• By Eli Bay
  • 05 Nov, 2015
Society at the beginning of the 21st century is challenging all of us to get our acts together and learn how to cope with the newly emerging world that is taking shape around us.

One of our great challenges is to achieve a sense of balance in a rapidly changing society that is demanding so much of us. We are expected to work our fifty to sixty or more hours a week, spend quality time with our children, nurture our relationships, perform our ceaseless household duties, commute, deal with day-care, stay fit, improve ourselves, surf the net, read, do church, community or volunteer work, and on and on and on. And that's just before lunch. This is, of course, above and beyond the perfectionist demands we place upon ourselves.

Technology was going to save us. Remember "The Leisure Society" we were promised just a few years ago. Machines were going to free us. In reality, today we are, on average, working an entire month (in hours) a year more than we did in 1973. And most of us are feeling really stretched. Drained. Pressured. Harassed. Living beyond or very nearly beyond our margins. Out of balance.

Stress accumulates over time, gradually straining every organ and system in the body until imbalance and breakdown occur. That is why we need to shut down. There is a profound need to let go of stress and pressure, to get out of our own way and let our body, mind and emotions the space to properly rest well enough to naturally repair, recuperate, and rejuvenate. The issue is balance. You can't burn the proverbial candle at both ends without becoming imbalanced.

Both traditional teachings and the findings in modern medical science advise us to invest a little time each day allowing our body and mind to properly let go "of the world"; to go inside and release the tension in our tight bodies, quiet our incessantly active minds, and calm the emotional expressway within. We consciously intervene to break out of the cycle in which stress chronically strains every organ and system in the body.

A variety of simple but effective methods are available not just to cope with stress but to achieve a profoundly relaxing and revitalizing state. Deep muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, meditatively focusing the mind on sounds, images or words, sound and light machines, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, floatation tanks, massage, all induce a state in which the mind becomes alert and calm and the body becomes relaxed and at peace. It is a "zero" state in which the mindbody systems release the stress and strain. One just lets go of the chronically tense reaction, the braced body -- and relaxes -- and allows the healing and recuperative forces of the body to mobilize, coming forth to correct the imbalances and heal the breakdowns.

Everyone needs this relief from stress. If deep release is not regularly achieved, the strain eventually produces unpleasant results: common symptoms like headaches and sleeping problems; serious problems like arthritis and asthma; life-threatening diseases such as heart disease and cancer. As the Latin poet Ovid once wrote, "If you can't rest, you won't endure". It's time that we moderns began to take that advice to heart.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at  or (416) 932-2784.

*This article may be published in your newsletter or on your website if the author, Eli Bay, is acknowledged and his website address  is provided.

By Eli Bay 24 Jun, 2016

The twenty-first century "-- when everything is possible and nothing is certain, ..." was how Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, described our time. Paradoxically, one of the few certainties of our time is that nothing can be certain anymore.

Today, yesterday's certainties like "jobs for life", "a secure retirement","trust your politicians (or your priests)", "your university degree will guarantee you a good job", "if I give my best, my company will be there for me", "my child's future will be better than mine", are no more.

Technological acceleration is the driving force of the uncertainty. Computers are now able to process multiple trillions of calculations per second.  This awesome computing power defies our understanding and no one can even imagine where computing will be a decade from now.

Our technology is changing and as a result our organizations are changing, our behaviors are changing, even our climate is changing. Everything is changing! So if everything is changing and nothing is certain anymore, what can one do to keep balanced and stay healthy, positive and successful?

It is necessary to appreciate that our bodymind's automatic  reaction to change and uncertainty is stress. As a result, our stress arousal system is "on" all the time, a natural security reaction to the demands of having to adapt to "newness" constantly. Therefore, in our post-modern digital world, our bodymind almost never properly breaks out of a chronic low level stress.

Because we're used to being this way all the time, we are unconscious of it. We just let the increased cortisol, blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle tension, breathing rate, cholesterol level, create an on-going wear and tear upon every organ and system in our bodymind.

Over time this aggravated assault upon the body and mind contributes considerably to causing or making worse many common health conditions and dysfunctions. It is also extremely costly to every organization and to all societies.  

To cope with the uncertainty and strain imposed by a turbulent environment, we must build up an internal base of stability. We may not be able to control what's happening "out there" but we all can learn how to quiet and centre ourselves, renew our being, and replenish our core. This can be done by accessing uncommon rest and recuperation through "the relaxation response", a measurable and natural shift in the mind and body triggered by a one-pointed focusing of the mind.

