One-Minute Practice: Dial Down the Stress
This time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in rushing and feel stressed. It’s also easy to say, “Just don’t let yourself get stressed out,” but how is that possible when everyone around you is stressing?
You know you have a choice, right?
It’s in how you manage your own systems. And not knowing how to manage your own systems is stressful!
Along with getting enough sleep, water, protein and movement, your nervous system is your main partner in your wellbeing. How do you change, not the content, but the context, of your life?
Noticing the beginning of tension in the fight/flight/freeze response is a great place to start. When you notice, you can do something about it! When you notice even a little tension in your neck, jaw or face, you can practice un-doing the tension, by bringing a gentle invitation to release out of the muscular tightening. Since muscles either contract, or de-contract, when you notice an unconscious contraction, bring your conscious awareness to de-contracting. You can’t force de-contraction, you can only intend it. When you intend for release with a gentleness and a compassionate thought, it works better than if you intend for release with a frustrated thought. The release of muscles creates an easier environment for all the tissues and other systems.
Breath is also a path to calming your stress response in your nervous system. Especially if you don’t gasp (“take a big breath in”) but rather release a long exhale, maybe with an Ahhh sound, like a sigh. When you release the air, then you can allow the in-breath to arrive. You don’t have to do anything to pull the air in. Try it again. Open your jaw and let your breath out as you keep your spinal length. Let there be an easy pause at the end of your exhale. Then allow your inhale to rebound in. Extending your exhales a few times in a row gets rid of the stale residual air in your lungs and allows the breath to do what it does naturally.
Your postural state is an important system in calming. If you learn to manage your postural system so that you have the lightest, easiest and most pleasant sensations of your whole being in gravity, you will notice a corresponding state of mind, open thinking and appreciation of what is. This expansive state of being is the hallmark of the Alexander Technique, and if you haven’t experienced it in a while, give yourself a treat and schedule a lesson!
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