Breathe and Be Present!

When all else fails and you find yourself emotionally spinning or anxious or angry, STOP, take a deep slow breath. Feel the cool air as you inhale and the warm air exhale as you slowly breathe out… Be present! Release the anger or resentment from the past. Let the future wait, without the fear and anxiety of the unknown. Sure this is easier said than done but with some practice, and willingness, you can learn to live more in the appreciation of the present moment.

It really is not that difficult to pay close attention to the cool air as you breathe in, then pause a moment, and then slowly release the breath while allowing the unnecessary thoughts and emotions to slowly, but freely, flow out and away. You have to breathe anyway. Why not do it consciously? And, while you slowly breathe, why not learn to take responsibility for YOUR role in creating the life drama that may be upsetting to you… Sure, there are annoying people and  incidents, but you have a choice to get sucked in to the drama or to not get sucked in. Yes, you can just watch the drama unfold and wonder what your lesson is and what you are supposed to be learning from the weird turn of events.

There are styles of meditation which are practiced for years and built around focusing on slowly breathing. It can take people years to master these styles but it does not have to take years to have important benefits for you in the present moment! In fact, if you walk out into a beautiful natural setting like by the ocean, or by a river/stream, or by the majesty of the mountains with the sky above reaching up to the heavens, you can use your slow breathing to find the beauty and appreciation of the present moment. This will change your attitude quickly, if you let it! You can let go of the fear and be present, basking in the love that accompanies the beauty of the present moment in nature. If you can not get out into nature then use a candle to focus on or maybe a beautiful photograph or painting as a natural mandala to soothe your mind and soul. Even a pleasant memory of a time basking in the beauty of nature will help to soothe you in the present moment if you find yourself slowly breathing deeply with the willingness to “let go.”

You can close your eyes and go inward to feel the cool air as you inhale, pause, and release the warm exhale, slowly. String together 8-12 slow breaths and your heart rate will begin to slow and your muscles will begin to relax. As you slow down, your mind will gently follow into a more peaceful and pleasant state. This is a great skill to share with the people you care the most about… And, also it is worth sharing with people who you do not care the most about. The calming with gently spread like a chain reaction and offer calmness to all of your environment.

The Stress Education Center has information at www.dstress.com . The Masters of the Journey has information and ways to find a spiritual tribe to support you at www.mastersofthejourney.com  Please take good care of yourself and find ways to be “Present.”

Thoughts That Keep You Awake: Better Sleep

Almost every one of us has had our sleep interrupted or prevented by uncontrollable thoughts that run through our conscious minds. Reduced quality of rest has a negative effect on our performance and quality of life in many situations. So learning to control these distracting thoughts, or perhaps better, preventing these thoughts from racing through our minds, when we should be sleeping, would be a positive. Easier said than done…

I have had difficulty with avoiding certain anxiety producing conversations with my wife at bedtime or just after the “lights go out.” This is not unique because this can be a good time to have an undistracted conversation. However, an unsettling conversation as I am trying to let go of the thoughts of the day can open the doors for consideration of the dilemmas of life which can prevent an easy path to a restful sleep.

These conversations can be important and necessary. It is just the timing of these moments of communication that I find difficult. There are better times in the day to work on these important subjects. The bottom line is that at “bedtime” there is not much that you can do with the new information other than ruminate or fret over it.

The things that are the most stressful are things that you care the most about but which you can not control. As an example, parents usually care about what happens to their child (or children) but often the parent can not control every detail regarding what our offspring will be confronted by. When we experience difficulties with jobs/careers, finance, relationships, health concerns (for ourselves or our loved ones,) changes in our economy, weather, or even the process of aging, we can find ourselves troubled by distracted minds stressed by these events that we have little or no ability to control. These distractions dance through our minds and set off our primitive survival responses and this, in turn, does not allow our minds to relax and drift into soothing, restful sleep.

Medications can relax some of the systems that can keep us awake. Drugs can mask the emotional challenge, but not solve the roots of this challenge. Drug use can also lead to physical and emotional dependency which creates more problems. Better solutions include appropriate communication and problem solving. Some people can benefit from adjusting their attitudes realizing that the things they can not control may be better tolerated if one learns to accept the issue and to build a more solid emotional foundation to help stabilize our responses in these difficult times. (Again, easier said than done, but worth developing as a preventive mechanism.)

