Let's face it: Most of us are stressed out. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans are one of the most stressed groups in the world; 55 percent of Americans said they regularly felt stressed, compared to 35 percent of respondents from around the world. The reality is that a life busy with career, family and social responsibilities, coupled with a desire to achieve at the highest levels, often comes with the burden of stress.
Well, take a deep breath, because today, Aug. 15, is National Relaxation Day, and we thought we'd ask an expert for some tips on how to de-stress. Yoga instructor Luisella Rossi of Sarasota's Pineapple Yoga Studio helps her students develop ways to handle their ongoing stress. "We are a Western people, we are American and we seem to struggle with the idea that you need to give yourself time and feel like you deserve that time," Rossi says.
She is quick to point out that when we hold onto our stress, we are less happy and less productive. "You always need to think you are worthy enough to spend time on yourself, even if that is only 15 minutes," Rossi says. "Like on a plane, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before others, because if you can't help yourself, you are no use to others. The same is true in life."
Rossi gave us some simple relaxation suggestions we can try at our desks to help us cope and tune into our bodies:
- Give yourself whatever time you can manage, whether that is 15 minutes or one hour. Don't be attached to the results, or focused on the shape of your body. Be focused inward.
- The best place to start is with breath awareness. Allow your breath to flow and tune into it. Surrender to the rhythm of your breath and you will find yourself starting to relax.
- Try matching your breaths to the imagery of water coming in and receding. Water is a very powerful tool.
- If you are more advanced, you can activate spinal breathing. Imagine that the spine is a tube that fills with water as you inhale and releases as you exhale, from the eyebrows all the way to the bottom of the spine.
- With your breathing, focus mainly on the exhale. You need to let go before you can take more on and this is the best way to start.
- Visualize the colors of the chakras while you breathe. This helps refocus the brain. The more you stay with the breath the more you stay in the present moment.
- Try using a mantra while doing your breathing exercises. Sometimes, the sound can keep you in the moment. You can start with just a simple sound, like repeating, "Om."
- Sit without leaning on the back of your chair and focus on relaxing each face muscle, one at a time.
- Often, we are hunched over our computers, so do some cat and cow poses at your desk to help relieve tension and make your body more comfortable.
- Try a child's pose, even just over your computer, if you can't leave your desk. Forward poses are very calming. If you can get on the floor, try it with slightly wider legs. This helps the spine.