Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Slowing Down for Stress Reduction

In today’s modern world, the pace of life seems to be getting faster and faster.  That’s why it’s important to make a point to intentionally slow down sometimes and not feel the need to always keep pace with the increasingly, unrealistic demand for speed.

Let's face it, if you accomplished the daily-recommended suggestions of nearly everything society claims to believe you should do, you'd have to give up relaxation completely.  Whether you are walking the dog, working out, brushing your teeth, or trying to fit in the recommended number of hours for sleep, it's not realistic to believe it can all fit into a single day.  Yet, we all try, and that is what contributes to the world's rising levels of human stress.

One idea for facing off with these external demands is to not let them become internal demands because, in the end, the final push to meet unrealistic demands eventually comes from ourselves.  We can blame the boss, spouse, and kids, but the lack of boundaries are actually our own.  If the "shoulds" take hold from the inside, then the ongoing drive to meet the demands of the world come from no one but ourselves.

In addition, when it comes to trying to slow your schedule down a little bit, big decisions may need to be made.  You may have to decide if you really have enough time to be a pet owner, or if the amount of time you devote to TV may perhaps need to be reduced.  Maybe you are devoting far more hours every week to your job than you are actually getting paid for, or maybe you are discovering that you are just not getting enough sleep to make it through each day.  In fact, if your schedule is so full that you find yourself getting up long before you are done resting in the morning just to keep up with tasks and events, then there may be several items that need to come off your plate in order to allow you to get the rest you need.

It's not necessary to race through life at warp speed.  Not much of any of those days can really be enjoyed or savored when you are hitting each event just lightly enough to hurriedly move on to the next thing.  Reducing unrealistic internal drives and setting healthy boundaries is a good start to finding more time in your day for relaxation.  It doesn't change overnight, but gradual progress can be made by trying one new thing each day that helps to reduce your load.

Thanks to Dennis van Zuljlekom for the great photo - Slowing Down

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Relaxation through Reflexology

One way to lower tension is through massage, but not everyone has tried a very specific type of massage called reflexology, which focuses on the feet, hands and ears.  It's not always considered a form of massage, but it is believed that by applying pressure to various reflex points in these areas, that healing is generated in organs that are associated with the specific point where pressure is being applied. 

Reflexologist are trained and skilled in knowing which specific areas to apply pressure to that will help to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and other various ailments. 

Reflexology is similar to massage, but for those who are a little more shy when it comes to getting a massage, it’s good to know that the only clothing you have to remove for reflexology is your shoes and socks!

Similar to massage, reflexology can be very relaxing and helps to reduce levels of stress and anxiety in most people.  If you are worried about being ticklish in the feet, you will be surprised to discover that with a good reflexologist it's the amount of pressure that is applied which prevents the tickling sensation.  For instance, it would feel much more irritating to have a feather brushed along the bottom of your feet, than to have someone gently hold and massage them.

Many good massage therapists are trained in reflexology, but according to the Reflexology Association of America's website, their professional members must have completed 300 hours of reflexology-only training, of which 60% must have been taken in a live classroom setting with an instructor, or they must meet this criteria via a National Certification or State license in reflexology.  Finding one of these skilled practitioners would be well worth your time.

When you are looking for one more method of relaxation and stress reduction, consider putting this method in your bag of tricks.  Reflexology has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, help with sleeping issues, reduce headache pain, and facilitate improvement of digestive disorders and back pain

Thanks to Janis Petranis for her great photo - feet

Friday, September 11, 2015

Autumn is a time for Rejuvination and Relaxation

Autumn is a favorite time of year for many people.  It's not too hot, not too cold, and is filled with an array of changing colors among the trees and plants.  It's a great time to get out and see the changing colors and go for relaxing walks in the parks, hills and mountains.

This relaxing time of year has a lot of symbolism to it.  In Greek mythology it was believed that during this time of year Hades came up from the underworld and snatched the young and beautiful Persephone away, leaving Demeter (The Mother) grieving in agony for her kidnapped daughter, and so she refused to allow things to grow.  Thus, the dying of things and the changing colors.  It was believed, however, that they worked it all out, as Hades agreed to let Persephone come back up to her normal life in the Spring time, which of course is when Demeter stops grieving and allows all the flowers and plants to bloom again.  Until then, however, the earth was thought to be grieving as things died off for the winter, not to return again until Spring.

