Ready, Set, Relax!

Relax for Your Heart

Relaxing – reading a book, taking a walk, listening to music – can protect your heart. If you’re not taking time to relax and are experience forms of stress, you can trigger a rush of adrenaline that makes the heart not function properly, resulting in heart failure or heart attack-like symptoms.

“There are studies to show that stress is comparable to other risk factors that we traditionally think of as major, like hypertension, poor diet and lack of exercise,” Kathi Heffner, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, told

Meditate for Pain Management

Earlier this year, a study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically show a pain reduction of 25 percent.

Meditation works by reducing activity in the somatosensory cortex and increasing activity in other areas of the brain.

So, next time you have a headache or muscle ache and want to reach for medicine, try some deep breathing and picture a serene landscape first.

Mindfulness Protects Against Common Cold

When you practice mindful meditation – the awareness of experiences in the present moment – you can lessen your chance of catching the common cold. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that people who engage in the practices miss fewer days of work from acute respiratory infections, and also experience a shortened duration and severity of symptoms.

Remember to take a few moments a day to pay attention to simple experiences like the sun shining, the sound of rain pattering and the smell of flowers. These simple acknowledgements bring you back to the present moment and help your body and mind to relax.

Take Care of Yourself!

If you feel overworked or overtired, make sure to stop the cycle and self-care! Do a few simple things to make yourself feel relaxed and pampered like going for a walk, taking a bubble bath or getting a pedicure.

It’s important to remember that you have to feel your best in order to be a good employee, parent, friend and spouse – – so don’t neglect yourself. Listen to your body and your mind. We all need time for ourselves and if we don’t take it, we end up feeling more stressed and overwhelmed because the tension builds inside of us.

Schedule ‘self-care’ time in your calendar just as you would a meeting and do something that brings a smile to your face!

Pleasurable Trance

In a 2013 Psychology Today article, psychologists listed what they do to take care of themselves in time of stress. Meg Selig said she enjoys the New York Times crossword puzzle, especially late in the week when it’s more challenging.

“Doing the puzzle puts me into a pleasurable trance that I call “going into Letterland.” The cares of daily life drop away as I become absorbed in solving an entertaining puzzle,” she said.

What activity puts you in a trance?

Don’t Yell at Your Thoughts

Meditation guru Deepak Chopra defines meditation as getting  in touch with it all – – not to just de-stress, but to find that peace within, the peace that spiritual traditions talk about that passes all understanding. So, meditation is a way to get in the space between your thoughts. You have a thought here, a thought here, and there’s little space between every thought.

While it is difficult, he begs you not to get down on yourself if you’re mediating and too many thoughts take over your mental state. Thoughts will inevitably drift in and dance around your mind, but that’s normal. Don’t try to do anything with them – let them be. If you find yourself thinking about what’s passing through your mind, just return to focusing your awareness on the mantra or your breath – you will soon slip into the space between thoughts.

Walking Meditation

If sitting feels too confined for you, try a walking meditation in which you pay attention to each of the following:

– The feeling of your body walking

– The feeling of your breath

– The sensations of air or wind on your skin

– What you can hear

– What you can see

This type of meditation allows you to focus on the present moment. Try walking in a different setting each time you practice to notice the differences of each street or each park.

Breathe In and Out

Deep breathing is a stress reliever that is easiest for us to use. It costs nothing and is always accessible, yet most of us never take the time to do it.

Deep breathing is a healthy response to dealing with stress and can help us to prevent anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease. It revokes the relaxation response, slows heartbeat and stabilizes blood pressure

Try the following exercise suggested by Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide:

First steps. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

Breath focus in practice. Once you’ve taken the steps above, you can move on to regular practice of breath focus. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

Long-Term Power of Meditation

Need motivation to start meditating? Check out this research from the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin.

When studying the brainwaves of meditating monks, Dr. Richard Davidson, found that brain circuitry is different in long-time meditators than it is in non-meditators. When you are upset, anxious, angry – certain regions of the brain become very active. When you’re in a positive mood these sites quiet down and the left prefrontal cortex – a region associated with happiness and positivity – becomes more active. In studying meditating monks, Davidson found they had especially high activity in this area.

