3. There is a time to be tensed and ready, and a time to be relaxed and at
The more aware you become of the difference between these two
states, the more likely you are to be in the right state at the right time.
This guide helps you practice switching from tensed to relaxed… or
from something in between to even more relaxed.
People are different. You will discover some suggestions that you
especially prefer. Focus on these, and do not worry about the rest.
P. S. On some pages we respond to Flip s comments. Our replies
follow this symbol:
how this book is organized
Two ways to relax:
unload or overload
Dramatic shifts in our state of consciousness become
possible at either end of the spectrum. At the beginning
of this book, we share ways to unload stress by unloading
stimuli. Near the end, we explore ways to escape tension
by overloading your senses, perhaps by going whitewater
rafting or dancing in a packed concert hall.
5. 1. Close your eyes
2. Use your breath to remind you to be
3. Three-step breathing
4. Breathe into tension
5. Walking meditation
6. Write down what kind of person you want
7. Look at each human from a positive angle
8. Progressive awareness
9. Progressive relaxation
10. Toe tensing
11. Imaginary mini-vacation
12. Look at this
13. Perceive interconnections
14. Listen to crickets, waves or rain
15. Make a circle with your eyes
16. Eye see what you think
17. Reach out to an… animal
18. Convey affection
19. Drop your jaw (and relax your
20. Up against the wall
21. Just stretch
22. Be mobile
24. Let the rhythm take you away
25. And now for something completely
6. In 1908, an Austrian Psychiatrist named Hans
Berger discovered Alpha brain waves. Today
we know that people who have more Alpha
brain waves experience less stress and
In 1929 Berger demonstrated that closing the
eyes decreases sensory input and increases
From an intuitive perspective, we know that
your eyes collect vast amounts of information,
all of which your brain must process. Thus,
simply closing your eyes is one of the easiest
and fastest ways to give yourself a refreshing
Close your eyes
7. It is all too easy to race around worrying about
the past or being obsessed with some future goal.
But being relaxed depends on your ability to
focus your attention here and now.
Since you breathe every moment of every day,
your breath is a wonderful anchor to pull you
back to the present. All you have to do is pay
attention to the feeling of air coming into your
body and then being exhaled. That is it.
Use your breath to
remind you to be
8. 1.) Sit in a relaxed position for a few minutes, and notice how
you normally breathe.
2.) Inhale deeply and slowly, filling up as much of your lungs
as possible. Pause for a moment at the top of the breath, then
3.) Take a moment to observe how you feel. This is the most
important part. Look for any physical signs that your body is
relaxing. Do not force anything… just observe, and then take
another deep breath.
Keep going in this simple pattern of deep breathing and
observation for as long as you like. The longer you do it, the
better you will feel.
Try this in a setting that makes
you feel safe, such as indoors
where there are no eagles or
hawks ﬂying above.
If you crave slightly more structure than just be present
provides, this simple breathing exercise may perfect for you:
9. Breathe into tension
Pick just one of your tense
areas, and breathe into that.
When you feel some relaxation,
you can pick another area, if
Wherever and whenever you recognize tension in a portion of your body, breathe into
it. No, we do not mean blow on it… visualize your breath moving through the tense
area. With each inhalation, visualize the fresh breath bringing healing energy that
loosens your tension. With each exhalation, imagine the tension leaving your body.
10. Walking meditation means to enjoy walking
without any intention to arrive, writes Thich Nhat
Hanh, one of the most widely read advocates of
mindfulness. (This essentially means to devote your
full attention to one and only one thing.)
He explains that during walking meditation, you
abandon any intention of arriving anywhere. You just
Walking is only for walking. You enjoy every step
you take. So this is a kind of revolution in walking.
You allow yourself to enjoy every step you take.
Source: Resting in the River, Thich Nhat Hanh
11. Although you may have spent years appearing to be a
hard-charging professional or a conservative suburban
parent, that may not be who you truly are.
Write down some aspirations in a private journal or
notebook. There is no pressure to get all your thoughts
down on the first page. Feel free to take page after page
to explore possibilities.
Cut out pictures from magazines and newspapers, or
print out images from online, and paste them into your
notebook – all to better help you visualize the person
you want to be. Keep at it. This may take many weeks,
months, or even years. But the process itself feels good.
Enjoy the journey.
Write down what kind of person
you want to be
12. In an interview, the Dalai Lama was asked
whether he ever feels lonely. He surprised the
interviewer by answering flatly, No.
He explained that one reason for this was that
he tries to look at any human being from a
more positive angle; I try to look for their
Become more aware of how you look at others,
and yourself as well.
Look at each human
from a positive angle
Source: The Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
13. Once you become accustomed to paying attention to
your breath, take the next step: become aware of your
Start with one of the simple breathing exercises, then
when you are calm turn your awareness in turn to
each major part of your body. Do nothing more than
be aware whether that part is relaxed or tense, or
something in between. Do not try to change, just be
Move from your head and face to your neck,
shoulders, arms, hands, chest, stomach, pelvis and
butt, thighs, legs, ankles, feet and toes. Pause at any
point for as long as you like.
