April is National Stress Awareness Month! Stress is a prevalent part of our lives more now than ever but there are some simple daily exercises that can help.
When stress permeates through our anatomy the nervous system gets dysregulated and feelings of angst, accelerated heartbeat and racing thoughts take over our body.
Our nervous system is composed of the central nervous system which includes our brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system which branches from the spinal cord to every part of our body.
Here are some simple exercises that can be done in just 5 to 7 minutes when we get distressed. We do these to soothe ourselves when in the midst of an upsetting situation. As with any bodily practice, make sure to pay attention to how it feels. If it doesn’t feel good and your body becomes even more aroused, stop the exercise and just take deep breaths until you calm yourself down.
Start bouncing a little bit and breathe deeply while you are connecting to your feet on the floor. Bring awareness to the left foot first and then the right foot while you start feeling the ground fully below you. Push the feet into the ground and slowly start moving them while spreading and wiggling your toes.
Notice if it feels like the ground is reaching up to you, or if you are reaching down to the ground. Imagine that you are growing roots from your feet to the floor leaving you with a sense that you are firmly planted on the ground. Repeat the above steps a few times.
Feel your skin
Our skin is the primary boundary, it holds us together and our vehicle to interact with our surroundings. Skin is our largest sense organ and is responsible for processing internal and external stimulation. Connecting with our skin can strengthen our sense of containment – softening anxious experiences when our body might feel as if it is out of control.
Begin by touching any exposed skin—hands, arms, neck, ears, jaw ankles or whichever part of the body feels good touching. Next, notice how your clothing feels against your skin. Try gentle squeezes, rubbing or patting on your knees, thighs, ankles, and top of your feet. Don’t forget to connect with your back body, your face and the top of your head. During stressful experiences you can reconnect with the touch of your skin, or simply bring your awareness to the fact that your skin is a boundary between you and the rest of the world.
This super simple and fun exercise can bring you back to your childhood. It helps to discharge “fight, flight and freeze” impulses in the body to bring completion to a stressful cycle of events.
It helps to do this exercise with some fast-beat music but it can be done in silence as well. You can start shaking one hand first, then the other hand, then the whole right arm and then the left arm. Start shaking the shoulders circulatory and move on slowly to shake your neck gently and the head. Move to shaking your left hip and then the right hip, bouncing your knees and slowly shaking the left leg, then the right leg and lastly shaking your left and right foot in the air. Repeat a few times.
This exercise is helpful after a stressful day or situation that you need to shake off. It can also be beneficial after taking in aggravating information or watching upsetting news or social media.
These exercises give us an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves through very subtle and gentle movement informing our brain what happens to our body when we move mindfully.
Try it and see how you feel!