“State of the art ancient wisdom:” Modern stress management training includes health protocols that date back to the time of Hippocrates, ancient teachings of Indian Yoga and Chinese internal martial arts, and the holistic healing protocols of a variety of historical spiritual disciplines. Western stress management approaches include biofeedback, autogenics, cognitive and behavioral psychology, and existential counseling, to name a few.
This training can be used to support healing of a variety of mental and physical disorders related to stress. Stress management is quite inexpensive. Forecast the cost of stress over a lifetime. Think of all the physical symptoms and illnesses, loss of opportunities, financial burdens, relationship strains, and time and resources wasted because of anxiety, fear and anger. What you learn in Dr. Allen’s stress management programs can last a lifetime if practiced and incorporated into daily life. Stress management is about learning a whole new way of life, and harmonizing with the principles of nature.
Many additional benefits may be obtained indirectly as a result of stress management as a way of life, including general self-improvement, reduced anger, increased confidence and social poise, improvement in relationships, and performance enhancement. Stress is the disease whose cure can change your life. What the mind can create, the mind can often diminish. Successful stress management training requires dedicated practice, an understanding of “passive skills training,” and faith and motivation to get well. Skills will be tailored toward your needs, and based on your particular training program, personal aspirations, and treatment goals.
Treatment Strategies Offered
Stress profile / Clinical Interview: In the initial session, a stress profile is obtained along with an extensive clinical interview. This marks the first assessment to identify your unique physiological stress-response baseline and profile through a biofeedback stress test, and to target specific issues and behaviors relating to the presenting problem. A medical history may be discussed, and a medical check-up by a physician may be suggested if there are medical issues in need of attention. More extensive interviewing can help identify past traumas and childhood challenges that may have impact on current emotions, behaviors and symptoms. At the conclusion of the session, an intervention and healing plan tailored to your healing needs will be discussed.
Psychological Testing: Psychological testing may be provided to explore relevant emotional issues, developmental milestones and critical events, lifestyle behaviors, symptoms, deeper fears, maladaptive defenses, personality and relationship style, cognitive functioning, and psychosocial concerns relating to stress and stress-related illness. Psychological testing can help reveal deeper anxieties and issues that underlie maladaptive behavior and stress-related symptoms, and the stress “triggers” that initiate the onset of distressing symptoms. Most importantly, psychological testing can identify strengths and coping skills to support personal growth, healing, and successful stress management.
Biofeedback Training: A computer facilitated health training program targeted at increasing self-awareness and self-regulation of maladaptive thought processes and behaviors that have influence in a variety of anxiety and psychosomatic disorders. Biofeedback allows one to observe his or her immediate physiological reactivity, evidenced by changes in palm sweat (anxiety), finger temperature (blood circulation to extremities), heart rate variability (synchronizing heart rate with proper breathing), EMG muscle activity (muscle tension), respiration rate and style of breathing, and EEG (brain wave activity). Through self-observation and awareness, biofeedback helps us to explore and shed light on what was previously unknown – the very subtleties of a stress response and an uptight body. The goal is to attune to the body and thoughts, master the strategies of self-control and self-regulation, generalize the skills to daily life, and rediscover your ability to relax and be poised.
Breathing Training: The body functions optimally with proper regulated breathing. Faulty breathing patterns can influence a stress response, and as habitual behavior, can contribute to bodily disharmony and a variety of psychosomatic symptoms. There are a variety of different breathing strategies for achieving different purposes, including relaxation, anxiety reduction, increased energy and vitality, helping heal and strengthen inner organs, working with Chi energy, burning calories, and enhancing athletic effectiveness. Learning how to breathe properly as a way of life can yield tremendous benefits, not to mention good health, a happy body, increased mental fitness, and a youthful zest. Proper breathing accelerates the healing process.
Heart Rate Variability Training: The heart muscle is a highly efficient pump to supply blood to the entire body on a regular basis. In a healthy beating heart, breathing must synchronize with heart rate. The vagus nerve regulates the body’s stress and relaxation response. Upon exhale, there should be rising parasympathetic activity (relaxation / recovery), and upon inhale, increased sympathetic activity (stimulation). The average heart rate per minute should be within a healthy range, and balanced with breathing. A chronic or over-stimulated heart rate can result in panic attacks, anxiety disorders, irregular heart rhythms, psychosomatic illnesses, and an unhealthy body. Heart rate variability training offers biofeedback to observe the subtleties of breathing style, heart rate, and the level of synchronicity of both during rest and activity. Training revives the system toward healthy homeostasis, which has an effect on reducing anxiety and bodily disharmony. Additional behavioral strategies for maintaining good heart health are available.
