Welcome to week two of “10 Weeks of Mindfulness at Work” where you’ll discover simple tips and techniques to enrich your day with mindfulness. I hope you find inspiration from this 10-week series!
– Starting with the Body
During my college years, I volunteered on a crisis-intervention telephone hotline. One evening, a preteen girl called, crying uncontrollably. She had just run away from home. Thankfully, she called the hotline, and thankfully she agreed to do a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise with me. As she began to release tension in her body, her breathing slowed and her mind settled — enabling us to discuss her next steps.
– Shifting from Unconscious to Conscious
This exercise helped her relax, since it enabled her to become aware of the difference between how a muscle feels when it’s tensed vs. how a muscle feels when it’s relaxed. As the old saying goes, “If you can name it, you can tame it.”
But awareness of the body doesn’t always come naturally. People often ignore their bodies and instead, solely focus on the STUFF (Stories, Thoughts, Urges, Frustrations, Feelings) in their minds — like their head is a balloon with a knot tied at their throat, and that’s where consciousness ends.
The Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise gives you a tool to “untie the knot” and bring consciousness to your entire body. Try this while sitting in a chair for a short relaxation break during the day — or while lying in bed to help you sleep at night.
– Using a Simple Tool to Reduce Stress
To practice, start with your feet and work your way up to the top of your head. (Alternatively, start with the top of your head and work your way down to your feet.) Tense each muscle group for about five seconds, and then release it completely. Be careful not to strain. Pay attention to your muscles and notice how they feel tensed vs. relaxed. If you’d like, repeat tensing the muscle group a second time. Then move on to the next muscle group until you’ve relaxed your entire body.
Any time your mind wanders, gently bring it back to noticing how your body feels. Take as much time as needed.
When you’ve finished practicing, try to develop a muscle memory of how it feels to relax, so you can call on this memory in the days and months ahead.
WEEK TWO PRACTICE SUGGESTION: Try a Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise at work or home. Here’s a guided version on the Insight Timer app.
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