Week 4 - Stress: Responding vs. Reacting
STOP: The One-minute Breathing Space

This week's videos
We begin with Stress - Portrait of a Killer, featuring Robert Sapolsky, a neuroscientist at Stanford University and possibly the world's greatest authority on the causes and effects of stress. This video describes the physiology of stress and how, in modern life, our stress response, designed evolutionarily to protect us from danger, can actually put our lives in danger when it is activated continually and without resolution. This is the bad news.

The good news, How To Make Stress Your Friend, comes from Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist specializing in health medicine, who puts stress in perspective, re-framing stress, not as an enemy to health and well-being, but as a response which is protective and even life-giving. She perhaps goes a little too far in saying that health-endangering stress simply comes from a "belief that stress is bad", but her video provides a good counter-balance to the idea that stress is always bad. In the last video, Susan Bauer-Wu describes how mindfulness can counteract a disproportionate stress reaction and introduces you to STOP, a mindfulness practice you can use literally anywhere anytime to ground you and help you to be more resilient and effective in the face of difficult situations.

What Is Stress? and Harvard Health's Understanding the Stress Response, describe the physiological and neurological effects of stress, distinguishing between acute stress, which is short-term and adaptive, and chronic stress, which is the primary cause of stress-related health problems. Anatomy of Fear is a graphic depiction of the stress response. STOP: One-minute Breathing Space is a one-page description of the process you will be using for this week's informal practice, and The Magic Quarter Second is a short article by Tara Brach that weaves in some science to validate "STOP".

Daily Practices
For the formal practice, we introduce "Yoga 2" and continue with the Sitting Meditation, alternating between them. If there are any of the yogas you haven't yet tried, this could be the time to try one or more of them.

For the informal practice, you will look for opportunities to practice STOP during the course of the day. Don't expect to remember the precise steps of "STOP" during the most trying parts of the day - it's enough just to remember to stop and take a breath. The best way to make it second nature is to practice it when you aren't stressed, such as during the "in between" times, like waiting in line, walking from one office to another, getting in/out of your car, etc.

Below are your materials for this week:

       Stress - Portrait of a Killer - National Geographic Special with Robert Sapolsky [27 min]
       How To Make Stress Your Friend - Kelly McGonigal [14 min]
       STOP: A Short Mindfulness Practice - Susan Bauer-Wu [4 min]

       What Is Stress?
       The Anatomy of Fear - Discovery Magazine graphic
       Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health Publications
       STOP: One-Minute Breathing Space
       The Magic Quarter Second - Tara Brach

Practice sheets
       Formal Practice [PDF] [or WORD format] - Mindful Yoga (Yoga 2) and Sitting
       Informal Practice [PDF] [or WORD format] - STOP: The One Minute Breathing Space

Supplementary materials related to this week's topic
       The Science of Anxiety Time Magazine article
       The Anatomy of Anxiety Time Magazine graphic
       When Is Stress Good for You article by Bruce McEwen
       The Psychology of Stress short video "teaser" by Robert Sapolsky [3 min]
       Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers book by Robert Sapolsky
       Leaves Falling Gently book by Susan Bauer-Wu
       The Mindful Approach to Butterfiles in Your Stomach article by Jennifer Wolkin
       The Other Brain Also Deals with Many Woes article by Harriet Brown
       How Does the Vagus Nerve Convey Gut Instincts to the Brain? Psychology Today

NOTE: If you are compiling a manual based on the suggestions in MBSR Manual, you would print a copy of this page as well as the Readings and Practice Sheets given above. For a version of this page which has been reformatted for your manual go to the printer-ready version of this page.