Self-care will help give you strength to tolerate these difficult situations. Physical exercise, eating well (healthy), and regular relaxation/meditation will help. Counseling which can help create emotional and spiritual support may be helpful, additionally. Most importantly, deal with your challenges during the day. It may not be best to discuss, or to mentally work on these issues at bedtime.

The 50 to 1 Countdown exercise that I teach in other blogs, articles, and in the book is a great technique to help quiet the mind and promote a deep and restful sleep. Consider trying it. For more individualized coaching, consider our professional coaching for enhancing performance and productivity by contact us through the Stress Education Center’s website at Stress Education Center’s website

Please take good care of yourself.

Driving Stress Management

Driving can be stressful. Driving in traffic can be stressful. Driving in commute traffic on a Los Angeles freeway when you do not know where the off ramp is can be very stressful.

Some people do not like driving, or more specifically, do not like driving in traffic on freeways/highways. I grew up in Southern California and usually find freeway driving to be a friendly challenge and usually less stressful than driving in stop-and-go street traffic. So, I am in Los Angeles for a visit after offering a presentation near San Diego and can admit that there are many vehicles flying around the “Southland” with reckless abandon. My travel maps are from 1988 and the numbers of the highways have changed. (When and why did that happen?) So I took the wrong off ramps a few times… so what. I could have gotten mad or upset but I was in the “right” mood and found it all pretty entertaining. Since I was not in too much of a rush, it did not seem to be life-threatening.

Due to this recent experience, I decided to write this blog with reminders on how to survive, more gracefully, your driving experience.

First, FOCUS… pay attention! Turnoff any unnecessary distractions such as your loud music/radio, your telephone, your loud passengers, and television (yes, though it is illegal, I have seen people driving in LA with TV’s on their dashboards…) Do NOT Text message while driving even if you are addicted and even if you feel you must post to your “Facebook” or Twitter page. Focusing on driving, while driving, seems like a silly thing to remind you about but look around, many people get bored with steering their vehicles and need additional activities including telephoning, eating, grooming, reading, note taking, etc….

Learn to relax. This does NOT mean closing your eyes while driving. It does include letting your shoulders drop to a more comfortable position, especially if they are up around your ears… Check your forehead and your jaw, and allow these to loosen. Breathe slowly and allow this to reduce your anxiety or fear because it is something that you can control…

Finally, you can distract yourself from annoying stress or anxiety by looking carefully for any natural beauty or unusual occurrences that manifest outside your vehicle, without losing focus on what is going on in front and to the sides of your vehicle. Some people engage in a game of finding a new discovery on every commute. Look carefully and note this new item even if it is a cloud formation or flock of birds. Remember that no matter how much fear, anger, or anxiety you feel while driving, you will not get to your destination any faster, or probably any safer, by being preoccupied by these stress filled emotions.

Breathe slowly, eyes open (paying attention (FOCUS), and allow enough time so you are NOT anxious about getting there on time.

Hypnosis for Stress Management

“Suggestions” for Relaxation: Hypnosis for Stress Management

Recently, I received a request to blog about the use of hypnosis for stress management. “Hypnosis” can be a charged and mis-understood word. Many under-educated people will say that the use of hypnosis is immoral because some religious authority, who has probably used a lot of waking hypnosis, has scared them into believing that “evil” can be done with hypnosis. (In fact, this very negative comment is a hypnotic suggestion that can have huge impact on unaware people.) Putting this aside, hypnosis is a commonly used technique that is used in sales/marketing, health care, and for mental health. Most people have experienced some level of hypnosis or hypnotic “trance” and may not even realize that they have “been under.” As an example, have you ever watch a series of commercials on TV and then can not consciously recall the products that were advertised BUT you find yourself drawn into buying a marketed product when you get to the supermarket like a brand name product (instead of a less expensive generic product, that probably will work about the same…) Or, have you ever been driving down the highway, watching the lane lines flow by, and miss your turn off. These are light trances that happen to most people as they move through life.

