I call them the flying monkeys. They appear occasionally in my office, my car, my kitchen and anywhere else I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Maybe you see them too. Like when the internet’s out. The dentist gives you the happy news you need three fillings replaced. Or you’re sitting in traffic and “check engine” lights up the dashboard. And you’re worried about what’s going on with your friend/spouse/children/grandchildren/dog/cat/bunny/big toe.

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So how do you get back to your center, take a breath, and empty out some of this stress? (And send the flying monkeys packing?)

For me, sometimes the hardest thing is realizing just how tight I am. It’s easy to get rigid when I sit at a computer. I don’t even realize how my breathing is becoming shallow (like a prairie dog hoping the coyote will pass by) or my spine sags into a terrible posture. But I do know if don’t do something to change it, I’ll pay the price. And possibly so will those around me.

I don’t know if it’s true, but it feels like now that I’m well over 50, it’s even more vital I learn to truly relax. For one thing I want to live as long as I can and be healthy, and I know that when my blood vessels contract, that’s not exactly helping. For another my joints and bones can be quite content to get stiff and immobile if I let them.

Plus, I just don’t like it when I allow something or someone to have this effect on me.

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So here’s a few relaxation methods I’ve found to be helpful in my 50+ years:

Meditation.   I’m not always good at this, and sometimes I go for weeks and completely forget to do it. But when I decide to be still, to just let my thoughts pass by without jumping into each one, it really does make a difference. I concentrate on my breathing. I sometimes just sit and listen to the silence. Or I choose music like that of sacred musician Ana Hernandez.

Some people meditate for long periods of time. I think that’s great, but I also think just a few minutes can do wonders. First thing is a great time, but even better can be right after a stressful phone call, or when I’m in the car and nothing is moving. I can almost hear my coronary system thanking me.

Tai chi. I LOVE Tai chi. I discovered it a few years ago and began going to classes once a week, and I try to practice it every day. There are several different forms to choose from…I’m a big fan of Yang Style. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s okay. What’s important is how Tai chi can help you relax and unwind, yet strengthens you and improves your bones all at the same time. It’s graceful. It’s empowering. It works both your muscles and your mind.

Even if you just learn a few simple Tai chi moves, you can do these during the day or in the evening and feel how it takes you to a more peaceful state. Classes are usually available at recreation centers, Tai Chi centers, or you can peruse YouTube videos or order DVDs.

Go Outdoors. I know the weather can be bad. You might be in a high-rise and can’t just pop outside when you feel like it. But if you can, I strongly recommend breathing some fresh air a few times a day if possible. Studies are proving that we’re more creative and better at problem solving after a walk outside.

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For me, sometimes just stepping outside and feeling the breeze or the sun on my face helps me change my breathing and how I feel. If nothing else, it reminds me there’s a much bigger universe out there than what’s causing me anxiety, and much more powerful forces at work. I like that.

There are lots more ways to relax of course….pet your pet, yoga, floating on water, reading a wonderful book, spending time with friends…if you’ve found something that really brings you peace, please share. We all need it! I think as boomers, we realize more than ever that peace is not only something we’ve worked hard to achieve, it’s what all the struggles have been about.

 

 

“Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?”

                                   Paul Simon

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