Today’s big idea is that there are many things you can do to trigger your own relaxation response–which is essentially the opposite of the stress response–in five minutes or less. Of course, spending a longer time with stress reduction tools will help you enter that state more deeply, but one of the insidious things about stress is that it will try to convince you that you don’t have time for anything that’s not related to getting things done. I promise you, you have a couple minutes for yourself. The hardest part, really, is simply deciding to take them.
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Knowing what to do during those minutes, though, and thinking about how and when you’ll do them before hand, makes it much more likely that you will, in fact, do something that promotes stress reduction. So today I’m giving you three choices of what to do. These all can shift your energy toward relaxation, big time.
OK, are you ready to relax?? The first stress reduction tool is:
Extended exhale breathing
This is a breathing pattern where you breathe out for longer than you breathe in. I’ll give you a count to follow and try in just a moment. But the reason why this works is that, in order to expel more air than you naturally would, you have to engage your diaphragm, which is the parachute shaped muscle that stretches across the bottom opening of your rib cage and moves up and down with each exhale and inhale.
It moves down to make space for your lungs to expand with an inhale, and retracts back upward as you breathe out. When you’re stressed, your breathing gets shallow and your diaphragm can get locked in a really small movement pattern, which then continues to send the signal to your body that all is not well. Breathing deeply nudges the diaphragm out of that constricted position which sends the all clear signal to your nervous system.
Here’s how you do it
Breathe in for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of four. Breathe out for a count of six. Let’s try it now. Breathe in for 2, 3, 4. Hold for 2, 3, 4. And breathe out for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Now you have a muscle memory of it.
Another way to invite deeper breathing that engages the diaphragm is to lie on the floor on your belly
You can rest your forehead on your crossed forearms. And then invite your abdomen to press into the floor as you inhale and recede as you exhale. You don’t need to count the breaths here–resting your head in this way quiets the mind, lying on the floor is grounding, and using gravity to help you figure out how to breathe so that your belly expands on each breath makes it easier to breathe diaphragmatically.
And finally, I love acupressure to help me calm down
It’s essentially do it yourself acupuncture except you use your fingers instead of needles to balance the flow of energy in your body. There’s a point on the top of your hand, right at the bottom of the webbing between your thumb and index finger, known as joining the union valley, that is is very helpful for reducing headaches and quieting your mind, as it draws energy that’s gotten stuck in your head (like repetitive or accelerated thoughts) down to your hands where it can be expressed.
To press this point, extend all five fingers of your left hand. See the crease that forms at the base of your thumb, it almost looks like a little butt crack? Put your right thumb right at the bottom of that, and then press your right index finger into that same spot on your palm, so that your thumb and index finger are pressing toward each other and the meat of your hand is getting squeezed–firmly, but lovingly–between them. Keep applying that pressure and breathing normally for a minute or two, then repeat on the right hand. I promise you will feel differently after.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to choose one of these three that you’re going to try at some point today. Think about when you’ll do it–right before lunch? Right before you knock off work? Lying in bed? And then visualize yourself doing it. Just blaze a mental trail of what you’ll do and how it will feel–this makes it much more likely that you will actually do it, and will help it have a bigger positive impact.
Come back tomorrow when I’m sharing ways to get even deeper in to the relaxation zone with things you can do on your own, at home, with little to no equipment, in about 20 minutes or less.