Saturday, January 13, 2018

Stress Reduction and Hot Springs Mineral Pools

A popular way to relax and unwind is to soak in one of the many natural hot springs pools from around the world.

These thermal springs have water temperatures higher than the air temperature in the surrounding area.  The water has been heated by shallow areas of molten rock.

The water found in these springs contains many different kinds of minerals, which have been found to improve blood circulation.

Soaking in the warm mineral waters can sooth sore muscles, relieve pain, help with skin problems, and reduce joint pain.  All of these combined lead to a more relaxed body and mind.

If you are a resident of Colorado, you are in luck because we have plenty of hot springs in the area.  Here is a list of 30 different springs in the area you can try:  


There are some rules to follow when you visit one of these locations in order to make sure you don't over do it.  First of all, RELAX.  Take your time and remember to go with the full intention of relaxation.  Be sure to take water with you!  Drink water 15 minutes before entering any hot springs pool, and after soaking in limited intervals, drink more water during breaks.

While soaking, practice your mindfulness meditation.  Relax the body, relax the mind.  It's a time to put your worries away and not try to solve life's problems.  Let the warm mineral water heal and re-energize you.  There will be plenty of time to work on life's issues another time.

As they say in the Lion King... "Hakuna Matata"  (No worries).

Thanks to Chi Tranter for the great photo of Snow Monkeys
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reducing Stress during the Holiday Season

Though they are advertised as the most pleasant seasonal events of the year, the holidays can actually be some of the most stressful times for many people.  Much of the media during these times insists that everyone feel jolly, happy, joyful and thrilled to no end about spending money they don't have in order to satisfy the gift-giving season.  Unfortunately, this expectation is unrealistic for those who find the holidays (and the time of year) depressing and difficult.

That's why self acceptance is very important during the holidays.  If you don't feel all that thrilled about the holidays, you don't have to hide it, but you can find ways to try to make the very best of a time when your emotions are not in alignment with the external world's demands.

First of all, stop to think about what it is you personally need during the holidays.  Is it just relaxation?  Time with your family?  Some kind of traditional event that makes things feel right for you?  Sometimes the holidays get even harder when we feel pulled in all directions by the demands of others who are trying to get their needs met as well.  It's important to find a balance and make sure you are not getting spread too thin.  Saying no to some things is okay, and saying yes to your own needs can be a part of the formula for a good holiday.

Money is always a stressful factor during the holiday season as well.  It's okay to make it clear to others that you need to limit your spending, so be sure to speak up.  Suggesting that the family or office crew draw names to reduce the number of gift spending is always wise and helps reduce financial worries.

If the holidays aren't your thing, try to plan some events that feel more in tune to what you need, be they non-holiday themed movies, concerts, trips, books, socials with friends or just solo getaways that reduce your exposure to the media hype and promotions.

Don't be surprised if there are others out there that feel the same way and would love to get together with you to do something "non-festive".  Check in with some of your friends and family and see if any are up to the task of finding something that can remove you in any small way from triggers that contribute to your depression and stress during this time of year. 

Here are some ideas of things you can do to cope with your stress and anxiety during the holidays:

*Go hiking or snowshoeing which pulls you into nature and away from media hype
*Go see a non-holiday themed movie during the day when crowds are low
*Go for a walk or bike ride where festive decorations and music are not heard
* Limit your spending by announcing to others you plan to give limited gifts this year
*Say no if you need to when others demand you fly or travel to see them for the holidays
*Be sure to share and delegate shopping and other tasks to your spouse or other relatives
*Explain to children you are not made of gold and they can't have everything they want
*Above all, take time to sit down now and then to relax and take a breath.

Thanks to William Brawley for the lovely holiday photo
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Finding Solitude helps Reduce Stress and Anxiety

We can't always get away from this big world for rest and relaxation, but making an effort to find pockets in our schedule for solitude and rejuvenation is key to keeping a balanced life.

"I'll do it after the first of the year," you say, or "when the kids finish school."  But the truth is, those times are always in the future and the need for balanced relaxation in our lives is now.

If you aren't able to find a hut in the middle of nowhere to find peace and quiet, then try for a smaller, more reachable goal.

One woman finally insisted with her family that they must all arranged to cover for her so she could get away to the local Barnes and Noble once a week to sip some coffee and peruse the magazines and books for a couple of hours.  Another asked friends to watch her kids so she could go sit in a hot tub at the local recreation center now and then.  One man began taking that lunch hour he once worked through to go meditate at a facility he'd found in his area.

