We live in a world of high expectations. It often seems like there’s an unspoken requirement to constantly stay at the top of our game at work, at home, and anywhere else we frequent during our weekly routine. With this pressure, many are attempting to do too much with the decidedly finite amount of time and physical and mental energy they have at their disposal.
As a result of this over-stretched, over-reached way of living, many may encounter high states of stress, brain fog, depleted mood, or simply a less optimistic outlook on life. But it doesn’t have to be so. There are relatively simple measures we can take to recalibrate our bodies and brains for clarity, vitality, and renewed focus. Below are five low-tech, mindful techniques to help you whenever you need a balancing boost:
- Breath: You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but it really is true: your breath is a potent gateway right into your parasympathetic nervous system. Oxygen provides fuel for all cellular and body functions, is used in cleansing, represses bacteria, and helps to purify the blood. Even one minute of deep breathing can have a huge reset effect. (If nose breathing is challenging, breathe through your mouth but at a slower rate.)
- Water: Your body made up of mostly water, which helps regulate temperature, carries oxygen and nutrients to cells, converts food to energy, cushions organs and joints, and aids in detoxification. Always keep a stainless steel (or glass) water bottle within reach. It will serve as a helpful reminder to sip throughout the day. Aim for 20oz (minimum) of room temperature (or warm) water per 50 lbs of body weight. It might seem like a lot, but by sipping small amounts you’ll have reached it in no time.
- Twist and Shout: Well, maybe don’t shout—even if it feels like it will let off a vent of stressful steam. More importantly, take a moment to twist your body from side to side. Stand with your feet wider than hip-distance and lightly swing your arms from side to side. To protect your knees, lift one heel of the ground as you twist, allowing you to pivot. Keep your arms hanging heavy (think noodles) and allow them to swing. Even 20 seconds can make a world of difference. Twists work directly on your nervous system and move you closer to a place of equilibrium. Crossing the limbs in front of your midline also strengthens nerve cell pathways and improves learning and memory.
- Legs up the Wall: It might feel silly at first, but walking your legs up the wall for even just three minutes could shift your day in a big way. The lymph system is one of the largest in your body (you actually have two times more lymph fluid than blood). It supports other primary systems to better function by removing stagnant junk. The key is that your lymph needs manual stimulation and the only ways to do this is through massage, inversions, or jumping on a trampoline. Putting your legs up also relaxes your heart and gives direct accesses to your relaxation response. If your hamstrings are a bit tighter, move your sitting bones a bit further from the wall and bend your knees and you’ll get all the benefits without added back strain.
- Adaptogens to the Rescue: While eating high quality foods and minimizing energy robbing processed foods is vital, there are periods in life when your system needs a little bit of added support. Adaptogenic herbs bolster your body’s natural capacity to stay more resilient in the face of unnecessary stress. As always, make sure to do ample research and consult with your primary care physician. Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, and Tulsi (holy basil) have been researched and these three herbs can be supplemented in capsules (Tulsi also makes a tasty tea), have shown to support blood sugar regulation, reduce free radical damage, and improve the functions of the adrenal glands.
Especially if you are feeling low energy, discontented, or stretched too thin in your daily life, try to make a commitment to implement at least one of these strategies two times a week for the next week. From there, build on your progress by exploring additional techniques or up your commitment to three to four times a week.
If, at any point, your mind chimes in and says, “I don’t have time to do this,” thank it for sharing and do it anyway. By taking a small amount of time to recalibrate your body will be ready to reengage in a much more productive and clear way.
Another great way to de-stress is through a Mindfulness Pass. With it, faculty and staff receive entry to unlimited yoga and mindfulness classes at the HUB throughout spring quarter for just $40.
Danny Arguetty, M.A., is the mindfulness program manager at the University of Washington, a yoga teacher (and teacher trainer), nutrition/life coach, and a lover of the environment. He is the author of Nourishing the Teacher and The 6 Qualities of Consciousness. Passionate about helping people flourish through mindfulness, wellness, and personal self-development, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in group facilitation, one-on-one coaching, and experiential teaching.
Danny has guided workshops throughout the United States, led basic and advanced yoga trainings in the U.S. and India, and spoken at Facebook, Olson Kundig, and Gravity Payments (all in Seattle). He served as adjunct faculty at Williams College, leads a quarterly course on Intro to Mindfulness at UW, and is a faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.