In our day to day lives many of us report feeling busy, stressed, and overwhelmed . It seems that stress and busyness are viewed as proof that we’re productive, valuable people. Yet chronic stress is slowly but surely interfering with our body’s natural healing mechanisms.
Stress activates the fight or flight response. This isn’t a problem if your body is in stress response once or twice a week, since stress responses are only meant to last about 90 seconds. However many of us experience over 50 stress responses per day—most of them stemming from thoughts about imaginary threats that will probably never come true.
Our brains and bodies can’t tell the difference between being chased by a wild animal and having fearful thoughts about work, relationships, or money. Whether we’re fleeing from a tiger or having a fear-based thought about an imagined future, a stress response is activated. We unconsciously tense our muscles and our heart rate and blood pressure increase while our bodies are flooded with stress hormones.
There is a simple, but powerful practice I call Dropping In. It involves creating moments throughout the day when we consciously drop into a state of heightened inner awareness. This practice helps to quiet the nervous system and allows our bodies to resume their natural healing processes.
- The first step is to connect with your body – noticing your physical sensations without judgment – do you notice tightness, heaviness, expansion, discomfort or lightness?
- Next, place your attention on your breath and exhale slowly focusing away from your thoughts – see them as strings of words floating above your head; and if you like, put them in a cartoon bubble for now. Simply be present in the moment. Notice how your body breathes for you without effort or force. Take a few deep breaths to calm the nervous system.
- Finally, smile to yourself or recall an image that evokes feelings of safety and peace as you honor your experience with self kindness and compassion. You may wish to silently say “Everything’s okay right now” or other calming words.
You will find many ways to adapt or add to this practice – just remind yourself (set an alarm or practice after a restroom break, etc.) to create moments throughout your day to STOP AND DROP IN!
Remember, YOU hold the key!