6 Ways to Relieve Stress

Stressed to the Point of Implosion

Does hair-pulling, shoulder-tensing stress have you wadded into a ticking time bomb? Diffuse that stress with these 6 easy tactics to relieve stress.Does hair-pulling, shoulder-tensing stress have you wadded into a ticking time bomb? Diffuse that stress with these 6 easy tactics to relieve stress.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that money issues often stress me out. Two-thousand-fourteen had a whopper of those. I closed a retail business at the end of 2013 to start my coaching practice. I had enough in savings to get me through the year while the new business got started. Unfortunately two roofing issues and some major house construction (a result of the roofing issues), ate into that savings quite a bit. To further add to the mix, my husband’s job was no longer as secure as it was six months ago.

6 Techniques to Relieve Stress

Without the techniques that I’m going to share with you, I would be a nervous, tense, sleep-deprived wreck at this point. Such a state would certainly hinder any momentum to move forward, both personally and with the coaching practice. Thankfully I began implementing several of these techniques even before the stress factors kicked in full force.

  1. Breathe. Slow, deep breaths. If you are a regular reader, you know that I preach breathing. I am aware of when a situation is causing my blood pressure to rise or my muscles to tense, and before I react in any way, I breathe. Three slow, deep breaths. Try it right now. It’s very calming.
  2. Drink water. If you’re dehydrated your level of the stress hormone cortisol increases. Aim to keep your base stress level as low as possible, and water will aid you doing that.
  3. Meditate. If you don’t have a regular meditation practice, start out easy: five minutes of quiet deep breathing. Alternatively you can listen to soothing music, practice yoga, or participate in a relaxing aspect of a hobby or sport (gardening, knitting, singing, cooking, drawing, dancing, running, kayaking, swimming, etc.).
  4. Be aware of what you can control and what you can’t. Staying up all night worrying about things I can’t control isn’t going to solve any problems. Believing that I will find a solution to any problems that arise, and getting a good night’s sleep so that I can be clear-headed in the morning is much more beneficial. Not always easy, but certainly a  calm and rested mind can make better decisions than one that is fraught with worry.
  5. Say positive affirmations every day.  This has helped me so much that I wrote a book on the power of positive affirmations and how to use them. Here are a few to help you if you are feeling stressed:
      • I am responsible for the success I achieve.
      • I am confident, competent, and calm.
      • I am capable of any task given to me.
      • I deal with problems immediately.
      • I live in an abundant universe.
      • I invite and allow money in my life.
      • My days are rich with opportunities.
  6. Express gratitude. I wake up and think about three people for whom I am grateful. Before bed I think about three things for which I am grateful. The day before Thanksgiving 2013, I stood in my basement surrounded by 12 large plastic tubs that were gathering the gallons of water pouring in from our roof issue. I stood and cried, not because of the water coming into my house, but because I was still going to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my husband and children. A pastor’s family in our community was not. That same day a man set himself on fire and ran into a local church, setting the church offices on fire. The pastor didn’t make it out of the building in time. So be thankful for what you do have, and make a conscious effort to think about people you are grateful for every day. Go beyond just thinking about the people, actually express the gratitude: write a letter or a short note, give the person a call, or if they’re no longer living, write about them in your journal.

Practicing these techniques has given me a safe and calm anchor point. I can find that anchor at any given moment which helps me keep things in perspective. I’m less likely to overreact and more likely to make rational decisions based on fact and not emotion.

Try to implement one of these techniques today (I’d start with the breathing). Continue practicing that technique daily while adding in a new technique every couple of days. Do you have any techniques you already use to help you cope with stress? Please share in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Dusting Off the Ivories


In a short amount of time – just over a week – I’ve gone from stumbling through this piece of music to being able to confidently (but not perfectly) play the first page.


I learned to play the piano as a child. My mother is a classically trained musician and music teacher, and I took lessons from her advanced students (you can’t teach your own child was her philosophy). I practiced, sometimes for hours at a time (in my mind), but usually not my lesson songs. I was drawn to show tunes and some popular music (most notably “Nadia’s Theme” also known as the theme from “Young and the Restless.” [listen here]). Sitting at the piano was a form of meditation for me; I could get lost in singing and playing and not worrying about homework or grades or what I was going to do when I grew up.

