Relaxation Techniques – Stress Management for Your Updated on November 25, 2013 Relaxation Techniques – Stress Management for Your Mindy Body Do you have 5 to 10 minutes of time at home, at work, or the ...

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  • 1 Updated on November 25, 2013

    Relaxation Techniques Stress Management for Your Mindy & Body

    Do you have 5 to 10 minutes of time at home, at work, or the middle of store to lower your

    bodys reaction to stress, anxiety, or anger? If so, read through the following pages to learn how you

    can easily reduce the tension in your thoughts, muscles, heart and lungs through simple steps.

    Think back through the past seven days when you became extremely stressed, anxious, or angry. Identify one

    situation that is easy for you to recall. How did your body feel when you experienced one or more of these

    powerful emotions? Do you have the experience in your mind? Did you notice that your:

    heart was beating faster than normal perhaps pounding at a fast rate

    breathing changed to short, shallow breaths and that your lungs worked harder than they normally due

    when you are calm

    body increased sweating in your hands, head or other areas of your body

    mouth became dry

    jaw clinched or you may have grinded your teeth

    body was absorbing tension in certain areas, such as your neck, shoulders or temple

    body began to shake or feel jittery

    Make a note of all the sensations that you could identify when your body reacted to your strong feelings of

    anxiety, stress or anger. Your experience is known as the fight-or-flight response that was triggered by stress,

    anxiety or anger. Your body is designed to trigger the fight-or-flight response to handle emergencies, by

    increasing your

    heart rate and blood flow to multiple areas of the body, including the brain

    breathing (to take in more oxygen for increased energy),

    arousal of certain senses, including sight, vision and smell,

    flow of blood sugar, fats, and cholesterol for added energy, and

    tension in muscles that will be required to move fast

    The problem is that you rarely use the system to fight or flight; so your body is filling up with unused fuel; i.e.,

    sugar, while draining your body of its energy. You may not run when you are stressed, but you become

    exhausted, anyway. Further, the fight-or-flight system was designed for a short burst of energy while you run

  • 2 Updated on November 25, 2013

    away or fight; the system was not designed to stay on for hours. If you struggle with stress, anxiety, or ongoing

    anger, the fight-or-flight system may stay on for hours, causing even more exhaustion and tension.

    The good news is that you can learn how to shut off or slow down the fight-or-flight system through a variety of

    stress management and relaxation techniques. You can slow down your heart rate, breathing, and flow of sugar

    in your body.

    Are you ready to find the shut-of switch? If yes, keep reading:

    You can build a tool-box of stress management techniques to manage your fight-or-flight system. The fight-or-

    flight system can impact all areas of your body, including your thoughts; so you can use a variety of tools to

    slow down different areas of your body.

    Before reading the list in the table, consider these guidelines for expanding your tool box of stress management

    techniques:

    Prepare for slow changes, not major reductions stress management techniques will help you

    manage your emotions while you approach your valued-driven objectives each day these techniques

    are not designed to eliminate stress, anxiety, anger or chronic pain, but rather help you navigate through

    these feelings as you move forward

    Use the simple techniques first select the techniques that seem to be the easiest for you to use first

    and expand your techniques over time we recommend using deep breathing first followed by other

    tools

    Use preloading techniques to plan how, when and where you will start using one or more of the

    stress management techniques develop a detailed plan in your head for the next day for how you will

    use a brief stress management technique in your busy schedule (see module 4 for more details on pre-

    loading your brain)

    Prevent stress, anger or anxiety before it grows into a monster use stress management techniques

    to prevent these emotions from getting out of hand, by using them in the morning before you become

    anxious or angry a nice combination is:

    1. to eat something for breakfast within 60 minutes of waking,

    2. preload your brain for todays or tomorrows important objectives while you are eating breakfast,

  • 3 Updated on November 25, 2013

    3. practice deep breathing for 5 to 10 minutes before or after breakfast,

    4. complete 5 minutes of gratitude journaling just before you preload your brain (it helps expand

    your thinking), and

    5. add in exercise, such as walking, during your lunch break at work or after work.

    Effective and brief stress management techniques are listed in the following table. Each technique is described

    in the following sections.

