In the previous article I already told you that you sometimes think that you are ‘resting’ and ‘recuperating’ but that in reality you are not… you are still in your ‘red’ zone…
How do you go to your ‘green’ zone? By artificially activating your parasympathetic or… in order words: by doing relaxation exercises.
There are many activities that can bring you to your ‘green zone’: relaxing massages, a warm bath, a day at the spa, certain forms of yoga, etc…
But today I want to focus on 3 techniques that you can use anywhere and anytime, even when you only have 5 minutes…
- Abdominal breathing
Abdominal breathing means breathing deeply from your abdomen or from the bottom of your lungs. It is exactly the opposite of the shallow, high-chest breathing you use when anxious or tense. To see if you are breathing from your abdomen, place your hand on your abdomen and watch it rise each time you inhale. Abdominal breathing will help you relax any time you are feeling anxious. There are different forms. The easiest is the 4-4-4-4. (I already talked about it in ‘Defeat your stress in 10 days’)
- Inhale while counting to 4
- Hold your breath while counting to 4
- Exhale while counting to 4
- Don’t do anything while counting to 4
Do the full set (4-4-4-4) 3 times.
Following these steps can actually make you start yawning: proof that your parasympathetic nervous system has been stimulated.
- Stopping and landing:
Stopping and landing comes from Mindfulness. It is exactly what it says: you ‘stop’ whatever you are doing and ‘land’ in the here and now. How do you do that?
- Settle into a comfortable sitting position on a chair. Allow your back to adopt an erect, dignified, and comfortable posture. Place your feet flat on the ground, gentle close your eyes.
- Focus your attention on the sensations of touch and pressure in your body where it makes contact with the floor and your chair.
- Bring your awareness to your breathing:
- Where do you feel your breathing? In your belly? In your throat? Near your nostrils?
- Are you breathing deeply or are you breathing quickly?
- You don’t have to breathe in a certain way. Let the breath breathe itself. Just observe the sensations, observe what is.
- Maybe you will notice changes, maybe not…
- You might notice it’s not so easy to stay focussed on your breath. Your mind will wander away… You might notice thoughts, emotions or physical sensations.
- Notice it and … bring your awareness back to your breathing.
- It doesn’t matter how often your mind wanders, notice it, and bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Do this as long as you like (5 minutes is a good start).
You can find out more about Mindfulness here.
- Heart coherence:
Heart coherence is a breathing method that is claimed to facilitate circulation and autonomic nervous system balance. It involves breathing at the nominal rate of x (find out exact number in link) breaths per minute with equal inhalation and exhalation. It also increases heart rate variability and brings it into coherence, but here we are more interested in the calming effect: it activates your parasympathetic.
You can use an app that ‘accompanies’ you while breathing. But I want to teach you a technique that you can also use when you don’t have your mobile phone nearby… (hard to imagine for some, but still…). When you are learning the technique, all you need is a piece of paper, a pen and a timer.
Three times a day, at a moment of your choice
- Sit up straight, feet flat on the ground with a piece of paper (landscape) and a pencil in front of you.
- Set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Focus on your breathing for 3 minutes.
- Let your hand draw waves at the rythm of your breath: while breathing in your hand goes up, while breathing out your hand goes down.
- Thoughts will come up. Whenever they do, don’t follow them but do go back to focussing on your breath and on your hand drawing the waves.
- Eyes open or closed? You choose. If you decide to keep them open, try not to fix your attention on something specific. It might keep you from focusing on your breath.
- It’s not about having a ‘beautiful’ result. So when you come to the end of the page, go back or start another row underneath, or turn the page, or…
- Put the date and time on it.
- Do this for 1 week, 3 times a day. After having done this for a full week, go to the instructions for week 2.
(Instructions for week 2 and 3 can be found here)
These are the 3 techniques. Which one will you try out? Maybe you know another one? I’d love to find out in the comments below!
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Looking forward to hearing from you!