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4 Simple But Powerful Practices To Change The Way You Handle Stress
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Stress is Indispensable. Balancing career with family and meeting the demands that both presents can feel amazing. Layer on sickness, conflict, unforeseen crises, tense situations, and all the big and little things that are beyond your control, and it is easy to find yourself rolled into anxiety. While you cannot prepare for every scenario, with the simple help of training and awareness you can change the way your body decodes and responds to stressful situations. Learning to tune in and comply your internal landscape is key to becoming more centered, calmer, and more flexible to stress. Your wonderfully intelligent body is constantly finding balance all on its own. Vital actions, such as digestion and heart rate are autonomic or unintentionally controlled. There is a vast, complicated world beneath the skin, delivering nutrients, sending messages, repairing, managing, and quietly toiling away to keep the body’s internal environment in conformity.
Your nervous system is responsible for your fight-or-flight response, the body’s way to confront anticipated threats. When activated, this reaction releases adrenaline, increases your heart rate, and deflect blood away from the gut to prepare the muscles to fight or run. Few systems shut down so that energy can be consumed on surviving. Living in the modern era, though, you won't likely find yourself generally being chased by predators; however, this same response is commonly caused by seemingly day-to-day events like running into traffic on the way to the airport. Ever feel that whisper of nervous energy when running late? Blood rises into your face and neck, the internal alarm bells ring, your irritation level skyrockets, you start to sweat.
4 Ways to Magnify Your Body’s Parasympathetic Response
In Yoga training the brain and body with the following practices, keep in mind duration isn’t as important as consistency. A ten-minute practice five days a week is actually more profitable over time than a sixty-minute practice once or twice a month. The cumulative impacts that come with constant, steady training tone the mind and body, changing the way you understand annoying situations. Practice any or all of the following Yoga techniques frequently and notice any mental, physical, and emotional changes. Keep in mind that adjustments the way that you act and reacts to situations takes time. Be calm and kind to yourself, and trust in the integrity of the practice.
1. Just Notice
Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, but human minds love aberration, and there are enough of opportunities for you to become removed from the experience of being in your body. Checking in does not cost a dime, though. You do not have to book a day at the spa or attend a Yoga Teacher Training. You just need to hit the pause button and notice what you are feeling. Where is your mind? Is there something nagging at you? What physical emotions are you experiencing? What is your present mood? What are your thoughts saying? Ignoring discomfort of any kind may seem like the best solution, but it doesn’t do anything to train the body or mind in buoyancy. When you shut down or mask what you are feeling, you dazed yourself to live and become more affected by illness and stress, creating a cycle that becomes tough and tougher to break. Simply pausing and checking in a few times each day is a small act of self-compassion with surprisingly profound effects. Body consciousness endows a base for your overall health, and by looking inward, you can shift the instance so that things happen to you rather than to you.
Lie down on a convenient surface. Put a booster, rolled blanket, or pillow under the knees. If you are at work, find a cozy seated position. Close your eyes and feel your mental state, the physical sensation, the breath, and thoughts. Spend two to five minutes demulcent tension. When thoughts grow (and they will), try not to attach to them.
2. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Slow diaphragmatic breathing is one of the simplest and quickest ways to the parasympathetic mode. And you can thank the very long vagus nerve, which forces its way from the skull down the neck into the chest and stomach, communicating to every organ in the body. Lucky for you, oscillations released with the breath act like a message to the nerve. So simple belly breathing can switch on the parasympathetic response, making changes to your internal environment that can be felt almost instantly.
Lie back or sit down and place your hands still on the belly. Start to expand the breath so that you feel your hands rise and fall with each inhales and exhale. Keep the body relaxed as you follow the breath. Visualize your lungs gently inflating on the inhale, and softly deflating on the exhale. Inhale for 4 counts and exhale for 6. Repeat several rounds and then inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 7. Repeat several rounds. Insert an easy pause at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale. Keep the body relaxed. If the pauses create tension, simply leave them out. Practice for several rounds and then return to a more natural rhythm. Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced throughout the day, at work or at home. Return to this practice when you feel stress creeping in.
3. Yin Yoga
In the topic of stress management, peace is the key. When you set yourself up to become still, you establish conditions for the body and mind to be at rest. When the body is completely at rest, it begins its quiet job of cleaning up and restoring order. Training in stillness on the mat prepares you to move through life more calmly off the mat. Through Yin, you learn how to be less reactionary and a better observer and listener. You feel more connected to your body and to the world so that when situations beyond your control arise, you are less squirmy and a little more grounded.
Practice: Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
A nourishing pose for the body, Legs-Up-the-Wall helps to drain the lymphatic system, can relieve edema or swelling, and is great for circulation as it temporarily increases blood flow to the head and heart. Place a folded blanket next to the wall. Sit on the blanket with one hip near or touching the wall. Lie back and swing the legs up. Shimmy and shift until you feel like your body are in a loose “L.” Note: you don’t have to be right next to the wall, which can potentially be uncomfortable for some. Place your hands on your belly or along your sides. Close your eyes and tune into a sensation in the legs and feet. Stay here for 5–8 minutes and ease out gently.
Research has proven that meditation can effectively rewire the brain. While the techniques above are wonderful for noticing the body, getting out of our heads, and alleviating stress, the practice of meditation re-trains the mind to create new ways of coping and responding to stress. Habitual patterns can be broken and new, healthier patterns formed over time with consistent practice. There is a ton of exciting research out there and many styles to choose from. Your meditation practice should be something you look forward to, rather than a chore. Try different styles and see which ones fit.
Sit comfortably on a folded blanket, cushion, or chair. Close your eyes and rock gently forward and back until you feel the head, shoulders, and ribs stack over the hips. Drop your weight into your seat, allowing for a supportive base. Gently lengthen the spine out of the pelvis and notice the effortless support. Soften any tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulders. Direct your awareness of the breath without changing it. Feel the breath in the nostrils, the throat, and the chest. Notice how your clothing moves on the skin with each breath. Begin to count each breath, inhaling for 1 and exhaling for 1, inhaling for 2 and exhaling for 2, and so on, until you reach 10. If you lose track or when you get to 10, simply start back at 1. After 5–10 minutes let go of the counting and notice how you feel. Take time easing out of your meditation practice so that it can assimilate into the rest of your day.
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