Quick Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress11 Comments February 18, 2009 / Posted in Breathe, Mindfulness
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.
IN YOUR VEHICLE
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.