Stress. We can’t see it, hear it, taste it, or reach out and touch it. Consequently, we downplay its ability to do us harm. But we shouldn’t.
The effects of unresolved stress are cumulative. Stress depletes the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands. It compromises the immune system and lowers your resistance to illness. It has now been directly linked to cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Simply put, stress can destroy your health.
But the last thing you want to do is to let this seemingly dire news about stress stress you out even more. That’s because practically any method you use to reduce stress will ultimately benefit your immune system. While I could probably write several volumes on various techniques for stress management, here I outline five simple steps that you should go through every night before you go to sleep to help you come to grips with the unresolved stress and conflicts that have surfaced during the day. Committing yourself daily to such a stress-reducing regime will result in less illness as well as give you inner strength—and it may even save your life.
Step 1: Relive Your Day
As you lie in bed, quickly relive the events of the day. If there were instances where you expressed any anger, bitterness, ill will, hatred, or other negative feelings (either verbally or even if you just had these types of thoughts) you need to visualize the situation in your mind, and picture yourself handling it in a positive manner. After doing this for several weeks, you will gradually begin to automatically handle real-life situations in a positive manner. Mentally “transforming” the negative attitudes and feelings will also allow only positive and constructive thoughts to flourish in your subconscious mind.
Step 2: Forgive Yourself and Others
As you begin to re-examine and understand how you react to others, you’ll most likely need to work on forgiveness for both yourself and others. Regardless of how guilty you might feel for past actions, you must come to grips with those actions and forgive yourself. Move on knowing that you are making changes and will become more positive as a result of those past experiences.
Forgiving others begins with truth. You can’t keep the fact that someone hurt you a secret. Openly recognize that you’ve been hurt, experience the sadness, and above all relate this (honestly, but without bitterness) to the person who hurt you. Being totally honest is the only way to allow for forgiveness and start the healing process.
Step 3: Give Thanks
Next, it is time to give thanks for all of the wonderful things in your life. If you can’t find anything to be thankful for, it’s only because it’s easier to feel sorry for yourself than it is to look for the “silver linings” in your life. If nothing else, you should feel extremely positive and thankful that you’re going through this process to make things better from this moment forward.
Step 4: Relax
After a few minutes of working through the above suggestions, it’s time to relax and get rid of the physical stresses that have accumulated throughout the day. You should already be lying flat on your back with a pillow to support your neck and head and with your hands at your sides. Beginning with your toes, first tense the muscles then allow them to relax completely. From there move to your feet, lower legs, thighs, et cetera, until you finish with the neck and head area. Don’t move onto the next body part until the part you are working on is totally relaxed.
You may find it difficult to truly relax on the first few tries, especially when you reach certain tension-filled areas, such as the neck or shoulders. But with practice, it will become easier and you may be able to use a quicker technique where you imagine you are lying in a warm stream of water that runs from your feet, up your legs, thighs, and so on. As you imagine the water moving up the length of your body, it should relax every muscle along the way.
Step 5: Visualize the Positive
Once you have mastered the physical relaxation technique in step 4, it’s time to add some visualization and positive inputs to the process. First, imagine your entire body encompassed by a bright white light. Next, picture yourself as you would like to be. For example, you might see yourself as extremely happy and healthy enjoying a walk on a beautiful spring morning. Picture situations with loved ones or friends in the surroundings you would like to experience. The key is to use your imagination to not only “see” circumstances you would like to occur, but also to develop the ability to imagine how to touch, feel, smell, and even taste those situations. In other words, when you picture yourself in a positive situation imagine the inputs you’d be receiving from your other senses. The more detailed you can become, the more powerful a tool visualization will be.
I’m sure you’ve heard about imagery or visualization being used as a part of therapy for cancer treatment. Patients are taught to visualize their natural cancer-killing cells attacking and destroying the tumor. The same techniques can be used to help heal any type of physical or emotional illness. Just keep in mind that as you visualize desired situations, don’t try to picture exactly how they will happen. For example, let’s say you were under a great deal of stress because Aunt Mary never ended her two-week vacation and has continued living in your house for the last eight months. Sure, you could visualize your aunt suddenly having difficulties back home forcing her to leave. But a more positive visualization would be just to picture her not there any longer.
Visualization may seem strange to some people, but we all use it every day in the form of imagination and day dreaming. With a little effort and practice, you can now also use it as a potent tool that can improve your health.