Tag Archives: relaxation

Quick Relaxation Tips for the Start of the Holidays

Relaxation Tips for the Beginning of the Holidays

As we begin the busy months of November and December we often find ourselves a bundle of irritable nerves, snapping at friends and family and wondering how we will ever get everything ready in time. There are 29 different holidays stemming from different holidays during this time. Wish folks a happy holiday and when you are feeling particularly stretched take a moment or two to relax and catch your breath with these helpful relaxation tips and suggestions.

Mini-relaxations from Harvard Health Publications

Healthbeat from Harvard Health Publications suggest these activities that take only seconds.

Mini-relaxations are stress busters you can reach for any time. These techniques can ease your fear at the dentist’s office, thwart stress before an important meeting, calm you when stuck in traffic, or help you keep your cool when faced with people or situations that irritate you. Whether you have one minute or three, these exercises work.

When you’ve got one minute

Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.

Or alternatively, while sitting comfortably, take a few slow deep breaths and quietly repeat to yourself “I am” as you breathe in and “at peace” as you breathe out. Repeat slowly two or three times. Then feel your entire body relax into the support of your chair.

When you’ve got two minutes

Count down slowly from 10 to 0. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply, saying “10” to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say “nine”, and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths further apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.

When you’ve got three minutes

While sitting, take a break from whatever you’re doing and check your body for tension. Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.

Retrieved November 3, 2016 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mini-relaxation-exercises-a-quick-fix-in-stressful-moments.

Relaxation Tips from WebMD

Here are some relaxation tips and suggestions from WebMD:

1. Meditate
2. Breathe Deeply
3. Be Present, Slow down.
4. Reach Out
5. Tune In to Your Body
6. Decompress
7. Laugh Out Loud
8. Crank Up the Tunes
9. Get Moving
10. Be Grateful

Click on the WebMD site below to read the details of how to make these suggestions work for you: http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot. Retrieved on November 3, 2016.

A relaxation script from Julie Lusk

Here is a great relaxation script from our own Julie Lusk (see her books here) and Judy Fulop entitled “Sun Meditation for Healing”. It only takes ten minutes. Do this after you have tried the relaxation suggestions above. If you are alone simply read it to yourself or out loud, whichever is more comfortable for you. Pause when instructed to do so. You or your participants will experience the healing power and energy of the sun as you imagine its warming and relaxing power.


Please close your eyes (obviously you can’t do this step if you are ready to yourself) and take some time to go within yourself to settle your body, mind, and heart. Feel free to use whatever method works best for you. For example, it may be focusing on your breath, meditating, stretching your body mindfully, or using a sound, word, image, or a phrase as a mantra to become centered…Take your time…allowing yourself to become more and more at ease with yourself.


Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can . . . let your body feel supported by the ground beneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you…Let yourself soak in these warm rays …taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come…This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs…upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids…and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continue to do so forever.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow yourself to feel the warmth and energy flow slowly through your body…pulsing through your bones…sending healing light to your organs…flowing to your tissues…recharging every system…and now settling into your innermost being…your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color…Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being…physically…emotionally…mentally…and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being…growing and growing…Allow this energy to further fill this room…this building…out into the worlds…and finally throughout the universe…reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now…Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy…If they are…send this source of healing energy to them…giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center…Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy…a place to keep it protected and within your reach…Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving…Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.
Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

A caveat about relaxation tools: relaxation is a muscle skill just like shooting a basket or playing the piano. Expect that it will take some practice to learn to efficiently relax your body. Eventually you should be able to think of the beginning of a script and your body will relax by itself. Practice, practice, practice.

Everyone needs a quickie – a quick meditation to reduce stress

No time for meditation?
We all need a few good breaths.

  • Most folks today lead hectic lives.
  • Most folks today could use some time for peaceful, quiet meditation.
  • Most folks today don’t have time to turn down the lights, put up their feet, turn on some peaceful music or a meditation CD and take 20 to 30 minutes out of their day to center themselves.
  • Most folks today need to recharge so they don’t over-stress and send cortisol racing through their bodies to wreak havoc on their health.

Here is a quick breathing exercise you can use to take control over your stress and recharge your batteries for the rest of the day. It even works as you sit in your car in your driveway for a few extra minutes before rejoining your family for the evening.

Why breathing? It’s easy, and you already know how to do it.

  • Sit comfortably in your chair, or, if you can, lie on the floor.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose to the count of five. (Choose whatever count works for you…don’t obsess about how much air you can pull into your body.)
  • Hold it for the same count you used drawing breath in.
  • Blow it out gently through your mouth, again using the same count you used to breathe it in.

As you do this several times, visualize your lungs filling with lovely fresh oxygen as you breathe in. Imagine the good, fresh breath exchanging with the old, tired air in your lungs. Finally, gently blow the used air out through your mouth, visualizing your lungs empty and ready for the next cleansing breath.

This works, even if you only have time to do it two or three times. Try it…it might turn out to be your favorite quickie coping skill.

Are you a fixer? Check out this article on the Macgyver Syndrome.

Stress Management Classics to Use Everyday

Time-Honored Classic Stress Management Techniques
Yes or No?

The Huffington Post ran an article by Kate Bratskeir, their Food and Health Editor, in April of 2013. She asked Dr. David Posen, and  Dr. Kathleen Hall, if the old stress management techniques still work in today’s more more highly charged environment. Are their some that might not work so well today?

According to Ms. Braatskeir’s article the following methods still have their place in the stress buster lexicon:

  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Letting yourself have a good cry
  • Letting loose on the dance floor
  • Talking it out
  • Shouting It out
  • A good, old-fashioned time-out
  • Breaking something
  • Writing an angry letter that won’t be seen again
  • Taking a deep breath
  • The pendulum (collision balls) swing
  • Exercising

As you can see, many of these are similar to one another…talking, shouting, writing an angry letter for the shredder are right down the same alley. Letting loose on the dance floor, squeezing a stress ball, breaking something, and exercising take advantage of the release of endorphins that exercise produces. Crying, a time-out, watching the pendulum swing are less involved physically, but can engage you mentally. Few professionals would cross these activities off their list of effective coping tools.

In honor of these traditional methods here is a favorite coping exercise from Donald A. Tubesing, PhD’s series “Structured Exercises in Stress Management  Vol 3”.

Eight-Minute Stress Break
Participants learn a 15-step stretching routine that can be used any time of the day.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise as a stress management technique.
To stretch all the major muscle groups.

Group Size
Unlimited, as long as there is sufficient space for everyone to move freely.

Time Frame
10 minutes

CD player and peppy music.

