I don’t usually watch the news, but today (Dec 19, 2016) drew my attention. Tragedy in Berlin, Turkey, the ongoing war in Syria and Aleppo, the political strife in the U.S., all happening during the holidays. I know that I get drawn into the news when a lot is happening. I end up switching around the channels, reading things on the internet, crying, and becoming so absorbed that it is hard to walk away. I notice myself alternating between intense awareness and numbing out strategies. I know this pattern in myself, so I have programmed reminders for self-care practice into my cell phone. When my alert goes off, I do my best to pry myself away from whatever I am doing to engage in some practice. Here is one of my go to practices.
A Breath to Deactivate the Stress Response
This simple practice deactivates the stress response by changing the breath and giving the mind a bone. Research shows that lengthening the exhale calms the nervous system, deactivating the limbic system, or fight/flight response. Counting the breath gives the mind an anchor in the present moment. This practice is appropriate for everyone and at anytime. Use it as part of your daily self-care, to give yourself a time out, as part of your yoga practice, as a doorway to meditation, or as a means of relaxing for sleep at night.
- Elongate the spine and allow the eyes to soften or close.
- Take a breath in and sigh it out.
- Inhale through the nose for a count of 4.
- Exhale through the nose for a count of 6.
- Repeat at least 2 more times.
- Allow the breath to return to its natural rhythm and the eyes to remain closed as you pause to offer yourself a kindness.
- Open the eyes and continue your day.