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by award-winning stress-relief expert Susie Mantell (author: "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace")
NOTE: Enjoy more of Susie's FREE stress tips or "Ask Susie.." your own stress questions at

Dear Friends at,

I was recently asked, "What are your top three suggestions for people who want to reduce the stress in their lives?" Now that's a BIG question, so I gave it a good think from several perspectives, and arrived at the following as a solid "Stress-Busting 101" starting point for just about anyone wishing to release stress, enhance wellness, and improve the overall quality of day-to-day life. As always, see what here works for you. Maybe something new..or a reminder of what you know ...but may not always remember.

1) PRACTICE "MINDFULNESS" in EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES Much of the stress we experience revolves around either past or future concerns. Bringing our awareness and focus into the present moment instantly replaces yesterday's regrets, and wipes away worries for tomorrow. It allows us to release all other thoughts and be fully present to experience THIS conversation, THIS breath, THIS pleasure solve THIS problem. Mindfulness is the fundamental principle of meditation, releasing all else and being Here, Now. Within each of us there is a quiet place where peace lives. In day-to-day life, no matter what the challenges we face, presence of mind allows calm, and gentle release of worry, anger or grief. Mindfulness allows the body-mind to pause, and to rebalance in the open space of that quiet place inside. In addition to traditional Zen practice or Transcendental Meditation (TM), many also find great comfort in guided imagery, movement, writing or walking meditation. The rhythm of the ocean, washing dishes or rocking a baby can all be mindful, meditative experiences in everyday life.

2) STRESS HAPPENS: EAT, BREATHE AND BE MERRY! Make conscious food choices...and then, savor them! There is a special joy in eating food we know is both healthy and delicious. "In all things, moderation." Consider the roles of caffeine, sugar and alcohol in your life. All can exacerbate stress, and "Sugar Blues" can be confused with a common ailment technically referred to as, "Crabbiness." Slow, mindful breathing, drinking plenty of clear water, and moderate, pleasurable exercise all enhance circulation and delivery of nutrients to skin, hair, and support all our vital functions. Deep, purposeful "belly-breathing" oxygenates the body.. deep, blissful belly-LAUGHING nourishes the rest! A sense of adventure and of play, healthy, honest relationships, gentle touch and creative expression in whatever forms feel great for us all help us to balance our lives, and make the stress that is an inevitable part of every single day, somehow pale by comparison to the pleasures we find.

3) ABOVE ALL...HOPE. Hope has great power. It is what carries us through the most difficult and frightening moments of our lives. I have personally witnessed (and experienced!) some wonderful events that had once seemed at best, "highly unlikely." Many of us everyday folks who experience stress in its many forms never really slow down to take inventory of where we have been so far, where we are today, and who we would like to become. First, give yourself permission to imagine the person you would like to be. For some, that will look dramatically different from the life we are living today; for others it will not be such a far-reach. Take some time to create a "wish list." You might prefer journaling your heart's desires... or painting those wishes. Talk them out with trusted friends who will,
a) listen without judgement, and
b) wish them for you too.
The clearer we are about our aspirations and intentions for this life, the sooner we can begin to take small steps to bring them closer. Where there is life, there is always Hope. On the one hand it's fine to be somewhat realistic as we plan but sometimes we have no way of knowing what is actually possible, so it's a good idea not to put too many limitations on what we hope for!

(which in some cases is working at home!) Some days we absolutely need to dot every "i", cross every "t", with our nose to the grindstone. Those are the days when there is just very little breathing space...and that's the deal. But SOME days it's okay to just crinkle up your "To-Do" list, and "to do" what makes you happy. When you notice life spinning a little faster than you can handle, hang on tight...and pull out your stress-relief toolbox. Amid your busy workday, create quick, simple, realistic stress-busters to help you through. When there's just no time for anything complicated during your workday, create mini-vacations like these, or make up your own:

1-Read just one story in a brain-candy magazine, or one chapter in that sci-fi thriller.

2-Do only the "downs" on your crossword puzzle.(Tomorrow: "across-es")

3-Take a brisk, invigorating nature hike, (even if it's just around the block!) Smile at 6 people along the way...just because.

4-Do a mini-meditation, mindful breath or journal for 10 minutes.(Okay,4 min.)

5-Set a timer and call up a friend who has NOTHING whatsoever to do with job. A friend of mine called me once from her office parking lot. She'd gone down to her car so she could have some privacy, then whined to me on her cell-phone for 5 minutes. We laughed at how bizarre her problem was and she went back to work feeling a lot better. (Gave me an unexpected break too!)

6-Log on, expore and discover 2 new stress techniques.

7-When you feel those muscles in your shoulders start tightening, ask yourself, "Is this "an-emergency"... or is this "an-noying?"

8-Take a lunch break every single day to nourish your body, rest your mind and refresh yourself. Take a walk or a ride, exercise, feed the ducks.

9-Clear off your desk and file just ONE of those piles. It's amazing how a cluttered work space can exacerbate internal stress.

10-Many people experience considerable stress associated with the workplace, so create ways to share laughter at work. Laughter is, perhaps, the best stress-reliever of all, sending an "all is well" message to the body-mind. Since the work we do can be a source of that stress, create a "Lighten Up" bulletin board where people can post cartoons, anecdotes, (politically correct) jokes, etc. to bring a smile as folks stop by. It's fun to know there's somewhere to go for quick respite from the stress and strain of the workday. (Alternate Route: If staff are in various locations, perhaps one person can volunteer monthly to coordinate an email collection of chuckles from others, to relay to all. (That avoids flooded e-mailboxes--which are very stressful!) To help you get started collecting on.

A friend sent these in one of those rare "fwds" that was actually worth reading. Hope you'll find one that brightens your day. (Author unknown. Sorry, Author.)

1. If a pig loses its voice, does it become disgruntled?
2. Why isn't the number 11 pronounced: "onety-one"?
3. Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield.
4. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.
5. Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
6. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
8. When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?
9. Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.
10. If lawyers get disbarred and clergymen defrocked, does it follow that electricians can be delighted, and dry cleaners depressed?
11. What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?
12. If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?
13. Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?
14. Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?
15. If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

Until next month, breathe and laugh deeply...and remember: Hope makes all things bearable, and somehow gets us through the most stressful moments of our lives. (And if we are very lucky and hope very hard...we just might see ourselves make some remarkable changes over time....and wouldn't THAT be wonderful!?)

I wish you all the hope you ever need...and above all, peace,