the heart via sensors on the skin. ECGs detect the rhythm and rate of the heartbeat and identify abnormalities such as heart attacks. 

Echocardiogram: Ultrasound scan to look at the structure and function of the heart. 

ECMO: ExtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. A machine to oxygenate blood and remove carbon dioxide in a circuit outside of the body. 

ED: Emergency Department (also known as A and E and Casualty). 

Encephalitis: Inflammation of the brain sometimes caused by viruses 

ENT: Ear Nose and Throat. 

Endotracheal tube: A breathing tube that passes through the mouth down into the windpipe (trachea). 

FFP3 mask:  Filtering Face Pieces 3 mask. A mask that protects against viruses, bacteria and fungal spores.  As opposed to the ordinary cloth surgical mask 

‘The filter’: ICU dialysis type of machine takes over the function of the kidneys when they ceased to function adequately. 

GA: general anaesthetic  

GIK: glucose, insulin number potassium. A combination of infusions to improve the heart function. 

Haematologist. Doctor specialising in blood. Some specialise in blood cancer, others in blood clotting, others in sickle-cell disease, et cetera 
 
HASU: hyper acute/unit. 
 
HDRU: high-Dependency Unit 

HCA health care assistant  

HCSW Health care support worker  

Hierarchy of nurses:  Band 5 basic grade nurses although maybe for several years . Band 6 after five or so years. Typically includes Senior Nurses, Deputy Ward Managers, Health Visitors and various specialist Nurses. Band 7 include Ward Managers, Emergency Nurse Practitioners and clinical specialists.   Band 8 and 9 roles normally only apply to Modern Matrons, Chief Nurses and Consultants. https://www.nurses.co.uk/blog/a-nurses-guide-to-nhs-pay-bands-in-2022/ 

Nurses have this very clear hierarchy and except when Covid forced everyone into scrubs, different uniforms which allowed accurate delegation of tasks. https://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/your-care/your-visit/nurses-roles-and-uniforms 

IV: Intra venous – injection or line into a vein  
 
ICU: intensive Care Unit (also known as at Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) and Critical Care Unit (CCU). 
 
LA: Local Anaesthetic. 

Levels: these are ways of describing degrees of medical needs in patients. Level 1. Minor. Discharged or admitted to wards. Level 2. Intensive care may need CPAP, renal filter n=but not vented. Level 3. ICU and Resus Vented. 1 2 1 care.

Lymphocyte: the type of white blood cell, typically low in Covid patients. 
 
MDT:  Multidisciplinary team meeting.  Different professionals meet together to discuss the diagnosis and treatment of patients including doctors from different specialties, nurses and many other professionals such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. 

Meningitis: infection of the lining of the brain. 

MI: myocardial infarction – a heart attack.  
 
Microbiologist: Doctor who specialises in the bacteria and other microorganisms that cause infections 

Moral Injury: The emotional impact – often shame and guilt – of not being able to do one’s duty – often because of lack of resources. See online definitions.  
 
On call:  Where a member of staff is available to be called for work, usually outside normal working hours. This can involve answering enquiries over the phone, or physically attending the workplace. It can also sometimes involve sleeping at the workplace to be available to deal with emergencies. 

Perioperative medicine: the clinical care of patients before during and after high-risk surgery. 
 
PPE: personal protective equipment. Basic surgical masks or much better: FFP3 filtering facepiece 

Proning: moving a patient from lying on the back to lying face down, a therapy used to increase the likelihood of survival in patients with Covid. Requires six staff and is hard and dangerous with trachies and lines. Has to be unproned quite often.  

Red flag: Symptoms that indicate a potentially serious disease and warrant prompt investigation and treatment. 

 
“Resus”: resuscitation. Hence resus nurse or officer.   See CPR above.  

Registrar: middle grade doctor between SHO and consultant. 
 
RTA: Road traffic accident.  

SARS-CoV 2: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, so called because the virus is related to the coronavirus that caused SARS in 2003 

Sepsis: a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs.  

Scrubs: the sanitary clothing workers involved in patient care in hospitals. Originally designed for use by surgeons and other operating room personnel, who would put them on when sterilizing themselves, or “scrubbing in”, before surgery, they are now worn by many hospital personnel. Originally only blue now more colours are available.  