Your goal is to feel your body
become increasingly relaxed. To
feel, you need to stay awake.
14. Progressive relaxation
Source: American Lung Association
Move in turn through each of the following muscle
groups, tensing one group and holding it for about ten
seconds, then releasing the tension and relaxing while
you enjoy the relief from tension. Do these in turn:
• Raise your eyebrows, then release
• Open your mouth wide, stretching your
jaw, then release
• Scrunch up your face, then release
• Bring your chin towards your chest, then release
• Tense your right hand and arm, then release
- Do the same for your left arm
• Tighten your stomach, then release
• Raise your right leg and tense it, then release
- Do the same for your left leg
• Take a few minutes to be aware of how all the
muscles in your body feel. Just observe.
15. Toe tensing
Source: University of Maryland Medical Center, Sleep Disorders Center
It may sound silly that tensing one little part of your body can help you relax, but this
exercise actually can pull tension out of the rest of your body. (It s a simpler version of
Progressive Muscle Relaxation.)
1. Lie on your back and then close your eyes.
2. Become aware of your toes.
3. Pull your toes upwards towards your face, and
hold the stretch to a count of ten.
4. Relax your toes. Ten seconds later, repeat
the stretch. Do this a total of ten times.
You can choose other single parts of
your body and use this approach
specifically in that area.
16. Imaginary mini-vacation
If you imagine a pleasant scene, you tend to relax. If you imagine
a pressurized situation, your body starts to tighten. In both cases,
you are stimulating the nerve cells in your brain that react to
similar real life situations.
To relax, imagine a setting or experience you consider inviting. It
could be a favorite beach, a special time with a loved one, a walk
down the winding paths of a small village, or simply the
experience of lying on your back in a field of grass and
watching the clouds drift by.
Once you are comfortably within this imaginary
experience, start touching things and pay
attention to how they feel. Sniff around…
are there any distinctive scents? The more
you engage your senses, the more real - and
relaxing – this imaginary escape will be.
17. Watch a free a river flow, or gaze into a
campfire. Lie on your back and stare at the clouds
as they float by.
Pick something you find both entrancing and
reassuring, and give yourself permission to do
nothing but gaze peacefully at it.
Look at this
18. Many of the suggestions in this book identify a source at the bottom of the page. This
one does not, because we wish to share a personal observation that may or may not be a
The longer we practice the sort of relaxation techniques described in this book, the more
we perceive a connection between everyone and everything. It is impossible to describe
this perception adequately in words (no, it does not
look like a dotted line or a piece of string.)
You just have to experience it for yourself.
To do this, you need to open your mind
completely. You temporarily set aside all
your thoughts hopes, fears, and preconceptions.
Be patient… it takes a great deal of gentle
19. The vast majority of people relax
when they listen to the sound of
crickets, gentle rain, or crashing
waves. The same is true for the
sound of a babbling brook.
Whether you listen to the real thing,
buy a recording, or simply imagine
one of these sounds, focusing on
these soothing sounds is likely to
calm your mind and body.
Listen to crickets,
waves or rain
20. Ever notice that when people try to remember a detail, they look up and away?
This is because our eyes are literally connected to our brains. Knowing this, you
can use deliberate eye movements to dislodge from your mind an image or
thought that is causing you stress.
Just look down and to the right, without moving your head. Then look down and
to the left, keeping your head still. Then circle your eyes
around three times in a clockwise direction. Finally repeat
the whole process, but at the end circle your eyes in a
The effect will not keep bad thoughts away forever, but it
does give you enough of a break to find positive thoughts
and images to replace the bad ones.
Make a circle with your eyes
21. Your eyes often reveal how you are thinking.
Neuro Linguistic Programming suggests that people
use three types of thinking, each of which influences
your eyes to focus differently:
• Visual thinking - you look up, to either side
• Auditory - you look to one side or the other
• Kinesthetic - you look down, to either side
So, when we talk about our feelings, most of us
look down. When we recall what we heard, we
tend to look right down the middle. And when
we are visualizing something, we tend to look up.
Once you understand this, you can wipe a negative image out
of your mind simply by moving your eyes up and down; this
accesses multiple levels of thinking and essentially clears your
Eye see what you think
Source: Reading Eye Movement in Communication by Ron Kurtus; school-for-champions.com
Try keeping this ridiculous
image of Flip in mind while you
move your eyes up and down.
Our bet is you can t do it!
22. The Delta Society is one of many organizations now
devoted to using animals to provide therapeutic
benefits to people. Their web site has dozens of
references to research studies documenting such
For example, animals pull our attention outward; this
is especially useful when stress or worries cause us to
focus inwardly. Animals also provide a
non-threatening, emotionally safe relationship.
They offer unqualified acceptance. Finally,
for most people the touch of an animal is
a safe and reassuring event.
Besides, they just make us smile.
Reach out to an… animal
Learn more at deltasociety.org
23. Arizona State University associate professor Kory
Floyd studies the therapeutic benefits of
expressing affection. Being affectionate is good
for you, he reports. Affection can be a simple,
non-pharmaceutical, cheap way to reduce stress.
