I love the 3-legged stool analogy. If one leg is a little short, the stool will be tipped to one side. If a leg is broken or missing, the stool will fall over. And so goes unmanaged stress. I believe there are three major components to a viable program for coping with stress, and those are represented by the legs of the stool. The crossbars of the stool represent the elements that hold the legs together, the effective use of the tools.
The first component (and the first leg of the stool) is Relaxation. We live in a frenzied world. We are continuously assaulted with noise and bustle, and we often – or almost always – feel rushed. Ask a few people if they feel that there are not enough hours in the day; most will agree. We are not taught how to relax. So we must LEARN how to let go, take the time, and just sit back. Relaxation is not the same as sleep. Relaxation is more active and involves certain routines to unwind the body and the mind.
Cave Point II by Shelley Brucar
Hand-dyed and commercial fabric; machine stitching
The first tool for Relaxation is BREATHING, and that’s the topic for today. This is a tool you have with you all the time – no expense, no special shoes! Yes, we breathe all the time, but not productively. A baby breathes deeply – into the abdomen. As adults, our breathing becomes shallow and ineffective; we are not fully inhaling new, fresh air, and we are not fully exhaling used air. So here’s what you want to do:
Sit or lie down and get totally comfortable. You don’t want your
body to be rigidly upright, and you don’t want to be slouched
over. Your body should be aligned so the breath can flow.
Close your eyes. Focus your attention on your breathing, and let
go of everything else for the moment.
Inhale deeply and slowly. Imagine your breath going all the way
down to your toes.
Take even longer to exhale than to inhale. Let the breath out as completely as you can. Sometimes, it helps to count during the
inhale, and then try to count a little higher during the exhale.
As you inhale, bring in good feelings.
As you exhale, release negativity.
Breathe deeply like this for 4-5 minutes, and feel your body
So now, I encourage you to take 5 minutes, 2-3 times per day, to practice
breathing as described above. If you practice, it will become more natural,
and this simple relaxation tool will be there for you when you most need it.
Deep breathing not only relaxes your body; it also relaxes your mind and
reduces the unwanted clutter up there. When you’re relaxed, you will feel
more focused on whatever you’re doing. So taking a little time each day to
practice breathing will pay off hugely in increased productivity and serenity.
OK, you don’t have to take my word. Go to a store (Dominicks or Walmart)
where there is a blood pressure cuff to use. Sit down and take your blood
pressure. Then sit there for a few more minutes, breathing slowly and
deeply. Now take a second reading. Your blood pressure will be lower!
Feel free to leave a comment here to tell us how well this works for you.
The next relaxation technique I will talk about, which builds on breathing, is Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This is a great tool if you have trouble sleeping – either getting to sleep or staying asleep. So practice your deep breathing and watch for the next post. Or you can subscribe to this blog
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I have made a list of 100 stress reducers that I will share with you in a later post. How many can you think of right now? Please share – comments welcome!