When simple mental techniques and breathing exercises are practiced several times, the ability to reduce the volume of the stress becomes progressively easier. Within a few weeks, most people acquire the ability to confidently release themselves from the unremitting strain caused by stress and discover for themselves the very real benefits of deliberately self-calming.

They feel renewed and more in control, able to respond rather than just react. They feel better about themselves. Their ability to function effectively improves on almost every index of measurement. They are able to retain an uncommon balance and well-being.

If you want to better cope and thrive in the new electronic world that's suddenly emerged to submerge us, it is extremely wise to learn how to properly unwind and let go of it all for short periods of time. That's probably a certainty.

Eli Bay, the founder of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto, is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control. His new online skill-training program Outer Stress*Inner Calm is now available for organizations. He can be reached at  or (416) 932-2784.

*This article may be published in your newsletter or on your website if the author, Eli Bay, is acknowledged and his website address  is provided.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015

If you experience insomnia, you begin to accumulate a sleep debt. If you lose one hour of sleep each night for a week, you end up with a sleep debt of seven hours.

Whether it's because of a sick child, noisy neighbours, a snoring bed partner, body pain, pressures at work, we all have times when insomnia builds the sleep debt. Usually, two or three good nights of sleep completely restores us.

For many of us, however, finding relief from insomnia is an ongoing issue that may stay unresolved for years. It just accumulates and becomes a chronic burden that we become resigned to living with, just more "rust of life" with which to cope. Over time, sleep debt produces significant consequences.

Researchers have discovered that when competitive cyclists are deprived of only three hours of sleep, their performance appeared normal but their bodies were forced to work much harder and they became fatigued much quicker. With a sleep debt of only eight hours, their work time to reach total exhaustion was reduced by about 11%.

As insomnia - your sleep debt - builds, the impact starts to become apparent. People begin to lose their sense of humour. They become progressively more irritable, unsociable and depressed. They begin to feel overwhelmed and become indecisive. They often become demotivated and careless about their work. There is general slowing of mental processes. Studies done on radar operators have shown that the ability to keep attentive to the task at hand is reduced in direct proportion to the extent of the sleep debt. Short term memory strongly suffers because of insomnia as does problem solving and creative thinking.

In other words, if you are part of the minions of insomniacs in this country (between six and ten million), your performance at work, your relationships with others, and your own joie de vivre are being severely compromised.

The common problems of sleep -- sleep-onset insomnia, light sleep, frequent or early morning awakening, racing mind, restlessness, nightmares, etc. -- are all highly responsive to the regular practice of the "relaxation response".

One client of mine woke up every hour, every night, for eighteen years. She tried remedial treatment at two hospital sleep clinics but the problem remained. She came to the relaxation with a high degree of skepticism. After all, if the doctors with the all equipment couldn't help, how could just minutes of simple relaxation practice make a difference.

To her astonishment, after investing in just a few hours of professional training and roughly thirty minutes of relaxation practice before sleep, in less than one month she was sleeping soundly through the entire night without awakening even once. Her face changed. She looked ten years younger. She had energy to burn and, for the first time in years, she felt vital and alive again.

Like thousands of people whom I have taught, she developed the ability to release the tensions from her body and better focus and quiet her mind. This took her past (or through) the impediments which for decades blocked her from natural, restful and revitalizing sleep.

If you (or the people around you) aren't able to function to full potential because of insomnia, I invite you to learn the art and science of deep relaxation. If reams of scientific research and countless testimonials aren't enough to convince you, then let the experience of the relaxation response directly prove to you that there is a natural way to overcome sleeplessness.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

*This article may be published in your newsletter or on your website if the author, Eli Bay, is acknowledged and his website address   is provided.


By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
As we move into the twenty-first century, North American business is reeling from the magnitude of extraordinary and unprecedented change. Never before have individuals (or organizations) been asked to adapt as rapidly as those of us living and working in the third millennium.

New operating systems and technologies proliferate and, just as we get a handle on them, they are superseded by new and improved models. Systems, structures and organizations today change almost as rapidly as the flow of digital information that now propels us into "the brave new world" of instantaneous global communication.

It seems trite to repeat once more the maxim that change is the only constant. But it's true. To illustrate the scale of change we have been subjected to over the last decade, let me ask you to first play a game.

I would like to give you a penny on the first day of the month, two pennies on the second day, four pennies on the day after that, then eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, doubling in number   every day   from the beginning of the month to the end of the month. The question for you is when would you like to play this game (and receive all these pennies) - during the month of June or the month of July?

If you chose June, you would receive a truckload of pennies, worth an astonishing $5.4 million. If you wonder how that very large sum of money emerged from pennies doubling every day over just thirty days, reflect on the fact that if you chose July, with thirty-one days, an extra day and an extra doubling, you would receive double the pennies, worth precisely $10.8 million.

