Teacher, teacher! Can you hear this too?

  • Can you tell the difference between a Robin and a Tit?
  • How stress can lead to heart break
  • Try these simple home exercises to aid relaxation

Are you enjoying the dawn chorus?

The bird song that greets us every morning as the sun shines.

With no traffic noise, no aeroplanes and few people walking around the air is loud with the birds.

I’m no David Attenborough when it comes to identifying them though, so this week I decided to try to find out a bit more.

Sitting in my office now I can hear a shrill song which sounds like it’s saying “Tea-Cher, Tea-Cher” repeatedly.

Which I now know is the call of a Great Tit.

Earlier there was a song which seemed to end with the bird saying “Diddyoooh!” which conjured up an image of the late Ken Dodd for some reason.

This, my friends is the happy song of a Chaffinch.

But my favourite remains the Robin which is a beautiful sound of melodic warbling and sometimes a sharp “tic-tic-tic” if next doors’ cat is on the prowl.

We actually have two Robins around the house, one in the front garden and one out the back who challenge each other in a song duel throughout the day. Marvellous noise.

The one from the back has taken to popping into the conservatory and eating a few meal worms that I have in there for him.

I know, I’m just an old softie at heart! (But don’t tell anyone about this as I prefer to be thought of as a grumpy old man…

Seriously though, I have really enjoyed learning more about the local birdlife this week – strangely I feel I have achieved something.

It has also cheered me up, and that is something we should all be trying to do.

The stress hormones that can ‘stun’ your heart

Avoiding worry and concern might be difficult right now, but if you let them take over you may regret it.

A research team from Johns Hopkins University have discovered that when you suffer emotional trauma, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flood your bloodstream. Your heart rate quickens, your blood pressure rises and your muscles tense.

These stress hormones can actually become toxic to your heart, effectively ‘stunning’ it, causing chest pains, breathlessness and heart failure.

There have been previous studies of cardiovascular deaths across the world, in which major traumas cause an increase in heart attacks. For example, in the wake of major earthquakes in California, Japan, Armenia and Greece.

Other triggers can include being the victim of a serious crime, losing your home, having to face a large audience or suffering a serious job crisis.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, told BBC online in January:

”The researchers have shed some new light… on a condition that is known to particularly affect older women – the sudden onset of what appears to be a classic heart attack following severe emotional stress.”

Of course, I don’t want to worry you. Most people recover from the kinds of heart attack you get from stress because it’s a temporary spasm, not a long-term defect.

What’s more, I’ve got some ways you can guard against it.

Try this Zen relaxation technique

I have a reader who regularly tells me I need to try Qigong – an ancient form of movement, breathing and meditation, and once this dratted virus passes I may well do just that.

But until then I have been doing something for myself.

I have found that the best way to guard against the effects of stress hormones is to take an hour out of your day to relax – every single day of the rest of your life!

By this I don’t mean watching the telly or doing the gardening. I mean serious relaxation using some tried and tested yoga relaxation and Zen meditation techniques.

They’re quite simple to follow.

  • Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure it’s in a pleasant room with no distractions. Sit cross-legged with your back straight and imagine a calm scene in your head – waves rolling onto a beach or a breeze rippling through a cornfield.
  • Begin to take deep breaths. Each time you exhale, feel your body relax further and further. Do this at least ten times.
  • Clench the muscles in your feet for 5 seconds, then consciously relax them. Do this with your calves, thighs, buttocks, stomach, chest… all the way up to your facial muscles. This works because by tensing your muscles you can relax them more effectively. This is called ‘progressive muscular relaxation’. Do this slowly over 10 minutes.
  • Now combine the two. Focus on steady, deep breathing – but also relax each part of your body in your mind, from your feet to your face. You don’t need to clench the muscles first this time, but count your breaths. Do this for 20 minutes

Don’t be tempted to lie down – you may fall asleep, which is not the point of the exercise.

And don’t worry about nasty thoughts intruding. This will happen at first. Let them come and go naturally and don’t dwell on them.

What you will do with this exercise is train your mind and body to manage the symptoms of emotional trauma, reducing the stress hormone levels in your heart. Soon you will find yourself slipping into relaxation mode whenever you wish.

Be aware that these techniques will take practice, so give them time to work. But I swear by them…

Right I’m off to listen to the birds and practice my relaxation.