|We Have Met the Enemy—Part 3|
|By Caterina Spinaris|
Continued from the May 2019 issue of the Correctional Oasis.
In the prior installment of this article I wrote that taking steps to embrace a lifestyle that decreases the stress response, while increasing time spent in the “rest and digest” mode, can be a life saver. And how can this be done? In a nutshell, it helps to remember that any time we get angry or “indulge” in strong negative emotions, hurry, push and drive ourselves, when we argue and bicker and fight verbally, even when we exercise too hard, we activate the stress response. Here are some basic approaches to reverse that and achieve the relaxation response instead. They may sound overly simplistic, but they work if you work them, especially if you practice them regularly and frequently—as in DAILY.
Breathe into your abdomen slowly and gently, and exhale deeply, focusing on your breath. Do this for at least 5 minutes daily, and also whenever you feel stressed.
Eat slowly and chew your food well, paying attention to its taste and texture.
Spend relaxing time with family and friends.
Generate positive emotions, such as love, joy, and peace. Laugh. Express affection and compassion. Think of what you are grateful for, and express your gratitude. Spend time imagining positive and lovely events and outcomes.
Forgive and let go of grudges. Sing joyful songs, and listen to cheerful or calming music.
Give yourself plenty of time when you go somewhere, to avoid hurrying.
Practice yoga or tai chi.
Go for a walk outdoors. Slow down and observe the nature around you. How many green “whatevers” do you see? How many browns? How many blues? Reds? How many birds do you come across? What bugs do you notice? What do the clouds look like? What sounds do you hear? What’s the temperature like? How does the breeze feel across your face?
In general, be in the moment more, and with a positive mindset, instead of regretting or resenting parts of the past or worrying or lusting after aspects of the future. Using graphic language, a friend told me years ago that if I live with one foot on yesterday and the other on tomorrow, I’m “urinating” on today—wasting my precious, never to return present moment.
So what would be a strategy you choose to practice daily to increase your “rest and digest” response?
This article as been reprinted with permission from the June 2019 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".
Editor's note: Caterina Spinaris is the Executive Director at Desert Waters Correctional Outreach and a Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado. She continues to contribute to the field of corrections staff well-being individually and organizationally, in particularly regarding issues of traumatic stress due to exposure to violence, injury, death on the job, and also issues of organizational climate improvement.
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