Pennies doubling for thirty days is as follows: $.01, .02, .04, .08, .16, .32, .64, 1.28, 2.56, 5.12, 10.24, 20.48, 40.96, 81.92, 163.84, 327.68, 655.36, 1,310.72, 2,621.44, 5,242.88, 10,485.76, 20,971.52, 41,943.04, 83,886., 167,772., 335,544., 671,088., 1,342,176., 2,684,532., 5,368,704., 10,737,408.

This is an example of exponential or geometric growth, where the numbers at the beginning are small and insignificant, but suddenly become larger and larger, faster and faster.   One day at the beginning of the month means only one penny; one day at the end of the month means $5.3 million!!

It is important to understand the concept of exponential growth because it can provide you with profound insight into perhaps   the most significant issue of our time.   It is not that change is happening faster; it is happening   exponentially.   In just about every aspect of life!

Garbage in our cities is growing exponentially and many urban areas have suddenly run out of landfill sites. Computer chip performance has been growing exponentially over the past two decades so that today little chips of silicon the size of the nail on your little finger can now process billions of calculations per second. The world's population has been growing exponentially: in 1850 the population was one billion; in 1950 it was 2 1/2 billion; today it is well over 6.7 billion; within thirty years it will likely be ten or eleven billion. (It is growing by the size of The USA every three years). Illnesses like heart disease and AIDS have been growing exponentially. The surprisingly disappearance of 90% of the large fish in the world's oceans by factory fishing are examples of how quickly explosive exponential numbers can appear seemingly out of nowhere.

I spent all this space discussing the concept of exponential growth only to illustrate one vital point. If you don't appreciate the way large numbers are generated in the way we have been discussing, it would be almost impossible to understand that, as a culture, we have experienced more change in the last ten years than all of the changes that have happened in all of history, from the beginning of time until ten years ago!

And if you thought that the last ten years were challenging enough, wait - you ain't seen nothing yet! The next ten years threatens to make the last ten years look slow. With the exponential developments in telecommunications, artificial and amplified intelligence, expert systems, genetic engineering, globalization, the mapping of the human genome, it is predicted that   the world ten years from today will be more different from today than today is different from 100 years ago.

But, the physiologists tell us that our bodies have not changed in any noticeable ways since we were hunters and gatherers dwelling in caves. The gap between the slow evolutionary development of our bodies and minds is in contrast with the dramatic and extraordinary revolution in our technology and culture. This places a particular demand for adaptation on every single body which research suggests is perhaps greater than that which our bodies are built to handle. Alvin Toffler identified this problem more than thirty years ago. He called it "future shock". Today the strain created by the inability to adapt quickly enough is called   stress   and it is a major cost to both individuals and organizations.

There is no way to avoid the stress of change. You cannot say "stop the world I want to get off". There is, however, a practical strategy which can enable people to better coexist with these unusual demands to deal with change, a proven way to develop resilience, a way to renew and replenish individual and organizational strength. It has been called "the relaxation response".

Identified by a Harvard Medical School cardiologist in the early 1970's, this innate mechanism can be activated by just about everyone once they are shown how. When accessed, it creates a state of rest and recuperation that is deep enough to undo the effects of too much stress, from whatever the sources, and prevents stress from building to create illness and poor performance.

It is possible to handle the stresses and strains of the electronic workplace and the world of hyperchange. It is inexpensive and practical for everyone to learn simple but effective breathing techniques, tension release methods and mental success skills which can measurably reduce blood pressure and heart rate, cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar levels, strengthen the immune system, naturally slow your brain waves down to the creative and healing alpha and theta frequencies, improve the flow of oxygen to your brain leading to better thinking and memory, and a whole host of other benefits from preventing heart disease to improving your golf game.

If this sounds too good to be true, rest assured that there are volumes of research supporting these claims. Proper deep relaxation, a clinically proven way to combat today's stresses, is recognized as one of the essential life skills for the twenty-first century, a basic   survival skill,   for those who wish to thrive in the unusually demanding times which lie ahead.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control. He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
When you first awaken, are your feet running before they touch the floor? Is your life a continuous rush from activity to activity and project to project as you furiously seek accomplishments in your life? Does a major part of your identity and confidence come from your ability to get things done? Are you hard on yourself if you don't achieve all on your "to do" list? Are you "driven" to succeed?

If so, you are a classic "doer", the backbone of any organization. Volunteer, community and church groups depend upon you, as does your employer. Value and worth are synonymous with getting things done.

