5 Ways to Help You Relax in 2 Weeks

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We know that we deserve and are meant to live an inspired life that rises above mere existence, but how? In A Life Worth Breathing, yoga teacher and spiritual philosopher Max Strom shows us the way. This is an excerpt from that book:
5 Things to Help You Relax in 2 Weeks

These techniques are to be done in tandem, and results should begin in two weeks or less. But this is more than a two-week experiment, these are new habits to aid you in staying relaxed as a new way of life. Becoming more relaxed will not disempower you or cause you to be less mentally sharp, conversely, living in a more relaxed state will empower you, and help you to not only focus, but know what is important to focus on.

1. Listen or read the news once a week – no more. You will notice a difference in your nervous system in just a few days and you may be surprised at what an addiction the news can be. From my own observation of others and myself, I believe that another one of the most insidious sources of anxiety and stress is watching or reading the news everyday. It is 99% negative andwhen you really step back, you already know what the news is going to be next time your see it.

Since, it’s going to be essentially the same every day, why do we bombard ourselves religiously with such dark images of crisis? Only the names and locations change. And after drinking a triple latte then going on the freeway and listening to horrifying news each and every day, it’s no wonder so many people are on anti-ulcer drugs and anti anxiety medication. Does this mean we should go into denial and ignore the problems? Absolutely not. Take action and do what you can to help. But in the rest of the week do not obsess about the negative. If anything really momentous happens, you will hear about it, everyone will be talking about it and then you can consult the media if you choose. In that way, you can stay be informed but not in a constant state of anxiety. The news plays up fear and conflict. Is that what you want to reinforce each day upon rising? Or the last thing you want to put in your imagination before sleeping? One of the most important contributions we can make to a trouble world is to give it more love, hope, and joy.

2. Read inspiring, life-affirming books before going to sleep at night. Books by or about the greatest souls in history. Whether it is the Bible, the Upanishads, the Torah, the Koran, great philosophers, or great poetry. To go to sleep with hope and inspiration will improve the quantity of your sleep and dreams.

3. Watch no violent or disturbing images in TV or movies. No explanation is necessary.

4. Get to sleep by 10 p.m. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the period of time between 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. is the most vital for the body to replenish and repair itself.

5. Give up caffeine gradually. Sorry, but it is important. You need to stop triggering the fight or flight response and somehow expect new results. Do so in steps, not cold turkey. Drink it only in the morning. Drink half a cup of coffee or latte and then pour out the rest. Switch to green or white tea with only water, no milk or soymilk. Then if you can, gradually eliminate the tea as well. What will amaze you is you will find you have more energy, not less.

Max Strom founded and directed the renowned Sacred Movement Center for Yoga and Healing in Los Angeles. There he taught more than four hundred students a week for over four years, building the program into one of the most respected centers in the world. In 2005, he sold the studio to Exhale Spa, which continues to thrive. Last year he taught and lectured in more than thirty-five cities in nine countries. Max is recognized by the Yoga Alliance at their Advanced Teacher Level (ERYT 500). He has taught tens of thousands of students; trained several hundred teachers; and recorded two videos, Learn to Breathe, to Heal Yourself and Your Relationships and Max Strom Yoga—Strength, Grace, Healing. Max has also immersed himself extensively in spiritual learning. Before his 20th birthday, he had studied Taoism, Esoteric Christianity, Sufism, and was practicing meditation and Chi Gung diligently. He currently resides in Ashland, Oregon.

