TedTips

 

Right now, we are facing significant changes to our daily lives. With the peaking of COVID-19 cases not yet upon us, and with many of us under shelter-in-place lockdown, immediate plans are on hold, sweeping us into strong currents with known and unknown obstacles we must navigate as we’re floating towards an uncertain future. Quite understandably, you may be feeling some forms of fear, uncertainty, and stress. What we can do is make lemonade from these lemons  by choosing to take better care of ourselves by adding to our abilities to have more perspective and calm. 

 

How might we do that? Just as we are being asked to socially distance ourselves from one another, let’s not forget that we might also develop a habit or two that allows us to mentally distance ourselves from the constant bombardment of technology driven media, from which it’s tough to escape from without much intention and persistence. You may already take walks or have your own meditation practice.  Please read on for a revisiting of two basic methods for heightening more awareness of both mind and body.

 

Back-to-basics: 

2 short daily practices you can start (or remember to continue) today to reduce your stress levels. These are simple yet effective techniques widely known to produce body to mind relaxation and calming for b

 

Relax your body (set a timer for 10 minutes)

Sometimes known as (Progressive Muscle Relaxation ), PMR involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep, full diaphragmatic breaths.

Next, practice tightening (on the in breath) and relaxing (on the out breath) each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving body part by body part down to your toes. 

With practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and you’ll be able to relax more easily. Each time you practice, however, you should experience a feeling of relaxation permeating  through your body. 

Focus on Breath (set a timer for 5 minutes)

Just focusing on your breath or changing the way you breathe can make a big difference to your overall stress level. Breathing techniques can calm your body and your brain in just a few minutes.

No one around you will notice that you’re doing them. So whether you’re in a stressful meeting or you’re sitting in a crowded theater, breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.5 

While there are many different breathing exercises, try these two simple ones using counting and visualization:

  1. Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly fill with air. Count slowly to three as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your nose as you count to three again.
  2. Breathe in through your nose and imagine that you’re inhaling peaceful, invigorating, calm air. Imagine that air spreading throughout your body. As you exhale, imagine that you’re breathing out stress and tension. 

Just like you’d build a house, you start with a robust foundation.  Fundamental to constructing a more productive mindset is first developing your self-awareness.  This is not easy as it seems. Often, your thoughts, feelings, and emotions will get in your way, placing obstacles in the way of  being able to observe and to truly be in touch with your awareness.   Let’s take a step back (quite literally), and have a seat…and simply – breathe. Like you may have already learned in a meditation practice, or on your own, start by take slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths.  In through the nose, and out through your mouth (as if through a straw). Do this several times, nice, long, and easy….paying attention to how your in-breath and out-breath travels, feels. You’re sensing your breath.

I’m so excited to be starting my new practice as a mental performance coach. So far, I believe that I’ve been impactful working with high school age competitive athletes and imparting some past experience as well as skills I’ve learned, to help them perform at a higher level and with more consistency. The approach that has been working best is directly in line with my core philosophy of awareness, acceptance, choice, and commitment to change, and execution.  No cute acronym I can derive from these steps (AACCE), however, each step is essential nonetheless.  Basically a good framework to live by IMHO.