…And Set Yourself Free.
In an article in Mayo Clinic “Natural Healing,” Magazine Dr Amid Sood the chair for Mayo Clinic’s Mind-Body initiative gives a dozen or so techniques to help during this era of unprecedented stress in America. “Every type of mind-body medicine, when tested, has been shown to offer benefits.” It’s easy to forget to take a break, especially when most people have transitioned to working at home. You can jump right into work in your PJ’s. (Don’t turn on the Zoom though, until you change). Home used to be where we take a break not the workplace, unless you’re a mother of four toddlers. (Yikes!) If we’re not thinking of it, it wouldn’t be part of our routine. Try one technique or try all three and live a longer, healthier, more enjoyable life.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique
Life is already stressful. Find practices and implement those that won’t add tension. This is an easy one you can do literally anywhere. Progressive muscle relaxation “focuses on the slow, steady shortening or tensing of a muscle, followed by a gradual relaxation phase” where you lengthen & release the muscle. I used to do this during church talks or sermons. With this technique you can target specific muscle areas anytime anywhere and you can combine it with the other practices.
Tighten the muscles on your face like an angry baby that doesn’t want to eat her peas. Scrunch up those muscles around the eyes, nose, and mouth. Hold that tension silently (unlike the baby) for eight seconds, exhale and a let your face become loose like a limp lettuce leaf.
Move down the body, tensing your neck, then your jaw, followed by your shoulders, chest, core and so on through the legs, buttocks, and down to your tippy toes. Hold each set of muscles for eight seconds and release.
Research says, progressive muscle relaxation lessens anxiety, can help manage migraine pain, reduce stress related high blood pressure, encourages sleep, and improves the quality of life for Chemo Cancer patients. It’s free, its easy, give it a go. For info on this technique check this out: PMR.
Deep Breathing Technique
This sounds like a no-brainer, but there are a few tweaks to your everyday life-sustaining muscle memory involved. Usually without thinking we breathe in rapid short breaths using shoulder, neck, and upper chest muscles. Deep or relaxed breathing requires deep, even-paced inhalations and exhalations using your diaphragm or core. Sometimes this technique is referred to as the “diaphragmatic breathing.”
Find a quiet place and either lie down on your back or sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor.
Relax your shoulders as you breathe in slowly through your nose. Allow your abdomen to expand and make sure your chest moves ever so slightly.
Exhale out slowly through your mouth and repeat until politics seem fair and just. Just kidding you’d be there forever.
Research for this technique shows it can improve the quality of life for people who suffer from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic pain, and asthma. It also can reduce hot flashes, anxiety, stress, and motion sickness. Studies also showed it can significantly improve quality of sleep and lower blood pressure. In my personal experience this technique pairs especially well with progressive muscle relaxation when teaching teenagers to drive or for you younger folks being taught by perfectionist parents. It’s ageless and versatile. For more breathing practices check this out. BREATHE.
Guided Imagery Technique
Guided Imagery is magic. I’ve used this technique when dealing with PTSD trauma. Hands down I’m a believer in this technique. This practice is a mind-body intervention using the power of imagination to change how you feel physically and emotionally. This form of meditation uses mental images or places and situations that you create when you’re feeling distressed. The more senses you ground the imaginative experience in, the more effective it is. For me, when I’m feeling stressed, I imagine a quiet, cove in the jungle with an inlet and a warm beach. I feel the sun on my face, see the vibrant emerald leaves. I hear the gentle waves lapping on the sandy shore and smell the fresh salty air. It always calms me because I control who I let into that place.
- Create an image that brings you peace and happiness (like my cove) and clear your mind of all busy thoughts and distractions. Be comfortable. Loosen clothing if you must.
- Focus on your breathing to clear your mind. Take in deep, slow breaths and release any ill feelings or images that try to creep in when you exhale. Breathe in peace. Exhale tension.
- Focus on the image or place you’ve created and imagine using your senses what it would feel, smell, taste, sound, and look like. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back. It’s okay. I like to visualize my older self-inviting my younger self there.
- Add a positive affirmation with your place or image to instill a deep positive mental memory you can call on later. I tell my younger self, she’s safe and no one can hurt her. I will protect her. It’s done wonders for me, especially when I’m triggered. I close my eyes and picture the place and immediately my panic dissipates. My heart slows, my muscles relax, and I can calmly return to the present.
If you struggle with imagination, don’t worry. There are cd’s that can guide you through the process. This practice gets two thumbs way up and Toyota-jump approval from me. But don’t just take my word for it. Research shows, it is a common treatment method for chemo cancer patients. It reduces stress, anxiety (like PTSD panic), and pre-surgery fears. It reduces chronic tension headaches and can help enhance performance of any activity. Back in the day, my basketball coach had us use this technique when we were at the free-throw line. TO this day, when I picture or see yellow roses, I hear swoosh in my head. Here are a few guided you tube videos to walk you through this if you’re a newbie: Female. Male.
“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting your thoughts control you.”Unknown.