Studies show that acute stress and anxiety are taking a toll on everyone due to COVID-19. While things may not get back to normal soon, you can still take control of your stress and stop it from damaging you. Below are four exercises that can be combined to create a powerful daily practice to soothe anxiety, increase mental focus, and boost immunity at the very start of each day.
1. Create a Morning Meditation Ritual
One of the best methods for de-stressing is meditation. You will see the most potent benefits by incorporating this activity into your morning routine: starting the day with a grounded and calm constitution sets the tone and energy for its remainder, and it is much easier to handle everything that comes your way when you have tended to your emotional foundation. By ritualizing the practice, you will become more present and be able to meditate both deeper and longer.
- Pick a time each morning when you will be able to consistently meditate, before you read the news or turn on the television, to allow your full concentration on the practice.
- Choose a special location that you will use each time. Symbolize the beginning of your meditation by lighting a candle or turning on soothing music. Once you’ve done this, your brain will begin to calm and focus as soon as you take this step.
- Set a timer for ten minutes, sit as tall as possible, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. A wandering mind is a natural occurrence during meditation, even for long-time practitioners. Notice your thoughts and then bring your focus back to your breathing. If you still have trouble focusing, play some calming music in the background, or listen to a guided meditation on tape, CD, phone, or computer.
2. Practice Yogic Breathing
Most people are shallow breathers and don’t even realize it! Shallow breathing consists of short, quick breaths that only fill the upper chest cavity. Instead, yogic breathing focuses on taking deep and complete breaths, which studies show can pull in up to seven times more oxygen than shallow breathing. Increasing your oxygen supply will lead to a decrease in stress and anxiety levels.
- Utilize the Three-Part Breath: Start by placing one hand on your stomach and the other on the side of your ribs.
- Slowly breathe in and focus on filling your belly with air first and then your rib cage and lastly, your upper chest.
- As you exhale, reverse the order. Let the breath out of your upper chest first, then your rib cage, and lastly your belly.
- Start with two or three breaths and work your way up to five or ten. Also, be sure not to force the breathing. Your lungs should feel full but not strained.
3. Stretch It Out!
“Sometimes, especially in the mornings, we may feel tight, achy, and stiff. We hold most of our stress in our face, neck, and shoulders,” says Rosanna Eliser, a Fitness Specialist at Judson Manor. “A good technique is adding stretching to your morning routine, it is a great way to release tension in the body” To combat these issues, try out these simple stretches!
- “Start with simple neck stretches: Inhale, exhale lower your head forward chin to chest, back to center, turn your head right and lower chin down towards your right shoulder.”
- “Repeat to the other side. Hold each for about thirty seconds. Take in long deep breaths and release all the tension in the face.”
- “Open and close the jaw. Then let your lips part and the tongue float to the roof of the mouth.”
4. Embrace the Cold – Water That Is
Hydrotherapy – exposure to cold water – has been used for centuries to help stimulate the immune system and invigorate the body. The jolt of cold temperatures helps to release endorphins, and new studies are showing that cold showers may even speed up metabolism and ward off colds and flu!
- At the end of your normal bathing routine, turn the water temperature down until you just start to feel uncomfortable.
- Try to remain in the water for at least two minutes.
- Continue experimenting with colder temperatures and longer periods. Be sure to gauge your energy levels to find the right formula for you.