These are uncertain times and so many are feeling vulnerable, whether it’s about health, financial security or so many other concerns.
And yes, there are times when it’s helpful to quiet the mind, tame the thoughts, seek some silence, stillness and perhaps peace in all the chaos.
However, that isn’t always helpful. Doesn’t always work.
I know myself when I am stressed what helps me most is to move. Yes, I start cleaning my house when wound up, upset, feeling anxious, or stressed. There is something about burning off energy that might help to bring some space for quiet, relaxation, peace when you’re done. It might help you sleep. Maybe calm your nervous system. After all, when we are in crisis or feel threatened the nervous system is all about getting your attention, mobilization, preparing for action that might be required.
What might be helpful for you? Below are a few ideas, you might like to try:
Put on some loud, upbeat music and move in some way.
Clean. Get at those windows and at the same time get some fresh air when you’re opening them or stepping outside.
Practice yoga, tai chi, whatever floats your boat.
Lift some weights.
Get on that ‘dust collector’ piece of exercise equipment sitting in your house and expend some of that nervous energy.
If you’ve got a few extra pantry items that you seemingly stocked up with, bake.
Let me know how it goes. I know after working at my desk today, I am feeling the need to get up and move it!
Take good care of yourself (and others).
**If you’re feeling distressed, please be sure to reach out to a local resource. For those in Ottawa, call the Ottawa Distress Line
Life is not easy. For any of us. There is more than enough to do, day in and day out. Stressors at work, at home or elsewhere.
So cut yourself some slack. Give yourself permission to rest.
Start with just 5 minutes. Do this at least once a day. Do it twice if you like. But do it consistently.
You might want to set a particular time for this. Perhaps at mid-day, or early evening. It’s not often you need to rest first thing in the day and this 5 minutes isn’t meant for sleeping, so not too close to bedtime either.
Either lie down or sit in a comfortable position (*see below for specifics). It’s preferable to lay on the floor but if you’re unable to do so, a bed or sofa is fine.
Set a timer for 5 minutes.
Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
Begin to breathe in and out through your nose (close your mouth).
Be here for 5 minutes, just breathing naturally. Don’t try to change anything about your breath.
Notice where you feel your breath. It might be most noticeable in your nostrils, maybe in your chest or perhaps your abdomen.
Notice how your breath is moving. If there’s any particular quality to it such as smooth, interrupted, easy, strained.
Then just breathe. And just notice.
If your mind wanders, as it’s likely to do, just bring your attention back to your breath. Feel where it’s moving through your body, where you notice it. Try not to judge the wandering of your mind as anything either good or bad.
And just breathe. And just notice.
When the timer goes off, slowly open your eyes. Roll over and stand up.
Notice what you feel. Mentally or physically make a note of what you experienced or noticed.
Keep practising for a week.
Check in with me next Tuesday and we’ll expand on this practise.
If… you can’t find 5 minutes in your day? You might want to look at that.
If you have any questions or comments, post them below.
* Positioning if seated
Sit forward on a chair so your back is not touching the back upright portion of the chair.
See if you can feel your ‘sitting’ bones (ischial tuberosities) and let your weight be supported there.
Have your feet planted on the floor, hip-width apart.
Hands comfortably on your lap.
* Positioning if lying down
Lie on the ground, perhaps on a carpet or mat if available. If you have back pain, you may want to use a rolled up towel, yoga mat, etc. to slip under your bent knees for support.
Hands can be by your side or placed on your belly.
Notice the parts of your body supported by the hard surface of the floor (heels, hips, shoulder area, head).
I’ve also learned it seems we may have been ‘wrong about stretching‘ insofar as we’re not really stretching or lengthening muscles. At least not as much as we once believed. Rather, we’re changing our response to a stimulus via the nervous system.
Our brain is naturally going to respond in a protective manner to anything it perceives as dangerous. If we are trying to re-train flexibility or just movement in the body and do so with strong, forceful pressure or stimulus … the brain/body will react by saying … stop! No! Don’t go there. It will send a (pain) signal to safeguard our movement.
However, if we move in small incremental ways within a safe and pain-free range of motion, the nervous system will react by saying … this feels okay. Safe. I’m happy to explore this.
This is a somewhat simplified way to explain all that’s going on, but it’s a starting point we can work from. We can even begin by just imagining movement and still create changes in the brain and our nervous system. So we can, really, start anywhere.
By learning to pay attention, moving in a way that allows your nervous system to adapt and create new patterns while it feels safe, you will make progress.