Stress Relief: Take a Mental Vacation
By: Francine Martinez, Ph.D. | July 24, 2014
It is summertime and people all around you are planning their getaways, except you. You hear stories of snorkeling in the Caribbean, hiking in the Sierras, or cruising the Alaskan coastline and your thoughts are, “It must be nice….” Vacations, short or long, are great stress relievers; the literature on the importance of vacations for good mental health is extensive, yet sometimes our life circumstances prevent us from truly getting away.
Research has shown that people who are under a lot of stress have physical problems related to constantly being under stress; 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; learning quick and realistic techniques to use everyday can make a big difference—even if it’s five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. In this article I want to present six ways to “get away” and release some stress without leaving home.
Six Quick Mental Trips
Read a book in bed
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.
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. Think back to a time when you felt peaceful and relaxed, and focus on releasing the tension from your toes to your head.
Look at pictures reflecting happy moments in time
Open up the “gallery” on your smart phone or computer, or pull out snapshots from a photo album of a family vacation or a fun dinner with friends; at work keep photos close by perhaps posted on your cubicle wall or easily accessible in one of your desk drawers. 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.
Look out a window or take a break outside
Distract yourself by focusing on something other than what’s stressing you. Grab a steaming cup of coffee or tea, close the door or leave the office to “escape” outdoors. Do a little people watching, appreciate any birds within view, or enjoy some fluffy clouds rolling by; feel the air on your face, inhaling slowly to allow yourself to expand and relax your tense muscles. Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes, providing yourself with that mental vacation.
Listen to music
Prepare a special playlist for relaxing with some of your favorite music that is attached to happy memories, or music designed for relaxation. Use the playlist for a short daily escape; close your eyes and listen to these soothing sounds while doing some deep breathing will help you relax and de-stress.
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 whenever possible may offer even more relaxation. As you are walking take notice of how your body slowly relaxes and your head begins to feel clearer.
You don’t need a lot of time to feel yourself relax; treating yourself to a 5-, 10-, or 20-minute mental vacation each day will train your body to relax and also reduce stress – you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after taking just a few moments all to yourself. So why not begin now? Close your door, sit on the floor, breathe in deeply and imagine that tropical paradise with the warm ocean breezes lifting your stress away.