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FMAX168 9/8/2019
I can never relax Report
STARVING__POET 7/15/2019
Great article! Report
KHALIA2 7/9/2019
Great info! Report
I think this is an interesting list. There are some good ideas on it. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite because I'm currently binge-watching Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is about as violent as it gets. Not every article is going to apply to every person. Still, it's good to look at different strategies for a healthy life. Report
KHALIA2 6/26/2019
Great article! Report
Most of the comments seem like reasonable goals. But the no coffee no tea - I agree it’s good to scale back, but then it flies in the face of research and experience showing that there is healthy antioxidant benefits to coffee and teas. So I guess one needs to find their balance! Report
STARVING__POET 6/21/2019
Love the article! Report
ANHELIC 6/8/2019
Thank you for the information Report
ETHELMERZ 6/4/2019
Just do as you see fit....too many folks making money yapping at us about this and that......they are part of the stress problem. Report
CKOUDSI617 5/4/2019
I agree...everyone is different. I have discovered that is much healthier (for me) NOT to be glued to the news every day, but I still give myself about an hour or two to hear what's been going on in the world. As for caffeine (especially tea), I don't think it's bad for you, but that's just an opinion based on my own experience. To each his or her own. Report
SXB990 3/31/2019
Great article Report
GETULLY 3/18/2019
I do most of the things already but will never give up my teas - herbal, green, white. Having a cuppa is one of the calming parts of my day. Report
thanks Report
RYCGIRL 12/30/2018
thanks Report
BUDDHAWOMAN0 12/26/2018
Thank you for the article Report
thank you Report
Great information Report
I completely agree with # 1 because over this past year, I have watched the news more than ever and it's actually caused my blood pressure to go up to the point that my doctor is considering medication for it. I am watching much less and definitely not watching the daily press conferences. Monitoring my blood pressure has shown that it is going down and is directly related to the news. Sad commentary of today's life. Report
Regarding "the news" a recent newsletter I receive stated that more and more people are not listening to the news, because so much of it is "bad" viewed as "negative" or "stressful." So i understand the comment in this article but thought this newsletter's take was unique and remarkable--they said read the Good News! Funny take. The GOOD NEWS is still good all these centuries later. Report
Good article! Report
So basically keep negative chaotic news and t.v. out Report
I've been caffeine free for over 10 years. Well, I do drink green tea, but it doesn't affect me like black tea does. Report
Good post and some interesting relaxing techniques. Caffine is so hard to get out of your system though. Report
I agree with many of my fellow bloggers, especially remember myself. I would feel so out of touch if I didn't keep up with the news, at least locally. I don't watch violent TV late and am trying to be in bed, or at least reading (purely for enjoyment) by 10pm. Have cut out all alcohol. Drink only tea the 2 days a week I work. Am feeling fantastic at 52, not many women can say that. Do whatever you need to relax yourself, keeping in mind your lifestyle. Report
I understand that some people may feel overwhelmed by the violent images and negative news, but for me I feel like it's my duty to keep in touch with the things going on in the world.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’
-Edmund Burke

I feel like this is even more true when we close ourselves off from the news of the world.

On the other hand, perhaps if everyone were a little more chill there wouldn't BE so many bad things.
I'm kind of so-so on these suggestions. But the comments are stressing me out!

If you love coffee, or violent movies, or staying up until 11pm, more power to you, keep doing your thing! But please don't get so upset at this person for saying "these things increase stress." You're increasing your stress by being mad, don't you think? I mean, I'm going to keep watching violent movies and drinking green tea, and I'm not going to worry about it so much; it's all good. We all like what we like.

Breathe, people. Breathe. Report
"One of the most important tenants of yoga is often stated thus: Non-attachment is the greatest form of love. It sounds from many of these responses that many of us are strongly attached.. e.g. define ourselves by ideas about the world and our food intake. Non-attachment doesn't mean we don't care, we just accept the fact that we cannot change outcomes only our response to them. "

Another of the most important tenets of yoga is to be present in every moment. The practice of yoga does not require one to isolate oneself from what is going on in the world around oneself. We are encouraged to engage in life and live it to it's fullest.

I would argue that acceptance does not mean that we cannot alter eventual outcomes. Acceptance is tied to the moment. It is what it is right now. That does not mean that we cannot alter our own behavior or contribute to a better future society.

Yoga involves a quest for enlightenment. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a person in today's society to attain enlightenment with limited knowledge of the world around them.

Another key principle of yoga is practicing with ahimsa. That means living a life of loving kindess to others and to oneself. Report
Wow I READ some of the comments and was floored over what everyone was saying. The whole point was to give you tips to relax going to bed early will help your body relax and heal from your working out and you will have more energy in the morning.News she still said watch it but not so much the news always have some bads news that will upset you before you go to bed. Reading was a good idea because it will help you prepare your mind for postive thoughts before you go to bed. As far as the movie if you want to relax it would have to be some non violent movie.And you know 2 much caffeine is not good for your body rather or not if you want to quit the fact still remains. And with everything you always have that options to do what feels good for you. but don't knock it because you don't feel the same way as the writer I loved them all I LOVE to relax and treat my body and mind good. So keep the blogs coming. Report
I like your point about cutting out gradually. 6 weeks ago I quit smoking, cut my sugar and caffeine down by about 80% and my body really suffered. I figured no pain no gain, but it set me up for failure. After a few days I went back to the old habits (except smoking!) and then decided to cut everything gradually. I'm now down to 1/3 of the caffeine intake (I've been gradually adding more and more decaf grinds in the morning) and about 1/4 of the sugar intake which usually end up going together :)
I gradually increased my water and also started probiotics to help with the sugar cravings. I honestly feel like a new person. I know I have a bit to go, but every day is easier. Report
Well, if nothing else; this blog sure provoked a lot of discussion :)

I don't think these "secrets" would work for me. The one thing I do is limit my coffee to the morning hours and I don't drink cola drinks. But other than that - no news? Inspiring books? And where is the exercise to de-stress?

