Busy lives, stressful situations, rocky relationships all can leave the body and mind in knots: painful tension, headaches, digestive difficulty, foggy brain, poor sleep. Here are some simple techniques for finding soothing and calm to the body and the mind even in the midst of a busy, stressful day.
30 Second Shoulder Rolls
No matter where you are – standing in line at the grocery, sitting at your desk taking an exam, standing in an elevator, sitting at a stop light – this is a a sure-fire way to soften tension in the neck and shoulders and bring your busy mind back to focus on the body. Inhale deeply as you lift the shoulders up the ears. Hold the breath in as you slowly roll them back and breathe out slowly as you drop them down your back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold breath out as you return to normal position. Repeat 3 times.
Bring awareness to all the muscles in your face throughout the day. As you sit at the computer, listen to your co-worker over lunch, or while talking on the phone or texting, try to soften your eyebrows, your cheekbones, your jaw, your mouth. Let your eyelids have a bit of weight to them.
5 Minute Vacation from Stress
Look for a private place. It could be a closet, the bathroom, a stairwell and take a pair of foam earplugs with you to ensure quiet. Kick off your shoes, stand tall. Close your eyes. Feel the four corners of your feet into the floor. Lift your toes, spreading them apart and then float them down to the floor. Mentally scan your body from your head down to your heels for signs of stress or tension. Lift your shoulders to your ears, then roll them back and down toward the ground. Take five slow, deep inhalations and exhalations through the nose. After a few breaths, begin to fold the body forward by hinging at the hip bones. Allow the upper body to hang. Dangle your arms. Slowly nod your head yes, then no making sure no tension is in your neck. Breathe deeply in and out as you envision tension in your back and neck unwinding and dripping down out the top of your head. After 10 cycles of breathing in and out slowly, begin to slowly roll up, stacking one vertebrae on top of another with your head and neck the last to come up. Take five more deep, slow breaths as you come up. After you have returned to an upright position, finish this vacation from stress with a five more deep breaths in and out.
Breathe in deeply filling the lungs to a slow count of five. Pause, holding the breath in for a count of 5. Slowly exhale, releasing the breath to the count of 5 pulling your naval in toward your spine. Pause again holding the breath out for a count of 5. Repeat this cycle 5 times. This measured breath can easily be observed throughout the day wherever you are in order to gain a sense of grounding, slower heart rate, and greater focus.
Practice mindfulness by by observing your thoughts, bodily sensations and emotions without judgment throughout the day and certainly while you are practicing these breath techniques is an often overlooked – yet very important – component of stress reduction techniques. You can practice this by noticing tension in your body or noticing how your heart races when you have to rush to meet a deadline, take a test, or when your toddler spills sticky juice all over the table. As soon as you take that moment in the midst of stress to notice how you’re feeling without punishing yourself or anyone else for it, you are practicing mindfulness. When you practice mindfulness during breathing exercises, try to be a gentle observer of your experience. This will help to increase patience and acceptance of what is rather than being steam rolled by stress.
Lynn Louise Wonders