Inner Space

Every woman needs her own personal space for relaxation, not only to release us from the stress cycle but also to restore us so that we can reassume our responsibilities calmly and with deepened insight.

Try and make time everyday for at least half an hour to recharge your batteries. Take longer if you can. Here are some ways to get energy.

Move your body

All forms of exercise are great for relieving stress, and it works in many ways. Firstly, it releases endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers that improve your mood. It also removes the build up of adrenalin that can occur if you are stressed and relaxes your muscles by warming them up. Try this quick and simple exercise that you can do sitting in the office or at home.

1.Release your neck so your chin tips down into the centre of your collarbone.

2.Breathing in through your nose, bring head back up, pulling tummy in. Breathe out slowly Straighten your spine and tilt your head to the right.

3.While still keeping your head looking straight in front, slowly return head to the centre and then tilt to the left. Shrug your shoulders.

Picture this

At the end of the workday, imagine your stress liquefying and running out of your body so that with each step, you leave a coloured footprint that represents your stress. Then, notice that the further you walk from work (whether in the home or outside), the fainter the footprints become - until the stress has disappeared.

The scented touch

A massage with essential oils is absolutely heaven! When you breathe in the oils, they send a direct message to your brain via your olfactory nerves, where they affect the endocrine and hormonal systems via the hypothalamus. Odours have an amazing effect on our emotional states, because they hook into the "emotional" or primitive parts of our brains (the limbic system, also known as the rhinencephalon - the "smell brain"!). Aromatherapv massage benefits the physical, the emotional and the psyche. Create your own massage oil by adding up to 30 drops of a blend to 30 ml of pure vegetable oil, such as grapeseed or almond. The massage oil can he used for a full massage or spot massage at pressure points for quick effect.

In comes the good air

Babies breathe naturally, but most children learn that shallow breathing seems to reduce feelings of emotional pain. Think of the furious child who holds her breath. These emotions don't go away, though. They accumulate in the form of stress and tension in the solar plexus, where they can cause all sorts of physical ailments. Shallow breathing also depletes our intake of oxygen, which can cause anxiety.

Relearning how to breathe is an important step in releasing stress. Try practicing natural breathing for five minutes a day. Imagine your breath rising from your feet and travelling up your body to the top of your head as you inhale. On the exhale, feel your breath descending again to your feet.

Do this also whenever you feel yourself getting tense. Lean back in your chair and just breathe.

Sound advice

Since so many sounds can be stressful - the 3 a.m. wail of your baby, the 6 a.m. screech of your alarm clock, the 6:10 a.m. screech of your alarm clock, the 6:20 a.m. screech of your alarm clock - it's only fitting that other sounds should serve to soothe. Why not take a 20-minute "sound bath" anytime your knickers are in a twist? Put some relaxing music on your stereo, then lie down near the speakers with knees slightly bent and allow the music to wash over you. The washing imagery is important; you should feel the music rinsing away the day's stress from your tired body.

Laugh it off

Laughter is a very effective stressbuster. When we let out a belly laugh, our bodies let out endorphins, those painkilling darlings of the exercise set. Related to morphine, endorphins make us feel good, which in turn makes us more resistant to stress. But it's not enough to sit back and wait for a coworker to fall facefirst into a custard tart. Humour must be actively sought out. One easy way to do this is to imagine how the writers for a TV sitcom might handle your most stressful "snags."

Make it

The power of creating a bedcover, a garden or a cake can't be underestimated, especially if it reflects some aspect of you. It's great when the project turns out well, but there's also value in the doing. The act of concentration can become meditative, even trancelike, and mind clearing. Gardening has the additional benefit of getting some exercise in fresh air.

About the author:
Louise Pool is a self taught artist and workshop facilitator who is passionate about life, the universe and everything. Visit her website to see her art, read her musings and pick up a tip or two on creativity.

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