Better Ways of Relieving Stress - Mind And Muscle

strong guy standingby: Scott La Pidus, M.D.

Better Ways of Relieving Stress many people lead stressful lives or commonly experience stress. Yet they lack effective means of coping with this stress. There is certainly no shortage of prescription drugs, recreational drugs/substances, legal and illegal supplements which can be used for this purpose. However many of these substances are not without side effects or disadvantages (e.g. “damn! intra-nasal phenibut burns…maybe I should try it as a suppository next time…”). Thus, while useful in the short run, they do nothing to improve one’s ability to cope with stress in the long run.
In this article I’ll present a number of specific suggestions you can use to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Based on the experience of others, and myself it is highly likely that if you apply some of the suggestions below, you will benefit and be better able to cope with stress.

A full discussion of all of the types of meditation/meditational exercises is beyond the scope of this article. I will however present several which can be very helpful for this purpose.

1. Mini-Meditation: The simplest one. And the exercise that takes the least time is the mini-meditation described beginning in the second paragraph of the following article, This is a non-commercial site and has lots of useful information on related topics that can help undercut stress.
The exercise takes less then 30 seconds to perform, and if done regularly, one will start to see benefits in a short amount of time.

2. Extending the Mini-Meditation: Better yet, extend the mini-meditation and do it for 3-5 minutes or longer. If possible, sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight while doing this. Do the exercise as stated, focusing on your breath to the best of your ability. WHEN (not if) you find yourself being distracted by thoughts (any thoughts), rather then paying attention to your breath, gently shift your focus back to your breath. Keep doing this to the best of your ability for whatever time period you have chosen. If you wish, you may use an electronic timer – one that does not make any sounds until its alarm goes off. This will help you deal with the temptation to only do the exercise for very brief period of time (“30 seconds–seems long enough to me“).

A good approach is to do this twice a day e.g. mid-morning and mid-afternoon. By breaking the usual patterns of the day and sneaking in a few more restful moments, one can better cope with the remainder of the day.

Another option that works for a lot of people is to combine the meditation with nature/the outdoors. Many people find being in nature relaxing. So one can sit quietly by a stream, or lean against a tree and practice this meditation.

3. Breath Meditation: We breathe our entire lives but how many of you ever pay attention to your breathing? If you start to pay attention you will discover that how we breathe (e.g. shallow or deep, and through our nose or mouth), affects us. The exercise below is very similar to a breathing exercise that comes from mainstream yoga, as well as an exercise called ‘the gap meditation’, which comes from Tibetan Nyingma (Buddism).


Copyright © 2006 Scott La Pidus


To do this, start by following the mini-meditation as described previously, keeping your eyes closed. If it is comfortable, keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose throughout this exercise. Breathe normally while focusing on the physical sensations of breathing, for several breaths. Then start to breathe deeper, inhaling and exhaling slowly. After several breaths (when you’ve established what a comfortable deep breath feels like for you), focus your attention on the natural pauses which occur during breathing. Specifically, there is a natural pause after the exhale (and before you inhale again), and to a lesser extent a pause after the inhale (and before you exhale). Continue taking these relaxed slow deep breaths and when you come to one of these pauses, try to relax or sink into the pauses each time they occur. How do you do that? Focus all your attention on the pause and then, make an effort to relax, letting all the tension out of you – kinda like you’re mentally sighing, or letting all the air out of a ball or tire. When you’ve done this exercise as long as you wish to, return to normal breathing. Remain with your eyes closed for a few minutes and note how you feel. Do these for several minutes each time, perhaps working up to 10 or 15 minutes.


It is no secret that music can be used for relaxation, and many probably already use music for this purpose. What I can contribute is to suggest a specific way to listen to music for relaxation, and to suggest some specific pieces. People’s response to music is very individual, so not everyone will respond to all the pieces on the list. When possible use the resources available on the web to listen to samples to get a feel for these pieces. It should be noted that some (particularly Refuge and the more ‘vigorous pieces’) benefit from repeated hearings before truly appreciating their full benefits.

