Stress is a fact of life, both in happy and challenging times. The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecicuct has brought about much fear, anxiety, loss, anger and grief thoughout the country. This is an extreme situation where stress is prevalent, yet many of us live with fear and anxiety on a daily basis. How can we help ourselves so our emotions do not impact our physical and emotional wellbeing? Throughout my book, I offer many simple practices and I will highlight two simple techniques to help guide you back to the moment so stress does not take you over.
Martin Rossman, a clinical instructor at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical School talks about stress as he explains:
“People under harmful stress lose the ability to re-engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which drives the body’s day-to-day natural functions, including digestion and sleep. While individuals vary in how long they can tolerate chronic stress, research shows it sharply increases the risk of insomnia, chronic disease, and early death.”
Kelly Kinsella has a one-woman show called When Thoughts Attack, and she’s getting rave reviews because so many people relate to her message. I know most of us have plenty of material to write a sequel (probably an entire series), which makes me wonder why it is so difficult to calm our crazy mind.
We try to be proactive through yoga, massage, meditation, and exercise so we are familiar with feelings of relaxation and stability, but before we know it we are blindsided by anxiety. Taking time for classes is helpful, but sooner or later we must go about our day. There are times we need a life preserver before we drown in the reactions of our mind. We need a few quickies that we can count on to get immediate results.
Many universities have added yoga as a course for freshman. They are using yoga as a way to help students with stress and time management. The practice helps them prepare to handle the lifelong challenges of stressful situations. I venture to say that many of us would not need the information here if we had taken this course when we were eighteen. Unfortunately, yoga is associated with difficult poses, but what it really teaches is flexibility in managing daily life.
Here are a few ways to achieve instant relaxation; these exercises have saved me on a daily basis:
Find Your Mountain
A mountain is sizable, stable, and majestic. It maintains consistency, even with the change of seasons and weather. The landscape on the mountain might alter, but the mountain remains solid. (You can equate this to a bad hair day!) Even if the mountain is judged in some way, it does not crumble or whine. You must remember that you have the qualities of a mountain, even when you are in the grip of tension or storms in your life.
At work, there are times that we need to get centered quickly but it must be unapparent to others. (So, getting on the floor in your business suit is off the list.) If you are on your way into an important meeting, finding your solid, secure, calm self is just beyond the surface of your thoughts.
- Stand with your feet solidly in the floor.
- Feel the contact of your feet to the surface beneath you.
- Bring to mind the image of the mountain and the attributes it embodies.
- Take a close look at its solid structure: the sides, the top, the landscape.
- Take a few breaths while feeling the weight of your feet tethered into the earth.
- Now, imagine you are that mountain; regal, centered, and empowered, and take that into your day.
If you are not one for visualizations, then simply feel the attributes that the mountain embodies and draw those feelings within.
I focus on breath often and there are many different practices to choose from. The following counting breath will quickly foster a calm mind:
- Begin to notice your breath moving in and out through your nose.
- Start to count the number of seconds it takes you to inhale, without forcing the breath in any way.
- Count the number of seconds it takes you to exhale, without forcing the breath in any way.
- See if you can even out the breath on the inhalation and exhalation.
- Count the breaths between 4 to 8 rounds.
Remarkably simple and incredibly effective, this technique can be done anywhere, anytime.
Think of these simple techniques as a quick zap to your “attacking thoughts.” They are free and do not require any change of clothes and do not hurt (sorry for those of you who live by the no pain, no gain philosophy). They can be done anywhere and take less than three minutes. Now that’s a deal!
Give these simple, quick techniques a try or any technique from a previous blog post and let me know in the comments below what happened. Were you able to quiet your thoughts?