Greetings from Alyssa and Project Thrive CT. It’s Sunday evening, the weekend is literally winding down to a few final hours. The days are all blending together these past few weeks, but it seems Sunday evening will always feel like Sunday evening. I am ready to take my own recommendation and settle into some breathing and movement before hopefully falling fast asleep.
This week, clinician Tracy Funke started a weekly video series called Weekend Wind Down. She is sharing weekly guided meditation, breathing and mindfulness activities that can help you to make a smoother transition from weekday to weekend, and back. But why? What’s this all about? Meditation, mindfulness, breathing, mantras, guided relaxation-have you been curious how to use some of these skills to manage your anxiety and stress?
Our days and weeks are stressful, pandemic or not, but we know that there are tools out there that can help. As therapists, we even use them in our own lives. Stress around finances, homeschooling, health, working or not working and caring for others can all add up and cause or exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety causes our bodies to enter a constant state of fight or flight mode-a useful little tool when there is a real danger such as a tornado or lion nearby. But not so useful on a Tuesday night at 2AM when all you want to do is sleep. When anxiety rises, the sympathetic nervous system, the one that controls breathing, heart rate and blood pressure turns on and stays on. Think muscle tension, headaches, jitters, racing breath and heartbeat, stomach upset, racing thoughts, inability to sleep. Our bodies and minds are much more at ease when we are in a rest and digest mode-which is when the parasympathetic nervous system takes over. Think relaxed breathing, peaceful sleep, clear thoughts.
The goal of breathing and mindfulness activities is to help your body and mind to flip the switch from an activated sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response), into a calmer, activated parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest response.) The simple activities that Tracy shares can cause a chain reaction where breathing and heart rate slow down, blood pressure begins to drop, muscle tension begin to fade and anxiety decreases. It is pretty amazing when you think about, right? There are other tools that can calm the body and bring back the state of relaxation: exercise, yoga, music, warm showers, social connection (even through FaceTime), time in nature, prayer, animal snuggles and more. We would love to hear from you, what are some of your favorite tools for relaxation?
If you have been feeling uneasy, stressed, anxious, jittery and exhausted, we invite and challenge you to try our weekly series. You can find it in our video library or YouTube channel. Just one, give it a shot and let us know what you think. The best part may be that you do not need any machines or equipment-just a blanket or towel, water and a commitment to keeping an open mind. There is one caveat: Just like running or brushing your teeth, these skills are most useful when they become a consistent part of your routine. Reach out if you need some help introducing mindfulness and breathing into your daily life. Enjoy and see you Friday evening!
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Alyssa Pierre-Louis, LCSW, brings energy and creativity to her counseling sessions. Along with clinical social work, she has a background in yoga, nutrition, and fitness and has used each on her own wellness journey.