THE SEVEN STEPS
BOOKS & ARTICLES
STRESS, BURN-OUT AND REGENERATION
2001 © Copyright Han M. Stiekema,
Stress is a problem. Whether it is the increasing absence through illness, the hordes of people seeking psychological/psychiatric help, the yearly increase in turnovers of tranquilizers and psycho-drugs, children's hyperactivity, the alarming increase in stress, depression and burn-out patients, loneliness or the fear for the future, it is becoming clear that generally there is less answer to the increasing pressures from within and without.
Many problems are complicated. Hence, it isn't simple (and not possible) to just hand a few solutions. What we do can do is to give you a rough sketch of stress: 'what is it?'; 'how does it manifest itself?'; "what can you do about it?'; to try to indicate what the causes are and possibly formulating some ways or methods, which could bring adequate relief for a sufficient number of people.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Like common language already indicates stress is a state of severe strain. It has nothing to do with tension as such. This is mostly healthy and part of (the challenge) of life. It is reflected in the dynamics of the autonomous nervous system, in which (simplified) the sympaticotonus expresses activity while the vagotonus is responsible for relaxation. Normally there is a dynamic balance between the two.
Life is full of stimulants of all kinds: challenge, pleasure, struggle, anxiety, tension, Eros, insecurities and pain. How these incentives are going to be received and processed depends on our response (consciousness, psychological, nervous, hormonal) to them. Mostly our first answer to a stimulant is that of activity, excitement and reaction. If we are healthy this will be continuously alternating with relaxation. In case of stress the relationship between the kind and the power of the stimulant and our response to it is out of balance though. Too often the stimulant is too massive and/or our response inadequate or too weak. The result is chronic overstimulation, strain, stress and finally a burn-out.
CAUSES OF STRESS
* Social stress
"Married men live longer" was the conclusion of a research. Consequently life in a community is healthier to man. Conversely the extreme individualism of today - everyone on his/her own and all against all - is an often imperceptible but dominating stress factor. Working pressure together with our ability to cope with it is often decisive. Low motivation, disturbed relationships within the organization and too high time and work pressure - related to work satisfaction, the performance, psychological and physical health - may put too much strain on somebody with stress as a result. Which is expressed by an increasing absence through illness. The alarming figures speak a clear language here.
* Psychological stress
In life nobody is without damage. From the very first beginning (pregnancy, birth and the first years) we are exposed to sometimes deep psychological traumas. It then depends on our response if these traumas can become processed and integrated. Because of our helplessness and dependency this may not be always the case. Hence, as an adult we are still very often confronted with our pain, anxiety, insecurity, anger and self-pity. It (again) depends on our response - or the lack of it - if this eventually turns into chronic strain and stress.
* Relational stress
In case of insufficient self-knowledge we may project our psychological problems in somebody else. What we don't want to see of ourselves (too painful, too frightening), we then impute to others, preferably someone who is most near to us. For instance, if assertiveness is difficult to you (rather than working on it yourself) it will be easily expressed as criticism towards your environment: "you're quite egoistic aren't you!" Unsolved inner conflicts thus lead all too often to complicated relational problems, which may run into true marathon sessions.
* Physical stress
These causes are often underestimated. Yet its presence is overwhelming, especially because of the worsening environmental situation, the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle, together with the effects of symptomatic treatments in regular medicine. For instance think of the multi-chemical sensitivity/hyperactivity of many of our children. The causes - chemical additives in our food - are well-known. What is true here also counts for countless other chemicals which find their way to our bodies through food, air and water. Many psychological problems are directly related to nutrition, the (over)use of stimulants, too less drinking, acidification of our metabolism, digestion problems with self-poisoning, immune-deficiencies (for instance because of lack of vitamins, minerals, trace-elements plus the suppression of fever and minor infectious diseases through aspirin and antibiotics), candida (fungus growth in intestine and tissues) and the presence of one or more foci (chronic symptomless inflammations), amalgam.
