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- Visualise your way to relaxation
- Reconnect with your friends and family
- Try some yoga - alternate nostril breathing
- Use the healing energy of your hands with reiki
- Engage in some physical activity
- Get some sunshine
- Engage in some tai chi or yoga
- Have a pampering massage
Women sometimes find their stress levels go very high during various times in their life, because they are often trying to be (and do) too many things for too many people, multitasking their way to stress hell. Women often feel that they need to be the best wife, mother, lover, girlfriend, daughter, confidante and career woman in order not to feel inadequate about their role in this world. Many women have high pressure careers and if they have a family too, then something will suffer if they do not take a break and relax once in a while. Stress can be a killer. If a person is constantly stressed, they are continually in the "fight or flight" stance and their body is releasing all the stress hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline), which can be very detrimental on the body if they are constantly being release and can cause a whole range of adverse health effects.
To protect yourself, engage in at least one of these relaxation techniques at least once a week, if not more often.
Using visualisation (imagination) is a really powerful technique for enabling you to relax your body and mind, unwind and de-stress your emotions.
You can use this visualisation technique to help you unwind after a particularly stressful day (or week) and you can also use it to help you get to sleep at night, if you are having trouble calming those incessant throughts:
- Find a safe, quiet spot - either somewhere in your house, outside on the grass, or even somewhere in nature, just ensure you are safe and will not be disturbed
- Now get comfortable - find a comfortable chair, where you can sit upright, but relaxed (ensure your head is well supported) or you can also find a nice soft bed to lie down on, ensure your head is well supported
- Your body posture - if you are lying down, put your arms by your side and relax; if you are sitting on a comfortable chair, put your hands on the arm rests of the chair (or on your lap, palms up) and keep your legs uncrossed
- Relax your body - just lie there for a few minutes with your eyes closed to help you calm down and relax
- Relax your body more - starting at your toes, tense the muscles in each section of your body for about 5 seconds and then release them; this will help to release any tension you have in any part of your body; finish with your face
- Be aware of your breathing - breath in and out at a steady pace, for a count of about 5-7; if you can try to breath in and out through your nose, it will help a great deal in relaxing you even further
- Let go of any incessant thoughts - if you feel any thoughts coming through, just acknowledge them and let them go, allowing yourself to relax even further
- Now use your imagination - think about a place that you love to be at - the beach, a waterfall, the forest, a lake, a tropical island, the bush - whatever makes you feel happy and calm. Imagine yourself there right now. Imagine then sunshine on your face sending you healing and relaxing rays. Really take in all the colours around you of the plants, flowers and trees. Hear all the animals, the birds, the dolphins (if you are at the beach) and gentle breeze, everything is calm and relaxed and making you feel really really good. Go for a walk, with bare feet and feel the ground under your feet
If you want to use this visualisation to help you go to sleep, then stay in the beautiful imaginary place until you fall asleep.
If however, you want to use it to just relax and want to continue on your day, then you will need to come out of the relaxed state into a more conscious one by the following:
- Back to reality - once you have been through the relaxation enough to feel really relaxed and mellow, you will need to come back to a more conscious state of mind
- Coming back to reality - now imagine you are saying goodbye to your favourite place, to the plants and animals, but you will be back again whenever you need it; slowly start to feel each part of your body, beginning with your toes - you should just wriggle them a little, then stretch your legs and torso, move your fingers and then stretch your arms and finally open your eyes
- Go slowly - once you have opened your eyes, you need to just sit there for a minute or two (as long as you need) until you feel that you are back to your alert self; you can then get up and do your usual activities, but go slowly for the first hour or so, until you are really alert
If you practice this technique for at least once a week, even more is preferable, you will really notice a marked reduction in your stress levels. If you are super stressed, it is recommended to do this at least once a day for around a month, until the stress abates and you are back to your normal relaxed self.
Too often women are working far too hard, then concentrating on their family too that they do not always have enough time for themselves. This can make you feel isolated and anxious if you are not connecting on a social level with your friends and family on a regular basis.
Humans are social creatures. We need to be around other people and connect to them on a social level, on a very regular basis to feel that we belong. If you are just working hard every day and giving a lot of your energy to your job and if you also have a partner and family and you give a lot of your energy to them too, this does not leave enough of your energy for you. You need to take some time out, at least once a week, for a good few hours, to reconnect with your friends and have a good laugh.
Reconnecting with friends and family is a good stress relief technique, as it allows you to have some time just engaging in normal conversation, having a good laugh and even confiding in them of the stesses of your life. It is a good way to let go of some of that tension. You do not need to be constantly offloading all your problems to your friends, you just need to talk to them to realise that everyone has the same problems and in fact, it may make your own seem more insignificant and so ease some of the stress they are causing you. When a problem seems small, it is easier to handle than one which seems overwhelming.
