I watched my client lift his head, take a breath, look me in the eyes and revel in really embodying his statement. “My thoughts about my boss are causing me more stress than my boss!” I watched as he sat back in his chair, his shoulders lowered, his brow smoothed, and the corners of his mouth moved ever so slightly upward. The “relaxation response” in action; Herbert Benson describes it as “a physical state of deep rest that changes the emotional and physical responses to stress.”
We’re going to create an experience of your “relaxation response” – because I’m all about experiencing and embodying. If you don’ t know what being present or grounded feels like in your body, how will you know when you are or aren’t grounded? Let’s get going and use the language of the nervous system, let’s talk to your nervous system. Play along, if you want an experience of grounded, a calm yet alert state. Unless we’re under attack, we do most of our best thinking in a calm and alert state.
Get comfortable in a chair, settle into the chair. – now do something that might make you even more comfortable. A chair is best but I know some of you are are sitting on the floor or lying in bed – I see you Ryan, Max and Megan on the bed with your computers – whatever works best for you in this moment. Ok, let’s refocus back to comfortable and settled. Now do something that might make you even more comfortable and settled. Notice your arms resting, your back and thighs supported.
1. Bring your attention to your feet, firmly planted on the ground. Or if you are lying in bed, really bring your attention to your feet. Gently wiggle your toes, gently yet firmly push your heel and ball onto the floor – stretch each foot. Feel the edges of your feet connected with the floor. Bring your attention to your feet.
2. Bring attention to your lower belly, just below the navel, and breathe in while inflating the lower belly, just like a balloon. Pause and hold for a second or two, and then exhale while letting your lower belly move back to your spine. Pause.
3. Notice your feet again, wiggle toes or a little pressure downward on the soles of your feet, take another lower belly breath – and just scan your body.
4. Now slowly move your shoulders up toward your ears, pause, take a breath in, and then exhale as you gently let your shoulders roll slightly back and down. Let your shoulders sink down while your spine stays straight.
5. Bring attention to your feet, maybe wiggle the toes or some gentle pressure downward and take another inhale and exhale, shoulders down and slightly back. Not straining, just allowing the movements.
6. Scan your body head to toes, what sensations do you notice? Maybe some heaviness in the feet, or hip area; or perhaps some tingling; or how tight your neck is – if you notice tension somewhere, just stretch it out. Pause and enjoy.
Life presents 100’s of opportunities to be irritated and distressed – you can let your nervous system lead you to a tense reaction, or you can help yourself to a calm and alert response. Warning – it can be a slow acting drug; it takes repeated daily doses to deliver long-term results! Practice, repeat, rehearse, have fun.