Managers look for doers to hire. Our valued teachers motivate their students to set high goals and achieve them. The Olympic practice of focusing upon your goal and giving your all for years and years is an ideal for the young. Responsible parents want to inculcate these values in their children. With all these cultural pressures, its no wonder that doing plays such an important role in our lives.

Yet there is downside to this obsessive focus on doing. In a word, the problem is stress. Hard driving doers usually live with an excess of stress hormones in their bloodstream as they plow through their day, racking up accomplishments with one eye on the clock and the other focused upon the next project. Adrenaline fuels the doer, often becoming an active addiction.

It is this driven personality that develops most of the heart and cardiovascular disease in this country. They are also the primary recipients of stress-related problems like sleep deprivation, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, anger, weakened immunity, arthritis, allergies and accidents. Research has also shown that this driven personality is not as productive as they believe themselves to be. Several studies have demonstrated that, although they work hard, they tend to spin their wheels a great deal.

What is missing from the lives of most of these doers is   balance.   They don't know how or they won't give themselves the permission to "not do". They don't properly rest and recuperate from the strain they constantly put themselves under.

What they have to learn is to allow themselves to just "be" for short periods of time; to let go of their constant striving and planning and doing. They must learn to unwind from their stress and be able to rest effectively enough to "recharge their batteries", so as to be able to bounce back feeling rested, revitalized and resilient.

The secret is to healthy productivity is to balance maximum activity with maximum relaxation or, as the great philosopher of life Frank Sinatra immortally expressed it: "Do, Be, Do, Be, Do". May we all be as wise as "old blue eyes".

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015

So how do you think about stress? Stress is not an event; it is your reaction to an event. Stress is your body's "fight or flight" instinctive protective system for responding to any perceived threat or challenge. A stressor is anything that threatens to disturb your physical, mental or emotional balance.

When you're faced with a situation that requires an adjustment in your behaviour, every part of your being automatically goes into a state of arousal.

This alert state is the stress reaction   and it involves a definite, complex and almost instantaneous set of physical and biochemical reactions that affect your mind and emotions as well as your body.

Your autonomic nervous system is activated by signals from a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. When it perceives a threat, real or imagined, it sends a message to the pituitary gland, which in turn secretes hormones that activate the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands secrete other hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that increase your heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory and muscular activity and at the same time reduce the activity of your repro­ductive and digestive systems. It fires up for action.

Blood is redirected from some organs to your muscles as blood vessels automatically change their size in the different areas.

Fats are released into the blood-stream and glucose levels are increased so that your cells can quickly convert them into the energy they need.

Your pupils open wider, your ability to use oxygen increases, your strength is increased, and you become more alert.

In other words, you're turned "on". All this and more happens almost instantaneously and this is what is referred to as the body's stress reaction. Similar reactions occur in your body in response to mental and emotional challenges.

Whether you have to write a report by tomorrow morning, go to a friend's funeral, or play a game of tennis, similar responses come to your aid. It makes you alert and gives you the energy to meet the challenge.

The stress reaction is also known as the "fight or flight" response. Birds taking instantly to flight when startled or the arching of a cat's back are examples of this reaction.





    (real or imagined )

Including:   Challenge
                      Change: good or bad
                      Unknown situation
                      Imagined danger
                      Physical exertion
                      Threat to biological integrity



Arousal of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system





Including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol





Blood sugar and fats
Muscle tension
Blood pressure
Heart rate
Mental alertness
Emotional anxiety

Sex hormones
Mental creativity
Emotional stability




The stress reaction is like an on/off switch. Not only does it need a signal to turn itself "on," it also needs some sort of signal before it will turn itself "off."

In this society, there are innumerable signals or life events that trigger the stress reaction, that turn "on" the state of alert. What tends to be missing are the signals to turn it "off."

This is because many of the problems faced by those living in contemporary society are not resolvable in a clear, unambiguous way. The stress mechanism doesn't get a definite signal to turn itself off.

The result is that many of us tend to be "turned on" most of the time, or to put it in another way, you may tend to be stuck in the "on" position.

North Americans live in a chronic, low-level arousal state. The body has to work harder to maintain this continuous state of arousal. Over time, it can eventually wear itself down to the point that it actually begins to break down.


Stress & Illness

When Dr. Hans Selye published his theory of stress he offered it as a new model for understanding disease. Selye, whose name is virtually synonymous with stress, was a researcher at the University of Montreal.

In his work with lab animals, he found that stress was a natural response of the body to almost any demand.

When he correlated his results with research from studies involving human subjects, he realised that there was a connection between the pressures of daily life and certain diseases.

Today it is estimated that at least eighty percent of all illness are stress-related and there is general agreement that almost every illness is made worse by stress.