1)  The trainer briefly describes typical benefits of stretching and exercise as stress management techniques:

  • Stretching and vigorous exercise both help discharge accumulated physical tension from the various muscle groups.
  • The increased flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles usually stimulates an increased energy level.
  • Both types of physical activity provide a distraction from emotional or mental strain.
  • Stretching and exercise are effective preventive measures for dealing with stress by systematically letting go of tension before it accumulates to unhealthy proportions. These techniques also are effective in crisis situations to relieve the physical effects of stress.

2)  The trainer turns on the music and participants join in as he/she demonstrates the Eight-Minute Stress Break routine which can easily be incorporated into a busy schedule.


  • Choose only a few exercises to teach during this presentation (eg, all upper body stretches). Then sprinkle the other routines throughout the remainder of the session.
  • To model how this skill could be used in real life, teach the whole sequence at once and then sprinkle repeat performances as mini stretch breaks during unexpected or particularly stressful moments in the remainder of the learning experience.
  • If the course is several sessions long, go through the sequence once at every meeting in order to entrench the routine in participants’ minds.
  • After Step 2 hand out the list of 14 stretches. Ask people to identify their favorites and make a list of those they especially want to use in the future and the situations where they most need to!

Eight-Minute Stress Break Stretchers

The 360 Stretch

  • Begin with your body relaxed, arms and hands loose at your side. Pull your right shoulder up and with one smooth movement, bring the shoulder back and around, making a complete circle.
  • Repeat this same circular motion with the left shoulder.
  • Continue stretching one shoulder, then the other, 5 times each. The reverse the direction, using alternate shoulders, 5 times each. This should loosen up your neck, back, and shoulder – place where most people store tension.

Starfish Stretch

  • Begin with your arms stretched overhead, slightly bent, eyes turned upward.
  • In a single motion, open your hands, spread your fingers wide, and reach up as high as you can. Hold that position for a few seconds. Then close your fists and lower your arms, with elbows bent. Rest a few seconds and then repeat the starfish stretch/rest sequence 10 to 15 times.
  • For variety, stretch to the side.

Snow Angels

  • Allow your arms to hang loose at your sides. Begin to loosen your wrists by shaking your hands, allowing them to flop as freely as possible.
  • Continue to shake and flop as you slowly raise your arms to the side and up until your hands touch overhead. Then allow your arms to gradually drop, still shaking and loosening the wrists.

Tall Grass Stalk

  • Extend your arms out in front of you.
  • While concentrating on your shoulders, slowly sweep your hands and arms to the side and back, as if pushing tall grass out of the way.
  • You should feel a pull along your shoulders and arms.
  • Stretch your arms out again and “stalk” for 10 more steps.

Bunny Hop

  • Put your hands on your hips and hop twice on your right foot. Now hop twice on your left foot. Continue these double hops, alternating feet and adding a side kick or a cross kick on the second hop.
  • Continue hopping and kicking for 30 seconds, varying your tempo and kick height.


  • Start by getting centered, feet firmly planted, knees slightly bent.
  • Lift your right knee up towards your chest, slap it with your left hand and then lower your leg and stretch it to the side, toes pointing outward. Repeat the hoe-down lift 3 more times and then try the left leg for 4 counts.

Cloud Walk

  • This is a slow step, rolling from heel to toe, one foot at a time, gently stretching the legs and feet. Your whole body should be relaxed.
  • Pick up the tempo of the heel-toe roll until you reach a slow jog, raising your feet slightly off the floor at each step. Continue at this pace for 30 seconds.


  • Start with your legs slightly apart.
  • Dip your body into an easy knee-bend and then spring back to the upright position.
  • Continue to bend and spring back for 30 seconds, adding rhythmic arm swings as you increase your pace.

Arch Stretch

  • With knees slightly bent, join your hands comfortably behind your back.
  • Slowly arch your back, letting your hands and stiff arms pull your shoulders and head down toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 counts and then relax, allowing your head to fall forward and your shoulders to curl toward the front.
  • Repeat 7 times.


  • With feet shoulder width apart and knees bent, put your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your back straight as you twist your shoulders and trunk to the right 3 times and then return to face forward.
  • Now twist to the opposite side for 3 counts and return to the center.
  • Continue to twist for 8 sets.

Body Bounce

  • With feet apart, arms at your sides, bend sideways at the waist, stretching your hand down to your leg as you straighten up.
  • Repeat the stretch and bounce to the other side. Do 5 body bounces on each side.
  • Now add your arms to the stretching movement. With your left arm, reach up and over as you bounce to the left 3 counts.
  • Do 5 sets on each side.

Sneak Peek

  • Stand straight with your neck, shoulders and back as relaxed as possible.
  • Tilt your head to the left. Now slowly roll your head so that your chin falls to your chest and then comes up as your head tilts to the right. Now look back over your right shoulder, hold the pose and then relax.
  • Repeat the stretch, this time starting with your head tilted to the right and ending with a sneak peek over your left shoulder.
  • Do four peeks on each side.

The Wave

  • Stand straight with your arms at your sides, palms facing out.
  • As you take a long deep breath, slowly (4 counts) raise your arms up over your head. Now, as you exhale slowly, bring your arms back down, palms facing downward (4 counts).
  • Repeat this languid wave 6 times.

Hang Loose

  • Time to shake out your body.
  • Flap your arms, twist your wrists, shrug your shoulders, jiggle  your legs, shake your feet, flex your knees.
  • Bounce your booty until your whole body feels tingly, loose and relaxed.
Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Are Relaxation Techniques Part of Yoga?

Can something as mysterious as Yoga include guided relaxation and imagery?

Excerpted from Yoga Meditations by Julie Lusk

Julie Lusk practicing Yoga

Julie Lusk stumped.

Mayo Clinic’s “Housecall” has discussed the benefits of Yoga. Reading their article reminded me of Julie Lusk, one of our authors who writes about relaxation techniques and yoga.  She is a Yoga Master and teacher in the Cincinnati area. Julie can be found at Wholesome Resources when she isn’t traveling, speaking, and teaching. In an excerpt from her book Yoga Meditations she writes about using Shavasana, a yoga pose, to enhance relaxation and meditation.

Guided Relaxation: Still Yoga.

Yoga is the settling of the mind into stillness.
Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by mental activity.
The five types of mental activity are understanding, misunderstanding, imagination, sleep, and memory.
They may or may not cause suffering.

