So, it's early Tuesday morning and I (Christy) am sitting in a hotel room in another city in panic mode. You see, in less than 6 hours I will be taking the dreaded NCLEX (a very expensive and terrifying test that determines whether or not I get to add "RN" behind my name). Since I test early in the a.m. and I didn't want to have to get up extra early to drive down here, I came down Monday afternoon to study, have some quiet time and RELAX.
I've been able to study and I've had some quiet time, but I haven't quite been able to relax (hence the reason that I am up at 2 a.m. and going ahead and taking care of the 3SB blog post for the day! lol). I'm a smart girl...I know the basics of relaxing...breathe, close your eyes, go to a happy place...blah blah blah. If this were just me trying to escape my kids, easy peasy!! And if I were at home, I could just go SCRAP to ease my anxiety...but this is my mind, running 100 mph and not letting me reach my happy place (and the quiet is almost too quiet...definitely not used to that!!). In an attempt to relax, I turned to my friend Google and found this. There are ten tips here...surely, one of these will help me out (and hopefully, you'll find a few that you might be able to use in your world!) Oh and you'll find my random thoughts throughout in RED:
The kids need a ride to school, your husband can't find his shorts, your boss has just scheduled an online meeting, and your best friend desperately needs your help -- all at the same time. (Sounds about right...)
Is it any wonder that you can't find a minute for relaxation? In fact, if you're like most women, you may have even forgotten how to relax. (Umm...yes, again, this sounds correct)
And though experts say that some stress is good for you -- it can sharpen your senses and your mind -- too much stress is bad for your mental and physical health. At the same time, relaxation can do wonders to restore balance in your life -- and may even reduce some of the health risks associated with stress. (I agree...some stress is good, but I'm behind the 'some' point right now!)
WebMD talked to the experts to learn more about relaxation -- and how to attain it. What follows are 10 on-the-spot techniques you can use -- any time and almost anywhere -- to reduce the tension in your life.
If you're thinking meditation means twisting your body into an uncomfortable position and uttering "oohs" and "omms" for an hour, guess again. Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation, says Herbert Benson, MD, author of The Relaxation Response and director emeritus of Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Chestnut Hill, Mass. This includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting -- any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment. (This is where scrapping would normally fit in for me!!)
When you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your lifelong to-do list, experts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity. Try it for just 5 to 10 minutes a day and watch stress levels drop.
2. Picture Yourself Relaxed
Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visualization, or "dreamscape." To start, simply visualize anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a fantasy island, that penthouse in New York City -- or something "touchable," like the feel of your favorite silk robe or cozy sweater.
The idea is to take your mind off your stress, and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream -- in terms of colors, sights, sounds; even touch and feel -- the more relaxation you'll experience. (An image that evokes a sense of calm...one of the many waterfalls in the forest where we live...most definitely!)
3. Breathe Deeply
Feeling stressed evokes tense, shallow breathing, while calm is associated with relaxed breathing, says Michael Lee, author of Turn Stress into Bliss and founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy in Bristol, Vermont. So to turn tension into relaxation, he says, change the way you breathe. (Told you I already knew that breathing was relaxing!) :)
Try this: Let out a big sigh, dropping your chest, and exhaling through gently pursed lips, says Joan Borysenko, PhD, director of Harvard's Mind-Body Clinical Programs. Now imagine your low belly, or center, as a deep, powerful place. Feel your breath coming and going as your mind stays focused there. Inhale, feeling your entire belly, sides and lower back expand. Exhale, sighing again as you drop your chest, and feeling your belly, back and sides contract. Repeat 10 times, relaxing more fully each time. (This works!)
4. Look Around You
"Mindfulness is the here-and-now approach to living that makes daily life richer and more meaningful," says Claire Michaels Wheeler, MD, PhD, author of 10 Simple Solutions to Stress. It's approaching life like a child, without passing judgment on what occurs. Mindfulness means focusing on one activity at a time, so forget multi-tasking! Staying in the present-tense can help promote relaxation and provide a buffer against anxiety and depression.
