Stress experts often talk about “setting boundaries” between work and home. But in this day and age of mobile phones and other devices that connect us back to work 24/7/365, how is that even possible? Finding time to reduce your stress right when you get home can help you set these boundaries in a very practical way.
Start small. All the suggestions below can be done in 5 minutes or less. Eventually you can build this time to 10 or 15 minutes, or even more. But for now, just give yourself a short amount of time so that you can get in the HABIT of doing this daily. Constantly remind yourself that you will be a better person, parent or friend for taking this time for yourself every day.
Go for a mindful walk. Mindfulness involves simply tuning into the present moment. When your mind naturally starts to review your work-day or settles on some problem, don’t let it. Focus instead on the breeze or the trees or the sounds you are hearing on your walk.
Deep breathing. Find a comfortable place to sit. Place one hand over your belly. Notice your hand rising on the in-breath and falling on the out-breath. Try to make the out-breaths longer than the in-breaths. Keep this up for a couple of minutes.
Progressive muscle relaxation. By deliberately tensing your muscles first, they will relax more fully afterwards. So start with the muscles in the forehead and scalp, first taking a deep breath in, then tensing all the muscles in that area to a count of five - and then releasing that tension -and moving on down to the next area. Pay particular attention to the classic stress points like your forehead, neck, shoulders and jaw.
Body scan. Mentally travel throughout your whole body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. If you notice signs of tension in any area, just let it relax. Try to imagine your breath going right to the spot that feels tense and let it relax those muscles like a cool breeze.
Meditation. Mindfulness meditation simply asks that you focus on anything that helps bring you into the present moment. Sitting by a brook and really listening to the sounds of the running water will do this. Sitting in a chair and noticing your every in-breath and every out-breath will do this also. No matter what present-moment awareness technique you choose, when your mind wanders, as it often will, simply bring it back to your point of focus. (Helpful hint: The minute you notice that your mind has wandered: you are back in the present moment.)
My favorite practice of all is to do each step in order from 2–5 allowing 2 minutes for each step. When you do this in succession, you will feel like a whole new person in almost no time. Remember, if a friend or loved one came to you with a problem, you’d give up 5 or 10 minutes of your time in heartbeat. So why can’t we do for ourselves, what we can readily do for others? The fact is that you can! You just have to get in the habit of doing it.
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