So talk to your friends, have a girls night out, go for a pampering day spa, go shopping, but most of all, have a good laugh and a good time! All your worries will be eased if you do.
Yoga itself, is a great stress-relieving activity, which should be used as a technique to help reduce stress and anxiety. However, there is a special yoga breathing technique, which really helps to dispel stress, boost immunity and calm the body and mind - alternate nostril breathing.
You can perform this stress-relieving technique anywhere, even if you are at your desk at work:
- put the index finger of your left hand on your right nostril, to hold it closed
- breathe in through your left nostril for a count of 5, hold for 1-2 seconds and then breath out for a count of 5
- put the thumb of your left hand on your left nostril, to hold it closed
- breathe in through your right nostril for a count of 5, hold for 1-2 seconds and then breath out for a count of 5
- Repeat again to both nostrils as above
- Continue like this until you feel calmer and relaxed
You can do this relaxation technique several times a day - as much as you need, to ensure you are calmer and stress-free. The more often you can practice this technique, the lower your stress levels will become.
Reiki is a form of energy healing that originated in Japan in the early part of the 20th Century.
Reiki is basically about using the universal energy for any type of pain or disease, whether it is emotional, mental or physical.
This is a simple reiki exercise you can use to help relax the mind and calm the spirit and reduce the effects of stress:
- Lie down in a safe ad comfortable place and close your eyes
- Pay attention to your breathing, in particular your breath in and out
- Put your hands on your stomach area, solar plexus, or wherever you are feeling pain or the stress
- Direct your breathing (in your mind), to where your hands are located and imagine you are breathing into this area
- Imagine your breath as positive universal life energy, which is flowing through you and collecting in your hands
- Imagine the positive energy flowing through your hands and into the area of your body which your hands are placed and feel the positive life force
- Keep your hands in this position for a few minutes
- Now place your hands on another spot and repeat the process
- If you notice a change in your breathing, just take note of it and let it go, continue to breath in the positive energy into your body
- Once you are done, slowly open your eyes, but stay where you are until you feel ready
- When you are ready, stand up and continue your day
Adapted from a reiki exercise in Nature and Health magazine.
Nothing beats physical activity to release some "feel good" endorphins, which are powerful, pain-relieving, mood-elevating chemicals in the released by the brain to make you feel good and help lift your mood.
Another added benefit of physical activity, is the heart-strengthening and positive health effects - strengthening the heart muscle, lowering blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (fats), increasing oxygen, elasticing and strengthening blood vessels.
All you need to do is about 30-60 minutes of a combined cardio and resistance training session most days of the week and you will notice a big difference in your stress levels.
Whenever you are feeling down, stressed, irritable or just plain cranky, go outside in the bright sunshine (make sure you are in a shaded area if you go outside in the hottest part of the day) and contemplate on all the good things in your life.
Being outside in the fresh air, feeling the sun shining brightly and contemplating on all the good in your life, will lift your mood immensely, especially if you can be outside for at least 30 minutes.
The sun also provides valuable vitamin D, a nutrient which is necessary for every single cell in the body. You need to get around 10-15 minutes of sunshine each day, to ensure you get enough vitamin D in your body.
Tai chi is a non-competitive, self-paced series of slow, flowing body movements that emphasise concentration, relaxation, and the conscious circulation of vital energy throughout the body.
Tai chi is a great way to calm the mind, condition the body and reduce stress. When practicing tai chi, you focus on your breathing, ensuring it is steady, regular and deep and keeping your attention in the present moment to calm your mind.
Tai chi is a safe, low-impact stress-reducing technique for people of all ages and levels of fitness, including older adults and those recovering from injuries. It is something that can be practiced anywhere, at any time, by yourself, or with other people (once you have perfected the movements).
Yoga is another great way to relax. There are styles, forms and intensities of yoga which can be all used to help you deal with stress, as they all focus on breathing, no matter how intensive or slow the movements are. Hatha yoga may be one of the better choices to manage stress, as it is particularly designed to improve flexibility, encourage a calm mind and help you breath better and more fully.
Yoga is performed to help you become more peaceful and calm, in body, mind and spirit. It is a great way to relax as it helps to manage stress and anxiety. Some forms of yoga have certain philosophies that may not be for everyone, but the practice of yoga itself is a very valuable stress reduction technique for everyone.
A massage is another way to make yourself feel better, calm your mind and relax your soul.
The tactile effect of massage is an excellent way to reconnect with yourself and others. It is a soothing way to make you feel calmer and relaxed and especially so if essential oils are used. Tell your massage therapist you need a relaxing massage and they will use relaxing essential oils such as lavendar or neroli, to ensure your senses are soothed and your mind is calmed. What a great way to unwind after a stressfull day or week.
- Nature and Health Magazine, Apr-May 2008, p54. Accessed 12 April 2008