It doesn't have to be complicated or involve expensive trips away to even more expensive retreats in the mountains, which take time away from work, family, jobs and typically end up being even more stressful.  It's actually the little pockets of time, and little bits of relaxation during our day to day activity that add up to a more balanced life of stress versus relaxation.

Here are a few simple ideas for getting away for short periods of time:

*Find a local park and visit it during your lunch hour to eat or just walk or sit.
*Utilize your own back yard now and then to sit and watch the birds or clouds
*At home, run a hot bath and soak while listening to gentle music and/or using gentle aroma candles
*Go for walks in your area to relax the eyes from all the electronic stimulation
*Go visit your local library on a day when all the kids are in school.  They are fairly quiet places.
*Visit a Day Spa and get a massage in your area

Be creative and remember to listen to yourself.  When you find yourself saying "I'll do it later", you can be sure it's because you think it's too big of a task to get to right now.  Making the task smaller makes it reachable and doable.  You  can't put off your need for relaxation forever.  Your body and mind will eventually catch up with you and the stress by then will take so much longer to correct in order to bring balance to your life.

Thanks to Lain Merchant for the great photos
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Reduce stress: Stop wanting things to be other than what they really are

In the forest, when a hunter fires his or her weapon, the shattering blast explodes in the silence of the gentle trees and streams.  The animals are startled and some stand frozen in place, wondering what danger has entered the boundaries of their otherwise safe and quiet home.

And so it is among us humans when another mass shooting has taken place.  Our modern "forests" are much louder, busier, and hectic; but we freeze all the same when the explosion of danger has entered the arena of what we had taken to be a safe and enjoyable surrounding.

So too, with the newest of public shootings occurring in Las Vegas, we can't help but be like the animals in the forest--startled, hyper vigilant, confused and afraid.

Yet, the reality of these events is something we cannot turn away from.  More than ever it's important for us to look even closer at what the problem could be and what we can do to try to remedy this increasing phenomena--which statistics show is now occurring more frequently and more severely with each new event?

If we are to help put an end to such events in the world, we have to begin within ourselves and deal with the issues festering inside each one of us.  Of the many suggestions that are sure to flood the stage in the aftermath of this event, I start by offering the suggestion that  we each try on this idea:

STOP WANTING THINGS TO BE OTHER THAN WHAT THEY REALLY ARE!

Look at your own life and ask yourself what things you personally are frustrated with because they just aren't going your way.  The boss "should" act a certain way, and isn't.  The kids "should" be more respectful, and aren't.  The traffic "should" roll more smoothly, and doesn't.  You "should" be getting paid more and fairly, and aren't.  The list is endless.  Whatever it is, you believe it should be going some other way than it is, and if it's not, then frustration sets in.

On a small scale, these are the seedlings of emotion that, when ruminated upon, can lead to violence that is expressed outwardly and into the world where others can get hurt.  If someone wants the world to go a certain way, then when it doesn't, frustration grows into anger, and anger become rage.  When an individual can't control how things are going in life,  they might try to find ways to gain control by any means.  That's why it's important that we teach the children of our society what tolerance is, and not just tolerance for others, but also for disappointments and let downs that are an inevitable part of everyone's life.

Both anxiety and depression can also be reduces with a focus on this task.  To believe that life will never have anxiety or depression is completely unrealistic, but knowing that life will have it's ups and downs, and that when things don't go your way, you can cope without feeding the fire by ruminations that convince you that life should be something other than what it really is at the moment.

Learn what you can "reasonably" change (non-violently), and never ever convince yourself that if you can't have what you want in life (i.e., if life is not going the way you want it to), that you must destroy something to show the world the magnitude of your frustration.

Thanks to jseliger2 for the great photo - frustration

Thursday, September 21, 2017

All Things are Impermanent

The changing seasons are always a good reminder that nothing ever stays the same.  Everything changes.  When it's Summer, you can be sure, it won't be Summer forever; and when it's Winter, you can also be sure, it will eventually change into Spring.  And just as the seasons change, so does everything else.  Including our moods.

When Fall changes come and the days seem shorter as the number of hours of daylight decrease, many people fall victim to bouts of depression.  It's easy to get trapped into the belief that when in a depressed mood, one might never escape.  "I've been like this forever."  "Nothing ever changes it."  "It'll never get better."  But typically, moods change and you realize that episodes of depression don't last forever.  Depressions lift, moods change, and others will replace them in time.

These consistent human changes are true for anxiety as well.  When anxiety surfaces, it can be accompanied by over-generalized thoughts that include word descriptions of "permanence".  Such as, "this feeling will never stop", or "I'm always going to be this way."  They include words such as, "never", "always", "forever" and "never-ending".  But in reality, episodes of anxiety are also not permanent and in time, will change to something else.  When experiencing them, you can ease some of your cognitive suffering by reminding yourself, "This won't last forever", "It's not permanent", and, "This feeling will pass or change", etc.

