Rx 19 Intentional Relaxation

By Dr. S.D. Shanti, ©2020 Adapted from my book The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance.

Although it might sound frivolous to intentionally relax, it is in fact a physical and emotional necessity. This has always been the case, but is even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you are in high gear, you must relax and refresh to be at your best. However, the rational side of your mind might want to talk you out of relaxation because it feels indulgent, especially in the face of a mountain of responsibilities.

One of the most important things that you can do to help yourself at this time is to take time to unwind regularly. Your body will thank you and your performance will be sharper. Regular rest and relaxation are not luxuries but necessities for your mind and body.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

To help you relax, try tensing your muscles for a few seconds and then releasing them. You can do this in a systematic way by tensing your feet first and letting go, then tensing your legs and letting go, and working all the way up to your arms, your shoulders, and the muscles of your face. This is “progressive muscle relaxation.” 

If you have the time to do the full routine, that’s great. However, in your time-starved life, sometimes taking a moment for a deep breath is about all you can manage. When crunched for time, try a micro-relaxation and focus only on one or two parts of your body. 

Here’s a suggestion for a micro-relaxation. You can adapt it to meet your needs, whether you are at work or at home.

Straighten your arms; gently make your hands into a fist and hold them tightly, but not so tightly that you hurt. Hold the tension for a few seconds and notice the feeling. Then take a deep breath and slowly breathe out as you uncurl your fingers and let them rest on your lap.

Now, feel the contrast between tension and relaxation and appreciate the difference. Your hands might feel warm, heavy, or floppy like a Raggedy Ann doll. If you are at your desk, you can also try this with your feet. 

If you are pressed for time, choose only your hands or feet and do this exercise for thirty seconds. It’s just enough time to nudge your mind out of the cycle of escalating tension, even when you are juggling your way through a hectic day.

Mindfulness Webinar Open to the Public, May 20, 2020

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that is helpful in stress reduction and coping with difficult circumstances. It is also backed up by research in the psychology of health and wellbeing and will improve your quality of life, even if you are unable to change a lot of things at this time.

If you would like to participate in an interactive learning experience that is practical and immediately applicable to your daily life, please consider registering for my forthcoming webinar on May 20th at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. You can register here: Access Your Inner Calm – Mindfulness Made Accessible to All.

In this webinar you will experience my unique way of teaching mindfulness, such that you can immediately apply it in your life and benefit from it.

If you have never attempted mindfulness practice, or if your previous attempts at mindfulness have been unsuccessful, I encourage you to give this a try.

My teaching method enables people to immediately apply the learnings even if they lead busy lives and don’t have much time to dedicate to a traditional mindfulness practice.

Since 1996, I have taught mindfulness in universities, hospitals, professional settings, religious organizations, adult education and businesses in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Hong Kong and Thailand.

My focus is on practical steps you can take to integrate mindfulness into your daily life, such that it supports clarity when making decisions under stress. In this webinar you will learn how to maintain calm and a feeling of peace, even in difficult situations.

The proceeds from this workshop will support this website and blog. As the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected our financial situation, I would be grateful if you might consider supporting our work, and sharing this information with others who may also find the webinar useful.

Rx 17 Notice the Small Things in Your Life That are Sources of Joy and Meaning

By Dr. S.D. Shanti ©2020, Adapted from my book The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance.

Difficult situations can overshadow what is going well in your life, and the COVID-19 pandemic is like a giant shadow over all of our lives. There are many difficulties and challenges we are forced to accept. So many things are beyond our control and simple activities like visiting a friend or relative have become impossible.

As you work thorough the challenges, it is important to recognize and cultivate the good that is present in your life.

What are some of the good things, right in front of you, that you might be overlooking? 

You may have to stretch your mind to notice the positive elements in your life. Try noticing the good, however small it might seem in the moment. Such things can be a source of joy and offer an uplift.

