Too Stress(ed) or Not to Stress (Four)

Deep Breathing

breatheDeep breathing is a simple and very effective method of relaxation. It is a core component of every relaxation technique, plus yoga and Zen meditation. All you do is simply take a number of deep breaths and relax your body further with each breath. That’s it!

Deep breathing is one of the most basic forms of relaxation therapy. It is a type of relaxation breathing that helps to melt away stress by providing your body with more oxygen. Without oxygen your body cannot function efficiently, and you will feel very painful.

Deep breathing techniques require you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Sit or stand comfortably and place your hands firmly on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose. As you inhale, you should notice that your stomach begins to expand outwards – this is a sign that you are inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Hold your breath for a few seconds before you begin to exhale. Purse your lips and slowly release all of the air you have just taken in. Repeat for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.

 

Remember, stress in all its forms needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Only recently have scientists and leading doctors started to acknowledge that stress is an instigator of so many physical health disorders – don’t we know it!

Most importantly, you need to identify the cause or particular stress triggers and investigate the appropriate stress management remedy for you. By understanding the root cause of the problem, you can look to remove the stressful trigger, or gain insight into how to adapt to it in a much more relaxed manner.

Reducing tasks and obligations can help in eliminating some pressures and burdens (easier said than done, right?) so delegating tasks to others and sticking to a strict timetable can make life more enjoyable, relaxed and stress-free.

 

 

Don’t Mind(fulness) Me!

249. stressing out (1)Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program that helps you learn to calm your mind and body to help you cope, not only with illness and/or pain, but also with stress in your everyday life.

MBSR teaches “mindfulness,” a focus only on things happening in the present moment. For example, you may sit quietly and think only about how your body feels. You might focus only on the sounds around you or how your food tastes and smells. When you are mindful, you do just one thing and you pay close attention to that one thing (basically, the opposite of multi-tasking).

To help you focus your mind on the present:

1. STOP

Stop everything! EVERYTHING! PAUSE…BREATHE! Allow everything to be exactly as it is, Release all resistance and attachment

chronic comic 164Imagine yourself hanging on to whatever you’re holding on to, with your hands, for dear life, with a big black hole beneath you. Now, LET GO and allow yourself to fall, fall down the black hole, keep falling, until you land on a beautiful, soft platform of golden light. The Universe, God, or whatever you might believe in holds you, loves you and supports you. ALLOW IT!

2. FEEL

Breathe…feel your body.

Breathe some more.

Breathe all the way down to your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor, wiggle your toes, push your big toes into the floor. Breathe deeply, sigh or groan as you breathe out. Try this at least 10 times.

What are you actually feeling?

Feel it! Express it! if you need to cry or scream, do it – it will leave you SO much lighter.

3. RELAX

chronic comic 163Not necessarily meditation or a formal way of relaxation – I mean do something you LOVE and can fully engage with, which will switch off your mind chatter (it can still be meditation if that is what you love).

4. OPEN

Open up to new possibilities.

73. miserableAsk questions without having specific answers in mind already, and without wanting them answered immediately. Simply ask and then forget about it. Allow space after the question, to free yourself from intellectualising it, and rather to be free to receive the answers when they come.

Questions like:

    • What else is possible?
    • What would the energy of my life be like, if I was living it for the joy of it?
    • How could this situation be even better?

Studies show that MBSR can reduce stress and help people relax. MBSR helped some people cope better with symptoms and improved their quality of life. Research also shows that MBSR helped people sleep better and feel less anxious, and it helped ease depression symptoms.

Change Your Mind

thinkingMind power is a phrase we hear constantly and most of us acknowledge its importance but we really have no idea of the infinite capacity of our minds. We only use 10% (and my 10% is full!) and the rest is hidden, even from us. The remaining 90% is subconscious which means we only have the rest to ‘think’ with.

That 10% can be used for conscious mind power, the kind we can make use of on a daily basis to make our lives more dynamic and rewarding.

To harness mind power, we need conscious awareness and choice.

Meditation

This doesn’t have to be formal. Anything which stills the mind and helps us connect to our inner selves counts as meditation. The more we relate to our higher wisdom, the better we can de-clutter the rubbish from our minds and the desires of our hearts. I watched Elementary last night, where Holmes is forced to go to Rehab meetings…even he said that we have a finite amount of space in our brain, so we shouldn’t fill it with rubbish!

