Don't Stress Yourself Out

By Sharon Puszko , PhD, LMT
2015-2-3

Don't Stress Yourself Out

By Sharon Puszko , PhD, LMT
2015-2-3

Now that the holidays are really in the rear view mirror, I feel like I can breathe again. Between shopping, cooking, baking, eating, visiting family, decorating, and cleaning, I felt like I did not have a moment to rest between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I have really missed my down-time and I realize now how important it is to me.

With winter almost over, I think it is a good time to talk about stress management. Some of us may have a daily routine that involves down time, and others may take a break from it all only twice a year. Here are some tried and true practices to help all of us "re-charge our batteries" on a more regular basis.

Meditation

Meditation is defined as "engaging in contemplation or reflection; or to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness (Merriam-Webster, 2009). The results of more than 1,000 peer reviewed articles on meditation suggest that regular practice is associated with "significant relief from a variety of stress related physical and mental problems, a stronger immune system, longer life, increased energy and positive changes in brain function." There are many types of meditation, all of which help lead a person toward mental and physical tranquility and a sense of focus. The great thing about meditation is that it requires no special equipment, clothing or location. It can be done anywhere, at any time.

Sleep

Since the majority of Americans are not getting enough sleep, chances are most of the people reading this are also not getting enough sleep. More and more evidence points to the relationship between sufficient sleep and well-being. I found a recent article in Scientific American online about the importance of rest and it was fascinating. It talked about the fact that there are at least five different complex neural circuits that are only active in the brain when we are at rest. These circuits are related to vision, hearing, attention, memory and movement. The article goes on to discuss multiple studies that have confirmed the link between neurons firing in these circuits (during restful periods, either awake or sleeping) and improvement in memory, focus and productivity. This article really proved that getting a good night's rest, or taking a one hour nap, or taking an afternoon walk outside of the office, is truly beneficial to your body and mind.

Massage Therapy

Wait...what? I'm preaching to the choir, right? Well, when the last time you had a massage? Be honest! I know for most of the folks reading this, it will be more than two months since they had a massage themselves. As practitioners, we spend our entire work week giving. It is not too much to ask to receive on a more regular basis. Ideally, we should be getting a massage once a week or once a month. Remember, you will reap all the same benefits from a massage that your clients reap. We all know how rejuvenating a good massage is, and there is no reason for practitioners not to benefit from it as much as our clients do.

No matter how you choose to spend your down time - meditating, napping, hiking, knitting, or getting a massage - the important thing is that you actually have some. Before you know it, spring will arrive, bringing with it "to do" lists for spring cleaning, and planning for spring breaks. The truth is, there is always something going on that can cause stress, regardless of the time of year. If this means you actually have to schedule some rest time, then do so.

It is just as important as making a doctor's appointment, or taking out the trash every week. In fact, imagine if we decided we were simply too busy to put the garbage out for garbage day. Soon our trash can would overflow and accumulate all over the outside, and then the inside, of our homes. A polluted house is not a healthy one to live in, is it? A body and mind that never gets to rest becomes polluted and unhealthy, too.

Hopefully, you will now think of this every week when it is trash collection day, and it will be a mental prompt to schedule in some rest. Please remember the importance of down time, so your body and mind do not become trashed.