Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How to reduce stress in this crazy, crazy world

First, sit comfortably, close your eyes, take a few easy breathes while relaxing and centering yourself. Think about some stress in your life, pick anything you want. On the first attempt, take it relatively easy. Don't choose your biggest #1 stress in your life -- you can come back to that one soon.

Begin by rating the stress on a scale of 0-10, with zero being no stress and ten being ultimate stress. This is your own quantitative internal measurement. You can use it again at the end for a comparison. Got the measurement? Good.

Next gently place one hand across your forehead, or use your fingertips and lightly touch across the middle of your forehead (half-way between the eyebrows and the natural hairline). This procedure begins to reactivate the frontal lobes, the conscious choice-creating rational centers where we make decisions and can explore new options.

While holding your forehead, think through the stress situation in some detail for 30 seconds. This alone can counteract your neurological response to many stresses, but next, you'll enhance it with another step.

While still holding your forehead lightly, imagine you're the director of a movie. This movie has a happy ending. In it, your stress is resolved in the best imaginable way. Because it is a movie, it does not have to conform to reality. You can imagine your boss banished to the dark side of the moon, for example.

In this movie, each person does and says whatever the director (that's you) tells them to do. Create the script you want and now watch the movie in detail (still lightly holding the forehead). See the colors vividly and the faces up close. Hear all the sounds. Feel the tactile sensations. Notice your feelings. Even smell and taste what's happening.

[A quick note to our techie readers: we know this all sounds pretty hokey, but we've tried it and it works pretty well. You're probably as stressed out as everyone else, so why not take 10 minutes and give it a try. It's definitely cheaper than meds. -- Ed.]

After you have watched the movie through once in detail, watch it another 4-5 times, with each viewing happening at a faster pace, and the final show zipping by quickly. Once you are finished, open your eyes, let go of your forehead, take a breath, and think again about your stress. Now re-evaluate it on a scale of 0-10.

This process re-sets your response to stress. You haven't changed your outer world, just your neurological response to it. So next time a stressful co-worker comes by, you won't feel as bothered by their immature, self-important, disagreeable antics. They haven't changed. What's different is how you feel and neurologically react to that stress.

List the things that stress you out

Ready to do something marvelous to change your life for the better? Make a list of 30 stressors. Practice this skill once a day for a month, spending just two minutes daily on one stress at a time. Can't wait a whole month? Do them sooner! Imagine how relieved and relax you'll feel at the end of the month. You have just learned one skill to debug and reboot your human bio-computer.