Oh side effects… the laundry list of things that can go wrong when taking a prescribed medication. From mild dizziness to death, side effects are often scarier than the ailment being treated in the first place. Yet we never talk about the side effects of healthy habits. For example, the side effects of eating clean and optimizing your digestion include glowing skin and better moods.
In today’s post, I’d like to introduce the idea of paying attention to your stress level that same way you pay attention to what you eat and drink. Thoughts can be nourishing or toxic just like food. By being aware of our thoughts and feelings when we’re in a funk, we are better able to move through the negative side effects of stress, and reap the healing benefits of relaxation.
Step one - recognize stress. Side effects include:
• Extreme irritability, funky moods, or just feeling like a "hot mess!"
• Increased tension in the neck and shoulders, sometimes including pain.
• Knots or butterflies in the stomach, indigestion.
• Intense cravings for your vice of choice
◦ whether that’s a glass of wine, a red velvet cupcake, or shopping, a vice is a vice.
• Tingling feelings in the limbs
• Accelerated heart rate
• Heavy breathing. In extreme cases, hyperventilating (panic attack).
• Tightness and/or heaviness in the head and/or heart, either physically or energetically.
• Non-stop thinking. You want to just relax but your mind won’t stop racing! And you’ve tried meditation but you feel like you totally suck at it…
Symptoms may vary from person to person, of course, and are not limited to this list.
Side note: small doses of stress are healthy for the you. Stress 24/7 - not healthy at all.
How many unhealthy side effects of stress are you experiencing?
Thankfully, we've got relaxation to offset the negative side effects of stress, and at the end of this post you’ll have a mini exercise for instant relaxation. With regular practice, this exercise will allow to experience the side effects of relaxation more often.
Step two - recognize relaxation. To simplify, I'm defining relaxation as the practice of letting go (of stress, worry, guilt, tension, etc) and completely enjoying the present moment.
Side effects include:
• Not freaking out over little things so much (like dirty dishes in the sink).
• Rush hour becoming tolerable. Eventually, even enjoyable!
• Being able to reset to a calm state much quicker after being agitated.
• Keeping your cool (both inside and outside) when someone else is losing their shit.
• Enjoying day to day life more, as time seems to move more slowly.
• Noticing small things that suddenly bring you immense joy. #tinyflowers
• Less pain throughout the body (from all that tension you’re not holding on to).
• Increased flexibility (yep, flexible thoughts = flexible body)
• Decreased symptoms of mystery ailments (which no specialist can seem to figure out...)
• Feeling lighter.
• Serenity & Joy.
Step 3 - Use the breath to induce relaxation.
Now it’s time for your metaphorical chill pill. This exercise can take as little as 5 minutes, or as long as 20. Totally up to you:
- Find a comfortable location in your room, office, or car, preferably looking out the window (nature goes well with relaxation ;-).
- For bonus experience, put on some mellow ambient music (no lyrics). If you don't have any, Moby made 4 hours of relaxing music and is giving it away for free.
- Take a moment to observe how you’re currently feeling. If stressed at all, don’t get caught up in the drama of the story, just notice how and where you’re feeling it in your body.
- On a scale of 1-10, how stressed are you (10 = AAAHHHHH!!!!!)?
- What do you feel? Where do you feel it?
- Get curious but not judgmental. Just observe.
- This can take as long as you’d like, 30 seconds to 3 minutes…
- Jot down your observations. Doodles work well too.
- Now settle into a comfortable seated position. For a minimum of 3 minutes (or as long as you’d like), begin to count your breath silently to yourself, “inhale 1, exhale 1. Inhale 2, exhale 2…” and continue like this until you reach 10.
- If you get lost in your thoughts and lose count, just start over at 1. No biggie.
- If you make it to 10 before 3 minutes are up, start over at 1.
- Notice again how you are feeling...
- On the same scale of 1-10, where are you now?
- Is your breath more steady? Are your thoughts still racing? Are your shoulders less tense?
- Jot down or doodle your observation
What was your stress level before and after? How hard or easy was it for you to count your breath to 10? Did you lose count at any point?
This simple yet powerful exercise can be done daily, multiple times a day. How do you think you’d feel if you did this exercise once a day? Or throughout your day?
I invite you to try it out and see what works best for you. Please let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email: pri (at) priscillacarolyn (dot) com. I would love to hear your about your experience! Questions are welcome too.
Have an awesome weekend filled with relaxation!
Lots of Love,