With Oregon state government planning to reopen its buildings to the public this September, the positivity project is focusing its July and August messages on physiological and cognitive stress management techniques. Over the past year we’ve established a new normal for ourselves because of the pandemic. As we emerge from it, feeling some stress and anxiety is a natural response.
In this message are physiological techniques that can help reset our bodies to better cope with stress and anxiety. As we reset, it’s important to be aware of your thoughts and emotions and even your behaviors. It’s also important to recognize that any feeling is valid. You don’t have to be positive all the time. That’s just not reality.
When stress or negative thoughts try to take over and you want to work through them, these body work tools can help maintain health and improve well-being.
Step one is to close your eyes. Step two is to relax your face. Step three is to relax your body. Simply going through these three steps allows you to be present and to assess where there is tension in your body. It might be that in order to relax your face, you first need to make it tense. You might want to scrunch up your face or stretch your smile wide beyond comfort and then bring it back to relaxation, letting it go loose. Then work down your body. Relax your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your belly, your back, your legs, and all the way down to your feet. Just breathe and relax. Check in with yourself. It might be that you need to go through the steps again to become more relaxed.
Just like a square has four equal sides, square breathing has four equal counts for inhale, suspend, exhale, suspend, and repeat. I use a four-count square breathing technique. Try it with me. Inhale for 4 counts, suspend your breath (hold your breath) for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts and suspend your breath for 4 counts. Not only does this have a calming effect and align our body and breath, the counting gives our brain something to do, which gets us out of the body’s fear response (amygdala) and into our thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex).
There are pressure points on our head, face and body that when tapped, release anxiety. A technique I have learned is to cross your wrists and place your fingertips on the soft space below your collarbone. Tap gently, alternating hands. For me, tapping immediately brings a sense of calm. There are many videos that will guide you through a tapping meditation. For more information, visit www.thetappingsolution.com. Each one of us will cope differently over the coming months. Somehave never stopped coming to work during the pandemic. Some haven’t stepped foot in the office since mid-March 2020. We will all experience different emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Our ability to self-sooth with techniques like these can help us manage our stress and anxiety. Listen to yourself, be aware and present and find a strategy or technique that works for you. Visit the www.oregonpositivity.org for more ideas from our toolkit and monthly calendar, and in August expect tips on cognitive reframing.