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I got this is one of my email newsletters and thought I would pass it on…

-Paul

Sometimes you need to get away, but you don’t have the time or money. Don’t despair: A mental vacation can help reduce your stress.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

take a mental vacation

Small stressors can quickly add up to major stress and one big stressful event can send you reeling, with no idea of how to start addressing it. If you could just get away for a little stress relief, you know you would be okay. But too few of us have the time — or the money — to run off on an impromptu vacation.

Well, you don’t have to spend a dime or go anywhere other than a quiet spot nearby to take a mental vacation.

Stress Relief: Take Off on a Mental Vacation

If you don’t find a way to reduce stress, your health will pay the price, both mentally and physically. It’s not necessary to get a lengthy massage or head to a beach to relax — you can unwind every day in simple ways and still get a major benefit.

"People who are under a lot of stress have physical problems related to constantly being under stress," says Sally R. Connolly, a social worker and therapist at the Couples Clinic of Louisville in Louisville, Ky. "And if you don’t find ways [to relieve it], even in small periods of time, you can have long-term consequences." It’s crucial to add stress relief to your everyday routine, she says.

Connolly suggests learning techniques to reduce stress and trying to sneak in one or two each day. "Even if it’s five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night, just find time to do that," she says.

Stress Relief: Six Quick Mental Trips

Visualizing a stress-free place and other relaxation techniques are quick and easy ways to help your whole body calm down and give you just the boost you need to get on with your day. Connolly suggests these six ways for you to slip away on a mental vacation to reduce stress:

  1. Read a book in bed. Connolly says this is a great escape and can leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready to face whatever is outside your bedroom door. Your bed is warm, cozy, comfortable, and a peaceful place for you. It feels luxurious, and getting lost in a good book is a perfect way to forget, then refocus, your own thoughts.
  2. Visualize relaxation. Steal a few quiet moments to close your eyes and think of an image that relaxes you — such as the warm sun on your skin and the sound of the ocean, a big country field sprinkled with flowers, or a trickling stream. Connolly suggests thinking back to a time when you felt peaceful and relaxed, and focus on releasing the tension from your toes to your head.
  3. Look at pictures from a happy time. Connolly recommends pulling out snapshots from a photo album of a family vacation or a fun dinner with friends. Reflect on your memories of that occasion, and what made it so enjoyable. Spend a few quiet moments reminiscing, and you’ll find yourself more relaxed.
  4. Look out a window. Distract yourself by focusing on something other than what’s stressing you. Grab a steaming cup of coffee or tea, close the door, and take a mental break. Do a little people watching, appreciate any birds within view, or enjoy some fluffy clouds rolling by. Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes.
  5. Listen to a relaxation CD. Invest in a couple of these CDs for a short daily escape, says Connolly. You may like to hear chirping birds, rolling waves, or gentle rain — whatever your choice, closing your eyes and listening to these soothing sounds while doing some deep breathing can help you relax and de-stress.
  6. Take a walk. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress because it’s a great escape for your mind. Head out for a quiet early morning walk or lace up your sneakers on your lunch break. Walking along a trail, waterfront, or other peaceful place when possible may offer even more relaxation.

Treat yourself to a 5-, 10-, or 20-minute mental vacation each day and train your body to relax and reduce stress — you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after taking just a few luxurious moments all to yourself.

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Below is an article I read and I thought it would be very helpful to others, enjoy…

Paul

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7 Ways To Keep Going

By Therese J. Borchard
April 7, 2009

A woman who lives with chronic pain said to my mom the other day, “You can’t sit around and wait for the storm to be over. You’ve got to learn how to dance in the rain.”

That’s a perfect description of living with depression, or any chronic illness. But what do you do on the days you don’t think you can take the pain anymore? When you want so badly to be done with your life … or at least be done with the suffering? What do you do when anxiety and depression have spun a web around you so thick that you’re convinced you’ll be trapped forever in those feelings?

I’ve compiled a few tools for moving past that harrowing darkness, suggestions on how to emerge from a place of panic, and techniques on how to dance in the rain.

1. Escape from the pain.

Lately, when my thoughts turn dark, I’ve been telling myself that I don’t want another life … I want a reprieve from the pain. I’m usually at a loss on how to get there. I’m tired, frustrated, desperate, so my thoughts follow the path that has already been blazed throughout the years … and I fantasize about intoxication or some other destructive behavior that doesn’t require a lot of imagination.

