Is surgery the right decision for our sweet, old dog? Why is our AC still broken, do we need to replace it? Should my son move forward with allergy shots? How can my husband have less night call and more sleep? 

I pull into the parking lot and notice my hands gripping the wheel. My mind is racing. Jaw clenched. Shoulders hiked up to my ears. Breath quick and shallow. Ok, I’m reacting to stressors. I pause and—instead of continuing to react—choose some simple techniques to respond in a healthier way. I soften my fingers, relax my jaw, roll my shoulders, and lengthen my exhale. Looking through the windshield, I see a paraglider land gently in the grass, green foothills, and blue sky.

In this moment, I am at ease. I step out of the car, ready to pick up my son from soccer camp.

In a society saturated with stress and burnout, it’s vital that we take time to pause. Overwhelmed with stressors, many of us have forgotten an essential part of us: Our innate relaxation response. This inborn, powerful tool tilts us away from stress. It’s actually in our very nature to be calm. So why does our nature feel so far away?

A culture of crazy busy has created a habit of constant reaction. As a result, we’re lost in a chronic state of stress. 

Have you forgotten how to slow down? If you’re not sure, listen to your body and mind. Do any of the following signs look familiar?

Aches, pains, racing mind, inflammation, exhaustion, insomnia, headaches, muscle tension, jaw clenching, digestive problems, frequent colds, anxiety, irritability, sadness, panic, overwhelm, lack of focus, anger.

To remember the path to your relaxation response, you can practice reclaiming calm with little NAPs. 

Instead of letting stress build up indefinitely, choose to Notice, Adjourn, and Practice. With a NAP, you recognize when you’re reacting to stress, mindfully step into a pause with a few breaths, and respond with a mind-body micropractice that invites ease.

Reclaim your roadmap to rest, one step at a time. Start with the little NAP below.


A Little NAP: Breathe into Calm

If I’m feeling anxious, I pause to notice how I’m breathing, which is usually shallow, rapid, and mostly in my chest. Since that can perpetuate stress, I shift the pattern to a deep, slow, diaphragmatic breath.

Try this by placing one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. Allow your inhale to gently move your heart and belly into your palms; feel your ribcage expand. Exhale, and feel your heart and belly soften under your hands; let your ribcage relax. After a couple of breaths, invite your exhale to extend a couple seconds longer than your inhale. Repeat for a few rounds and notice the shift.

For more breathing-based NAPs, check out my (free) guided practices on Insight Timer.

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