Category Archives: Stress Management

Need a 15 Minute Vacation?

Ahh, it’s finally time to relax, let go of all your work, home, and other obligations because you’re on vacation. You’ve been dreaming, planning and counting the days until now. How often do you get the opportunity to let go of all the messy, stress-y stuff you experience in life every day? Once a year, or less?

And, if you do take a vacation with the family, how often does it not turn out the way you planned and imagined it would be? We once drove from Texas to the Grand Canyon with three children under age 12. An amazing experience was planned. The first sign that things were not going according to plan was when the fun car games were exhausted after only three hours, and promptly

Wish I Was HERE!!!
Wish I Was HERE!!!

replaced with a chorus of, “are we there yet?” The crowning achievement was when we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and within 10 minutes they were all ready to leave. No interest in exploring or hiking or even taking it all in. So much for the ultimate vacation. Sigh.

Sound familiar? What if you could take a vacation any time you wanted, and not have to worry about the enjoyment of others at the same time? You can, if you don’t mind using a bit of imagination.

There are limitless ways for you to get away, if only in your mind, for a mini-vacation, but here we’ll talk about four quick and easy ones. One or more should be available to you almost anywhere, anytime.

1. Go Outside. Sounds easy, and you may wonder how this could be a vacation; you did, after all come in from outside at some point today. Well, this journey out-of-doors will have a different purpose. Your mindset on this short trip will be to look around you at whatever flora, fauna, and interesting views may be found. If you have time to walk to a park or more natural area, great! Regardless, find a place to sit, or lean and just look around. Take in the sights, smells, and the feel of the temperature, sun or breeze on your skin. Just pay attention, and let go of everything you just walked away from. Notice what may be blooming or fading. Are there any critters around? Watch the birds or squirrels, and you may find yourself laughing at their antics. In other words, take a few minutes-or more- and smell the roses. When you feel ready to go back to your life before your mini-break, go ahead, but bring the feeling of being connected to nature with you. And, if you can’t actually go outside, find a window where you can do the same things. Imagine the scents and the feel of the wind. Be creative.

2. Visualize Your Favorite Destination. If you have favorite places you’ve been, sit back, close your eyes and take yourself back there and relive it, if even for a few minutes. Try to make your pictures in your mind as vivid as possible. Put yourself in the place and see yourself feeling great, having fun. If you can’t visualize very easily, find a few photos from your trip and look at them, and then get into the feelings you experienced while there. If you do this regularly, it will be easier to get away in your mind. Stay as long as you need to feel like you did on vacation.

3. Read a Travel Book. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but don’t have a plan to make it happen. Buy a book on your dream destination and take a few minutes to look at the beautiful photos and highlights of must see places once you get there. Imagine what it will be like. The bonus here, is that the more real your vacation seems to you, the likelier you are to make it happen!

4. Write a Travel Journal.  On paper or your computer, take a few minutes as often as possible to write down where you have been and loved, or places you are longing to visit.Call it your Travel Bucket List. Have fun picking all your most interested spots, and write about what you want to do/experience at each. Pretend you are there, and write an account of what you are experiencing. Use your imagination. Again, the more you want it and the more you feel motivated to make it happen, chances skyrocket that you’ll find yourself in that very spot someday.

Just a few quick ways to take you out of your present here, and travel to a place where you can be calmer, less-stressed and perhaps happier. Try to carve a few minutes out of every day, and you’ll find yourself better able to handle the rest of the day. Until your next mini-vacation. It’s waiting for you. Go.

 


When You Hit Rock Bottom, Take a Climbing Course

 

Imagine this, if you will. It’s been a rough year; your hours cut or worse, laid off from work, unexpected medical problems, kids have school needs, broken hot water heater…and on, and on. Trouble keeps showing up at your door.

Soon you find yourself behind on a couple of bills, then a few more, then the phone or the electricity is disconnected. And the fees for all the late payments and the disconnects start multiplying when you were unable to pay the original amount. It seems like a losing battle, doesn’t it? An endless catch-22.

What do you do now?

Well, it’s decision time. You have two choices: Do something, or do nothing.  You may feel helpless and stuck where you are, but just like when you fall off a horse, you have to get back on as fast as possible to prevent wallowing in the muck. It might seem like taking a break to survey how you got down here can be useful, but only for as long as it takes you to determine your next step.

If you don’t know what your next step is, you can’t take it. And then you’ll stay stuck at the bottom. I know. I’ve been there, more than once. It’s a scary place to visit, let alone stay for very long. But do you know what’s even more scary? Worrying that you’ll never get out.

Now your rock bottom state may be nothing like the one described above, but if at any time, or for any reason, you feel like you can’t get any further down, it’s time to take action.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I want to stay here and do nothing, hope I get rescued, or wait till it goes away? Or, do I want to climb back up to a happier, less-stressed life?