Meditate and be on your way to a more positive and happy life!

Live in the Moment!

2014 was called the ‘year of mindful living’ as more and more research is legitimizing the practice, demonstrating that it may be an extremely effective intervention for a wide range of physical and mental health problems.

Mindfulness, the practice of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment, is both a daily habit and a lifelong process. What’s so great about mindfulness is that you don’t need to engage in a meditation practice if you don’t want. You can practice mindfulness in daily life by drinking tea, having a conversation, cooking, etc.

Try this exercise: Drink a cup of tea and pay attention to the smell, the temperature, the color of the water and think about each sip – how the liquid feels going down your throat and the warming sensation in your stomach.

Learn to Unplug

This might be a tough one for us, but it’s worth a try. Make time everyday to put your smart phone out of reach, to close your laptop and purely focus on the people around you. Making sure to be fully engaged in a conversation with someone – without constantly looking at your phone – shows the person you care and are interested in his/her thoughts. It also allows you to feel less stressed, because you are only focusing on the conversation, instead of juggling the conversation and the emails/calls you have to get to.

Get Moving!

Exercise is another easy way to prevent stress. Just throw on those running sneakers and your stress will melt away.

According to a 2012 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, moderate physical activity helped people manage stress and anxiety — and the health benefits lasted even after the workout ended. Try these workouts for stress relief:

Catch Some Z’s!

A 2014 poll found that an estimated 70 percent of people who reported feeling stressed in the last month also experienced trouble sleeping. Poor sleep has been linked to lowered immunity, heart problems, and feelings of anxiety and depression. Stop stress before it starts by getting a good nights’ sleep.

Turn off all technology before bed and make your room dark and quiet. Listen to calming music or nature sounds, read a book for pleasure or meditate to put yourself in a restful state.

Hold That Pose!

Yoga is not only beneficial for toning your tummy; it can help to reduce stress and anxiety and enhance mood and overall sense of well-being. Yoga is even prescribed for many suffering from chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease and chronic pain.

If you’re trying to manage a disease or just want to feel good, click on the link below for a sample of some basic poses that can alleviate anxiety:

Crafting Is More Than Art!

Are you a knitter or sewer? If so, you’re in luck. Not only are you making yourself beautiful pieces of clothing and accessories, but you are engaging in behavior that soothes anxiety and promotes relaxation.

Dr. Herbert Benson of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine said that knitting fulfills the two criteria of mindfulness practice. “The repetition of a sound, word, phrase prayer, or movement, and the passive setting aside of intruding thoughts and returning to the repetition,” he said.

Keep crafting away!

Fresh Air: It’s Not Only for Kids!

Stepping outside to smell the roses has been linked to stress reduction and overall joy according to many in the medical field. Athletic trainer and physical therapist Scott Adam Weiss says that if you leave your office for a short time during the day and try to connect with nature, you will feel more relaxed and at peace.

Try taking your lunch to a nearby park, walk the track in the afternoon or take the dog for a walk when you get home from work. A change of scenery and breath of fresh air makes everything better!


Massage Your Hands!

We all know how relaxed we feel after a deep-tissue massage, so why don’t we just massage ourselves? The idea may sound funny, but when we massage our hands, we can actually decrease levels of anxiety and depression. No need to leave your house or even take out the massage oils – – just simply massage your hand in circular movements and you’re on your way to relaxation.

The Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that massage therapy affects the body’s biochemistry, relieving depression and anxiety and a 2008 study published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a five-minute hand massage significantly lowers stress levels.

Hugs and Kisses!

Before your next important meeting, interview or audition, grab onto a loved one and hug it out. Not only will your partner, friend or family member feel wanted, but the act of hugging may actually relax you before your big moment.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that people who held hands for 10 minutes followed by a quick hug before going on stage to deliver a speech had lower blood pressure and heart rate than those who didn’t. Hug it out!

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