These days, most of us have a different routine for conducting business, parenting and day to day living. This new way of life and its uncertainties can cause anxiety, stress on relationships, and an ache in our souls. From a physical perspective, “sheltering in place” involves a LOT of screen time. These stressors and sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on our health if we don’t find ways to mitigate them. Here are a few tips, from my occasionally agitated home to yours, that might help.
Taking a deep breath, a really good, honestly deep breath, is often the best medicine to ease what ails us. Tapping into the rhythm of your breath allows you to slow down and bring ease into your body. Oftentimes, when we are stressed, that deep breath stops at our chest, never really extending down into the belly to activate a relaxation response. The small muscles around the rib cage work hard, bringing our shoulders to our ears. However, that beneficial breath needs to be propelled by the more powerful and substantial abdominal muscles. One way to keep our focus on the belly to breathe is to place a small (2-3lbs) weight just below your navel when you can steal a few mins on your yoga mat. Breathe out and in, raising the weight as you inhale, and lowering the weight as you exhale. You are not pushing the weight up by protruding the abdomen. It rises from the motion of the diaphragm.
The weight on the abdomen requires you to work a little harder to inhale and expand the lungs. As you exhale, the weight will naturally push down, causing the breath to flow out quickly. Regulate your exhalation so that it is relaxed and approximately the same length as the inhalation. This technique not only strengthens the diaphragm, it tones the muscles of the abdomen as well. Over time, you will find that your diaphragm has been strengthened, and your breath will be deeper and more efficient
Being home and barefoot all the time can cause real strain on the legs and low back, sending pain even further up the chain, to your neck. Extended periods of screen time can also be a real pain in the back and neck! One way to loosen up those erectors and provide relief is with a bath towel. Fold it in half to make a square, roll one side all the way, and place it along your spine as you lay down to rest for a few minutes. As the spine stays supported by the towel roll, a few deep breaths will allow gravity to take over and relax the erectors down to the earth. Muscle tension melts with each breath.
Your lower extremities need attention also. Be sure to stretch ankles, feet, and toes daily, even while you work at your desk. Flex and extend your feet, drawing circles with your toes in both directions. Using a golf ball or pointy dryer ball to roll out any tight areas helps stimulate reflex points that bring healing to the entire body. A nightly moisturizing cream and gentle foot massage before bed will keep feet healthy and happy too.
Frequent movement breaks will keep your brain sharp when working long hours. Just a few minutes of cardio like walking in place will perk you up. However, bringing your knees high
up in front of you, reaching out to touch them with the opposite hand, will stimulate both sides of your brain to work together more efficiently. This is a nice way to reignite your focus on the
tasks at hand.
When work and school tasks are complete, a family project can be a fun way to bring closure to a long day. My family has enjoyed searching for, and painting rocks with positive messages. The walk with family members to search for a perfect stone will get the endorphins flowing. Returning to paint the stones makes for a creative and peaceful activity.
Make sure to check in with yourself daily to keep feeling your best. Noticing the quality of your breath, your sleep, and your mental attitude is important to track to know when to make changes. If you are noticing areas of tension, stop and ask yourself what message your body is sending you. If you don’t hear when your body is whispering that it needs attention, it will surely find ways to speak louder. Tune in often, address the achy bits with stretching, self massage, and adequate rest, and never hesitate to reach out for support!