Take a Seasonal Breather to De-Stress

November 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

Here we are in November, when the weather is colder, skies are getting darker, holidays are approaching rapidly.  Some of us look forward to the time with family and friends, while others of us carry apprehension about the layers of emotional challenges and experiences that arise through the holiday seasons.  For the girls in Girls Circle, the holidays are a source of potential hope and disappointment, stress and longing, as they seek to gain a sense of connection and love from family and caregivers.

No matter what we feel, it’s normal to have some anxiety, and it’s wise to anticipate what may challenge us and how we want to care for ourselves. For girls in particular, it’s helpful to stop now and then and ask them to notice what they are feeling in their bodies – their arms, their bellies, their necks.  So often, kids are very disconnected to their physical bodies and just a small but regular attention to the body and breath can be helpful to increase awareness of themselves while promoting wellness.

This is an excellent time to build in some relaxation practice in the circles. These can be brief activities – 2- 3 minutes.  In groups I’ve facilitated, girls want to talk and have conversation, but when I’ve also introduced some progressive relaxation exercises, guided imagery, or brief yoga practice, they really like how they feel and ask to do more.  It works that way for me, too.  When I meditate or exercise in a group, I find I’m much more capable of letting go of busy thoughts or anxieties than when I practice solo – there’s something about the presence of others doing the same thing that builds a strong, supportive environment.

Here’s a short list of relaxation activities that are easy to introduce to your groups, and you or your group members are likely to know many more.  Always be mindful of the physical abilities of members, encourage them to stay within their comfort zone and never go into painful positions.  Look for ways to include all members at every level of physical and mental ability:

Just breathing. Inhale, exhale.  5 rounds of inhaling and exhaling per minute is one example of a deeper breathing that calms the mind and body.  Attempt breathing in unison it’s fun and promotes bonding and calmness. One minute every now and then – easy and restoring.

Stretching – one or more muscle groups while sitting or standing; these positions become yoga when the stretch is held for a few moments, gently, while breathing.

Squeeze and Release” Progressive Relaxation –  bring attention to the muscles in each area of the body, beginning with toes and feet, squeeze a bit to add some very slight tension to the area, then releasing all the tension there; move to legs, then hips, pelvis, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, head. You can choose to go backwards, forwards, or just pick one or two area of the body to focus on at a time. If space and setting permit, sometimes youth want to spread out in the room, find their own area where they can lay down or sit back and relax with eyes open or closed, whatever they prefer.

Guided Imagery – once again, with eyes open or closed according to their own comfort, and very briefly, you can invite the group to imagine they are comfortable physically and emotionally, completely safe, and invite them to imagine a favorite scent, color, sound, setting, and objects, animals, characters or people that enhance their sense of well being.  Just imagine them and let the senses experience that imagery for two minutes, then have them say good bye to that place until they choose to imagine again.

This month is National Stress Out month according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America: http://www.adaa.org <http://www.adaa.org/>  <http://www.adaa.org/> .

The ADAA reminds all of us that there are some good ways to maintain our wellness when our bodies, minds, hearts feel stress and pressure.  If you go to their site, you’ll find two useful things: first, a two column description that defines the differences between common stress and anxiety disorders.  Second, a list of stress-prevention and stress-reducing activities that are good reminders of what we can do individually to practice self care.

Of these, the one I’m working on currently is getting a better night’s sleep.

Stay well, and if you do feel stressed out, I hope you find someone to listen and something to do that calms and restores your body, mind and spirt!

~Beth

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