* Existential stress
This is related to our culture and education. Hence, everybody is involved in it. The common factor is the overemphasis on intellectual training. The consequence is loss of contact with our body (and through that with our immediate surroundings), our creativity, our intuition, our hidden emotions and our deeper Self. We are constantly "in our heads" and hence locked up in our own narrow little world, cut off of ourselves and everything around us. We let ourselves be led by everything that comes up: thoughts, emotions and desires. The latter are stronger than us, without us being aware of it. Constantly being pulled out of your center means you're cut off from your twofold Origin - the true Self and the body - in such a way, that the energy balance is permanently dipping to the negative side. This loss of contact inevitably leads to anxiety, boredom, selfishness, fatigue and loneliness. That's why being in the head (work and time pressure!) sooner or later will be leading to stress and burn-out.
The problem with working on the computer is, that above mentioned suction power is intensified "a hundred times". The screen has a far stronger energetic charge than your own thoughts, hence you're constantly pulled out of your center. It often goes in stages. In the first stage there is the excitement of new information, the new possibilities and the corresponding results. The psychological incentive has a positive outcome. Depending on your psychological/physical constitution (will power, vitality) this stage has a different duration. Because of your "euphoria" you are not aware of the presence of a permanent "energy leak". This remains an undercurrent until - most often through other causes like an unhealthy lifestyle, too little sleep, a flu - "suddenly" a change to the negative takes place. The sucking power of the machine proves to be more powerful than your possibility "to stay with yourself".
Additionally, other electro-stress factors may play a major role, like the use of cellular e.g. the effect of the GSM or UMTS-net. The blanket of electromagnetic high frequency radiation, together with its fast pulsing has an unprecedented harmful effect on our entire bodymind. Scientific research has shown, that e.g. non-physiological brain waves (EEG) occur, shifts in calcium concentrations in the brain, damage of the blood-brain barrier with toxic proteins entering the brain, depolarization of the brain with stress, inner unrest, impairment of concentration, learning and memory functions, burn-out, dementia and Alzheimer, acute heart failure, stroke, leukemia (f.i. in children), cancer and countless other (chronic) disorders. See also: www.the-great-learning.com, chapter "Spirituality & Electro-stress".
THE DYNAMICS OF STRESS
Phase 1: Energy
In this phase stimulants are being perceived and experienced as challenges. Your purpose is clear and you go for it. You are very lucky with your family and the daily work is pleasant. It doesn't cost you too much effort to raise your children. You are saving time and energy for extra activities. If a friend asks for help you give it without further deliberation.You consider yourself lucky that life smiles on you. Your physical condition is excellent. It corresponds with an optimal balance between yin and yang, between relaxation and strain, between vagotonus and sympaticotonus. You are the last one who would believe, that it could turn out quite differently though.
Phase 2. Fatigue
Very gradually your energy becomes less and less though. However, this fact is not being acknowledged. Thus you just go on as usual, hoping that it will turn for the better. In fact it does go more and more down the hill. You remain tired, your level of energy permanently on a low flame, running into chronic listlessness, fatigue, inner emptiness, depression and sleeplessness. A general weakness, a permanent fixation on a low energy level is the result. Physically it is recognized by a narrowing of the margin between vagotonus and sympaticotonus, e.g. the loss of dynamics and vitality. Regeneration to your previous levels proves to be increasingly difficult e.g. impossible.
Phase 3: Burn-out
In this stage energy rapidly goes down. Your ability of responding to stimulants becomes less than minimal, your stamina are all gone. You are just tired, tired, unexplainably tired. You are not able to do anything whatsoever anymore, you are worn out. There are hardly any special symptoms, doctors cannot find anything. Nobody understands it, because you are not able to explain it. Your colleagues consider you to be a poser. Staying home without "being sick" is not accepted by a number of them. You feel you are thrown upon yourself and alone, which is only worsening the situation. Your thinking, your feelings, your body, the attention for your surroundings they all are becoming increasingly numb. You are living in a permanent depression. Medically speaking there is a block of your autonomous nervous system and an inability to respond to stimulants.There is a decreased bio-potential of certain cells and tissues. The meridians "are not flowing anymore". Your brain functions (EEG) may show some irregularities. The stress hormone system has completely exhausted itself, in such a way that no any therapy helps. On hearsay you know that this could last months to years.
The symptoms of stress are multiple. They can be subdivided in several groups. Just like other classifications they provide more insight and understanding, on the other hand giving only a partial impression of the underlying reality. They are useful indicators for choosing the right treatment. Apart from fatigue and exhaustion as key symptoms the following distinctions can be made.
