IN FIVE MINUTES (OR LESS)
By Gwenn Bonnell
A while ago my husband came home shaking and shivering uncontrollably,
claiming he had the stomach flu. Although it was a warm evening, he
was very cold. He put on fleece gloves and thick socks and buried himself
under layers of blankets and comforters, still shivering intensely and
breathing shallowly. I tried not to let my own fear show, but was ready
to call 911 or visit the emergency room — it almost seemed like he was
Then I remembered a simple technique that quickly re-programs the body's
autonomic nervous system and reduces stress. I laid next to my husband
and placed the palm of my hand on his forehead. And just kept it there.
Within a minute or two, his shivering and shaking became less intense.
His breathing pattern slowed and began to deepen. Within five minutes,
he had stopped shivering completely and his breathing returned to normal.
He was calmed and relaxed, and so was I!
Although stress is often caused by our emotional or mental state, it
is a physical response. Falling apart or "losing it" is more physiological
than psychological. Stress believes that everything is an emergency,
and the body responds by sending 80% of the blood from the forebrain
to the chest or legs, flooding the blood with stress chemicals, and
creating an instant "fight or flight" condition. Millenniums ago this
was extremely important for the survival of our race. Today, however,
this response is often overkill — a driver cutting us off on I–95 or
a child screaming "I don't wanna" is not the same as a dinosaur stalking
our family. And as these daily stress responses accumulate, every system
in our body is affected and we end up feeling more fearful or anxious
or angry or aggressive than the situation warrants.
Learning how to recondition the body's response to these everyday stresses
that are NOT life threatening can be one of the most important steps
we can take to maintain and even improve our health. Either interrupting
the stressful behavior in the moment or changing from an emergency to
composed reaction when remembering a previous stress resets the nervous
system, brings peace of mind and keeps the body from unnecessarily triggering
the fight or flight response.
REPROGRAM THE BODY'S RESPONSE TO STRESS
The next time you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or highly emotional,
try the following exercise:
- Lightly place the fingertips of each hand or the palm of one hand
on the bumps on your forehead directly above your eyes. If you can't
find these slight lumps simply place your hands about an inch above
- Take a deep breath and "drop into your stress." No need to try to
be positive. It's better to sink into the negative or unpleasant feeling
while holding the points. Keep breathing deeply and stay focused for
two to five minutes.
- As the blood returns to the forebrain you will feel very strong
pulses under your fingertips or hands. At the same time, you are lifting
out of the stress, beginning to think more clearly and reconditioning
your response to that particular event or memory.
This action is sometimes instinctual: how often has your child or loved
one complained of feeling upset or ill and you find yourself placing
your palm on their forehead? Or when hearing shocking news, do you automatically
find your hand on your own forehead? Touching these neurovascular points
called the frontal eminences impacts blood circulation. Holding these
points not only stops the blood from leaving the forebrain, it also
draws blood back into the forebrain and retrains the body's automatic
This simple but valuable tool can be used to systematically remove
accumulated stresses from the past and to control reactions in the present.
Practice on yourself, experimenting with a single memory until you no
longer feel a stress response in your body. The next time you automatically
place your hand on someone's forehead, leave it there for a few minutes
and watch their response — this is especially useful when a child wakens
from a nightmare. The more often this technique is practiced, the quicker
the body reconditions its response to stress, creating a healthier and
more tranquil life!
PUBLISHED Quality Life Magazine, March 2002