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How My Brain Injury Taught Me to Relax

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It's an image that seems to be everywhere -- hanging in office cubicles, in stores, mugs and even on T-shirts.

In large white writing with a red background: "Keep Calm and Carry On." Above the text, a crown fit for a king.

Where did that phrase and image come from? The British government created the slogan during World War II; it was meant to raise the morale of the British people. Well, it seems that our stress levels are just as high as they were during the final years of the Great Depression and the looming Nazi invasion.

The question is why are we so "stressed out"? How can we change in 2013?

In the heart of downtown Toronto, people get into virtual foot races as they rush to get across the sidewalk first, rush to the yoga studio to get "relaxed," rush to a restaurant to "savor" a meal and rush to a doctor's appointment to get sleeping pills.

Perhaps this is why we need to place posters on our walls and mugs with calming statements as reminders to relax. According to Shoppers Drug mart, this may also be the reason why anti-anxiety and anti-depressants are the most prescribed in the downtown core compared to the rest of the province.

If you live in a big city, you have a 21 per cent higher risk of anxiety disorders, 39 per cent higher risk of mood disorders and Schizophrenia rates are almost double, according to research done by Douglas Mental Health University based in Montreal.

I used to thrive on stress and deadlines. As a network television producer for 15 years nothing made me happier than securing big interviews, wiping out the competition and pushing my own limits. Everything changed a few years ago, when I suffered a concussion. I was forced to "live in the moment" and slow down.

From severe panic attacks to extreme exhaustion, the "go-getter" was gone. As a yogi for many years, I never truly understood the meaning of "letting go" and "being present" until my brain injury. I didn't have the choice, rushing through my life was no longer an option.

The definition of relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When was the last time that you were free of tension and anxiety?

As a yoga teacher with a type A personality, I understand that relaxing is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. It's ironic, but for many sitting still is harder than running a marathon. The universe had to smack me in the face in order to get me to sit down.

Don't wait for that to happen to you, reduce the "rush" in your life, slow down and open your eyes to see where you are headed. It's a new year, change old habits.

In silence and stillness, we don't need a poster to tell us to "Keep calm and carry on." We can tell ourselves.

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