1. How to listen to music for relaxation: Dim the lights as low as you feel comfortable with. As you listen, it is important for the body to be as comfortable as possible to allow you to be able to relax as fully as possible. Lay down on the floor, or someplace comfortable, with your feet facing towards the speakers (and head facing away from the speaker). I use a reclining chair. Close your eyes and focus on your breath as indicated in the previous exercise for at least a few breaths. The goal of the exercise is to then become immersed in the music. But how to do this? One way is to feel the music as if it’s flowing through your body. Focus on your body and try to physically feel the music in your body. Another way is to just get totally absorbed in listening to the music, not allowing any distractions to come in. Interestingly, if you do this often enough you may notice that it’s not just your ears that pickup the music. When the music is over remain as you are with your eyes closed for a few minutes. Note how you feel.

2. Specific Pieces: Please note: these pieces were chosen specifically for the calming effects that they generally produce. Unless otherwise noted, do not assume that other pieces by the same
performer/composer will be as useful for this purpose.

Mellow pieces
Fairy Ring by Mike Rowland Narada CD ASIN: B000005P1O
While appearing to be just new age music, this piece rises far above the genre. It is a very relaxing and comforting CD. This is why word of mouth alone, without advertising, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of copies being sold. The Magical Elfin Collection, Silver wings and The Fairy Ring Suite by Rowland are also nice though they may be too similar for some to want to own more then one or two.


Copyright © 2006 Scott La Pidus


Vaughn Williams 3rd symphony. London symphony, Previn.
RCA ASIN: B000003F2I
A wonderful pastoral piece by a master.

Soma: Experience in Psychoacoustic Healing by Tom Kenyon
Label: Relaxation ASIN: B00000C40Q
Designed by a musician/psychotherapist to produce physical relaxation by stimulating alpha and theta waves. I have found this very effective.

More Vigorous Music
While these are not mellow as the ones above are, each of these pieces can be effective in helping you to relax and also perhaps can be healing.

Refuge by Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors
Raven label, ASIN: B000007MXD
This piece in contrast to the other ones in this section, has a vigorous almost rock like beat to which are set ancient Tibetan chants. I and many other people I know have found that this strangely potent combination can be very relaxing.

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony Von Karajan or Karl Bohm
This is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of western music, and it has a very rejuvenating and uplifting affect. The symphony is very long so you might want to start by listening to the fourth movement which has a section with vocals in German known as the Ode to Joy. I would strongly encourage you to try either Von Karajan or Bohm conducting as many others (such as Leonard Bernstein) introduce too much of themselves into the music.

Smetana’s The Moldeau (George Szell).
Sony CD ASIN: B00000DRXF
Another orchestral piece, which can be wonderfully healing. Relatively short (under 13 minutes) and delightfully energetic. It evokes a sense of nature along with the healing effect that nature can have.


Jin Shin Jyutsu in an ancient Japanese form of ‘energy work’ which is similar to many other modalities such as acupuncture, shiatsu, polarity, reiki, etc. Below are two simple exercises which are easy to do (e.g. on yourself, friends, or even children), and which can be very relaxing. The end of the day is a good time to try these.

Finger exercise

A. Form the right hand into a loose fist.
B. Take left thumb and put it inside the right fist so the right hand fingers are wrapped around left thumb.
C. Hold LOOSELY for about a minute.
D. Repeat with left index through pinky fingers one at a time, inside the loose fist of the right hand, and holding each for a full minute.
E. Then make a loose fist with left hand and repeat putting right fingers one at a time into the left fist and holding each for a full minute.

Most people find this very relaxing and some people will fall asleep by the 10th finger. In the Japanese way of understanding, the exercise works because lines of energy known as energy meridians run through the fingers. Holding the fingers releases any energetic blockages, along with the pent up emotions often behind the blockages and leaves one relaxed.

Main Central
Main central is another self-help Jin Shin Jyutsu exercise which can produce profound relaxation and is described here


I’ve presented a number of specific suggestions one can use to reduce stress and promote relaxation. I encourage you to give one or more of these a trial and see for yourself. If you’re particularly tense it is possible that the right piece of music or the right ‘exercise’ will produce a noticeable difference after a few tries. More likely, the benefits will be more subtle and take longer to become apparent. Whichever option(s) you choose, be sure to give them a fair trial e.g. 7 days of doing an exercise or 3 or 4 times hearing a particular piece of music to judge its effectiveness – I think you’ll be quite pleased.


Copyright © 2006 Scott La Pidus

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