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Spring Break Makeover for the Mind

With the new season comes new opportunity to do some mental spring cleaning

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Identify negative thoughts and don't let them ambush you, Orloff advises. "Don't beat yourself up for being stressed, but bring your fears into the open on paper. Make a list of your seven worst fears."

Then, she says, make a second list of the things you are grateful for.

Irwin says he did much the same with a family member who was getting down and negative. Parents need to teach children to make a list of positives, too.

Writing the negatives bleeds them of power. They become words on paper.

Second Tip: Protect Yourself From 'Energy Vampires'

People can be very unrelaxing, to say the least. In her book, Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress & Fear into Vibrance, Strength & Love, Orloff catalogues some types that can derail your best efforts to handle stress.

The Drama Queen can wear you out, she says, with the daily performances. The Sob Sister is constantly airing grievances. The Constant Talker requires your constant listening. And The Blamer is always criticizing you or the people around you.

"You need to learn to set boundaries," Orloff says. "Listen for awhile, then break off the interchange. People are so afraid to do this. They don't want to seem impolite. You need to be firm, though kind."

The same goes for technology, which can be an overwhelming stressor. "People go into despair when their computer breaks (or they forget their cell phone for a day).

"Don't let your computer hypnotize you. Get outside, at least look outside!"

Orloff does three-minute meditations throughout the day. "I have a busy life, but I like to have a busy life coming from a centered place," she says. For three minutes, close your door, turn off the phone, close your eyes, then:

  • Take deep breaths, focusing on your breath as it goes in and out.
  • If thoughts come, watch them waft across your mind like clouds in the sky.
  • Bring yourself back to your breathing.
  • Then think about a beautiful image, a flower, a child's face; look at every detail.
  • Then, gradually, breathe faster and open your eyes.

Irwin also recommends meditation as well as laughter, tai chi, and yoga.

A lunch time walk, more frequent trips to the gym -- those are good, too. You can even program a break into your schedule.

But all of these take more than three minutes, so close your eyes.

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