You know that feeling when you experience something very stressful and your fight-or-flight response kicks in? All of a sudden your adrenaline and cortisol start pumping, your breathing gets quicker, and your body starts buzzing. If you’re in a situation where that’s needed (you’re being chased, you have to jump out of the way of something dangerous, and so forth), this is helpful. Usually our hormone levels go back to normal after the perceived threat is gone, however, when we have too much stress in our daily lives, this fight-or-flight reaction stays activated and our bodies become revved up and ‘on’ all the time. This chronic stress response can lead to numerous health issues like depression, weight gain, memory problems, digestive problems, and sleep issues… not great for our wellbeing.
The good news is, we have the power to turn it off. Just as we experience a stress response, we can also experience a relaxation response to help our bodies go back to normal quicker and control stress better. We can calm ourselves down by implementing different exercises – mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing – all part of our wellness arsenal.
A 30-Second Relaxation Exercise You Can do Anywhere:
Really, this exercise is meant to be done anywhere you are, at any moment. Think of it as a little relaxation practice you can stick in your back pocket, ready to use whenever you feel that fight-or-flight moment come on without good reason. I try to do this throughout the day, as much as I can. You can do this standing at the bus stop, sitting in your office, watching tv, wherever. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re doing it right or if you’ve skipped a step, as taking part in any of it will help to calm your body and elicit that relaxation response we’re looking for!
START HERE – Wherever you are, get in a comfortable position where you’re not straining in any way… in other words, sit or stand up straight with a neutral spine and roll your shoulders up and back (away from your ears).
BREATHING – Once you’re comfortable, close your eyes (if possible) and just take a few seconds to notice your breathing. Concentrate on your breath and try to slow it down a bit and breathe a little deeper each time. If it feels ok, take a few long deep breaths.
BODY SCAN – As you’re slowing your breathing, gently turn your awareness to your body. Your muscles. Your heart beating.
Start at the top of your body (or work up from the bottom) and slowly move your focus to each part of your body. Try to unclench any areas that are tight. For instance, I know I unconsciously tense my jaw, especially when stressed. So, I’ll start with my face and jaw and move my awareness down my body, unclenching as I go. Take special notice of your muscles after you’ve relaxed them – doesn’t that feel better?
That’s it. After doing it a few times, you’ll start to become more aware of certain areas that you tense up. Throughout the day, you can check-in with yourself to unclench and relax. And obviously spending more than 30 seconds or so on this would be great! You know that saying, ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself‘ – well, that’s kind of like what we’re doing here. Increasing self-awareness -> better coping abilities -> improved wellbeing.
Made to Glow Self-Care Tip: We can empower ourselves to turn on our ‘relaxation response’ whenever we want! Simply become aware of your body, your breath, and the power you have to control your response.
The point of this exercise is to slow yourself down… and be mindful about your breath and relaxing all of the various parts of your body. When used in combination with other stress-management techniques (sleep, eating healthier, exercise, etc), we are more likely to have an easier time coping and keep our bodes running smoother. After reading this post, try the exercise and leave a comment to let me know how you feel afterwards or if you have any questions.