Yoga Sutra 1.2, 1.4-6

Stillness. What a treasure in a world that moves at lightning fast speed. Thankfully, there is an ongoing place in each of us that is an unending reservoir of inner strength and stillness. The purpose of yoga and practices like it is to uncover this powerful core and to use it as a solid platform from which to encounter the world and experience life.

Settling mental activity by actively becoming relaxed and centered is an easy starting point for discovering inner peace; it is also the foundation for most mind-body practices. It actively increases our capacity to calm the mind, soothe the emotions, and open the heart.

Yoga pose

Shavasana – Photo used with permission of Julie Lusk

Shavasana (sha-VAH-sah-nah) – the proper supine position for relaxation and guided imagery. The optimal position for guided relaxation and imagery is called Shavasana (sponge or corpse pose) in yoga. Shavasana is done lying down on a firm, flat surface, such as a carpeted floor or mat. A sofa or bed can be used; however, you risk falling asleep if it is too comfortable.

Here are the specifics:

Lie down on a carpeted floor or mat. Feel free to cover yourself with a blanket for warmth.
Start with a nice big stretch. Next, take in a deep breath and sigh it out through an open mouth.
Close your eyes or keep them barely open. An eye pillow or folded washcloth placed over the eyes helps the brain and body relax further.

Place your legs straight out with your heels twelve to twenty-four inches apart. Find a good distance for your feet so that your hips and back can relax. If your back is uncomfortable, bend your knees and lean them against each other with your feet placed on the floor below them. Start by placing your feet wider than your hips, and notice if it feels comfortable and stable. If not, adjust the placement of your feet and knees. An alternative is to place a sturdy pillow or bolster under your knees. Take the time you need to find the optimal position for your comfort.

Lift your hips up slightly and place them back down so they fall supported and your weight is evenly distributed.

Draw your shoulders downward by gently lowering them toward your ears. Snuggle and tuck them in so they rest comfortably beneath you.

Stretch your arms out and away from your sides in a position of ease. Place your palms face up and notice how this feels to you. If you prefer, turn your palms down or place them on your body.

It is important to preserve the natural arch at the back of your neck. To do so, rest the back of your head on the floor and make sure that neither your forehead nor chin is higher than the other. You may use a small pillow under your head, or roll up a small towel and place it under your neck.

Let your awareness roam around your body to become aware of any area that may be uncomfortable and take the time needed to adjust your clothing and your posture so you are totally at ease.

Yoga outside


Now you, or your clients, are in the perfect position to enjoy meditation or guided imagery. Find a CD with images you and your clients will find soothing, beginning with shorter scripts (5 to 8 minutes) and then graduate to longer ones when you have mastered relaxing for 5 minutes or so. You will find it gets easier each time the routine is practiced.

Remember that your clients are learning what might be a brand new way of using their muscles. Just as it takes time to learn to be a great shot on the basketball court or to be able to play perfect arpeggios on the piano, it takes time and practice to become expert at relaxation and yoga techniques. Everybody take a deep breath and begin to explore a new way to relax.

About Julie.

Julie Lusk author and yoga master

Author and Yoga Master Julie Lusk

Go here for a selection of relaxation and guided imagery CD’s.

Try The Slow Movement

The Slow Movement
By Michael Arloski, PhD

Let’s deliberately slow down our pace of life and experience the slow movement.
What started in Italy with slow food as a reaction to omnipresent fast food has morphed into a broader slow living movement including slow travel, slow schools, slow cities, slow design, slow relationships, and more. Its main tenet is that for a more fulfilling and deeply satisfying life we need to allow the appropriate amount of time to experience the activities we engage in.

Savoring may save us. Consciousness may return control to our lives. As author Carl Honoré puts it  in his book In Praise of Slownessour cultural obsession with speed erodes our health, productivity, and quality of life. “We are living the fast life, instead of the good life.”

Operating on automatic pilot may seem like an important strategy to cope with feeling overwhelmed. However it usually results in staying stuck in habits that don’t serve us as well as the conscious choices we might make instead, if only we…slowed down and thought about it. As Mae West told us “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”


So, how do we make the shift? How do we become part of the Slow Movement? How do we de-stress ourselves, further change our perception of time, and pump up our quality of life? How do we begin to embrace and benefit from slow living?

Value the intrinsic over the extrinsic. Focus on the internal rewards found in
experience, not production; the taste of fresh tomatoes, the smile of a child. The irony here is that we know that intrinsic motivation drives greater and more creative productivity.

Re-wire your brain. Changing life-long habits means developing new neural pathways in our brains and staying off the old well-worn habit pathways. Catch yourself in your old speedy habits and jump back on the new path over and over again.

Plan to be spontaneous. Plan ahead to have free time. Make plans to be, not just get things done. Make reservations at campgrounds so you will get out and do it. Arrange with friends to have a slow dinner evening savoring food and fun.

Lose your mind and come to your senses. Focusing on our sensory experience of taste, sound, touch, and smell can help us slow down. Breath deep, eyes closed, and take a moment to smell the roses.

Create conspiracies. The only way to break out of unhealthy cultural norms is to conspire with friends, family and co-workers to create healthier, slower ones. Together cultivate the Italian phrase “Il dolce far niente”, the sweetness of doing nothing!

The Wellness Coach’s Takeaway

Our coaching clients often come to us either feeling that they are overwhelmed and have to slow down their pace of life, or, perhaps when they have had a wake up call, like the onset of a serious health challenge, that has caused them to reassess life’s priorities. They want to slow down, but, marinated in a culture of speed (as Honoré puts it), they don’t know how.

You may have clients who are do not want to slow down. Staying busy, staying distracted, they don’t have to look at deeper issues that may be more troubling to encounter. Coach them around exploring what they fear might happen if they were to slow down. Explore what if examples: “What would happen if you made an agreement with your family to eat dinner together with no television or other devices turned on?” “What would it be like to take a long, hot bath instead of a quick shower?”

Some clients may have such fears that they need counseling rather than coaching and the pressure to slow down may be too much. Referrals can be discussed, but you can also back up and coach in other areas until they are ready to look at how they might experiment with slowing down.

Some fears might not be so psychological. Your client may fear that if they slow down they won’t be able to compete in the workplace or marketplace. They may fear that they won’t appear as attractive as the hard-charging, work-hard/play hard person they want to portray. If you client is open to it, this may be where you can turn them on to some of the resources of the “slow movement”, such as Honore’s book, or  the slow movement in the United States, or Create the Good Life;. They may learn that they can allay many of their fears by seeing how the benefits of slowing down include just what they are trying to achieve by rushing and working too hard: greater creativity, productivity, and quality of life.