SHO: Senior house officer, a junior training doctor 

SOP: Standard Operating Procedure 

Stroke: Caused when there is interruption of the blood supply to the brain, which is often the result of a blood clot in a cerebral (brain) artery (ischaemic stroke). It may also be caused by the rupturing of a blood vessel in or near the brain (haemorrhagic stroke).  

Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) Also known as a “mini-stroke”, this occurs when there is a brief interruption of the blood supply to the brain, causing symptoms similar to those of a stroke. The symptoms typically last less than one hour and are completely resolved within 24 hours. 

Tracheostomy: Breathing tube placed through the front of the neck into the windpipe.”Trachy” 

TPR: Temperature, pulse, respiration hence TPR Chart for each patient.  

Triage: Once a patient is registered at A&E they will be pre-assessed by a nurse or doctor before further actions are taken. 

UTI: Urinary tract infection 

Ventilated: “Vented”  The principal function of a ventilator is to pump or blow oxygen-rich air into the lungs; this is referred to as “oxygenation”. Ventilators also assist in the removal of carbon dioxide from the lungs, and this is referred to as “ventilation”.   Ventilation can be by mask or tracheostomy.  

One basic type of ventilator is the Bag Valve Mask (BVM). The BVM is operated manually by a person squeezing a self-inflating bladder. This is an essential tool for ambulance crews, first responders and critical care units. It is light, compact and easy to use. Mechanical ventilator is what is used on an ICU.  

Three short take home messages from Workshops on Stress /Psychological Health for Judges.

From the CFC talk on Psychological Health for Judges 7 December 2021  

Three take home messages:

 1. The value – the necessity – of seeing the need for public judicial detachment – super controlled, uncomplaining, tough – emotionally cut off, unreal, almost inhuman – and also seeing the cost of that.

And privately to name and acknowledge the reality: firstly, the reality of the objective stress factors; and then to see that there is no emotion called stress. We need to name and acknowledge the reality of the subjective reactions – the emotions: anxiety, frustration, anger, resentment, sadness. Then we have some power and can address what is actually happening to us and do something about it.  

This is the paradox – fully acknowledging the negative has a positive outcome. To name is to de-shame. This is not whinging or collapsing.

Acknowledgement is with others – colleagues, family and friends, counsellor or therapist, and with ourselves privately – possibly by journaling.

2. It’s not self-indulgent or a waste of valuable worktime to look after yourself. It is your duty to look after yourself!   This is the turn-key insight – which unlocks everything else.

And this is becoming the new cultural norm. Duty, perfectionism and even workaholism are ok. Masochism and self-neglect are now being seen as stupid and unnecessary.

If you do care for yourself, you have taken some power – in a situation where the enemy is a general sense of powerlessness. If we really value that step of taking power to look after ourselves, then of itself it significantly, (perhaps disproportionally – value the powerful placebo addition effect) reduces demoralisation and the risk of burnout.  

3. The body mind connection is real and is a powerful potential way to cope with the demands of the job.

Breathe, sigh, yawn, cry.

Move, walk, stretch and bend.

Ensure a steady blood sugar level. Keep hydrated. Care for your eyes.

https://davidjockelson.com/

Workshops on Stress and Judges: 2021

This document is a typed note of the workshop I ran on Tuesday 7 December for judges at Central Family Court, which in turn builds on a workshop I ran on Friday 5 November 2021 for the Association of District Judges. The passages in ordinary type are what I said in the 30 minutes we had. To read them takes about 15 minutes. The passages in italics are what I would have liked to have had time to add – with explanations of some very compressed material and a few links to resources I mention.  To read the whole document takes about 20 minutes.

Maybe I could have headed it: PSYCHOLOGICAL SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR JUDGES

I have created a summary: A one page “Three Take Home Messages” page also on this website. Three short take home messages from Workshops on Stress /Psychological Health for Judges.

Continue reading

The Drama Triangle. A very useful model

This is my version of the Drama Triangle which is a model invented by Stephen Karpman. You can research it online and find lots of articles and diagrams.

I hope this version makes sense. To be honest it makes more and more sense to me, and is more and more useful, the more I work with it – on myself and clients.

This is often put forward in quite a CBT style approach. 

The model is: If we are addressing unwelcome behaviour that is automatic – unconscious in a shallow sense – then becoming aware of it can lead to change. 

My experience is that this can be very effective. It can significantly moderate our behaviour. And that is very worthwhile.

