By Steve Beseke, Doctor of Life Resiliency, Lennick Aberman Group (Please see my newest resiliency e-books at www.resiliencyfirst.com)
Finding a way to stay relaxed in life and at work is one of the most underrated keys to continue being consistently resilient. Even when days don’t go quite as well, your confidence takes a hit because of factors out of your ultimate control, or you get unnecessarily nervous even when things are going great, finding techniques to stay relaxed is an extremely important antidote to managing your health, stress and anxiety levels.
I’ve learned this, especially over the last couple years, from a terrific friend and one of the best relaxation/life coaches around – Beth Freschi. For me, staying confident and patient with myself are the most challenging parts of maintaining my every day resilience at work or at play. The techniques she teaches thousands of individuals worldwide have been a game-changer for me – and I hope moving forward for you…
I asked her recently to write an article on how being relaxed is such a natural partner with our resilience. Her piece is below.
By Beth Freschi, M.A., Life Coach
From the time I began my psychology studies over 20 years ago to my current work as a life coach, I have been fascinated by the topic of resiliency—how some people can remain calm in the face of stressful situations, while others crumble under pressure.
When I first met Steve Beseke, Doctor of Life Resiliency, I asked him about the difference between resilient people and those who become overwhelmed by stress. He thought for a moment, and then replied “I’ve found that resilient people have the ability to see options, and this helps them develop strategies to handle life’s challenges.”
His answer rang true to me as I thought about the people I’ve known personally and professionally who have managed to stay resilient under stress. They seem to be able to keep their minds open to possibilities and think creatively as they figure out what to do in difficult situations.
Steve went on to tell me some good news about resiliency—that we can learn how to be more resilient! Although there are those lucky people who naturally have personality traits that help them stay calm under stress, almost anyone is capable of learning skills to become more resilient in life.
So if resilient people have the ability to see options, and this helps to overcome challenges, how can we learn to see options more clearly when we are under stress? In my life coaching and relaxation training practice, I have found that relaxation techniques are very helpful in opening our eyes to possibilities and enhancing our resilience.
Through my years of guiding people (and myself) through relaxation techniques, I’ve noticed that when we release the tension in our bodies and calm our minds then creativity can flourish. So instead of becoming overwhelmed by stress and shutting down, in a relaxed state we can take a step back and allow our creativity to help us consider possibilities that will help us solve problems and cope with pressure.
I would like to take you through a mini relaxation training session to show you some techniques that can calm your mind and body and enhance your resilience.
Relaxation training involves practicing relaxation techniques, and I usually combine these four techniques together in a session to show people how to relax their minds and bodies: deep breathing, muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and meditation.
Here are some brief versions of the techniques I use in my sessions. If you like, you can ask someone to read the following four techniques to you as you close your eyes and follow the guidance. If no one is available to read them, you can read over the description of the first technique, then close your eyes and practice the technique (peeking at the description if necessary), and continue with the other techniques in the same way.
To begin our mini relaxation training session, let’s try a few cleansing breaths. Breathe in deeply through your nose and imagine clean, fresh air filling your body, rejuvenating you from head to toe. Now open your mouth and exhale completely, imagining all of your worries, concerns and stress exiting from your body.
Your breath can cleanse and refresh you whenever you are in need of physical or mental renewal. Again, inhale deeply through your nose—notice that you are already feeling more relaxed and refreshed, and exhale through your mouth like a sigh of relief, allowing unwanted thoughts and tension to leave your body and mind. Once more, inhale fully, and feel the oxygen renewing, cleansing, and refreshing you. Exhale completely, freeing yourself of tension and stress.
To continue the relaxation process, I invite you to try a quick version of progressive muscle relaxation. Tense all of the muscles of your body: gently curl your toes, tighten your calves and thighs, squeeze your hips and glutes, make two fists to create tension in your arms, shrug your shoulders, hold your breath while tightening your abdominal muscles, and scrunch your facial muscles tightly together.
