How often do you have stress headaches or difficulty sleeping? Does stress ever make you short of breathe, jittery or tense? Most of us experience some of these and other physical symptoms of stress. Clenched teeth, knots in your back, waking at night and queasiness are all common reactions to stress. In fact, many of us go through our days on automatic pilot, barely registering the affects stress has on our bodies.
Physical symptoms of stress are extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis. Over time, we can end up exhausted and feeling unable to calm down, relax tight muscles or lessen other aches, pains and physical signs of stress.
The Body Scan
The body scan is a classic strategy to restore your connection with your body. At first it may seem counter-intuitive to enhance your connection to your body when you’re uncomfortable, in pain and hoping to escape physical symptoms of stress.
But the body scan, a timeless technique involving a thorough and minute focus on the body, allows you to feel relaxed and more at home in your body. The central goal of the body scan is to become aware of your body, without trying to change how you’re feeling and without thinking about or judging yourself. The intention is not to try to reduce tension, but just to be aware of you body.
Interestingly, when you are not trying to reduce tension and maybe because you are not trying to reduce tension, the result often is the reduction of tension and other uncomfortable stress symptoms.
The body scan begins by bringing attention to different regions of your body. In The Stress Response, I suggest that you start at the top of your head, noticing sensations in your head, face and neck. You then move your attention slowly down through different regions of your body, simply becoming aware of tension, discomfort or other sensations that you might have been overlooking. The body scan can also begin at the toes, slowly working up through the body.
In either case, accepting what you find, as you move your attention through your body allows you to tap into new ways of feeling and being in your body.
If you practice the body scan often, even daily, without the intention of changing symptoms of stress, you just might find that you’re symptoms do, in fact, change.
Click here for a podcast leading you through a body scan.
Stressed woman photo available from Shutterstock