Do you ever deal with stress? Are you dealing with stress now?
I bet if I asked for a virtual “show-of-hands” to answer those questions, every single one of you would have your arms raised to the sky – maybe even both of them.
I know from time to time stress can seem so heavy it feels like you can’t even muster the energy to raise your hands in agreement.
You are not alone!
The American Psychological Association reported in 2007 that 1/3 of Americans say they are living with extreme stress. And almost 50% of Americans say their stress has increased in the past 5 years!
So how can you do something about stress?
Well, there are, of course, various lifestyle changes you can make, depending on what is causing your stress: stop smoking, change jobs, cut back on extra-curricular activities, avoid working overtime if possible, see a counselor, etc.
But, I want to give you something you can do about stress that isn’t exactly what you expect.
I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. The ‘healthy’ girl is going to tell me I need to eat better and exercise more.” Well, that WOULD be one way. As a matter of fact, studies show that people experience all sorts of psychological benefits from exercise (but that’s for another day).
No – if you want to do something about stress that doesn’t take up a ton of time but is very effective – here you go.
I want to share with you a very specific and focused relaxation technique to relieve your stress.
Most of the time, we carry our stress in our muscles. Some of us clinch our jaws. Some of us squeeze our fists. Some hold our shoulders up and put strain on the muscles in our necks. And most of us shorten our breathing and limit our ability to completely use our full lung capacity.
In order to do something about stress, we first need to do something about our breathing.
Most of the time when we’re stressed we only breathe using the top of our lungs. The first step to relaxation is understanding how to belly breathe.
- Take a big, deep breath in and relax your stomach so the air flows into your belly first then continues to fill up your belly and lungs from the bottom up.
- Now when you breathe out, think about emptying your lungs and belly in the opposite manner. First from your lungs and then your belly.
- Repeat a few times.
- Begin by sitting comfortably, feet planted on the floor, with your back supported and hands resting in your lap.
- Close or soften your eyes and take several deep belly breaths, breathing in to the count of five seconds then breathing out for a count of five seconds.
- Continue to take deep breaths in this way. Now locate your heart in the center of your chest by placing the palm of one hand on your heart.
- Continue to take deep breaths, and breathe into your heart; imagine actually being able to see the oxygen flowing into your heart as you continue to breathe.
- As you continue to breathe into your heart, imagine a time, a place, or a person with whom you felt a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude. Think of somewhere you traveled to, a favorite place you’ve been, maybe a favorite spot at your house, your pet, someone you love deeply, just some time or place where you felt deeply appreciative and thankful.
- As you breathe, picture the “good” air coming in, and the “bad” stuff – stress, worries, anxieties, etc. going out. Focus on keeping all your muscles relaxed.
- Just be in that place of appreciation and gratitude as you breathe into your heart. Maybe even take this time to praise God for all His many blessings and for who He is.
- Continue this as long as you like.
- When you are ready to be finished, take two more deep breaths and then open your eyes slowly.
This exercise can take as long as you like, but generally you can see some benefits in about 5 minutes.
Give it a try right now and see what you think.
Let’s Get FIT Together!