Stress Management, Meditation & Visualisation

Stress Management

 

We have inherited built in stress management techniques from our parents, our great grand parents, going back even further to early human beings and to apes and lizards. These techniques typically involve fight and flight responses. If we are attacked by a lion or by a thief in our house at night, we typically respond by attacking or by running away. Modern stressors however, typically involve things like a bill or a bullying boss. We can be assertive with our boss or we can go to another room, but we can't bash them with a club and we generally can't go for a five mile run during the working day, so very often difficult feelings such as anxiety or anger may continue to bother us. Also, some people are born more highly sensitive than average. This was often advantageous for our ancestors - they were extra good at spotting predators - and it is advantageous now - empathy is useful for sales people and creativity is useful for artists. But being sensitive has the disadvantage that it can lead people to be extra apprehensive and stressed. People often develop counter productive ways of dealing with stress, such as; alcohol misuse, gambling, promiscuity and avoidance. Stress can also have a negative effect on our bodies, leading to irritable bowel syndrome, muscular skeletal tension, low immunity, etc.

 

How can we manage our stress better?

 

We can modify our diet, cutting out or cutting down on sugars and caffeine, we can do exercise such as jogging or walking, we can do relaxation specific exercise such as yoga, we can have therapy. We can also use meditation and visualisation techniques to calm our minds. These techniques can be found in both eastern and western traditions, ranging from modern EMDR to ancient Buddhism and Yoga. Some of these meditation and visualisation techniques are outlined below. 

 

Progressive muscular relaxation

Ensure that in two the hours prior to the relaxation you have not had any stimulating drinks

such as tea and coffee or sweet drinks such as fruit juice. Place yourself in a comfortable 

position, preferably lying down. Make sure all your clothing is comfortable. 

Tense your feet whilst breathing in and then relax your feet whilst breathing out.

Tense your legs whilst breathing in and then relax your legs whilst breathing out.

Tense your stomach whilst breathing in and then relax your stomach whilst breathing out.

Tense your hands and arms whilst breathing in and then relax your hands and arms whilst 

breathing out.

Tense your shoulders and neck whilst breathing in and then relax your shoulders and neck     

breathing out.

Tense your face and head whilst breathing in and then relax your face and head whilst breathing out.  

Tense your whole body whilst breathing in and then relax your whole body whilst breathing out.

 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

 

Place one hand so that you can alternately cover your left and then your right nostril with your fingers and thumb.

Breathe in for 5 seconds through your right nostril while the left one is covered by your thumb or fingers.

Hold both nostrils for 10 seconds without breathing in or out, breathe out with your left nostril for 10 seconds.

Breathe in through your left nostril for 5 seconds, then close both nostrils for 10 seconds        

and then breathe out through your right nostril for 10 seconds.

Continue repeating this same cycle for 3 or 4 minutes.

 

Eye Fixation

Fix your eyes on a point above you or, if it's very dark, imagine a point above you and fix your eyes on it.

Breathe in and breathe out slowly as you count the number one hundred. 

Breathe in and breathe out slowly as you count the number ninetynine.

Continue breathing in and counting down slowly until your eyelids close.

This process of counting down until your eyelids close can be repeated two or three times.

 

 

Anchoring

Close your left hand.

Imagine all the difficult, frightening and painful things in your life in the palm of your left  hand.

Open your left hand and imagine all these difficult, frightening and painful things flowing away like smoke through the window and over the horizon.

Open your right hand.Imagine all the good things in your life in the palm of your right hand — any achievements, positive relationships, positive things about yourself or anything else good in your life.          

Close your right hand and imagine all these good and positive things going up your right arm and into the centre of your chest.

 

Yoga Nidra 

This yogic practice is a process of visualising and powerfully concentrating on parts of the body. This tend to create a hypnotic effect - the Sanskrit word "nidra" means "sleep" in English Concentrate all your attention on the right hand thumb, the second finger, third  finger, fourth finger fifth finger, palm of the right hand, back of the right hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist, knee, ankle, big toe, second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe, left hand thumb, second finger, third finger, fourth  finger, fifth finger, palm of the left hand, back of the left hand, wrist, elbow,  shoulder, waist, knee, ankle, big toe, second   toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe. Now concentrate on the whole body.

Combining these techniques 

It is possible to combine these techniques in order to increase their power. This can be done by starting with progressive muscular relaxation and then using all these techniques in the order set out here. 

Yoga Nidra Sankalpa

It is possible to make a self suggestion - in Sanskrit, sankalpa - at the end of this sequence, after doing the yoga nidra exercise. This sankalpa needs to be formulated using three rules;

Ask for attainable things, for example, "Little by little I'm getting better at handling stress."

Don't use words like; must, will, ought to, should, have to.

Don't use negative words such as, never, none, not.

 

Precaution

Don't drive or use dangerous machinery after these meditation and visualisation exercises

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