For those on the frontline of this pandemic, dealing with exhaustion, grief and distress on a daily basis, it may seem like a distant dream to be able to feel any sense of inner calm and peace at the moment. The body is pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol, the stress response is at an all time high and so being able to switch back down to a state of relaxation becomes ever harder.
Although true healing will happen after the climax of this event there are many little things that can and should be done on a daily basis if possible to discharge stress and reduce the accumulative and exponential effect of trauma on the body and mind.
All these tips are free, simple and in fact deeply spiritual. A gift from our Creator. They are balancing for the body. They pull us into the present moment. And connect us to our soul. They trancsend particular religions. They can bring you closer to your practice and your awareness of your self as a spiritual being
They are accessible to everybody. But even more important for those of us facing the reality of pain, suffering and death of our fellow human beings. You cannot talk yourself into a state of calm, its not the job of the thinking, logical mind. You have to feel yourself calm by giving the body signals of safety. It is just that awareness of these activites being therapeutic that enhances the effect on the body and mind. Its a good idea to incorporate a number of techniques not just focusing on one.
Please note, if you are feel like you cannot cope or are suffering from distress you must contact a medical professional, your GP for example, or mental health expert. Seeking help from professional or charity that specialises in mental health or distress is very important.
Sleep is regeneration. There is a lot of essential activity happening when we sleep.Our body has the time and energy to devote to increasing and improving its defence department: the immune system. Its also when we “clean out and detoxify” our brain as we process, and sort and file our thoughts and emotions. Our hormones are re-balanced again and these are crucial for all body processes including growth, development, reproduction, responding to stress, metabolism and energy balance.
Our nervous system gets a a break from over-arousal and excessive stimulation
Obviously it is lovely to get your regular 6-8 hours every night but that may not seem possible at this present time . Take advantage of ANY time you have to sleep. A 20 minute power nap is better than spending that time eating sugary foods (which you will be craving!) or listening to the news. Mid afternoon siestas are well known to be therapeutic.
In order to access the most nourishing sleep, we must learn to keep the body in a state of relaxation for most of the day. That means internally (thoughts and emotions) and externally (body work). This is why the list of following activities is so important : because it takes us into relaxation!
A simple and profoundly powerful technique is focussing on the breath. Breath is spiritual energy and a simple awareness is all it takes to start the relaxation response. You can and should use breath focus during many activites, especially mind-based activites I mention in this article.
- Just the very AWARENESS of breath. Observing and being conscious of breath
- Deepening Breath. Try Belly Breathing or yogic breathwork
- Slowing the breath. Trying to breath at a rate of 8 breaths per minute from the more regulary seen 12-16 bpm we breathe in especially during stress.
- Prolonging the exhale.
Set aside a time to focus on this. Its like training a muscle at the gym. Our diaphragm needs training to wake up and be strong again so that we can access it easily. Do it in the morning, at night in bed, after your prayer sitting quietly on the mat.
Prayer and Cultivating Faith
It is easy to fall into the habit of doing prayers as a necessary ritual especially living in westernised countries where we ourselves are pulled into a world lacking in connection to the Divine. A quick prayer to fulfil an obligation, a focus on prayer being a ticket into a future destination.
But a reframing and awareness of the therapeautic immediate effect of prayer allows us to tap into its true power: the immediate relaxing effect on mind-body and the pulling back to the present moment.
Repetitive silent chanting/dhikr is a vibrational energy that soothes the nervous system. Positive emotions of love, compassion, appreciation and gratitude bring the heart and brain into coherance. This state of coherance again is an energy that takes us naturally into relaxation response. So bringing those FEELINGS (not just thoughts) into prayer is a game-changer.
Go to your prayer mat with this awareness . Just being conscious of this power is the power!
If you do not follow a particular religion, or do not practice, this would be an opportunity to cultivate faith. Just a connection with something greater than yourself. an acknowledgent of how small and insignificant we as human beings are in this universe does wonders for a sense of perspective, a nurturing of humilty and an ability to be compassionate to all. Individualism breeds greed, arrogance and injustice…and we can see the effects of that all around us.
Be in Nature
Vitamin N as I like to call it. Nature is divinely medicinal. Again be conscious of this as you immerse yourself in whatever nature you can, whether that be a small garden, or a large park. In fact, even just looking at pictures of nature has a beneficial effect on mind-body
- Smell the flowers
- Look at the colours
- Feel the grass on your feet, soil in your hand, wind against your face, rain on your skin
- Sit against a tree
- Hear the birds, the trees rustling in the wind
- Feel the warmth of the sun
Nature has a vibrational energy that is soothing so just sitting silently and allowing it to do its divine magic on you is extremely healing.
If its possible to go to park for your walk, or on the way home from work then try that. Or do some gardening, or just sit in the garden.
The sun is source of great life-energy. Sunlight helps produce neurochemicals including Human Growth Hormone in the pineal gland which regulates mood, consciousness energy levels and longevity. The pineal gland generates a magnetic field and contains Magnetite which creates a magnetic field interacting with the energy of the world all around us.
The sun is an immunity booster, so be out in the sun as much as possible without being excessive. Being in the light in the morning helps to strengthen your cicadian rhythm and hence enhace sleep.
Relax the Body
There are numerous techniques to give the body a signal of safety. Do what you can and what you like to do as often as you can. Do it with a consciousness that it is healing and good for you. Do it with gratitude. All that makes a difference to the effect it has on you. Focus on the breath while doing these activities.
You can find many on you-tube. Find the ones that feel good to you. Your body will tell you whats best for you.
- Progressive Muscular Relaxation
- Guided imagery, visualisation ( even just looking at images that induce good, loving feelings or a sense of awe)
- Sound Healing – music or vibrational music (binaural frequencies, theta waves etc) or singing, or chanting/dhikr
- Drink water . Praying thanks or feeling good thoughts into the water is even more beneficial.
- TaiChi , QiGong, Yoga, Gentle stretching, Walking
- Stretches that open the upper body
- Joyful movement , like freestyle dance…around the kitchen!
- Intense exercise BUT ONLY VERY SHORT BURSTS
- (excessive exercise can exacerbate stress)
- Smiling, laughter
- Touch therapy..cuddles with those you can touch at the moment! Stroking pets. Holding blankets or cuddly toys.
- Avoidance of the news (beyond essential information) or numerous opinions. Put away the phone or computer at regular periods of the day.
In times of stress the body contracts. Unconsciously. It just happens. The breath becomes shallow. You will not WANT to do the things that you used to. There will be no energy. That is why these simple gifts given to us are so important and that we must make it our responsibility to consciously …with AWARENESS…. incorporate them into our day. Doing little and often becomes achievable to the body high on stress.
Its always the simple things that fulfil our deepest needs.
Best wishes to all x