Friday, September 30, 2005

End Work Related Stress

For many people, work is a stressful environment. Even worse, sometimes the anxiety and stress of work follows you home and saturates your thoughts in the evenings and on the weekends. One of the most important part of any stress reducing plan is to find a way to "shut off" thoughts of work after the day is done. Try this short exercise Dr. Sarah Brewer suggests in her book, "The Beginner's Guide To Relaxation".

The Inner Smile

This is a Chinese technique to help "shut off" stressful thoughts.

After work, find a comfortable spot to sit, where you can feel relaxed. Allow your body to sink into a relaxed state. Think of an amusing part of your day, or anecdote you find amusing. Allow yourself to smile. Feel the smile spread, and your face glow. Let the glow spread throughout your body. Your entire being is shining with the sensation of that smile. Give in to the feeling of relaxation and calm, feel it flood your senses.


You've left the stress and worry of work behind. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Exercise And Sleep

Studies generally suggest that exercise helps to promote sleep for individuals with insomnia. Below are some of the benefits exercise provides:

  • Adrenaline is released, increasing the heart rate and metabolism, naturally fatiguing the body.
  • Brain activity is increased due to increasing levels of oxygen being transported.
  • Endocrine system is activated, normalizing stress hormone function.
  • Endorphins are distributed throughout the nervous system, interacting with opiate receptor neurons and creating a sense of euphoria.
  • Anxiety levels are significantly reduced.
  • Muscle tissue is broken down requiring rest to repair.
  • Elevation of body temperature may beckon sleep to regulate.

Some points to keep in mind when exercising:

  • Outdoor exercise may be especially beneficial, since Increased light exposure aids sleep and acts as an anti-depressant.
  • Some research warns to not exercise too close to bedtime. The increased metabolic rate may cause restlessness.
  • Morning may be the ideal time to exercise, as it influences circadian rhythms that may positively affect sleep quality.

The benefits of exercise go far beyond those described in this post. In general, a regular aerobic exercise schedule should help to improve your sleep patterns, reduce stress levels, and increase vitality and energy.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Two Minutes To Stress Reduction And Relaxation

This exercise is designed to cleanse your body of stress and tension. It's a variation of the "Deep Breathing" exercise described in an earlier post. If you haven't read this earlier article, you may want to visit it, as I'm not going to go into the "deep breathing" details in this post.

The exercise:

Begin by standing in a sturdy comfortable stance, feet shoulder width apart. Breathe in deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. While exhaling, try to feel the breath leaving through the soles of your feet.

For the first few exhalations, feel the toxens in your body escape through the soles of your feet. Feel cleansed oxygen and energy enter your body when you inhale.

For the next few exhalations, feel the tension and stress melt away.

Next, let regrets and negative thoughts about the past disappear. Allow worries about tomorrow slip away.

All that remains is the sensation of the breath entering and exiting your body.

This exercise should leave you feeling invigorated and cleansed of toxens, stress and negativity.

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Escape to a world of relaxation

An effective way of promoting relaxation and reducing stress, is to regularly “escape” from the pressures in your life. You may have more opportunities to escape than you think.

Think of some daily or weekly event that you find unpleasant, an example may be mowing the lawn, commuting to work, or vacuuming the house. Situations like these usually don’t occupy our mind, so stressful thoughts of tomorrow’s work and the time we are wasting, can creep into our minds. Instead of allowing these circumstances to affect us negatively, use them as an opportunity to take a break and put your stressful day behind you. For some this may be as easy as listening to a recording that is either soothing, or allows you to “rock out” and escape. Some people may like to listen to books or comedy on tape (these are often available at your local library). Whatever you decide to use to help you escape, be prepared: have it with you in the car, for when you get stuck in traffic, go to the library on the weekend so you have a new book on tape to listen to when you mow the lawn. When you perform these activities, remove yourself from the situation and allow yourself totally escape. Recognize these situations as an opportunity to enjoy yourself and relax.

The Zen Buddhist principle of “mindfulness” is nearly the opposite of what is described above, but it provides another effective way of converting negative situations into positive ones. This technique involves keeping the mind completely absorbed by the current activity. Focus on your thoughts, sensations, movements, emotions... Mindfulness takes practice and concentration, but can bring great rewards. When done correctly, this practice can remove us from mundane, repetative, or unpleasant tasks, and transport us to a relaxing, introspective world.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a great way of promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Yoga, meditation, martial arts, and trained voice are some disciplines that recognize the importance and effectiveness of deep breathing.

