You “You teach best what you most need to learn.”
– Richard Bach
I am no “guru” or “master” - I deal with anxieties, stresses and fear on a daily basis like same as any of you About 15-20 years ago, I got frustrated with these issues and ever since have always been looking for and exploring different strategies to cope with stress. Also, I realized that stress often comes in short spurts and if it is not controlled, it keeps increasing until it gets out of proportion and causes anxiety. If you can work on your stress in the first five-ten minutes of its appearance – in most cases – your anxiety levels will come down.
The goal is to reduce your stress to “manageable” levels since stress like fear and pain has an important role to play in our lives. If we did not have any fear, pain or stress – we would not survive long. Fear prevents us from doing things that are dangerous. Pain is often a signal that there is something wrong. Stress at work ensures that we meet our deadlines. The key is stress “management”.
Meditation (the skill of focusing your mind internally) and mindfulness practice (the skill of focusing on the “NOW” or the present moment) are the basis of these effective stress management tools. Use one or more of them the next time you are stressed out.
1. Listen to music
If you are one of the fortunate who can play a musical instrument or you are trained in music, you know the power of stress reduction that comes to you as you play your instrument or sing a favorite song. Most of us have our favorite pieces of music to relax with. I am no music superstar and I love singing in the shower and I listen to Indian and western classical music, jazz dance music and 80's Rock and Roll when I grade graduate research papers. What is your favorite music genre?
2. Write a letter
Not an email but a snail mail one with pen and paper to a loved one. Is there a family member or friend who will appreciate a long letter from you? Take the time to compose your thoughts and write a letter. The very act of writing triggers your right brain and will help you relax.
3. Sketch or color with your children/grand children
Do you have young children around your house? If not, borrow them. Get a set of crayons and print our some pages from websites below. Make sure that you use crazy colors – purple for leaves – green for people’s face etc.
4. Take a shower or a long bath
There is something super-relaxing about water. May be it is the massaging action or just the feel of water or the primordial memory of our time in the secure womb before birth! Showers and baths sure have a powerful way of removing stress from our bodies. Add a handful of rock salt to the water to experience a greater sense of relaxation.
5. Play with a ball
In one of my previous blog articles, I discussed about the use a tennis ball to focus on my walking meditation. Just the act of throwing and catching a ball can have a therapeutic effect on your stress levels. In the Movie “The Great Escape” – Hilts – a character played by Steve McQueen – uses a baseball glove and ball to relieve the tedium of solitary confinement.
I have the brown finger as far as gardening goes – I nearly killed a potted plant, which was sold as an “indestructible” plant but gardens and flowers have a magical effect on me. If you are fortunate to live close to a garden (indoor or outdoor) – do recharge yourself among plants and flowers
The companionship and stress reduction ability of pets – especially dogs and cats is well-known. If you are fortunate to have pets in your house, you know the power of these animals in providing a presence and healing effect. Nothing symbolizes unconditional love and joy as a puppy dog!
8. Read or write a poem
One of my favorite poems is by American Poet Walt Whitman
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
9. Help your friend
Take the time to help friends or your loved ones with their problems. It is amazing when you look at other people’s problems and consciously work to help or support them; you get a unique perspective on your stress.
Grab a recipe book or a recipe from the internet. There are 100s of recipes for healthy foods that can be prepared in 15 minutes or less. Cooking is a very relaxing activity – especially when you immerse yourself in multiple senses – observing the colors of ingredients, smelling the spices and hearing the rhythmic chopping of vegetables on the cutting board.
11. Maintain a Journal
An effective stress observing and reducing technique is to put your thoughts in paper. While you can use your laptop, pen and paper have a special impact on my creativity. Many of the outlines of these articles are sketched out in pen and paper. Examining your thoughts in this way gives you a unique and powerful perspective on your life.
12. Take a Power walk
Take a ten or fifteen minute walk around the block. Focus only on the act of walking and the present moment. Not only will you feel more relaxed, you will find that you get significant energy
13. Get a healthy snack
Tomes have been written on the negative impact of junk food that people eat when they are stressed. Keep apples, oranges in your office or home – take the time to enjoy a healthy snack. For me, even the act of peeling an orange and smelling the fruit helps me relax
14. Focus on routine tasks around the house/ office
Cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming the living room tidying up wardrobes and other routine housekeeping chores often act as metaphors for ridding the mind of negative thoughts and stresses. As you focus on the routine activity, see how your mind relaxes and copes with your challenges.
15. Focus on your breathing
Most of you who attended my meditation classes know the power of focusing on breathing. Just put your palms over your belly and observe your breathing. This will reduce your stress levels.
While lovemaking and sex may be one of the most powerful stress reducing technique, I have kept this out of the list because it often goes over the limit of 15 minutes. Sex and love making produces unique stress reducing chemicals and mood enhancing hormones . . . you already know that!
Tell us your favorite stress busting technique - leave a comment below!
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a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.