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How to Reduce Stress During the Holidays and Throughout the Year

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Holidays often create high levels of stress and tension. Last-minute shopping, forgotten items on our to-do list, planning get-togethers, last-minute invitations, etc.

When under pressure to get everything done, we constantly work without taking breaks. However, unless we take purposeful breaks, that constant tension will soon exhaust us. When we learn relaxation techniques, we can apply them at any time to reduce stress and tension.

Only 15 minutes a day

It is difficult to learn how to relax on our own, as we try to “make” it happen instead of learning how to “allow” it to happen.

Relaxation Audio - Marlene Anderson | Focuswithmarlene.comA good friend of mine, Ron Jones, an Emmy award-winning composer, and I collaborated to create a Relaxation Audio (available on my website).

Ron composed the music specifically to go with the simple script I read that teaches the listener how to relax all parts of the body.

The script is based on relaxation techniques taught by a physician years ago working with biofeedback. I ask you to tense different parts of your body, breathe into that tension, and then slowly release both the air and tension.

As I breathe on the tape, you breathe.

When thoughts of work intrude, you don’t push the thoughts away – you simply allow them to pass by while you re-focus on the relaxation exercise.

The recording is both relaxing and instructive.

In the process of going through the exercise, you discover where you hold your stress and tension. We all have different areas of the body that seem to tighten faster under stress. While doing this exercise, you experience both the tension of muscles and the relaxation of those muscles immediately while breathing.

As you follow the sequence, the brain begins to associate the words, “letting go, relaxing deeper and deeper” with the intake and release of deep breathing, making it easier to release stress any time.

Our brain responds to words.

Without realizing it, we are constantly streaming thoughts and statements all day long in our mind, a lot of them loaded with stress that has an immediate response in the body. Purposefully choosing different words that associate slow, deep breathing with instructions to let go of tension, helps return the body to a restful state.

It takes about 30 days to put a new habit in place. If you listen every day to this 15-minute MP3 audio, you will experience lower stress levels.

Other Quick Stress-Reduction Techniques

Our brain not only responds to words, but also to the pictures we hold in our head. Here are some quick stress-reduction techniques that you can use any time.

Five-Minute Walk Away

Get up and walk away from your work. Physically remove yourself from your work 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.

Ten-Minute Time-Out

When you have an especially busy workday, schedule longer breaks throughout the day, even if you think you absolutely have no time. Do it anyway. Set your watch.

Go for a walk outdoors even if it is cold.

Focus on the world around you and on relaxing your breathing. Pay attention to the beauty of nature, the trees, colors, shapes, textures, and sounds.

Healing Waterfall

Here is a quick visualization I use when I’m on the run and want to maximize time spent waiting in line, on the elevator, waiting in the doctor’s office, etc.

Since I have already taught the mind to respond to both images and accompanying words, I can use them both effectively in quick moments when I am not doing anything else. They reduce tension, time pressure and stress.

If you can, close your eyes for a moment. If not, you can still visualize. Focus on breathing calmly and deeply and imagine myself standing underneath a beautiful, warm, gently cascading waterfall.

Feel the gentle stream of water wash over you. As it does, feel your tension washing away as well. Let go of your stress and allow yourself to relax.

Positive Driving

Nothing can create tension faster than being late for an appointment with the traffic reducing progress to a crawl. Your thoughts increase the tension in your body, and you feel angry, anxious, frustrated, pressured, helpless, aggressive, etc.

Use your mind to bring calm instead. You can’t go faster. You are stuck in traffic. You will not arrive at your destination any quicker by feeling angry and getting more tense. You are berating yourself instead of going with the flow of events.

Use this time to monitor your thoughts and attitudes, let go of stressful events, reframe your situation, and relax.

Tell yourself you can’t get there any faster than what the traffic will allow. Tell yourself you will use this time to relax and think positive thoughts.

Stay in the moment rather than thinking about where you must be or what you should be doing. Whenever you feel tension rising, breathe into that space and release it.

Small new habits; big changes

It is amazing how our life will change when we apply relaxation and visualization techniques that are easy to learn and available anytime. These are new habits that can make a huge difference in your life.

Happy Holidays.


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