67. meditationYou can meditate to music, a beautiful scene, a colour, a guide. All you need is to relax and feel the silence within. Insights will come and, hopefully, a sense of calm and peace. You can use this time to visualise a person, situation or object you desire. Visualisation is very powerful and is a wonderful way to harness mind power. By seeing yourself in a future scenario but feeling it as achieved, you bring the desired closer. Although using mind power is about focus and concentration, so is meditation and the latter is an effective way to practise these skills. Both need discipline.

The more in tune you are with your higher self, the better you will manage your life in every area. Tuning into your intuition is vital for mental health and a happy life because your brain is full of faulty information and your emotions will lead you astray but your inner wisdom is always pure and right. If you sit quietly and ask, you will get answers. The mind is not your brain. The mind has many aspects and by trusting the instinctive messages you receive when meditating, you will feel the power you have at your disposal. The more you learn and practise, the more you will trust it and see proof of its positive impact on your life. The clearer your mind, the better will be your choices, feelings, decisions. The mind regulates your emotions as well. A lot of people don’t know that. That’s why they say they can’t help how they feel. Actually, we can decide how we want to feel and how we want to react to that feeling. Surely knowing why we do things is crucial – our conscious choice – rather than lurching from one self-defeating act to another.

Affirmations

Positive statements to affirm the life we want are a very powerful tool because they literally change our minds. Decide which area of your life is not working for you then write yourself an affirmation that you can use as a mantra. Say it faithfully without judgement or expectation and results will begin to show in your tangible reality. A lot of people give up after saying an affirmation for a week or two because nothing appears to be changing but that’s where faith comes in.

Before we can understand how to use affirmations to effect positive change in our lives, we need to grasp the role of conditioning and the mind’s power. Right from when we first come into the world and start to operate as part of a family, initially and then in the wider society, we absorb words, attitudes, ideas, thoughts, feelings and energies from all around us. Sad to say, many of these will be negative as we live in a fear-based society. Many of our well-worn adages are created from a fear of lack and loss, such as “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, or “Waste not, want not.” I’m not saying these proverbs aren’t true, but they engender negative ideas which form our sense of reality. This early conditioning stays with us all through our lives and just think about how many social ills can be traced back to these beliefs – racism, sexism, ageism, bigotry of all kinds, discrimination, limitation thinking, all kinds of fear, addictions, self-hatred, hatred, violence, crime and, of course, war. Now try to imagine a world in which positive affirmations form the basis for our belief systems and think how different things would be. If you’re already thinking this is “too good to be true”, there’s another negative belief! What about “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”? Life was meant to be to be easy – if we would only let it be.

Okay, we can’t cure the world’s problems, but we can do something about our own individual lives and, hopefully, influence others positively in the process. What I’m suggesting is that if we can learn negative thoughts in childhood, through the attitudes of our parents, teachers, friends and everyone around us, we can just as easily learn positive ideas, or, in the case of adults, we have to unlearn first. We can achieve both processes at once by using positive affirmations to wipe out the old negative ideas, replacing them with new fresh ones of our own choosing.

For an affirmation to be effective, you need the following conditions:

  • use the first person singular, “I”, when saying them
  • only use the present tense
  • they must be said with conviction and repeated often
  • they must be specific
  • write your own if possible and keep to one area at a time
  • phrase them simply

Here’s an example of how you might put these rules into effect. Let’s say you want more money in your life; it’s no good saying the words, “more money would be good” as that just constitutes a wish. For it to be an affirmation and for it to work, you need to use “I”, then put it definitely in the present and say how much you want but phrasing it as if you already have it. So it would be, “I have $50 more a week in my pay packet”, or “I have $2000 in my savings account.” It’s no use just saying, for instance, “I have more money” as you might then trip over a five cent coin which would fulfil your affirmation! You might have to repeat your affirmation like a mantra for months or even years, depending on how much pre-conditioning you have to break down first (I have been using ‘I am skinny and beautiful’ off and on for years – I’m still hoping my mind catches on to this!). Others might change your life overnight. This also tells you a lot about which ones are your most entrenched beliefs.

