Today we are going to expound upon one of the “6 Shining Steps to Well-Being” how to center your body + mind with movement and breathwork to mitigate stress and improve well-being. You’ve probably seen or read something about wellness through mindfulness as this concept has gained momentum, but what exactly is meant by “wellness” or “well-being”? Wellness is the state of feeling well, good mental health, a high level of life satisfaction, a sense of meaning, and the ability to effectively mitigate stress.
- Understand Types of Stress that Affect Well-Being
The body and mind are closely linked, so what’s going on in one will usually affect the other. When your mind is stressed, your body can become rigid and tense. Conversely, when you’re able to work to relax your body and practice physical flexibility, it will help to put your mind at ease. A great starting point is to understand more about the types of stress you may be experiencing:
- Acute Stress: An immediate reaction to a threatening situation taking place in the present.
- Chronic Stress: Continuous ongoing stress that isn’t triggered by a specific danger or life-threatening event.
- Learn How Stress Impacts your Well-Being
The impact of chronic stress is that can actually result in long-term damage to the body, thus causing physical symptoms such as headaches and constipation on top of general wear-and-tear. Chronic stress causes the release of a stress hormone called cortisol, which can linger throughout your body all day unlike the stress hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine which are released through acute stress. Excessive levels of cortisol can lead to health issues including digestive problems, inflammation, weight gain, hormone imbalances, heart disease and diabetes. Some clear physical signs of chronic stress include:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
- Practice Simple Breathing Techniques to Mitigate Stress and Improve Well-Being
Once you’ve identified stress you’re carrying in your body, you can try these tips to help release the effects of stress.
- Learn How to Breathe: When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax. The way you breathe affects your whole body.
- Regularly Move Your Body: Regular movement improves production of endorphins, improves your mood and self-confidence and helps to release the day’s stresses and irritations. This gives you a sense of control over your body and life by releasing stress and becoming calmer and clearer.
To get the most from breathing deeply, try any one of these 3 breathwork techniques:
- Full Belly Breath: Place both feet on the ground and straighten your spine. Take a normal breath and pay attention to how deep the breath goes. On the next breath, try to bring your breath down to your ribcage – in through your nose and out through your mouth. On the next breath, place your hands on your lower stomach and breathe in deeply enough to expand your belly. Take several of these breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Alternate Nostril Breath: Take the first two fingers of your right hand and place them between your eyebrows. Gently set your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril. Press your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out and in through your left nostril with your mouth closed. Then inhale again through your left nostril, hold it closed with your ring finger, open your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. On the next breath, do the opposite – inhale through your right nostril, hold it closed with your thumb, open your left nostril and exhale through your left nostril. Take several deep breaths, alternating nostrils.
- Square Breath: Close your lips and breathe in for 3 counts, hold it for 3 counts, exhale for 3 counts and then hold for 3 counts. Continue this “square” of counts for inhaling, holding, exhaling and holding.
- Move your Body to Improve Well-Being
Increased body movement has been shown to help increase productivity as well as motivation! To get started, try choosing a movement style that feels a certain way and sounds like fun. Think about taking up a movement activity that will help to balance or offset your current energy. Some great examples of movements to help you accomplish a particular feeling are:
- Movement to Feel Strong and Confident: Lifting Weights/Strength Training. If you’d like to feel stronger and more confident at work and within yourself, lifting weights will help you mitigate stress and improve well-being. You can progress with as little as 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week!
- Movement to Feel Open and Able to Go with the Flow: Practice Yoga. Yoga supports you in feeling more open, flexible and “laid back”. If you’re struggling with being too structured and have a lot on your plate, try yoga to create some space in your life.
- Movement to Feel Uplifted and Energized: Walk or Hike. Walking has more benefits than it gets credit for. The more you walk, the more energized and clear-headed you’ll feel.
Here are some points to consider to encourage you to think differently about moving your body:
- Move to experience a moving meditation.
- Ask yourself – How do I want to feel?
- Move to tap into a creative state.
- Move your body to allow a solution to a problem to come through.
- Move your body to feel good. Nothing more.
- Move your body to improve your mental well-being.
- Move your body to be centered and grateful.
- Move your body to access calm energy and authenticity.
Finally, try some of these practical ways to fit movement and breathwork into your busy day to mitigate stress and improve well-being:
- Start small with regular movement.
- Have fun with how you choose to move.
- Release the need for a perfect workout routine.
- Schedule your movements in a calendar.
- Practice breathwork before opening an email or presenting.
- Focus on breathwork after a stressful call or unexpected event.
- Use breathwork to close the end of your workday.
Once you can become comfortable incorporating movement and breathwork into your daily routine, using these 4 ways to mitigate stress and improve well-being, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your best self!
Transformation Mentor, Wellness Teacher, and Retreat Facilitator
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