Photo by sealion of SacramentoYou probably have a routine for when you get home from work. You might go through your mail, change out of your work clothes, spend a few minutes checking in with your spouse or maybe grab something to drink. You get the idea.

You basically have a handful of automatic responses designed to help you physically and emotionally recover from your day. And it requires no thinking on your part. Unfortunately, because of the increasingly complex and demanding lives most of us are choosing to live, these automatic responses are not enough.

They should be. They could be. But to keep living life in the fast lane, they’re not.

So what can you do about it?

For starters, recognize that your body needs to learn how to achieve a state of relaxation in order to function properly. The quickest, easiest technique is proper breathing.

Here’s one version:  
• Direct your attention to your breathing.
• Slowly inhale through your nose.  
• Hold this breath.
• Then slowly exhale through your mouth.
• And hold.
• Repeat the entire breathing cycle at your own pace.

Taking no more than a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing can significantly reduce stress. And when combined with proper nutrition and physical exercise, this simple shift is sure to have a noticeable positive impact to your well being.

Need more of a challenge? Practice tension reduction exercises before getting out of bed in the morning and before going to sleep at night. While in a reclining position, tense your right foot for 3-5 seconds and then release. Repeat with your left foot. Moving slowly up the body, make sure to target your calves, thighs, buttocks, stomach, chest, arms, hands, neck and head areas.

Five to ten minutes of alternating between tensing and relaxing leaves your body, when done properly, feeling like Jell-O.

Going Deeper

Maybe you are looking for a lifestyle change and want more than just stress reduction techniques.

You can start by objectively looking at where you have been and where you are going. Carve out enough time in the next week to spend some alone time reflecting on your life choices and honestly ask, is this what I want? Maybe it is but maybe it isn’t. And how will you ever know until you slow down enough to ask?

The vast majority of the world, by not taking the time to self reflect, basically says, “go ahead and give me the autopilot option.”  Sometimes the autopilot option turns out just fine but a lot of times you get to a place where you wish life would have turned out differently.

And that’s okay because it is these moments when we pause, that new ideas are likely to surface.

Regardless of whether you like your current life and just want to be healthier or you find yourself at a place where you want to make some changes, relax and just do it!   

Michelle Ellwanger is a licensed professional counselor trained in meditation.  She owns and operates a private practice on 25 acres “off the beaten path”. For more information, go to:


Leave a Reply