Feeling Stressed? Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body!

When the world seems to move too fast and you feel like things are getting out of control, you may find that a simple change of focus helps. Often it’s our mind that gets overwhelmed with the endless chatter of “to do” lists. It’s probably one of the main reasons people have trouble sleeping. Here’s a tip for changing your focus. Get out of your head and check in with your body. What do I mean? Well, stop thinking for a few minutes and turn your attention inward.

  • Is your breathing rate calm or does it seem faster than it needs to be for the activity you’re doing?
  • Can you sense your heart beat, does it feel too fast?
  • How about your muscles, do you feel pain, tension anywhere?
  • Do you feel like you want to run?
  • Do your palms feel sweaty?
  • How about the temperature of your hands/feet, colder than you’d like?

These are all simple ways to determine if your nervous system is tuned up, as if reacting to a stress stimulus. Living in this state 24/7 can exhaust your mind and body, yet many of us live this way without any knowledge that this is occurring.

After your inward body assessment, lie on your back with your knees bent, arms alongside your body. Breathe in and out a few times. Begin to feel what moves in your body as you breathe. Can you feel your ribcage moving? Do you notice that with each inhale your lower back slightly arches and then as you breathe out, your back flattens? Gradually try to assist this movement, slightly exaggerating that move. Consciously arch your lower back, lifting it about an inch or so, as you inhale and then gradually let your back relax as you exhale. Do this for move for about 8-10 minutes. Then, check in with your body again as you did with the assessment above. If you heard your belly make digestive noises, this is a very positive sign. It means you’ve switched over from the “stressed” side of your autonomic nervous system (sympathetic) to parasympathetic, which is the rest/recovery zone (which also turns on digestion). You might feel more relaxed overall. The best part about doing this is that you will relax your low back muscles, lengthening them, which eases overall movement in your body. And, hopefully, you will have left your head for awhile to focus on your body.

I hope you can try this the next time you feel stressed out. And, afterward, take a few moments to look out the window or go outside and observe something natural that catches your attention, a bird, flower, or perhaps just the clouds moving across the sky.