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3 easy steps to help you relax and unwind

A short practice to help you move out of 'fight-or-flight' mode. By Micaela Madeddu

These days we are constantly challenged with family, work, health or self-confidence issues. We find ourselves in constant 'fight-or-flight' mode, not easily able to return to our 'rest-and-digest' state. The more we let stress rule our life, the more we raise our stress threshold and not in a good way!

Imagine a staircase, the first step represents you in your best and more relaxed state, while the top step is you in your worst, most stressful case scenario. Stress is part of our life, and we cannot live without it, but imagine every time you get stressed you climb a step of that imaginary staircase and if you are unable to relax and step back down to a lower rung, every day/month/year will gradually take you higher up the staircase until eventually you will be stuck there not able to climb back down.

So whenever you feel overwhelmed, down, stressed, fatigued, depressed try these simple three steps to help you climb back down and see how you feel.

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Step 1

Lie down, if possible (you can sit or even stand) and start noticing your breath and where the breath is coming from. Place one or both hands just below the navel and imagine breathing into them. You should feel your belly rising and falling under your hands while the chest should keep still. Diaphragmatic breath (belly breath) will help drop you into a 'rest-and-digest' state, while an apical (or upper chest breath) will send you into a 'fight-or-flight' mode. Now gently begin massaging from the top of your breastbone down and along the edge of the ribcage on both sides (image 1). If there is a tender spot, continue massaging that spot a little longer to ease the tension. Overall, this step should take 20 to 30 seconds.

Step 2

Massage gently along the edge of the skull (at the back of the head where neck and skull meet) and then rub behind the jaw just below the earlobe (image 3) for 20 to 30 seconds. Go back to your belly breath and again repeat six to ten times.

When you have completed the three steps have a little walk around and 'listen' to your body.

During the short practice you might feel frustrated and find it hard to slow down and let go even though it is only a few minutes of your time. If that happens, think of all the time wasted playing on mobiles, computer, tables and TV, and ask yourself: can I afford to lose a few minutes of my day to help me feel better? I guess you will know the answer.

Step 3

Find your belly button and gently massage to the right and to the left of it (image 2) for 20 to 30 seconds again. Repeat the belly breath six to ten times and again notice how you feel.

Micaela Madeddu

Micaela Madeddu MSc, BSc (Hons), Pilates, Yoga, PT, Massage is passionate about helping people finding their physical and mental wellbeing.