“I’m so stressed.” “ I can’t seem to relax.” “If only my boss were different I could enjoy work more.” “I never have time for myself.”
Do any of these sound familiar? Even though our lives are so fast paced these days, there are many ways to reduce stress in only a few minutes a day.
1. Remember to breathe deeply throughout the day. When you’re stressed, breathing becomes shallow and your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to operate effectively. Practice some deep breathing right now. Focus on bringing air all the way into our lungs so that your abdomen expands. Continue breathing in so you expand the top part of your lungs as well. Then slowly breathe out. Try this several times, letting your neck, shoulders, and back relax. To remind yourself to breathe deeply, post reminders at your desk, on the refrigerator, and on your bathroom mirror! Author Andrew Weil, M.D., says that conscious breathing is the MOST important thing you can do for your health! You can learn some other breathing exercises at my stress management site, www.takingabreather.com.
2. Do your best to focus in the NOW, rather than on regrets from the past or fears about the future. Ruminating about things that you can’t change in the past or the unknowns of the future sap your energy for this moment. If you find yourself worrying about something, bring your attention to a feature of your environment, like a flower, or the sounds around you. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself, “focus now.”
3. Acknowledge your own needs and your own dreams. Too often people get busy with all the details of daily life and forget to take time to pursue their real dreams. There is a balance you must find. You might start by just taking the time to sit quietly with gentle music playing and asking yourself “what’s really important to me?” Or spend an hour at a beautiful spot in nature. Find creative ways to make time for yourself.
4. Use your mind creatively. If you dwell on negative thoughts like the ones at the beginning of the article, your stress will continue to increase. What you focus on expands. So if you’re telling yourself you can’t relax and you’ll never have time for yourself, you won’t! What is the change you want to experience? Tell yourself about that! “I’m easily learning and incorporating relaxation techniques into my life.” “It’s exciting to be learning to create balance in my life.” Buy a relaxation tape to listen to or go to the library and check out inspirational tapes and listen to them in the car driving to work.
5. Give up the “if onlys” and the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” thoughts. Accept what’s in your life right now- this doesn’t mean you want it to continue in the same way, but you can stop resisting “what is.” Decide what you want to be different, and begin your changes step by step. Create positive affirmations for your future. Be willing to commit to growth and joy rather than being a martyr.
6. Be willing to love and approve of yourself exactly the way you are right now! Criticizing yourself doesn’t help you change or improve your life. Be willing to be gentle and accepting with yourself, “warts” and all. Don’t try to be Superperson, just be the best you.
7. Spend time with people who are interested in personal growth. Having positive people around you reinforces your own desire to find more joy in life.

Author's Bio: 

Patricia J. Crane, Ph.D., has led hundreds of stress management programs for companies and community groups. She is the author of Ordering from the Cosmic Kitchen: The Essential Guide to Powerful Nourishing Affirmations, and now trains people worldwide to lead personal growth workshops based on the philosophy of Louise Hay. Visit www.hylteachers.com