health, medicine

Stress Relief: The Origins of Stress Research

Hans Selye is considered the first researcher who was able to assign a meaning to a syndrome he discovered which was destroying productivity in business and was causing burnout in many people.  Selye complained several times that if his knowledge of English had been more precise, he would have gone down in history as the father of the “strain” concept.

Although Selye was fluent in at least eight languages, including English, and could converse in another half dozen, his choice of “stress” to describe the non-specific response syndrome he discovered, was unfortunate. He had used “stress” in his initial letter to the Editor of Nature in 1936, who suggested that it be deleted since this implied nervous strain and substituted alarm reaction. He was also unaware that stress had been used for centuries in physics to explain elasticity, the property of a material that allows it to resume its original size and shape after having been compressed or stretched by an external force. As expressed in Hooke’s Law of 1658, the magnitude of an external force, or stress, produces a proportional amount of deformation, or strain, in a malleable metal.

This created considerable confusion when his research had to be translated into foreign languages. There was no suitable word or phrase that could convey what he meant, since he was really describing strain. In 1946, when he was asked to give an address at the prestigious Collège de France, where Bernard and Pasteur had been friendly rivals, the academicians responsible for maintaining the purity of the French language struggled with this problem for several days, and subsequently decided that a new word would have to be created. Apparently, the male chauvinists prevailed, and le stress was born, quickly followed by el stress, il stress, lo stress, der stress in other European languages, and similar neologisms in Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic. Stress is one of the very few words that are preserved in English in languages that do not use the Roman alphabet. Selye was fond of sending colleagues and friends’ cards containing his advice on how to conduct their professional and personal lives, as illustrated below: 

 S tress management: How do you react during stressful situations?  No wonder you’re stressed. You’re doing more with fewer resources every day at work, and deadlines lurk around every corner. When you get home, you take out your frustrations on your family. Weekends are booked solid with household chores and errands. It’s been months since you spent an evening alone with your partner.  There are very few days off where you can get away from the stressors.  So how do you handle it? Understanding how you currently respond to stress — for better or worse — is the foundation for successful future stress management.

Evaluating how you deal with stress is the first step in effective stress management. Look for these behavior patterns.  Reactions to stress vary.

Some people seem to take everything in stride. Their naturally laid-back attitudes shine through in every …

health, medicine

The Power of Laughter

When’s the last time you had a good laugh? Take a moment to relive the good feelings that come with real laughter.

We pay money to laugh. At the movies and a comedy clubs. We stay up to catch the jokes on late night talk shows. We delight in finding something funny in our lives to laugh at. When we laugh, we get pleasure. What a joy! What a blessing!

Certainly there are times when life presents major challenges when we need to act clearly, but behaving responsibly and efficiently doesn’t preclude humor and light-heartedness. In fact, a flexible, fluid, upbeat approach and attitude is crucial to being effective and creative in our lives.

Laughter, play, spontaneity and improvisation are integral aspects of being human, healthy, happy—and successful. Tribal peoples laugh, sing, chant, drum, dance and act out stories as basic ways to relate socially, to make individual and collective decisions, and to achieve their goals in daily life.

Inspiration and breakthrough are often born from the spirit of playfulness and exuberance. A spontaneous wink, a funny smile, a comic gesture can facilitate change and harmony in the most blocked situation. Through conscious merriment our spirit can emerge and work its magic.

Take a Tip from the Kid In You

Preschool children laugh an average of 400 times a day. The typical adult only laughs 17 times per day. Perhaps it’s time to return to the power of living life through the wonderment of childlike adventure, innocence, lightheartedness, humor and irreverence.

Ancient Roots

Throughout history, spiritual traditions in China, Japan and India have revered the sacred strength of laughter. Lao-Tzu is always pictured smiling. Samurai are always laughing. “Laughter Yoga” was a practice of the ancient rishis of India over 5,000 years ago. Dr. Madan Kataria of Mumbai India started a “Laugher Yoga Club” a few years ago, and now there are thousands of laughter yoga clubs across the world. The club members get together just to enjoy a deep chuckle—and reap the many benefits of mirth.

Hawaiian Secret of Laughter

The ancient Hawaiians assert there are two chemical reactions within the human body that can accomplish Reconnection with Source Oneness. The first is the “sacred tear” beneath our sadness and hopelessness. Beneath that tear lies the second chemical reaction, said to be more powerful than all the healing agents known to humankind. It comes “out of the blue” with the power of a jackhammer, shattering the seriousness of the entire human estate. A power instantly freeing and balancing to all the body’s chemistry. This is the power of laughter. When it comes in this manner, it comes through the “na’au” (gut level) and will pierce the hopelessness of any situation or attitude. It is not a power to be taken lightly, for the ancient Hawaiians say it holds the chemistry of immortality and will instantly heal any terminal disease. It’s said to be the “laughter of God” which shatters the ridiculousness of hopelessness.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

A …