Most people using the model stop there. However if we find the behaviour is not simply habitual but is compulsive, then it is coming from somewhere deeper, somewhere genuinely unconscious. If that is the case I suggest we have to use psychodynamic techniques and uncover the formative experiences that are being acted out in the behaviours. 

I would be interested to hear if this makes sense and is useful to you.

David 

It is really helpful to explore these roles in detail.  It’s not a case that an individual is always one or the other. We can Rescue to the extent we become Victims i.e martyrs.  We can be a Victim and use it to Persecute people around us. And it’s worth noting for those of us who identify mainly with the Rescuer, that being a compulsive Rescuer means we come from a place of our needs and may make us insensitive and unskilful.

The moderate, healthy version with increased awareness can be:                       

It is certainly possible to move to some degree from the unhealthy version to the healthy version by awareness and challenging our habitual behaviour.

However we may find that it goes deeper and in fact the behaviour is not changed much by willpower. We may find the behaviour is really powerful, almost irresistible.  In which case we need to go deeper and try and resolve or at least address the root cause.

My experience and understanding is that the behaviour is the acting out of our own history of having been a victim in childhood – not necessarily of gross abuse or trauma but of a range of adverse childhood experiences which have been ignored, kept secret or normalised and therefore never processed.

Indeed the adverse childhood experience may in fact be so much within the normal range that it is not actually seen as adverse or is minimised: Parents who are in conflict or who may separate. Sibling conflict and bullying. Parents who do not give the necessary attention because of mental or emotional health issue like depre4ssion and anxiety or addictions like alcohol or workaholism.

That discussion is is very challenging because if we have had those experiences, we will tend to think about ourselves either as simply having had a happy childhood with no questions necessary or, if we see the adverse experiences, we can see ourselves as courageous Survivors and it requires extra courage and clarity to see and accept the reality that we were also Victims and we retain that feeling deep within us.

It may be a question of moving from feeling generally angry and aggressive or anxious, depressed and sorry for ourselves, to feeling anger and sorrow for the child that we were and in some senses still are.  And having those feelings does not necessarily mean either a dramatic or noisy cathartic or a blaming experience.

It can mean gradually letting the anger and the sorrow come up; articulate, ventilate; saying the previously unsaid, possibly the unsayable.  We can then in time achieve a calm, matter-of-fact attitude to our histories and then be able to act more in line with the healthy roles described above.

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(Being more radical again, I suggest that the Nuclear Family, which is so valued as being the ideal in our culture is in fact innately unhealthy. The well known and wise saying “It takes a village to raise a child” highlights the healthiness of a child being raised by a wider group, including older children who are siblings or cousins or friends as well as wider range of adults. These are people who can socialise the child; check them, give them boundaries as well as examples to imitate. This idea is explored elsewhere in this website. See “Our culture of permanent adolescence – anger, stress and other addictions.”)

My first webinar 6 May.



This workshop included a lookat the whole concept and experience of “stress“ with this analytical approach: 

The word “stress” very unhelpfully rolls up a demanding event or situation together with the subjective reaction to that. The implication is that certain “stressful” events inevitably cause “stress”.

It is much more helpful to look very carefully and to disentangle three steps in this process:

1. The objective, outside, in-the-world situation of demand, threat or challenge.

We can state clearly and honestly what are the demands, the threats. Simply spelling them out can very often reduce the additional threat element of them being “so bad they cannot be named.” Saying the unsayable is a cornerstone of good therapy work.

2. The resources that we bring to bear: Our skill and training.. Our energy levels. The impact of other stress factors on us. The amount of support that we may have. Our expectations and predisposition that certain things will be difficult to deal with or not. Our personality and initial attitude of confidence or anxiety

Again, honesty about our resources can be helpful – both in saying the unsayable but equally in identifying what is sometimes simple, realistic and practical steps we can take to increase our resources or to reduce the unhelpful additional stress factors. Going a bit deeper, we can note the impact of our early conditioning on our proneness to certain anxiety triggers.

3. The subjective reaction. Essentially anxiety – rising to fear and panic. With a complicating mixture often of resentment, i.e. anger.

Again as regards our emotional responses, by naming what is possibly unspoken or even shameful, we already start to diminish the power of the anxiety and to moderate or channel the anger.

We can also identify and intervene in the anxiety vicious circle which I will explain in more detail in the workshop.

