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De-Stress in 6 Seconds Using 6 Steps

Try a 6-step, 6-second relaxation technique

Okay. This post doesn't have to do with superheroes. It has to do with stress, or more accurately, stress management. Which has to do with psychology. (Okay, you could stretch and say that superheroes have to find ways to manage their stress, as do superhero fans.) Here goes...

Most of us are juggling multiple balls throughout the day: work, home, family, relationships. We are "on the go" even when we're sitting down -- dealing with crises, or getting ready for the next thing we have to do. Unless we love what we're doing, these daily challenges can create wear and tear on our bodies, our emotions and our minds. Over the course of the day, the net result is a stress level that keeps on increasing.

Here is a six-step, six-second relaxation technique that can temporarily bring your stress level down; if you use the technique throughout the day, it can help lower your baseline stress level. Steps 2 through 5 each can induce relaxation on their own; together they do so more effectively. Read through each of the steps before you give this exercise a try; some steps may require practice. Some people find that their sense of relaxation is enhanced by closing their eyes when using the technique. Once you've mastered the steps, try them both ways to see whether having your eyes open or closed works better for you.

Step 1: Notice that you're stressed.

This first step is perhaps the hardest; like a fish who doesn't realize that it's in water, if your feeling of being stressed lasts for more than a couple of minutes (particularly if you feel swamped), after a while you may stop being aware that you are stressed.

For most people, the experience of stress takes a specific form. For instance, some people automatically tense certain muscles (e.g., shoulders, lower back), whereas other people feel their heart speed up, and still others become preoccupied with thoughts about the stressful situation. Once you recognize the form(s) that your response to stress takes, you can use your response to stress as a signal to yourself, a flag that captures your attention, alerting you that you are stressed. When that flag goes up, you proceed through the rest of the steps.

Step 2: Find some humor in your situation.

Humor can be a terrific way to relieve stress. Step 2 tries to capitalize on this by having you find some humor in the situation. The humor may be visual -- perhaps imagining a humorous hat or face paint on someone who is being difficult -- or it may be about finding some irony in the situation. Or, if all else fails, it may involve thinking about something else that was funny -- a scene from a film, a funny situation you've been in before, a joke that you remember. The goal with this step is to feel genuinely amused. Your lips don't need to smile, but you should be smiling inside, which will begin to decrease your stress level.

Step 3. Take a deep breath in.

Many forms of relaxation and meditation begin with a slow, deep, diaphragmatic breath (inhaling through your nose), and this six-second technique is no different. With diaphragmatic breathing, your lower belly -- your abdomen -- gets bigger as you breathe in; you should be able to feel the breath not only going into your upper chest but also toward your belly button. To make sure that you're breathing deeply, put your hands on your abdomen as your breathe. As you inhale, your abdomen and hands should rise. It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of it if you haven't had previous experience with diaphragmatic breathing.

Read the rest on Huffington Post/AOL Healthy Living.

Copyright 2011; Robin S. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

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