Disorders that have been most clearly linked to stress include cardio­vascular problems such as high blood pressure, increased heart rates and cholesterol levels, heart attacks; digestive tract problems such as ulcers, IBS and colitis; disorders of the immune system like arthritis, allergies and lupus; respiratory difficulties, and a host of other pains and ailments such as backaches, headaches and psychological disorders like depression.

Studies now suggest that stress may affect the development and progression of diseases such as cancer and AIDS.


Positive Stress


While it is true that stress is inevitable, the news is not all bad. Stress is not an enemy. In fact it is a perfectly normal response to almost any demand for action, whether that demand is physical, mental or emotional.

Without the stress reaction we would never get up in the morning. Stress is the mechanism that allows us to adapt to the challenges of life every day.

Stress is not only a friend, it's absolutely necessary and, as long as there are challenges in life, it's inevitable.

Events that we normally consider to be positive can also activate the stress mechanism.

For example, if you were lucky enough to make a fortune on the stock market, you may be subject to the same degree of stress or arousal as if you had lost a fortune.

Getting married, going on a holiday, having a baby, getting a promotion are other examples. Even though these are happy and welcome occurrences they still add to the stress load.

The key to understanding the phenomenon is that these events call for an adaptation or a change of behaviour in situations that are unfamiliar to you, so they too are perceived as challenging.

It's okay to be "turned on." This is what living is all about. Dr. Selye called stress the "spice of life" because it is also excitement, arousal, enjoyment, as well as the ability to face difficult or unfamiliar situations.

The problem is not being "turned on." You just don't want to be left "stuck on."

In order to turn the stress mechanism off, your body needs a clear signal indicating that the challenge has been dealt with and resolved and that the stress reaction is no longer required.

This is evident in extreme cases such as a narrowly avoided accident and the subsequent sigh of relief when the danger passes.

But for most of us, there's a kind of ongoing background level of stress. The "off" signal to this static doesn't occur frequently enough. In the end, stress can exceed our level of tolerance.


Chronic Illness


It becomes a vicious cycle. You worry and your body tenses up. As your body tenses, you feel more stressed and tend to stay anxious, which tenses you even more.

We get into negative patterns which self-perpetuate and are hard to break out of. For most of us, chronic stress is a pervasive background element in our lives.

Unless this background level of stress is deactivated on a regular basis, the effects of stress accumulate in the body.Our bodies need time to rest, recuperate, and repair damage.

If the body doesn't get this opportunity, it will gradually wear out. As Selye pointed out, "No living organism can exist continually in a state of alarm".

Some people can take more stress than others. Differences in age, physical condition, attitude, diet, genetic predisposition, life situation and a host of other factors all contribute to the variation in ability to handle stress.

If there are several sources of stress in any one day, without relief, their effect is cumulative. The same is true over a lifetime.

The effects of today's stress are added to past stresses, whether they are biochemical, physical, emotional or mental.

In his later years, Dr. Selye confessed that he may have made an error by labelling this phenomenon “stress”. He felt that he would have been closer to the mark if he would have labelled it “strain”.

It is the constant strain of the body working harder than it should, sometimes referred to as the “allostatic load”, that over time contributes to its harmful results.

As we grow older, this total cumulative effect becomes more evident. Our capacity and willingness to handle the stress of new and unfamiliar challenges is gradually eroded and our bodies reflect this with fatigue and increased susceptibility to illness of all kinds.

Turning Off The Switch - The Relaxation Response


The term "relaxation response" was originally coined in the 1970s by Dr. Herbert Benson, then Director of the Hypertension Unit of the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and a medical researcher at Harvard University.

Benson was particularly interested in the work of Swiss Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Walter Hess.

Hess' experiments, involving direct stimulation of the hypothalamus of laboratory animals, demonstrated that there was an innate physiological response, which reversed the processes involved in the stress reaction.

Benson, a cardiologist, wanted to find a way of deliberately eliciting this response for use in the treatment of hypertension patients. He noted that positive results had been reported by people who practised meditation techniques.

Benson spent several years investigating the factors, which elicit what he referred to as the "relaxation response."

In effect, Benson identified several methods for turning the stress switch "off." The relaxation response is now a widely accepted model and many of its implications are still being studied and understood.


How Relaxation Affects The Body


Like the stress reaction, the relaxation response is triggered by the autonomic nervous system but through the second of its two branches, the parasympathetic system.

The parasympathetic system counteracts the effects of the sympathetic system. The relaxation response balances out the effects of the stress reaction.

The relaxation response brings about real and measur­able physiological changes in the body. It measurably lessens the stress reaction and restores balance.

Heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and muscle tension are reduced. Metabolism slows down, blood sugar and oxygen levels drop.

