Mind-Body Stress Relief: Be Aware, Pause, Breathe
When stress or emotions overwhelm us, we tend to cycle anxious thoughts in our minds. As stress moves into our bodies we may feel exhausted, or we may feel a super charge of adrenaline in our muscles, or a faster pulsing of our hearts. Our lungs and heart may feel raw. We find ourselves fully engulfed in our thoughts and feelings.
The mind and body are inextricably connected – the body responds to what the mind thinks. Most of us have experienced this and know it to be true. When our mind is depressed, angry, fearful, sad or anxious, our bodies are weaker in some way. When our mind is courageous, kind, calm, happy or centered, our bodies feel stronger and more grounded.
One gift of healing we can give ourselves is awareness – the awareness that stress has moved from our heads to our bodies.
A second gift of healing is the pause. As soon as we become aware that our mental stress has moved into our physical bodies, we can pause and take in that awareness. We can ask ourselves: to where in my body has the stress moved? How do I know this – stiffness? Pain? Pulsing or tingling? Muscle weakness? Internal heat moving through the body?
The third gift is our breath – a powerful healing agent in stressful times. Try this after you pause:
- Sit or lie still and close your eyes.
- Inhale slowly and gently through your nose – as deeply as you can without forcing it. If you are greatly stressed your first few breaths may only go as deeply as your upper chest.
- Exhale very slowly and completely through your mouth.
- Repeat these steps, slowly, gently, and as deeply as you can without forcing. Each new breath will soften and relax the muscles of your diaphragm, chest and back, ribcage, and abdomen – and your vital organs – allowing your next breath to go a little deeper. It may require a few minutes of breathing in this way before your breath can go deeply enough to benefit your lower abdomen, lower back, and digestive organs in the lower trunk of your body.
This is Medical Qigong (pronounced chee-gong) – ancient Chinese healthcare for the modern world. Breathing in this way will not only relieve your body of the effects of stress – it will also help to relax your mind. Two days ago, I lowered my blood pressure from 135/76 to 109/76 in three minutes with this practice.
Be Aware… Pause… Breathe… I urge you to give this a try once a day and see for yourself.