Briefly: a demand can generate anxiety with the powerful hormonal impact of cortisol as well as adrenaline. This physical reaction is also present in the physical responses, the Freeze Reflex that we are hardwired to have in response to threat : breath holding, shallow breathing, physical tension, fearful body language. These then feed back to the mind the message of danger – and therefore lock in the anxiety.  The beginning of a Vicious Circle that is the centre of this discussion. 

It is also manifested in the racing mind, which isuseful inlooking for solutions but often very unhelpful in looking for problems. That is a form of hyper-alertness that exaggerates the threats and generates more anxiety – so an even more powerful vicious circle is created.

We can intervene in that vicious circle at a cognitive level, challenging the thoughts, the exaggerated perception of threat, as in CBT. 

And/or we can intervene at a physical level – changing the breathing and the body language which, by being the freeze reflex, both expresses and reinforces the anxiety state. We will explore simple and practical ways of undoing that in the workshop.

We might notice that unfreezing the body is the essence of full Yoga. And the result can also be a gradual unfreezing of the heart leading to a more mature, content and compassionate person.  Yoga sees that as spiritual progress. We could see it simply as deeper emotional health progress.



Stress and looking after ourselves – a 15 minute read. How to be a Happier, Healthier, more Efficient and Ever Youthful Workaholic!

How to be a Happier, Healthier, more Efficient and Ever Youthful Workaholic!

That is not just a gimmicky title. I am trying to address immediately the suspicion that people may have that stress management or Well-being will involve doing less work. Some judges have kindly suggested just that. Sadly, most of us find that is simply not possible.

So the point about this paper and the workshop is how we can maintain a very high level of work without becoming unhealthy, burning out or becoming cut off from the better things in life – including family and friends.

New Hopes: For last year’s conference of the Association of Lawyers for Children I wrote a paper which was in the pack and it included this sentence: “ just maybe the cultural tide is turning now?” And the change in just the 12 months has been astonishing – there has been a massive increase in awareness and action about stress. More and more people have signed up for yoga. Mindfulness is on the agenda in many places. Well-being has become a universal meme. Conscious Breathing is now highly fashionable.

So this paper and the workshop attempts to draw these threads together and to show how they connect into one evidence-based and quite moderate, practical program that each of us can follow. And in doing so I attempt to make it relevant and palatable to lawyers in particular.

This paper and the associated workshop will mix practical and immediate experiences together with discussion about three main ideas. Because people actually remember experiences far more than words. And ideas, thinking – indeed overthinking – is both a symptom and a cause of stress and anxiety.

So let’s start with an immediate experience to make the whole thing real:

Instant Experience:

So right now, as you read this:

Hold your hand up to your face and breathe onto your palm.  As hot as you can make it. Pretending to steam up a mirror.  Really open the mouth – and the throat.  Do this for three long slow breaths out.  If you start yawning – that’s fine, go with it.

How does that feel? Some people say dizzy. Most people say weirdly relaxed.  I think of it as a magical sweet moment. Instant stress reduction. We will come back to this.

First idea: what stress anxiety does to us and how to counteract it.

The basic point of this note is this: as soon as we become anxious, there are at least three consequences: the first two are in the body’s reaction, which reflects and expresses this:

  1. By holding the breath
  2. By tensing the muscles, altering our body language.

At the same time – 3. Our brains are racing, seeking solutions.

I will try to address all three in just eight pages….

The major point about these body reactions is that it is not just the one-way traffic of the brain sending messages to the body. It is a loop: the body sends messages back to the brain.

The body’s breath holding and muscular tension send powerful negative messages back to the brain. Imagine for us as for an animal it says : “Threats. Danger. Freeze. Because it’s too dangerous or not possible for fight or flight. Be hyper alert, hyper-vigilant, look for the dangers, look ahead, see them before they get to us. Emphasise the negatives, assume the worst, exaggerate the problems.”

Obviously this is a perfect recipe for more anxiety. It is experienced as at least a loss of confidence. Maybe frantic overthinking. Even – dare one admit – Panic?  (Is this by any chance at all familiar to you?)

So we have this vicious circle:

Anxiety  >>  tense breath holding  >>  hyper-alertness >> seeing threats >>  more anxiety and overthinking.

This is all fine in a crisis, a real immediate threat or need to cope with a client or appear in court. The problem lies in the ongoing, long-term state of tension that keeps a person in that state of anxiety for longer than they need to be. Hormonally we are keeping cortisol, the fear hormone, sustained. The logic of the circle is very powerful.