You need to suspend your cynicism, impatience and attachment to outcomes if you are to work successfully with affirmations. You might feel silly at first, saying, “I am a wealthy person” when you know quite definitely you are not! But by saying this statement over and over, you are changing your thoughts in this area of your life and the reality of your life will also begin to change.

old-lady-wheel-chair-ballerinaPick the issue you want to work on most urgently then write an affirmation of your own that suits the need. Keep saying it constantly – in the shower, in the car, as you’re cooking, all the time. Out loud is best but when not possible, run it in your mind. Affirmations don’t have to be in the form of words. You can affirm in mind pictures which is more like creative visualisation and that works very well for some people. You can also live your life as one extended affirmation, by actions and thoughts in general which enhance your blossoming beliefs.

Affirmations require faith and self-love but most of all, deservability. Without these components, you cannot change your life for the better. You can also say group affirmations such as “My family is well and happy.”

Here are some areas of life that can improve with the help of affirmations:

  • Health: “I have a body that works perfectly.”
  • Job: “My job is enjoyable and pays me well.”
  • Money: “I have all the money I need every day.”
  • Relationships: “All my relationships are positive and joyful.”
  • Future: “My future is bright and safe.”
  • Life: “My life is continual bliss.”

These are generic ones that you can use to make a start but if you have a specific issue such as a particular relationship that needs healing, write an affirmation for it such as, “My daughter and I get along beautifully together” or “My boss values my work.” The more you affirm that your life is good, the more it will be. It’s about taking responsibility for your own life and making choices about the way you want that life to be.

Manifesting

One of the clearest ways to see the effects of positive mind power is in the area of manifesting. We hear a lot these days about “the laws of attraction” and how they can be used to manifest our conscious and subconscious desires. It works best for me when I think of something I want then forget about it. It just turns up in its own time. When we try to control the “how” and the “when”, it doesn’t seem to work, perhaps because we’re not letting go and letting the Universe do its job. Positivity involves trust in Self and the goodness of life. Synchronicity cannot be controlled. It’s magic and to connect to it, just set your mind to getting what you want then let go.

Using visualisation and affirmations, you can, of course, manifest more deliberately but still it’s no use holding your breath waiting for the Universe to deliver. Attachment to outcomes can actually delay the very thing we want, not to mention that we don’t always want what’s good for us! Stay positive no matter how long you need to wait and it will come.

Positive Thinking

think

Using the power of your mind, you can turn negative into positive, whether it’s in the form of worrying, bad habits, addictions, toxic behaviour or unhealthy relationships. All these can be turned around by sheer will and determination.

There’s a lot of myth surrounding this philosophy. It’s not about burying your head in the sand and saying everything is wonderful. It’s about finding the gift within the unpleasant, the tragic, the disappointing and so on. There’s always a gift – always – sometimes very obvious, sometimes hidden. Seek and you shall find!

You can also manifest your wishes, be healthier and happier, feel empowered and make positive choices in your life. This only requires the confidence that comes with exercising your immense power both in your mind and in your soul. Something is only good or bad because you think it’s so. When confronted with hurt, betrayal, loss, illness or anything else you don’t like, decide it’s okay and it will be.

I think I can! I think I can!

I think I can! I think I can!

You have huge power that is accessible every day of your life, in good times and challenging times. There are many ways to harness this power and make it work for you. The benefits are huge. No matter what your nature is, you can achieve a positive mental attitude by deciding that’s what you want then practising every day to reach that goal.

As Donald Trump says, “If you have to think, think big.”

 

Related Articles:

Stress = Pain = Stress

Stress and pain are intimately related.

In our case, often, being stressed causes pain AND/OR pain causes stress. Psychological therapies – including hypnosis, meditation, and relaxation – may help break the cycle.

For pain therapists, these treatments, which focus on the relationship between the mind and body, are considered mainstream.

For other health professionals, they may be considered alternative or complementary therapies.

And for the layman, they may be considered hocus pocus!

Regardless of how they are labelled, there is evidence that for many people they work.

Hypnosis

fate2For many, hypnosis brings to mind a parlour game or nightclub act, where a man with a swinging watch gets volunteers to walk like a chicken or bark like a dog. But clinical or medical hypnosis is more than fun and games. It is an altered state of awareness used by licensed therapists to treat psychological or physical problems.