You don’t have to jump up and down clapping your hands. Noticing what is good in your life can be as simple as appreciating subtle things, such as the color of the sky, or listening to comedy or your favourite music on YouTube.

Mindfulness, practiced in its simplest form, for instance only sixty-seconds of focused attention, can nevertheless enable you to become aware of things that you may otherwise miss. If you like, you can just watch your belly rise and fall as you breathe and appreciate the intricacy of the human body.

What small things give you joy? Is it the smile of your child or grandchild? Might it be a joke that a friend shared with you in the course of a phone call? I’d love to hear about the simple joys in your life and invite you to share them below.

For Your Information: On May 20th at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, I will be doing a webinar through Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona. It is is open to the public and all proceeds will support the bookstore and our work during this difficult time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our financial situation negatively. Thus I would be grateful if you might consider supporting our work and sharing this information with others who may also find the webinar useful.

Rx 14 Mindfulness Meditation: no cushion or monastery needed

Dr. S.D. Shanti, April 17, 2020

Mindfulness helps you to manage stress and increase your awareness of joy and gratitude in your life. It can also help to enrich your relationships with loved ones.

You don’t have to sit on a cushion for hours. Instead, you can simply turn everyday activities such as walking, eating, washing dishes, chopping vegetables and singing into mindfulness meditation.

Below is an excerpt from my book, The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance, which offers you a brief overview of mindfulness. Of course this information is not for women only. I’ve been teaching mindfulness since 1996 to women, men and children in a variety of settings, including at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

You might consider chocolate mediation. It’s something everyone tells me they like and I will be sharing more on chocolate meditation in forthcoming posts.

Mindfulness—Going from Automatic to Aware

Mindfulness is a non-religious activity that promotes health and is supported by modern-day brain and physiology research. It is a widely-used tool in health psychology.

Mindfulness is about going from automatic to aware and being focused on the here and now. It is one of the simplest and most effective ways to appreciate what is good in your life. You can also use it to become aware, in a non-judgmental way, of negative thoughts that automatically pop up in your mind.

Picture your mind as the pendulum of a clock, moving back and forth, from the past into the future. The mid-point of the pendulum swing is the here and now. When your thoughts are on autopilot and drift off into worries about the future or criticism about your past actions—or any negative thoughts, for that matter—bring yourself from automatic to aware.

Notice where your thoughts are straying. Are your automatic thoughts steering you toward feeling bad? Take note of what registers for you and steer yourself toward neutral or positive thoughts.

To get started with Mindfulness, breathe slowly and focus on your breath. Use your awareness of your breath as an anchor to keep your thoughts from drifting in unwanted directions. In moments when you catch your thoughts going in directions you don’t want or don’t like, gently bring your attention back to your breath. You can look at your belly rising and falling as you breathe.  Or you can notice the air going in and out of your nose as you inhale and exhale.

Your breath is your doorway to “stillness on demand.” It is available to you any time and any place, no matter the circumstances, whether it is during a medical procedure, at a performance review, or if you are about to erupt in frustration at your spouse or child.

Cultivating Mindfulness is easy and within everyone’s reach. It is not necessary to sit on a cushion or go on a retreat. If you’re too wound up—or just don’t have time—to sit quietly and focus on your breathing, you can focus on whatever you are doing, whether it is walking, eating, drinking, or working in the kitchen. You can even use everyday sounds in your environment, like the chirping of a bird or the ticking of clock, to keep you “aware” and keep your mind from drifting to automatic or negative thoughts.

If all of this seems like a lot of work, just take a piece of chocolate, put it in your mouth, and savor it with your full attention. Close your eyes. Let the chocolate melt and enjoy the richness. Breathing is a good anchor for calm, but as you know, sometimes chocolate can come in a close second. And when you eat chocolate mindfully, you are more likely to be satisfied with less (so you can enjoy your chocolate and not feel guilty about eating it).
© 2020, Dr. S.D. Shanti

Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay