Five Things Relaxation Exercise

Have you ever felt like your attention span was completely out of whack?

Let me shed some light on this, as someone has recently enlightened me.

Too much attention inward…

Often times when we have too much to do (guilty as charged), it can be challenging to focus on one thing at a time because we can only think about how we feel internally.  How we feel worried.  How we feel stressed.  How we feel like we’ll never get to all those “things” that need to get done.  It’s really just internal chaos, right?  And because of it, none of those things actually end up getting done anyways!

worrying

Too much attention outward…

On the flip side, sometimes being too focused on external things can cause us to neglect our internal feelings.  Example.  Today I was SO focused on completing the mock ups for our health and wellness portal at work that I literally forgot to pee.  No, I didn’t pee my pants, but I realized after I was done with the mockups that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom for hours.

Attention in alpha…

When it comes to attention and feeling present, the ideal state to shoot for is called “alpha.”  This is where 50% of your attention is focused on your internal feelings and 50% of your attention is focused on the other stuff.  But it’s hard to get there!  Take another example of being in a fight with someone.  Maybe you are so worked up about something that you can’t resolve the external issue because all you can focus on is how that person is making you feel at the time.  Or maybe you are harping so much on the issue, that you neglect the fact that you need sleep, or are thirsty, or what have you.  So what can you do about it?

How to get there…

The “5 Things Relaxation Exercise” can help with this, as it is a technique that simply helps you feel more present.  It can redirect your focus and is useful for when you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and need something to calm you down on the spot.  It’s also helpful for reducing tension, anger, and relaxing the body to fall asleep.

How it’s done…

5 things relaxation exercise

For example, if I was feeling overwhelmed now at my desk, I could say out loud (or think to myself):

  1. I see my computer.
  2. I see my water bottle.
  3. I see my cell phone.
  4. I see the windows.
  5. I see my calendar.

Then after saying those 5 things I see, I would say:

  1. I hear the heater rustling.
  2. I hear a car driving by outside.
  3. I hear the sound of my fingers typing.
  4. I hear the music I have on in the background.
  5. I hear the heater rustling.  (It’s OK to repeat items).

Finally, I would say 5 things I feel, keeping in mind that the “feeling” part does not refer to emotions such as “I feel stressed” or “I feel overwhelmed,” but actual physical sensations:

  1. I feel my feet on the floor.
  2. I feel my hands typing on the computer.
  3. I feel my feet crossed over one another.
  4. I feel myself sitting in this chair.
  5. I feel my tongue against the roof of my mouth.

Then repeat again with 4 things, with 3 things, with 2 things, and finally with 1 thing in each category.  At the end, notice how you feel.  If you feel more relaxed, you can stop.  If not, go through it another time.  You may lose your place and get distracted.  That is okay, just start again anywhere.  The point is that by the end, however many times it takes, this exercise should help you feel more present and focused.

What do you guys think about this technique?

It may sound a little silly or basic, but it actually really works.  I have used it many times and have found that it just brings me back to a state of calm when my thoughts are all over the place.  I urge you all to try it!  It’s good for your mental health.  I know I don’t write about mental health all that much, probably because it is a topic so near and (not so) dear to my family, but I want to start writing more about it.  You can do burpees until the cows come home, but what does it really matter if your brain isn’t feeling at its best?

jump

Does anyone else have any relaxation techniques that you want to share?

P.S.  If you are looking for something to read tonight, check out this article in Time.  And then be thankful, because whatever you are complaining about today could probably be a lot worse.  Right?

My Own Worst Enemy

The other day I did something that I’ve never done before.

I totally skipped my 6am Circuit Training class.  I overslept.  There’s no excuse for why it happened, it just did.  I think my alarm clock was set correctly, but who knows.  I either slept through it, it didn’t go off, or I shut it off.  I woke up at 6:07, extremely confused when my alarm sounded different, and then full of panic when I realized that said alarm was actually the front desk calling to see if I was okay.

I won’t even tell you how many F bombs came out of my mouth, how fast that bedside light turned on, and how unhappy Tim probably was with me (even though he said it wasn’t a big deal) with the unexpected wake up call.

I have taught at least one 6am group exercise class a week for over five years.  FIVE YEARS.  I have taught this one particular 6am Thursday class in Oak Square for three years.  And not once have I even been late to any of them, nevermind overslept.

Those of you who know me know how I can’t even deal with being late for things, so I’m sure you can only imagine what my state of mind was like all day.  I mean, it’s one thing to be late or in this case, oversleep, and have it only affect you and your own day and plans.  But I felt like I let the people in my morning class down.  People who wake up every single week in the 5 o’clock hour to take my class, push themselves, and make fitness a priority in their life.

I beat myself up about this all day long.  I was over-dramatic and posted about it on my Facebook page.  I couldn’t concentrate at work.  And yes, I cried about it in the shower that morning like a huge loser.  And you know what?

It doesn’t even matter.

worrying

I mean, I’m sure my class was bummed,  but they all probably forgot about it in an hour.  A couple of people left to take Lauren’s cycle class, maybe a couple of others chose to leave the gym all together, and Ashley pulled up an F&F workout on her iPad to do with Jen and Katie instead.   Nobody was mad at me, everyone was more concerned/worried than anything else.  I’m a human.  Everyone makes mistakes.  The Y went on.  Nobody died…

So why did I let myself feel the way I did all day?  Because I am my own worst enemy, that’s why.  I’m so hard on myself, and I can never cut myself any slack.  When I make a mistake, I act like it’s the end of the world.  Even when I do something well, I often think it’s not good enough!  I could get thirty compliments about something, and one piece of criticism, maybe even constructive criticism, and you bet that is the one I’m focusing on.  If I have any down time, I get mad about not making myself being more productive instead.  If the clean laundry is sitting in the basket, I’m a nervous wreck.  If I sleep in, I’ve “wasted the day” even if it’s only noontime.  It’s no wonder I’m anxious and worry all the time...

Worrying

At least I’m self-aware?  But it’s time to take a step back and stop being such a mean self critic.  I can dish out advice to other people like the best of them, but I need to take my own advice now.  Instead of harping on my mistakes, I need to focus on learning from them and using them as opportunities to grow.  So yeah, from now on I’ll be sure to set 8 alarms, but maybe I can also try to see the good in the situation.  Because I missed class, I got to finally take one of Lauren’s classes that night, which was fantastic and left me feeling way better than I did all day.  Maybe I need to take the fact that I overslept as a sign to slow down?  It’s something I’ve tried to do for a while now anyways.  Or maybe I should just appreciate that my class members know me, appreciate me, and obviously understand that these things happen.

Something I’d like to start remembering more often, and maybe something that can help any of you like me, is this:

war with yourself

If you get down on yourself, remember that you are doing the best you can.  And only you have the power to choose, right now, that your best is good enough.