To each their own. Report
Are you kidding me?
1. I have to watch the news as a part of my job. And ignorance is not a cure for stress.
2. Reading is a wonderful idea, but religion and poetry are hardly the only ways to destress.
3. Watch what you enjoy. No reason needed.
4. 10pm? What's so magical about 10pm? Having quality "me" time is as important for reducing stress and is often only possible later at night.
5. Being addicted to caffeine is not ideal, but it's hardly a silver bullet. Report
sorry... I gave up ice cream, donuts, potato chips -- can I please just have my one cup of coffee in the morning !! you need to learn to deal with the stress or not let it affect you - think positive !! Report
This is one of the worst blogs I have ever read! I flagrantly break every single one of these rules and have 0 (zero!) stress.
People get more stressed out from trying to stress-free their lives then they realize. Just enjoy every moment of your life, that's all you need. Now here's my list...

1. Pay attention to the news from all over the world, don't be ignorant! When you understand how and why things work they won't bother you as much.
2. Read things that entertain you, don't just get by in life - enjoy it!
3. Don't watch sensationalist shows(or news for that matter) on TV that are only there for "shock value", they add nothing to your life.
4. Try to get 8 hours of sleep, if you can't you can't, but don't just mindlessly stay up until the last brain cell is ready to go.
5. Drink as much coffee as you want, it's good for you! It's an antioxidant and it regulates your blood sugar (keeps you from spiking insulin, which coincidently reduces stress).. drink enough and you will suffer less from the "side effects". Report
I never watch tehnews, only ead it online for a couple minutes every fefw days, in bed by8 bells, up at 4 bells, no violent anything, caffeine, set boundaries with others, practice TM and meditation, sleep like Snow White every night!! Been doing this forty years before this guy wrote the book though.. Report
Everybody is not created equally, therefore, each one of us has our own tips that may not work for others but fantastically for us. I don't watch news at all. Incredibly I watch horror movies at night and sleep like a baby afterward. Coffee is a must in this household. Tea is required where my British husband is concerned. We are so relaxed that we don't know what to do with ourselves. ;-)
Good for you that your tips work wonderfully for you, but nah they will never work for me.
Cheers! Report
lol - I was totally on board with this blog based just on the title, and then I read all the stuff I would have to give up. Honestly, I wouldn't recognize myself if I gave up coffee, my daily news radio, violent movies/videogames and started reading inspiring books before bed instead of my typical fantasy/romance trash! And in bed by 10pm? OMG! Puh-leez!

I can't do a one of these things! Report
I thought this was kind of ridiculous! Life is about immersing ourselves in our worlds, interacting with others, experiencing joy as well as pain, and just plain living. It does not gaurantee a state of perpetual relaxation, and I think a life devoid of stress, pain and anxiety would be a poor and cheap life indeed.

Listening to the news and staying current with world events doesn't mean you are automatically stressed out and anxious. You can be interested and concerned instead. I would rather be involved with the world, than hiding from it just in case I find it too distressing!

Although gratuitous violence in TV and movies is unnecessary in itself, sometimes the violence that we see is necessary to tell the story or make the point. When I see a TV newscast of the violent aftermath of a car bombing, it may make me anxious in my experience of the world, but it also teaches me compassion for the victims and creates in me a desire to reach out and help, or become involved to change the world. How can this be bad? Life is not about me being safe in my own little cocoon and worried about the negative effect the evil old world has on me--it is about living with others and becoming the change I wish to see.

As far as caffeine goes, well, everything in moderation. Caffeine has been shown to have some positive effects such as increasing alertness and providing a temporary energy boost, and it can also provide a modest boost in metabolic rate. If you don't want to use caffeine, fine--but for those of us who enjoy it and aren't adversely affected, let's live and let live.

And hey, I'd have a hard time getting to sleep by 10 p.m. every night, since I work night shift and don't start my work day until 11:00! The world is full of those whose jobs require different sleeping patterns. And just try having a relaxing life when all those police, firefighters and hospital and emergency personnel are not available for your middle-of-the-night emergency.

