TAKE TEN MINUTES OUT
By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
Stress plays a major role in our lives. We can become addicted to
it. We can become ill with it. Using it, we can achieve more. We
can “break down” from it. We can adapt to it. Some of us are so
adapted to it, we don’t know how to function without it.
Over the past 20 years, the U.S. Surgeons General have reported that
85 percent of our illnesses are related to stress. Stress can kill
us. Dr. Herbert Benson coined “the relaxation response” to describe
the opposite response to stress. But these days, who has the time to
learn the relaxation response? We’re so busy running on
stress-created biochemicals; we rarely incorporate relaxation into our
lifestyles. Failure to balance the stress response with the
relaxation response, however, puts us at high risk for some type of
physical, mental, emotional or relational breakdown.
Here are a few quick, five- or ten-minute activities, which you can
rapidly incorporate into your high-speed, highly-stressed daily life.
They just might help you create a stress-relaxation balance in your
Go on ten-minute mini-vacations in your mind. At the workplace or
at home, close your eyes, take 5 deep, sighing breaths, and in your
imagination, create a sensory-rich picture of your favorite vacation
spot. Picture yourself there. Smell the scents in the air. Feel the
breeze on your skin. Listen to the sounds of the birds, insects,
water or wind. Listen to the silence. Experience the warmth or
coolness of the air around you. See the colors, light and shadows of
the scene. And taste your favorite food while in this vacation spot.
Picture yourself lying down and enjoying the surrounding environment.
And relax. Soften all bodily tension. And breathe as if you were
falling asleep. This ten-minute vacation can profoundly generate the
Go to the restroom or home bathroom. Splash water on your face.
Take time to massage your facial muscles with warm water. Let your
jaw drop slightly and massage your cheeks. When your hands are very
warm, rub the back of your neck. Focus your attention on softening
all your face and neck muscles. Allow your eyes to rest in the warmth
of your hands covering them.
When you return from work, or before bed at night, take a very warm
bath or shower. Light candles and incense. Softly play your favorite
music. Imagine that the stress in your body is being dissolved and
washed away by the water. Focus your attention on dropping
responsibilities and stressors of the day. Imagine them dropping off
you like scales, as you gently rub your body…perhaps with scented
soap or lotion. Put your mind in neutral. Let your entire body go
limp, and imagine it becoming a part of the water itself. Focus on
your long, slow, deep breathing.
Learn how to meditate. Meditation and grateful prayer are very
helpful in de-stressing you. Once you have learned, you can pray or
meditate almost anywhere and any time. Repeat a favorite word or
phrase, e.g. “I am completely safe.” “I am loved.” “I am at peace.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Read inspirational, positive
affirmations. There are books available, collections of brief stories
or single phrases. Carry around a small book to read for ten minutes
at a time, and invite your mind to re-focus on what you read.
Go for a walk. Yes, I know exercise is that grim “E-word.” But
moving your body when it has been still for a long time, relaxes all
those stiff muscles used in holding you upright against the pull of
gravity. So move around, walk, do isometrics or take ten minutes to
jog in place. You will find such activity very relaxing.
Drink a glass of water or juice. Eat a healthy snack. Eat it
alone, in a quiet place. Keep the sips of water in your mouth for
full minute before swallowing. Chew your mouthful at least 150 times
before swallowing. Pay attention to how it smells, tastes and feels.
Imagine it as restoring you with vitamins, minerals, and energy lost
to the stress you’ve been experiencing. Become totally absorbed in
the process of chewing and swallowing…and do it very slowly.
None of the above activities require more than ten minutes. Why not
incorporate each of them into your daily life? When they become
habits, you will begin to balance the stress-response with the
relaxation-response. It may just resolve 85 percent of the problems
you have now. A balanced life is a healthy one. Enjoy!
Dr. Thomas is a licensed psychologist, author, speaker, and life
coach. He serves on the faculty of the International University of
Professional Studies. He recently co-authored (with Patrick Williams)
the book: “Total Life Coaching: 50+ Life Lessons, Skills and
Techniques for Enhancing Your Practice…and Your Life!” (W.W. Norton
2005) It is available at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com.