Slowing down may have a link with self-permission. Many of the healthy changes in behavior often revolve around greater self-care. Great wellness plans go nowhere if the client is unwilling to give themselves permission to implement them. Explore this concept of self-permission and how the person is holding themselves back.

  • For most clients though, the desire for a slower, more fulfilling life is there.
  • Create experiments using the Downshifting idea above.
  • Get creative with your client and co-create new action steps that they can take week by week to try out new ways to slow down in whatever area seems both important to them and has the most likelihood of succeeding.
  • They may even want to commit to looking at several dimensions of their wellness (perhaps as represented in a simple tool like the Wheel of Life) and creating experiments in each area.
  • Commit to cooking more meals at home.
  • Visit a farmers market. Declare a technological Sabbath for a day.
  • Commit to learning and practicing centering activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, relaxation training, or some form of mindfulness practice.
  • Commit to reading a novel instead of work-related books.
  • Read Thoreau’s essay “On Walking” and learn to saunter!

Dr. Arloski’s blog.

Dr. Arloski’s biography.

Dr. Arloski’s Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change, Second Edition.

Dr. Arloski’s Your Journey to a Healthier Life.

Breathing for Relaxation

The Breath of Life

From Stressed is Desserts Spelled Backwards
By Brian Luke Seaward, PhD

Approaches to managing stress are as varied as the people who use them. Perhaps because of the complexity of human nature and the daily events we find ourselves in, it is fair to say that no two people will deal with stress the same way. Yet if there were one relaxation technique that could be described as “one size fits all,” belly breathing would win hands down. The long deep sigh, the epitome of taking a moment to relax, is really what belly breathing is all about. Unlike most techniques, it can be done anywhere, at any time, and no one is the wiser.

Breathing is easy, and we pretty much take it for granted because it doesn’t require a whole lot of thought. But by and large, Americans are chest breathers (whether you are a man or a woman, I guess it looks good to have a big chest.) The problem with chest breathing is that it places pressure on a bundle of nerves under the chest bones and can actually trigger the stress response. Of course, when we sleep, the ego is off duty and we revert back to belly breathing—the style most conducive for relaxation.

Ancient mystics tell us that the word breath and spirit are synonymous, suggesting that divine energy is found within the precious movements of inhalation and exhalation. As such, the breath of life is no mere metaphor. Interestingly enough, every technique to promote relaxation employs some aspect of breathing and this is the technique I begin each class with. A wise sage once said, “There are forty different ways to breathe.” Here are two styles I use in class:

Breathing Clouds

This technique can be traced back to the origins of the eastern philosophy and religion in both Asia, with the practice of yoga, and Japan with the practice of Zen meditation. It was introduced as a cleansing process for the mind and body, the end result being complete relaxation. You can do this technique either sitting or lying down.

To begin, close your eyes and focus all your attention on your breathing. Draw air from the belly. Try inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Visualize the air that you breath in as being clean fresh air, pure and energized air, like a white puffy cloud.

As you breathe in this clean pure air, visualize and feel air enter your nose and circulate up through the sinus cavity, to the top of your head, and down the back of your spinal column. As you end the inhalation, image the air circulating throughout your entire body.

Now, as you exhale, visualize that the air leaving your body is dirty, hazy air, which symbolizes all your stressors, frustrations, and toxins throughout your mind and body. With each breath you take, allow the clean fresh air to enter and circulate and invigorate your body, while the expulsion of the dirty air helps rid your body of its stress and tension.

Repeat this breathing cycle for five to ten minutes. As you repeat this cycle of breathing clouds, you may notice as the body becomes more relaxed through the release of stress and tension that the visual color of the air exhaled begins to change from black, to gray, perhaps even an off-white, a symbolic vision of complete relaxation.

Energy Breathing

Energy breathing is a way to vitalize your body, not only by taking in air through your nose or mouth, but in effect, breathing through your whole body as well. In essence, your body becomes like a big lung taking in air and circulating it throughout your entire body.

There are  three  phases  of  this  exercise  and  you  can  do  this technique either sitting or lying down. First get comfortable allowing your shoulders to relax. If you choose to sit, try to keep your legs straight. Now, as you breathe in, imagine that there is a circular hole at the top (crown) of your head, like a dolphin. As the air enters your lungs, visualize energy in the form of a beam of light, entering the top of your head. Bring the energy down, from the crown of your head to your abdomen as you inhale. As you exhale, allow the energy to leave through the top of your head. Repeat this five to ten times, trying to coordinate your breathing with the visual flow of energy. As you continue to bring the energy down to your stomach area, allow the light to reach all the inner parts of your upper body. When you feel comfortable with this first phase, you are ready to move on to the second phase.

Now, imagine that in the center of each foot, there is a circular hole that energy can flow in and out of. Again think of energy being like a beam of light. Concentrating on only your lower extremities, allow the flow of energy to move up from your feet into your abdomen as you inhale from your diaphragm. Repeat this five to ten times, trying to coordinate your breathing with the flow of energy.

Finally, as you continue to bring the energy up into your stomach area, allow the light to reach all the inner parts of your lower body. Once you feel you have this coordination between your breathing and the visual flow of energy with your lower extremities, begin to combine the movement of energy from both the top of your head and your feet, bringing the energy to the center of your body as you inhale air from your diaphragm. Then, as you exhale, allow the flow of energy to reverse the direction from which it came. Repeat this for ten to twenty times. Each time you move the energy through your body feel each body region, each muscle and organ and each cell become energized. At first it may seem difficult to visually coordinate the movement of energy coming from opposite ends of your body, but with practice, this will come very easily.


One summer day while grocery shopping, I ran into a former student of mine, Tom, now a lieutenant in the Navy. His conversation reminded me just how useful belly breathing can really be.

“You know, I used to think that all that breathing stuff you taught us in class was a crock,” said Tom, with a smile on his face. “But I don’t anymore!”

Peering over a pyramid of apples, I inquired, “What changed your mind?”

“It was about a week before graduation, right, and I’m packing to move to Florida with my wife, to start flight school. Did I tell you she was eight months pregnant? OK, so I’m packing these boxes in the basement and Kathy tells me she’s started going into labor. Not exactly good timing, know what I mean?”

Tom takes a step closer, grabbing an apple off the pyramid.

“Yup, you could say that my life was beyond the optimal stress point right about then. So here I am rushing to get Kathy to the hospital, but low and behold, we get in the car only to find we have a flat tire. No problem, I tell her. Take a few deep breaths. I’ll have this fixed in a jiffy.

