Break the Stress Cycle Using the “Breakout Principle”

IMMUNITY LESSON 1 It is Time for You to be a Hero

   Productive Stress:  Stress is an essential response in both routine and highly competitive environments. Before a race, before an exam, before an important meeting, your heart rate and blood pressure rise, your focus tightens, you become more alert and more efficient. It also is helpful in cheerfully collecting the kids from soccer on time, preparing dinner, and getting everyone to bed with love.

Destructive Stress:  But beyond a certain level, stress overloads your system, compromising your mood, feelings, and performance and, eventually, your health.  This is illustrated in the Yerkes-Dodson graph below.

So, the question is: What can be done to control destructive stress? 

First, we need to understand that there is good stress, or “eustress,” and bad stress, or “distress.”  We will use the term “stress” to describe the bad stress or distress.

Secondly, stress (distress) is what we feel, not what actually happens.  It is our body’s psychological and physical reaction to the stressor

We need to develop an effective response to the multiple stressors that cause us to feel so anxious and overwhelmed that we cannot enjoy our life nearly as much as we should.  


Here’s one proven solution:

  Harvard Medical School professor Herbert Benson, M.D., is a founder of  the Mind/Body Medical Institute. He has spent more than 35 years conducting worldwide research in the fields of neuroscience and stress. Benson is best known for his  best seller The Relaxation Response, in which he describes how the mind can influence stress levels through such tools as meditation. 


His more recent research and book, “The Relaxation Revolution,” describes what he calls “the Breakout Principle,” a method by which stress is not simply reduced but carefully controlled so that you reap its benefits while avoiding its dangers. 

The “Breakout Principle” is a four-step process in which you: 

  1. First push yourself to the most productive stress level (optimal stress) by grappling intently with a problem.
  2. Next, just as you feel yourself flagging, you briefly disengage entirely by doing something utterly unrelated:  going for a walk, petting a dog, taking a shower, or meditating. (Note:  This is a great chance to utilize Measured Breathing from Lesson 8.)
  3. In the third step, as the brain quiets down, activity paradoxically increases in areas associated with attention, space-time concepts, and decision making, leading to a sudden, creative insight-the breakout
  4. Step four is achievement of a “New-Normal State,” in which you find that the improved performance is sustained, sometimes indefinitely. Return to your task relaxed and refreshed.


It works:  We all have experienced that “aha moment” when we are disengaged from the stressful activity, whether it be in the shower, on a walk, or whatever.   When overwhelmed or feeling almost overwhelmed, follow the steps above to rejuvenate yourself.  


And, feel more confident now that you have an additional tool to relax and “de-stress”.

Bottom Line:  When we are stressed, we just don’t have time to meditate for prolonged periods or perform a yoga routine.  Dr. Benson’s “Breakout Principle” is a valuable tool we can use whenever and wherever we want or need.  Try it.  It works.


“Disengaging briefly from destructive stress does calm your brain and transforms it into a New Normal State.  Why not use this simple and free method?  Today? Forever?”

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