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Stress management and relaxation techniques

There are several different stress management and relaxation techniques and some suggestions have been given earlier. Specific stress management and relaxation techniques need to work for you. You cannot “fail” the technique, though the technique might “fail” to help you. Before you try any relaxation technique, try to make sure that you are reasonably capable of relaxing. If you are over-stressed, or have just had an argument with your partner or boss, then you will probably not be able to use any technique effectively. T

ake time to cool down emotionally. Perhaps do some exercise, or workout, first, and burn some of those stress hormones off. Get yourself into a good state to use your particular technique, whatever it is. If you do not have a particular one that works for you, here is a simple one. Sit comfortably in a chair, or on a cushion, with your back reasonably straight, and your head nicely balanced on the top. Feel comfortable and supported and alert: if you lie down, you might go to sleep. Now divide the time that you have available into four equal sections: e.g., 20 minutes = 4 5-minute sections. Don’t go on for any longer than that.

Section 1: monitor your breathing

Close your eyes and just listen to your breathing. Don’t change your breathing; just monitor it, observe it. After a couple of minutes, breathe into any area of your body that feels particularly stressed or tense. Feel the muscles of that part of your body lift and fall with your breathing. Imagine the in-breath as a wave, just warmth, relaxing and softening those tense muscles. Imagine the out-breath as a letting go of all your stress and tension. Just continue to do this, focusing particularly on your relaxing out-breath.

Section 2: extend your awareness

Allow your awareness to open to what is around you: any bird song; the noise of traffic; the smells (nice or nasty) from the open window (or whatever); the pressure of the chair against your back and legs; the clothes against your skin and the shoes on your feet; the warmth of the sun on your body; the coolness of the draught on your skin. Stay open and aware to whatever inputs there are. Keep breathing gently. Just do this for the whole time allotted for this section.

Section 3: focus on your self

Bring your awareness now to the person (you) that is sitting and breathing, and become aware of yourself—your self. How are you feeling? What is it like being this person? How are you feeling about yourself: all the different aspects of your self? Perhaps you can imagine yourself as a pillar of light (or energy) with many different facets: a facet for the you who is at home, a facet for the you at work, a facet for you in the family, a facet for you with your partner, the facet that you show to your friends, etc. Each facet is slightly different, yet all are aspects of the whole pillar—you. What colours of emotion or feeling are there? How do these colours change between the facets? How do you feel about each of these different aspects? What aspects of yourself are not being shown?

Section 4: let it all go

Imagine a wind gently blowing all the stress and tension away, just as it blows the autumn leaves. Or try to imagine you are in a slowmoving train, and all these different images come passing by, and then they disappear. Focus on nothing in particular; hold on to nothing. Occasionally there is a thought that may seem important: “It’s Auntie Mary’s birthday tomorrow and I need to send her a card.” Or “The car tax was due yesterday. I must do something about that very soon.” Put these thoughts into (say) a balloon and let them just bob around. Don’t hang on to them now. You can take them with you when you leave this relaxation space. Deal with them one by one afterwards. Now go back to relaxing and letting things go. When you have finished relaxing, don’t jump up and run for a bus. Move slowly and gently for a few moments; drink some water; try to embody and carry with you something of the level of relaxation you have just achieved. Do this sort of exercise regularly: daily if you can; ideally twice a day, for about twenty minutes.

The technique is good in itself, but it is also a means to an end. The real trick is to build the more relaxed state into your everyday overall state of being through the regular practice. As you practise it regularly, make sure you become more relaxed generally. Then you will be able to cope with anything.

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