Hypnosis is a mental state of relaxation that can vary from a light state of trance to a deep, sleep-like state of trance. In the deeper states of trance, you may “drift-off” into dream-like state where many normal distractions will simply melt away, leaving you comfortable, peaceful, and with greatly reduced anxiety levels. Once in a “trance,” you can allow yourself to accept a “suggestion” that may be able to assist you by working with the “sub-conscious” part of your mind. Most of what actually happens in the brain dwells in the “sub-conscious” part of the mind because there is so much going on in the brain that we could not possibly be “conscious” of all of it. For example, we can not consciously know our heart rate, blood pressure, hormonal activity, all levels of muscle activity, internal temperature/metabolism, and all the micro-adjustments necessary to maintain balance. But, the sub-conscious part of our brains is monitoring and adjusting to subtle changes, unless we are manifesting some sort of ailment. A positive suggestion like: “you are feeling deeply satisfied with the small portion of food you are eating (on your current diet)” can help people to feel better and to lose some weight. A “positive suggestion” is created to be both a positive phrase and placed into the “present” moment of time for this is the best way to reach the sub-conscious part of the mind in a positive way. There is an art to creating the perfect positive suggestion and knowing the ideal time to use this suggestion to get the best results.

The state of hypnosis is truly “self-hypnosis” because most people will not allow themselves to slip into this state of consciousness unwillingly. Also, any suggestion offered will be screened for safety and moral appropriateness by the sub-conscious mind so people will not blindly follow a suggestion and hurt themselves or others unless they would normally do this in their normal lives. 10% of the population are very “suggestable” and will comply with an offered suggestion. These people are great consumers (for commercials are aimed at influencing these people) and a stage hypnotist will select these people for a stage show because they make for entertaining spectacles up on stage. Most people are not nearly as suggestable but can be offered positive suggestions that will work if they are motivated to make the suggested change (and if this change does not go against their normal moral beliefs.)

To go into a “state of hypnosis” or trance, you can relax yourself with many relaxing strategies such as: slow deep breathing, counting slowly backward, progressive relaxations, using autogenic training phrases, focusing on an object like a candle, fireplace, stream, or waves breaking on the beach and then allow yourself to drift into a more calm and peaceful state of mind and body. This act alone is therapeutic because it allows for relaxation, stress/anxiety management, and reduced levels of pain and discomfort. You can also use a more specific “induction” like the one written out on the “articles” page of the Stress Education Center’s website (link at http://dstress.com/basic-guided-relaxation/) to get to a deeper level of relaxation that can be used for self-hypnosis. Once you are relaxed and comfortable, you may want to read or mentally repeat your positive suggestion (maybe 10 times) so this suggestion will begin to drift into the sub-conscious part of your mind. This technique may need to be repeated for several days or even weeks before the suggestion will really work to the best level possible. If you do this work, and are motivated to change, you will find the positive results.

Hypnosis and positive suggestions can be used to control or change habits or behaviors, improve performance and productivity, manage health related challenges, and to enhance the quality of life. Most people can not be forced into making changes unless they are motivate to change so be careful of your expectations if you are ambivalent about what you wish to change.

If you feel that you may want more support or coaching consider contacting the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com for a personalized coaching program. Please take good care of yourself.

Sleep Better Now !

18% of American adults complain to their doctors that they are tired and can not get enough “quality” sleep. Over 50% of the population has occasional problems: getting to sleep, staying asleep, or feeling rested upon awakening. Sleep medication is a best selling product. Tired workers make mistakes, get injured, and have accidents. We have a tired, maybe “sleepy” population. There are some simple but powerful things that you can do to minimize insomnia in your life.

Here is a great technique which is very relaxing. Especially useful if you have difficulty getting to sleep or you awaken during the night.

50 to 1 Countdown

As the name implies you count backward from 50 down to 1. The difference is that you count “1,2,3” between every number. So the counting goes: 50, 1,2,3, 49, 1,2,3, 48, 1,2,3, 47, 1,2,3, 46, 1,2,3,…… etc.
Your mind will be busy with these numbers and then get bored with the counting so that it will go to sleep (or back to sleep.) With an even pace this takes about 3 minutes to get down to 1, if you get that far. Some people can get to 1, but the second time through this counting they usually drift off.

This breathing/counting technique can be combined with a few simple changes that will compliment to effectiveness of this exercise.

• 1. Reduce, or better still, eliminate caffeine, even that one cup in the mourning. Many people are sensitive to caffeine, even a small amount. De-caf is an alternative.
• 2. Regular exercise will help, but not just before bedtime. Give it at least an hour, better 2, before bed.
• 3. Do not eat a big meal with 2 hours of bedtime, because this can get in the way of good sleep.
• 4. If all else fails, consider getting, and using, a guided relaxation on CD to help you to relax and to fall asleep. You will also benefit from a better quality of sleep.Try this. It can really work well for you.Please take good care of yourself.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Executive Coaching and Training. www.dstress.com

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website for articles, free ezine signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.