Stanley Block

Stanley H. Block M.D.

Come To Your Senses

Convert Stress Into Self-Power

Regain your Self-Power

Posted Aug 19, 2011

Myths About Stress

Myth One - Stress Reduction Techniques is the best way to deal with stress
Myth Two - Stressors cause burnout
Myth Three - Stress is not good

Realities About Stress

Reality One - Stress Reduction Techniques eventually fail
Reality Two - Stressors are not the cause of burnout
Reality Three - Stress can be converted into self-power


To convert stress into self-power is far more beneficial than trying to reduce stress. To do so you must first reclaim your innate wellspring of self-power that has been closed off by a brain network Neuroscientists call the Default Mode Network, and clinicians refer to as the Identity System.

(Tollefson et al, 2009, Nakamura, et al., 2011). Self-power is regulated by the Executive Network. It is the powerhouse of our life because it coordinates moment by moment how we see the world, think, make decisions and act. When the executive network is off, we have a harder time responding to situations as they come up. We become powerless to deal with the stressors in our life. The stressors then become embedded in our mind-body as distress. We are then anxious, fearful, irritable, tense and may have a host of related physical symptoms. Researchers have found that when the I-System is active, with exaggerated self-referential thoughts, the executive network is inactive (Boly et al. 2008b). Only one network can be on at a time.


Losing Your Self-Power
Try the following exercise to recognize how you lose your self-power:
1. Choose a specific stressor that really troubles you.
2. Take a piece of paper, write the stressor in the middle of the page, and draw an oval around it.
3. Next take 1-2 minutes to jot down around the oval whatever pops into your mind about that stressor and your attempts to deal it. Work quickly and don't self-edit.
4. At the bottom of the paper, write down the location and type of body tension that you felt while doing the exercise (e.g. pressure in the chest, shoulders pulling up, or tension in the gut).
5. Ask yourself the following questions:
a) Is your mind cluttered?
b) Is your body tense?
c) In that state, is your ability to respond to stressors reduced?
If yes, your I-System has robbed you of your self-power.

                                       Regaining Your Self-Power
The next exercise shows you how to regain your self-power.
1. Take another piece of paper, write the same stressor in the middle of the page and draw an oval around it.
2. Before you continue writing, "Come to Your Senses". Seat yourself comfortably, listen to the background sounds, experience the pressure on your seat, feel your feet on the floor and feel the pen in your hand. If you have thoughts, gently return to the background sounds and your senses. Take your time. Once you feel settled, start writing whatever comes to mind about the situation. Watch the ink go on the paper, continue to feel the pen in your hand and listen to the background sounds. Write for 1-2 minutes.
3. Ask yourself the following questions.
a) Is your mind cluttered or clear?
b) Is your body tense or relaxed? A relaxed mind and body shows that your I-System is resting.
c) In that state, is your ability to respond to stressors improved?
d) Are you experiencing a reduction of stress and enhanced self-power?


Using Your Self-Power Everyday
A branch of mind-body medicine, called Mind-Body Bridging, supplies you with Three Tools to access your self-power every day. The Three Tools you used in the prior exercise, Mapping, Labeling and Come to Your Senses can be used daily to deal with stressors.
1. Do Mapping of stressful situations to recognize the tell-tale signs (body tension and mind clutter) of an active I-System.
2. Use Labeling to recognize and label when your I-System is on.
3. Use Come to Your Senses to turn your I-System off when stressors appear. When the I-System is resting, stress is automatically converted into self-power.     





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Block, S.H., and C.B. Block. 2010. Mind-Body Workbook for PTSD: A 10-Week Program for Healing After Trauma. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.

Block, S. H., and C. B. Block. 2007. Come to Your Senses: Demystifying the Mind-Body Connection. 2nd
ed. New York: Atria Books/Beyond Words, Publishing.

Block, S. H., S. H. Ho, and Y. Nakamura. 2009. A brain basis for transforming consciousness with Mind-Body Bridging. Paper presented at Toward a Science of Consciousness 2009 conference, June 12, at
Hong Kong Polytechnical University, Hong Kong, China, Abstract 93.

Nakamura, Y., D. L. Lipschitz, R. Landward, R. Kuhn, and G. West. 2011 (forthcoming). Two sessions of sleep focused mind-body bridging improve self-reported symptoms of sleep and PTSD in veterans: A pilot
randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.




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