Experience tension all over your body for a count of 1…2…3…4…and then exhale and release your muscles all at once. Just let go and unwind as you allow tension to release from your body…feeling warm waves of relaxation flow through your muscles…
The next part of our mini training session is guided imagery, which is like a focused daydream. I will be your guide as you allow your imagination to create positive, pleasant scenes and sensations.
If you do not see a visual image of what I describe, there is no need to worry—some people are visually oriented while others are more auditory or feelings oriented. Some people might just get a sense of what I am describing, and if so, that is perfectly fine. So do whatever comes naturally or easily for you, and enjoy the experience!
Choose one of your favorite places: it could be a park, a beach, or a beautiful, cozy room, or any other place where you feel relaxed, happy, and safe. Now, in your mind, go to that favorite place. Walk around slowly and notice the colors and textures around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel?
Take your time as you become familiar and comfortable with your surroundings. Spend some time exploring this place using all of your senses. And notice how good you feel just being in your special place. This is a place where only peace and positivity exists, a place where you can let go of any worries or preoccupations so you can dream of possibilities. Allow yourself a few moments to relish this time for yourself—to relax and daydream…[Pause for a few moments]
Remember these calm, pleasant sensations—they are a part of your very special place. A place where you can relax, refresh, and renew. Enjoy this feeling—you can return here any time you wish.
We will end this session with a few excerpts from a loving kindness meditation written by Jack Kornfield:
“This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a loving kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. With each recitation of the phrases, we are expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes over and over in our heart.”
With a loving heart as the background, all that we attempt, all that we encounter will open and flow more easily. Sit in a comfortable fashion. Let your body rest and be relaxed. Let your heart be soft, letting go of any plans or preoccupations.
Begin with yourself. Breathe gently, and recite inwardly the following phrases directed toward your own well-being. You being with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible to love others:
May I be filled with loving kindness…
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May I be well in body and mind…
May I be at ease and happy…
As you repeat these phrases, picture yourself as you are now, and hold that image in a heart of loving kindness. Or perhaps you will find it easier to picture yourself as a young and beloved child.
Adjust the words and images in any way you wish. Create the exact phrases that best open your heart of kindness. Repeat these phrases over and over again, letting the feelings permeate your body and mind.
When you feel you have established some stronger sense of loving kindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others. After focusing on yourself, choose someone in your life who has loved and truly cared for you. Picture this person and carefully recite the same phrases:
May you be filled with loving kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in body and mind…
May you be at ease and happy…
You can gradually extend your meditation to include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings, the whole earth:
May we all be filled with loving kindness…
May we be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May we be well in body and mind…
May we all be at ease and happy…
You can even include difficult people in your life, wishing that they too may be filled with loving kindness and peace. Loving kindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in buses, airports, grocery lines and while walking. As you silently practice this meditation among people, you will come to feel a wonderful connection with them—the power of loving kindness. It will calm your mind and keep you connected to your heart.”
As our relaxation training session closes, spend a few more moments relaxing, enjoying this feeling of calm relaxation. When you are ready, open your eyes, breathe deeply, stretch, and proceed with your day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Now that you have gone through these relaxation techniques, how do you feel? Does your body feel more relaxed…is your mind more open and clear? Can you see how regular practice of relaxation training would help you feel better able to handle life’s challenges as they come? I hope you enjoyed this session, and take time each day to relax and refresh yourself. May relaxation training help open your mind to possibilities and strengthen your resilience as you go through life.
Wow, Beth, I am going to be practicing this session right now. And, I hope all of you do the same. If I, or we, do this on a consistent basis, we will be able to handle our unique challenging moments – and good ones – as we successfully move on in our lives and careers. S, take a deep breath and relax…your health and stress levels will feel a lot mare resiliently manageable.
Thanks for the your inspiring comments I have received about my resilient articles, videos and e-books. Please visit my web site – www.resiliencyfirst.com – to see my newest work/life resiliency e-books.
I hope you are having a resilient day!
Photo By: twicepix