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Tuning in to Your Body for Managing Stress

by Noa Belling


Our bodies are a living expression of our minds. From the communication of emotions through facial expressions and posture to the physical manifestation of more complex psychological issues that can influence our experience of life and play into our injuries or sickness, the body constantly signals the presence of the mind.

Being mindful of how we carry life experience in our bodies, such as by pausing now and again through the day to notice our body, can complement a focus on healthy diet and physical exercise in promoting holistic health and managing stress. Even a short pause, such as looking away from work for a few moments, or while walking between meetings or even while waiting in the shopping line can have a big impact on our brains and bodies. It can help us think more clearly and see a bigger picture. It can boost feel-good hormones to counteract the build-up of stress hormones and in the long term can help us shift even age-old habits of responding to stress and emotional ups and downs. To follow is an example of a pause you might take, in this case using self-supportive touch, to tune into your body and reap these kinds of benefits.

1. Ground yourself in your body.

Place your hands on your head. Find the place for each hand that feels best, such as front and back, or top and bottom, where the back of your neck meets your head. Or you can hold both sides of your head. Go with what feels right.

Observe the effects on your thoughts as you hold your head. Touch is an effective connector of mind and body and this connection can be experienced in an instant. Your skin might feel more alive as your body senses awaken. This can help a busy day’s ‘to do’ list slip from your mind as your sense of being more present takes its place.

Touch is proven to decrease the physiological effects of stress and anxiety, lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol, lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate and improving immune system function. Nurturing touch is also found to release oxytocin, the ‘cuddle’ or ‘love’ hormone, which can relax your body and clear your mind.

Here are some more self-holding options for your exploration. They guide you to give attention to different parts of your body and provide you with constantly available ways to self-support. You could use any of them for stress relief, to provide comfort, or simply to connect with yourself and relax at the end of your day. Try them out to find the ones that you like best.

Self-supportive holds

· Rub your upper arms.

EFFECT: Raises oxytocin or ‘cuddle hormone’ levels. Helps you sense your personal boundaries.

Another alternative to achieve a similar result and increase a sense of self nurturing or self love, is hugging yourself. You can either follow your natural inclination to wrap your arms around your upper body, or you can slip your hands under your armpits to hold the sides of your ribcage.

· Place one or both of your hands over your heart and hold for a few moments.

EFFECT: Mothers and self-nurtures. Putting a hand on your heart while speaking also displays sincerity and can positively influence how others respond to you.

· Rub your lower back and then hold your knees where it feels best.

EFFECT: Grounds you, energies your legs and encourages a feeling of ‘get up and go’.

· Place your hands in a prayer pose, either touching your chest or with a small space between hands and chest, whichever feels better to you.

EFFECT: Centers, reminds of prayer so you can say a little prayer for yourself, too, while holding.

· End by holding your favourite position and notice how feel now compared to before you started.

This is an edited extract from chapter 1 of The Mindful Body, by Noa Belling (Rockpool Publishing, 2018)

Noa Belling is a psychotherapist and bestselling author. Her previous books include the international bestseller, The Yoga Handbook, Yoga: A Union of Mind and Body, and Yoga for Ideal Weight and Shape. Noa holds a master’s degree in Somatic Psychology, which is a field that incorporates body awareness and physical movement in the psychotherapeutic process. Her latest book, The Mindful Body, offers practical strategies for building emotional strength and managing stress through body mindfulness. Her latest book, The Mindful Body, offers practical

strategies for building emotional strength and managing stress through body mindfulness. Mindful Body, Rockpool Publishing https://www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au/

http://redwheelweiser.com/detail.htm­l?id=9781925682182

www.noabelling.com


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