Practice it by focusing on your immediate surroundings. If you're outdoors, enjoy the shape and colors of flowers, hear a bird's call or consider a tree. In the mall, look at the details of a dress in the window, examine a piece of jewelry and focus on how it's made, or window-shop for furniture, checking out every detail of pattern and style. As long as you can keep your mind focused on something in the present, stress will take a back seat. (Seriously struggle with this one...I have diagnosed myself with adult ADD which makes focusing super difficult...next!)
5. Drink Hot Tea
If you're a coffee-guzzler, consider going green. Coffee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty, says Nicholas Perricone, MD, author of 7 Secrets to Beauty, Health, and Longevity.
Chamomile tea is a traditional favorite for calming the mind and reducing stress. And black tea may be a stress-fighter, too, researchers from University College London report. Participants who drank regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer during six weeks of stressful situations than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine. (If I had any, I'd give some tea a try...but I already scoped out the Starbucks for this morning and I AM GETTING COFFEE)
6. Show Some Love
Induce the relaxation response by cuddling your pet, giving an unexpected hug to a friend or family member, snuggling with your spouse, or talking to a friend about the good things in your lives, says psychologist Deborah Rozman, PhD, co-author of Transforming Stress. When you do, you'll be reducing your stress levels. (my kitties are all at home w/my family and although the girl at the front desk let me know that I was her type, she was not mine...no hugs or snuggling for me right now! lol)
Why? Experts say social interaction helps your brain think better, encouraging you to see new solutions to situations that once seemed impossible, she says. Studies have also shown that physical contact -- like petting your dog or cat -- may actually help lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones.
7. Try Self-Massage
When your muscles are tense and you've no time to visit a pro, try this simple self-massage technique from Darrin Zeer, author of Lover's Massage and Office Yoga. Relax, and travel straight to Zen-land.
- Place both hands on your shoulders and neck. (universal choking sign...I can check that off my list of things to review for test)
- Squeeze with your fingers and palms. Rub vigorously, keeping shoulders relaxed.
- Wrap one hand around the other forearm.
- Squeeze the muscles with thumb and fingers.
- Move up and down from your elbow to fingertips and back again.
- Repeat with other arm.
8. Take a Time-Out
Adults need time-outs, too. So when you sense your temper is about to erupt, Jeff Brantley, MD, author of Five Good Minutes In the Evening, suggests finding a quiet place to sit or lie down and put the stressful situation on hold. Take a few deep breaths and concentrate on releasing tension and calming your heartbeat. Quiet your mind and remember: Time is always on your side, so relax. The stress can wait.
(I feel like I put myself in time out by coming down here by myself a night early...I've decided that while I like some alone time, I don't like to be alone)
9. Try a Musical Detour
Music can calm the heartbeat and soothe the soul, the experts say. So, when the going gets rough, take a musical stress detour by aligning your heartbeat with the slow tempo of a relaxing song. And you might want to make that a classical tune. Research shows that listening to 30 minutes of classical music may produce calming effects equivalent to taking 10 mg of Valium. (no classical for me, but the iPod did come in handy. I plan to play some upbeat music on the way to the test...something I can booty shake to in the car and get my spirits up! I'm thinkin' a little Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean!!)
10. Take an Attitude Break
Thirty seconds is enough time to shift your heart's rhythm from stressed to relaxed, Rozman says. The way to do that: Engage your heart and your mind in positive thinking. Start by envisioning anything that triggers a positive feeling -- a vision of your child or spouse, the image of your pet, that great piece of jewelry you're saving up to buy, a memento from a vacation -- whatever it is, conjuring up the thought will help slow breathing, relax tense muscles and put a smile on your face. Rozman says that creating a positive emotional attitude can also calm and steady your heart rhythm, contributing to feelings of relaxation and peace. (I did find myself smiling as I talked to myself (don't judge) and reminded myself of how awesome it will feel when I can see my name on the Board of Nursing site, listed as an RN)