If you're feeling stressed, take a moment to perform a full-body scan. The results might surprise you—are you subconciously clenching your teeth? Are your shoulders tense, pushed up near your ears? How about your forehead, is it scrunched, with your eyes straining to better see your screen?
If you answered "Yes," to any (or all) of the above, try a quick somatic release exercise created by Stephanie Rae, a somatic healing practitioner and sex and intimacy coach based in Chicago. Shared on her instagram page, Breathe Burn Rise, Rae's infographic offers step-by-step instructions for tuning into your body, encouraging stress and tension to drift away in just 60 seconds.
"Save this one and use it once a day during your work week!" Rae writes in the caption. "1 minute of self awareness can change your whole day/mood."
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Rae's version is one of many somatic exercises that can help release stress and tension stored in our body. Akin to somatic exercises—a term coined by the late Thomas Louis Hanna, PhD, that refers to slow, gentle movements that leave us more limber and calm—these simple regimens force us to listen to our body and breath to inspire relaxation.
How to destress with a somatic release exercise
1. Start by unclenching your jaw—your TMJ and tension headaches will thank you. "Our jaw is usually one of the first places we tense up," says Rae. "Unclench your teeth and relax. Breathe. Relax more. Breathe again."
2. Next, move down to your shoulders, dropping them down and back while moving your neck from side-to-side to release any tightness or stiffness.
3. After that, shake your hands out, opening and closing your fists and stretching your fingers. "Let all excess energy go!"
4. Then, move on to your eyes, rolling them from side to side and blinking occasionally. Rae says that when we focus or get "in the zone", we can get tunnel vision—literally. "Move your eyes around. Side to side and up and down," says Rae. "This helps prevent migraines and tension headaches."
5. Next, stick out your tongue, which will help un-clench your jaw even more while relaxing other muscles in your face.
6. For the final step, take three deep belly breaths, inhaling and exhaling fully. "This is the fastest way to reconnect with your body and self. Notice a clearer mind and less tension almost immediately," Rae says.
Emails, Slacks, deadlines—they'll all get done. Give your body and brain a break for just a minute.
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