Zen Times offers some simple relaxation tips for those with busy lifestyles and talks to Clinical Counsellor, Lina Crossin, from the Alpine Anxiety & Stress Relief Clinic about one of the most ancient and wise forms of stress relief - meditation.

Do you find that by the time lunchtime rolls around you are wound up tight as a coil ready to spring? Chewing on your nails and pulling your hair out to get you through the day? Clearly, an injection of relaxation is needed, and for many people who struggle trying to balance work, life and family duties, a large dose is required! For those with such hectic schedules, finding a time slot in their busy day is no mean feat and setting aside time to meditate and de-stress can often come in at the bottom of a rather long to do list.

We have put together a list of tools that are out there - the very aim of which is to make the art of relaxing and letting go of negative thoughts as simple a process as possible. Clinical Counsellor, Lina Crossin, from the Vancouver-based Alpine Anxiety & Stress Relief Clinic is on hand to offer some additional advice for readers. According to Lina, tools that are designed to relieve stress and encourage meditation work extremely well in assisting those who are experiencing stress in their lives. "Meditation is critical in taming the mind. The practice of focusing your attention on a single object of concentration for a period of time daily helps you to become more focused and live in the moment rather than in fear of the future or regrests of the past. It is an essential practice in helping to reduce stress." Once you are equipped with such tools to facilitate meditation, it makes the process of practising a lot less daunting.

Stress balls
It's hard to imagine how grasping a little piece of rubber between your hands can help relieve stress and aid meditation, but stress balls have proven more than helpful to those in the throes of angst-ridden events that unexpectedly pop up in their lives. When something is crawling under your skin and really getting to you, your first reaction can often be to scream or, something that more of us envision rather than actually carry out, throw something across the room! By focusing all of your feelings into squeezing this rubbery ball in your fist, you can find a release for that pent up fustration and anger. Stress balls are said to improve circulation, such movement working to de-stress your nerves. By manipulating the rubber ball, as well as releasing stress, you exercise your muscles, allowing you to physically and emotionally wave goodbye to whatever is weighing on your mind.

Buddha Boards
Based on the concept of 'living in the moment', a Buddha Board is a creative tool that allows you to tap into that ever important mantra of focusing on the here and now. There is a whole range of these products, but fundamentally they all do the same thing. You paint on the board's special canvas with water and your image will appear in bold design. Then, and this is the really good part, the image you created begins to fade before your eyes and, with it, you can let all negative thoughts go from your mind. So, if you feel wound up or fustrated about something, visualize it on your board and then watch it fade away from your board and your mind simultaneously. The best thing about this is there are no limits to the number of times you can express yourself and all you need is a board and some water. Prop one up on your desk for times when things get too stressful in the office - you will soon see your worries, quite literally, fading away!

These simple prayer beads date centuries old; the string of beads has played a central role in meditation for a long time helping users focus their minds. Based on the principle of the sacred number of 108, malas will have either 108 beads or a divisable of that number. Considered a symbol of a thousand lotus petals, malas are strung on silk thread with knots between each bead to allow for consistent space between each bead. To use a mala, you hold it in either hand between the thumb and one of your fingers and recite a mantra or affirmation before moving onto the next bead. Once you have completed a full circle, you feel the Guru bead. The psyche behind this is that acupressure points on each of the fingers work on different parts of your body and soul. For example, the index finger is linked to wisdom, knowledge and prosperity; the middle finger is linked to patience; the ring finger is associated with health and prosperity and the little finger is asid to be related to areas of communication and intelligence. This tool offers beat and rhythm allowing you to zone out of your surroundings and focus on meditation.

Your breath
This is one tool that is rather easy to forget seeing as you breath all of the time. While you may be breathing all of the time, you may not be doing so correctly to relieve stress! Breathing exercises are a really easy way to relax yourself and, best of all, it's free of charge. According to Lina, "belly breathing helps to stimulate the diaphragm, which sends a signal to the body to relax." Begin by sitting upright - good posture facilitates the flow of air throughout your body. Inhale deelpy through the nose filling your chest with air. Try and take a breath from deep in your abdomen, as this allows as much air into your lungs as possible. Shallow breaths mean less oxygen enters your lungs. Hold this breath for five seconds before opening your mouth and slowly exhaling - releasing your breath. As you exhale,envision all of the tension you are feeling leave your body. By controlling your breathing, your body will relax itself. The phrase 'take a deep breath' does not come from nowhere, it really does help and is a tool that is always at hand.