Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW and author of “Simple Care for Therapists” offers us some tips for de-stressing from the comfort of your recliner or desk chair. You can do them in a matter of a minute or two.
Says Bush, “Often our well-meaning leisure activities, our attempts to lower our stress levels – such as going on a vacation, going to a yoga class, engaging in our hobbies, or even having a massage – fail to keep our stress levels down. Why? Because we get stressed just trying to fit these activities into our busy lives (and paying for them) and the moments of relaxation we might experience often don’t carry over into our day to day living.”
Bush suggests we can restore ourselves, simply and effectively everyday, while we are sitting. “After all, it’s the small amounts of peace through your day that make a big difference to your stress level.”
Here are a few of her suggestions….
* Doodle – Put pen to paper and let yourself meander. Doodling is a way to jumpstart your creative side. Give your left brain a rest and let your right brain wake up. When we move our attention away from goal-directed activity during doodling, our “attention system” is relaxed. So give your left brain a break, stimulate creative juices and have fun.
* Close your eyes and listen – Listen to the sounds around you. Isolate your sense of hearing, letting yourself notice and label each sound that you hear: “dog barking, car honking, copy machine, colleagues gossiping, rain pounding,” etc. Slow the spiral of stressful thinking by bringing yourself fully into the present moment. Mindful listening clears the mind and has the effect of rebooting your system.
* Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a fantastic vacation – Take a moment and travel back in time to a wonderful trip. Or picture a fabulous destination that you’ve always wanted to visit. Use details to imagine the temperature, the sights, the sounds, the smells. Replay a favorite place, detail by detail. Notice how your body responds to pleasant, relaxing thoughts, almost as if you are actually there. Take a deep breath.
* Close your eyes and breathe – Your breath is like a portable spa. It’s so obvious, so ever-present, and yet we rarely think to harness its potent powers. While there are many breathing exercises to consider, I personally suggest the 4-7-8- breath, an ancient breathing pattern taught by Dr. Andrew Weil. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 7, and exhale your breath, breathing out through your month as if breathing through a straw, to the count of 8. The pairing of an exhale that is twice as long as the inhale is especially relaxing.
There is a time and place for action and reaction, but there’s also a place for the pleasure of stillness. You may not be able to get to the yoga mat, your barbells, or your sneakers. But you can take a moment to lean back and relax into the peacefulness of just sitting there.
March 9, 2015