Introducing Take-a-Break Stress-Busters

July 5, 2010
If ever there was a time to take a break from the pressure you put on yourself, summer is it. Discover dozens of ways to release stress that has built up in the earlier months of the year — and will only get worse if you don’t do something about it.

Cobbled Street in Old PompeiiThere are several reasons why taking a break in summer is particularly good for your body, mind, relationships, and spirit.

  1. Your body is under a lot of pressure to perform all the tasks you ask it do in a busy life. It needs rest.
  2. Your mind has only so much capacity for solving problems and it needs time to integrate what it has learned so that it’s ready to learn more later.
  3. Your relationships may need a new perspective, especially if you are trying to extricate yourself from difficult relationships in which memories of your past get mixed up with your current situation and worry for the future.
  4. Your spirit can lose its capacity to guide your life when you are on automatic pilot, which is the modus operandi of many of us.

Our bodies, minds, relationships, and spirit are intertwined, controlled by the brain’s neurons that run down the same pathways over and over. Fortunately, when you take a break from doing things the way you’ve always done them, you disconnect the wires in the brain and open the possibility for new ideas and new energy to come through.

That is why I’ve decided to use Take-a-Break Stress Busters for some of the posts this summer. If you have visited that special feature of Support4Change, you will know that these activities are designed to untie (at least temporarily) your nervous neurons from their stress-producing pathways. Since I know that not all of you have seen all of them (and most of you may not have seen any of them), I’ve decided this summer is a good time to share them with blog readers.

Here now is the first take-a-break of the summer of 2010:

Capturing Moments for Memories

In this Take-a-Break I tell how paying attention while hiking to the Vetter Mountain Lookout Tower helped me enjoy the memory of it that evening as I started to work on a difficult, long-term project.

Now, as I read that piece again, I am saddened by the realization that I will never again visit that place because it was destroyed in the large and deadly Station Fire last year. Nevertheless, the experience of consciously remembering what I saw as we hiked to the top — where I received a certificate stating I am “a recognized member of the ANCIENT AND HONORABLE ORDER OF SQUIRRELS,” signed by the volunteer lookout man — has stayed with me.

That day is an example of how becoming consciously aware of whatever you are doing with as many of your senses as possible — seeing, smelling, touching, hearing, tasting, and noticing the sensations in your body — creates pleasant images to be retrieved later when you need them. Do this frequently as you experience the relaxation and enjoyment of whatever you do this summer and you’ll have a pile of pleasant memories to warm you when winter arrives.

The only requirement for capturing a moment is to consciously become aware of what you are experiencing as you experience  it. Try it right now:

1. Look around and see something that brings you pleasure.

It could be a greeting card from a dear friend that you have open and standing on a nearby table, a trophy you received for winning a high school debate, an abstract painting you bought at a seaside resort simply because the bright colors struck your fancy, or any of a hundred things in the room that ordinarily melt into the background. Notice how it feels to consciously experience these things.

2. Later today, retrieve this memory.

Notice how easy it is to add a little pleasure and relaxation to your day.

3. Continue using this technique in the days ahead.

Consciously take advantage of small moments to notice lots of little things you usually take for granted — like the delightful way your grandson bites his tongue when he’s concentrating on a task, the feel of your partner’s hand on your arm as he or she gives it a loving squeeze, the dew on the grass when you go out to get the paper.

Even on days when most things aren’t going well, there are small moments that are, at least by comparison, worth recalling.

Incidentally, the illustration for this post is a picture of a street in Pompeii I took a couple years ago. When I see it, I am taken back to that marvelous experience of walking where people lived so many years ago. Yet even without the picture, I can feel my body back there in that vacation.

Gather memories while you can. Life doesn’t last forever.

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