Floyd s research reveals that thinking affectionate
thoughts about another person is not sufficient to
reduce your own stress levels. It is conveying
your feelings that produces the positive result.
So write someone you love an affectionate letter,
tell them how you feel about them, or simply put
your arm around them. Where you take it from
there is none of our business.
Source: The Effects of Affection by Diane Boudreau; Arizona State University Research Publications - Winter 2006
24. For their size, the muscles in your jaw are
the strongest in your body. In most people,
they tend to be far too tense. You can relax
them by simply rubbing the side of your
jaw with your fingers, and then opening
your mouth as wide as possible. Alternate
these two several times.
Likewise, the muscles around your eye
sockets and on either side of the bridge of
your nose - you know the spot, people
pinch it when they are tense - relax
beautifully when you gently rub these
Drop your jaw (and
relax your eyes)
25. Find a rubber ball or tennis ball; the rubber ball is
generally softer, so be careful if you use a tennis ball.
Stand with your back against a wall, with one foot forward and
both knees bent. Place the ball between your back and the
wall, and lean against the ball, firmly.
Now move slowly side to side or up and down, so that the
ball massages your back. Many people enjoy focusing
on their upper back, shoulders, and the area around
their spine… but far be it from us to exert peer
pressure on you.
If you find an area that feels especially tight, lean into
the ball and hold it for 5-10 seconds. When you
release the pressure, enjoy the feeling of relaxation in that area.
At first, you may drop the ball. But with a little practice, you will get the hang of it. Just remember to
move slowly and gently. Of course, if you have back problems of any sort, please skip this exercise.
Up against the wall
Source: Smith College Information Technology Services, Ergonomics Program
26. Many people stretch because they want to exercise. So they rush
through the stretch.
But stretching is one of the most relaxing activities you can do, especially if you take your time.
Set aside 25 minutes for stretching. This may seem like a lot, but it will give you the luxury to be patient
with each stretch. Take the first ten minutes and do a cardio activity to warm up.
When you stretch, remember to keep breathing. Only stretch to the point where you feel a slight
tightness; never bounce or allow a stretch to hurt. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Do every stretch at
least twice; you will often see improvement the second time.
Take a long walk. Go for a swim. Ski all day. Hike up a
mountain. Ride a bike. To enjoy significant benefits,
do it for at least 30 minutes and go fast enough that
both your heart and breathing rates increase noticeably.
(As always – do not overdo it.)
Be as mobile as you possibly can. In addition
to the physical benefits of exercise, by changing
the manner and speed with which you move through
our physical world, you alter your perspective and literally change
the way your brain is functioning.
On an anecdotal basis, we notice that the most relaxed people we meet
generally tend to be the most mobile ones, too.
If you are feeling down, getting out and moving can often be the best strategy
for shifting your system into a more positive state.
28. From personal experience, we have always found
juggling to be an excellent way to reduce
stress and put a smile on our faces. But
now a medical study in Japan has
formally documented this effect.
The study involved women with a broad range of anxiety
disorders. Half of the women taught themselves to juggle
with both hands, using beanbags. After six months, the
group that juggled had significantly lower anxiety
levels than the control group that did not juggle.
From our perspective, juggling requires
concentration and focus; it also causes
your eyes to move in a pattern that tends to
clear your mind of any pre-existing images.
Both help you to relax.
29. You are in a packed concert hall. 18,000
people are on their feet, swaying as one to
the rhythm of one of the world s greatest
bands. The lights, the music, the energy of
the crowd as it reacts to each new song
and nuance… they all combine to create
an utterly memorable and uplifting
experience. It is pretty unlikely you are in
the crowd thinking about submitting your
If you are one of many people drawn to
music, when possible give yourself up
completely to it. Allow your body to move
unconsciously to the music, even if you do
it in the privacy of your shower.
Let the rhythm take you away
30. When all else fails, try an utterly new experience.
Go to fantasy baseball camp. Volunteer to build a
house with Habitat for Humanity, especially if
You have never before held a hammer. Take a
singing for tone-deaf people class. If you are a
senior citizen, volunteer at an elementary
school; if you are young, volunteer at a home for
the elderly. Whitewater raft. Learn to drive a
tractor trailer. Take up knitting, taekwondo,
or the ancient game of juego de pelota
(but be careful, it can be extremely violent.)
Each time you change your physical
situation and your set of experiences, you
alter your perspective. The result is a more
interesting and satisfying life.
And now for something completely different
31. Jim George and Bruce Kasanoff created this guide.
Jim is the author of Time to Make It STOP: The How of Now.
It will help you relax just as fast as you can say stop.
You can find it on Amazon here:
If you are near Los Angeles, Jim works one-on-one with clients
to help them figure out and get what they really want. You can
schedule an appointment by calling (310) 306-2217.
Bruce writes on LinkedIn about career and getting what you
want from life. You can find many of his free guides here:
While the entire contents are copyright 2013 Jim George and
Bruce Kasanoff, you are welcome to share it with others.