How else can I escape … in a positive way? Instead of romanticizing about death or inebriation from booze, I can research new kayaking routes, bike paths, hiking trails, and camping sites. I can invest the time I lose in unproductive and dangerous thoughts into planning creative outings for myself and for the family that will give me/us the reprieve that I’m craving. I can be proactive about finding sitters for the kids so that my thoughts won’t revert back to “stinking thinking.”

2. Track your mood.

An essential piece of my recovery is keeping a mood journal. This helps me to identify certain patterns that emerge. As I said in my “Me on the Bad Days” post, depression can flare up seemingly out of the blue, like a thunderstorm. But often there are telltale signs that can clue me in as to why I’m feeling so fragile. You can catch these if you’ve been recording your mood over time.

3. Talk about it.

I can’t get a therapy appointment round the clock, so I had better invest in some friends that won’t tire of me telling them that my thoughts are turning to mush again.

Over the weekend I called two friends and my mom. “I’m going there again,” I explained. They know what THERE means … without my having to explain or justify. I don’t fully understand how gabbing heals, the scientific explanation of why venting does so much good, but I can surely attest to it, and confirm the connection between talking about something and feeling better. It’s like you’re a scared little kid in a lightning storm, and a neighbor, seeing that you’re locked out of your house, invites you inside and makes a cup of hot chocolate for you. Well, maybe it’s not that good, but it’s close, which is why our phone bill is way up this month.

4. Repeat: “I WILL Get Better”!

As I said in my video, “I WILL Get Better,” I think about my Aunt Gigi every time I wind up in the depression tunnel, and remember her repeating to me over the phone a few years back: “You will get better. Repeat that. You WILL get better.” Peter J. Steincrohn, M.D., author of “How to Stop Killing Yourself” wrote: “Faith is a powerful antidote against illness. Keep repeating – and believing: I WILL get well. If you believe, you help your doctor and yourself.” And this paragraph from William Styron’s “Darkness Visible” always reassures me:

If depression had no termination, then suicide would, indeed, be the only remedy. But one need not sound the false or inspirational note to stress the truth that depression is not the soul’s annihilation; men and women who have recovered from the disease–and they are countless–bear witness to what is probably its only saving grace: it is conquerable.

5. Take baby steps … a day at a time.

On mornings that I wake up with that nauseating knot of anxiety in my stomach, everything seems overwhelming. Getting myself to the bathroom so that I can brush my teeth feels seems like a triathlon in August. So I don’t attempt the triathlon. I only have to worry about getting my left foot down on the ground. And then my right one. And then I have to stand.

I’ll look at my to-do list and cross off two-thirds of it. “What on this list do I absolutely HAVE to do?” I say so myself. Everything else can wait. And then I start with the first thing, and do the first mini-movement that I need to do in order to accomplish that. If it’s getting Katherine dressed, that means 1. Finding Katherine. (That’s harder than it sounds.) 2. Picking out an outfit. (Ditto.) 3. Helping her out of her nightgown and into her clothes. (That’s where my nervous system almost shuts down.) And so on. Each item on the list can be broken down into a dozen mini-steps.

6. Distract yourself.

Some days I’m just not worth much. All I can do is distract myself … to keep myself from thinking about how awful I feel. Just like Fr. Joe carved figurines out of soap when he was depressed, and Priscilla made jewelry to keep her mind off of her anxiety, I will try to do anything to keep my brain occupied and away from my hurt, sort of like I did when I was in labor: baking chocolate-chip cookies, looking through old pictures, listening to Beethoven and Mozart, watching a comedy, swimming, running, biking, or hiking through the woods. (I didn’t do all of that in labor, though.)

7. Get out your self-esteem file.

For the past few days I’ve been carrying around letters from my self-esteem file in my pocket like a baby blanket. Some people have told me that my self-esteem must be shallow if I have to rely on praise from other people. Maybe it is. But I have to start somewhere, and anyone who has sat in that panic place where you want to end it all, knows that it’s virtually impossible at that time to come up with a list of your own strengths. So you have to believe what other people say.

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Therese J. Borchard writes the daily Beliefnet.com blog Beyond Blue (voted by Psych Central as one of the Top 10 Depression Blogs) and moderates Group Beyond Blue, the Beliefnet Community online support group for depression. Her memoir “Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” will be released in January of 2010. Subscribe to Beyond Blue here or visit her at www.ThereseBorchard.com.

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