The holiday season stress is mostly over, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of opportunity for your “tensions to flare.” I’m taking a stress-free day today, so I give this gift of relaxation to you from the “greatest hits” pile My 6 favorite stress busters—good for any situation.

Sometimes you just need some plain simple how-to advice—such as when you are sitting in traffic and are totally stressing out because you’re late and there’s nothing you can do and you are about to have a panic attack. Help please…

Or…when your teenager is again on an emotional tear and blessing you with her emotional vomit. I would secretly love to leave her on the side of the road, but I would get caught. Why am I so lucky to be the recipient of her crazy emotional outbursts?” Breathe…breathe…

Or…you hear about yet another terrorist attack? What is this world coming to? Anyone can drive a car onto any sidewalk any day and plow through a crowd of people. You go to New York all the time…but maybe you shouldn’t! OMG!!!

Making matters worse, humans are “blessed” with what the Buddha referred to as a “monkey mind.” Just as monkeys are in constant motion swinging from branch to branch, our minds are in constant motion bouncing from our “to-do” lists…to our hidden fears and worries…to reflecting on past emotional wounds…and back again to imagining any of a zillion catastrophies that can happen to you and your loved ones. All this “busy-ness” increases stress and anxiety. The challenge for all of us is getting the monkey to calm down, especially when faced with external stressors.

I have my own personal menu of stress busters that I call on at different times and in different situations, and lucky you, I am going to share them today…

My Personal Mantra: I have a personal mantra that I repeat in my mind that reassures me that all is OK, even when I feel out of control—when I am sitting in traffic…when my flights are delayed at the airport…when my mind starts spinning out of control, fixating on one thing or another. I learned the concept of positive affirmations from Louise Hay, and I found it extremely calming, so I adapted the concept into a personal mantra that reassures me when I am feeling insecure. Focusing on the mantra is like a walking meditation—I can do it while driving or dressing or even sitting in a meeting. My personal mantra: “I am strong. I am safe. I am happy. All is well.”

Relax Your Face: An instructor once told everyone in my yoga class during some difficult pose, “Relax your face. When you relax your face, your whole body relaxes.” Fascinating. Truer words were never spoken. Next time you’re feeling tense, check your body—are you secretly holding tension in your muscles? Are your shoulders up? Your arms tight? Your face tight? Watch yourself. The minute you relax your face, you will feel a wave of ease pass over your body.

Force a Smile: This is a corollary to relaxing your face, and I actually mentioned it in my blog several weeks ago about “Choosing Happy.” When you know you’re tense from head to toe, force yourself to smile. It distracts your mind from the problem at hand and has been proved to release natural painkilling endorphins as well as serotonin, one of the “feel good hormones.

Grab Your Finger Using Jin Shin Jyutsu: I will oversimplify so apologies to the true practitioners of Jin Shin Jyutsu. JSJ is the art of harmonizing the flow of energy in your own body using any of many different hand placements to address different blockages or challenges. One simple move, taught to me by a healer long ago, is just holding your fingers. The ancients discovered that energy flow throughout the body is connected to each of our fingers, with slightly different issues connecting to different fingers.

Thumb: Worry
Index Finger: Fear
Middle Finger: Anger or rage
Ring Finger: Grief, sadness
Pinky: Pretense, lack of joy

Alternatively grasping one finger with the opposite hand for several minutes and then moving on to the other hand and other fingers creates a great sense of calm and balance. You can hold just one finger if you choose, but I find that by going through the circuit of all 10 fingers, I achieve a greater sense of calm.

I often use this technique when I am trying to fall asleep…or if I wake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep…or when I am nervous on an airplane. The beauty of doing this exercise is that it’s so simple and subtle that no one has to know you’re even doing it.

Recenter Your Body: Another healer, Jeffrey C. Zimmerman, OMD, taught me about the concept of refinding my center during the day. In the midst of sitting and carrying things all day, we all crunch into funny, contorted balls so it is important to realign our bodies. I try to do this between meetings to unkink both my mind and my body. To realign, you just have to stand with your feet hip distance apart and find your “plumb line”—where your body is in total balance. Your weight should be centered on the balls of your feet, and your head in easy alignment over your shoulders, hips and feet. If you try swaying forward or back or side-to-side, you can feel where tension enters…and then back off. Find the place where there is no tension, simply ease. Once you find that place, just stay there and breathe for a few minutes. If you can’t stand, then find your center while sitting. Either way, realigning, does just that—it gives you a fresh start after a period of tension and contortion. As I mentioned above, I like to re-align after a meeting or two. It gives my body and mind a fresh start. And in some longer meetings, I have been known to stand for a while—the other attendees think that I have ants in my pants, but the truth is, I am re-centering.

Name That Tune: And when all else fails, put on your favorite song. It can be different songs for different moods. This technique is a favorite of mine especially when I am driving because that monkey mind is looking for something to think about. By putting on a song that touches my heart in one way or another, my mind is immediately distracted and off on an emotional vacation.

OK. Time for me to go home.

“I am strong. I am safe. I am happy. All is well.”

Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast,  where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life. 

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