4 Easy Ways to Reduce Stress: A Video by Dr. Oz

I stumbled upon this one minute video through Oprah Mobile, a new iPod app I downloaded the other day. Dr. Oz suggests these ideas for reducing stress:

1) Press gently on your eyes with the palms of your hand. This is a new one to me. I tried it and it does feel good as long as I don't press too hard. Does it reduce stress? Hard to tell. I do tend to rub my eyes when I'm tired. Maybe instead of rubbing I should just press.

2) Aromatherapy. This one I'm totally familiar with. Dr. Oz explains that scents send stimulation straight to our lizard brain evoking deeply emotional responses. We can use that reflex to our benefit through aromatherapy. Right by my bedside I have a little bottle of lavender essential oil. A put a few drops on my pillow if I'm having a bit of trouble going to sleep. Lavender and vanilla scents are known to be relaxing. On my desk where I want to be alert, I have a bottle of rosemary oil. Rosemary stimulates and is particularly good for learning and memory.

3) Music. This is a good one, too. Art Blakey, the famous jazz musician, said, "Music is the broom that sweeps away the dust of the day." It doesn't matter what you listen to, the Rolling Stones or the New York Philharmonic, the Raconteurs or Louis Armstrong, just take the time to pause and listen, maybe even dance a little, play it yourself or sing along. Music is a guaranteed stress buster.

4) Breathe. Breathing is my favorite. No list of stress busters is complete without it. Breathing may not be new but maybe you haven't seen Dr. Oz demonstrate how to do it for you. It's really kind of funny when he sticks his belly out.

Top Stress Busters Video, by Dr. Oz

5 One-Minute Things To Do to Improve Your Life

1) Mini-purge Your Closet. Go to your closet and take a good look. Then pull out three articles of clothing you haven't worn in the last year. Bag them and put them in the car now. That way the next time you drive by the Goodwill truck all you have to do is pull over to make your donation.

On another day do the same thing with your shoes; on another purge that cluster of  products you have on your bathroom counter. On still another day, pick over a shelf on your bookcase. Your local library will love to get your old paperbacks for their next fund raising book sale.

2) Contact an old friend. Next time you think, "I wonder what so and so is doing these days?" reach out to her on the spot. Do not wait until there's more time. Social media makes it so easy. You can write her a direct message on her Facebook page, email her, text her, actually take pen to paper if you've got a stamp handy, or even call her! It takes less than a minute, literally, to write: 'Hi, Tallulah! It's been so long since we talked last. I'd love to see you and catch up. Could we set up a lunch date? I'm free most Thursdays. What do you think?'  Before you know it you will reconnect with an old friend who will be grateful you took the time to make genuine contact.

3) Take a nap. OK. This might take longer than a minute but it's a ton better than eating something fatty and sugary, which is what a lot of people do when they are tired. Turn off the lights, lie down and just listen to your breathing for a few minutes before your next appointment. You don't have to actually fall asleep to get the benefit. I used to do this in my office when I worked at the county hospital ER. Studies show naps are a great way to re-charge the brain. You will approach the rest of the day with a fresher attitude.

4) Smile. My mother used to tell me how pretty I was when I smiled. I hated that! So many things Mom said that I hated, only to find out she was right! Smiling is an instant face-lift. Everything looks up when you smile. Research studies even suggest your mood improves just by smiling. Not feeling it? Try this: Go look at yourself in the mirror and make silly faces. Even frown the deepest frown you can muster. In a few seconds you will be smiling, even laughing at yourself, quite naturally.

5) Make your next minute a Mindful Minute. How? Mindfulness is the practice of being fully in the moment. You are not mindful if you are worried about what happened yesterday or fretting over what might happen tomorrow. A trick to being mindful is to reflect on what your five sense are telling you. Right this minute what do you see, smell, taste, feel and hear? This moment I am aware of the feel of the soft fabric of my shawl around my shoulders, the smell of the fabric softener I use in the drier and the vanilla-y taste of my tea. I hear the sound of the keyboard as I write this post and my dog's nails on the wood floor as he walks across the room. I see the first flowers coming into the garden outside my window and the soft light of a cloudy day. Focusing on our senses helps us appreciate the Now in a kind and gentle way.

Even if it's just for a minute.

Don’t Wait Until You Need A Vacation to Take One

"Time is the wisest counselor of all."  ~Pericles

My vacation is coming to a close. It was only a week; a few days away, a few days at home, but it was good. I have one more day to wallow in without anything scheduled. Boy, am I looking forward to it. Maybe I'll putter around the garden. Maybe do a little writing. Take the dog for a walk. Who knows? Who cares? It's just me and the lovely quiet here.

Taking time off was a wise move. I didn't realize how long it had been since my last break (last July) and I was feeling the pressure. I do not recommend waiting that long. Vacations should be taken before we desperately need them, not after, when we're so burnt out it takes four days just to feel normal. That's like not drinking a cool, clean glass of water until you are so parched you can't spit to save your life. Not healthy.

