Consciously, progressively relaxing your muscles will make both your mind and your body unwind. With a little practice, you’ll be able to do this anywhere – when you’re stopped at a traffic light, when someone puts you on hold, or even when you’re in an elevator or subway. At first, try it where you can be alone and shut out distractions.
Begin by focusing on your feet. Imagine a pair of invisible hands massaging them gently and releasing all the tension locked in your muscles. Then consciously relax your feet.
Using the same technique, move your concentration systematically up your body. Spend extra time with any especially tense part. (Shoulders are a prime candidate.)
When a crisis disrupts your sense of well-being, take action as soon as possible to regain balance. Physically remove yourself from a disturbing situation. Inhale deeply, hold your breath, exhale and repeat, holding your breath for increasingly longer periods, until the adrenalin slows. Take a walk, too, at least around the building. If possible, go outside and circle the block. Since your goal is to get stimulants out of your system, avoid reaching for coffee or a caffeine-laden soft drink when you’re really worked up. When you’re returned to a state of control, approach the situation anew.
Create a Calm Environment
Isolated flare-ups aren’t the only sources of stress in a normal day. Our environments continuously bombard us with potentially irritating sensory stimulation.
In most workplaces, the bustle of normal activity – the telephones, printers and conversations that penetrate walls and barriers – creates a constant background of clatter. Homes are often less than tranquil, too, especially when TVs, computers and video games are in use. You can’t control what occurs around you, but you can reduce its impact on you.
The first line of defense is the telephone. Caller ID is your friend. You don’t have to take every call when it arrives, so don’t let non-urgent or unwanted callers interrupt or disrupt you. Soften the sound, too. With most office systems, you can adjust the volume so that the ring is audible without being piercing, and you can definitely lower the volume on landline and cellular phones. Give your ears a break and turn the phone down.
Mask the background noise with soothing music. The appropriate type is a matter of personal taste; what sedates one person may put someone else on edge. Pick anything that makes you feel relaxed, but avoid music with a strong beat (which will increase your pulse). And if you need to concentrate, stay away from catchy lyrics.
Lighten the atmosphere visually as well. Find room somewhere on your desk (or, at home, in the area where you spend the most time) for an expression of yourself or a reminder of something that makes you happy. If you keep a family or vacation photo in view, you already have something that serves this purpose.
© Kathy Biehl 2009. All Rights Reserved. Do not use, reproduce or electronically forward this article without the prior written permission of the author. Karma, ya know.