Triumph over stress!


This week we were kindly invited to present Phobia Free at the Triumph over Phobia Forum. We are very grateful to Carole Stone and Trilby Breckman for the opportunity. Triumph over Phobia is a UK charity that helps people recover from phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder. I drew the short straw so it was up to me to showcase the app in front of 40 people. The audience included eminent clinicians and academics like Dr Lynne Drummond and Professor Issac Marks. It also included people working in the media, phobia sufferers, group facilitators and relatives of people affected. Conservative MP and mental health advocate Charles Walker opened the session.

The projector? Oh, it's nearby...

You can imagine how nerve-wracking the whole thing was. What I haven't told you is that I, in my wisdom, I had decided to present directly from the iPad so I could demo the augmented reality feature then and there. This required an extra degree of coordination as the standard equipment you are likely to find at conference venues does not play nice with iPads. As I picked up Russ and Richard at St Pancras I got the inevitable question; 'right, have you brought the projector, then?'. My knees got just a teensy bit weak at that moment, but I played it cool: 'well, it's nearby.' meaning 'not, really, it's back at home.'

The clock is ticking

With only a few hours to go we walked into a couple of the electronics shops in Tottenham Court Road and proceeded to buy a projector and speakers. Russ tried to haggle a bit, but the shrewd manager detected our desperation and was merciless! A bit skint but happy that we had all the right equipment we congratulated ourselves on our problem-solving skills and went for lunch... only to realise that we didn't have any business cards!

We once again exploited Simon's talent and got him to design business cards in under 20 minutes---they look good as well! We got a local printers who made us 300 cards in less than 30 minutes (impressive!) I have to plug him because he was truly a hero: thank you Fraser from PrintFast.

We made it!

We got to the place were we were presenting and we even had a little bit of time to make sure the ink on the cards was dry. When we got to the conference room it turned out that the projector they had was perfectly compatible with the iPad! Everything worked well and the AR demonstration went without a hitch. Russ looked suitably distressed with the spider crawling up his shirt on the big screen. All in all it was a very enjoyable evening and I think we made some friends. I think people hardly noticed how stressed I had been just before presenting.

Calm under pressure

So how did I manage through all those things going not quite as planned and still being able to more or less function? Well, I did use the calm breathing technique we teach in Stress Free, which you can do anywhere. I also listened to a little bit of classical music. Russ always makes fun of me for that and both Simon and Richard actively resist it but I have the evidence on my side!

A study published in the British Jornal of Health Psychology in 2004 was looking at the potential benefits from music to destress. In particular the authors were interested in seeing whether a bit of music can lower your blood pressure and help you unwind after having a difficult time. They recruited 75 unsuspecting volunteers and gave them a very mean maths test. Then they got them to ether sit quietly, listen to pop, jazz or classical. In a pararel experiment they also gave them a choice to listen to whatever they wanted.

Those who sat quietly, listened to pop or jazz had a blood pressure 10 points above what it was before taking the test. Those who listened to classic had a blood pressure only 2 points above what it was before the maths test. Their conclusion is that music does help recover from stress, but not all music works. Why this would work with classical music and no other genres is not clear to me (or the authors). I was expecting that when the person was able to choose their preferred music that might be the best scenario, but it doesn't seem to be the case.

I am speculating here, but it might be something to do with priming. We expect classical music to be relaxing and other genres may be seen as more exciting so therefore that is exactly what happens. If anyone knows why this should be the case, please let me know. In the meantime classical is going into the music selection for Stress Free Premium!

As a bonus here is one of the tunes I find most relaxing of all performed by the amazing Yo-Yo Ma

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