Sunday, October 09, 2005

Three Things You Can Do Now To Reduce Stress

Are any of these scenes familiar?

...The kids woke up late again this morning. By the time you get
them to school and fight rush hour traffic, you'll be 20 minutes
late for the meeting you're supposed to lead...

...When you were first hired, you felt lucky to get your
customer service job. But now you wonder if it's worth it. The
phones ring constantly and you hear nothing but complaints. Last
week, you called in sick just to get a break...

...It's almost time for your presentation. Top management is
here and your supervisor is counting on you to make her look
good. You were up all night finishing the Powerpoint. You wonder
if you've anticipated all the possible questions...

Stress is a permanent feature of our lives, but it really seems
to ramp up at work. More than two-thirds of American workers
report that workplace stress is a problem.

This means we're all spending way too much time in "fight or
flight" mode. And it's taking a toll on our bodies through
weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
These conditions shorten our lives and lower the quality of
what's left.

There are lots of strategies for managing stress, but when
stress blindsides us with no time to prepare, we don't need
strategy. We need quick, practical steps we can take NOW that
work fast and can be done anywhere. When stress launches it's
next surprise attack, try one of these: breathe deeply,
visualize mentally, relax progressively.

Breathe Deeply

Breathing deeply could be the single most effective way to stay
calm. Everyone breathes, but a lot of us breathe the wrong
way--shallow, fast, and high in the chest. This kind of
breathing is restrictive, it increases our anxious feelings, and
it fuels our body's negative stress reactions.

Slow, deep breathing triggers a relaxation response, calming the
body and focusing the mind. It increases the amount of oxygen in
our blood, raising our performance potential.

Are you breathing the right way? To find out, try this: put one
hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen just below your
rib cage. Now breathe. Which hand moves? If it's the hand on
your chest, your breathing is too shallow.

The trick is to make the hand on your abdomen move. Inhale
deeply while you slowly count to five. Try to get your abdomen
to expand instead of your chest. If you have trouble making it
happen, try it lying on your back. With a little practice and
patience, you'll be able to shift into a deep breathing pattern

Once you learn the technique of deep breathing, you can do it
anytime--in the middle of rush hour traffic, right before you
handle the next irate customer, even in the middle of your big

Visualize Mentally

There are two kinds of visualization techniques. The first one
involves building a mental image of a place that's relaxing for
you. It may be a remembered place that triggers relaxed,
contented feelings, or it may be imaginary. The basic idea is to
give your mind something to focus on besides the stress.

Once you have visualized your restful scene, you should spend
about 10 minutes attempting to imagine it as fully as possible.
Inventory your senses. What do you see? How does it smell? Do
you hear anything? What do you feel? What can you taste? Then
slowly allow yourself to return to the real world around you.
Effective visualization will take some practice.

Professional musicians and Olympic athletes practice a different
form of visualization: a mental rehearsal of what's about to
happen. Instead of visualizing a relaxing scene, mentally
rehearse the situation that's causing your stress. Visualize the
meeting you're about to walk into and rehearse what happens.
Imagine yourself successfully completing tasks that give you
trouble. Visualize feeling calm and in control. This type of
mental rehearsal can help you actually attain these feelings
when the situation becomes reality.

Relax Progressively

Breathing deeply and visualizing mentally both involve your mind
convincing your body to relax. Progressive muscle relaxation
works the other way, with your body reporting to your mind that
all is well.

Progressive relaxation works by tensing and relaxing muscles
throughout your body, one group at a time. Try this: starting at
your feet and working your way up to your head, contract and
loosen each muscle group one after the other. Become aware of
each muscle, tense it, hold the tension for a count of five,
then slowly relax it. As the muscles in your body relax, your
mind will become calmer and more focused.

The more you practice, the more sensitive your muscles will
become to levels of tension and relaxation. The goal is to reach
the point where you can relax your body on demand without having
to go through the entire cycle. If you can do that, then stress
doesn't stand a chance.

Be aware of the situations that cause you negative stress. If
you can see them coming sooner, it may give you extra time to
breathe deeply, visualize mentally, and relax progressively. Not
only will these fast and easy techniques help you in the moment
of stress, using them regularly may help lessen the long term
effects of stress on your life and health.

About the author:
Art Turner is a writer, musician, and creator of Relaxation
Emporium, where you can learn more about stress and stress
management techniques. Visit

Click here for SoundSleeping's Relaxing MP3 Downloads!!!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breathing what a concept hey?! Did you know that children are the only ones that breathe from their bellies. Adults are able to do this, however, they have to be conscious of it...

3:54 PM  

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