Despite all that “practicing,” I wasn’t a great pianist. Good enough to make it through a few hymns on Sunday if my mother (the church organist/pianist) was unavailable (and the substitute pianist was also unavailable). Good enough to entertain myself once in a while with a song or two. Good enough to help my children with their lessons.

Recently I started listening to Pandora Radio before bed, and I chose a channel I called “Lullabye Radio.” It has turned out to be a nice variety of contemporary lite music and classical. Often there are beautiful piano concertos, again contemporary and classical. And I started yearning to spend some time at the piano again.

So everyday, I take no more than 10 minutes to sit down and play. I started with Tchaikovsky’s Opening Theme from Piano Concerto No. 1, [YouTube video, but not of me!)] which I randomly selected from my mother’s music cabinet. After a week, I’ve gotten fairly confident about page one. Page two is decidedly harder, but I’m going to start tackling that soon. (My version is shorter than the YouTube video to which I link above).

The point of this rather long winded story is that in a short amount of time – just over a week – I’ve gone from stumbling through this piece of music to being able to confidently (but not perfectly) play the first page.  I’ve spent 5-10 minutes a day going over the same piece of music. I don’t sit down with the intention of perfection, but rather the intention of improvement. And each time I get a little better. Better than if I were to have sat for 2 hours straight and repeated the selection over and over. Each day I’m focusing on one thing for that brief amount of time – a form of meditation for me. My spirit is uplifted, I’m refocused and better able to attend to my other tasks of the day.

Do you have a meditative habit that you use to refocus? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

Meditation: When Your Mind Races Faster

When talking to people about meditation, I often hear this: "I try to meditate - clear me mind - but my mind starts racing! Meditation doesn't work for me."When talking to people about meditation, I often hear this: “I try to meditate – clear me mind – but my mind starts racing! Meditation doesn’t work for me.”

The racing mind is a common problem with those new (and maybe not so new) to meditation. Except that maybe it’s not really a problem but exactly what you’re aiming for. You just cocked your head and thought, “isn’t meditation clearing your head of thoughts?” didn’t you?! But I ask you – WHY no thoughts?

Reasons for Meditating

Go back to your original reasons for undertaking the practice of meditation. Relaxation? Because you were feeling creatively blocked? Because you couldn’t focus and weren’t finding solutions easily? Because too much “life” stuff keeps getting thrown your way and you can’t “hear yourself think”? Ultimately, aren’t you trying to relax and seek a few moments of peace and quiet to that you can then think more clearly?

Real Ideas

The next question is whether or not these racing thoughts are water cooler caliber gossip or are real ideas. And sometimes what starts out as drivel (It annoys me when Joe taps his pencil on the desk when he’s working) can lead to (and often quickly) a series of thoughts that can be quite valuable. (Maybe there should be pencils shaped like drumsticks). You just so happen to work for a pencil company. You present your idea and whammo, big bonus and a promotion. [There are pencils shaped like drumsticks on the market, check them out on Amazon.com]

The point is that the very end goal of meditation for you may not be an empty head. And while that’s not to say you shouldn’t try to clear your mind when you sit down to meditate, you shouldn’t necessarily become frustrated if thoughts start pouring into your mind. Now the focus will be on one thought at a time.

Case in Point

There was a morning when I first started meditation in which the ideas started flowing so rapidly that I had to write them down. I quickly opened my journal and took some notes. At that time I was too new to know how to wrangle the thoughts so I could further develop each one. But at least by jotting them down I had something. Later that morning I fleshed out my notes on at least a few of those ideas.  I glanced back through my journal while writing this post to find that list. I had scribbled down seven ideas. Two of those I later wrote some details about. Looking at the list now, I have no idea what three of them are about, but those remaining two ideas have sparked some new ideas. Now that I’m “better” (perhaps the term is “more focused”) when I meditate, I will be able to bring each of those ideas to mind and follow it where it goes. As it blooms in my mind I’ll grab my journal and start writing.