During hypnosis, the conscious part of the brain is temporarily tuned out as the person focuses on relaxation and lets go of distracting thoughts. The American Society of Clinical Hypnotists likens hypnosis to using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. When our minds are concentrated and focused, we are able to use them more powerfully. When hypnotized, a person may experience physiologic changes, such as a slowing of the pulse and respiration, and an increase in alpha brain waves. The person may also become more open to specific suggestions and goals (such as reducing pain!) In the post-suggestion phase, the therapist reinforces continued use of the new behaviour.

Benefits of Hypnosis

Research has shown medical hypnosis to be helpful for acute and chronic pain. In 1996, a panel of the National Institutes of Health found hypnosis to be effective in easing cancer pain. More recent studies have demonstrated its effectiveness for pain related to other conditions. An analysis of 18 studies by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York revealed moderate to large pain-relieving effects from hypnosis, supporting the effectiveness of hypnotic techniques for pain management.

If you want to try hypnosis, you can expect to see a practitioner by yourself for a course of 1-hour or half-hour treatments, although some practitioners may start with a longer initial consultation and follow-up with 10- to 15-minute appointments. Your therapist can give you a post-hypnotic suggestion that will enable you to induce self-hypnosis after the treatment course is completed

To find a hypnotherapist, speak to your doctor.

More reading on Hypnosis: Look into my Eyes

Find a licensed Hypnotherapist:

The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis

American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association

Mind Motivations – For US, UK and Australia

Therapy Tribe – for US, UK, Canada and Australia

Meditation

Meditation involves using a number of awareness techniques to help quiet the mind and relax the body. The two most common techniques are:

71. yogi

  • Transcendental meditation. The patient repeats a single word or phrase, called a mantra, and is taught to allow other thoughts and feelings to pass.
  • Mindfulness Meditation. The person focuses all of his or her attention on thoughts and sensations. This form of meditation is often taught in stress-reduction programs. Want to give this a try?

meditationBenefits of Meditation

Studies suggest that meditating can increase pain tolerance, activity levels, and self-esteem and decrease anxiety, stress, depression, and use of pain medications.

Mindfulness meditation has been used successfully in programs to reduce pain and improve mood in patients with chronic pain from a variety of conditions, including headache, low back pain, chest pain, and gastrointestinal pain.

Because there are varied forms of meditation and opinions about requirements for training, there is no formal certification or licensing process for instructors. Training requirements differ widely by institution. If you would like to find a meditation instructor, speak to your doctor or a friend, who may be able to recommend one.

To practice meditation, repeated meetings with the instructor may not be necessary. A recent study examining the perception of pain and various mental training techniques has found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training can have a significant positive effect on pain management.

Relaxation Therapies

Relaxation therapies include a range of techniques with the goal of reducing stress. In addition to meditation, the major types of relaxation techniques are:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Also known as systematic muscle relaxation and Jacobson relaxation, this technique involves slowly tensing, briefly holding, and then releasing each muscle group in a systematic fashion, starting with the muscles in the toes and moving upward. During this exercise, the person should notice the differences between tension and relaxation.

MINI-RELAXATION PROCEDURE (for those on a tight schedule!)

For relaxation to be of the most benefit, you need to learn how to relax and calm yourself instantly upon your awareness of tension or irritability. While a 20-30 minute relaxation period is great, and very pleasant, you cannot escape and listen to your tape or do your long practice when you are tense in traffic or irritated with your family or co-workers.

A mini-relaxation is done as follows:

  1. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders slightly (until you can feel increased muscle tension).
  2. Starting at the top of your head, focus on letting go of muscle tension (beginning with the muscles across your forehead). Allow sensations of relaxation, release, and heaviness to flow downward from your forehead, downward through your face, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs and imagine all the muscle tightness and tension draining right out your feet. Exhale as you allow the tension to drain away, and use your “key word” as you do so (this may be Relax, Peace, Calm, Serene, Ocean or any other word or phrase that denotes deep relaxation to you). Be certain that your deep breath was a deep diaphragmatic breath.
  3. This whole procedure should take no more than about 30 seconds (and can be done in as little as 10 seconds if that’s all the time you have). At the end of this period, go about your business regardless of how relaxed you feel.
  4. Repeat this process many times during the day, at least 20. Use the coloured dot procedure to remind yourself to do a mini-relaxation, preferably several times an hour. Place coloured dots in places you will see them often: your telephone, kitchen faucet, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, the door frame of doors you walk through frequently, your notebook or appointment book that you consult frequently, and even cut a small part of the coloured dot to place on your watchband. Whenever you see the coloured dot that is your reminder to do a mini-relaxation: deep breath, raise shoulders, let go of muscle tension as you breathe out and drop your shoulders, while repeating your ‘key word.’ You will notice that you become better and better at producing sensations of relaxation in a very short period of time, as you practice this over days and weeks. Do not extend your mini-relaxation more than one minute. If you are still tense, continue with what you are doing, and do another mini-relaxation the next time you see a dot, or the next time you are aware of feeling annoyed.