The psychosomatic syndrome
This includes a number of complaints as part of a weak autonomous nervous system, varying between headache and migraine, heart palpitations, asphyxia and hyperventilation, anorexia and bulimia, stomach aches, hypertension and the premenstrual syndrome, itching and eczema.
The extravert syndrome
In these cases nervousness, inner restlessness, irritability, hyperactivity, euphoria and aggression are more prominent.
The introvert syndrome
Hereby the emphasis lies on numbness, being gloomy or slow, depression, weakness, melancholy, worrying, brooding, hypochondria and self pity, fatigue, exhaustion and addiction.
The anxiety syndrome
This syndrome includes anxiety, fear, being afraid of fear, phobia, 'hysteria', being paranoid, confused and a compulsive behavior.
The existential syndrome
Last but not least self-centeredness, self-addiction, contact problems, depression, loneliness, feelings of meaninglessness and hopelessness, tendency towards suicide.
Stress is the result of pressure, inner power and the ability to meaningfully, creatively and effectively handle ourselves and our environment.
The basics of stress reduction include avoiding stress provoking factors in daily life, while optimizing our vitality. A healthy lifestyle plays a crucial role here. Switching over to wholesome (organic) food, drinking a lot of water, optimizing the digestion, taking supplements (vitamins, minerals and trace-minerals), reducing stimulants like coffee, nicotine, alcohol and drugs, de-acidification and inner body cleansing plus daily fitness are a first requirement. Especially those who are continuously "in their heads", benefit a great deal from being in fresh air and doing physical exercise.Also see: Personal Health Plan. .
The biorhythm has a central position here. Isn't it true that stress is related to the increasing narrow space we have for the necessary daily periods of relaxation (vagotonus)? If the sympaticotonus continuously dominates us, much energy is lost with sooner or later a complete breakdown. One of the most useful recommendations therefore is to plan one's day in such a way, that there will be breaks regularly, time for relaxation, repose, creativity or sports.
The way we handle things is also determined by our character. Character or personality is a complicated thing. What is important with regard to the origination of stress is, that a great number of people identifies itself with their vulnerable parts (the child within, sensitivity, dependency), while another group does the same with the opposite (self control, will power, perseverance). Wrongly this classification is also called that of "winners" and "losers". The reality of course is, that all people have both aspects in themselves. What we see is often a matter of emphasis or situation. It isn't quite worthless though. People who feel themselves permanently this way or that way do feel more sensitive for the corresponding stress situations. Much of their behavior is therefore (partly) predictable. It can be used for better advice and prevention.
Of course this is of interest where psychological e.g. relational problems play a major role, including unprocessed anxiety, pain, anger and also suppressed lust for life originating from childhood. Acceptance is the first requirement here. The problems after all are the consequence of denial, rejecting and the inability of integration. Acceptation however, in the sense of acknowledgement ("they are part of me") - not resignation - (active) admission and experience of vulnerable feelings and emotions. Only after they are accepted and felt, you will know them, process them and eventually integrate them. This is the basic attitude for further progress. Relaxation is the first requirement. For you it will be a course in autogenic training or yoga, for another person it will be painting or relational therapy. In serious cases there is professional help.
Closely connected to this is the concept of reaction type or constitution. It is an indication for (congenital or acquired) vitality and by that the ability to react to stimuli from within and without. Here also a simple classification can be made: plus vitality and minus vitality with all transitions in between. Plus vitals have a robust air, do have a surplus with regard to warmth regulation and energy, they have high but short fevers, good appetite and digestion. They respond quickly (and often intense) on stimuli. This they do a long time, apparently very adequate, until (often unnoticed, because this type is also a "strong personality") they suddenly collapse, having a heart attack or a stroke.
Minus vitals on the other hand are slender to very slim, they are (constantly) in need of warmth (they often have cold hands and feet and may endlessly lay in a warm bath), fever has a simmer pattern (low and long duration), while appetite and digestion are just so so. Many of them are vegetarian, they react only slow and inadequate on incentives. Quite a few have disorders over a long period of time, which seldom come to an acute outburst. In case of a vulnerable personality, they tend to be hypochondriac, a strong will on the other hand achieves miracles. The latter can cope with stress very well, chronic disease comes slowly and with age (rheumatism for instance). Summarizing it can be said, that constitution and reaction type are strongly co-determining for coping with stress and stress situations.
