Let's face it, daily life can be beyond stressful. And between a demanding job and even more demanding home life, it becomes next to impossible to squeeze a bit of serenity into our everyday rounds. In an attempt to conquer it all, we're always on the go, always occupied and always a step ahead. But what if being idle were just as productive -- and necessary -- as being super busy? As Ecclesiastes says, there is "a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them." Often we forget to retrieve our personal stones after we've scattered them about, and our energies remain dispersed in a thousand different directions. Take time not just to participate in your routine, but to suspend it and indulge in your wants and needs. Gather your stones to regain peace.
Practice these eight exercises to ward off stress and welcome serenity into your heart and mind:
1. Empowering meditations. Meditations are excellent de-stressors because they can be customized to include whatever is most relevant for you. Best of all, there are only three things you need to do to meditate correctly: retreat to a quiet space, close your eyes and breathe deeply and detach your mind from the physical world. In your meditation, you are free to visualize any pleasant thought and conjure any ideal reality. There are no worries here, no deadlines, no pressures and no pains. There are only the beautiful projections of your soul. Relaxation seeps through every thread of your being as you inhale new hope and exhale your fears far away.
2. Exercise. As we all know, exercise plays a positive role in every element of our bodies, from increasing circulation to strengthening the heart. But exercise is also a prime stress buster in that physical movement produces a spike in the level of feel-good neurotransmitters known as endorphins. Apart from this, the mental concentration associated with sports and fitness diverts our attention from daily distresses. Move in any way you love; a good game of tennis, running, swimming or even yoga. The important thing is that you stay active to stay stress-free.
3. Music in solitude. Retreat to a place of solitude and put on your favorite song. Be sure to play a song that is mellow, slow and soothing, one that really speaks to you. Don't do anything other than listen; absorb the words and allow the melody to glide over your body. Breathe in sync with the song, following the highs and lows of the rhythm. Create a special playlist just for this time of solitude and allow the music to continue playing until you feel fully recharged.
4. Calming affirmations. Affirmations are the art of the spoken word used to your full advantage. Patterns of speech form systems of belief. When you reassure yourself repeatedly through the correct words, you begin to believe that which you affirm. Here are five great affirmations to practice any time you need to unwind:
Serenity surges through my mind, body and soul.
I am in control. I am calm. I am still.
I conquer my burdens; I am master of my challenges.
I triumph over my stress and celebrate my inner harmony.
As I breathe in, I feel my spirit swell with tranquility.
5. Memories. Recounting memories is a great way to escape current circumstances and temporarily travel to a happier place. Don't be afraid to bring up "that time when" for a few much-needed chuckles that ease the tensions of a long day. Recollect fondly the most pleasant parts of your past with friends and family to distract your thoughts from present doubts.
6. Physical contact. The grace of a simple touch can be a soothing balm. When overwhelmed with affliction, embrace a loved one and hold tight. Feel their warm energy melt away your anxieties. Allow your pet to cuddle next to you and sleep placidly. Rest your head on a friend's shoulder. There's no need for speech; holding a wanting hand says it all.
7. Mindful writing. Take out a pen and paper (like you used to do in school), and take a deep breath. Chances are your concerns are on the tip of your brain. Now, they will travel to the tips of your fingers. Begin to write -- about your day, a dilemma or something that upsets you. Don't type your frustrations, write them by hand. Release your emotions and your pent-up struggles through your words; from your body to the page, let your writing become the conduit of your stress.
8. Favorite hobby. The key here is to engage your mind in an enjoyable activity rather than have it contemplate the million things that must be done by tomorrow. Practice a craft that you love and that requires your attention, such as a game, creating something or cooking. It is equally valuable to devote time and effort to the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do.
An inevitable part of day to day life, stress does us a great disservice unless we take simple but powerful steps to find relief from everyday demands. Practice the relaxing exercises above and take comfort in the more serene joys of life.
To your serenity,
Dr. Carmen Harra
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