So what did you learn? About your stress patterns, I mean. Did you detect any patterns? Could you be honest enough to really, really, truly write down what you were feeling and look back at your chart with an openness to discovery?
It’s not easy, you know. It’s not easy to acknowledge that there are elements of your life that you can’t control and then it’s not easy to acknowledge that there are elements you can…and should…regulate. We get all caught up in the “oooh, I’m stressed” whirly twirly spin of life, but when confronted with patterns that we clearly could change, we opt out. Of changing, I mean. Because there’s that weird effort thing appearing again and somehow we get all squirmy at the thought of making changes that would do us good.
Okay, but still. Did you peek at the patterns anyway?
Now here’s where it all gets so individual, it’s hard for anyone to suggest that you do this or do that and all will be well. I don’t know when or why or where you are feeling what you feel. So I’m going to just toss stuff out there and you can claim it if you feel it applies. As with everything in the mind, body and spirit realm, you have a lot of choices.
One of those choices is to do nothing, of course. But…why would you be here, reading about positive chi kinds of things, if you wanted to be doing nothing?
The first thing I’m going to toss out is an exercise (or two) to help you interrupt a stress response. Now this is obviously for those times that you are just…overwhelmed. But the exercise is a wonderful way to start to learn how to meditate. That begins with measured breathing and so even if you aren’t feeling about to climb the walls or run into the forest or whatever you might be feeling, you might want to consider giving this a try.
Find a quiet spot and get comfortable. Place one hand on your upper chest and one down on your core, just above your belly button. Breathe in a natural way. Now, start paying attention to which hand moves. Your goal is to move the belly hand. Why? Because when you do that, you are bringing your breath right down to where you need it. Many times, especially when stressed, we become shallow breathers. But your organs need that oxygen and bringing your breath down to your core is wonderfully energizing for them…and, at the same time, relaxing for you. Once you can do that, start practicing measured breathing. What’s that? Breath in for a certain count…try a 4 count. Then pause for several counts. Breath out for something more than 4…so start with 5. You are breathing out for longer than you breathe in, however you organize the counts. This is cleansing for your body, it allows you to calm and slow your inner pace and it is wonderfully detoxing.
Now…how about one more exercise? This one involves lying down. You’ll like it! Get all cozy on your back. Try putting a rolled up blanket or towel or something under your knees. Do a bit of the measured breathing to get your process started. Then, beginning with your feet, tense your muscles and deliberately relax. Go slowly and work your way up. Start with the right foot, hold the tension and then relax. Move to your right calf. Tense, hold, relax. Then the right thigh. Same pattern. Switch to your left foot and move up the leg. And then your right hand and arm, followed by the left hand and arm. And your rear. And your stomach. Lift your shoulders up to your ears and hold. Then relax. Do that a few times…it feels so good. Work your mouth. Yawn. Purse your lips. Wrinkle your nose. Raise your eyebrows. Relax everything. Once you have done that, go back to your measured breathing. Before you finish, gently move your toes, your fingers, roll your shoulders a bit. And get up slowly.
These are very physical demonstrations of what relaxation feels like. Sometimes we get so used to carrying around stress and tension, we forget that it isn’t…or shouldn’t be…our regular pattern.
Give yourself a treat and remember what it feels like to relax.