NB: A note of caution regarding relaxation if you are driving your car: Never practice long periods of deep relaxation while driving. Never listen to a deep relaxation tape while driving. Frequency is the key! The more you practice relaxation, or mini-relaxation, the better you will become at releasing stress and tension quickly and effectively.

Autogenic training: This technique uses visual imagery and body awareness to achieve relaxation. The person imagines being in a peaceful place and then focuses on different physical sensations, such as heaviness of the limbs or a calm heartbeat. People may practice on their own, creating their own images, or be guided by a therapist. Patients may also be encouraged to see themselves coping more effectively with stressors in their lives.

Breathing: Breathing techniques teach people to breathe effectively to relieve stress. While placing one hand on the chest and another on the belly, the person is instructed to take a slow, deep breath, taking in as much air as possible. During this, the belly should press against the hand. After holding their breath for a few seconds, patients are instructed to slowly exhale.

Benefits of Relaxing

According to a 1996 National Institutes of Health report, there is strong evidence to support the effectiveness of relaxation techniques for reducing chronic pain related to a variety of medical conditions. Other benefits may include reduced muscle tension and insomnia and increased activity level.

chronic comic 167The best way to learn relaxation techniques is with the help of a trained practitioner (although you can find many guided meditations, etc. on the Net). Usually these techniques are taught in a group class and then practiced regularly at home.

There is no widely accepted license for practicing relaxation therapy. However, it is often practiced by therapists and psychologists. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

More reading on Relaxation: Relax

Risks of Mind-Body Therapies

Although mind/body therapies don’t have the risks of medical or surgical therapies, there have been rare reports of adverse reactions from them.

  • If you have poorly controlled cardiovascular disease, experts recommend avoiding progressive muscle relaxation, because abdominal tensing can cause increased pressure in the chest cavity, slowing of the pulse, decreased return of blood to the heart, and increased venous pressure.
  • If you have a history of psychosis or epilepsy, you may wish to speak with your doctor before trying meditation. There have been reports of some people having further acute episodes following deep and prolonged meditation.
  • Hypnosis or deep relaxation can sometimes worsen psychological problems in people with post-traumatic stress disorders or a susceptibility to false memories. Its use should be avoided in patients with borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorders, or with patients who have histories of profound abuse. Because competent hypnotherapists are skilled in recognizing and referring patients with these conditions, only appropriately trained and experienced practitioners should undertake hypnosis.

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More Tools to Add to Your Arsenal

Do you have the same thoughts going round and round in your head?

I’m not good enough.

I’ll never be good enough.

Even if I try my hardest, I won’t be good enough!

You’re trying to figure it all out, but you just can’t see a way out of your own head *uck? Here are just 4 tools to add to your arsenal, which will interrupt this cycle, stop the spinning, allow you to catch your breath, and open up to new, exciting possibilities that you haven’t been able to see yet.

1. STOP

Stop everything! EVERYTHING! PAUSE…BREATHE! Allow everything to be exactly as it is, Release all resistance and attachment

Imagine yourself hanging on to whatever you’re holding on to, with your hands, for dear life, with a big black hole beneath you. Now, LET GO and allow yourself to fall, fall down the black hole, keep falling, until you land on a beautiful, soft platform of golden light. The Universe, God, or whatever you might believe in holds you, loves you and supports you. ALLOW IT!

2. FEEL

Breathe…feel your body.

Breathe some more.

Breathe all the way down to your feet. Feel your feet touching the floor, wiggle your toes, push your big toes into the floor. Breathe deeply, sigh or groan as you breathe out. Try this at least 10 times.

What are you actually feeling?

Feel it! Express it! if you need to cry or scream, do it – it will leave you SO much lighter.

3. RELAX

Not necessarily meditation or a formal way of relaxation – I mean do something you LOVE and can fully engage with, which will switch off your mind chatter (it can still be meditation if that is what you love).