But by the very same logic we have a magic answer: If the logic of the vicious circle is very powerful, this gives us a marvelous opportunity to interrupt that circle and start an equally very powerful ‘benign circle’.

If we can achieve less physical stress symptoms – ie less bodily tension and breath holding – we can achieve less anxious messages being sent to the brain which leads to less hyper-alertness and therefore less anxiety which leading to less tense breath holding etc. We can escape the trap.

So the immediate solution to immediate stress is physical – to do with breath and with physical muscular tensing.  Unobvious point – this is a challenge for those of us totally used to solving external problems with brains and words. Is that true of you?

Next experience: More Breathing

The solution is not deep breathing. It is open throat breathing. Breathing in the right way is not about driving large amounts of air in and out of the lungs. It is about the state of the muscles of the throat.

This is because the actual holding of the breath is not done by chest or lung muscles; it is done by closing the throat. This may sound surprising but it is very easy to check. Right now – as you read this. Breathe in. Hold the breath for a moment and then release the breath sharply and watch which bit of the body is mainly involved. It is the epiglottis and the vocal chords. You may need to do this several times before it is clear. Make a noise and it is more obvious. The chest moves but the control comes from the throat.

The fact that the vocal chords are involved is fairly clear from the fact that in certain stressful situations we speak with a higher pitched voice (which does not exactly assist in sounding like a relaxed, convincing advocate) or even lose our voice entirely.

Now consider the opposite – the moment when the throat is opened. Laughing, crying openly, howling, shouting in a confident way (strong anger), singing for joy. Saying ‘phew’. Sighing. These are all situation of uninhibited emotional expression.

Exercises to try – anytime – now and on the way to court, at court, in court….

  1. Here we go again – Breathe onto your palm. That gives the experience of open throat breathing.
  2. Now breathe very slowly and as silently as possible with the mouth wide open.
  3. Breathe out fully. Then breathe out some more. There is always more to come. Then some more! It is quite surprising – and it can perhaps make us realise how the bottom of the lungs are never fully used. I like to think that I am expelling old stale air that’s been there for weeks! Then hold it there – throat open, lungs empty. Peaceful. Strange.
  4. One you cannot do at court: Experiment with different sounds as you breathe out – A, E, I, O, U, – the classic ‘Om’. Watch how the throat changes with the different noises.
  5. I find the best are: AAAAH (in) then HAAAAA (out). Try that? You can do them silently.

You may like to Google: Breathing – Autonomic nervous system – or look at the fuller version of these notes on the website. Breathing has a major impact on hormonal levels and can very quickly alter our feelings generally and our reaction to objectively stressful or demanding situations.

As soon as you do that hot breath on the hand or any of the other exercises, you can feel the cortisol reduce and the pleasant hormones come thorough. And this can be done at any time – it doesn’t take you away from that urgent work that so needs to be done. In fact you will work far better for doing this.

Next experience: Belly breathing – v – Chest breathing

This is the other aspect of holding back the breath. The five exercises or techniques mentioned above focus on opening the throat – but one aspect of tension is that stressed breathing becomes shallow and confined to the top of the lungs.

Closed throat goes with chest breathing. What is needed is to open the throat and then also breathe with the belly. Try this now: Breathe in – extend the stomach. What is happening is that the diaphragm is drawing down. Breathe out – flatten the stomach. The diaphragm is coming up to expel the air from the bottom of the lungs.

This belly breathing with an open throat sends powerful messages of reassurance to the mind. This is not surprising given the emphasis on breathing techniques in almost every meditation or Yoga tradition. This releases serotonin – the feel good hormone and oxytocin – which triggers sociability and affection. Subjectively it feels lovely and peaceful.

Next experience – Mindfulness. First some information:

Because it is uber-fashionable, some people might just be a bit cynical or dismissive. So, to offer the actual scientific explanation…

The racing mind mentioned above refers to the part of the mind that is highly focused on future planning – (dorsolateral frontal cortex) – and possibly chewing over and regretting the past. Some traditional meditation tries directly to clear the mind, turn down the activity of that centre. But it is very hard to control that “Wild Horse”. It does not seem directly to feed into a calming effect on the limbic system, the deeper, older emotional centres of the brain where anxiety, anger etc live.

Mindfulness attempts to increase the activity of the medial frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible to keeping tabs on the body: “interoception”. (Internal perception if you like.) And that seems to be the best way to calm the limbic system.

