Before I begin this post I want to send out special thoughts and prayers to University of Virginia students, faculty, staff and alums, to my fellow Charlottesville residents and to the stricken families who are grieving the shooting deaths of three members of UVA's football team on Sunday. Our hearts are with you.
Some of these gun tragedies hit closer to home than others. I want them all to stop.
From "Tools" to "Ease-ments"
This week I am changing the name of the "Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week" section of my blog to the simpler, and hopefully more soothing, "Ease-ment of the Week."
The dictionary says easement means "an easing, or relief, or something that gives ease, a convenience."
These simple practices, often backed offer a sense of ease, a little relief from the stress of living in this crazy world. And they are, conveniently, quite portable.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I first shared most of these techniques in a series of "Anti-Covidanxiety Toolkits" that I offered during the first few months of the pandemic. They can be very helpful during times of great stress, but they work in everyday situations as well. They won't suddenly change your life or make things instantly better. But they can offer a little more "ahhhhhhhhhh" time, a little space of grace, as you go through your day.
Here are a few of those early ease-ments, back by popular demand.
Hand to heart. This one is very simple. Just place your hand on your chest, slightly to the left of midline, or wherever it feels comfortable. I find myself doing this spontaneously when I feel compassion for someone else, or for myself, like yawning when I need to relax or get more oxygen. Now that I've become conscious of that, I'll also do it when I need to calm down a little, when I am a little surprised, or when I have been shocked by something .
Try keeping your hand there for 10 or 15 seconds (or more) and see if anything changes.
As we do these things more consciously, they can become everyday habits that can help lead us back into more centeredness and calm.
This was in the sixth Toolkit.
Hand to hand. Gently stroke the palm of one hand with a finger or fingers of the other. Pause. Pay attention to the physical sensations and any peace or ease, or wonder, they may bring. Now reverse and do the same thing on your other hand. S-l-o-w-l-y. Then you may want to bring your hands together, palm-to-palm. Wish yourself peace. Keep it slow and simple--less is usually better than more.
This was in the seventh toolkit.
Think about a pink-spotted giraffe. What happens when someone tells you, or you tell yourself, "Don't think about that!" "That" being your current big problem or concern. It's like saying, "Don't think about a purple-striped zebra." And where does your mind go immediately? To an image of a purple-striped zebra, of course! Trying not to think about something just doesn't work. Much better to say to yourself, "think about a pink-spotted giraffe." That works a lot better. So be kind to yourself; find something truly interesting to think about that is far removed from whatever your mind is currently obsessing about.
This was in the eighth Toolkit.
The lake meditation. Mindfulness. A great antidote to anxiety. There are many websites with a lot of information about how to practice mindfulness. Here's one--a link to a lovely mindfulness meditation that takes just 15 minutes, and a link to a transcript of the meditation as well. I did a blog post on this meditation back in November 2019 if you are interested.
This was in the third Toolkit.
A note about why these ease-ments might work.
We usually assume that our emotions take the following path:
Some event or memory occurs,
our brains react,
we have an emotion,
our face/body expresses that emotion.
And it's true; that happens all the time.
But what if there's another pathway as well?
We move our face and/or body to mimic an emotion,
our brain says, "oh, my body is experiencing _____ [some expression and/or posture] therefore I must be feeling that emotion,"
we have that emotion.
There's lots of research-based evidence to support the reality of this alternate pathway, including Amy Cuddy's research on power poses. However, since we've all grown up assuming the first pathway is the only one, we tend to get stuck there, to feel like it is the only valid one. Check out Alex Korb's wonderful book, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression One Small Change at a Time for other examples of research on this second pathway.
PLEASE NOTE: I'll be taking next week off from this blog--visiting family in New England that I haven't seen in three years! I'll be back on November 30.
Until next time,
Hand on heart, Darius Bashar, unSplash
Hand on hand, Liane Metzler, unSplash
Pink giraffe, Sian Cooper, unSplash (color added!)
Lake, Kazuend (?), unSplash