I’m not quite sure at what point life became so busy. Some days it feels like we are living in the times of a stress pandemic.
This bothers me.
I know stress is an inevitable part of life but prolonged stress can trigger some really worrying health problems. It’s also very easy to ignore the initial signs like anxiety, insomnia, headaches, digestive disorders, fatigue, neck and shoulder problems to name just a few! We’ve all been guilty of this at some point because we’re just “too busy” to sort it!
No magic pill exists for stress.
Nor does a magic wand.
Busy people are often, well, too busy to tackle stress head on. Or at least, many think they are. So what are the realistic options?
A good starting point is to look at stress from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It might be ancient in origin but the theories can still be applied to the modern world.
In TCM, stress can be one of the main factors that impedes the free flow of your Qi (life force or energy) that circulates throughout your body. It’s the “stagnation” of the Qi that puts the whole body system out of balance.
With that in mind, here are my 5 tips you can use throughout the day to help bring that flow of Qi back in to play, no matter how busy your day is:
1. Shower visualisation: When you take a shower in the morning or evening use the flow of the water on your body and head to help you visualise washing away any stress and anxiety. Let the water take the worry and the negative thoughts down and away through the plug hole, down the drains and far away.
2. Maximise any walking time: Taking exercise is one of the best ways to move stagnant Qi and shift stress. BUT if you haven’t got time to do a workout on a busy day, maximise your walking time – whether it’s walking to work, the shops, a meeting or the school run. Pick up the speed of your walk to get the heart beating then, bring the heart rate down with a walking meditation bringing your awareness to notice all the sensations in your feet and legs and try to tune in to the changing weight distribution of each step.
3. Put a timer on your desk: After every 30 minutes, stretch your neck and shoulders to prevent the stagnation of Qi that can lead to headaches and muscle tightness. Place your right hand over your head to the left ear and gently draw your head on to the right shoulder and repeat on the other side. Take your chin to your chest, then look up and side to side. Bring your shoulders up to your ears, hold and release and feel your shoulders relax. Then every 1.5 hours, get up from your desk and walk around.
4. Tap and knock: if you start to feel foggy and hit a slump, stop what you are doing and use your fingertips to tap all over your head, paying attention to the points at the back of the neck, just under the skull. Then tap around the eyes and face. Now think like an ape! Make a loose fist with the right hand, bring it over the front of your body and gently knock the point under the end of the left collar bone just in front of your armpit. Then repeat the other side. This is a great instant energy booster and Qi shifter!
5. Stretch and breathe: Stretching out is a great way to de-stress and reduce any tension that has built up during the day. Joints and muscles are classic areas for Qi stagnation to gather (which you will feel as tightness or pain). Try a simple yoga sequence. Finally, some breathing, as even the diaphragm needs to stretch. Your exhale should be longer than inhale and it should be taken slowly. Try breathing in through the nose for 4, hold for 7 and exhale out of the mouth for a count of 8. On the exhale try a soft “whoosh” sound by holding the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Do not clench or strain.
Don’t worry about starting small with these five tips, it’s the starting that’s the important thing.
If your stress feels like you are trapped inside a tunnel of overwhelm and you can’t see the light at the end, just put the torch on.
Stop focusing on trying to see the light at the end, for the time being at least, and focus on the torch lit floor in front of you.
Here’s an oldie (6thCentury BC) but a goodie to remind you:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu the Chinese Founder of Taoism