4. OPEN

Open up to new possibilities.

Ask questions without having specific answers in mind already, and without wanting them answered immediately. Simply ask and then forget about it. Allow space after the question, to free yourself from intellectualising it, and rather to be free to receive the answers when they come.

Questions like:

    • What else is possible?
    • What would the energy of my life be like, if I was living it for the joy of it?
    • How could this situation be even better?

RELAX!

I took the bold step the other day of declaring Saturday 5 May as Fibromyalgia Isolation (a.k.a. Treat Yourself) Day.

All I wanted to do was allow everyone some time for themselves – it didn’t actually have to be the whole day. Instead, I received a heap of excuses as to why people couldn’t give themselves some time.

Here’s what I say:

To ‘I wish’ – just do it!

To ‘unfortunately those of us with young children can’t partake’ – find a family member, friend, neighbour to take the kids to the park for an hour!

To ‘going out to dinner with friends’ – spend a couple of hours getting ready, have a candle-lit bath, listen to soothing music…

It is so important to take time out for yourself and relax (not time out to think about what you should be doing but can’t; about what you could be doing; or about what you would be doing, if you weren’t relaxing). Symptoms of FM are often exacerbated by the emotional and physical strain that the condition causes, leaving many of us stressed and unable to carry on with our daily routines. To help relieve your stress levels as well ease your symptoms, consider using relaxation therapy.

(Please play the following music while you read the remainder of this post)

How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Both physical and emotional stress can really take its toll on your body. When you sense stress, your body engages in a ‘fight or flight’ response – this means that your body has to decide whether to fight the source of its stress or escape from it. As a result, your body starts to undergo a variety of physical changes to prepare for reaction. These reactions can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • quick, shallow breathing
  • increased blood supply
  • increased blood pressure

You may even notice that you start to sweat, feel nauseated, or even want to faint as a result of your body’s reaction to stress. FM sufferers may also notice an increase in their symptom severity.

How can Relaxation Restore the Body?
By relaxing both your physical body and your mind, you can actually help to reduce the effects of stress. This is known as the relaxation response. Relaxation helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and also helps to slow down breathing. Additionally, it promotes oxygen flow throughout the body, helping to heal damaged areas.

Effects of Relaxation Therapy on Fibromyalgia
Relaxation therapy can also be extremely helpful in reducing the many symptoms caused by fibromyalgia. Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques help to reduce insomnia and other sleep disorders. They promote the production of melatonin in the body, which is essential for deep sleep.

Relaxation therapy has also been proven to moderately reduce anxiety and depression, which are also symptoms of fibromyalgia. Moreover, all relaxation therapies have proven effective in minimizing the intensity and duration of migraines.

What is Relaxation Therapy?
Relaxation therapy helps to provide a person with physical, emotional, and spiritual relaxation. It actually involves numerous techniques that reduce stress and fatigue and work to invigorate the mind and body. Most relaxation techniques involve using both the body and the mind together; they often pair concentration with specific bodily movements or breathing exercise to achieve deep relaxation.

There are a number of different types of relaxation therapy including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Many relaxation therapy techniques can be performed at home, while others can be performed under the guidance of an instructor at a relaxation therapy clinic. Relaxation therapies are very effective because they are accessible, easy to do, and rewarding on all levels.

Relaxation Techniques
There are a wide variety of different techniques that can be used to help promote relaxation.

Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is one of the most basic forms of relaxation therapy. It is a type of relaxation breathing that helps to melt away stress by providing your body with more oxygen. Without oxygen your body cannot function efficiently, and you will feel very painful.

Deep breathing techniques require you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Sit or stand comfortably and place your hands firmly on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose. As you inhale, you should notice that your stomach begins to expand outwards – this is a sign that you are inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Hold your breath for a few seconds before you begin to exhale. Purse your lips and slowly release all of the air you have just taken in. Repeat for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.

Meditation
Meditation is a technique that helps to relax the body and settle the mind at the same time. Meditation has been used for thousands of years to achieve spiritual and physical oneness. It is now commonly used to help minimize stress and alleviate chronic pain.

One form of meditation uses focused concentration in order to achieve relaxation. Either by repeating a word or sound, or by focusing on your breathing, you can clear your mind and achieve complete relaxation. Sit in a chair or on the floor, and close your eyes. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling or repeating a special word. Try to sit as still as possible as you focus your concentration. Aim to continue this process for about 20 minutes.

