Quick Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

11 Comments February 18, 2009 / Posted in Breathe, Mindfulness
Calm-Year of the Snake

Calm-Year of the Snake


Karen Sothers, teacher of the MBSR program at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine was quoted in this article by R.J. Ignelzi today.

Each of us can make the most out of taking moments to remind us to be mindful.

Give Stress A Rest:
Simple, quick relaxation techniques help tackle tension

By R.J. Ignelzi
Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. February 17, 2009

Your investments are crumbling, your job is faltering and your kids are hacking with the flu. No wonder you’re a tad tense.
Stressful times call for soothing measures. But who has time for a long, hot bubble bath or luxurious full-body massage when you’re on a deadline or late driving your son to soccer practice?

No worries. You don’t have to put your hectic life on hold to chill out. Local relaxation gurus offer quick stress-busters to help you tame your tension at home, in the office, on the road or while standing in line at the grocery store.

Hold hands with a loved one. Brain scans show that human touch provides immediate relief from stress.

Connect to a buddy. “Call a friend. You can vent or just talk about your day to make you feel better,” says Kathy Leavenworth, wellness education specialist at Sharp Healthcare.

Brush your pet with long, slow strokes. You’ll both feel better.

Give yourself a mini scalp massage. While you’re helping your son with his homework, run a pencil lightly through your hair, tickling your scalp for a bit of tingly relaxation.

Soak a hand towel and microwave it a couple of minutes until steamy. Place it on your neck, forehead or achy lower back.

Crank up the music and dance. No matter if it’s a tango, ballet or your version of hip-hop, just get up and groove to the music.

Practice progressive muscle relaxation. Begin tensing, then relaxing your body, starting at the top of your head and continuing down through the neck, shoulders, arms, hips, legs and feet.

Decompress your spine. Bend over at the waist with the knees slightly bent. Hang down loose like a rag doll for about 15 seconds. Then very slowly set yourself upright, stacking your vertebrae.

Be a list maker. Eliminate the stress of trying to remember what you need to do. Prioritizing tasks helps reduce tension.

Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning so your aren’t as rushed.

Write down your stresses. By putting it on paper or in the computer, it will seem like less of a burden. For each entry, ask yourself how critical this problem is to your life and if you have control over it, suggests Leavenworth. “It will help you to define what’s really important,” she says.

Keep a gratefulness journal. Before you go to sleep each night, write down one or two things you’re thankful for. Read those entries each morning. “This kind of journal forces you to focus on the positive,” Leavenworth says.

Soothe weary computer eyes. Rub your palms together vigorously to create heat and place them over your closed eyes for a full minute.

Squeeze a soft rubber ball in your hand for three seconds and then release.
Repeat this 10 times in each hand and your tension will slowly dissipate as your muscles relax.

Practice quickie yoga.
Sit up straight in your chair and let your arms drop limp at your sides. Inhale, and on the exhale, lean forward and rest your chest on your thighs. Remain there for five seconds and then slowly come up and inhale. Repeat three or four times or until your colleagues make fun of you.

Give yourself a mini hand massage.
Keep lotion in a desk drawer and occasionally stroke and knead keyboard-fatigued fingers.

Take off your shoes
and do toe scrunches under your desk.

Touch a talisman or an object that brings you pleasant memories.
It can be a shell your daughter found on the beach, your mother’s broach or your husband’s old money clip.

Fake a smile. Studies show that the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real. Fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

Keep a book of inspirational quotes or short poems on your desk.
When you feel tense, read a couple.

Start and end your day laughing. Keep a book of jokes or funny cartoons by your desk and read one or two at the beginning of your day and again at the end.

Have photos of your family, a favorite vacation or a pet on your desk.
“They’ll make you smile in the middle of a busy day,” Leavenworth says.

Take quick physical and mental breaks during the day. Take a five-minute break and read your favorite hobby magazine. Walk around the parking lot three times. Use a restroom on a different floor or at the opposite side the building.

Dab a little lavender or mint oil on your wrist and take a whiff every now and then.
Lavender can be relaxing, while mint is invigorating.

Create breathing reminders throughout the day. “Let bells of mindfulness be reminders to take one conscious breath and diffuse tension,” says Karen Sothers, instructor for the mindfulness-based stress reduction program at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.

She explains that everyday, reoccurring sounds such as a ringing phone or a computer bing can signal you to take a deep breath.

