Anxiety about the past is an ongoing distraction in my mind, my body, my SELF. I wake up in the morning with anxiety about what happened yesterday 5 out of 7 days of the week.
So I started researching, exploring my way through how-to, self-help and try-this kind of websites and books. I tried most of them. Some of them where a little wacky, and no I don’t have time to stare at a flame for 25 minutes before I step on to the ground first thing in the morning.
Here are a few that worked for me:
1. Massage your sternum
The sternum consists of three major elements: on top is the wide manubrium, the body of the sternum is the narrow bone that you’re most likely imagining, and on the bottom is the small xyphoid process. I’m going to refer to those three bones together as the sternum complex.
The sternum complex is an attachment site for muscles (sternal fibers of pectoralis major, diaphragm, transversus thoracis), costal cartilages, ligaments, and FASCIA. Keep in mind that I did not name every individual structure that attaches to it, but the picture is drawn, and you can see that it connects the left and the right sides of the body most effectively.
Because of the huge amount of fascia in the area any sort of round shouldered, hunched over, compressed chest posture will shorten the anterior tissues of body (we know you don’t want short and weak pecs).
Rubbing this area will help release tension and stress from the body (it also happens to hold powerful stress relief points for the diaphragm that will let you BREATHE!!).
So rub it, massage it, touch it! I started doing it for one minute in the morning before I get out of bed, if I’m feeling stressed before work, and as needed through the day. I’m either laying on my back or sitting up tall, regardless I AM NOT hunched over when I do this! Please note: this can be a very tender area, so start gently!
2. Drink more water
You knew this one would come up. Why? Well if you’re like me you are not drinking enough, if you’re really like me you encourage everyone else to drink it because you care about their health and wellbeing and completely neglect it yourself… Because, well you’re not an athlete and they’re more important. False. If you’re stressed, how the hell can you help anyone in any positive way? Lesson learned.
You’re body is made of loads of water, you know this, I know this! Your organs need it, your BRAIN needs it! If the brain is dehydrated the rest of your body can’t function properly – including the hormones that control stress and happiness.
So: 1L Nalgene bottle. Before I leave for work, at work, after work. 3L a day is a hell of a lot better than what I was drinking! And no, coffee doesn’t count, monster energy drinks do not count, soup doesn’t count, juice and booze don’t count, juice and booze together doesn’t count. H2O. Add it!
3. 3-Part Breath
Our natural breath pattern is started by the diaphragm moving down as breath is drawn through the nose into the lungs, as the diaphragm descends the belly expands, the ribs expand fuller and the chest rises to complete the breath.
When we’re stressed often we start breathing through the mouth and subsequently purely into our chest. This breathing pattern can cause tightness through the chest, shoulders, upper back, neck and jaw… Namely all the places you usually feel stress. Stop, slow down, go back to your office, your car, the bathroom, or the park bench and give yourself 3 minutes to re-establish your breathing pattern.
- Start by closing your mouth and breathing into the nose.
- As you inhale push your belly out, this may feel unnatural to start so place your hands on your belly so you can really feel it. Do this for 5 deep breaths of 4 seconds per inhale and 4 seconds per exhale.
- Next place your hands on the side of the ribs, inhale to a count of 4 and fill the belly just as you did before, at the top of the breath expand your ribs into your hands, exhale to a count of 4. Do this for 5 more breaths.
- Now place one hand on your belly and one hand on your upper chest. Inhale to fill the belly allowing the breath to flow into the side ribs, at the top of the breath fill the chest. Exhale the opposite way: allowing the chest to drop down, the ribs to come together and lastly allowing the belly to descend. Keep the same breath count and do this for 5 breaths.
With practice you’ll be able to reacquaint yourself with good breathing technique anywhere!
4. Ground your feet!
Ground your feet.
Take your shoes off.
Walk barefoot in the sand.
Stand on rocks.
Walk barefoot on wet grass. (Again with the bare feet… Sorry foot people👣)
Ever heard of reflexology? If you haven’t: it’s the belief that points on the foot correspond to different parts, organs, pathways, and functionings of the body. Don’t believe it? Try grounding your feet anyways, it’s free and nothing is lost. The feet have thousands of nerve endings and in Perry’s words “are a neurological hotbed of direct sensation into the brain”.
One of my favourite things to do is roll my foot around on a lacrosse ball or tennis ball with mild to moderate pressure. This is easy because you can throw a ball into your car, drawer, bag or whatever and use it as needed. I really like Dr. Perry Nicholsons’s advice though: take your shoes off and stand/march on rocks.
I’m a rock person, I love crystals for their beauty, energy and feel. This is what I’m doing:
After my morning sternum rubbing (also a Perry trick) I step out onto my crystals and rotate myself on them for about a minute (it feels like a really long time!).
I started my outside-of-yoga-anti-stress and anxiety control techniques last week.. Though some are more familiar to me than others (ie: drinking water, breathing, grounding my feet versus sternum massage and rock stomping). Now that I’ve come home from my mini vacay I’m going full steam! If you’re into it, do it… And let me know how it goes!
Here’s to a stress free day!
Ps. If you’re interested to know who Dr. Perry Nicholson is check out his website… He’s got houuuurs of free material and is a guru of movement! Stopchasingpain.com