This Anne Lamont quote is perfect for simply reminding each of us that we need to unplug….and to do so numerous times a day during this extremely stressful time we find ourselves navigating. Whether you are a first responder, a front line worker, a doctor or nurse, a grocery store clerk, a valued individual shopping and delivering groceries or prepared carry out, or doing do many other totally necessary things to keep our cities working, every single one of us does need to unplug, even if for a few brief minutes.
Sometimes we’re led to believe we need big chunks of time to relax or meditate vs simply periodically slowing down and taking a few deep breaths. The reality is that “most people” actually hold their breath when facing unexpected stress! NOT GOOD even if it is common. And if you already know you’ve been holding your breath somewhat regularly, try this: Right now, look away from reading, close your eyes, take a deep breath, hold the breath for a few seconds, then release the breath. If you can only do that simple pause a couple of times a day it helps! It’s not some amazing health intervention on your part. It’s just a reminder to slow down, even for just a few seconds, and pay attention to how you are breathing…..
AND sometimes that few seconds or minutes gets your attention just enough to remind you to sit still for a few minutes more, pay attention to your body and your thoughts and your feelings…to UNPLUG!
Naturally longer periods of time devoted to sitting quietly — even lying down — and practicing simple deep breathing — can reduce stress. So regardless of limited amounts of time, perhaps and hopefully longer ‘stretches of quiet” here and there, here are some BRIEF techniques you can try when you decide to unplug.
1) Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold your reach to the count of 7. Exhale slowly to the count of 8. Now repeat that four times. And if you can hang out a bit longer, repeat the breathing technique.
2) If you can manage more time, try these options that you can practice for anything from 5 to 25 or even 30 minutes…
-close your eyes and repeat this breathing technique for the amount of time you have available: Breathe in to the count of 4; exhale to the count of 4; and simply repeat the process for the amount of time you have available.
-OR count to 25 as you breathe normally and see if you can get to 25 without being distracted. If it worked, or even if it is easily interrupted, do it again, and continue to repeat for as many minutes as you can spare.
3) With those precious moments of MORE time, try this STRESS INVENTORY
-Breathe naturally/normally and let your mind “trace” your body from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. See what parts of your body feel tense or tight, even painful….and what parts feel relaxed, normal. Make a mental note of parts of your body that register tension and are slow to relax or let go.
-Next check your thoughts. Just do an inventory to see if there’s anything specific you are thinking that worries you or creates stress. Be aware of how your mind can make something that’s already truly hard feel “impossible” or “unmanageable”
-Next check your feelings. Remember feelings are usually just one word: angry, sad, happy, excited, scared
-Next check your “spiritual self”. If you are not religious, just check your feelings about the “universe” or “Mother Nature” — you might have a sense of disorientation, uprooted-ness.
-Finally try to recall what you notice on these four levels — each is a part of your over all system or sense of SELF that makes an effort to be connected TO YOU when you listen.
If you still have some time, just keep breathing and paying attention to how you feel. And after practicing any technique, see if you feel more relaxed, maybe even a little less stressed. And if you can, take some notes to remind yourself how it felt to do the exercise, even if only a few words, phrases as reminders.
Any regular practice — even if brief — helps “store up some reserve” for those deeply stressful and challenging situations you face.
Mainly remember, stress is NORMAL. We each feel stress, so learning relaxation techniques is for both day to day challenges, and NOW for the extreme situations and demands most of us are experiencing.
***IMPORTANT REMINDER. Any kind of relaxation/meditation technique is not intended to get you to STOP THINKING…..just to slow down and relax and increase your awareness of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual feelings.
If you want more ideas, check out meditations on audible and multiple apps you can find on your phones like Calm and Headspace.
And if you want more to read, you can find multiple ideas for stress management and your general well being on my blogs or in my book YOUR PERSONAL STRESS ANALYSIS. Just go to my website… drlindalmoore.com
And if your stress begins to feel unmanageable, please reach out to a mental health care professional in your community. This is a deeply challenging time, and you deserve to get help managing difficult feelings.