    Stress Management

    Technique

    Body area Benefit

    Pre-loading your brain with

    24-hour plans

    Improves your thinking while you are stressed,

    anxious or angry has a preventive function in

    that you can plan in advance

    Pre-loading plans can help

    you complete tasks while

    your stressed or angry

    Gratitude journaling Improves your thinking and brings your thoughts

    mental rules, into the present time frame

    Can increase mental

    energy and has a calming

    effect

    Exercise walking or any

    other low, moderate or high

    impact exercise

    Helps to burn off unused sugar in your blood

    stream, fat & cholesterol that was released when

    you became stressed or anxious

    Helps all areas of the

    body, can help with sleep

    & increases energy

    Deep breathing Helps to slow down your breathing and heart rate

    to normal levels

    Effective for stress

    management

    Mindfulness exercises Helps calm down your mind and keep you focused

    in the present and for slowing down the heart rate

    Effective stress

    management technique

    Progressive muscle

    relaxation (PMR)

    Used to release tension in muscles around the

    body

    Effective for stress

    management, chronic

    pain, & increasing energy

    Visual imagery (VI) Helps to calm down the mind Effective for stress

    management

    Preloading your brain

    Review the technique of pre-loading your brain in Module 4. Use preloading to plan for the next day or the

    week.

    Gratitude journaling

    You can expand your brains capacity to think by writing down a short sentence about someone in your life who

    has been helpful or kind to you in the past few days. The exercise is simple, but effective because you can get

    your brain to start thinking positive thoughts based on real experiences, which can increase your sense of hope

    and support.

    Your thinking becomes narrow and one-dimensional when you experience stress, anxiety or anger for hours

    each day. You probably noticed that you struggle to come up with ideas when youve been thinking about

    stress, anxiety or frustration, instead of thinking about how to approach your value-driven objectives. Gratitude

    journaling is an easy way of expanding your thoughts the same way jogging can expand your lung capacity. Set

    aside about 5 to 10 minutes every 3 to 7 days to complete the exercise and follow these guidelines:

    think about a person who was kind or helpful to you in the past few days, such as your partner, friends,

    or a stranger

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    think about how the person helped you or went out their way to be a better person because of you, such

    as

    o your partner cooking a fantastic meal,

    o a coworker helping you at work when you were tired,

    o a stranger giving you directions when you were lost, or

    o your daughter or son worked hard on their homework last night after following your advice

    write down the persons name and why you have gratitude or appreciation for what the person did to

    help you or show you extra kindness

    select simple acts of kindness or help because these events tend to occur frequently, like a coworker who

    was sincerely concerned about you when they asked if they could help or a family member who always

    remembers to call you to check in

    dont force yourself to come up with positive experiences and, instead, spend a few minutes looking for

    those moments in your day that made a difference to you, even if it was small

    avoid writing down situations where someone stopped irritating you, as this will only serve to remind

    you of how frustrated you were with the person it will feed your anger or stress

    Exercise

    Walking or any other exercise can help burn off the fuel that is building up in your blood stream from stress and

    anxiety. Exercise can also help you increase your energy, which can be drained by stress, anxiety, anger,

    depression, or chronic pain. Any additional body movements can help you, including adding 10 minutes of

    additional walking each day; so pick any type of activity that gets your body moving.

    Start small and add a few more minutes to an existing activity, such as adding additional walking time

    when you walk around the block

    Exercise in the morning to help kick start your body and mind (helpful for people who struggle with

    sleep)

    Avoid exercising late at night as this can disrupt your sleep

    Deep Breathing

    Deep breathing is the easiest stress management technique for you to start or increase. Deep breathing works

    by resetting your lungs to breath more slowly and stops the short, shallow breathes that you may be taking when

    you become stressed or anxious. Stress or anxiety triggers a breathing a pattern of short, shallow breaths that is

    helpful for a few minutes if you need to move fast (e.g., running away from danger), but can be exhausting if

    you experience stress for several hours.

    You may not be aware that your breathing pattern is leading to exhaustion when you are overwhelmed with

    stress or anxiety. A deep breathing exercise for 5 to 10 minutes in the morning can help to return your body and

    lungs to a more normal breathing pattern while also providing a calming effect.

