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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stress Management: Creating Quiet Time for Yourself

Many people have such busy personal and work-related schedules that they consider finding quiet time for themselves to be a luxury. Most people are far too accessible by cell phone, Blackberry or other modern technology that, even when they make an attempt to create quiet time for themselves, they're often intruded upon when they're trying to relax.


Creating Quiet Time For Yourself
Far from being a luxury, creating quiet time for yourself is a necessity for your physical health and overall well-being. And, as such, creating quiet time is an important part of stress management. The medical benefits have been known to include lower blood pressure and heart rate. Even just taking a few minutes each day to close your eyes to relax can be helpful to your peace of mind.

In the US, we tend to be people who are always on the go. Pressuring ourselves and responding to outside pressure in our lives, we feel we have to work faster, harder and longer. Even when we play, so many of us feel that we must "play hard."

For many people, the idea of taking quiet time during the day seems like a waste of time that could be better used to do one more chore, to make one more phone call, or to do one more task.

When I talk to people about creating quiet time in their lives, they often respond that they don't have time. They tell me about all of the things that they must do and all of the things that they don't get to that they feel guilty about.

How I Create Quiet Time For Myself:
I understand how busy life can be. My workdays tend to be long and my schedule is often hectic. If I chose to, I could fill my every waking hour with work, phone calls and other tasks. In order for me to have quiet time in my day, I have to make a conscious effort to build it into my schedule, just like any other appointment or task.

Usually, during the week, I find at least 10-15 minutes around lunch time to either meditate or do some restorative yoga poses as part of my stress management routine. I turn off the phone, put my Blackberry away, and take off my watch in order to feel that this time is really mine. Those 10-15 minutes of relaxation make such a positive difference in how I feel the rest of the day.

Over the weekend, I usually attend two yoga classes that include several minutes of quiet relaxation at the end of the class. During the class, the yoga instructors give very detailed instructions about each pose so that I must focus my attention on what they're saying, what I'm doing, and how the pose feels in my body. I don't have time or space to focus on anything else, so that the hour and a half that I spend in class allows me to get away completely from my daily concerns. It feels like a moving meditation. Afterwards, not only do I feel relaxed, I also feel refreshed and leave the class with a sense of contentment.

For me, simple pleasures are best for creating quiet time. One of my favorite simple pleasures is going to the local community bookstore, which has been there for over 25 years (even though one of the major bookstore chains has been within walking distance for the last 10 years). The staff in this bookstore is knowledgeable, friendly, and involved with what's going on in the community. They encourage customers to come in and relax.

If I go early enough, this bookstore is usually quiet. I can choose a book from the shelf, sit on the couch and allow myself to enter into the author's world. My cell phone and Blackberry are usually off during this time.

There are two cats in this bookstore, and if I'm lucky, one of them comes to cuddle and sleep in my lap. Aside from enjoying the cats' company, as creatures who know how to relax, they remind me how to stretch and find a few peaceful moments to myself. On sunny days, the garden in the back is the perfect place to sit, read, sip tea, admire the plants and trees, listen to the birds, play with the cats, or get lost in a book.

From early on, my mother instilled in me a love of books. We would make trips to the local library at least twice a week to take out new books. Then, we would go to the park that was across the street from my school and my mother would read to me. The books that really stick in my mind are the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans. Even today, when I'm in the local bookstore, which has a section for children, and I hear a parent reading  to her child, I get vicarious pleasure from eavesdropping and hearing the familiar stories.

I might stay in this bookstore 10 minutes or I might stay a couple of hours. How ever long it is, I usually feel like I've gotten away because it's a special time and a special place that's just for me that I allow myself to have.

So, those are some of the things that I do to create quiet time for myself. But what about you?

Suggestions for Creating Quiet Time For Yourself:

Get Up a Little Earlier Than You Usually Do to Have Some Quiet Time:
There is something so precious about having 10-30 minutes to yourself before the rest of the family gets up or you're expected to respond to other people's needs. Even if all you do is have a soothing cup of tea before your day begins, it's a good time to reconnect with yourself.

Rather than using that time to make to-do lists or take care of other chores, just sit, be quiet and breathe. I'm convinced that most of us are so busy talking and doing things that we don't take time to relax and be quiet. And many of us go through the day not realizing that we're often holding our breath much of the time due to excessive tension. So, remembering to be conscious to breathe fully is an important part of relaxation.

Take Time to Be Quiet at Lunch:
Even just a few minutes at lunch time to close your door to relax can be beneficial and, in the long run, make you more productive. Going out for a walk to a nearby park, river or peaceful place in nature can also be very relaxing. Can't find a nearby nature spot? How about watching dogs play at the local dog run?

Watching dogs play can be relaxing

Create a Peaceful Environment for Yourself:
I have two offices and both of them have pictures of nature. In one of them, I have a picture that's called "Proust's Garden." I have no idea if this is actually what Marcel Proust's garden looked like, but the name of the picture and the picture itself, full of plants and trees with dappled sun and shadows, has such a positive association to relaxation and beautiful prose that whenever I look at it, I feel peaceful. It's a very inviting picture that draws you in. Clients often comment about that picture and how soothing it is. In that same office, I have seashells on my bookshelf. Aside from the actual beauty of the shells, they're a reminder of the ocean and peaceful days spent by the water. In my other office, the picture that's behind me is of a garden and a gazebo. Clients often comment about that picture too and how restful it is when they're eyes land on it.

Creating a Peaceful Environment For Yourself
Even if you have one picture or one object that you like that your eye can land on from time to time, your association to that object can bring about a state of well-being when you can't get away.

If you think about it, I'm sure that you would discover other ways that are meaningful to you to create quiet time for yourself. And when you do, you'll experience the benefits of having that special time that you deserve.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.



photo credit: Fountain_Head via photopin cc

photo credit: dog.happy.art via photopin cc

photo credit: antonychammond via photopin cc

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