So the essence of mindfulness is focusing on the present, the here and now, most obviously the bodily experience – and that really is effective in calming the limbic system and the anxiety.   Strong Awareness reduces Overthinking and Anxiety. If anxiety is about the future, then an intense focus on the present switches off anxiety.  

One of the best forms of mindfulness therefore is a close focus on the self, starting with your breathing. Strong awareness of that displaces the overthinking. Really be aware of the flow of air, how open your throat is, the sound of your breathing, the rise of the belly and chest. Try it again now? Then focus on the rest of the body. How you are sitting, your weight on the seat or the floor. Check through the body carefully.

Other forms of mindfulness recommend you can focus on an object; a flower or candle or a piece of fruit. Touch, smell, taste. There’s no room here for details of lots of techniques – there are plenty online. My advice: Keep it simple. Start with breathing. Let it grow out to the next stage… about the body. And then maybe engage the sensory aspect – and the sensual with music, dance, food etc – really relishing the present experience.

Two minute mindfulness. This is quite practical. I do it on the train as well as at home. Do the breathing as suggested and count the out breaths. And visualise the numbers: One, Two etc. Really focus on them. Maybe zoom in on one letter. The n, the w etc.

Notice how you may lose the thread as the brain rushes off to worry about something else. Start again. And then again. And after a bit you will do ten counted outbreaths.

I time myself doing that – not artificially pausing, just slowing up the breathing. And at the start ten breaths takes about 90 seconds. After a few rounds it takes two minutes. And then more.

Final Experience: Very Simple Practical Yoga – 10 minutes standing postures

Explore the body language of stress because yoga is about working with the whole of the body’s reaction to stress ie anxiety.

“Body language” is a well-worn phrase. We may not notice that it says the body is speaking, expressing something from inside. And for me yoga is not about physical fitness – it is about noticing what the body is trying to say, but often being inhibited –and letting it speak more clearly; going beyond the expression of tension, to undo the Stress Body, the Anxiety Body.

Notice how holding back the breath is not the only physical bodily expression of stress, fear and self–control. We may also draw our shoulders up; go generally rigid and tense in the neck, shoulders, spine, especially the lower back.

It is worthwhile listening to this message: acting this out: deliberately act stressed for a few moments. Hold the breath and do all the physical holdings mentioned above. Then tighten it up even more. Then slowly release it. Do this a few times. We will practice all of these in the workshop. You could do them now reading this.

Really become aware of what is happening. Become aware that this in fact is a body that we hold for hours at a time. And maybe it’s the body that some of us never really come out of?

This can be something you try gradually all day long but it is also good to try and get a hold of the idea and method with a session for a few minutes breathing and stretching.

Yoga classes are great for motivation but a short spell of yoga every day at home might be just as good. Or maybe in fact better. Because, it avoids the possible self-consciousness of a class and rather than following a standard routine set for everyone else in the class, you can do what your body needs – really listening to it and doing as much of each exercise as feels right. So there is a connection here with mindfulness.

Every morning I do the following exercises for just 10 – 15 minutes – or more at weekends:

First I open my mouth wide and feel the challenge to the muscles which normally keep it clamped shut. If you want external authority for this – it’s called the lion pose in Yoga. Mouth wide open, tongue stuck out. I also move the jaw from side to side and break up the brittle tension that is in the joints. Try it now?

Then I move on to the neck. Turning my head from side to side, tipping it sideways each way, head back and especially important – the head forward. Hold that position.

Head angle is really important. Dogs display their feelings, their confidence or fear by the position of their tails. Humans do so by the angle of their heads. Bowed down in surrender or sadness and held up tightly in defiance or anxiety. Try that now?

But any instinct we might have to bow the head in the face of stress is overruled by pride. Or that deeply unhealthy old commend “Chin up!”.

So the head is often carried in a curious tortoise pose. Half bowed, then cocked up. Mixed messages go to the neck muscles so they can go into chronic spasm.   Also in doing so, we unhealthily repress our emotions. (That last sentence goes a bit deeper.. more later.)

Answer: Bow the head to give that impulse its due. Hands behind the head, pushing gently forward – stretching out those neck muscles which have been in spasm. Try it?

Then later you will be able to raise the head in a clearer, more confident way. Look the world in the eye calmly and assertively.

Impulse to bow the head. Resisted “Chin up” > tortoise. Go with Bowing.   The assertive, looking the world in the eye.

