Chill Out

We are one stressed out culture. It's become a normal response for one's emotional descriptors ("how are you?" "I'm super stressed."). We tend to be content with this constant mental and emotional state. This unwelcomed guest somehow becomes a permanent resident and our bodies take the hit. Stress has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke among other health issues.

But our minds and bodies inform the other, which means we have the ability to lead a more stress-free life. Research has shown that incorporating calming techniques consistently over time shows quantifiable changes in our bodies' stress signals and stress hormones. According to a Time magazine article, "studies have found that the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judging it makes people better able to adapt to change and respond to stress". 

Paying attention to the present moment without judging it makes people better able to adapt to change and respond to stress.
— Mandy Oaklander, Time

If we want to elicit an aloha state of mind, it might be helpful to have a few simple practices that can lead to a more present and engaged way of living, thus reducing our stress. Each of these exercises can be done throughout the day, even in one's office right before that board meeting.

Safe/comfortable place: guided imagery that allows one to imagine a place, real or imagined, that brings about feelings of calm, safety and/or greater comfort. Going to one's safe/comfortable place when feeling any form of distress can help shift to feeling more calm and relaxed.

Body scan: eyes closed, lying down or sitting in a chair, focus on body sensations beginning from your toes traveling up to each body part until you reach the top of your head. Should you run into any sort of tension in the body part you are focusing on, be intentional to relax and release whatever disturbance you are noticing. At the end of your body scan, spend a few moments with your entire body completely relaxed (similar to the yoga "corpse" pose...terrible name, I know).

Breathing exercise:  a 3-year-old client once told me that he takes "deep breaths" when he is scared. He knows that our breath (physical) is related to states of calm or anxiety (emotional). The more shallow the breath, the more anxious we are. The deeper our breaths (from the diaphragm), the more calm and relaxed we are. Breathing while paying attention to the actual breath helps teach mindfulness. Notice the thoughts that come up and let them pass without getting stuck. Physically exhale and mentally exhale the thought.  

Mindful movement: from gentle yoga stretches (such as "downward dog", "child's pose", or "cat-cow") to walking creates a focus on one's body and the various sensations. This is not the same as a cardio workout or getting a perfect pose but rather bringing attention to each breath and physical sensation with each step or stretch. 

Peace be with you.

Tiffany Dang

Tiffany Dang, LPC, Austin, TX