Few things are more stressful than natural disasters. They are unpredictable, often happen with little notice or time for preparation, and feel completely out of our control. For this reason, I often use the “hurricane example” when teaching stress management techniques—particularly the importance of differentiating what you can and cannot control, making a plan to control what you can, and coping with the emotions of what you can’t.
The holiday season is in full swing. Signs of it greet us everywhere; decorations line the streets and fill the stores and Christmas music fills the air. While the holidays have a reputation for being a time of joy, for many people they are a source of increased stress or even depression. If you find yourself feeling less than joyous this holiday season and are wondering why, you’re not alone. Keep reading to better understand the sources of holiday stress and what you can do to improve your holiday experience.
Just as tensing muscles first helps adults ;earn to relax (see yesterday's post), it also helps kids learn to relax more than they would by just thinking relaxing thoughts. To keep the exercise interesting enough to keep kids engaged, a little creativity is needed. You don't want your kid acting out more to avoid a boring activity! In my practice, I provide parents with a script to use every night with their kids. They tense their muscles by doing fun exercises like pretending to squeeze lemonade from lemons, stretching like cats, and chewing jawbreakers. Another blogger has written about a creative spin on a similar script: relaxation flip-books for kids. She provides images and instructions for turning the script into portable flip-books so you can not only teach your child muscle relaxation, but also have a fun reminder on the go!
Because many of us are so used to carrying around tension, it can be difficult to recognize when our muscles are tense. Even when we scan our bodies for tension, we may overlook it because it feels "normal." In order to increase your awareness of tension, you have to learn to recognize it. Try intentionally tensing a muscle for 5-7 seconds and then quickly releasing the tension while paying close attention to the sensations of tension and then relaxation. Relax each muscle for about 30 seconds. (This is best done lying down so you don't have to rely on your muscles to support your posture). By doing this with each of our muscle groups, we can learn to more easily identify and release unnecessary tension throughout the day.
Not sure how to tense a certain muscle group? Check out this chart.
In our go-go-go world, it can be hard to find time to relax. Worse yet, many people find themselves feeling guilty or anxious about taking time to unwind. If you feel like you need to be productive all the time, give yourself permission to take a break. Not only will you feel better, but research shows that taking small breaks (e.g., 5 minutes out of an hour) actually helps you to be more productive when you are working.