When you only have one minute: Stress Relief for the Real World
We all lead hard, busy lives these days. Between jobs, the economy, traffic, and family commitments, there is not much time in the day for stress relief. The idea can even sound laughable.
What I’ve found works for my patients is finding “the cracks in the day”- where you have 1-3 minutes in-between meetings or calls, where you can carve out some time for yourself.
Bathroom as refuge for breathing
If you are someone that is constantly interrupted at your desk or cubicle, you may find the bathroom a pleasant refuge. Find a quiet stall and sit for 3 minutes and simply breathe deeply. You want to breathe deeply, into your belly, rather than the usual shallow breathing we do without thinking. Deep breathing activates the stretch receptors in the lungs, and, in turn, this activates a cascade of neurotransmitters that turns off the fight-or-flight response, and puts you into rest and digest mode. Take that time and breathe deeply. Notice how you feel before you sit down- where is the tension in your body? Do you feel pain in your neck or back? Are you irritable or frustrated? Just by taking 3 minutes to breathe, you can make a difference.
Three minutes is usually around 10 deep, full belly breaths.
Qi Gong at your desk- stretch without a gym
Qi Gong (pronounced “Chee Gong”) is also known as Chinese yoga. It’s a simple form of exercise that is very gentle. Even people in hospital beds can do Qi Gong moves without pain. If you can stand at your desk, you can do some Qi Gong. You can even do Qi Gong if you have a conference call on and just need to listen. The two moves I recommend are the simple twist and the reach up and close in.
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Simple twist: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, let your arms hang loose. Begin to gently twist from your hips, keeping your feet still. Let your arms gently slap your thighs. Do this for a count of 10.
Reach up and close in: This move stimulates the spine, giving your spinal fluid a chance to circulate. Raise your arms up above your head while standing with feet shoulder width apart, facing forward. Inhale and really stretch, lengthening the spine. Next bring your arms out in a wide arc, out to the sign of a T. then, as you exhale, curl inward on yourself, like a shrimp curling up. Curl your spine into a C shape. Bring your hands in and make fists, then touch those fists together. Repeat 10 times.
Notice how your spine and chest feel after your Qi Gong break. Do you have less tension or pain?
Upset is Optional
One of the principles I use with my patients is the idea of “Living Life at 90%”. 10% of life is simply what happens to you- tragedies, screw-ups, mistakes. The other 90% is how you react to that 10%. This may seem radical, but you are only one minute away, at any given time, from being able to react from a better place. You can choose to accept what’s happening, but decide not to react to it now. Taking three deep breaths before an important response can help you make a better call in any situation. The trick is to catch yourself before you automatically respond, and by taking those breaths, that gives you the time to react from a place of more peace and less pressure. This is a more advanced tool to deploy once you’ve had some practice with the other two tools, but it can be the most effective. Just because something is happening doesn’t mean it’s good or bad- there’s a lot of emotional freedom in acknowledging it exists without reacting to it in the moment. You might want to start trying this in situations with a low stress amount, but some kind of resentment or tightness in you around saying “yes”. If you are successful with the little choices, the big choices will come in time.
I want you to:
Choose one of these techniques to integrate into your day NOW. Add reminders on your calendar for breathing or Qi Gong. Work on allowing your body’s symptoms to cue you when you need to practice a technique. (Pain, tension, headache, etc.)
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Thanks for reading!