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The Stress Effect - Monday, May 4th, 2015 7:34 am

The Stress Effect

You perceive it in your mind first… a threat, then your body reacts, quicker than your ability to finish this sentence. It starts with the hypothalamus telling the adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol, energy heightens, muscles mobilise, the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream, breathing becomes rapid, the heart beats faster… all to boost energy and heighten the senses for a quick reaction, after-all, you in danger. Or are you? 

What is stress?

 Defined, Stress is “a process by which certain work demands evoke an appraisal process in which perceived demands exceed resources and result in undesirable physiological, emotional, cognitive and social changes.” Simply, you have perceived something greater than your ability to handle that something. We all associate it with the “fight or flight response” and the evolutionary metaphor of facing the lion or the bear. But when was the last time you saw one of those? For most, the stress, or it’s corresponding chemistry detailed above, is of a self-imposed nature, creating unreal fears or chasing adrenaline highs with unstable activities. So, how does stress effect your health and performance?

 How does it work?

Stress starts with perception, or lack of. Perception is how you interpret information via your senses, not just the 5 physical senses, but the 6th sense: our mind’s deeper ability to sense (via feeling) independent of the intellect… what people might call a gut-feeling or intuition. While we share the physical senses and experience them much the same, we are all so very unique in our mind and experience the world in different ways dependent on our own level of conscious awareness. Hence, what is stressful for some, is not for others. Why? They see it differently. Since we all see a lion as a lion (via the physical senses), it is not something self-created in your head, it is a “real” danger - and we probably should be stressed in that situation, or at least while the danger is present. Fear of the potential future however, which often leads to anxiety, is something that you create in your head, because it isn’t actually happening yet. It is a false perception based on insecurity or fear, not present reality and awareness. Hence why a more present mind is less anxious and stressed. If you stress about something that isn’t real, you are fighting or flighting from something imaginary! Worst still, it is of your own creation!

Stress and our Health

We live in a world where the lion is no longer chasing us, but we are chasing the lion. We are hunting adrenalin-based activities and employing eating habits and unstable energy management to chase the “high” that adrenalin can give you. All to keep up with our own demands or the demands of the outside world. If adrenaline is your energy management system - to keep going when you are clearly exhausted, you will have highs and lows, which brings instability to health and inconsistency to performance. If your someone that stresses a lot, you are living under tension and we are now talking about chronic stress and tension. The problem here is that while you are in fight or flight response, the body’s immune system isn’t allowed to regulate, digestion is put on hold, so too the regeneration process, body temperature regulation and other internal mechanisms associated with the para-sympathetic part of the nervous system (in charge of unconscious activity). Our over-all feeling of health, known as homeostasis (meaning balance) is completely out of it. Remember, natural health is about balance and stability, not stress and instability. If stress becomes chronic. I.e., felt over long periods of time, the symptoms are more like headaches, injury, anxiety and depression, trouble sleeping, memory loss, poor focus, aches and pains (because of holding the body in tension for protective mode), poor immune system, heart disease, moodiness… the list goes on. In short, adrenalin can be great for getting out of an emergency, I.e., real and current danger, but it is not something we are supposed to live on, or we will age before our time, get sick, depressed or burn out in the process.

Stress and Performance

Performance is your “manner of functioning” and stress can either heighten or hinder your performance. Physical stress has shown to increase performance, up to a point, as you do need to push your boundaries to achieve some forms of outward success. But there is a point where you push yourself too hard and performance dips. Knowing this point is part of the terrain to success and self-mastery. Once stress is experienced, fine motor control, perception and cognitive abilities are compromised as all resources are prepared for bulky movements and decisions to get out of “perceived” danger. As far as performance is concerned, you are always at your best when you are present and relaxed mentally, where you can access these fine motor skills and cognitive abilities. 

