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Master the Art of Relaxation

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

There's something about the holiday season that makes people
want to run for cover. Busier schedules, longer to-do lists,
heightened entertaining pressures and the current financial
crunch are quickly adding up to make this the season of
discontent.

So what's the secret to facing the coming holidays head on?
Ah, that's simple. Learn to master the art of relaxation.

"Relaxation is a right, not a privilege," says Julie Kosey,
manager of integrative health coaching at Duke Integrative
Medicine. If you don't learn how to relax, the stress will take
its toll on your personal and professional relationships, your
health, productivity, and overall well-being.

As an integrative health coach, Kosey guides her clients as
they learn to control the obstacles that heighten the holiday
countdown frenzy. She says mastering relaxation isn't just
about deep breathing and soulful meditation, although those do
help. It's more about respecting your personal needs, something
many people need to be reminded to do.

Here she outlines how you can become a master of your
relaxation domain:

  • Visualize your ideal holiday. Before the
    season ramps up, think about the best holiday you want to
    have. If that concept doesn't include a trip to Auntie
    Millie's this year, then think of a polite way to take a
    pass. Decide ahead of time which invitations suit your
    family's needs and those to which you'll send your regrets.
    Don't be afraid to re-evaluate family traditions and start
    some new ones.
  • Figure out what's fun. Relaxation is
    leisure time, but one person's enjoyment is another person's
    boredom. Define what relaxing means to you. It could be
    taking a bubble bath, a long walk, hitting the gym, or
    recharging your batteries with your family. "No matter what
    your age, people need to play and have something in their
    life that's enjoyable," says Kosey.
  • Schedule down time. Learn how to enjoy
    being alone with yourself, and/or with your family without
    today's pervasive technology. "Turn off your cell phones,
    your computers, and play a board game, draw a picture, or
    read a book," says Kosey. "Discover what happens what you're
    not distracted by external forces."
  • Be realistic. If you're not the type to
    do yoga, you probably won't sustain that interest for very
    long. Identify what's worked for you in the past, and pick
    relaxing things you like to do. "It's the only way you'll
    maintain your motivation to relax," she says.
  • Recognize when stress is winning.
    Whether stress comes from too much shopping or too much
    together time, it's bad for your health. When it starts to
    rear its ugly head, in the form of headaches, insomnia, or
    disagreements, take a break. If you're at work, get some
    fresh air. At home, step out on the porch. "Even if you have
    five minutes. do a series of deep inhales and exhales, or
    visualize a place you'd like to be," says Kosey. "Take a walk
    or call a friend." A lot can be done in a short amount of
    time to keep stress at bay.
  • Keep your eye on the prize. If you're
    not convinced it's vital to relax, you probably won't take
    the steps to do it. Figure out what relaxing will do for you
    -- whether it's yelling less at your kids or lowering your
    blood pressure -- and focus on that reward.
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