“So now we’re in the car headed to the hospital and guess what? Another flat tire, except this time we have no spare. I could go off to get help, but I can’t leave my wife alone in the car. So you can only guess what happened.

“Man, that breathing stuff really worked. I kept telling her to take a deep breath, keep breathing, slow and deep, from the stomach, it will be all right. I was breathing right along with her. I’m not sure who it helped more, me or her. What an event! So now I’m the proud father of a little baby boy, Jonathan.”

“Congratulations,” I said, extending my hand.

“Thanks! You know you always hear about babies being born in the back seat of a car, but I never thought mine would be one of them. And now, I’m doing that belly breathing technique every day.”

It is said that the soul enters the body with the first breath and each breath after invigorates the spirit. Remember to breathe—from the belly!

What Relaxation Techniques Really Work?

What works for you when you want to relax? Have you found a reliable relaxation tool?

Advice abounds for those who are struggling to find an effective relaxation tool – the technique that will be a magical answer to stress issues. The following are quotes from some of our authors and staff describing what relaxation tools they use when stress begins to overwhelm them. Read them, and try the ones that appeal to you. Remember, of course, that relaxation is a muscle response, just like shooting a basket or playing the piano and it takes times to master a new skill. Practice for a couple of weeks before you try another. Eventually, you will find what fits you the best. I’d love to hear about your search.

One of our authors, Ester Leutenberg

Ester Leutenberg, co-author of many of our workbooks says, “When I have unwanted thoughts or memories rumbling around in my head and cannot fall asleep at night, I take in a deep breath slowly, and the release it slowly. Never make it past 4 or 5 breaths, and I’m asleep. I start with my toes and totally relax them, then ankles, calves, knees and on up, ‘till I’m a limp rag. SO GOOD!!!”

Izzy telling a Joke

Izzy Gesel, author of Playing Along, and a master of improv tells us, “Whenever I am feeling stressed and I am able to take a moment to pause and listen to my self-talk, I often realize that my stress is about something that happened in the past, is going to happen in the future, or is about another person or something I cannot control. What’s helpful to me in these stressful moments is to close my eyes, take a breath and ask myself, ‘What am I grateful for?’ Within about 15 seconds I feel more grounded. I’m able to focus on the present and take action on something I can control thereby reducing my stress.”

Carlene Sippola

Carlene Sippola, WPA’s Publisher tells us, “In the winter, I relax sitting in front of our fireplace playing a few games on my iPad or catching up on the day with my husband. In the summer, we spend time at our camper where we kayak, hike, and sit around the fire pit at night (my favorite). Spending time with good friends is always relaxing.”

Amy Broadsky is one of our talented illustrators, and a skilled, licensed therapist herself, says she does a progressive muscle relaxation starting at my feet and working upwards. “I also do deep breathing. Specifically I breathe in through both my mouth and nose to the count of 6 or 8, and then breath out to the same count. Initially I practiced these techniques three times every day until I was able to effectively relax. I have not had a panic attack in 27 years due to these techniques. I also listen to guided imagery at times, relaxation music, sounds of waves or rain.”

Our shipping and order entry Queen Deb says, “I relax at our family cabin in my kayak, with a soothing beverage.”

Julie Lusk
Julie Lusk

Julie Lusk, Yoga master and author, had a hard time choosing her favorite relaxation technique. She often combines Yoga with meditation to achieve the ultimate relaxed state.

From Jack Kosmach, WPA’s President, “I’ve always enjoyed sitting down with a good book.  When we were first married, my wife Lynne and I would sit on the couch with our books and read and read.  It was a really nice time to relax.  Then life seemed to interrupt and the opportunities to be ‘alone’ to read became fewer and fewer.  It is still my favorite way to unwind.”

Leigh Anne telling jokes to her dogs

I looked forward to Leigh Anne Jasheway’s response to my “How do I relax?” question. She is the author of Don’t Get Mad Get Funny and Are You Playing with Me and is a prolific speaker on all kinds of funny topics. “I’d put improv at the top of the list. Improv is like spending 2 hours at recess with friends whose sole goal is to have a good time. We laugh so hard and completely forget about anything we were worrying about before the improv session started. Afterward, I find that not only am I less stressed by things, I’m also filled with great ideas about every project I’m working on. That, in and of itself, reduces my stress further because now I have solutions.

“And let’s not forget that all that laughter introduces endorphins and other healing chemicals into the blood stream and massages all the organs. Improv is like recess, falling in love, and a full-body massage all wrapped in one playful adventure.”

Fran Liptak who put her own devastating loss to use by co-authoring the GriefWorks series with Ester Leutenberg says she does several things. Here’s her list:

  • Meditate daily – I have a practice that involves some stretching and meditation each morning. I miss this when I don’t do it.Photo of Fran Zamore
  • Walk outside – I have a real need for fresh air so when the weather is really too harsh for me to be outside I notice it.
  • Take long, warm baths as needed/desired
  • Frequent deliberate long, slow, deep breaths throughout the day
  • Listen to guided imagery scripts as needed
  • Exercise regularly
  • Spend time with friends
  • Gratitude practice – say aloud a minimum of three things each day for which I’m grateful, just before going to sleep
Jacquelyn Ferguson

Jacquelyn Ferguson definitely has a favorite relaxation approach.  Here’s what she does:

 I start in a reclining (a recliner, not a bed) position with eyes closed doing a rhythmic breathing exercise for a minute or two or more, depending upon how hyper I am.

I inhale slowly to the count of 6 observing my abdomen swelling, hold to count of 4, exhale to count of 9 (to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system – the “relaxation response”) focusing on my abdomen compressing. I repeat until I find myself floating around with no real attempt to do anything. If I return to more of an “awake” feeling I repeat the breathing exercise. If distracted I allow myself to be aware only of what I sense: sounds, a breeze, an odor, etc.

I program myself to become alert in 20 minutes or 30 minutes. I do become alert each time at the virtually the exact minute programmed. This part fascinates my husband, Bob.

That’s all I do. I have others I’ve done over the years but this one is what I’ve been doing for a good decade. So, so simple.

Me: When I first came to work at Whole Person I hadn’t heard of relaxation techniques, let alone tried one. After a particularly harrowing day my boss sent me home with “Countdown to Relaxation”, and after a couple of weeks of practice it worked like a charm.  Now I begin to count backwards from ten, deepening my breathing with each number, cleansing my body as I become more and more relaxed. I recommend it highly. Click here for the CD. I’ve used it for so long that all I need to hear is the opening music and I can do the rest myself. My other favorite: close my eyes when my family is all together and immerse myself in the sound of happy folks.