Dr. Tahir Bhatti, a clinical psychiatrist at the Wellness and Personal Growth Center at the University of California San Diego, suggests posting breathing reminders everywhere.

“Paste up a sign that says ‘breathe’ on the bathroom mirror, in your car or above your phone. Every time you see it you’ll take a long, slow breath from the belly, not the chest,” he says.


Create quiet and silence. “When you’re in the car, turn off the phone and the radio,” Bhatti says. “You can reduce your stress by finding brief moments of quiet during the day.”

Listen to soft music or books on tape
while you drive so the process of getting there is enjoyable.

Skip the travel-mug of double espresso and sip some soothing chamomile tea on your commute.

Perform shoulder shrugs at each red light
to relieve upper-body tension.

Before you start your drive and when you arrive at your destination, take in three long, deep breaths and release them slowly.

Look for the beauty. “Capture one pleasant moment on your drive to work. Notice the sunlight, the color of the sky or the face of a child in the car next to you. It will soften the pressure of going where you’re going,” Sothers says.

When you encounter a rude driver, shift your focus to all the good drivers around you. Just five minutes of positive focus raises immune-system function, while focusing on those you resent has the opposite effect.

Leave early no matter where you’re going and avoid the stress of being late.

Get some good karma.
Do something nice for someone else and you’ll feel better about yourself. Let someone cut in line ahead of you. Help the grocery checker load your bags.

Use a shopping list. It saves you time, which saves you stress.

Don’t shop on a deadline.
In your hurry, you will stress and possibly not get exactly what you want or need. Allow lots of time to shop for everything from weekly groceries to linens on sale.

Rock on. A tai chi warm-up movement called the rocking motion has a calming effect on the entire body, Bhatti says. While standing, shift your weight on your feet so you come up slightly on the toes and then back again on your heels.

“The rocking motion stimulates the acupressure in the feet. It’s very soothing and something you can easily do while standing in line,” he says.

Do some simple shoulder and back stretches while waiting at the checkout.

Tune it out. Carry your iPod in your pocket or purse for some musical distraction as you wait.

People watch. Who needs whacky reality TV when you have the real thing happening all around you at the mall.

11 Comments... What do you think? Subscribe via RSS
  1. Matt said on February 24th, 2009 at 6:05 am

    Good post, thanks for sharing these tips to help me reduce my stress.

    The gratefulness journal is ideal and people watching is great fun too…

  2. Jules said on February 25th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I was kind of surprised at the recommendation of books on tape. Research has shown that listening to books on tape takes your attention away from your driving and has caused accidents.

  3. Ozzie Gontang said on March 13th, 2009 at 3:29 am


    Here’s what one author said about the research you refer to:

    Concern that Driver Distraction Will Grow
    Researchers recently completed a four-year, $4-million study — with major funding by the U.S. Department of Transportation through NHTSA — to evaluate how multi-tasking activities while driving, such as tuning a radio, listening to books on tape, dialing a hand-held cell phone, and entering a destination into a navigation system, affects driver attention and performance. Research showed that visual and manual tasks cause far more eye glances away from the road than tasks such as listening to a tape or voice-guided navigation. Furthermore, test subjects who took their eyes off the road had a greater chance of missing an event that could lead to a crash, such as the driver ahead suddenly braking.

    Looks like the issue regarding accidents is taking one’s eyes off the road is more causal to the chance of having an accident than listening to something like books on tape.

    Thanks for bringing up the question.

  4. Joe Burtoni said on December 26th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Every so often I click on to Mindfulness.com…listed on my favorites on my pc. I am sure it’s not just by chance. It’s usually when life gets hectic. I always find and article that seems to address my situation!
    Your website is wonderful.
    Joe Burtoni
    Durango, Co

  5. Ozzie Gontang said on December 26th, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Joe, Pleased that you find some helpful words on the site. Have you run into Jerry McHenry or Paul Nation around Durango. I know they have spreads nearby. Also a friend Mark Fackler just purchased a spread with house/barn/etc and is just starting to plan rebuilding the house. Have a great 2010.

  6. ProstoHam said on June 8th, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.

  7. Frank said on March 22nd, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Great post Ozzie! So many awesome ideas for reducing stress at home, at work and on the go. There is a new company http://www.restinchairs.com that leases those awesome robotic massage chairs that you see in Brookstone. This could be a great way to help reduce workplace stress.

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