Natick Soldier Systems Center gets a chance to become stress free
Facilitator Pamela Santin, senior wellness consultant with Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, instructs participants to tighten their biceps during a progressive muscle relaxation exercise May 23 at Natick Soldier Systems Center.

NATICK, Mass. (May 28, 2013) -- Seventy-five percent of American workers report that their jobs are extremely stressful. About one million people call in sick every day because of stress-related issues.

Stress is the mental, emotional, and physical response that we have to anything that is new, threatening, frightening, or exciting.

"A lot of us have an idea that stress is a negative thing," said Pamela Santin, senior wellness consultant with Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program. "It's not; stress is a neutral thing. It's not good or bad. It's how we choose to interpret that neutral event that decides if it's positive or negative."

The energetic and quite comedic one-hour program focused on supplying the tools needed to identify stress and develop healthy and effective strategies for managing stressful situations.

"Stress is a fact of life," said Santin, "but it doesn't have to be a way of life."

Chronic stress also increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers, Santin said.

"Control what you have control of … your own behavior, and let everything else go," said Santin.

The program paid close attention to the mind-body connection.

"Your body picks the weakest link in your system," said Santin, "and it pounds away until you listen; we are so bad at listening.

"Your body is doing you a favor; it is telling you that something is wrong. We respond by taking (medicine), ignoring it, going for a massage, calling in for a personal day … instead of the one thing that actually might work: learning to relax."

Santin also said relaxation is in all of us; we just need to allow it to happen.

Meditation, exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are some ways to deal with stress.

"Meditation focuses our mind right here on the present," Santin said. "When you exercise regularly, your brain releases endorphins that elevate your mood, and it is a fantastic way to manage stress."

Most people may be familiar with guided imagery as a way of stress management. The most popular type of guided imagery would be listening to audio tracks of birds chirping in a meadow or waves crashing against a shore.

Toward the end of the program, participants had a chance to practice progressive muscle relaxation.

"Get into a nice comfortable position, close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing," Santin instructed. "Slow, deep inhalations … gentle exhalations."

For about 10 minutes, participants were instructed to tighten certain muscle groups for a short period of time and then release them, all while observing the sensation they felt when letting go.

With classes such as this, the goal is for everyone to be stress free in no time.

Page last updated Tue May 28th, 2013 at 08:27