This symbolism of Persephone (a symbolic representation of all that is young and vibrant and lively) "going away" for a time, is seen in everything from the seasonal hibernation of the bear and the seasonal depression experienced by humans, to the falling of the leaves and dormancy of the trees and plants for winter.  It's as if everything is joining in Demeter's sorrow and falling into a slump of grief for the seasonal loss of life and vibrancy.

But wait, it's not all for doom and gloom.  Some versions of the story say that Persephone eventually wanted to stay in the underworld for part of the year just to bring her brightness and liveliness to those in despair.  In the same way, this time of year allows us to go within and do a little self nurturing.  In a way, we hibernate a little bit during this time of year, just like the bears do.  We go within as it gets darker earlier and spend a little more time sleeping, curling up with a blanket, and reading a good book.  In the Fall and winter months, we humans tend to fatten up a little as we crave heavier foods, and we rest a little more as we feel tired earlier in the evening as the sun sets sooner.  Grief often mimics the symptoms of depression, but in reality, it's only temporary sorrow that our bright and sunshiny days are shortened for a time.

Walking out amongst the fallen leaves can help us stay in touch with what is happening in the natural world as the seasons change.  It helps us to remember that we are a part of that same changing world, which means we are literally and biologically changing with the seasons as they transition from one time of the year to the next.  Feeling the crunch of drying leaves under our feet puts us in touch with an element inside us that is signaling for a resting period -- a rejuvenation period just as the trees shed their leaves and pull in for the winter --not to die off, but to remain dormant until Spring. 

The old myths also include a strong focus on this being a time of year for "harvesting".  While the element of growth and life (Persephone) is gone for a time, it's a great time to harvest what you've sown and let the "planting fields" of your life rest for awhile.  It's a good time for long walks in the woods, contemplation, slowing down, and taking time to rest.  It helps to challenge those culturally implanted ideas that we should feel vibrant all year long, which goes against the natural order of things and only leads to feelings of inadequacy and failure when we naturally feel like resting for awhile.  In addition, creativity surfaces only when things have settled down a little bit.  Once we've had our good rest, new seeds will sprout again.

Thanks to Julie Falk for her great photo - Autumn Days

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Zen and the Art of Lounging

Lounging is not something that comes easily to people who are overworked, burdened with too much responsibility, or taxed for time.  For them, it’s something that feels impossible to get to and once they do get to it, it seems like a horrible waste of precious time that could be used to knock one more thing off of their long list of chores and errands.

Lounging is a way to completely let go of this constant internal push to “get things done” and/or be productive, but it’s also an art that one must learn to do--and do well.   Sofas, patio lounge chairs, hammocks, rocking chairs, are all built with lounging in mind.  If you find you don't even have lounging furniture in your environment, then you may already know that you don't take enough time to slow down and relax now and then.

To lounge well requires a special skill for finding balance between personal discipline and the need for self-care, but many people who are prone to over work and under play have a false belief that if they slow down and stretch out for some personal time to do "next-to-nothing", they will be perceived as lazy or idle and their attempts at lounging are therefore associated with feelings of guilt and shame.

In order to find balance one must work to fit a little lounging into life now and then, and perhaps a little into each day.  This vital part of human health and ongoing healthy functioning can be fit into one's morning before the noise and chaos of the day begins to get too loud and hectic, or can be saved for the evening hours where one can sprawl out in front of a good movie, or read a book before ending the day.

Like anything that is pleasant or unpleasant, things done in moderation are things done well.  If you are prone to guilt and shame for taking time to relax, or even discomfort and awkwardness whenever you sit back and put your feet up, you may have to ease yourself into some lounging a little bit at a time.  Try something simple at first like sitting down in a comfortable chair for a fifteen minute interval in which you vow to not get back up before the end of the fifteen minutes, even if you think of something you need to go do.

Other ideas for easing yourself into a little lounging now and then are things like:  soaking your feet in warm water, lying back and watching the clouds float by, sitting in a lawn chair in your yard or favorite park, or stretching out on a beach to watch the waves come in.

Don't worry, if you begin to lounge too much, you'll know it.  You'll begin to realize you are drifting too far to the others side of the balance scale, and you already know what to do when you get to that point.

Thanks to Laura D'Alessandro , freelance photographer, for her great image - Lounge