HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
The Key to Reducing Stress
A key to staying healthy and vibrant is by paying attention to our bodies. We all have a body.
It is speaking to us all the time. And yes, sometimes yelling at us! In this feature, you will be invited to be curious about how your body actually talks to you.
When we listen to what our bodies are saying, we support our ability to deal with stress.
HOW IS THIS DONE?
The first step is by paying attention. What are you experiencing in your body right now as you read this arti-cle? Pause for a moment and check in with yourself. How does your stomach feel? Are you breathing easily? Is there any tension in your shoulders or somewhere else? Are you experiencing any pain?
This process of checking in with ourselves is called tracking. We are noticing our body’s responses through sensations. Some words that we can use to describe what we feel in our bodies are: tightness, warmth, burning, buzzing, tingling and lightness. You get the picture. The reason this is important is because tracking sensa-tions in real time helps us be in tune with our bodies and how they are responding to the current environment. When we notice tension patterns, we can soften them, slowly and steadily, with practice.
The problem is that many of us have been conditioned to ignore body sensa-tions and the emotions associated with them. “Have another coffee!” “It’s almost wine o’clock!” “When the going gets tough the tough go shopping!” “There’s no problem that another beer can’t solve!” These solutions may work as a short-term strategy, but not for the long haul.
Improving life satisfaction and health in a sustainable way begins when you bring your attention to your body, its sensations and the emotions that show up – not pushing them away or sweep-ing them under the rug, so to speak. It may seem counter-intuitive, but “not feeling” will actually get in your way down the road.
There is nothing wrong with feeling sensations and emotions. However, it is common for folks to feel uncomfortable, or judge themselves harshly as sick, wrong, or weak, when emotions surface. That is probably because we have been told to “buck up, be tough.” Tracking sensations in our bodies and giving ourselves space and time to experience them, offers us valuable insight so we can take better care of ourselves.
GIVE IT ANOTHER TRY
Imagine a scenario or a time when you recall feeling most like yourself or the person you want to be, perhaps a time when you felt amazing. It could be how you felt on your wedding day or snuggling with your four-legged fur baby, hiking a trail, playing your favourite sport, seeing a sunset or sunrise, experiencing the birth of a child. As you recall that past event or experience, notice how your body is responding.
Locate where in your body you are feeling something. See if you can name the sensation in your body. Is there an accompanying emotion(s) in your experience right here, right now?
Interesting, is it not, how just remem-bering might bring a smile, brightness to your eyes, warmth in your stomach or heart area, and your shoulders might soften a bit, just by paying attention to what is happening in your body. Bringing a positive event into our awareness, even for a moment, tends to relieve tension in our bodies – and tension reduction is good for us.
A FOUR-STEP SEQUENCE FOR TRACKING SENSATIONS
These steps can be done anywhere, anytime, throughout your day.
1. Pause and notice how you are feeling in this moment. Are you calm, tense, frustrated?
2. Where in your body do you feel this? Describe the body sensation.
3. Is there is an emotion associated with the body sensation? Just let it be there for a few seconds.
4. Using your imagination, think back to an event or experience that made you feel amazing. Notice how your body feels now.
Developing body awareness and learning the skill of tracking can feel like learning a whole new language.
However, once you give your body an opportunity to ‘speak’ and you listen to your body’s responses, you are tuning into yourself like you would tune into a radio station.
It is the foundation for ultimately working with ourselves instead of against ourselves. Knowing your body is a key to living a more fulfilled, healthy and vibrant life.