When I give myself the gift of time without agenda, without expectations, I reset my internal pacemaker to a more reasonable setting. I can hear my thoughts again instead of a lot of noise. As I return to my regularly scheduled programming I will try to remember this feeling.

The Nerve Racking College Application Gauntlet

You'll be hearing about this topic from me a lot in the up-coming year: the agony of the college application process and how to help our kids survive it. A few months ago when my husband and I noticed my son was acting out of sorts, cranky, not himself, we took him out for a cappuccino and a tete-a-tete.

Gratefully my son talks to us. He told us how worried he was about his chances to get into the college of his choice. At the time he was studying for the SAT as well. He's a smart guy but he was overwhelmed. He needed help with stress management. Together we worked out a study schedule that involved us all. His job was to study for the SAT just a few hours every day. Ours was to be in the same room with him sometimes feeding him problems, sometimes just quietly working on our own homework. Our presence made it easier for him to be disciplined. I also advised he start exercising regularly, just like I do with my patients who are dealing with stress and anxiety. He started running the next day.

Our interventions helped the entire family feel more in control, and my son did quite well on the SAT. That only leaves about thirty-seven more hurdles to get over before this time next year when we'll have an idea of where he will be going for college. Or will we?

Apparently this last year was unprecedented for huge wait lists. Being wait-listed at your top choice college is like being in the second circle of hell. Not as nasty as the seventh circle but far from heaven. Recently there were articles in the New York Times (For Students, A Waiting List is Scant Hope) and a story on National Public Radio (As College Wait Lists Grow, So Does Anxiety) about these deep wait lists. I can only imagine that means there are a lot of parents in journalism who are worried for their kids.

In Praise of the Ordinary

"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and
imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary."  ~Cecil Beaton

Hey, Cecil Beaton! With all due respect, what's so wrong with the ordinary?

Sometimes life can be extraordinary in quite unpleasant ways. Sudden lay offs, unexpected debt, devalued property. Then there's the medical crisis, or the endless marathon of chronic illness. I'll bet the people in Haiti or Tibet would love to have some 'ordinary' about now.

After going through almost simultaneous crises – the death of my parents, a major bout with kidney disease, job troubles, I longed for some Ordinary. Just let me get up in the morning without pain, I prayed. Please let me have enough energy to cook dinner the way I used to, enough money in the bank to pay the bills. Today, with health issues in remission and life reasonable stabilized I retain my appreciation of the beauty of a sweet ordinary day. It's nothing more than being mindful, with an open mind and an open heart.

Of course we all know what Cecil Beaton is getting at. He wants us to aspire for great things, to dare to stretch beyond what is comfortable. I get that and it's good. I just think he carries it too far when he says to do differently is to become a "slave of the ordinary."

I believe there's room in our lives for both the Earth and the stars.

A Mindful Start to the Week

Book_mindfulness_workbook_2010 A lot of people take a few days after a holiday off from work. Whether your holiday is  Easter or Passover, many schools and colleges are on break, the weather is warming up and spirits tend to be brighter, more hopeful.

To encourage this good feeling I went online to check in on one of my favorite blogs, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy by Elisha Goldstein, PhD. A licensed psychologist, Dr. Goldstein integrates traditional psychotherapy with progressive mindfulness practice to help people find mental and emotional
healing. I like this approach and have found it a logical enhancement of cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy.

Today I found this post. The quotes are great because they distill the essence of what I try to teach people to slow down their negative thinking, to detach from it enough to reframe the problem or respond to the negativity in a more reasonable manner. In addition, Dr. Goldstein suggests a mindful way to get the most out of each quote. Try it out. Here is an excerpt from Dr. Goldstein's article:

Now, we’re not just going to glance over these quotes, I’m going to suggest that you take at least 30 seconds with each quote doing the following 5-step mindfulness practice.

  1. Get centered — Take a moment to just notice your
    body here, noticing any tension and seeing if you can choose to let
    that tension go. Become aware that you’re breathing.
  2. Read the quote twice – Reading it twice allows it to settle in a bit more.
  3. Allow the words to simmer — Close your eyes and
    see if you can let the words roll around and notice what arises for you
    physically, emotionally and mentally. In other words, let these words
    percolate in your mind and body. Do any thoughts, memories, or
    associations arise? Is there a tension or loosening in the body? Do
    emotions of fear, joy, or calm arise? Whatever arises this is grist for
    the mill.
  4. Bring your mind back if it wanders — You may
    notice the mind going off into thoughts of what you need to be doing or
    judgments such as “how is this going to be helpful to me?” Just note
    where it wandered to and gently guide it back. As Larry Rosenberg says
    in his book Breath by Breath, repeat this step several billion times.
  5. Come back to the breath – Thank yourself for
    taking this time-out of your daily busy-ness to engage with this
    mindful inquiry for your health and well-being.

Even if you only get through one quote, you can come back at later times to work with the others.

Here we go.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space
is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth
and our freedom.”
  ~ Victor Frankl

To read the entire article click here.

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