RitaAnita Linger generously shared 25 great techniques for reducing stress that she and her fellow Heartmath providers put together during a retreat.
When I first read the list, I felt overwhelmed because “not good enough” still rattles around in my brain. It highjacked the central notion of picking just one and doing it for the joy of the experience. When I slowed myself down, I realized that I had tried many of these techniques and had great success.
[After I posted this, RitaAnita advised me that the Buddhist philosophy is to tell the “not good enough” voice “thank you for your feedback,” and to move on. It is a way to politely address our inner demons so they don’t have power and control over us. She’s more enlightened than I am. My first step along this path was to adopt Rosie O’Donnell’s attitude of “you’re not the boss of me. I am.” I’m sharing both philosophies because I think we recover from abuse conditioning in stages. It takes awhile to jettison messages that have been hard-wired into our brains.]
I decided to play with the list and make it my own. I’m going to print them out, cut them into 25 strips, and put them into a relaxation jar. The next time I have an overwhelming experience, I’m going to pull one out and do it:
- Remind yourself that this day/experience will pass. Tomorrow is a new day.
- Be realistic about your expectations. You won’t be disappointed or feel that someone has let you down.
- Appreciate yourself. Applaud and reward yourself for the positive things you accomplish each day.
- Smile! A smile enhances your face value and draws positive energy to you. Look at your natural expression in the mirror. Smile. Did you notice your smile took 10 years off your face and jaw line? Cheaper than a face lift!
- Breathe deeply to the power of 10. Count slowly to 10 as you inhale. Count slowly to 10 as you exhale. Repeat several times. You will increase your sense of relaxation if you do this while sitting in the classic yoga position or while leaning back in an easy chair because this opens up your diaphragm. Don’t be surprised if you shed a few tears the first time you do this.
- Laugh! Laughter really is the best medicine because it helps you relax physically and mentally. Did you know that we wake up in the morning with the exact same thought we had when we fell asleep the night before? That’s why the Byrds and I watch Jay Leno religiously each night. He makes me laugh out loud, and the Byrds rock on to the music. I fall asleep with happy thoughts in my head and wake up looking forward to the new day. If you’ve had an especially trying day, watch a funny movie, read a comic book, make faces at yourself in the mirror, wear a big red clown’s nose, listen to a stand-up comic, etc. before you go to sleep.
- Treat yourself to a favorite food or beverage. Serve it as if the queen was a guest in your home. You are the queen of your castle.
- Focus on a positive experience or memory for 15 minutes to replace negative flashbacks with positive ones. Recall the experience with all five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Try to recreate the experience in your current environment. This will train your brain to recall positive, happy experiences instead of terrifying ones. This is why so many people are drawn to bubble baths and comfort food ~ they allow us to return to a place and time when we were safe and happy.
- Talk to yourself in a nurturing, comforting, reassuring way. Channel a favorite aunt, grandmother, neighbor, friend, author, actor, or singer who always knew what to say to boost your spirits and make you feel loved and safe.
- Transport yourself for 10 minutes to your favorite vacation spot: the beach, sailing, a cruise ship, a mountain cabin or hike, a restaurant, Las Vegas, etc. Close your eyes and imagine you are there now having a great time. Recall everything you can about that perfect day.
- Remind yourself that we always have total control over our attitude and response to life’s experiences. Everyone experiences triumphs and tribulations. We need to celebrate the triumphs and mourn the tribulations. . .and move forward toward the next experience. If we look at life through the rearview mirror, sooner or later we’re going to hit a brick wall.
- Perceive problems, challenges, and stressful events as opportunities for growth. When I was a corporate consultant, we never told a client they had a problem. Instead, we used the words “concern” and “opportunity” to resolve an important issue. The words we use shape our experiences. When you’re drowning in a swamp filled with alligators, you’ll find humor in your situation if you look at it through the lens of “opportunity” to learn how to clean up the swamp. The absurdity will help you craft a creative solution.
- Become an actor on a stage. How do you typically respond? Do the exact opposite. If your natural inclination is a “poor me” whine, grab a glass of wine and celebrate this opportunity to prove you are clever and smart. If you are a stoic warrior, throw yourself a pity party.
- Drive the pace car instead of the race car. Slow down. Replace your daily work-out with a leisurely stroll. Chill out. Replace your fast-food take-out with a nurtritious dinner. Savor each bite. Take a bubble bath instead of a quick shower. Relax. Take the scenic route home instead of the freeway.
- Analyze your stress, frustration, and PTSD episodes. What are your hot buttons and triggers? I bought a wrist blood pressure monitor and recorded for a month what caused my blood pressure to escalate or go down. It helped me see how people and experiences in my daily routine caused stress or invited a feeling of calm. I systematically set out to eliminate the stress and make room for the joy. And, my blood pressure returned to normal levels without medication.
- Make a list of people and experiences that bring you joy and make you happy. Read it to yourself on a regular basis. This will rewire your subconscious to seek out joy rather than pain. . .love rather than abuse. . .respect rather than intimidation.
- Forgive yourself for your mistakes. Start fresh and let them go. Focus instead on mastering your strengths. We only get 24 hours in a day. We can’t be perfect at everything. The people who are most successful in life schedule their priorities and delegate or eliminate the rest. We can easily become stressed out by trying to meet another person’s unreasonable expectations rather than holding firm to our own priority list. Yes, it takes a lot of courage and determination to say “no” when we’ve been conditioned to say “yes” to the demands of others. I broke this bad habit by imagining I was a two-year-old tyrant.
- Change your routine. Give yourself a day off. You’ll come back with a fresh perspective.
- Listen to classical or soothing music for 15 minutes. Close your eyes and let the music speak to your soul.
- Accept what you cannot change. Yes, this is very difficult. Our instinct is to fight and try to effect change. Yet, we waste an inordinate amount of energy and time trying to win every battle. We miss out on opportunities that could bring us joy and a sense of victory by investing in relationships and experiences that are destined for failure. When you hit a septic tank instead of oil, stop drilling.
- Schedule a date with someone who loves you unconditionally, supports you, and gives you positive feedback. It could be an artist’s date you have with yourself. Sometimes we need to learn how to be happy alone before we can be happy in our relationships.
- Make yourself a priority. Give yourself permission to be selfish for a little while. Reserve time in your schedule to meet your own needs. . .in ink.
- Go on a treasure hunt for a positive experience. It could be something simple ~ something you see each day but don’t notice or fully appreciate. Take a photo. Scribble about it in your journal. Give yourself the gift of pleasure.
- Choose your own priorities. Become the boss of you. Our perspectives shift dramatically when we “choose” to eat healthy rather than “have to” go on a diet. When we are clear about our priorities, we invest our energies in our choices rather than in our obligations. We take control of our destinies.
This wasn’t on the list, but I think the best stress-reliever is a loving pet. Bitzie yowls at me when I’m getting stressed out. She forces me to take a break. If you are disabled by Complex-PTSD, you are entitled to have a service animal. Service animals are technically not pets. This means pet restrictions don’t apply to you. And, in many states, you will not have to pay a pet deposit or pet rent. You will, however, have to pay for damage to your apartment caused by the animal, scoop your dog’s poop, and make sure your animal doesn’t present a nuisance to your neighbors. You will probably need a letter from your doctor stating that your disabilities require you to have a service animal.
© 2010, Anne Caroline Drake.
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