 Ok, you may want to say yes to that first question, but that will only put off your eventual yes to the second question (unless you really do have someone who can rescue you…but don’t count on it). So, just say “YES! I want to climb out of the muck and back into the productive level of life”! That, my friend, is the first, and the hardest step you can take. And once you do, there can be no looking back, only forward and upward.

What about the second step? The first forward action step is hard if you don’t know what to do next. Here is where that climbing course comes in. Climbing Out of Rock Bottom 101. It’s part of the Life Experience Major, School of Hard Knocks. You may not have realized you had enrolled in the program, but you may as well get your moneys’ worth.

The syllabus looks like this:
1.    You Are Here * (The Mental Prep)
2.    Choose Your Route
3.    Gather Your Gear
4.    Practice the Climb (The Physical Prep)
5.    Learn to trust Yourself
6.    View From the Top

It’s a practical, proven process to get you from stuck in the muck to making your way up the hill or the mountain where the sun is shining. Certainly you may be afraid to take a wrong step and end up at the bottom again, but with the right tools and confident steps and support, you can only go up.

Are you ready to climb out of the muck? It won’t be easy, but if you keep taking steps every day, you have to succeed.

That first step is to really take a look at where you are right now. How did you get here? What is not working well in your life at present? Spend some time on these questions. Write down all the thoughts that pop into your head over the coming week or so, until you feel like you have exhausted where you are and why.

You may want to enlist the help of someone who cares about you and will hold you accountable. In 12 step programs this would be your sponsor. In other areas of your life it could be a friend, or a life coach, or a therapist. You will have more success, much faster if you have an accountability partner.

That is your assignment for this week. Answer the above questions, and find someone who can help you make the climb to success.


Time Out to Find Some Peace

 

Life has become increasingly busy and fast-paced. It is so easy to lose focus on the more essential things. In exchange for working to get our earthly external needs met, we tend to neglect the importance of our internal needs, namely feeling peace and calm. This lack of internal peace can make us feel confused, exhausted and unfulfilled no matter how many achievements we may earn.

Peace is the main focus of meditation. It allows us to watch the flow of our thoughts as we retire to the inner world of the senses.
And more significantly, meditation infuses new energy into the monotony of our daily routine.

Meditation is most beneficial when you make it part of your everyday routine. In its simplest form, the practice of meditation brings satisfaction and renewal of spirit. During the little time that meditation requires each day, you learn more about yourself. This understanding can lead you to exciting achievements not only in your spiritual life, but also in your relationships with others.

While you learn to focus and concentrate, meditation brings you a clearer sense of direction, and often answers to questions that plague you. When you make a daily practice of meditation, you will begin to notice how it changes your life, perception and purpose.

How do you meditate? It may seem mystical and unnatural, but is in fact a practice that has been around for thousands of years.If you are a beginner, here is a simple meditation technique that will nurture your consciousness to expand beyond the realms that you experience during the normal course of a day.

The entire process can be as short as 5 minutes to an hour or more. You may wish to set a timer if you have a limited period available.
Here are the steps to take:

Step 1:  Find a quiet and comfortable place good for reflection. Sit in a comfortable position. You can sit cross-leged on a carpet/towel or mat, or sit in a chair. The exact seated position of meditation doesn’t matter, as long as you feel relaxed and focused.

Step 2:  Gently close your eyes. This is an essential requirement to shut out the chaos of the world. Closing your eyes directs  your attention to your internal awareness, a major goal of meditation. It is because the sense of sight greatly diminishes your other senses ability to focus. There are open-eyed meditations, however for a beginner you will have a much better experience, and more insight with your eyes closed.

Step 3:  Relax. This is a vital step when meditating. One way to do this is by taking deep breaths, say to a count of 7. Hold for 5 counts, and then exhale for 7. As you exhale, release any discomfort in your body.Letting go of tension in your muscles helps to let go of the stress accumulated throughout the day. Beneath your eyelids, watch the space and the darkness and the colors that may pass. Put your attention on the flow of your thoughts as they pass through your mind, without dwelling on any of them. Just Watch how these thoughts rise and fall. As you do this, your subconscious becomes more vibrant and aware.

Step 4:  You may repeat a mantra. This will help keep you focused. An effective mantra is the Sanskrit Sloka, amaram hum madhuram hum.
This means “I am immortal, I am blissful”. However, you can use any word or sound that doesn’t have an emotional meaning to you. The first time I meditated, I repeated “relax” over and over as I exhaled.

Step 5:  When your time is up, or you feel it is time to move on, rub your two hands together and then lay them on your face to give it warmth.
This will help you return to your other activities feeling refreshed and relaxed. For the easiest plan that will get you results, do this meditation for at least ten minutes, twice a day. Preferably, at the start and at the end of the day.