Autogenics – Meditation – Deep Relaxation Training: We need mental and physical rest and renewed vitality on a daily basis to function optimally and effectively. People throughout history have meditated on a regular basis for health improvement and deeper wisdom. There are many ways to meditate, with the best being the system that satisfies you and fits into your lifestyle. Western meditation, called “autogenic training,” was developed in Europe, and utilizes direct relaxation suggestions rather than ancient chanting strategies. For example, phrases that can be easily identified in a metaphorical sense and felt kinesthetically are repeated while relaxed. The phrases are targeted toward relaxing each body part and especially warming the hands and feet. The warmth to extremities results from increased flow of warm blood, as opposed to less blood flow leaving cooler extremities. Scientific research demonstrates that warming the extremities correlates with a physiological relaxation response. There is also scientific evidence that temperature biofeedback, with the goal of training hand and feet warming skills may be used to reduce the onset of a migraine headache. Examples of various autogenic phrases include: “My forehead feels relaxed and smooth,” “My hands and arms are warm and heavy,” “My feet feel warm and heavy,” and “My back muscles feel relaxed and pliable.”
Temperature and GSR biofeedback offer a look into two major physiological responses resulting from stress – cold (constricted blood vessels to the extremities) and clammy (wet) hands. By observing your biological feedback as affected by thoughts, images, and behavior, you can learn to control physiology and reduce stress. Biofeedback observes all ranges of a stress response, from the very subtle to the extreme.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training: When muscles tense, they fire electrical impulses. Muscle activity produces lactic acid and other bi-products of metabolism, which are flushed out through the system with normal physical activity. When muscles are overstressed from a trauma, continued anxious tension, or maladaptive postures and lifestyle behaviors, lactic acid can remain trapped in the affected muscles. Moreover, muscle tension can become chronic as muscles “turn-on,” yet fail to recover back to complete relaxation. Ultimately, trigger points (literal knots in muscle fibers) and chronic muscle spasms can develop, and poor blood flow to the area can result. Too much activity in the somatic nervous system (skeletal muscles and peripheral nerves) can contribute to anxiety, tension, insomnia, among other manifestations of a hyper-aroused nervous system.
EMG biofeedback allows clients to observe their own muscle reactivity, from the most faint muscle activity to full-blown muscle spasms, and to locate the muscle areas causing the problem. Progressive muscle relaxation is a highly effective technique for retraining the muscles to relax, flushing lactic acid out of the stressed muscles, and resuming normal integrity between the muscle groups. This is also a direct way to lower a threat response – by relaxing skeletal muscles. In addition, proper exercise, physical therapy, movement therapies, bioenergetics, massage, ergonomics, proper posture and economy of movement, yoga and a healthy diet are most effective ways to help revive the body’s healing power, and restore the integrity of the muscular system. Progressive muscle relaxation exercises focus on tensing and relaxing each muscle group with awareness, and through a series of tense/relax exercises, retraining the muscles to relax and release tension. This can help restore calibration, which is an individual’s ability to feel into the somatic nervous system and know how tense or relaxed any muscle (or muscle group) is at any moment. Muscle tension can contribute to a variety of disorders, including tension headaches, neck and back pain, TMJ, neck muscle spasms, tight chest, and bruxism (teeth grinding).
Stress-Resilience Training: Learning stress management can be fun and empowering, but is of little use if it fails to generalize skills outside of the therapist’s office and in daily life. Anxiety and stress reactivity can be healthy (eustress) if the situation calls for it. After all, who can sleep before a vacation, or take a test successfully without some motivational stress? On the flip side, chronic, maladaptive stress feels lousy and is unhealthy! Stress resilience training is focused and strategic, targeted for enhancing self-awareness, self-mastery and poise, and cultivating strong mental spirit and hardiness within. This hardiness can be applied to upcoming stressful situations.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: We were never provided a manual on how to think through challenges and create an optimal state of mental health and freedom from internal conflict. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a mental healing approach that examines how self-limiting mental processes, maladaptive emotional habits, and mistaken beliefs and convictions cause or exacerbate stress-related symptoms. It identifies the “hook,” those habitual and often mistaken ideas that trigger unpleasant emotions, and maladaptive defenses and behaviors. CBT increases self-awareness of outdated and self-destructive beliefs, and provides “mental biofeedback.” Various cognitive strategies and behavioral homework exercises facilitate the healing process. Thoughts have power to create and to take away stress.
Clinical Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis Training: Anxiety problems and psychosomatic illnesses are often caused or exacerbated by underlying psychological stress. The wisdom of the body and subconscious mind speak the real fears and concerns, while the conscious mind is attuned to the problems only on a superficial level. A great amount of healing work can be achieved through hypnosis. Exploration of initial trauma or onset of symptoms can often help identify the cause of the stress and psychic defenses used. The goal of hypnosis is to help change the mental idea causing the problems through mental reframing of beliefs and positive imagery. Healthy changes in mind may be achieved through direct or metaphorical suggestions, and can yield positive physical healing effects as well. Clients may be trained to use self-hypnosis.
Psychotherapy: Through extensive exploration and a mutual therapeutic alliance between therapist and client, deeper issues surface and can be re-processed in a healthy manner. This therapy requires a greater length of time than CBT, as deeper issues are not always easily revealed, but protected by the psychic walls of defense. Psychotherapy helps to shed light on the anxiety package (false or maladaptive beliefs, fears, psychic defenses, energy blocks, and over-stimulated body). Healing results through helping a client process through critical issues, improve relationship dynamics, shape a healthier mental outlook, and release maladaptive ideas.