This whole concept is self-indulgent and shows a real head-in-the-sand mentality towards really living in the real world. Report
I have started reading the Bible and other religious books to become more informed about other religions. I realized that knowledge has a calming affect on me. Report
I really truly enjoy my coffee in the morning. I don't know if I'm ready to give it up! I go to bed around 9:00-9:30 every night, and I don't watch much TV anyway. Still some interesting tips. Report
This was interesting. Since the news is full of doom and gloom-That is all they know how to report. I try not to watch it too much. I read "happy and feel good books" but not necessairly before bed. The TV is full of disturbing stuff and the only way to avoid it is turning it off and throwing it away. I remember when the prime time talk shows like 20/20 and dateline used to be good. Window of time on sleep to replenish and repair--that is debatable. Everyone is different and 9-5 jobs no longer exist as the norm. Give up caffeine gradually? it is true that caffeine is a stimulant and too much will give a sense of impending doom but getting rid of it all together I don't feel would have a great affect on relaxing techniques. If your hyper sensitive to caffiene is one thing and probably shouldn't drink it especially as you get older. But to each is own and find what works and go with it. Report
Although some of the suggestions may sound extreme, even a modification of current habits towards these "ideas" may prove beneficial. I, for example, do get the news on a regular (one-two times a day basis, but through radio). I also work full time and between that and carrying for the household, my sister, fitness, and a social life and church obligations, I find that the time I have left is far too valuable to spend watching T.V. or most movies. This in itself has eliminaated the majority of gratuitous violence and I do see a difference between my demeanor and that of friends and family who watch considerably more T.V. than I do. It doesn't have to be all or nothing...I couldn't give up my coffee either, but since joining Spark, I now have a cup or two in the am and a cup of decaf or half caf on a rare occasion in the evening instead of my previous 1-2 pot a day habit. Report
I think the problem is that the writer assumes people's stress comes from consuming caffeine and being bombarded with disturbing/violent/angry images. I think most people would tell you that's not true.

IMO, most stress comes from wanting to please others in nearly every facet of our lives: doing a good job at work/school to please the boss/teacher; being thoughtful to please our significant others; giving too much of ourselves to please friends, neighbors, etc. In a sense, you need to break the attachment of obligation.

Once I made the decision to worry about making myself happy, not just others, most of my stress disappeared. I say most b/c a little will always be there, and every health class I've ever taken says a little stress is good for you. It's part of your "survival" instincts. Maybe we should be looking at stress as a survival indicator? When you start to feel too much stress, it means you're not on the right path.

Personally, I watch local news to learn about my new community. I drink coffee on the weekends as a treat, but sometimes I have a cup during the week when I know I need to stay awake during a boring meeting (no amount of sleep will keep you awake during a boring meeting). In fact, I've found when I drink coffee before a meeting, I am pay more attention and contribute more to the discussion.

I try to get to bed at a good time, but it's always my mind racing about what needs to happen the next day that keeps me awake. Why no suggestions on how to quiet that? How about some strategies to keep your emotions in check when you hear bad news?

I'd keep going, but thinking about this is beginning to stress me out. Report
Great thoughts!! News? well, I never have liked the news and hated it when I HAD to watch it in hs... I haven't watched news, I don't think, since leaving home! I don't get any newspapers either! I figure- and so far I have been right- when there is something of real importance, someone always lets me know!! Caffeine- never have gotten into that either- actually kind of funny, but the only time I have ever drank coffee was when we had our twins and only for 1 year- almost to the day- then couldn't stand the taste of it! (really weird) Now, the shows (I do like CSI and Criminal Minds) and sleep (for sure), that's a little harder... I definitely have to work on that! Reading... already do! That's the only kind of books I read, actually- well, except some books for home schooling! Report
Interesting blog ... I use some of the principles he mentions, though the specifics do not fit my lifestyle.
A) Seek out at least as much beauty and positiveness as the ugliness you are exposed to - and place it first and last in your day when you can. This combines 1,2,3. While many of us need to get the specifics of the news to do our jobs, or need to face ugliness/evil on our jobs, we can choose to add in beauty and hope. It may be as simple as having a gorgeous photo or picture in your bedroom, sleeping to positive music, or thinking about what you/others are doing to alleviate bad situations, or even just affirming to yourself that there is joy and beauty in the world.
B) Use physical activity to release the fight/flight emotions of your day. For some of us this will be a heavy-duty workout that raises/releases adrenalin (me!). For others, it will be yoga. The key is not to keep these things bottled up inside overnight.
C) Sleep well and deeply, and long enough. Make rest and recovery a priority, just like good nutrition and health. Darken the room, play soft music, whatever it takes to relax fully and unwind.

