Another way to improve your intellectual well-being is to reduce stress. What is the best kind of stress relief for you? You may already know that your favorite sport or getting away to your favorite beach does wonders for you. Maybe a combination of intentional stress-relieving activities does the trick. Two important ways to relieve stress are using progressive muscle relaxation and visual imagery. Both methods require you to find a quiet place where you can get out of the way of any immediate stressors. Give yourself some "me" time to try these:
Progressive muscle relaxation: Find a place to sit or lie down comfortably. If you lie down, put a pillow under your head and one beneath you to support your lower back. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Beginning with the feet and ankles, tense up those muscle groups. Hold the tension for seven to ten seconds, then release, allowing the feet and ankles to go completely limp. Move up the body from there to the calves, thighs, trunk, chest, and arms, all the way to the forehead and scalp. Tense and release each area's muscle groups as you go. Complete the cycle over the course of five to 10 minutes, and you should feel a discernible difference in your level of stress.
Visual imagery: This is similar to progressive muscle relaxation. Instead of focusing on muscles, this time focus on a pleasant thought while taking deep, controlled breaths. For those five to ten minutes, notice every sensation related to this pleasant thought. If you imagine yourself on the beach or in a peaceful forest, feel the warmth on your skin, notice what the air smells like, hear the birds nearby, and see the waves or the rustling leaves. Allow yourself to bring every sense into the experience for the best positive effect.
Most people experience times when they feel overwhelmed by stress. At such times, it may help to look toward people who clearly have mastered effective ways to deal with stress. Surgeons and airline pilots must know a thing or two about it -- in both professions, panic is not an option.
How do we get to that place? First expect the unexpected. Surgeons know one operation is never exactly the same as another, and neither are everyday life situations. Prepare your mind to deal with many different scenarios, and you will find a way to be comfortable anywhere.
Next, learn to look at your personal stressors as challenges rather than problems. That way you will be energized to make changes that will enhance your mental wellness.
Finally, be willing to learn from your mistakes. A pilot undergoes many hours of training and getting things wrong so that eventually a sense of confidence and a cool hand will prevail. Do the same with your life. A sure way to anxiety is to continue heading down the roads that led you there in the first place. Make changes, use the relaxation tools that work for you, and you will feel more stress-free and happy.
Sanjay Jain is a US-trained Board Certified physician, with over 15 years of clinical experience. He is the author of the new book, OPTIMAL LIVING 360: Smart Decision Making for a Balanced Life (Greenleaf, February 2014). Sanjay represents a new wave of thought leadership and expertise developed not only from his medical and financial education, but also his life experiences. Follow Sanjay on Twitter at @sanjayjainmd and visit his website at SanjayJainMD.com.