Even if you have cultivated a daily practice that takes you into deep relaxation, it's helpful to have a set of stress reduction techniques "that work in 5 minutes or less."
You can pull these out during the day when you have a few minutes of downtime. If you are busy and really stressed out, these relaxation techniques can prevent your stress level from going through the roof.
5 Minute Body Scan
Just a few minutes of trying to tune into your body, instead of being stuck in your head, can help reduce the weight of some of the stress you are feeling.
In the standing posture pictured, here, do a 5-minute downward body scan, starting at the top of the head and working your way down, feeling height-by-height until you reach your feet.
First, set your posture:
- place your feet hip-width apart, so your joints are aligned â€" you'll feel the weight balanced evenly in each foot
- lengthen the back of your neck, so the chin drops slightly
- relax your shoulders, as if the arms were slipping off the rib cage, to the left and right, not slouched forward or pulled back
Next, settle in:
- let your breathing go smooth, so the turn-over from inhale to exhale feels natural and not forced
Begin to scan:
- bring your feeling awareness up to the crown of your head
- once you feel like you've gathered your awareness to a single point, let your mind spread out through the crown of the head
- give in to gravity and let your mind drop down the body, height-by-height, feeling front, sides, and back
- let your mind rest lightly on any sensations you feel as you scan, checking in, without trying to do anything
- work downward until you can feel your feet settle into the floor
For more guidance on practicing this technique, check out this article on Standing Qigong (with a free guided-practice mp3 download).
This exercise is great for coordination and control and it's just distracting enough to let your nervous system reset its stress level by the time you are done.
Let's use this Z Health shoulder circle as an example for the metronome exercise:
Once you feel comfortable performing the basic shoulder circle as in the video above, you'll need to set a metronome to 60 beats per minute. Then:
- Get a baseline for one repetition at your "normal" speed. How many beats?
- Next, perform a circle at half your normal speed, or 2x as many beats
- Repeat this process, slowing down each time until the movement gets too choppy to be a smooth circle
- Now repeat the process getting faster each time instead of slower
- Make sure you keep the rest of the body "quiet" -- you don't get any points for flailing around!
Repeating this process for hip circles, ankle circles, or even finger/wrist/hand circles will work too.
The goal of metronome mobility as a stress reduction technique is to draw your mind and away from the mental and emotional pressures that are causing stress in the first place. Moving your body at different speeds provides novelty for your nervous system, which helps achieve this goal.
Tai Chi Short Form
When you do 5 minutes of tai chi, you have to change how you are practicing. You need to shift out of your normal "training" mindset, where you focus on little details, or work a principle over and over again until it clicks. That kind of deep practice mindset is great for 30 minutes or an hour of practice or more, but it's not going to do the trick in 5 minutes.
In a 5 minute practice for stress reduction, you need to focus on:
- Moving smoothly
- Making large, circular shapes
- Feeling the space around you, in your etheric field, not deep inside your body
This last point, about putting your mind into your etheric field, might sound a little strange. What you are trying to do is clear the energetic layer around your body. Think of it as where you interface with the world. If you can sweep everything clean here, then the stress doesn't have the chance to soak into your system.
Got More Stress Reduction Techniques?
The thing that all these techniques have in common is that they are designed to recharge your nervous system through physical and energetic circulation.
How do you accomplish this same goal?
Share your stress reduction techniques in the comments below.