Invite yourself to do a quick check in. Take a moment right now as you read this sentence and consider: What is the quality of your breath? Is it deep or shallow, slow or quick? Are you inhaling and exhaling through your nose or your mouth? And what do you notice about your body? Is there muscle tension or ease? In what body parts? How about your mind? Are you focused here and now as you read this? Is your mind running a to do list? Are you hanging out in a future story or a past reflection? What does it feel like to drop in for a moment and notice these parts of yourself?
At Mobile Mama, it is common that we begin our session with a three-minute body scan and a three-part breath. Why?
When we take this time to tune into our bodies and “drop in to the moment” even for a short period, we drop out of the sympathetic nervous system – the home of stress and fight or flight, and we enter into the parasympathetic nervous system – the home of relaxation.
The reason this is so effective is because our fight or flight instincts are automatic. We don’t have to teach our bodies what to do when we feel a threat. Our bodies just do it. However, for many of us, it is difficult to shut off the stress response. Therefore, we have to recognize what the stress response feels like, and then intentionally train our bodies to engage the relaxation response. In doing so, we help our bodies recalibrate to neutral.
The easiest way to engage the relaxation response is to slow down and deepen our breath. When we do this, we send a strong message to our brain to call off the stress and worry alarms. This small act allows us to slow our heart rate, lower our blood pressure, decrease muscle tension, and restore our breathing back to a calm state.
I often remind my clients that if slowing down and deepening their breath is the only homework they complete between sessions, they have given themselves a priceless gift.
Trying to learn a new skill when we are feeling stress and anxiety is difficult. Our brain is not focused on creative problem solving when we feel threatened. Therefore, we need to practice slowing down and deepening our breath in ordinary moments of the day. By honing this skill, we can more easily access the strategy when we need it. As with developing any skill, creating calm in our bodies takes practice.
For many, listening to a body scan is a helpful tool to tune into themselves. If this is true for you, here is a linkto an audio version of the body scan. For others, reading or going through a body scan for themselves is a good strategy. If you fall into this category, please see the body scan below.
Whichever camp you fall into, we invite you to consider the most ordinary task you conduct multiple times a day: breast feeding or feeding the baby, getting water to drink, going to the bathroom, putting the key into the ignition of the car. Then take out a sticky note, and write down:
“Slowing down and deepening my breath”
Affix the note to that frequently visited, mundane location (i.e. across from the toilet, above the sink in the kitchen, on the steering wheel), and, when you arrive there, invite yourself multiple times a day to find your breath, drop into your body, and engage the relaxation response.
Mobile Mama Body Scan Script
Take a moment to find your body in the space, noticing the sounds and smells and the temperature of the air on your skin.
Notice for a moment your thoughts, imagine that each thought is like a beautiful kite in the sky and off they go, string and all, leaving a clear blue space. Deepening into the space and noticing sensation.
Finding your feet, wiggling your toes, notice your legs, knees, and thighs. Noticing tightness and ease, the fabric of the clothes on your skin.
Bringing awareness to your pelvis and hips and pelvic floor.
Noticing through your back body, your lower middle and upper back. Bringing awareness to the points of contact of your body, with the chair, and with itself.
Noticing through your side body and ribs and belly. Bringing awareness to your internal organs (and baby, if you are pregnant).
Continue your awareness through your chest and breasts and all around your heart – your physical heart, your emotional heart.
Noticing your shoulders and the backs of your shoulders, noticing through your arms, hands, and fingers, and again noticing the temperature of the air on your skin.
Bringing awareness of your neck, throat, jaw, face, eyes, head, and the crown of your head.
As you inhale, slowly breathing into your belly (baby, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding), chest, and towards your shoulders.
Slowly exhale – belly, chest, and shoulders.
Inhale – belly, chest, and shoulders.
Exhale – belly, chest, and shoulders.
And one more time! Inhale and exhale before coming back to present.
Repeat multiple times a day!©