    Take a deep breath through your nose that expands your stomach for 3 to 4 seconds and exhale for another 3 to

    4 seconds through your mouth (inhale and exhale at the same rate). Repeat this pattern for 10 minutes in the

    morning and whenever you notice your breathing becoming constricted or rapid. If your stomach expands

    when you are breathing, you are doing it right. You can also sneak in deep breathing exercises in crowded

    places, on a bus, or in your office. People wont notice if you take deep slow breaths through your nose and

    slowly exhale through your mouth, so use deep breathing in any situation.

  • 5 Updated on November 25, 2013

    Mindfulness and Staying in the Moment

    You can slow down your heart rate as well as your racing thoughts through mindfulness exercises that can be

    done within 5 to 10 minutes. You may worry about the distant future or you may concentrate on your past

    mistakes and pain. Either way, your mind dwells in the past or future, but not in the present. Mindfulness

    exercises can be used to direct your thoughts to the present as well as slow your body down in the process.

    The MW&R website has several mindfulness exercises that you can use to refocus yourself in the present. Each

    exercise can be completed in 5 to 10 minutes, but you can practice for longer periods if you find these

    techniques relaxing.

    Now, before reading on to complete this module, stop what you are doing and listen to your heart beat for two

    minutes breath normally, but stop moving your body (and sit down while you are listening to your heart).

    Block out any sounds in your environment and focus on the feel and sound of your heart beating. Focus on the

    feeling of each beat, which you can feel in your upper chest. As you focus and listen, you can probably pick up

    the quiet sound of each heart beat in your body. Now anticipate the rhythm of your heart rate focus on the

    speed of beats in the minute.

    Can you feel and hear your heart beat? If so, you just completed your first episode of mindfulness. Another

    easy mindfulness exercise is to observe your breathing in the morning when you are doing your deep breathing

    exercise. You can add two comments that you can say in your head or out loud, such as:

    Im breathing in air to my lungs and

    Im breathing air out from my body

    While you are breathing, focus on the sensations of your body as you take in deep, long breaths. Notice that

    your chest is expanding along with muscles around your chest area. Notice the smells in the air as you breathe

    in and notice the feel of your throat as you breathe out again.

  • 6 Updated on November 25, 2013

    Sound simple? The technique is easy to do if you can stay focused on the sensations of your body. The biggest

    challenge is keeping your mind focused on the sensations of your body or any other mindfulness target (e.g.,

    focusing on the sounds of birds at the park). Because you tend to drift into thoughts about the future or the past,

    you will also practice bringing your focus back to the target of the mindfulness exercise. Dont worry if you

    cant stay focused at first. Everyone struggles at first to stay focused, but it gets easier over time. Keep

    practicing for about 5 minutes each day and you will be able to extend your concentration.

    Select a mindfulness technique that works for you. For instance, if you need to wash dishes and find time for

    mindfulness, use the time to engage your senses involved in the process, such as focusing on

    the touch of water (how hot or cold it feels on your hands and wrists) as it pours over your hands,

    the smell of the soapy water

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

    PMR is a technique for reducing muscle tension, increasing flexibility, and reducing stress and anxiety. A

    common and normal response to stress or anxiety is for you to tighten your muscles. Tightening your muscles

    can be useful if you plan on using them immediately to exert a lot of energy, such as running fast. However,

    extended periods of stress or anxiety can lead to a buildup in muscle tension in multiple areas of your body.

    This build up in tension can lead to soreness and pain. You may not be aware that your muscles have become

    tense, but you can often detect the problem through symptoms of soreness, fatigue, irritability and impatience.

    PMR, like the other stress management techniques, can be completed in 10 minutes, although you can spend

    more time if you would like to release tension throughout your body. Instructions for PMR are located on the

    MW&R website.

    You can start the technique now by practicing with your hands. Clinch your right fist for 5 seconds by counting

    in your head one thousand & one, one thousand & two and then slowly release your fist for another five

    seconds while noticing the tension leaving as you slowly unfold your fingers. Repeat the exercise with your left

    hand. You have comp...

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