Inspiration and Guidance for Stressful Times: An Interview with Tina Lerner M.A.
Ongoing social and political discord undermine our peace of mind. They also take a toll on physical wellbeing. This shows up for me as a churning gut and layer of fatigue behind the eyes. Others might feel agitation, low energy, headaches, tension, and dry mouth. No matter how it manifests, living through stressful times challenges our ability to focus during the day and relax/repair at night.
When the new normal feels so distressing, it’s more important than ever to know how to relax and feel better. I thought this would be the perfect time to interview stress management expert Tina Lerner for a little inspiration and guidance.
Q: Can you give us a brief rundown of what happens in the body when dealing with stress becomes an everyday reality?
A: The ‘stress response’ is powerful chemistry that prepares our bodies to fight or flee. This serves a purpose when we’re actually in physical danger. Unfortunately, our bodies are not able to discriminate between something we are concerned about, such as disturbing world news, or an actual present physical threat. What I commonly see in my clients is the ‘habit’ of being in a continual physical survival stress response. This has a profound negative effect on our emotional and physical wellbeing.
What are some of the long-term stress issues you’re seeing right now?
Most of the people I see are challenged by an emotional or physical issue such as anxiety, depression, overwhelm, insomnia, fear, feeling helpless, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, headaches, pain, irritable bowel disease, claustrophobia. They are often referred to me by their doctor or other healthcare practitioner.
For many, just knowing stress is unhealthy often adds another layer of stress. People are afraid that they will ‘worry themselves sick.’
What are some ways you help people address these problems at the Biofeedback Institute?
Using state-of-the-art biofeedback technology, it’s easy to measure heart rhythm, respiration, and other physiology and display the results on a computer screen in an easy-to-understand format. Based on this information, using science-based techniques, I design individualized programs to lower stress and anxiety to help people feel more at ease and in control. With practice, a client learns how to actually alter brain activity, blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate/rhythm, and breath patterns. This process interrupts the habitual stress cycle.
Can you offer a bit of coaching right now to help us experience how mind and body can work together to reduce stress?
It’s often difficult to ‘change our minds and look at the bright side’ when we are in a reactive stress response. Our bodies are informing our minds, ‘You are in danger!’ One of my often-used phrases is, “To be healthy we need to spend some time out of our minds.”
So, my first recommendation is to bring your attention to your body and feel what it feels like as you take in and release a breath. Focus on the physical experience and simply observe your body breathing. We can’t just stop our minds from thinking but, when you manage to focus attention on your breathing for a minute or two, you will turn down the habitual stress response and potentially feel more at ease. Then, your mind’s constant chatter has less of a negative impact.
One client told me when he is paying attention to his breathing, he pictures all of his habitual worrisome thoughts floating above him in envelopes and because he is more relaxed, he has more freedom to choose whether to open and investigate a thought or just let it float by.
With so much going on out in the world, it feels important to stay current with what’s happening. How can I do this without getting stressed out?
I recommend creating a daily breath practice. Taking a very short amount of time (two to three minutes) each day to focus on breathing instead of continually focusing on what’s creating stress. Research shows that adding a small action consistently, such as focusing on your body as you breathe for a couple of minutes, is more effective over time than waiting for the perfect 10- to 20-minute opportunity to stop and breathe.
Here’s an easy breathing technique to try right now:
• Sit in a relaxed posture; it’s OK to lean on the back of a chair or even lie down in bed.
• Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest, over your heart. And then take in a breath.
• Notice how you’re breathing makes your hands rise and fall with your inhale and exhale.
• As you pay attention to your body breathing, notice the subtle sensations of your body expanding and contracting with each breath.
• Take a moment to appreciate your body, just saying thank you.
My clients often report that positive feelings, such as feeling more hopeful and optimistic, generated by just a few minutes of breathing, is an incentive to turn their attention to breathing more often throughout their day. Why not give it a try and see if it works for you?
To find out more about Tina, go to
To ask questions or schedule an appointment, call 805-450-1115 or email email@example.com