Hormone levels are rebalanced and blood flow is redirected to functions temporarily suppressed or deactivated by the stress mechanism.

The immune, digestive, and reproductive systems are returned to a healthier level of functioning.

Brain waves slow down and mental processing is enhanced. The various organs involved in these systemic reactions have a chance to recuperate and the body naturally begins to repair itself.

You will never be free of stress nor would you want to be. As Selye pointed out, "Complete freedom from stress is death." What you want to do is learn to maintain your stress at an optimal level and keep your bodymind in balance.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015

A study conducted by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare found that the best predictor of heart disease was not any of the physical risk factors (smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity and diabetes) but rather job dissatisfaction.   The second biggest predictor was   "overall unhappiness".   In fact, most people under the age of fifty who have had their first heart attack have none of the major physical risk factors for cardiac disease.

Did you know that more heart attacks occur on Monday mornings at or around 9:00 a.m. than during any other time of the week? The long term strain of a stressful job takes its toll over time and presumably the stress of returning to an unhappy work situation after a weekend away can become the catalyst for the physical breakdown.

This means that for your overall physical health as well as for your mental and emotional well-being, you would be wise to get your act together and find a job that you enjoy. If that is not feasible for you right now, ample research suggests that you should seek ways to help you shift your perceptions about the current job and/or cultivate areas of enjoyment outside of work by taking up hobbies, volunteering, focusing on family, service, etc.

Unfortunately, many people can only aspire to find a satisfying job. In the meantime, they have to manage in a situation that may be less than fulfilling. In such a situation, personal strategies for the self-regulation of the job stress would be a wise investment of time and energy. Ample research demonstrates that while you may not be able to avoid exposure to stress at work, you can effectively manage its effects and prevent the damaging results.

One of the best means to coexist with stress is develop skills that enable you to be able to periodically unwind from it. Accessing an unusual but measurable state of deep, healing rest called the "relaxation response" has been proven to counteract most of the negative effects of stress. If done four or five times a week for fifteen or twenty minutes before bed time, or on your lunch hour, or when you return from work, or upon awakening in the morning, it is possible to break out of stress/arousal state for long enough periods to allow every system and organ in the body to heal, balance and restore.

When the relaxation response is elicited with some regularity, many surprising benefits appear. Anxiety, headaches, depression, allergies, insomnia, eczema, herpes, asthma, fatigue, indigestion, chest pains, impotence, anger and other "rust" of life often clear up or are significantly reduced. Productivity rises. Memory, concentration and creativity improve. People become more positive and optimistic and happier.

Not least, job satisfaction measurably increases. In a study done by Martin Shain of The Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, and published in the book,   Healthier Workers, job satisfaction increased by 33% for the participants of our short Beyond Stress training program. An investment of a small amount of time in skill development can enhance performance and provide a legitimate bulwark against one of the major killers and cripplers of our time.

So, whereas stress may be unavoidable, it is possible to counteract many of its debilitating effects. As Ursula LeGuin so beautifully put it, "It is good to have an end to journey towards but it is the journey that matters, in the end". So relax and enjoy the journey.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

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By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
Without even bothering to ask for our consent, globalization and technological innovation are rapidly delivering us to a new world. In today's demanding work environment, there are few personal skills more valuable than being able to let go of the strain of adapting and being able to flow better with the accelerating and unremitting changes which are driving our workplaces and defining our time.

As we enter the twenty-first century, it's important to understand and develop resilience to the unusual scale of today's changes. Over the next ten years we will likely undergo more change than has occurred in all of human history from the beginning of time until now.

Through a process called homeostasis, every bodymind has an in-built tendency to resist change no matter whether it's good or bad. It's an amazingly complex system that wants to stay within narrow limits and return to that state whenever it is forced out of it. Our bodyminds evolved over many millennia knowing that in order to survive, stability was needed. Hence it developed this automatic reaction to change that served our hunter and gatherer ancestors well. It just didn't account for the "out of control" changes imposed on us by our new technological reality.

This homeostasis, or equilibrium, is a natural mechanism that wants to keep things as they are. We experience this automatic resistance to change in ourselves and we see it in our organizations. The resistance is generally proportionate to the size and speed of the change, making the unusual scale of today's changes especially demanding on every body.

There is a growing recognition of the need for twenty-first century workers to overcome our natural resistance to change and become more flexible and open towards it. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the former editor of The Harvard Business Review, described "flexible" as the most important essential skill for organizational survival in the new economy, along with becoming more "focused, fast and friendly". But telling people to become more flexible (and focused, friendly, etc.) and not showing them how is like telling them to go fly.

