365 ways to energize – a daily companion to living with health, purpose, and joy

Reducing stress

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Day 87Stress Less

Yesterday, I brought up the subject of relaxation and how important it is activate the parasympathetic nervous system to counter stress, in particular for us that live under persistent pressure.

Work, family and leisure time are for most people quite intense. There is nothing wrong with being active, but to live under constant pressure and constant doing without time to relax in our daily lives, will eventually wear us down. Consistent stress lies behind most illnesses and hospital visits.

One out of four exercises that aid our parasympathetic nervous system, which I mentioned yesterday is ‘the relaxation response’ where the muscles are contracted one by one for a few seconds before letting go. We often tense our muscles when we are stressed. Common areas we hold tension is in our jaws, shoulders, stomach, buttocks, hands and feet. The relaxation response exercise brings awareness to the areas where we hold tension, as well as help us to let go fully.

Today I will introduce visualization, which is another method to calm and relax the nervous system.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the most beautiful calm place. Where are you? By the ocean, in the mountains, or perhaps in a forest? Visualize yourself by using your five senses. Look around, what do you see? Perhaps waves that role in over a beach, animals that grass in the forest, birds flying high?

What do you hear? Can you hear calm rolling waves that wash against the shore, or early morning humming birds, or perhaps classical music played in the distance?

What do you feel on your skin, a touch of a warm, kind hand, or the warm breeze on your skin?

Can you taste some sea salt on our lips from having had a swim in the ocean?

What do you smell? Is it the sea, exotic flowers or the scent from a nice perfume or your favorite food being cooked?

Visual travel outsmart your stress, because you cannot hold onto stressful thoughts in your head at the same time as you are visualizing your favorite peaceful place.

You can use this visualization exercise in various situations. For example, when you have experienced a particularly stressful encounter while driving, or if you have been under pressure socially (arguments or negotiation) or work wise (working under time pressure).

By closing our eyes and taking time-out for just a few minutes visualizing ourselves in a calm place, we can relatively quickly recover from the stress we just encountered and relax, so we do not have to carry unnecessary stress with us for the remainder of the day.

We can also use this exercise when we lie in bed at night to prepare our body and mind to fall asleep, if we feel tense or have difficulties falling asleep.

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