Do you ever wake up feeling anxious? You haven’t even gotten out of bed and your heart feels constrained. The busy talk of your mind has already set in before your feet have even managed to slip into your slippers. You can’t even imagine inner peace. If we’re not careful the business of our lives can take over our lives and create more stress, more worry, more needless mental noise and physical turmoil than necessary.
It might feel like being stressed out is a normal part of busy lives, but that’s not true. We may not be able to control all the demands for our time and attention that stress us out, but we can manage our stress response. We can learn to quiet the overactive mind. Here are three simple de-stressers anyone can do at just about any time.
Progressive muscle relaxation
When you’re feeling overwhelmed your muscles unconsciously tighten. It’s as if they’ve grabbed hold of the stress and can’t let go. They way to pry the stress out of your muscles is to consciously tighten them, one at a time then release. The release triggers a relaxation response.
Give yourself about five minutes of undistributed time to go through your muscles. Find a quiet place to lie down. Take a couple of deep breaths. Then bring focus your attention on one part of your body at a time. Tense the muscles in that part of your body, holding as tightly as you can for a couple of seconds then let go. You will feel that part of your body relax in response. Start with your feet, go to legs, pelvis, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, hands, neck, face.
Once you’ve finished with the individual muscle groups tense everything as tight as you can. Curl your toes, make your hands into fists, squeeze your eyes shut. Breathe in deeply through your nose then release the breath with an audible sigh through your mouth.
The sigh of relief
When we are stressed out we tend to breathe in the upper registers of our chests, in a very shallow way. As if we are in fight or flight mode. Deep breathing is a natural de-stresser.
Start by noticing your shoulders. Are they tense, are they hovering somewhere around your ears. Relax your shoulders and your jaw. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose, from deep in your solar plexus to the count of five. Hold your breath for a count of five then breathe out slowly through your mouth with an audible exhale for a final count of five. Repeat.
By slowing breathing in, and slowly breathing out with an exaggerated exhale you simultaneously release the stress response and activate the relaxation response.
When you hug someone with all the hug you’ve got, full arms, full heart and hold it for a moment you activate a natural oxytocin response. Oxytocin helps relax your blood vessels, strengthens your heart and helps your mind feel more impervious to stress.
A heartfelt hug can naturally release hormones your body needs to calm your busy mind and relax you physically.
Use these three simple techniques to help you find peace in yourself so you can find it outside yourself.