Stress is an increasing widespread condition and seems to go hand-in- hand with the modern lifestyle. Many of us have forgotten how to relax, as we race from one task to another, driven by unreasonable deadlines or a fear of being ‘left behind’ in an increasingly technological world. There is nothing wrong with rising to the challenge or working hard to achieve a cherished goal, but the problem comes when we are constantly in a state of tension, unable to ‘switch off’. When stressed the whole physical, mental and emotional system is then under constant ‘red-alert’, and over time this can cause chronic worry, anxiety, exhaustion, headaches, and can even lead to life-threatening illnesses such as strokes or heart attacks.

At first, we may actively enjoy the buzz of the adrenaline as it rushes around our body when we take on an exciting new challenge, but in the long term stress can rob us of everything that is important. It can take away our good health and replace it with an aching head or back, or a wide range of other stress related disorders that are becoming commonplace in society today. It can rob us of much needed rest and relaxation; it can even destroy our personal relationships and as a result cause extreme emotional anguish. How often do we really pause for even a moment to see whether the path we have taken in life is actually making us more satisfied, fulfilled and contented – and if not, why not? Since happiness is the natural antidote to stress, maybe we first need take a good hard look at the ways in which we try to become happy and find out why it is that, in our endeavour to achieve this goal, we can end up feeling more stressed than ever. We could then perhaps find new ways that may be more successful.

The Price We Pay for Progress

bad back and stressOn the whole, society rarely measures progress in terms of how people feel, concentrating instead on the ability to accomplish certain tasks in less time than we previously could. In fact, we are now 25 times more productive than we were 150 years ago, and during this time the manner in which we live has changed more than at any other time in human history. With the introduction of time-saving technology we have been promised an easier lifestyle with more comfort and leisure time than ever before, yet has this really happened? From the way many of us rush around trying to keep appointments, beat important deadlines or reach impossible targets, it seems as if the very opposite is happening. Even though it is obvious that we now live longer and are far more efficient than we used to be, when you add joy and fulfilment into the equation, it is not at all clear that we have really achieved a better quality of life overall.

When we talk about progress we must consider all aspects of life, and this should obviously include how much peace and happiness we feel. Despite the huge amount of technology now at our disposal, it seems that more people are suffering from continuous stress than perhaps any other period in peacetime. An increasing number of people are approaching their doctor because they find themselves trapped in an accelerated spiral of speed and stress which can manifest itself in chronic muscle tension, acute anxiety, fidgety or restless behaviour, or a distinct lack of peace of mind. Sleeping tablets or anti-depressants may be a solution to the immediate problem, but we need to find a more permanent answer that does not rely on the use of potentially addictive drugs, many of which lose their effect anyway over a period of time.

If we feel stressed during our working day, adrenaline – which causes the brain to be in a state of excitation – remains in our system for many hours or even days afterwards, and as a result we are likely to have less patience than usual. When we arrive home and things are not the way we expect, we may be more prone to anger or irritation than we otherwise would be. The increase in stress over recent years correlates closely with the high incidence of marital problems we see today.

The Cost of Stress

Stress can over-stimulating the mind, eventually causing mental blocks or, conversely, an over-active mind, with little or no control over persistent unwanted thoughts, and an endless stream of worry for no reason. It affects us emotionally because we can lose control of our anger and react irrationally, which eventually may damage relationships with family or friends. It is easy to see someone’s performance suffers when there are under stress thus making them much less efficient.

The cost of stress to our society is enormous: and many of our modern illnesses may be caused or exacerbated by stress. Just stop for a moment to consider the following facts:

    • In the USA heart disease is increasing by 100 per cent every ten years.
    • In the USA 16,000 tons of aspirin and over 5 billion tranquillisers are consumed each year.
    • In the USA the annual estimated medical cost of stress is over $1 billion.
    • In the UK 250,000 people die every year from heart attacks.
    • In the UK over 40 million working days are lost every year through illness directly related to stress. The cost to British industry is estimated at £1.5 billion each year.

We must also take into consideration that instances of stress are increasing rapidly and these figures could easily double over the next 20 years. It is vital to take steps to combat to prevent Ireland from following in the footsteps of other Western countries – The Alexander Technique can do just that.

The Alexander Technique is a method of self-awareness on many levels. It is very simple and can be understood by anyone, yet at the same time it is very profound and can empower a person with confidence and a greater enjoyment of life.

The technique is a way of improving balance, posture and co-ordination; it will help us to use ourselves in a way that is harmonious with nature. Our bodies are our most precious possession, yet often we give them very little attention, apart from wondering ‘how do I look’ or ‘am I dressed right?’ The human body is, in fact, an amazing anti-gravity mechanism, but most of us unconsciously interfere with the natural working and reflexes to such an extent that more than a million people in Ireland suffer with backache. It is also estimated that many more people will suffer from asthma, insomnia, arthritis, headaches and migraine, all due to stress or excess muscle tension throughout the body. By practising the Alexander Technique you will bring more awareness to yourself, thus finding new ways of moving reducing the strain placed upon the body.

You will learn how to move with gravity, instead of against it, thus achieving greater ease of movement, this will in turn affects your mental and emotional outlook on life; you will feel calmer and therefore have a greater control of your own life. The only requirements are patience and a willingness to let go of harmful habits that we have acquired throughout our lives.

Richard Brennan an internationally renowned author of having written five books on the Alexander Technique including Change your posture – Change your Life and The Alexander Technique Workbook which have been translated into eight languages. He travels throughout Europe giving TV and radio interviews, running workshops and giving lectures. He lives in Galway, Ireland where he runs a busy private practice as well as being the director of the only Alexander teacher training college in Ireland and was the co-founder of the Irish Society of teachers of the Alexander Technique. For more information please visit: www.alexander.ie and www.isatt.ie To sign a petition to stop the use of backward sloping school chairs please go to: www.avaaz.org/en/petition