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In last week’s blog post, I talked about letting go and learning how to breathe. You learned how the process of deep breathing releases tension and stress.
You may have tried to meditate or relax the parts of your body, only to find your thoughts kept intruding, reminding you of all the things you had to do or had forgotten to do.
The harder you tried to relax and push those thoughts away, the more stressed you became. So, you gave up and went back to using other things that gave you a quick fix, like having that extra glass of wine or chilling out on social media.
I produced my Relaxation audio recording because, with the learning I had done about the body-brain connection, I knew how hard it was to get started. But I also knew the incredible results once you mastered the skill.
Before producing my Relaxation audio, I worked with clients and groups, teaching them how to use both relaxation and visualization to create a productive life.
The downloadable MP3 audio recording takes only about 15 minutes a day. All you have to do is listen.
The narrative begins with breathing deeply through your nose and releasing your breath through your mouth.
It then takes you through the process of relaxing all the parts of your body. You will be asked to tighten, then release certain groups of muscles: around your eyes, your jaw, your neck, your shoulders, and so on. By tightening and releasing you immediately feel the difference between tight, tense muscles and relaxed muscles.
As you become more relaxed, your heart stops racing and your breathing slows, while your mind remains focused.
As you practice using this relaxation audio every day, you soon become aware of where you store your tension and how good it feels when it is released. After a while, you will be able to “catch” yourself during the day and begin releasing tension sooner. Your mind will respond more quickly to new relaxing “trigger” words or phrases, such as “letting go,” “relaxing more and more,” or “deeper and deeper.”
Over time, simply taking a deep, slow even breath and saying, “let go” can reduce tension right away.
Relaxing also gives us the opportunity to let go of harmful emotions and attitudes we hang on to, such as anger, revenge, rage, anxiety, fear, depression, hopelessness, helplessness.
It also begins the process of visualization: “seeing” with your internal eye your body relax, your organs relaxed, your body healing itself.
These images become part of your mind-body communication system. As with any skill, the more you repeat it, the easier it is to activate and the faster the response.
Here are three additional ways to reduce stress and address the habitual ways we think.
Whenever you have a minute, take a deep breath.
As you breathe out, say to yourself, “Let go,” and then create an image of the tension draining away.
On the second breath, imagine yourself standing under a beautiful waterfall and as you let out your breath, feel and see the tension washing away.
On the third breath, simply enjoy the feeling of relaxation.
Whenever you feel tension, anger, anxiety, or stress:
Stop, pause, then take a slow, deep breath and focus on whatever you are doing at the moment. Then ask yourself the following:
I am feeling this way because…
- What is the problem I am facing right now? What are my options?
- Do I really want to hang on to this anger, anxiety, stress, etc.?
- Is this situation worth getting so upset and anxious over?
We can choose a different attitude and thought process. We can choose to think positively about the situation we are in and choose a more productive response.
Now release the tension from that anger, anxiety, or stress by breathing into it as you let go of it and its accompanying negative thoughts.
Take a quick inventory of your body tension throughout the day:
- Close your eyes. Where are you holding that tension?
- Create an internal picture of what that tension looks like and when it is released. For example, imagine a knot untying; or throwing out tension like rocks from your body.
- Breathe in and out slowly and let go of that tension.
When under pressure to complete a project, we typically throw ourselves into the work nonstop until it is completed. But without taking purposeful breaks, the additional tension soon compromises our work.
Taking mini time-outs might seem counterproductive when you are on a deadline, but those breaks can actually maximize your performance and minimize the time to complete the job.
- Get up and walk away from your work. Physically remove yourself from your work area and find a quiet spot by yourself.
- Stand with arms at your side. Take a deep, slow breath and slowly raise your arms, stretching them high over your head.
- Hold them there for a minute and then slowly expel your air and gradually bring your arms back down to your side.
- While doing this exercise, focus your mind on relaxing.
- Repeat several times. Before returning to work, take a few additional minutes to walk around, stretching muscles, and focusing on anything other than work.
Visualization is a powerful tool. Here is an example of visualization that can be relaxing and inspiring.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself taking a walk in the woods. Your path takes you beside a stream. As you stop and listen to the gentle sound of the water and the birds chirping, feel the warmth of the sun. Visualize your surroundings.
Find a quiet, safe place to lie down. Feel the soft grass beneath you and breathe in the aromatic smell of the trees.
The cares of the day melt away and time is suspended. Any problem that weighed you down is slipping away.
Gently stroke your face warmed by the sun. Feel your inner spirit calm and problems resolved. Stay lying down while feeling totally at peace with yourself and your world.
Then, when ready, open your eyes, stretch, and when energy has returned, resume your day’s activities.
I shortened these exercises so you could get the idea and expand on them as you want. They will help you develop imagery that is peaceful, calming, and relaxing.
And yes, imagining yourself breathing in pleasant smells and hearing pleasant sounds is part of it.
Build on the suggestions or create your own.
It is helpful to do these exercises when you have time free from interruptions from the phone or people.