(photo: masone)

Learn and employ the 5R strategy for lowering stress in your life.

There is a story that my dad likes to tell about when I was 16 and signed up for an intensive course on firearms. It included three focused instructional sessions to train participants in the best use of handguns.

The first lesson was held in a classroom setting and only focused on the knowledge-based material. This included learning about the different types of guns and the variety of bullets, etc. The second class was held at an indoor shooting range.

We got hands on practice shooting a variety of handguns including an option to fire the powerful .44 Magnum as seen in Clint Eastwood’s movie, Dirty Harry. After this class many students felt that they were ready to handle a firearm. They now had the knowledge to consider themselves well trained. And this is where many of us get stuck with our confidence and exactly how false confidence begins to develop. The instructor explained it like this:

You might think you are now well trained with a firearm. You know how to aim and fire to hit your target. Everyone has proven their skill in this environment, and I am confident that everyone can continue to perform well in this set context from this point on.”

This is where we trap ourselves with “false self-confidence,” by being contextual. In this particular context we are confident with our firearms. You might score a higher or lower level of confidence when speaking to your peers at the office as opposed to your friends after work or strangers at a seminar. This confidence level may not be the same in a different environment.

The instructor went on to explain:

Sure, it is easy for you to hit your target now. But what about after you run two miles, how will you shoot then? What if you are lying down or shooting from behind the wheel of a truck. What if you are moving or your target is moving? With this added pressure, your ability to perform could change drastically.”

This is exactly what happens to the rest of us. We might have the most confidence in the world at home speaking with our family, but change the context and apply pressure and you clam up. Even if you are giving the same speech and know your material by heart, if stress decides to show its ugly head, it will block your confidence before it has had a fair chance to fire.

Relax – Aim – Fire

To continue my story, we moved our training to the outdoors where we could apply a number of stressful tests. In the end, I remember the instructor collecting the targets and announcing that I had not only done very well with my shooting, but I had also out-shot the instructor. This is why my dad tells the story. But looking back, I can remember that I used a slightly different strategy when firing my pistol than the others. I remember that although I knew how to aim (grip, lining up the site, using the eyes, etc.), instead I applied more of an open focus and based my decision on when to fire on how I felt and didn’t pause to aim. I focused more of my attention on relaxing and allowing each shot to be part of the entire experience. I wasn’t over-focused on my target or my aiming. A kind of “use the force” moment. But in hindsight, I realize that I removed the stress and that simply feeling the aim was far more realistic for me.

It was an act of being in-the-now as opposed to trying to take a step-by-step approach I had already internalized. Acting on a more open and subconscious level that eliminates stress will allow you to perform more freely too, which will improve your results. Since the above is far more complicated to explain, let’s focus on one of the fastest ways to improve performance –removing stress.

While I am on the topic of focus and open-focus in particular, I would like to suggest a great book on stress reduction: The Open-Focus Brain: Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins.

This book teaches one to relieve stress by attaining what the authors call “open focus” – a more flexible form of attention that, paradoxically, allows one to focus better and in a more relaxed way. According to Fehmi, most of us habitually operate in a narrow-focus stress mode resulting in anxiety and a host of physical problems. Fehmi draws on his experience with neuro-feedback (brain-wave biofeedback) to explain how we can shift our brain waves to attain open focus.

The secret to hitting your target and reaching your aim is to relax before you shoot.

Here are a few great ways to reduce stress and relax:

A friend of mine, a medical doctor practicing and teaching holistic strategies and the author of a book on the same principles, uses the following 5R strategy for stress relief:

  1. Redirect
  2. Replace
  3. Relax
  4. Release
  5. Reevaluate

Stress is a survival reaction. In emergencies, hormones are pumped into the bloodstream, and our strength can more than triple. When people are dissatisfied with their lives, they often want to move away or make more money. They think their problems will disappear like snow in the sun. The richest people often have the biggest problems. What doesn’t change with becoming wealthy is your ability to deal with problems and stress. Let’s review some of the key strategies for stress relief in a little more detail.


To conquer stress, you can change negative energy into a positive force. One solution is to change its direction and use it for motivation. When I worked with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), I found that the martial arts worked great for them. These children have exceptional levels of energy and creativity. They don’t need boring strategies or time outs. They need to have that energy directed into something positive and challenging. I rarely had an issue with these types of children because my system of martial arts was tailored to their needs.


A great way to relieve stress is to start another stressful activity and begin to use different muscles and areas of the brain. Think, for example, of training in the martial arts after work. Mental activities like listening to music or reading are also very good. Hobbies are great, but you should be physically active for at least three hours a week. Stretching exercises are also a perfect stress fighter. After an hour behind the desk you should get up, stretch yourself, bend your knees a few times, and do some breathing exercises.


Imagine boiling water for too long and how it starts to overflow. You need to turn down the fire and let things cool off. You need to do the same thing when things heat up in your life. When you suffer from an overdose of stress and the circumstances allow, one solution is to take a Power Nap. All you need to do is lie down for a few minutes and rest; close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly. You might even fall asleep. When you wake up, you will be fresh and ready to go.


Laughing and humor are magical when it comes to stress reduction. When you laugh, the endorphin production increases; this calms us and acts as a natural pain killer. The most important thing we can learn from humor is reassessment. When we can laugh about our suffering and see the funny side of it, then it is already half as painful. Try to schedule time where you focus on laughter. Perhaps you have a favorite song, comic, movie, book, magazine, or television show that makes you laugh or smile. Even a particular funny memory can be used. Not only will this reduce stress, but it is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. Milton Berle once said that laughter was an instant vacation!

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” – Jean Houston


Reevaluating can be done by distancing yourself from the “now” by stepping into the future about 10 years and looking back at the importance of the current experience. Another technique is exercised by comparing yourself with people who are worse off or less fortunate. These are both tools for gaining much needed perspective.

I worried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.

Winjitsu Work Out

Write down the 5 R’s.

  1. Redirect
  2. Replace
  3. Relax
  4. Release
  5. Reevaluate

Think of your most recent stressful moment. Write down next to each “R” what you might have done to lower the stress of the situation.

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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