As I said at the start of this piece, I’d love to know what you do to relax. Click in the comment section and tell your story.

How To Make Guided Meditation Work for Your Groups

By Julie Lusk

Many group leaders are aware of the benefits of guided meditations but have had little experience in the field. Here are some tips to help you use guided meditations effectively.

Working with guided meditations

Everyone is different, so each person will experience guided imagery uniquely. These individual differences should be encouraged. During a guided meditation, some people will imagine vivid scenes, colors, images, or sounds while others will focus on what they are feeling, or experience it as a concept. This is why a combination of sights, sounds, and feelings are often incorporated into meditations. With practice, it is possible to expand your participants’ range of awareness.

By careful selection of images you can help deepen their experience and cultivate their awareness in new areas that can enrich their lives. For instance, a person who is most comfortable in the visual area can be encouraged to stretch his or her awareness and increase his or her sensitivity to feelings and sounds.

Working with guided imagery is powerful and it is up to you to use it responsibly and ethically. Leaders with little or no training in guided imagery can use these scripts with emotionally healthy people. Be careful, however, when presenting themes and techniques that are unfamiliar to you. Since people respond in a variety of ways to visualization, avoid generalizing about the benefits of any given script.

If your groups are composed of people who are emotionally ill or especially fragile, you should seek out special training or professional guidance before introducing them to visualizations.

Preparing the group or individual

Physical relaxation reduces anxiety, activates the mind-body connection, and enhances the ability to focus on mental images. Some type of physical relaxation sequence should be used prior to every guided meditation.

Breathing properly is essential for complete and total relaxation. Unfortunately, very few people take full breaths, especially when under stress. When a person consciously uses deep breathing correctly, stress is reduced and the mind can remain calm and stable. It is important that people focus on their breathing, with full deep breaths through the nose.

Before beginning any guided meditation, briefly describe the images you will use and ask if they make anyone feel uncomfortable. People who are afraid of water may find images of ocean waves to be frightening rather than calming. Be prepared with an alternate image. Let participants know that if they become uncomfortable, they may, at any time, open their eyes and tune out or change the visualization.

As you read a script, people will follow you for a while and then drift off into their own imaginations. They will usually tune you back in later on. If they know this in advance, they won’t feel as if they are failing by being inattentive. So tell them this is normal and notice when it happens.

Choosing the right atmosphere

Select a room that has comfortable chairs for sitting or a carpeted floor for lying down. Close the door and shut the windows to block out distracting noise. If possible, dim the lights to create a relaxing environment. Low lights enhance the ability to relax by blocking out visual distractions. If the room lights cannot be controlled to your satisfaction, bring along a lamp or night lights. Adjust the thermostat so that the room temperature is warm and comfortable. If the room is too cool, it will be hard to relax and remain focused. Suggest that people wear a sweater or jacket if they think they may get cold.

If distractions occur—a noisy air conditioner, traffic, loud conversations—try raising your voice, using shorter phrases and fewer pauses, or incorporating the sounds into the guided meditation. For example, you might say, “Notice how the humming sounds of the air conditioner relax you more and more.” Or, “If your mind begins to drift, gently bring it back to the sound of my voice.”

Using your voice

Speak in a calm comforting, and steady manner. Let your voice flow. Your voice should be smooth and somewhat monotonous. But don’t whisper. Start with your voice at a volume that can be easily heard. As the guided meditation progresses and as the participants’ awareness increases, you may begin speaking more softly. As a person relaxes, hearing acuity can increase. Bring your voice up when suggesting tension and bring it down when suggesting relaxation. Near the end of the guided meditation, return to using an easily heard volume. This will help participants come back feeling alert and refreshed.

You may tell participants to use a hand signal if they cannot hear you. Advise people with hearing impairments to sit close to you or you can move closer to them.

If you are having difficulty reading the meditation scripts effectively, there are many pre-recorded scripts available. Click here to see Whole Person’s cd’s.  The Daydreams, Wilderness Daydreams and Mini-Meditations are particularly useful.

Pacing yourself

Read the guided meditations slowly, but not so slowly that you lose people. Begin at a conversational pace and slow down as the relaxation progresses. It’s easy to go too fast, so take your time. Don’t rush.

The ellipses (…) used in my books indicate a brief pause. Many other authors use this technique. Spaces between paragraphs suggest often suggest a longer pause.

Be sure to understand the format used by the author. For example, in 30 Scripts the reader’s notes and script divisions are printed in italics and should not be read out loud.

Give participants time to follow your instructions. If you suggest that they wiggle their toes, watch them do so, then wait for them to stop wiggling their toes before going on. When participants are relaxed and engaged in the imagery process, they have tapped into their subconscious (slow, rich, imagery) mind – and they shouldn’t be hurried.

When you’re leading the meditation, stay in your conscious (alert and efficient) mind. Pay careful attention to all participants. You may have to repeat an instruction if you see that people are not following you.

To help you with your volume and tone, pace and timing, listen to a recording of yourself leading guided meditations.

As you reach the end of a meditation, always help participants make the transition back to the present. Tell them to visualize their surroundings, to stretch, and to breathe deeply. Repeat these instructions until everyone is alert.

Using music

Using music to enhance relaxation is not a new idea. History is full of examples of medicine men and women, philosophers, priests, scientists, and musicians who used music to heal. In fact, music seems to be an avenue of communication for some people where no other avenues appear to exist.

Your music should be cued up and ready to go at the right volume before you start your meditation. Nothing ruins the atmosphere more quickly than the leader having to fool around trying to get the music going.

Click here for Julie Lusk’s bio.

Click here to go to Julie’s website.

Click here for see all of Whole Person Associates’ guided meditation resources. 

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation Techniques

There are several kinds of relaxation techniques that will help return elevated stress levels for you and your clients to an acceptable level. These techniques recognize the mind/body connection, understanding that one cannot be separated from another.

Types of Relaxation Techniques

Breathing is the easiest relaxation technique. Sustained deep breathing will most often can counter the effects of a crisis and the effects of the stress response.

Stretching is a natural. Have the participant concentrate on the place where he or she feels the most tension.

Systematic progressive relaxation involves the intentional tightening and release of the muscles in the body. Each muscle group is attended to individually. Folks will become more aware of where they feel their stress and will eventually be able to address it more easily.

Passive progressive relaxation systematically attends to tension in the various muscle groups of the body. It uses mental images to visualize the draining away of tension from the muscles. It takes some practice before deep relaxation is achieved.

Autogenic relaxation combines deep breathing with images of draining or melting away stress as opposed to tightening and relaxing muscles. It suggests control and mastery of stress and is a good technique for someone who is feeling powerless.