Yoga
Originating in India, yoga is both a physical and mental practice that can help you to achieve complete relaxation. It is a low-impact workout, which focuses on stretching and relaxing all major muscle groups in the body. This makes yoga an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients, as it helps to increase muscle mass and strength. Yoga relaxation therapy also teaches you how to control and monitor your own breathing, allowing you to relax and focus as you complete the workout.

There are different types of yoga, but Hatha yoga is among the most popular for fibromyalgia sufferers. Hatha yoga uses specific poses and movements to help centre the mind and body. Yoga can be done in the privacy of your own home with the assistance of books or videotapes, or you can attend one of the many yoga classes that are now widely available.

(You can check out my experience with yoga, too)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients because it is so easy to do. You can do it while sitting in a chair or when lying in bed, whichever is the most comfortable for you. Progressive muscle relaxation works on all major muscle groups in the body. It helps to reduce tension and work out your muscles at the same time. Progressive muscle relaxation requires no equipment and can be done by all age-levels and abilities.

This technique reduces stress and tension by helping you to focus on particular muscles in your body. You begin by tensing the muscles in your feet. Hold this contraction for 8 seconds or so. Then release the tension and relax. Continue tensing all the major muscles in your body, right up to your head. By the time you have finished, you will be completely relaxed.

Personal Sanctuary

MY ultimate sanctuary

Escaping to a positive stress-free environment when you are tense is a great way to induce relaxation. You can create your own ‘personal sanctuary’ in your home. This may mean going to your garden, or creating a special corner in your bedroom that is filled with all of the colors and happy items you like and enjoy. By simply spending a few moments in your special space, you’ll be amazed at how rejuvenated you will feel.

MINI-RELAXATION PROCEDURE (for those on a tight schedule!)

For relaxation to be of the most benefit, you need to learn how to relax and calm yourself instantly upon your awareness of tension or irritability. While a 20-30 minute relaxation period is great, and very pleasant, you cannot escape and listen to your tape or do your long practice when you are tense in traffic or irritated with your family or co-workers.

A mini-relaxation is done as follows:

  1. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders slightly (until you can feel increased muscle tension).
  2. Starting at the top of your head, focus on letting go of muscle tension (beginning with the muscles across your forehead). Allow sensations of relaxation, release, and heaviness to flow downward from your forehead, downward through your face, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs and imagine all the muscle tightness and tension draining right out your feet. Exhale as you allow the tension to drain away, and use your “key word” as you do so (this may be Relax, Peace, Calm, Serene, Ocean or any other word or phrase that denotes deep relaxation to you). Be certain that your deep breath was a deep diaphragmatic breath.
  3. This whole procedure should take no more than about 30 seconds (and can be done in as little as 10 seconds if that’s all the time you have). At the end of this period, go about your business regardless of how relaxed you feel.
  4. Repeat this process many times during the day, at least 20. Use the coloured dot procedure to remind yourself to do a mini-relaxation, preferably several times an hour. Place coloured dots in places you will see them often: your telephone, kitchen faucet, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, the door frame of doors you walk through frequently, your notebook or appointment book that you consult frequently, and even cut a small part of the coloured dot to place on your watchband. Whenever you see the coloured dot that is your reminder to do a mini-relaxation: deep breath, raise shoulders, let go of muscle tension as you breathe out and drop your shoulders, while repeating your ‘key word.’ You will notice that you become better and better at producing sensations of relaxation in a very short period of time, as you practice this over days and weeks. Do not extend your mini-relaxation more than one minute. If you are still tense, continue with what you are doing, and do another mini-relaxation the next time you see a dot, or the next time you are aware of feeling annoyed.

NB: A note of caution regarding relaxation if you are driving your car: Never practice long periods of deep relaxation while driving. Never listen to a deep relaxation tape while driving. Frequency is the key! The more you practice relaxation, or mini-relaxation, the better you will become at releasing stress and tension quickly and effectively.

Relaxation is a skill, just like playing tennis or the piano. You cannot expect to be immediately skilled at these techniques. But you will definitely get better the longer and more often you practice. Set aside some time on Fibromyalgia Isolation (a.k.a. Treat Yourself) Day to practice (please!)