There are two important moments in becoming aware. The first discovery is, that you are not your problem. While being relaxed you suddenly may see your problems "in front of you". There appears to be an inner distance between your thinking and yourself. "I am here and my thoughts are there". Conclusion: "I am not my thinking". Translated to stress: "not I am stressed, but there is stress in me". A small transformation with great consequences! Stress moves in, stays there for a while and disappears sooner or later. By simply relaxing and consciously witnessing, this process is facilitated. Moreover, you will discover "who you really are": your inner watching!
The second important moment is the insight of being cut off from the Source, both in a vertical (true Self) as well as in a horizontal sense (body). You are deprived of daily nurturing energy. You are an isolated island in the Ocean of Life, a fish on the dry. Not surprisingly though that the energy loss will become more and more serious. "Uploading" becomes more difficult. Resistance to waking up in the morning is growing. A unexplainable tiredness is taking possession of you. Your cheerfulness, initiative and vitality are increasingly simmering. Your irritations are becoming too frequent. If in such a situation the cause becomes clear, then "you are saved". This consists of still restoring the contact with your Self and your body with its direct surroundings.
For spiritual oriented people burn-out is the "Umwertung aller Werte". What happens though if all your shells: your ambitions, desires and emotions one by one is being burnt down? Exactly, in that case you come to the Essence. Burn-out appears to be a chance to come closer to your true Self. There is the insight that thus far you lived by your ego and simply having one's last shot left. Because you were stubbornly pursuing your (narrow-minded) goals, life taught you a hard lesson. Learning the hard way - realizing that you have gone too far - you are now thrown back upon yourself, in such a way that you suddenly realize that you have come Home. Only the periphery can be burnt down. When everything is in ashes, the innermost Core remains: your shining Pearl. The burn-out appears to be the turning point in your life. Instead of complaining you are grateful to the cosmos for its wisdom. You have learned your lesson.
The environment 1)
The role of the environment in causing stress and burn-out may be clear
for most of us. The image of the drop that overflowed the bucket is fitting here very
well. We postmodern people are living in a "soup" containing a great number of
illness causing agents. Factors which one by one wouldn't be that bad, but are becoming
vicious by their cumulative effect. Drinking coffee for instance is for most of us an
innocent habit. However, if 1. drinking too little 2. unhealthy food 3. too little
exercise 4. copious (evening)meals 5. smoking 6. stress 7. poisoning from within and
without 8. amalgam poisoning 9. loneliness 10. work and time pressure 11. noise 12. sick
building syndrome 13. computer stress 14. stress from using the cellular (burden for the
brain!)...are added to it, then even an innocent cup of coffee (a.o.) can be too much e.g.
trigger the onset of a chronic disease. It simultaneously shows, that research to only one
(or two) harmful factors is just scientific nonsense. It is the whole spectrum which
nowadays threatens mankind, even in its very existence.
Restoring BodyMind & Spirit
We are guiding people who seek a "spiritual solution" to their problem. That means people who consider their burn-out as an invitation to return to the Source. Treatment is inspired by The Universal Way: awakening, personal integration, being rooted in heaven and earth, breakthrough of the Light, purification, taking refuge in the Ultimate and compassion. We depart from the fact that burn-out includes the entire human being: spiritual, emotional, relational and physical. When you are burnt down to the ground, only those approaches will help, which are able to build up all layers, once again. As representatives of holistic therapy since 1972 we are very familiar with this approach. For practical reasons we only guide those who are healthy, e.g. those who do not receive psychological/psychiatric help or are taking drugs. The expectation for improvement or recovery can be high. Apart from burn-out we also treat a number of other indications.
Stress/burn-out Existential crises Psychological, relational- and work problems Depression "New risks" like ME, RSI, EMF Blood risk factors (a.o. too high cholesterol) Mild essential hypertension Overweight All pain syndromes At least 400 chronic disorders more Everything through promoting your own self-healing power 200 natural self-help methods are at your disposal
The Retreats are
open to motivated people, those who believe in an integrated approach.
Looking forward to all those adventurous people!
Copyright © 2000 by Han M. Stiekema, M.D. All rights