Meditation is somewhat like day dreaming with a purpose. The participant clears his or her mind and then concentrates on a single mental focus.

Guided imagery and visualization takes advantage of the marvelous capacity of the mind to imagine and create sensory images. Participants may be taken to the sea, to the mountains, for a gentle canoe trip. Be careful to choose images that won’t increase the client’s anxiety. Tell the participants that they may open their eyes and come back to reality if the images are uncomfortable.

Yoga is an ancient system of meditations and exercises.

Begin your relaxation session with a simple breathing exercise. The one below is taken from 30 Scripts for Relaxation Imagery and & Inner Healing, Volume 1, Second Edition, by Julie Lusk. 30 Scripts Vol 2 Edition 2: full of relaxation techniques 30 Scripts Vol 1 Second Edition: Relaxation Techniques

Breathing for Relaxation and Health

By Julie Lusk

Time: 10 minutes

Effective relaxation requires proper breathing. In this script, participants concentrate on their breathing by focusing on what their bodies feel like as they take in deep breaths, hold them briefly, and slowly exhale.

Note: The following information will help your participants understand the importance of slow, deep, rhythmic breathing. You may wish to present it as an introduction before using this script.

Breathe in and out through the nose, not the mouth, unless directed otherwise. The nose filters out pollutants and it moistens and warms the air.

Breathing should be natural, smooth, easy, slow, quiet and complete. Exhaling fully and deeply is the first step to better breathing. It stimulates the functioning of the brain cells and rids the system of stale air. Exhaling helps activate the relaxation response via the parasympathetic nervous system and it lowers the heart rate. Exhaling fully creates ample room for the inhalation. More importantly, taking time for fully inhaling and exhaling slows the breathing rate down. Slowing the breathing rate down causes the brain to get more oxygen. This results in heightened awareness, increased alertness, and calmness. It diffuses anxiety and nervousness.

Oxygenation of the body is essential to physical health and well-being. Breathing abdominally rather than chest breathing, results in a greater transfer of oxygen into the blood for better delivery of nutrients to the tissues. Cells utilize oxygen to create energy. Oxygen is necessary for the development of all organs in the body. Red blood cells are completely renewed every 120 days. The most essential element for accomplishing this reconstruction is not food, but oxygen.

Shallow and irregular breathing can result in the accumulation of bodily wastes and toxins and inadequate functioning of all body organs and tissues. It is also an indicator of stress. Breathing that is slow, smooth, and deep helps alleviate these issues and leads to a clear and alert mind. It also improves the flow of lymph which can improve the immunity system.


Close your eyes…and bring your attention to your breathing…It’s time to begin following the air as it comes in…and as it goes out while breathing through your nose.
Continue feeling your breath each time it comes in…and as it goes out…If your mind begins to wander, just bring it back to feeling and sensing your breath.
Notice if you can feel movement in your belly…your ribs…and your collar-bone while breathing naturally. Take your time.


During the next several cycles of breathing, empty your lungs more than usual each time you breathe out. Let all the air out, compressing your stomach to squeeze out all the stale air and carbon dioxide…Letting it all empty out.
Each time you breathe in, take in a nice, full, deep breath and let the air go all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Feel your stomach rise, your chest expand, and the collar-bone area fill.

As you breathe in, your diaphragm expands and massages all the internal organs in the abdominal area…this helps digestion.

As you breathe out, relax…Allowing any tension or knots in your belly to naturally untie…To let go.

Breathing in…Fully and completely.

Breathing out…Letting it all go…relaxing more and more…Breathing heals you…calms you…it’s soothing.

When breathing in fully and completely. Oxygen is entering your blood stream, and nourishes all your organs and cells. It protects you.

Breathing out releases metabolic waste and toxins. Your breath is cleansing you…healing you.

Let’s use the breath in another way and take advantage of the mind-body connection.

Leaders note: Use one or more of the following, depending on the group’s needs or time available. Give participants enough time to experience this.

If you wish, imagine exhaling confusion…and inhaling clarity.
Imagine exhaling darkness…and inhaling light.

Imagine exhaling fear…and inhaling love.

Exhaling pain…and inhaling relief.

Exhaling anxiety…and inhaling peace.

Exhaling selfishness…and inhaling generosity.

Exhaling guilt…and inhaling forgiveness.

You may continue on with a guided meditation. If you choose to end here, repeat the following until everyone is alert.

Stretch and open your eyes, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, alert, and fully alive.

Click here for a printable version.

Sun Meditation for Healing and Relaxation

By Judy Fulop and Julie Lusk

Time: 10 minutes

In this script, participants experience the healing power and energy of the sun as they imagine it warming and relaxing them.


Please close your eyes and take some time to go within yourself to settle your body, mind, and heart. Feel free to use whatever method works best for you. For example, it may be focusing on your breath, meditating, stretching your body mindfully, or using a sound, word, image, or a phrase as a mantra to become centered…Take your time…allowing yourself to become more and more at ease with yourself.


Allow yourself to become as relaxed and comfortable as you can…Let your body feel supported by the ground underneath you.

Slowly begin to see or feel yourself lying in a grassy meadow with the sun shining it’s golden rays gently upon you…Let yourself soak in these warm rays …taking in the healing power and life giving energy of the sunshine.

This magnificent ball of light has been a sustaining source of energy for millions of years and will be an energy source for millions of years to come…This ancient sun is the same sun which shined down upon the dinosaurs…upon the Egyptians while they built the pyramids…and it now shines upon the earth and all the other planets in our solar system and will continued to do so.

As the sun’s rays gently touch your skin, allow yourself to feel the warmth and energy flow slowly through your body…pulsing through your bones…sending healing light to your organs…flowing to your tissues…recharging every system…and now settling into your innermost being…your heart center.

Sense your heart center glowing with this radiant energy. If you wish, give it a color…

Take a few moments to allow this warm and healing energy to reach your innermost being…physically…emotionally…mentally…and spiritually.

Pause for 30 seconds

As this healing energy grows and expands, allow yourself to see, feel, and sense this energy surrounding your being…growing and growing…Allow this energy to further fill this room…this building…surrounding this town…spreading throughout our state…to our country…and out into the worlds…and finally throughout the universe…reaching and touching and blessing all.

Pause for 30 seconds

You may share this healing energy and power with anyone you’re aware of right now…Mentally ask them if they are willing to receive this healing energy…If they are…send this source of healing energy to them…giving them the time they need to take in this energy and make it theirs in their own heart center.