The shoulders express a lot of stress:    Try lifting them up even higher round your ears, then dropping them down. Rolling the shoulders and the arms, just like the old PE exercises. Sometimes doing the crawl, swimming stroke. Maybe hear those joints crackle?! Mine do.

Then the back. “You are as young as your spine” The upper spine, twisting, looking behind you. The top of the trunk and then the whole body. The forward bend. Bend the knees to get a good bend. Don’t let hamstrings limit that. Hold it there. Collapsed, surrendering, breathing. Feeling peaceful.

Then the pelvis – maybe a difficult thing to read about because it is sexual. Stress and tension are anti-sex, freezing up. The pelvis is hugely expressive of sexuality. The English are notorious for having ‘frozen pelvises’. So do hula hoop exercises, ‘obscene’ pelvic thrusts and even more embarrassing (for a man?) ‘shaking that ass’ movements. (Twerking Yoga? You saw it here first.)

And all the time breathing. In fact I find the exercises, particularly the pelvic ones, trigger off breathing – strongly. As if the body at least sees the connection between the two practices.

Do give it a go. And then after only a few minutes, it can lead to stopping and practicing mindfulness – sitting down or still standing.

Time for a Second Idea:  As I have said, there is an explosion of interest in wellbeing etc, and we seem to be pushing at an open door on this – but the door keeps on getting stuck!

In my discussions with people:. “Yes your paper looks very interesting and I’m sure I will read it one day“ and six months later they have not. Or, if they have read it and are enthusiastic about it, they admit they are not actually doing anything suggested. So what is happening to motivation?

Now if we can identify that stuckness and reduce it, then we can have much easier progress.

Stuckness – or Resistance.   So let’s address the whole question of resistance but do so in that thrilling, fun way so beloved of cheesy magazines – A Quiz.

I hope that just by making these explicit – “bringing them into consciousness” to use a psychological phrase which is more than a mere cliché – it may help people to free themselves from the restraint that they represent.

So please choose from the following comments and see which resonates with you. You could go through this ticking the ones that do. Measuring your resistance.

“I don’t have time to do anything about stress” _  “I am too busy and stressed doing the work, meeting my targets and looking after others”. _  “You’re going to make me work less and I can’t afford to.” _   “I’m too distracted eg by Fear of Missing Out vital information on line and social media.” _  ”You’re going to make me go to yoga classes and I can’t do those.” _ “So I don’t accept that there is an issue in the first place.”_

One person actually said “I want to keep my head in the sand”._ If I’m not tense, then I am collapsed” _ Others have said “I’ve got to keep running.. If I relax at all I will lose my cutting edge.” Going deeper: “I need to work flat out for self-value. Because I feel guilty if I am not working.” __   “If I’m not useful, then I am useless.”

Linked to this there is an element of stress as status. Through a craving for a sense of public value, workaholic becomes stressaholic  “I don’t have time to do all this” which basically means “I don’t have time and I am too stressed, too busy – i.e much too important. (To counteract that it might be good to have a touch of self-cynicism – I am too self-important?)

Maybe some of us suffer from Perfectionism? That can be harnessed very successfully but how healthy is it to feel never good enough? An imposter? That people are watching and judging all the time? Feeling anxiety, fear and dread sometimes. I offer clients the acronyms FOBIT – Fear of Being in Trouble. And FOBAF – Fear of Being a Failure. They seem to resonate for many of them.   Do they for you? If so, to deal with that, we’d be going a bit deeper. See the end of this note.

Isolated? Do we believe we are the only ones feeling this? If so – does it feel best to keep up the façade of being on top of things, coping?   Superman or Superwoman? “Don’t even ask questions about stress. That would be a sign of weakness.”

So – maybe we come to a very simple conclusion – “keep up the breathless rush!“

So you will see why I have emphasised the whole issue of breathing.

Maybe it helps to realise that things like breathing in a healthier way does not take any more time than breathing in an unhealthy way. That a healthier body posture does not use up time or require special gym kit. Even the very simple exercises that I offer take five or 10 minutes time and they are totally not compulsory anyway.

And if one resisting thought is: “I don’t want to be told what to do by someone who probably thinks they are a perfect Guru figure“. Then the answer is “I’ve been a perfectly ordinary child care solicitor for 30+ years (as well as a psychotherapist for 15) who is plagued by almost all the stress problems raised in this paper but who has managed to survive using the techniques which are offered here and which I have found useful. A fellow sufferer and fellow survivor.”