Existential Counseling: Collectively, all humans endure the frailties of life and share in the deeper human anguishes of loss, self- worth issues, parents divorce, peer pressure, death, illness, aging, misused freedom, aloneness, and even just the pains and adjustments of transitioning through the lifespan. Existential counseling (challenges of “exist” “stance”) help clients heal and evolve through life transitions, supports grieving through a loss, and seeks to enhance a client’s awareness of purpose and renewal of spirit.
Dream Analysis and Exploration of the Subconscious Mind: A rich world of self-knowledge and deeper understanding of emotions and purpose can be explored through recording and analyzing dreams. Certain skills enable us to capture and record information (content, theme, quality, color) experienced in dreams to analyze and interpret. Dreams are the gateway to the subconscious mind, and can be our best guides of what we need.
Pain Management: Specific mental and behavioral strategies targeted to reduce pain, support healing, and increase self-control over certain physiological and mental factors which cause or contribute to pain. Common strategies begin with a pain interview and assessment of baseline pain, followed by a treatment program that carefully monitors progress. Strategies may include hypnotherapy and guided imagery, psycho-educational training about pain and health, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy to restore good habits, sleep retraining, coping and problem-solving skills training, biofeedback and self-regulation training, and mental-emotional processing of past traumatic memories associated with pain and anxiety.
Health Education and Self-Study: Knowledge is power! Learn about the human body, the neurology of the brain and nervous systems, and the psychology of stress. Become a stress-management expert, and explore the healing arts. Learn pertinent scientific information related to your presenting problem and educate yourself to get well. In addition, biblio-therapy supports reading healthy books to promote healing and personal growth.
Treating Mood Disorders: Similar to anxiety, moods fluctuate and require self-regulation. The problem is that when we are moody, we see through “moody filters.” Mood disorders are very biological, and depression is often felt painfully in both mind and body. Treatment may require creating a support network, ruling out or eliminating physical factors causing or exacerbating the mood disorder (e.g., low thyroid, poor sleep, etc.), medication, psychotherapy, a wellness lifestyle, as well as a variety of other strategies used in treating stress disorders. For seasonal affective disorder or “Winter Blues,” a light box, which mimics natural sunlight in the quality of lighting can be used to help restore natural hormonal balance and sleep rhythms which may be related to the depression. Research supports cognitive-behavioral therapy as a highly effective treatment for depression.
Assertiveness Training: Tremendous psychic tension can occur from withholding feelings and resentments, and reacting with guilt, shame, repression, hostility, or frustration. Feelings need to be expressed so that we may free ourselves of internal conflict. Posture needs to be tall and assured. Through assertiveness training, skills can be learned to enhance social effectiveness, awareness and expression of feelings, power in relationships, and confidence.
Lifestyle Counseling: Good health may be achieved through a holistic health protocol that encourages proper diet and fluids, good breathing and postural habits, excellent sleep hygiene, regular exercise for strength and resilience, an encouraging and supportive social life, outdoor activity on a regular basis, and positive thinking. Lifestyle counseling offers education, awareness, and support for making transitions. A nutritionist may be recommended for assessing diet and helping clients to improve eating habits and nutritional requirements.
Workplace Health Counseling: The workplace is often filled with many hazards beyond simple stress and burnout. The modern workplace also has its challenges, such as long hours on the computer, artificial lighting, dry air with no circulation from the outside, among other factors, which can lead to a multitude of stress-related symptoms. Manual labor can also be challenging to the body, as improper use of the body or long periods of demands on the bodily system accelerate the aging process. The stress management program demonstrates a variety of strategies for staying healthy and fit, and overcoming challenges in today’s workplace environment.
Job Stress Management: Job burnout is most often a result of feeling a lack of control over a job situation, and can lead to uncertainty, frustration, anxiety, lack of motivation, and family problems. Its symptoms can range from simple frustration and guilt to mental and physical symptoms leading to psychosomatic illness. It is a significant problem in today’s fast-paced economy, where more challenging work is expected in less time. Stress management in this context is focused toward increasing one’s sense of control in the workplace. The program begins with an assessment of symptoms and sources of job stress, and a treatment program is designed to help clients cope more effectively in stressful situations at work. Motivational coaching, biofeedback, stress management, and healing strategies are available to empower clients to be more resilient to stress, and career coaching is the next step for clients who decide to change careers or seek new employment.
Treating Panic Attacks: Panic attacks are a normal, but intense anxiety response, gone awry. What the body uses to handle extreme life threats (e.g., jumping off the road to avoid being hit by a car, or running from a wild animal) is an intense anxiety response. In a panic attack, the response may occur without any actual awareness of a perceived threat, which tends to frighten the person who experiences it. Stress management coaching and biofeedback can be an effective way to learn how to handle a panic attack without the mental distress that typically follows the attack, as well as to train the mind and body to diminish the likelihood of future panic attacks.
Heart Health Program: A wellness program which coaches stress management training and lifestyle counseling for a healthy cardiovascular system. This programs is preventive as well as rehabilitative, and is available anyone, including clients who have suffered from any type of cardiovascular diseases or who have had surgery for such conditions.
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