To devise a strategy to enhance flexibility you must first understand that resistance to change expresses itself in the bodymind as an arousal state commonly called stress. Over time the wear and tear of too much stress plays a significant role in making us sick and impairing our performance. As well, years of accumulated stress tends to keep us mentally and physically rigid and inflexible, negative, tired, and mentally resistant to change.

That's why one of the most important skills for our time is what Harvard Medical School has labeled the "relaxation response". The relaxation response is a measurable state of profound rest which, when regularly called upon, permits the bodymind to effectively unwind from the chronic strain that incessant adaptation has imposed. Within minutes, it achieves a state of rest that would normally be achieved after four or five hours of sleep. All of the complex and interrelated systems of the body respond by letting go of excess stress and it affords an aging, tired and straining bodymind a much-needed chance to properly rest, recuperate, and repair.

It's a total response of the bodymind. The heart beat becomes slower as does one's breathing rate. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels drop. Brain waves slow down. Even skin resistance changes. The entire bodymind system becomes quiet and has an opportunity to rebalance and replenish itself. Measurable self-healing occurs. Every system in the bodymind has an opportunity to regenerate and renew itself. It goes beyond the advertising hype and produces an actual experience worthy of the expression, "the pause that refreshes".

Decades of medical research has proven that everyone can be more in control of themselves by learning simple ways to properly unwind. By releasing stress on a regular basis we have a natural safety valve that keeps it from building to harmful levels. Almost everybody who uses the relaxation response discovers that they are much better able to withstand the strains of modern life. They can absorb so much more without negative side effects. They are able to flow more easily into the new structures as they emerge, adapt to new ideas, and creatively respond to new challenges.

Those hoping to steer their organizations through the white water that is clearly ahead would be wise to provide their workers with the "how to" of bodymind self-regulation, the relaxation response. My bet is that the greatest success in the new economy will come to those organizations and individuals who have learned best how to effectively let go and flow better with change.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
"There is no cure for birth and death except to enjoy the interval"

George Santyana

Do you know how fast light travels?

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. That's really fast. In one second, light can travel 7 1/2 times around the circumference of the planet!

It takes light traveling at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 km per second) eight minutes to travel the 93,000,000 miles from the sun to the earth. Astronomers describe the Earth as being eight light minutes away from the sun. The moon, by contrast, is just three light seconds away from the Earth.

Astronomers measure the vast distances in space in terms of  light years.  A light year is the distance that light will travel in an entire year. In eight minutes it travels 93,000,000 miles. In a full year, light travels a mind boggling 5.8 trillion miles.

People who study these things believe that the Milky Way Galaxy, our neighbourhood in space, is about 100,000 light years across. That means that it would take 100,000 years for light to travel from one end of the Milky Way to the other.

If that doesn't cause your frail human mind to sputter a little, please consider the following: if you counted one number a second it would take you about fifteen minutes to count to a thousand, two weeks to count to a million, and thirty-two years to count to a billion. That's how much a billion is.

Well, the entire Milky Way galaxy is comprised of over one hundred billion stars, and is but one of several hundred billion galaxies that we know of in the Universe.

If you could imagine that the entire Milky Way was about the size of an apple, the rest of the known Universe would be about the size of North America (Canada, the USA and Mexico).

What has this got to do with stress? It has to do with perspective.

Most of us are so totally caught up with our personal "issues" - our "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"- that we often lose sight of the big picture, the cosmic perspective.

So, the next time your stomach tightens when you hear a strange sound coming from your car motor, or when your face flushes when you feel slighted by a colleague, or when you feel your blood pressure go through the roof when your teen comes home with a tattoo on the forehead -- stop. Take a few deep breaths and put things in perspective. Ask yourself: "In the total scheme of things, how important is this issue in the big picture scheme of things?"

As Dr. Robert Elliot succinctly states in his two rules for stress control: "1. Don't sweat the small stuff. 2. It's all small stuff." It really is. So lighten up and give yourself permission to enjoy your life.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at  or (416) 932-2784.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
We are a technological society. Technology enabled us to rise from upright apes to fly to the moon and send our robot creations to explore other planets. From the club to the lever to the steam engine to the Hubble Telescope, our technology has defined and shaped the human experience. As much as we have created our technology, we are also created by our technology.

As we move into the twenty-first century we are offered the promise of a technological wonderland around the corner. The prevailing belief is the new technologies will solve all of our problems in the workplace and indeed, in all area of our lives. It might fairly be said that faith in technological progress has become the religion of our culture.

But are we too enthusiastically optimistic? Is there a downside to technology to which we must awaken before we commit our future? Is there a danger that we are giving up some essential human values and needs in order to serve the needs of our technology?