That’s how this blog post came to be. I began my morning meditation thinking of people I’m grateful for and my friend Susie came to mind. The string of thoughts that followed were diverse, but each thought led to another – and I followed each one until it led me to the theme of this post. Then I knew it was time to break open the journal.

As a side note, the first half of this post “wrote itself” – I just let the words form on the page as they tumbled from my head. As I came out of my relaxed meditative state, as my conscious mind started paying more attention to what was going on, I had to “think” more about what I wanted to write. Any time that became more taxing than I would have liked, I took a deep breathe or two or three and focused. The words flowed again.

3 Tips on Getting Started with Meditation

water ripplesPart of my morning routine is silence. For me, this sometimes includes praying, sometimes focusing on what I’m grateful for, and sometimes meditation. Meditation is a tricky subject for some of us: preconceived notions of what meditation is exactly often leads to either not even trying or trying and giving up.

What meditation is

According to Wikipedia, “meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefitor as an end in itself.” While there are practices where meditation involves “emptying the mind,” or more accurately, “focus the mind on a single thing,” not all meditation is that way. The important thing about meditation is finding a state of calm and mindfulness. It takes practice.

What meditation is not

It’s not hard in the same way that running is not hard. If you’re out of shape, running may not seem so easy, but if you were to run a short distance every day for a week, you’d then be able run a bit longer distance the next week and/or run a bit faster. Meditation is no different. It takes consistency and practice to become easier and more effective.

Here are 3 tips that can make your journey into meditation a little easier:

1. Find a quiet spot. And a quiet time. Early in the morning is nice, before the household erupts. You can sit, stand, or lie down. Eyes opened or closed. It may take some experimenting to find what is comfortable for you.

2. Focus on your breathing. Feel your chest expand as you breathe in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth and imagine blowing away stress and worry. You can choose to exhale through your nose if you wish – whatever is comfortable for you. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Don’t worry if you mind wanders; learning to control your mind comes a bit later. Just go back to focusing on your breathing.

3. Do this every day. The first few days may only be for a minute or so. That’s okay! Consistency and practice; every day, even if only for a minute or two. It would also be okay to try meditating more than once a day. Do try to select one particular time of day as a basis, with any additional times being a bonus.

Try this for a week and you’ll see a difference in your ability to relax and calm your mind. At that point you’ll be ready to take your meditation practice up a notch.

Learn the Power of Breathing

100% of the top 100 successful people do it. 100% of Olympic gold medalists do it. 100% of the top 100 happiest people in the world do it. They breathe. Long, slow, focused breaths. Try it (because you know you already did, but do it again). Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You don’t have to hold the breath in. Closing your eyes helps too (after you’ve finished reading this). I visualize the breath coming into my toes and filling my legs, body, arms, and the I exhale. That air leaves as quickly as it came in, taking with it my stress and worries. Sometimes I can feel chunks of stress fall off my shoulders.

In May I was in Indianapolis on business with some friends of mine. I spent much of the weekend being referee to some verbal arguments as well as just witnessing some downright ugly behavior. I didn’t realize how much stress I’d accumulated (indirect stress, as I wasn’t directly involved in the arguments), until I sat grabbing a bite to eat with another friend at the airport. As I sat, for the first time in four days, in a peaceful setting and took a few deep breaths, I could feel big, dry, caked-together chunks of stress fall off. My friend looked at me from across the table and remarked she could see the stress “falling away” as I took each deep breath.

Many of us don’t breathe properly. Our breaths are shallow and only use a portion of lung space. Deep breaths come from the diaphragm, the muscle below your lungs, and your stomach area should move in and out as you breath as opposed to your upper chest moving. Different breathing patterns can help you to relax, fall asleep, or even become more energized. So I put together a few videos on some breathing techniques that will find useful:

So today I charge you with the task of taking the time to breathe. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning – at least three slow, deep breaths. I repeat as needed throughout the day to combat stress, anxiety, or the daily craziness that comes from being the mother of two tweens.