Some days just start out tense. There may not be a particular trigger, just an edge to the day from the moment I get out of bed. I have a good and happy life, but I live it intensely and can easily get wound up without even realizing it. Soon, each annoyance or need builds the tension until I find myself jacked up like I just drank a sixer of Red Bull.
Over the years I have learned to recognize in myself when this building tension occurs. For the benefit of the people who work with me, and the future of my good health, I developed ways to reduce the stress quickly. Here is my favorite fast and easy method for getting into a relaxed state on those ratcheting days. The whole process takes less than 20 minutes and puts me back in control. Try it today and enjoy the calm.
1. Put everything on hold.
When things are in high action mode the stress can build quickly. If you feel the blood pumping and head throbbing, those are good signs to slow it down. Give yourself the room to have some mental space. Take just a few minutes to stop the calls, put the phone on silent, and let the people who are waiting know you will get back to them in a bit. If you leave anyone wanting you'll be less successful at relaxing. Move a deadline or two out if you need to. When all loose threads are taken care of you are ready to focus on yourself.
2. Find a quiet place.
You need to neutralize the space around you. Find a quiet place where you can focus inward. If you have an office, you can shut the door and post a do-not-disturb sticky. If your work environment is an open space, grab an unused conference room or head outside. Sitting in your car can also be a great place. If nothing is available, stay at your desk and put on some noise canceling headphones or softly turn on some mellow tunes.
3. Close your eyes and slow your breath.
Your breath is the controllable rhythm of your body. Listen and feel the pace of your breath. Take it from hard and rapid to long, full, and smooth. If you do yoga and are familiar with the deep breathing through the nose, this is a good time to use that practice. Focus on your breath until it feels on an even rhythm of it's own.
4. Let go of your body.
The body retains tension even when you think you are relaxed. Often you have to consciously release your muscles in order to get them into a relaxed state. First, make sure you are in a well-supported position. Now, while your breathing is in rhythm, starting at your toes, mentally move through each muscle in your body, actively releasing the tension so that you can feel your limbs and extremities go limp. Keep going at an even, slow pace until you get to your face. Let your jaw drop and your head slowly roll forward or back, whichever is more comfortable.
5. Take stock of your blessings.
With the body released and your breathing slow and steady you can now focus on the energy of the mind and heart. Think about all the wonderful things in your life. I always feel warm thinking about the love from my wonderful marriage, the blessings of my creative talents, the joys of my business and travel adventures, and even the affection of my poodle, Spike. Let the happiness of your life wash over you until you feel energized by the warmth.
6. Bring a smile to your face.
Bask in the glow for a few minutes until you feel strong and powerful. Then slowly close your mouth into a smile as you take control once again of your body. Sharing a smile has powerful therapeutic properties for both the giver and any receivers. You should be mentally still, physically relaxed and emotionally energized. Now get up, stand straight, and take on the rest of the action in the day.