Posts Tagged “Relaxing”

It has been said that there is no pleasure in having nothing to do – rather the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it. So, if you were about to dismiss the idea of taking time for yourself because you’re too busy – forget it. There is something terribly delicious – and exceedingly healthy – about time stolen just for you even in the midst of the busiest days. So, plan to take it. Routinely.

Here are some suggestions to get you started on a few moments of delicious idleness:

 1.  Get That It’s Good.

We are more keenly aware today than ever that stress and tension are linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. In contrast, simple relaxation techniques have been shown to reduce many such stress-related problems. In 1975, Dr. Herbert Benson published The Relaxation Response, a groundbreaking work which detailed stress-reduction relaxation mechanisms which short-circuit the “fight-or-flight” response, lower blood pressure, relieve muscle tension and reduce the heart rate. Benson’s work also shed important light on the link between the mind, body and healing. For all overachievers who make things happen – and happen fast – it is vitally important to take seriously this life-giving information and hold still – for even just a little bit  – out of respect for good health and well-being.

2.  Start by Just Stopping. 

The most effective stress-reducing techniques require no tools, no skills – just an honest desire to stop the ‘beat-the-clock’ jitters. The key word is ‘stop.’ Stop to catch your breath. Stop to decompress. Stop to replenish and revitalize. Stop to become more energized and more productive. Stop to make time for your precious self. Often, the very times when you feel the strongest drive to ‘push ahead’ are the most important moments to ‘stop and smell the roses.’

3.  Retreat to a Relaxation Space.

Dedication to daily decompression involves setting up a space that provides escape from the phones, business meetings, traffic jams and other irritations of the day. While there may be more options for this kind of space at home than at work, companies – more attuned to the benefits of mind-clearing breaks – are creating on-site relaxation stations complete with reclining chairs, earphones, nature tapes and sign-up sheets. If that’s not the case with your business and you can’t authorize it, commit to closing your door, pulling the blinds and hanging out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign for a short, scheduled time each day.

4.  Breathe. 

Frequently when under stress, we begin fast, shallow breathing which leads to shortness of breath, increased muscle tension and inadequate oxygenation of the blood. A short regimen of breathing exercises can both improve respiratory function and relieve stress and tension. Try it.  Push back from your desk and relax your body. Inhale slowly to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of twelve, then slowly exhale to the count of eight. Repeat this process until you start to feeling the relaxation effects. While three times might do it, ten would be even better!

5.  Bury Your Nose in a Bouquet of Flowers – If You Dare!

“Breaths come in pairs, except at two times in our lives – the beginning and the end.  At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. In between, through all the lather of one’s life, each breath passes air over our olfactory sites…Unlike the other senses, smell needs no interpreter. The effect is immediate and undiluted by language, thought or translation. A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic because it triggers powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them…As to why floral smells should excite us, well, flowers have a robust and energetic sex life. A flower’s fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us of the vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life force, all the optimism, expectancy and passionate bloom of youth.  We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire.” Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses. So, order the flowers and go for it – at the very least – the ‘vigor, life force, all the optimism, expectancy’ part.

6.  Burn the Candle – at One End Only. 

The Greeks were well-known for their use of fragrances, even integrating candles and essential botanicals oils into their state and religious rituals. They were also aware of the medicinal properties of herbs and aromatics – considering the fragrant essences that were extracted to be the very soul of the plant. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the use of candles laced with such oils has sky-rocketed in recent years – their natural scents offering relief from tension, fatigue and pain. In truth, scents can and do alter the mood and emotions – quickly making one feel peaceful and calm. Light a lavender-scented candle and you’ll experience a soothing and calming effect, reduce tension, even alleviate a headache. The peaceful effects of such essential oil candles can be just the relaxation method  for office or home. Such drifting scents carry with them energy, power, mystery and peace.

7.  Worship at Your Own Fountain of Youth.

Water has been known for centuries to have soothing effects. Indeed, history has grandly recorded the existence of glorious Etruscan and Roman fountains constituted of various spouts and embellished with a wide range of scared decorations. Such ancient civilizations were also well-aware of the healing properties of water. Society’s re-acquaintance with this knowledge, in part, accounts for the many gently bubbling table fountains, water pictures even aquariums in homes and offices today. There is a huge array of unique and beautiful fountains available from shapely hand-made variations with water continuously flowing over multi-colored rocks and slate to those combining the soothing, gentle, babbling brook sounds of water with flower blossom ponds. Each offers those magical, continuously flowing water sounds that result in an extraordinarily relaxing experience. Whether you choose to watch fish quietly swimming through an aquarium or favor the fountain version, invite a simple water stress reliever into your workplace.

8. Be a Copy Cat. 

Like them or not, cats have mastered the art of deliciously doing nothing. Certainly, they know that stretching and napping are two of the most delightful, relaxing things to do. Rather than envying them, emulate smart felines by stretching out those limbs. If you can, lie down and elongate your spine, flex the whole body, and nod off for ten minutes. If you find that totally out of the question, get yourself into a comfortable sitting position and tense for five seconds then relax the muscles of the body for thirty seconds, one group at a time. Start with hands and arms. Head, neck and then shoulders. (Neck rolls are excellent for releasing the tension from sitting at a desk.) Next, chest, stomach then back. Thighs, buttocks, legs. Slip off your shoes and – finally – deliciously – curl those toes and flex those feet. Remember that experiencing high levels of stress for prolonged periods can destroy grey matter, that the brain requires rest to solidify memories and clear out the neurochemical garbage that accumulates.  Two perfect excuses for a regular stretching and naptimes.

9.  Don the Headphones and “Soothe the Savage Breast.”

Handel’s Water Music.  Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Mozart’s Requiem. Chopin’s Nocturnes. Bach’s Sinfonia (David Mamet recently said, “Our consciousness, listening to Bach, has been rewarded, refreshed, chastised, soothed – in Bach and Sophocles both, the burden of consciousness has momentarily been laid down.”) Keiko Matsui’s Night Hawk’s Dream. Enya’s Watermark. Or tune into Your choice. Just heed Oliver Wendell Holmes’ advice, “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.” In fact, soothing music stimulates the brainwaves, produces profound relaxation, heals the body even increases the ability to learn.  So, choose your own special CD, put on the headphones, sit back, close your eyes and listen totally and completely for a few minutes. This provides an instant de-stress that leaves your body relaxed and your brain rested and more alert.


10.  Dream a Little Dream.     

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time,” according to Sir John Lubbock.  So, make time to spread out a blanket in the backyard, lie down and watch the clouds or count the stars. Beyond the relaxation that results, this gives you a chance to use your imagination – to dream those little – or not so little – dreams. Here’s what follows according Henry David Thoreau. “I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”                

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