Tools for Resilience
We can help our body release the tension and hormones that accumulate with stress, or if it’s difficult for us to manage our feelings, stress, and anxiety.
A body scan helps us bring attention to where we’re holding tension in our body so we can help it relax.
Begin by bringing your attention into your body. You can close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.
You can notice your body seated wherever you’re seated, feeling the weight of your body on the chair, on the floor.
Take a few deep breaths.
And as you take a deep breath, bring in more oxygen enlivening the body. And as you exhale, have a sense of relaxing more deeply.
You can notice your feet on the floor, notice the sensations of your feet touching the floor. The weight and pressure, vibration, heat.
You can notice your legs against the chair, pressure, pulsing, heaviness, lightness.
Notice your back against the chair.
Bring your attention into your stomach area. If your stomach is tense or tight, let it soften. Take a breath.
Notice your hands. Are your hands tense or tight. See if you can allow them to soften.
Notice your arms. Feel any sensation in your arms. Let your shoulders be soft.
Notice your neck and throat. Let them be soft. Relax.
Soften your jaw. Let your face and facial muscles be soft.
Then notice your whole body present. Take one more breath.
Be aware of your whole body as best you can. Take a breath. And then when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.
5-7-5 deep breathing
Breathing is a natural relaxation response that helps reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and pain in body.
To start, put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest as in the belly breathing exercise. You want to make sure that when you breathe in, your belly rises and falls.
Take a deep, slow breath from your belly, and silently count to 5 as you breathe in through your nose.
Hold your breath, and silently count from 1 to 7.
Breathe out completely through your mouth as you silently count from 1 to 5.
Progressive muscle relaxation
When we feel anxious, our muscles tense in response to thoughts; by intentionally becoming tense and then releasing, we help our muscles relax and block anxiety and stress as well as metabolize those stress hormones. It can also help reduce headaches, stomach aches, and improve sleep. There are exercises you can do where you combine playfulness and humor with relaxation:
Squeeze lemons (relax arms & hands; helps control anger): Pretend you’re squeezing a whole lemon in your left hand. Squeeze it hard! Try to squeeze all the juice out. Feel the tightness in your hand and arm as you squeeze. Now drop the lemon and relax. See how much better your hand and arm feel when they are relaxed. Repeat with the other hand.
Turtle (relax shoulder & neck): Pretend you’re a turtle. You’re sitting out on a rock by a nice, peaceful pond, just relaxing in the warm sun. It feels nice and warm and safe here. Oh-Oh! You sense danger. Pull your head into your shell and try to pull your shoulders up to your ears and your head down to your shoulders. Bend your arms and knees and bring them into your shell. Hold tight and hide in your shell. It isn’t easy to be a turtle in a shell. But you sense the danger is past now. You start slowly stretching your head and looking around to make sure the danger is past, then let your arms and legs slowly stretch out as well. You can come out into the warm sunshine and once again you can relax and feel the warm sunshine. But watch out! More danger! Hurry, pull your head and body back in and hold tight. Repeat.
Spaghetti: Pretend your an uncooked spaghetti, which is tense and rigid. Then pretend you’re being put into hot water and little by little, from your feet upwards, you begin to loosen up. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Trees: Pretend you’re a tree, your body is the trunk and your arms are the branches. You are stretching your arms towards the sun, reaching for the sun. You may move with the wind as well.
Shake out (ants in my pants): Mindfulness exercises: help you ground yourself and focus in the here & now, reducing anxiety.
Rocking chair/sway: Stand with feet apart (parallel to your shoulders) and push yourself a bit off the floor with your right foot, then your left. Continue to do so until you begin to sway. You may close your eyes and release you arms and let them flail as you sway.
Five senses exercise
A simple mindfulness exercise is to notice what you are experiencing right now through any or all of your five senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell.
Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself:
- What are five things I can see?
- What are four things I can touch?
- What are three things I can hear?
- What are two things I can smell?
- What is one thing I can taste?