Keep Holiday Stress in Check

by Alyse Berry, RN, GHS Wellness Center Manager

Do you have tense shoulders, a stomach ‘in knots’, or are you breathing shallow?  These are common physical symptoms of stress.  When we carry stress in our bodies, we are often not even aware of it.  When we’re really stressed, we may be feeling physical discomfort but not connect it with our emotions.  A body scan meditation is a practice that you can do daily or even sev

eral times a day.  It can help you learn to identify what you are feeling and where you’re feeling it, and learn how to release the stress in your body and mind.
Take five minutes for yourself right now and give it a try!

  • Sit in a comfortable seated position and start to relax your body.  Allow your breathing to slow down, and start breathing from your belly instead of from your chest.  Sometimes it helps to place your hands on your belly and expand it like a balloon as you breathe in.
  • Starting with the head, pay attention to any tension you’re feeling. Do you have tightness anywhere? Is there pain or tension? Sit with it for a minute and just notice what you’re feeling.
  • If you notice any uncomfortable sensations, focus on them.  Breathe into them, and notice what happens.  You may notice that the feeling becomes more intense at first, but as you continue to breathe, the feeling dissipates.  Keep your awareness on that feeling for a little while, just staying present.  Give yourself a little massage in that area where you feel discomfort if you would like.
  • Next, move down to your neck, and repeat the steps.  Notice if there is any tightness, pain or pressure.  Breathe into the areas, and stay with the feelings.  Gently massage your neck if you wish.  Continue to breathe and relax.
  • Continue this practice with each area of your body, moving from head to toe.  Notice how you feel, where you’re holding your stress, and what sensations you’re experiencing.  Breathe, meditate, massage and relax.

Short on time?  That’s okay!  You can do a shorter version by just sitting and noticing any place in your body that feels tension, rather than moving from head to toe.  The process will become easier as you practice regularly.

Practicing this technique can promote body awareness, stress awareness, and relaxation just about anywhere and anytime.
Happy Holidays!