Easy enough? Don’t worry if it is difficult to ignore the thoughts and to-do items that keep intruding your mind. Just let them pass. Before you know it, you will look forward to this quiet time to recharge your spirit through meditation. You will find yourself coming up with answers to questions that baffled you. You will feel more centered in your dealings with others, and you will feel ready to tackle more challenges in your life.

Meditation can be a cornerstone of Spiritual Wellness, but you can also see how it will spill over into your Emotional, and Physical Wellness realms.


How to Be Positive +

 

It’s Friday. You come home from a long day, long week at work.  Two days off to regenerate and spend some relaxing time with the people you love. While fixing something to eat, you turn on the news; national or local, it doesn’t really matter. One after another, you are bombarded with stories of grief, pain, inhumanity, all complete with gory detail.

How are you feeling after that simple half hour of your time? Angry? Depressed? Helpless? Disgusted with your fellow humans? Most likely. Or does it inspire you to do something to change things? Perhaps, for a moment, and then it gets buried under all your more pressing, personal issues, right?

Try instead, on this Friday evening, to turn on some beautiful music and gather with those you love to break bread and share stories of all that was right in our world this week; how small, simple choices made a positive impact. An evening of stories filled with humor, insight, accomplishment, inspiration, all also complete with magnificent detail.

How are you feeling this time? Chances are if you told others about your experience helping a stranded woman change a flat tire, you feel utterly wonderful, doubly when you know that the woman you helped probably felt quite grateful as well. You may be awed and inspired by others’ relegations of their adventures this past week. Does this make you want to go out and change the world? Absolutely. Not only that, but you have first-hand experience with how it can be done, by each one of us every day, one act of kindness at a time.

Funny thing about each scenario; they both tend to multiply based on the amount of people involved and time invested in them. Which would you rather experience more of, the negative or the positive? What is your plan then, to combat the awful news we are inundated with regularly? One day, one person, one act at a time is a great start. And share it with others, because therein lies the seed of hope.


Tis the Season to Be Stressed(Free)!

 

The holiday season brings with it a hodgepodge of feelings for me. I love the anticipation of spending time with friends and family, of watching the faces of my kids when they open their gifts, or the warm feeling I get when driving or walking through neighborhoods decorated with lights.

I also dread the traffic as the days pass by, and the rush to get everything put together, wrapped, baked, and cleaned on time.

Along with all of those feelings comes a healthy dose of STRESS. Most of us toss that word around like we’re talking about the weather. Yes, stress is common, and some stress in our lives is even healthy. But before the season gets out of hand and leaves in its wake a frazzled, let’s-get-this-whole-season-over-with-soon mindset, here are a few things to stop the stress overload in its tracks.

S – Schedule the Important Stuff

To be sure you don’t miss the things you really want to do, put those front and center on your calendar, and work around them: the Holiday School Concert, the Cookie Exchange, etc. Keep up with yours and your families’ activities, to prevent last minute panic.

T – Take a Breath

Any time you feel anxious or overwhelmed, stop and just take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose until your lungs, and then your diaphragm are filled. Exhale through your mouth slowly. Repeat for one minute and you will feel much more relaxed, and your blood pressure will go down as well.

R – Relax

Taking a breath is one great way to help you relax, and can be done anytime. When times are especially stressful, more relaxing activities can pre-empt the cortisol that is released when stress builds up. That can be as simple as listening to  calming music, to taking a bath or meditating. Yoga or Tai Chi are very stress-reducing stretching exercises with great health benefits. Pick an activity that makes you feel good, and do it regularly.

E – Exercise

Physical Activity releases endorphins in the brain which relieve anxiety and stress and even lessen depression. The best part is that as little as five minutes of exercise can start the chain reactive effect that endorphins have on the body. Go for a brisk walk, or an extra lap around the mall, just walking. Jumping jacks, stairs, or even dancing around the house are great options.

S – Stay Focused

Here is where the wheels can easily come off the bus. Try to stick with your important items, and say NO to anything that will not help you stay focused on your goals. Of course, things can come up that you weren’t expectiog, just take the time to ask yourself if you really want to take on the task, go to the event, or spend the time on it. You will thank yourself later.

S – Smile!

This is the easiest one to do, and my personal favorite. There are numerous studies that link laughter with increasing all the positive healing hormones in our bodies. There are even documented cases of patients healing their cancer with hours of watching belly-laughing comedies every day. How awesome, and so much cheaper than medicine! Curl up with your favorite movie or TV comedy, or visit a local Comedy Club.

These are just a few simple, quick ways to keep you in the holiday spirit. Pass it along, and spread a little cheer wherever you go this season. Enjoy!