Pause for 30 seconds

Now take your attention back to your own heart center…Find a safe place within you to keep this healing and powerful energy…a place to keep it protected and within your reach…Give yourself permission to get in touch with this energy whenever you wish.

With the warmth of this energy in your being, begin stretching, wiggling, and moving…Slowly open your eyes, feeling alive, refreshed, keenly alert, and completely healthy.

Repeat the above instructions until everyone is alert.

Click here for a printable version.

Julie Lusk, M.Ed., RYT, has dedicated her efforts to helping others attain stress relief, wellness and holistic health through yoga, meditation and guided imagery.Julie Lusk author of 30 Scripts, full of relaxation techniques

Julie has a Masters in Education from Virginia Tech.  She is a National Certified Counselor and Registered/Certified Yoga Teacher.  Julie was a Licensed Professional Counselor in Virginia for 20 years.

Julie has taught yoga since 1977 and is certified to teach a variety of styles ranging from gentle to vigorous yoga.  Yoga Alliance awarded her the highest credential available.  She teaches locally, nationally and is a teacher trainer.

Her previous careers include Regional Director, Mercy Holistic Health and Wellness Centers (Cincinnati, OH), Assistant Dean of Students of Roanoke College (Salem, VA) and Director of Health Management, Lewis-Gale Clinic (Salem, VA).

Julie’s volunteer efforts in community health promotion earned recognition from the US Surgeon General and the Governor of Virginia.

Julie is available as a business and conference speaker and consultant to groups and individuals.  Her books, recordings and other materials are plentiful.

Link to Julie’s website: www.wholesomeresources.com

Check the catalog for relaxation techniques on CD.

Relaxation: Stop the Stresses!

There are a few more simple ways to reduce stress physically. Gentleness and relaxation skills help you unwind by being kind to yourself. There are many ways you can relax, but if you’re not sure, try a tension test: from head to toe, tense all the muscles you can one by one. Do some feel tighter than others? Try breathing exercises as you do this. When you tighten a muscle, take deep breaths in, and as you release it, exhale. Give yourself time to relax every day. Take 20 minutes a day and spend it any way you want – a long bath, a long walk, it doesn’t matter. Taking some time to unwind is especially helpful before sleeping. Instead of running yourself all day and crashing at the end, put yourself to bed. Developing a sleep pattern for your body will help reduce tension.

Being gentle with yourself is part of relaxing. Listen to what your body is telling you. It will let you know how you’re treating it. You may already know some of the ways it tries to tell you to slow down; a headache, a stiff neck, a sour stomach, or backaches are all signs.  If you’re looking for new ways to relax, try finding a hobby that lets you relax gently rather than intensively. Painting or yoga are examples.

  • What are some ways you’re too hard on yourself?
  • Where do you carry your stress? Can you trace the tension back to its cause?

Getting Organized & Getting it Done

Getting Organized

The first part of Valuing Skills is understanding what you value. To do this, you’ll need to do one thing first; relax for a bit! Sit down for five minutes at the office, find a quiet place in your home, or even lock yourself in the bathroom for a minute. Just take deep breaths and let go of some tension. Let your mind stop spinning for a bit so you can think clearly. Once you’ve done this, organize your thoughts. Lists are helpful; you can try making a list of all the things in your life right now that you enjoy. Family? Job? Book club? Pet? What are some things in your life you could do without? Mowing the lawn? Feeling panicked? Not spending enough time with someone special? Think about a typical week. How much time do you spend working or traveling? Sleeping? Playing? Relaxing? What kind of things do you do most? Does it match with your values? If not, that probably causes you stress.

Next, pick a value to set attainable goals around. Where do you want to be in a year? One month? How are you going to make this happen? Use some planning skills strategies; try to make a specific goal for this week, and connect it with others that work towards your long-term goal. Then get started! Break down big tasks into smaller ones, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Do you usually meet your goals? Why or why not?


Getting it Done

Now that you’ve calmed down and thought about what you want, it’s time to make a plan. If you don’t commit to taking your plans into action, you’ll find yourself stressing again soon. It’s tempting to try to keep all your options open, but juggling multiple tasks results in dropping all of them. Pick one! Commit to making a good change.

Next, think about Time-Use Skills. What sort of things do you do that waste time? We all have tasks we can streamline. One common time-wasting habit is jumping from task to task without finishing them first. It’s more efficient to finish one then move to another. A second time waster is accepting nothing but perfection. This isn’t to say you should accept bad work, but recognize good work when you see it. Nothing is ever perfect. Another common time waster is putting off starting because you don’t know where to begin. Easy solution for that; start with the biggest and work your way down.

Last, don’t forget Pacing! Here’s an analogy: you’re on a timed run. You have 30 minutes to run as far as you can. If you sprint at the start, you will be exhausted in 5 minutes and trudge the next 25. You won’t get very far. If you go at a good pace, you will save yourself a lot of pain, and get much farther. You can tell when a pace is right for you; you feel challenged, not overwhelmed.

Adjusting to Autumn

Adjusting to Autumn
By Julie Lusk

Adjusting from summer to fall always comes with mixed feelings for me.  At first, it’s so hard for me to accept the end of the warmth, light, and the greenness of the plants, trees and garden.  “Where did it go,” I ask my self.  “I’m not ready for this!”

Honestly, for years and years, I’d feel mighty bummed.  In my mind, I was already jumping way ahead to the shivering cold and darkness of winter while missing all the things I like about summer.  Somehow, I’d let myself miss out on what the autumn is all about.

But now, I close my eyes and I sit in yoga meditation.  Eventually, my racing mind settles into the steadiness of my breathing and the present moment opens up like a fragrant flower.  Instead of feeling sorry that another summer is gone and anticipating an uncertain future, I’m able to take in what’s around me now.  When my eyes reopen, it’s easy to notice that the trees aren’t bare.  In fact, the air is crisp and clean and the changing light and shadows cast a beautiful spell over me.  What a relief.

All that energy that was being wasted on feeling anxious has effortlessly shifted into the energy of inspiration and an undeniable readiness to take what’s right before me and enjoy it for what it is.  For years, I missed out on all the gorgeous fall days.  Not anymore.  Now I’m grateful for the tastes and smells and colors of autumn and reach into my closet for my favorite sweater.

Autumn is a time for harvesting, letting go, and for preparing unsown areas for reseeding.  This goes for the actual activities that happen during this season on earth and for what happens in our lives.  For me, the magic ingredient that helps me with this is yoga and meditation.  Please join me or your favorite teacher so we can continue to grow inward and onward.

~For books from author Julie Lusk, click here.