We have all seen the pressure of competition bring out the best and worst in people. It seems obvious that elite players don’t all of a sudden become a worse player when the stakes are high, they break mentally under their environmental demands. In doing so, it is not a technical or a tactical mistake, they are secondary. The mistake originates in the “feeling” of stress, whose chemistry can quickly weaken muscles and critical thinking when it is needed the most. Mentally, the stress originates in the unknown, which doesn’t need to be negative, I.e,, reason to stress, but quickly becomes so when you feel bad or create fear around what you don’t know or understand. Have you ever noticed it can take a long time to get that first win, then once experienced, it can be much more easily repeated? This is because you “know” it can be done. But for things yet to be experienced, we can create fear and uncertainty around it. This is a self-created fear, like fear of the future, not being accepted by others, or not feeing good enough. Not knowing something is no reason to feel bad, it is the gateway to learning. If you are to tap into the best of your natural ability, you need to stay relaxed and aware of your environment, not fear it or over-think it. If the scenario is a new one, focus on bringing the best of your current abilities (what you do know) to it, not stress about what you don’t know. It is wise in your development to not only train new skills and knowledge (via experience, not theory), so you are better prepared for any situation with the knowing earned through experience, but also your mind, where perception, presence and awareness originates.

 Learning to be stress free

Most of what I see out there is either treating and managing stress at a symptom level in the medical world, or a “positive thinking” or “mental rehearsal” approach in the sports psychology world. This may cover up underlying stress and give temporary results, but does very little to locate and detach from the original course of stress, which originates at a feeling level. I.e, you feel nervous or stressed, you don’t think it, or you are not aware of how to handle something. Awareness too is a feeling, not a thinking. If we are to truly understand psychology (which is to do with both our thinking and feeling processes), we need a way to understand both.

This is where the phenomena of the Kelee and Kelee Meditation (KM) can help. The Kelee in sanskrit means “Vessel” and it is, by definition, the receptacle of your life experience. Everyone has heard of the term “bottling emotion” or taking something to heart. The Kelee is that bottle. When stress compartmentalises in the Kelee it becomes over-flowing with emotional buttons, stress and dysfunction, feeling weighty. It doesn’t take much to trigger stress and push you over the edge, compromising your health and performance. When the Mind is trained via KM to become still, the result is not only greater conscious awareness, but a calming of tension in the nervous system and the detachment from the compartmentalisation of stress already existing within. If you are to truly go within and become more self-aware, you will need a way. The basic principles clearly identifies the difference between brain function, mind function and dysfunction and shows a way to understand your conscious awareness, locate troubling thoughts and dissipate them, all in a practice that takes about 10mins, twice a day.  In my time studying health, happiness and high performance, I have learned the best ally is awareness - and the best way to train your awareness is to open your mind via KM. When you are aware, there is no need to stress. 


At a deeper level, we are all looking for a heightened sense, but to be effective, it needs to have a feeling of stability and awareness. Adrenalin is unstable. It may feel good, but it does not support your health, only your short term survival. Health is balance and when there is no health, performance suffers, somewhere. Look at the low life expectancy of high adrenalin-based sports for example… it is very low. Adrenalin may have given them some big performance results in the short term during high pressure situations (as some rise to these situations), the same as high doses of sugar or caffeine may have got you through a deadline, but wouldn’t it be better to rise to these situations with equal or elevated performance without stress and its side effects? We are all going through an evolutionary stage of evolving out of a fear-based creature into a more mindful one. You are in the midst of that change now. 

Tips for being stress free

  •  Practice Kelee Meditation
  •  Perform relaxation techniques like yoga nidras to counter balance excess physical activity
  •  Find a balance in your life with your energy output an input. 
  •  Identify real fear from created fear
  •  Don’t worry
  • Concern yourself with what is within your sphere of influence
  • Train for adaptation in real life scenarios as much as repetition of skill.

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Daily Disciplines

Knowledge needs to be accompanied with daily action and discipline to acheive long term health, happiness and high performance.

Here are some things to focus on... daily!

1. Meditate (meditation clears the mind of clutter, develops focus and awareness, as well as healing via a calming of the nervous system.

2. Contemplate: Take the time every day to contemplate the direction of your life and how you could move foward in a more harmonious way

3. Exericse: Move with awarness of correct posture and enjoyment, every day! 

4. Hydrate: Drink 0.03 times your body weight a day (in kg's) as a minimum to help the body process toxins and function at an optimum

5. Trust your feelings: Feel first, do second. This means you are not running on auto pilot devoid of feeling and awareness of what you are getting into.