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Situational Stress
Court Reporter Relaxation Training by Jeffrey A. Migdow, M.D.
Two types of relaxation techniques have been practiced for thousands of years, especially in the Orient, in India and China, and other cultures around the world. The first kind is a general relaxation technique to help a person release the stresses that have emerged during the day. The second is more specific relaxation techniques to deal with a certain type of situational stress that affects a specific group of people.   Court reporters are classic examples of people dealing with stress.

Situational stress reduction works by using basic relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and subtle movements to release physical, emotional, and mental tension. When done correctly they create physical relaxation and mental focus during a specific activity. Most research has found that the best stress-reduction techniques last anywhere between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. This gives the mind less opportunity to get involved and create tension and anxiety.

In my book, Breathe-In, Breathe-Out, I created a technique called the Breathing Break, which allows a person - within a few minutes - to relax their body and mind and sharpen their focus at the same time. This is the basis of our longer stress-reduction technique. This technique came from my experience working with Yogic breathing and the research of Herbert Benson. Herbert Benson, M.D., from Harvard, who wrote The Relaxation Response, did much research related to yoga breathing and found that through slow deep breathing the nervous system naturally relaxes as we shift from the flight or fight response to the relaxation response.

It is also physiologically true that when we breathe through our nose it relaxes the emotional centers of our brain that are connected to the olfactory nerve, the nerve of smell. For most animals, smells that come through their nose have a huge effect on their level of anxiety or relaxation. In humans we also are affected by smells. With slow gentle rhythmic nose breathing the emotional centers relax. It’s also true that the exhalation is the relaxation phase, so it’s important to exhale longer than inhalation.

For the court reporting exam, there is tremendous pressure to transcribe within your ability to acquire credentials. This dual stress of having to accurately write in steno, along with being tested, creates high-level nervous system test anxiety, due to the flight or fight response of the adrenal gland. The brain cannot distinguish the initial stress of a tiger bounding towards you versus the pressure of the court reporter exam. The body automatically releases excess adrenalin to deal with the stress, which affects focus, concentration, and the nervous system interaction between auditory input and motor response on the keyboard. If the stress is not life threatening, it calms down in three to five minutes on its own, but by that time your exam is over. These techniques can help prepare your neuromuscular system for the exam by practicing the Breathing Break regularly beforehand and then accessing the short Quieting Response as needed, as it is only 20 to 25 seconds!

When we practice a relaxation technique periodically during the day, day after day, after one week our body naturally begins to breathe more deeply and relax more fully even in times of crisis and stress. Just practicing over and over again allows the technique to be most beneficial when we really need it. This is similar to becoming an accomplished tennis player or pianist.  95 percent of the work is the practice, and then you take that practice into your tennis match or piano concert. And if you have practiced diligently and correctly with focus and clarity, then the result occurs most wonderfully. In the same way, court reporters can practice these relaxation techniques consistently and diligently with clear focus to support the ability to relax rather than become tense during stressful testing situations.

Charles Strobel, M.D. of Yale, author of The Quieting Response, also created a simple relaxation technique, which is the mainstay of our short technique and the end of our longer one. In this technique, we relax certain muscles of the body which causes our nervous system to shift from the flight or fight response to the relaxation response by releasing endorphins, relaxation chemicals in the brain. 

My experience is through the practice of the Breathing Break, a number of times during the day, and The Quieting Response when anxiety-producing situations occur that in most cases the body automatically shifts from tension to relaxation, the breath automatically deepens and slows, and the body lets go and the adrenal gland relaxes. When this occurs, you will find during your exam that your focus is sharper and the ability to transcribe will flow more easily and clearly.

Enjoy these relaxation techniques knowing they can prepare you more confidently for transcribing your exam.

Sincerely,
Jeff Migdow, M.D.
Holistic Medicine Practice, Lenox, MA
[email protected]
https://www.facebook.com/jeff.migdow
Prana Yoga Teacher Training Director, Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, Skillman, NJ
Reiki Usui Master with sessions in Lenox, MA, NYC and Princeton Yoga Center
Yoga & Holistic Health Workshops