How often do you pour that glass of wine, or reach for the chocolate, or slump in front of the television, to try to switch off from the day’s problems and stress?
The relief may not last but, for a short while, you feel better. However, it may be that those choices are not so good for you in the long run.
It could be that taking a break from the computer screen, or going for a walk, or not drinking too much the night before, might prevent a headache. But, when our head begins to throb, we take a pill because we want rid of it quickly.
Similarly, although we need to address the causes of our difficulties, it is helpful to have a ‘quick fix’ to find short-term relief from tension and anxiety and feel, momentarily, emotionally stronger.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, or anxious thoughts are preventing you sleeping, then try shifting the focus from head to body and consider how you are breathing.
The way we breathe has a huge impact on the way we feel. Too often we are in perpetual ‘flight/fight’ mode and ‘shallow breathe’ with rapid breaths.
- – If you are in work, go into a quiet room and straighten, standing against a wall. If you are at home, lie flat. Close your eyes and place your hands gently on your abdomen.
- – Slowly take in a deep breath through your nostrils until you feel your abdomen begin to rise. Do not lift your shoulders or puff out your chest.
- – Hold for a second.
- – Slowly breathe out through your mouth feeling your abdomen fall.
- – Repeat ten times.
You are opening up your lungs, expelling the stale air, and easing the muscular tensions around your stomach and ribs.
Consciously relax your jaw and your shoulders. Be aware of the muscles holding the tension and try to make them floppy.
The effect should be that the amygdala in your brain is reassured that all is well. It can halt the release of adrenalin and cortisol that keeps you hyped-up and tense.
Short-term relief perhaps, but a moment of calm allows a moment of recovery. We reconnect with the resilience required to face the challenges of work, family, and relationships.
(With grateful thanks to ‘The Big Book of Calm’ by Paul Wilson)