Shortcuts for stress relief in the dog days of summer
Working in the dog days of summer? Six shortcuts for stress relief
Self-help author Ashley Davis Bush offers simple exercises anyone can do during the workday to get motivated, especially during the summer months.
1. Freeze Frame
Trigger: When you drink your coffee or tea in the morning
Tool: As you take your first sip, stop for a moment, make a mental or audible camera click sound and think, “Life is good.”
Purpose: This trains your mind to focus on a moment of simple pleasure. It cultivates gratitude, a quality correlated with peacefulness, and creates a pause which momentarily stops the physical and emotional spiral of the day.
Trigger: When a colleague asks, “How are you?”
Tool: Instead of the standard “I’m fine,” try answering with “fantastic,” “outstanding,” or “awesome.” Focus on basics in your life that you can truly appreciate — good health, a sunny day, safe children. Notice how answering with a description stronger than “fine” can affect the mood of the entire office.
Purpose: This trains your mind to focus on life as a daily gift. Using turbo-charged “happy” words creates an opening in your life for more optimism and gratitude.
3. Glad Game
Trigger: Whenever you find yourself complaining at work
Tool: Think of three things that you’re actually glad about and say them out loud. (You love your coworkers, you like your corner office, you’re glad you landed a new account). If that’s a stretch, then say something that you’re glad you’re not, such as “I’m not getting a pink slip today,” or “I don’t have a hangover.”
Purpose: When we focus on the positive (even if something negative exists), we learn to redirect our thoughts and stop wallowing in misery.
4. Take 5
Trigger: Before you check your emails at work
Tool: Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Feel the air as it comes through your nose and expands into your lungs. Hold your breath to the count of five. Exhale through your mouth to the count of at least five (longer is even better). Upon exhaling, purse your lips as if blowing through a straw. Repeat several times.
Purpose: Breath work is universally considered grounding and relaxing. Deep exhalations stimulate calming mechanisms in your body.
5. Stop, Drop and Roll
Trigger: When stopped at a red light on your commute
Tool: “Stop,” “drop” down into your heart and “roll” out a little goodwill to your fellow travelers. Look at the people in other cars and recognize that each one of them is just like you: They want happiness and they want to be free from stress. To each person, think “I hope you have a nice day,” or “Peace be with you.”
Purpose: This quenches the fire of road rage by connecting you with others.
Trigger: At the end of the workday
Tool: Before you walk through the door, spend a moment shaking down your body, as if you are shaking off water. Shake each leg, foot, arm and hand. Gently shake your head and let your shoulders relax. Finish with a little twist of your torso to shake off any remaining tension. Finally, take a deep breath and heave a long, hearty sigh (a prolonged exhalation).
Purpose: Relaxing your limbs sends a ripple effect of calm through your body before you enter the sanctuary of home.
Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in New Hampshire and the author of “Shortcuts to Inner Peace: 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity” (Berkley Books). Visit her website at www.AshleyDavisBush.com.