We're at the very beginning of the electronic revolution and what is coming towards us is breathtaking. Soon there will be smart houses and smart cars; lawyers, doctors, accountants, mechanics, teachers and other skilled professionals will likely go the way of secretaries and middle managers, replaced by an expert system; soon most of us will telecommute to our jobs, isolated at home and communicating with others indirectly with e-mail and the like, as virtual corporations with tiny staffs will replace those we are familiar with.

Everyone is so enthusiastic about the "gee whiz" technology that performs such awesome tasks so quickly, so well, that we often overlook the human side of the technological revolution.

In the 1980s, the researcher and social commentator, John Naisbitt, coined the term "high tech-high touch" to offer us a way to coexist with the new silicon-based world. To counteract the very real problems of the human-machine interface, he suggested that we should seek to balance our technological orientation with one focused upon human needs, symbolically referred to as "high touch".

Unfortunately, his warnings have been essentially ignored and our future is being created by one dimensional techies who don't have sufficient grasp of the human dimension. The silicon world of bits and bytes and nanoseconds are new and quite foreign to the human experience. This is especially true as our bodies haven't changed in any noticeable way since our ancestors lived in caves. And since Naisbitt wrote about high-tech, high touch in   Megatrends,   our culture probably had to deal with more change than it would have experienced during the entire historical period encompassing the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation and the Industrial Revolution.

It is the great blindness of the technological imperative to believe that we can safely ignore the effects of technology upon the human body, mind and spirit. And this blind spot may indeed prove to be the undoing of the vision of a better world through technology.

Are we to be but appendages to machines or are the machines to serve to us? Are we going to be "dumbed down" by our machines, living fragmented, alienated lives cut off from meaningful contact beyond terse e-mail communications, or are we going to be "smartened up" by the judicious use of these remarkable new tools with extraordinary potential. Unless we ask these questions we may just find ourselves in a technological nightmare not unlike some of the science-fiction dystopias we are familiar with.

We ignore the human dimension of technology at our own risk. As Stephen Talbott, author of   "The Future Does Not Compute"   writes, "No one will find a solution to the problems of technology - or to any other human challenge - except by first coming to terms with himself and moving personally toward wholeness". Until we have a strong sense of who we are and what we need to thrive, we are at the mercy of inanimate machines whose interests are quite different from ours. Let us wake up before it's too late.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

By Eli Bay 05 Nov, 2015
As part of the incessant need to provide monkeys to research labs around the world, teams of monkey catchers have developed an interesting system to capture live monkeys. While it is still dark, the teams take long-necked heavy ceramic vases to places where monkeys are known to frequent. Fresh bananas are then placed in them and the teams go off and lay similar traps elsewhere.

In the morning, the monkeys find the vases and discover the succulent fruit that has miraculously appeared overnight. With gusto, they reach into the vases and grasp a banana. When they try to extract their arms they discover that they can't. The fist that is grabbing the banana has now become thicker than the neck of the vase and the monkey is unable to get the arm out. When the monkey catchers return that night they find that the monkeys are still there, usually exhausted after trying in vain for hours to lift the heavy jar and escape with it. The monkeys are then caged and sent to some university lab on the other side of the world.

Now all that monkey had to do to escape from his unfortunate fate was to let go of the banana, but the poor stubborn thing just hung on and on. We can smugly chuckle at the antics of the poor dumb creature that just didn't have the sense to release the desired prize. Of course, we're above that, right?

What you may wish to ask yourself is whether this monkey business has any relation to your life. Do you in fact have patterns in your life which approximate those of our evolutionary cousins? Are there counterproductive activities that you hang onto with the same stubbornness?

Would you rather slowly kill yourself with rich, fatty food rather than eating sensibly by telling yourself that if you have to eat only "healthy" food, life would not be worth living?

How many marriages or relationships do you have to experience before you are willing to let go of your need to be right, or in control, or to blow up in a torrent of anger if things don't go your way?

How many stress symptoms or illnesses do you have to deal with before you can let go of the obsessive perfectionism that drives you to work long and hard and keeps you enslaved to your deep insecurity?

How many demerit points and traffic fines will you put up with before you let go of your compulsive need to drive faster and faster?

Recognizing and letting go of that which doesn't serve you is the constant challenge that everyone faces. As you confront these tricky life situations, remember the monkey trap and choose to let go of the inappropriate choices. Alternatively, you can begin to look for a tree to swing on.

Eli Bay, the founder and director of the Relaxation Response Institute in Toronto is a corporate trainer, professional speaker and host of two award-winning public television series teaching practical stress control He can be reached at   or (416) 932-2784.

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