It is natural to breathe using the diaphragm or lower abdomen. If you watch babies, you will see that they breathe this way. As we get older, stress and inactivity cause us to draw shorter, shallower breaths. These short breaths use only the upper chest instead of the lower abdomen. In times of stress the abdominal muscles tense up and make it almost impossible to breathe deeply and naturally. At first, the shock your body feels because of the increased oxygen intake during deep breathing exercises, may cause you to feel some dizziness.


A short breathing exercise:


Close your eyes, and hold your hands over your lower abdomen. Breath in deeply through your nose while you slowly count to 4. Feel your belly push out on your hands. Let the air in your abdomen expand your belly without any muscle tension. Breathe out through your mouth, feeling your hands moving back into your body.

Repeat this pattern until you feel peaceful, calm, and relaxed.


You may find it helpful to play calming and relaxing music, or use the following relaxation sleep-aids

drumming relaxation sleep-aid

vibraphone relaxation sleep-aid

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Yoga Beginner - Getting It Right

When it comes to promoting relaxation and reducing stress, nothing beats yoga. Unfortunately this isn't the case for everyone. Most people who quit yoga think they fail because they are unable to get the positions and technique right. In fact, the reason they fail is that they put too much importance on getting the positions and technique right.

I do not profess to be a master of yoga. In fact, I am a beginner, with very little skill. However I have taught drumming for many years, and the pitfalls are similar. Here is my advice for yoga beginners.

Week 1 - Enjoy the activity:

Grab a beginner yoga video and set up your mat in a place that you can be comfortable and alone (there’s no room for self-consciousness in this step). Go through the exercises, but act as though you are a six year old having fun, rather than an adult worrying about technique. Try all of the positions, don’t worry if there are some you can’t perform right away, modify as necessary.

Week 2 - Examine the sensations:

By this time your body has probably memorized the routine (if you have been having fun and not obsessing about technique, your body will have learnt the movements quickly). Try to concentrate on your breathing. Be aware of how oxygen and energy are flowing to, from, and through the various body parts. Feel the release of tension and sensations in your muscles.

Week 3 and beyond - Observe the instructor

Most likely you have been improving your technique throughout, without even trying. You have probably figured out which yoga exercises are the easiest for you, and which are more difficult. Concentrate on the position you are most comfortable with. You are most likely so at ease with this position that you don’t even have to think about it anymore. The breathing and motions should be second nature by now, so you can begin to observe and emulate details in the instructor’s technique. Continue this step for each exercise.

Many people will try to learn yoga, and other activities, by only using the method I explained in week three. Many instructors are guilty of teaching this way. Unfortunately, beginners who start by obsessing about their technique may never enjoy what is described in week 1 or week 2.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Sometimes it's all about perspective...

Kenny Werner, in his book Effortless Mastery, describes a test that illustrates priorities in life.

Go to the kitchen and get a plastic bag. Place it over your head, tying the opening snugly around your neck so that no air can get through. Now, let's count to one hundred. By the count of 50, let me ask you: How important is that bonus you've been working overtime to earn. By the count of 60 would you be fretting about the state of your investments? By 80 no doubt you'd be worried about your boss asking for those reports you hadn't finished yet.

I’m not trying to make light of anyone’s problems, but sometimes we make more out of a situation than we should. Life’s day-to-day difficulties can often overwhelm us to the extent that we can’t see what is really important. If you were to be kidnapped today, I would guess that the company you work for would not go under. In fact, you may be surprised at how little you’d be missed.

There’s a reason why eating healthy meals, exercising, and leading a balanced social/work life leads to a less stressful life and improved sleep habits. It’s because you are taking care of the things that are really important in life: Health and happiness.

If you can get your priorities more in line with what you really want from life, there is a good chance that peace and serenity will follow.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Welcome to Sound Sleeping blog

Welcome to my new blog. I am hoping that this will be a place where people can post questions and view answers regarding sleep and relaxation. Please share your sleep/relaxation experiences (problems/successes). I am always looking for methods to decrease stress and improve sleep patterns, and I will be posting my own thoughts regularly.

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