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Cue Yourself to Relax

A 5-minute plan

Are you looking for ways to counteract stress and boost relaxation? Follow these tips to develop your own stress-reducing plan.


Your customized plan will depend upon where you experience the most stress - home or work. You want to create something that fits your particular situation.


Where to practice

It's important to get away from the physical space where you feel stress, if possible. If at home, choose a place away from the computer and areas where you have tasks you can't ignore. Move into an area which is less cluttered and pleasing to your senses. This might be outdoors in good weather. At work, simply take at your desk, use an empty meeting room, or relax on a bench, weather permitting.


Choose a practice

​Any one of these practices cue you to create an association between a phrase or image and a feeling of calmness. Try one or more of the following for 5 minutes.


1. Relax your whole body, starting at your feet. Say to yourself, "Relax your feet," three or four times. Slowly move your focus up through the entire body, cueing each part to relax.


2. Focus on relaxing one particular part where you experience chronic tension. Frequently repeat a suggestion to yourself such as "Shoulders free" or "Neck relaxed." Don't strain or do anything at all but say the phrase. This will plant an idea which generally supports muscle relaxation.


3. Imagine a peaceful nature scene. Repeat the word "calm" or "peace" as you survey the scene. This may be a place you felt relaxed in the past or one that springs purely from your imagination.


These words or images are not especially meaningful by themselves, but over time, you will set up an association between the words or images and a relaxed state of mind.


Eating fruit can keep your blood sugar in balance and your hunger at bay.


Nutrition and Stress


Eat and drink the right things to feel good.

Healthy eating can be your ally when you are experiencing an overload of stress. Here's four tips to help you stay balanced as you ride the ups and downs of life's challenges.


1. Eat breakfast. Your blood sugar will drop mid-morning if you don't and that latte won't make you feel any calmer or readier to cope with what comes.


2. Drink water, mineral water or sparkling fruit juice.You get thirsty for a reason (your cells need the refreshment!). Coffee and soft drinks may help answer your body's need for liquids, but they won;t help reduce symptoms of stress.


3. Carry healthy snacks. Nuts, sunflower seeds, trail mix, fruit and cheese are good choices. They help keep your blood sugar, your emotions, and your ability to concentrate in balance.  


4. Don't skip meals. If hunger overtakes you, you're much more likely to eat sugar and fast food instead of making choices that help you maintain an even keel.


Self-Massage for Stress Relief 


Easy moves to relax and revive


Massaging your head can reduce tension as well as temporarily improve your mental clarity and concentration.


Forehead massage


1. Press your palms into the center of the forehead. Using a comfortable pressure, stroke across the forehead outward. 


2. Find the center line of your forehead with the first two fingers of each hand. Move the fingers about one inch horizontally to the sides of the center line. Press and release from the hair line downward.


3. Move your fingers one inch more away from the center line, and repeat the press and repeat movements. Keep inching away from the center line and vary using the fingers to press into points with making small circles.


Stroking the face


1. Place your thumbs or index fingers at the center of your forehead, just above th eeyebrows. "Draw" a line from the midline to the temples. Smooth the skin across the eyebrows, making small circles at temples.


2. Trace with your fingers from the temples down to the jaw. Make small circles into the jaw.


3. Move the fingers to the center of the forehead, and repeat the movements, again finishing at the jaw.


4. Place the fingers near the hairline and repeat the sequence.


Massage therapists know many self-massage strokes. Ask for help to develop one or more techniques to help manage your "hot spots."


"We all need to give ourselves a focused time to relax. We're all operating on flight or fight."


Becky Getz, RN Certified Massage Therapist at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, VA

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