As the school year gets started people get busier and more intense. It’s easy to let all the activity scatter your attention and take you off track. This is a problem if you are trying to heal yourself or change your life. Your greatest power is inside of you and if you lose awareness of yourself, you give away your power.
Here’s an excerpt from the 2nd lesson in the Energy Module in the New Healing Connection course. In this lesson I share techniques you can use as you start to slow down and focus on your inner self.
Slow Down and Pay Attention
When I got out of medical training, I was really stressed out. Pushing myself for so many years, physically and mentally, put me in a state of high alert. I had trouble relaxing. All the nights on call messed up my sleep cycle, and I had insomnia. Because of all the information I needed to know, I had become very analytical and judgmental, and I was always planning or worrying. I had trouble letting go and living in the moment.
I knew I needed to relax, so I started trying different techniques. I did yoga and meditation. When I learned how to do hypnosis on patients, I also started doing self-hypnosis to relax. I tried a lot of different things. The process of working to relax myself was part of the bigger picture of helping me approach the health of my patients in a different way.
Through the years I’ve realized that just about everyone can benefit from doing some type of practice that helps them slow down and pay closer attention to themselves.
If you live your life on the proverbial treadmill, always running and going nonstop, you won’t have the time—or the energy—to be aware of your inner self. Only when you slow down and find some breathing space will you be able to recognize what you need to change and how to change it.
Fortunately, many people have already started this journey within. They’ve developed different techniques that can help you. Here’s an overview of some of the more common ones. Try the ones that resonate with you.
Let’s start with some relaxation techniques.
Breathwork, where you focus on slowing down your breathing to relax, is something I frequently teach patients with chronic pain. And it is something I practice all the time. Whenever I’m feeling stress and recognize that I’m tightening my muscles, I try to remember to take some deep, slow breaths to help me relax.
There are other techniques that start with breathwork and add to it. You can do progressive muscle relaxation, where you focus on relaxing all your muscles sequentially from head to toe. You can do guided imagery or visualization, where you close your eyes and imagine relaxing scenes like resting on a beach or in a meadow.
Another technique to help you slow down is meditation. The goal of meditation is to slow down all the unnecessary, chattering thoughts running through your head. There are many ways to meditate. Some meditation practices focus on letting go of all thoughts and being in a place of quiet in your mind. Other meditation practices focus all your attention on one specific word or mantra.
A meditation that’s currently very popular is mindfulness.
With mindfulness the goal is to observe yourself as thoroughly as possible, without judgment, and be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions. This type of meditation was originally introduced by the scientist Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s. He’d been studying Buddhism and yoga, and he combined ideas from both in a program to help people relax. His mindfulness program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), has become very popular as more people have realized how helpful it is.
You can do a quick trial of mindfulness, right now, just by closing your eyes and paying attention to all your senses. Take a few seconds to be mindful. Feel your body as it’s touching the surface you’re sitting on. Feel the sensations of your skin against that surface. Feel your hands and your fingers as they contact that surface. Take some deep breaths and feel the sensations in your body. Feel any muscle tightness or pain or any other discomfort. On your next deep breath, focus on your sense of smell and smell the air. Then focus your attention on what you hear. Now open your eyes. You just practiced mindfulness. It’s actually sort of fun, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but this type of simple practice is important in starting on the path to opening the door into yourself.
If you’re interested in any of these relaxation techniques I’ve mentioned, there are many different resources for guidance.
Books have been written about all these techniques, and you can find information on the Internet that will either give you an overview of what they’re about or scripts to guide you in practicing them.
You can also look for counselors and therapists who have experience in tailoring these techniques to your particular situation. I refer almost all my patients with chronic pain to psychologists who specialize in chronic pain management. These psychologists have special experience using relaxation techniques to help manage chronic pain. One of my patients recently told me of a visualization technique her pain psychologist taught her. The simple visualization of imagining herself in a safe place, with a safe person, is comforting for her and improves her pain. When her pain flares, she brings up the image of baking Christmas cookies with her grandmother in her grandmother’s kitchen, and it relaxes her and helps her pain.
There are many other ways to slow down and go within. There are many different types of bodywork, both active and passive, that help you relax. My favorite way to slow down is to use relaxing hobbies that relax both my mind and my body.