And as to caffeine - the studies just don't back up a requirement to drop coffee, and there may even be health benefits as well with regard to Alzheimers. Here I suggest we each believe and do as we think best :) Some people are extremely sensitive to caffeine and do need to let it go, while others such as myself can fall asleep holding coffee, or go for a few days without any and not have a headache. Know your body and feed it what is good for it :) Report
Ha, I knew people would be totally against the "news once a week" part of this as soon as I read it. But it's so true! The weeks when I'm at the gym and the news is on every time, I am more tense and unhappy. The weeks when I skim the newspaper once a week, I am more relaxed.

TV news is designed to convince you that it's crucial, that without it you would be lost in ignorance. I challenge everyone to see for yourself whether this is true--turn off the news for one week. Not even one week, 6 days. Then turn it back on again--it will be EXACTLY THE SAME. You will not have missed a single thing. Give it a try! What have you got to lose? Report
One of the most important tenants of yoga is often stated thus: Non-attachment is the greatest form of love. It sounds from many of these responses that many of us are strongly attached.. e.g. define ourselves by ideas about the world and our food intake. Non-attachment doesn't mean we don't care, we just accept the fact that we cannot change outcomes only our response to them. Report
I also want to add that the provincial news I watch just finished a week long "Courage to Comeback" segment that is done yearly, in relation to the "Courage to Comeback" awards. This covers all people, all ages, who have come through adversity - from mental health issues, to physical, to accidents, to deaths in families and other related issues. It is amazing inspiring. There is a segment that focuses on "Weather Window" that shows the beauty of our province through the eyes of the viewers. Not all news is bad. As I said, its the balancing that is important. If like my cousin you watch it 24/7 and can't turn it off, then there is a problem. But to trash all news, that to me says one isn't realizing that there are programs of good news too. Report
I'm not impressed with this blog. It makes sweeping generalizations. One would have to live in total isolation to never be exposed again to a disturbing image or violent image through media - in all forms. An ad from MADD is disturbing, an ad to end domestic violence can be violent. Watch a so-called chick flick, talk about disturbing images - hate, back-stabbing, nudity etc. Westerns - all violence. Even cartoons are violent when you really analzye them. After all that poor Coyote chasing the Roadrunner was always being blown up or smashed. It's part of our society, to avoid it completely means becoming isolated and while I'd love to run away many times, I know reality means I need to stand solid in my shoes here in this moment now. I am not a religious person and find no solace in reading a great piece of religious material before bed. I like my horror, sci-fi, mysteries and my detective stories, and I read them before bed. It doesn't create tension, it adds to my relaxation as I'm able to escape reality for awhile. I'm tired of day people telling night people how evil the night is..and the reality is, not everyone has the ability to go to bed at 10PM. There are many who work night shift. I'm tired of hearing how evil coffee is. Interesting there wasn't "bring down ALL caffiene products" especially those energy drinks - that do create a huge buzz and tension in the body. For those of us living with ADHD, caffiene actually creates a calming effect - there is research to back up my claims. There was an assumption that everyone is drinking triple lattes and driving on freeways, that is so untrue. I haven't driven a freeway in more years than I can recall!! And I hate triple lattes. I listen to the local radio news to keep up on community events, find out what's happening in council and know if someone in our community has been struck with tragedy - gotta love small town news. Our provincial news has a section of positive news stories and Mike is very well known - has 3 books out regarding these stories. I don't get wrapped up in the news but I do stay updated. I have to. My work depends on the flavour of the month in government and often I'll find out that funding has been cut before that news hits our desks - so it gives time to start rallying and figuring out how to fight against and deal with the cuts. Part of my work is advocacy so its very important that I balance what I take in and that's the key - balance. It isn't turning it off, its balancing it all. It's being aware that of self. When I've been too immersed in the dark side of life because of my work, I won't go to certain movies and there are some movies I will never view. I know that I'll be affected. Yet I can go watch a good horror and walk out feeling refreshed. It's simply knowing your own limitations and knowing your own self. I thought this would be practical exercises or yoga poses or such, so I was disappointed. Report
Sorry, I prefer to know what is going on the world as opposed to living in ignorance. Report