Nicole Marais

ONLINE & telephone Psychotherapy - Counselling - Coaching


Relaxation. Create Your Own Thought Bowl.


Stress the ‘buzz’ word for ‘things’ which we feel when we are overwhelmed – so what really is Stress? It is your physical and emotional response to demands put on you. They can actually be pleasurable demands such as getting married, being promoted, having a baby or difficult demands such as redundancy, bereavement or divorce. You can take charge, empower yourself and relax.


In times before corner shops, supermarkets, kiosks etc our ancestors faced many dangers when hunting and gathering food – be it vegetables, meat, fish, cappuccinos and so on - therefore they evolved both physically and emotionally to deal with the danger through ‘fight, flight, freeze, avoid or absorb’. However in modern day life our everyday ‘stressors’ are much less (it may not seem like that!) though our ‘make-up’ has remained the same.


Hormones are sent around the body, they 'fire up' the Sympathetic Nervous System getting you ready for the 'fight, flight, freeze, avoid or absorb'. The Parasympathetic Nervous System - the 'rest and relaxation' system - stands down. During long periods of stress you remain in the 'fight, flight, freeze or avoid' mode and never get a chance to truly relax - so you feel irritable, tense, angry - finding it difficult to focus and so on. Your immune system becomes depleted and you may get unexplained illnesses, headaches, other aches and pains and you just can't seem to 'shake off' that cold. You may also find you are drinking more; coffee, tea, wine, beer, fizzy drinks, eating more cakes, or smoking more, and so on - as these may initially feel like a 'treat' at the end of a hard day. Ultimately they are stimulants and persistent use or excessive use can add to stress and/or poor health.

Tips on how to relax

So, how do you relax? Here comes the tips

  1. Breathe – find a quiet place and spend 10 minutes breathing – in through the nose for 10 counts and out through the mouth for 10 counts. Take the breath down to the belly. (When we are stressed we shallow breathe which doesn’t allow the oxygen to move around the body so efficiently and exacerbates the situation). As you breathe in – imagine a white light travelling around your body relaxing you and as you breathe out – imagine a grey smoke leaving you and taking all the stresses away and dissolving
  2. Creative Imagination - Imagine you are somewhere beautiful – that you have been to before or create an inner sanctuary and ‘travel’ there. Stay for a minimum of 10 minutes – up to 20 minutes
  3. Walk – Go for a relaxing walk and put your attention outside of yourself – look in a shop window or go over the park
  4. Other exercise – Yoga, Qi Gong
  5. Long Hot Bath - With candles
  6. Drink - Plenty of water and/or herbal teas
  7. Eat - Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit

You don't have to do this all on your own - other relaxation treats

  1. Book yourself a massage or other relaxing treatment
  2. Laugh! - A lot! Go see a movie with family/friends
  3. Talk - Share what’s going on with others
  4. Read - A joke every day

All of these will help to re-engage that parasympathetic nervous system and have a calming influence

Thought Bowl - Hoe to transform thinking and feelings

Sometimes we can get stuck in a particular negative way of thinking or feeling and just can't seem to 'get out of it'. Prep! A Thought Bowl can really help.

  1. Get yourself an attractive bowl, something you like the look of, feel of, that puts a smile on your face and brings warmth to your feelings.
  2. Get yourself some quality colourful paper and writing pens. Cut the paper into small pieces and write down positive words, quotes, memories, anything which helps you think and feel good. Fold them up
  3. Get some small photos or pictures which you enjoy looking at. Put them in the bowl - face down
  4. When you have put everything into the bowl place it in the most appropriate spot in the house or somewhere else; for example if you know you wake up not feeling great then place it by your bed. If you know it's midway through the day then place it in your desk drawer or on a surface at home.
  5. Now, you have many options with how to use this. If it's first thing in the morning, close your eyes, take a deep breath; breathing in positivity and blowing out what you don't want to keep. With your eyes closed, pick one thing out of the bowl and then look at it. Allow yourself to reflect throughout the day on that word, memory, thought, image - use it to empower yourself.
  6. If you get stuck during the day and need to keep your thought bowl in your desk drawer in the office, dip in then.

It's yours to use whenever you see it

The advantage is you don't have to have the same negative circular thinking and feelings going around, you've already done the prep to give yourself options; to begin re-programming yourself.

This doesn't mean avoiding responsibility if action is needed. This does mean you have calmed yourself down to enable yourself to think differently, more clearly and feel more empowered about any course of action. It does mean you are taking a more loving attitude towards yourself, a kinder attitude and more growthful attitude. That which we focus on grows. We are born to grow and to honour our potential.

© Nicole Marais

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