We all too familiar with this scenario…
‘You wake up each morning and are in a big rush to get to work on time. It seems like traffic is always bumper to bumper! By the time you get to work, you are met with deadlines, office politics, and 100 things on your to do list and 50 things to tackle in your in basket. Five o’clock comes and you are rushing home…traffic again! By the time you make it home, you are already late for dinner with your neighbors. The babysitter just called, and can’t make it tonight.’
Whew! I am stressed for you just thinking about it. Balancing your work and home life can be extremely stressful. It seems like there is never enough time in the day for relaxation, or taking care of your self. Relaxation is a necessary part of health and wellness for your body and mind. There are a few things you can do throughout your day to help relieve stress and find time for serenity NOW.
One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes:
1. Just Breathe: Take a big deep breath…then let it go. You will be amazed at how quickly you will feel better by simply just doing that. The great thing about this particular breathing technique is that you can do it anywhere. Sitting or standing, slowly and consciously focus on your inhalation. Breathing through your nose, inhale to the count of five. Hold the breath for three, and then exhale thru your mouth counting to eight as you imagine the stress leaving your body. Repeat this 3-5 times, and several times throughout the day. Stress can cause people to unknowingly breathe more rapidly, or worse, forget to breathe at all! Yoga or meditation classes both use deep breathing to promote relaxation and overall health. Find a local yoga studio in your area, and sign up for a class. If you’re in Sacramento, I would highly recommend, http://www.padmecenter.com/
2. Be Active: Hit the gym or the yoga studio! Although you may feel more like lying around the house, perched in front of the TV, exercise is great pick-me-up. Exercise releases endorphins that help your body battle anxiety. This alone can elevate your mood. In addition to the chemical benefits, exercise is great for taking your stress out in a constructive way. Kickboxing for example, is a great therapeutic way to relieve stress. Just visualize your stressor (boss, evil co-worker, nagging ex) as the recipient.
3. Laugh: Laughter is the best medicine, and it’s contagious! Pop in a funny DVD, go see a comedy show, or read a funny book, or better yet, hang out with people who make you laugh. You will forget about your anxieties just as quick as they came about. I am fortunate enough to have many people in my life who are funny and see the lighter side of any situation.
4. Reach out and touch someone: Have you hugged anyone today or this week? Whether it is from a close friend, son, daughter, or significant other, a simple touch of endearment is an incredible mood enhancer. Having physical contact has been found to raise levels of Oxytocin also described as the “love hormone” while lowering levels of Cortisol, “the stress hormone” helping us relax and feel good. I have always been a hugger. I grew up in a family who wasn’t very affectionate so I vowed to be the complete opposite.
5. Smell the Roses: Have you ever noticed that a certain scent just makes you feel better? Is it the smell of a certain flower, scent of a loved one’s cologne or even something baking in the oven? For me, the scent that I prefer is vanilla. Figure out the scent that is most pleasing to you, and use it throughout your home. In the practice of Aromatherapy, certain scents influence your mood and can even change your physiology. Lavender is the go to for relaxation, but you can also use chamomile, ylang ylang or rose oil in a warm bath or just defuse the scents in the air.
6. Plug in to iTunes/Pandora, etc.: Plug in your ear buds, and tune into to your favorite play list! Studies have shown a strong link between music and lowered stress levels in everyday life. Singing helps too. If you need to relax plug in Enya or any massage music track. For example, here is a listing of playlists I use for massage: http://www.vssageblog.com/?p=359 You don’t have to limit yourself to just “relaxing” music though. Listen to something that lifts your spirits.
7. Treat Yourself: My personal favorite! This, you may not be able to do every day, but on occasion, you deserve a pampering. Treat yourself to a massage, facial or rejuvenating treatment of your choice. Get the benefits of all the aforementioned tips (aroma, music, touch) in one! If its currently not in the budget, you can do a bit of ‘at home’ pampering by soaking in a warm bath, lighting some candles and slip in a Sade or other relaxing CD to seal the deal.
8. Be Present: Sometimes this can be difficult in our modern society, (Am I the only one getting sick and tired of hearing about the fiscal cliff???!!), but it is one of the most important things you can do to reduce stress and find serenity. The present is what is happening right now, at this very moment. Don’t be consumed with what happened yesterday, or what could happen tomorrow. This is an ancient Zen teaching that helps open your awareness to the moment. This might take time to master, but take baby steps. Try eating a piece of dark chocolate. Instead of inhaling the chocolate and thinking after it is gone how good it was, eat it slowly, taking tiny bites. With each bite focus on the taste, the aroma. Experience how wonderful it is…right now. Take this exercise and relate it to other things in your life. You will find that this helps you have stronger relationships, get more done, and increase your fulfillment from life. All of this can be achieved simply by enjoying the moment.
9. Get Outside: Connect with Mother Nature by taking a short walk thru the woods, sit by a body of water, just get some fresh air and sunshine. Our early ancestors spent most of their lives outdoors, but today we are lucky to get 30 minutes a day. Our body’s still physically and mentally need the benefits of the outdoors, especially the sun. So get out there, everyday if you can, and soak it all up. Breathe in the fresh air, soak up some rays, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. I walk my dog every day, and in the warmer months (above 50 degrees), I ride by bike along the American River bike trail 5x a week for 20-30 miles.