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3 easy stress-relieving practices
1) Managing stressful thoughts: The train exercise
What can you do with stressful or worrisome thoughts? You can actually reduce your stress level by just observing the thoughts, without trying to change them. Try this: Imagine you are sitting at the top of a hill, watching a train go by far below you. Think of each train car that passes as one of your thoughts. Let the thought go by with the train car, and continue sitting on that nice hill. If you notice that you are riding the train with one of those thoughts—following it to see where it leads or struggling with it—just calmly get off the train and gently find your place on the hill again, to continue watching the train of thoughts pass by. Some people prefer to imagine sitting by a stream, watching their thoughts float by like leaves in the water.
One surefire way to bring the benefits of meditation to your home life is to try this simple "re-entry procedure" – When you arrive home, pause a moment to take 3 deep breaths before opening your front door. Imagine you are inhaling cool air and exhaling warm air. Try to inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6 to be sure to allow your nervous system time to truly experience the benefits of your mindful breathing.
3) Phone ring reminder
Stressed at work? Too many phone calls interrupting your day and making it hard to focus? Use your telephone’s ring as a memory cue to remind you to take a mindful breath before answering. The more often you are aware of your breathing and your body, the more likely you are to feel calm, centered, and prepared to handle whatever comes next.
Health benefits of mindfulness
Among other positive outcomes, mindfulness meditation has been shown to decrease high blood pressure, enhance immune system functioning, reduce stress hormones, help manage chronic pain conditions, and improve general wellness. Practicing mindfulness can reduce your baseline stress level and regulate your body’s reactions to stressful situations, which helps calm your nervous system and balance your blood sugar.
Remember, the hardest part of mindfulness meditation is remembering to do it. Consider this your reminder for today, and take a moment to notice your next 3 breaths.
© 2015-20 Sara K. Levley, PsyD