May you be well!
What is your favorite way to release stress in your body, mind and spirit? Have your practices changed over time? Take the poll above and leave a comment below if you have a practice that is not listed above. If you have not tried some of these practices, consider giving one of them a try in the coming weeks and let us know what you think.
May you be well!
There are many ways we can tend our body's need for movement and exercise. I trick myself into exercising by doing movement activities that I enjoy. What is your favorite exercise activity? I'd love to hear your answers. Just click on your favorite way to exercise below:
While we're on the topic of movement and exercise, I've discovered that when I schedule a block of time on my calendar for a "walk" or "dance", then I'm more willing to make time for exercise. Can you block out a few times for your favorite movement activity or exercise this week?
May you be well!
Do you spend a majority of the day standing on your feet or sitting in a chair? Do you take frequent stretch breaks to reduce the impact of stress on your body? Spending time in one position can contribute to health concerns such as low back pain or swollen ankles. It is important to change your position throughout the day to restore posture and eliminate additional stress on the body. Stretching, movement or power naps in the middle of your work day are a helpful stress relief strategies. Practicing yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong are also important practices that can improve your energy levels by releasing tension and stimulating internal body rhythms.
Judith Hanson Lasater PhD, author of Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, incorporates supported yoga poses and breathing techniques to help the body experience deep rest and relaxation. These poses are like hitting the reboot button on your computer. The poses and breathing help your body shut down some of the "on alert" sympathetic nervous system responses (fight or flight) that can run continually in your body, even when you don't need them. When you rest, your body's parasympathetic nervous system response (rest and digest) is stimulated, causing your body to relax and be renewed.
One of the quickest ways to reboot your body in the middle of the day is to lie down for a few minutes with your legs elevated on a chair or a couch. This will help take pressure off your low back by tilting your hips and relaxing the back muscles that normally stabilize you hips when standing. (See image below.) Lie on your back with a small towel under your head for support. Place your feet and lower legs on a chair to protect your low back. Relax for 10 - 15 minutes, breathing deeply for a few breath cycles, then allowing your breath to return to a normal rhythm.
Elevating your legs in this position helps to decrease the swelling in your ankles. The body's circulation flows against gravity when pumping fluids back toward your body while standing, making it harder to eliminate the excess fluids which are often waste products from our muscles. When you are in a seated position, the combination of bent knees and the pressure of the chair against the back of your legs slows the process of pumping those waste products and excess fluids back into your body. When you elevate your feet above heart level, you allow the natural influence of gravity to help drain the excess fluids back into your body. Rotating your ankles or wiggling your toes can also help stimulate the draining of extra fluids.
On Day 3 of this Be Well series, I discussed the importance of getting a good night's sleep. An important part of sleep is the position of your spine when lying in bed.
Support your spine and keep it straight while sleeping to decrease low back pain and avoid reinforcing poor postures. When sleeping on your back, use pillows under your knees to slightly tilt your pelvis and support your low back. Use a small pillow to support your neck's gentle curve without tilting your chin down. (see image below)
When you are side lying, use enough pillows to position your neck and hips in a straight alignment. You may need an additional pillow under your head to keep your neck in straight alignment with your spine. (See image below) You can use another pillow between your body and upper arm (not pictured) so that your shoulder is relaxed and the nerves that go down your arm are not pinched in the armpit area.
A firm mattress is best for your back, but may cause hip and shoulder pain when side-lying. To make the bed more comfortable when side lying, try using a one or two inch memory foam topper on your mattress. This will still give enough support for your back and will also relieve the pressure on your hips and shoulders.
Research shows that creativity can positively impact health and well-being. Creativity engages the right brain, accesses the unconscious self and increases awareness of your emotions and "inner landscape". The creative process is most important as a self care practice, not the finished project.
Art and other creative activities help to switch your body's stress response into rest and digest mode by stimulating the right brain. Occupational Therapists know that purposeful activities like artwork offer therapeutic benefits such as increased self awareness, higher self esteem and release of past trauma.
Many people feel they are not "artistic". Somewhere along the way, they received feedback that their artwork was not as good as another person's artwork. So they stopped doing art. Does that sound familiar to you? Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way encourages readers to believe we all have creative potential and not compare to others standards. The good news is that you are creative. You can spend time being creative for the pure benefit of the process, not just the final outcome. Some of the benefits you might notice are feeling calm, happy and relaxed when making art. You may gain insights about yourself and life situations.
Here are some creative ideas for you to consider:
Have fun exploring various mediums and forms of art. These art activities allow you to notice your "inner landscape", which is a metaphor for your emotional and spiritual status, then express it in healthy and tangible ways through the use of colors and symbols.
What creative activity would you like to pursue today?
Visualization is a meditation technique using your imagination. Close your eyes and imagine exploring a safe, peaceful place in nature. Try to picture a landscape, either real or imaginary, that brings pleasure and helps you feel peaceful. This might be the beach, a lake, a park or a favorite vacation spot.
Life is unfair. There will be situations in your life that cause emotional or spiritual pain. Holding on to emotions such as anger or fear can lead to other health problems such as depression or heart problems. It can show up as jaw pain from clenching your teeth or neck pain from tension in your shoulders. When these emotions are not processed or released, you body responds by holding tension in your tissues and organ systems which can eventually lead to chronic illness.
Tapping is a technique to help shift us out of old unhealthy patterns and into new patterns. The tapping helps to imprint new muscle memory in our brain and body. There are various methods for tapping, but I like to use simple versions that are easy to remember and quick to use. Try using the methods below during a bathroom break or when you need to concentrate on a project.
Silence creates a still point in our day and can allow us to become aware of the constant “chatter” in our minds. Most people prefer silence when meditating. Silence also calms anxiety, lowers blood pressure and brings a sense of
well-being. Silence raises your awareness of the constant thoughts in your mind.
Take a few moments to savor the stillness you feel when you are silent.
Your positive words and thoughts change your perception of life, influence your brain chemistry and impact your well-being in positive ways. Life's challenges can appear easier and you may feel more balanced when optimistic about life. As you nourish these thoughts, you positively impact your energy.
Daily affirmations are important in creating a positive outlook in life. They help create a new script to replace the negative self-tapes that play in your mind.
Words have power. Your subconscious mind listens to the thought you think. Train your brain to think positive thoughts by repeating affirmations frequently throughout the day. List your strengths, the positive attributes you wish to cultivate and your future potentials. Turn these into your affirmations. Even if you are afraid to believe these statements, keep repeating them daily and notice what happens.
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