Third Idea – “Stress” is a really confused and unhelpful word.

Now – if we think carefully about “Stress”, we can see it is a very confused and unhelpful word and it is really helpful to clarify it:

“Stress” is used both to refer to the objectively challenging situation and also to the subjective impact in the individual.  They are different. Rolling them in together gives the very unhelpful message that certain challenges are inevitably “stressful”.

But an objective challenge which causes subjective stress or anxiety in one person may be just exhilarating to another person.   For example public speaking: Some of us love it; for some of us, it is hugely stressful. The same can be said about mountaineering, horror movies or looking after a demanding baby!

So there are two approaches to the issue and both are very necessary:

Firstly we can focus on objectively demanding  (potentially stressful) situations or events and try to moderate those.

This is obviously extremely important and includes the aspects of work that are demanding. In our world: the pressure to meet court deadlines, to meet billing targets, fear of making mistakes, IT hassles – as well as the often distressing or traumatic content of our work. We may underestimate this from sheer familiarity. At the same time, we may have private demands from health, career and money worries or family issues.

They would be the subject of another debate at another time – and in fact they should be the subject of discussions within each organisation with a survey of people’s experiences of their challenges and what can be done to ameliorate at least the work based demands.

Secondly, the other approach to stress is to focus on the impact on the individual and see what can be done to help each of us deal with those demands.

That has been the subject of this note. And it requires us to think in this different way and perhaps a more embarrassingly honest way – to talk not just about stress but about what that actually means – our feelings, our anxieties – even our fear – and how we can be more honest, skilful and healthy.

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-I have put a list of the little mini-yoga routine on one sheet at the end of this note. Some clients tell me they print this out and put it up on the fridge door etc to encourage themselves.

Going a bit deeper: You may find there also articles in which I try and understand why so many of us do experience this workaholic, stressaholic compulsions and the Fear of Being in Trouble – or Being a Failure… The extent to which individually we may be reacting to High Functioning Adverse Childhood Experiences and why as a society we seem to be stuck in an enduring, anxious, exaggerated Adolescence: “The Culture of Permanent Adolescence”.  And how the anxious body is a self-repressing body which inhibits the healing we all need. So the techniques I suggest for undoing the anxiety body can open up emotional healing. Deeper waters indeed.

You may also like to look at the excellent book – The Body Keeps the Score by Van de Kolk for the science behind some of this.

I welcome feedback on these notes and your experiences of using the techniques. davidjockelson@hotmail.com

David Jockelson MBACP Accred.

Action: Breathing Comment: Because in stress…
Open throat Yawn, steam up a mirror. We close our throats to hold our breath. Squeaky voice
Breath from belly Stick it out. Pull it in. We only use top of lungs
Really empty lungs Breathe out. Hah. Then more. Hahhhhh We hold back
Hold it there Still small point of calm We are usually in a hurry
10 times Focus We are often distracted
Then use top of lungs Shoulder back. Proud. We are too frightened to
Put them all together New habit We have damaging habits
Then explore powerful body language
Hang head Surrender We are too proud to do so
Tilt, rotate head Loosen up, stretch We are tight and stiff
Open mouth wide Yoga Lion face We are tight lipped, controlled
Loosen, flex jaw Loosen up, wiggle We clench our teeth
Pull faces Puzzled, angry etc We overcontrol our faces
Raise then lower shoulders Exaggerate. Fast then slow We both display and suppress our fear in our shoulders
Rotate shoulders Windmill, swim, punch Ditto. And anger
Twist trunk Look behind you We are rigid
Touch the ground With bent knees and then straight We get very bad lower back problems
Pelvis Dirty dancing – Pelvic  thrusts, shake that ass We are too embarrassed about sexual display
Do it slow and long: First for 5 minutes, later for 10 minutes.

Keep breathing all the time.

I.e. put the two things together: breathing and movement.

Think of Nelson Mandela who did heavy exercise every day.

Note how hard to keep motivation.

Left brain snobbery.

Use a clock.

In stress we produce hormones and our bodies express emotions/impulses: Freeze, Fight, Flight, Flirt, Surrender. But we are ashamed and suppress them. We lock the emotions/impulses in. Our bodies then feed back stress to our minds.

This is a vicious circle. It can be reversed and made into a virtuous circle: Release stress. Clean up the blood.

New messages to the mind. Quick, free, safe anti-anxiety treatment.

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