Have you recently felt overwhelmed or stressed? Does it seem like we are living in tough times? If you answered “Yes” to either or both, you are not alone. According to a new survey released by the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults have experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and almost half reported increased stress over the past year.

Often when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we are feeling out of control. Usually this is because we believe something or someone outside of us is in control or making us feel this way. In believing this we give away our personal power. Every time we say things like “I can’t ______ because of ______” or “It’s not fair.” “Or why is this happening to me? or Why is he/she doing this to me?” We are giving away our power and creating our own ‘tough times’.

This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes: “It is not things themselves that trouble us, but our thoughts about those things” by an 1st century Greek philosopher (Epictetus).  It is really our thoughts about things, people, situations outside of us such as “I can’t believe he’s acting this way”, or ”I can’t believe this is happening to me” that are troubling us. It is our thoughts that are creating the feeling of stress and overwhelm.

The good news is … we can chose differently! We each are capable of changing how we react to someone or something outside of us. Our personal power lies in our ability to choose our thoughts and our reactions. We expand our awareness of ourselves. When we become aware of our thoughtsStanding in Your Power and reactions, we take back our power and no longer feel out of control.

The key is to create a new way of handling stress. That is how life can be calm in tough times … with a new way of behaving and thinking when you are under stress. This can take time, practice and a support system. Often the support of a personal life coach is needed.

These 3 steps will support you to stand in your power. The more you practice these techniques on a regular basis the easier it will be to access them when you are stressed.

  1. Breathe – Your breath is the best tool to help you relax. Count each inhale and exhale for up to a count of 10. Simply placing your awareness on your breath will slow you down, relax the central nervous system and slow down your thoughts. This is the 1st step to choosing to think and react differently to stressful situations. Use your breath as a tool of support.
  2. Slow down and check-in – Take a time out from being so busy and rushing around. Take a two-five minutes to slow down and check-in with yourself. Stop what you are doing. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” “What might I do to feel more calm?” Be honest with yourself. Practice taking a few minutes each day to purposely slow down and check in with yourself.
  3. Choose calming thoughts – When times seem tough and we feel overwhelmed, we are focusing on what we don’t like. It is our thoughts that cause us to feel stressed. For example, even if our boss, child or spouse says or does something we don’t like, we can choose not to react. Then, we can empower ourselves by asking “Okay, what do I have control over in this moment?” Often the answer might be: “My feelings, my thoughts, my reaction, my body, etc.” Then, choose a calming thought. It could be something like “It is all okay’” Or “I have everything I need within myself” “I am capable”. “Everything is unfolding as it is meant to.” “I chose to act from love” “There is sunshine after the storm.” Choose a thought that works for you. Practice!

By using the above steps you will be on your way to calm even in tough, challenging times. You will be choosing to think and react differently than before. And in doing so you will be learning about yourself and taking your power back. As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, “How you react to people and situations, especially when challenges arise, is the best indictor of how deeply you know yourself.”

Please share your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Rena Hatch, MS, RYT, is the life coach to busy, self-aware women seeking balance and relaxation. She is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach.

To learn more, get 2 extra tips plus hear a guided relaxation, get your complimentary copy of Rena’s audio program “How to Stay Calm in Stressful Times”. Just click here => FREE Audio Recording (no purchase necessary, must use coupon code = NovArticle)
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I’ve been very busy and have been in need of some relaxation. Yesterday, as I was practicing some useful relaxation tools, I figured some of you might like to know about them or be reminded of some easy ways to truly unwind.  So I wanted to share …
Here are my top 5 easy relaxation tips that can be done anywhere (almost):
  1. Take conscious, slow, deep breaths. Stop and take a few minutes to just breathe. Feel the air enter your lungs.Expand your low belly with your inhale. Empty the abdomen with your exhale. Perhaps even image the breath going to any area of the body where you feel tension.
  2. Close your eyes. Wherever you are … (unless you are driving!) … take minute to just close your eyes. We are taking in so much visual stimulus everyday every moment. Simply closing your eyes and taking a deep breath can be a welcome relief!
  3. Use the power of your imagination. Image your favorite relaxing location (maybe it’s a beach, a mountain stream, your own bed, etc.) and image yourself there. Allow yourself to really daydream for a few minutes. Take it all in. Your body actually responds to whatever your mind is thinking, even if it is just an imaged experience!
  4. Stretch! Many of us hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders. Sit tall. Feel your ears over your shoulders. Gently lift your heart as you pull your shoulders away from your ears. Exhale. Bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. Hold for 3-9 breaths. Inhale to center and repeat on the left side.
  5. Harness the power of your thoughts. Notice what thoughts you are thinking when you are stressed, anxious. Usually we are thinking things like “I don’t have enough time.” “This is so annoying.” “I don’t want to be doing this.” “This is impossible.” These thoughts certainly don’t support us in feeling good or relaxed! Write down a more supportive thought. Perhaps something like, “I have (or can find) everything I need.” “Everything and everyone is supporting me and my growth (or learning, etc).” “As I relax, time expands.” Or something even better for you.
Well, these are just a few of my relaxation tools. I hope you find some helpful ideas or inspiration within them.
And … if you want to learn even more ways to relax consider attending the Ocean Retreat for women  http://www.lunagaia.com/oceanretreat.html
This popular, luxurious retreat has very limited space … and they’re going fast!
More details and info on the retreat at http://www.lunagaia.com/oceanretreat.html

You can survive without food for weeks, without water for days but without oxygen for only minutes! But most of us spend very little time thinking about our breath. As the Oxford University Press reminds us, “In earlier years breathing was synonymous with life itself, for with the ‘last breath’ its absence signified death and departure of the soul.” Similarly, in yoga, the Sanskrit word for breath is prana, which also means life force energy.

When we bring our consciousness to our breath, we slow down and we begin to realize the deeper layers of ourselves, our thoughts and feelings. Did you know that when we are under stress some of us actually hold our breath? Other times, we just breath very shallow. We are unconsciously stopping our life force and causing even more stress in our body. If you start practicing conscious breathing (purposefully focusing on and noticing your breath) your body will relax and the mind will become more focused.

The breath can be more than a bodily function, it can be a powerful stress reduction tool and a trusted friend. It is always there for you. When you give your attention to it, it brings you inward, away from all the external, busy-ness and into the present moment. Throughout the book, Practicing The Power of NOW, Eckhart Tolle suggests using the breath as a tool for coming into the NOW.

Focus on the breath and the mind naturally slows down while the body relaxes. The “monkey mind” becomes less jumpy. Most meditation practice includes some form of breath awareness, since it relaxes the body and focus the mind. Try out the following stress reduction strategies.

Useful tips:

1.Next time you are feeling tense or confused, shift your focus to your breath. Notice how your breath is moving in your body (or not moving, if your holding your breath). Then count each inhale and exhale, silently, “One” on the inhale, “Two” on the exhale, etc.

2. For even deeper relaxation, try counting only the exhales.

3. For more concentration, focus on the space between the breath. The space where the exhale becomes the inhale and the inhale becomes the exhale, etc.

Practicing breath awareness regularly brings an inner peacefulness and deep relaxation. As thoughts slow down, and the mind becomes clear, you may become aware of limiting thoughts to release, you may make space for new thought patterns and you may connect with insight and deep wisdom. “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is only one you know you have for sure” ~ Oprah Winfrey.