Using Your Body Posture to Release Stress

By Jacqueline Rubinstein

The past couple of weeks, I have caught myself staring down at the sidewalk, missing the beauty of summer, caught up in my anxiety that I can’t control every aspect of my life. I notice I am squinting, with a furrowed brow, and trying to micro-manage things that are actually out of my hands. I feel my belly pulled in tight, my breath is short, and my to-do lists anxiously racing through my mind.

Stress. Muddy, overwhelming, out-of-control, yucky stress.

As part of my summer of personal sustainability quest, I have decided to deconstruct my stress habits. I would like to invite you to do the same and I am going to share my method for decreasing stress in my life and finding ways to interrupt my habits faster and faster, before they get the best of me (and my summer)!

Have you ever taken the time to notice exactly what it is you are doing with your body when you feel stressed out? Getting to know the physical body pattern of stress in your life is a powerful way to interrupt stress early and get back to enjoying life quickly.

Try out this 3-step process to interrupting your stress habits and encouraging your happiest, most confident, most grounded self to step up.

Step 1: Notice you are stressed and what it is your body is doing to act out this stress. Just take a moment to say, “Yup this is it. This is me when I am stressed. I am staring at the ground, biting my lip, and freaking out about whether everything will work out okay or not.”

Here are some other common stress-habits:
Holding in your belly
Breathing short, little breaths in your chest
Wringing your hands
Chewing your finger nails
Locking your jaw
Looking at the ground
Stumbling or running into things

We never have an emotion without also having a body, and our emotional patterns are directly linked to our body patterns. Knowing this to be true is wonderful because it means you can use your body position to change your mood. Which tends to be a lot easier and more effective than trying to change your mood in other ways.

Step 2: Make an active choice to change your body posture. Release your held abdomen and take deep belly breaths. Relax your furrowed brow, stop clenching your jaw and stop wringing your hands. Look up and out to the horizon. Actively stay in this new position for at least one full minute, and then tell yourself everything will work out just as it should.

Step 3: Enjoy the change in your mood, confidence, and ability to move forward with a clear head!

This takes practice. It is not a magic trick, but rather a powerful life practice. Instead of getting frustrated when your improved mood doesn’t last forever and you end up stressed out again, you can choose to be gentle with yourself and keep coming back to these 3 simple steps, knowing that it takes time to learn anything new.

With just a little practice, this method will get increasingly easier and the effect will last longer and longer. And wow, does it feel good! It is well worth the time and dedication to get into this routine.

And it just might not take as long as you expect. Why not give yourself a week or two of dedicated practice and see what transpires?

And report back: what are your body patterns of stress? And what is evolving as you practice this 3-step method? Let’s inspire each other by sharing our experiences below!

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