Posted on October 10, 2018 by Al Zipperle
We all encounter stressful times periodically throughout our daily life. Recently I had a stressful and painful week after unexpected oral surgery that became infected. I was feeling miserable and my patience was used up.
I don’t like feeling miserable. Do you? No? That’s what I thought. My thoughts kept getting stuck on how bad I felt and wondering when I would feel better. And I kept thinking about how bad my mouth felt, and how hard it was to eat anything, and why did this have to happen, and….well, you get the picture. My body felt tensed up like my stress response was through the roof.
So, I decided to shift myself out of this stuck place by using some of the Mindfulness skills I teach. Here’s what I did.
1. First I used the Relaxation breath. I started taking nice deep, slow breaths. I inhaled though my nose (although if it had been stuffy I would have inhaled though my mouth) while I counted slowly to four. Then I pursed my lips and exhaled through my mouth like I was blowing a huge bubble while I counted to eight.
Then I tuned into my body and I could feel it beginning to relax ever so slightly. I could also feel my mind slowing down a bit and starting to let go of the stuckness. I kept doing the relaxation breath slowly and gently until my body tension starting easing and I could feel everything calming down. I asked myself why in the world I hadn’t done this sooner!
Do it with me now. Take a deep breath in through your nose to the count of four: 1-2-3-4. Now exhale through your mouth like you are blowing a huge bubble to the count of eight: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Now tune into your body and notice what, if anything has changed. Do this three or four more times. When you are done you should notice a definite shift in your mind and body.
2. The second thing I did was I practiced Letting Go of the negative stream of thoughts. Thinking over and over again about how bad you feel never helps you feel better. So I decided to change what I was thinking about. When the thought kept coming up about how bad I felt, I noticed the thought, acknowledged it and then found a thought that felt better – like even though I feel lots of pain in my mouth right now, I know it will heal and I will feel better soon. When I thought about how angry I was that I was in so much pain I let go of the thought and chose a thought that felt better such as how much I love to float in the crystal clear ocean in the Caribbean. When I thought about how much time I was losing resting on the couch I let go of the thought and replaced it with how glad I was that I am semi-retired and didn’t have to be speaking that week. When I got frustrated trying to eat even the softest foods, I let go of the frustration and reminded myself that my body knows how to heal and I will be able to eat normally soon. For another way to shift your thoughts try Changing the Channel.
I recently attended a workshop on Cognitive Behavioral techniques for managing pain with Dr. Robert Rosenbaum. I loved his demonstration of how to “let go”. Here’s the essence of what he said.
- Fill a glass with water.
- Pick it up with both hands.
- Be mindful and pay attention to the glass; what it looks like, what the water looks like; how heavy it feels in your hands; the temperature of the glass.
- Now put the glass on the table, take your hands off and let it go.
- Be mindful of exactly what it feels like to literally “let go” of something.
- Then use that feeling to let go of stressful thoughts and feelings.
- Try it!
Next time you notice that you are going through a stressful time, do these two simple Mindfulness Skills to help turn down your stress response in your mind and body and let go of the stressful thoughts and feelings.
Let me know what works best for you.
I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.