If you can repeat this cycle numerous times, your epinephrine levels will subside and feelings of stress and anxiety should taper off. Then you can really enjoy your mental vacation, whether you are at the beach or on a mountaintop. When you want to end the exercise, be sure to return to your surroundings as gently as possible. Try mildly contracting all your body muscles while slowly opening your eyes.
Younger children may find such guided relaxation too restrictive. Instead of focusing on breathing, it may be easier for them to think of "quiet time." Renowned Italian educator Maria Montessori discovered that most children love the quiet (which may seem unbelievable to many stressed-out parents) and respond well to the following instruction: "Close your eyes. Be completely quiet. Don't move. Hear the silence and listen to your body." And if young people find it difficult at first to develop a soothing mental image like a beach, read them a story, and they will readily transport themselves to an imaginary world, which is the real goal.
If a child has great difficulty keeping still and silent, calm background music can provide an ideal bridge. The same applies to adults who have trouble relaxing. Listen to melodic, instrumental music, allowing your thoughts to flow freely. For a short break at the workplace, imagining such music is enough--close your eyes and turn on your mental CD player.
This article was originally published with the title Want Clear Thinking? Relax.