Learning to sit through the discomfort of seasons (or moods) that are not particularly your favorite, is part of accepting reality as it is.  Does that mean you should never take medication for depression or anxiety?  Not at all.  That would be like saying you should never choose to use a blanket in the winter when the temperatures drop.  Medication, like a blanket, is a matter of choice, and sometimes survival.

The point is, to try not to get trapped in hopeless internal self-talk in which you convince yourself that whatever discomfort you may currently feel will last forever and that you will be a hopeless victim to it.  Just keep in mind that -- like the seasons -- all things change in time.  Including your current mood.

Thanks to Bernard Spragg. NZ for the great photo
https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Remember Who You Are

What do we do in "times of trouble" such as these, when there are protests in the streets of America that include guns, fighting, violence, and even death?  Well...in the words of Mufasa, the great Lion King and father of Simba... "Remember who You are!"

It can be very stressful right now for Americans to turn on their TV sets and see an ongoing--and what seems like never-ending--soap opera of daily drama, playing out on the stage of our political arena, and spilling out into the streets of our great nation.

Never-the-less, it's important to keep your senses about you and "Remember who You are".  You... are an American citizen!

What does this mean?  It means, that each and every one of us must dig deep into our very being and ask ourselves what we are willing to stand up for in this short and limited lifetime.  But more importantly, HOW we stand up, and with what morals and ethics will we do so as American citizens... is the more pressing question.

Perhaps you believe in white supremacy, or maybe you are leaning toward socialism these days.  We all have our various beliefs in this great country that has fought long and hard to afford us all the right to have the views we so choose.  Maybe you are Christian, or maybe you are Atheist, but who you are at the core of your being, will determine whether or not you head into the great streets of this country ready to kill your fellow citizen with guns, or beat your fellow citizen with poles, and bats and pipes, or... if you are the kind of American that has the tolerance to allow others to have their own views as well, in order that yours might also be preserved.

Be proud of your country, but don't forget its foundations.  It was built by all of us--free and slave.  It has a proud and shameful history, a peaceful and violent history, and a polarized history that has lasted to this very day.  And in order to find peace, we must as a nation begin to sort out how to live with these polarizations and the differences that seems to perhaps be a part of nature itself, and therefore will never NOT be a part of us.

Go into the streets as a free American citizen if you feel so compelled--it is your right.  In some cases, I even hope you do.  But "Remember who You are!"  You are an American citizen!  Don't go armed into the streets to harm your fellow citizens.  Have your voice, and hear the voices of others.  But don't insist with the price of death, that you're citizenship, and your voice, be of more importance than the voice and citizenship of your fellow American.

Remember Who You Are!

Thanks to Brett Jordan for the great photo - Lion 
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Walking Meditation

Meditation comes in many forms.   From guided voice meditation, to silent sitting.  There is moving meditation such as Qigong and Tai Chi, and a form of meditation that works well for those who find it too difficult to sit still for any length of time--That is, walking meditation.

Walking meditation is frequently used between rounds of seated meditation in order to help stretch the body and give it a little break before returning to the meditation mat to sit some more.

However, you can use walking meditation in many different ways.  Some find it relaxing and centering to take a break from their busy work day to go to a park and walk the paths, or through the grass, to get a little more focused on the present moment.

Walking meditation can also be used as a way to move the body, yet stay focused on just one thing, such as the sound of the birds as you walk among the trees or just the sound of water if you are walking near a fountain or stream.

You can also practice synchronizing your breath with the walk.  Counting "one" as you breath in while stepping with the left foot, and "two" as you exhale and step with the right.  Or if you want a faster pace, you can count "one" to inhale as you take several steps, and count "two" for the next several steps.  You can also place complete focus and attention on the placement of the foot.  Heel, toe... heel, toe... while working to not allow any thoughts or distractions to draw attention away from this mindful task.

You don't have to force yourself to do a meditation that is not comfortable for you.  Buddha was meditating in a reclined position when he died.  Perhaps you've seen the statue of him lying on his side called the "Reclining Buddha".  Some people who find it difficult to sit up during meditation will practice that way (i.e., lying down), and their task is to not fall asleep, but to stay awake and mindful.

So it's the same with walking meditation.  If you choose a moving meditation rather than a sitting, or still meditation (such as standing meditation), the task is always the same...to train the mind to remain present and completely aware.

Thanks to World Peace Initiative for the great photo