Stress and anxiety are bottom-up processes. This means that our bodies respond to stress, which then has an impact on our thoughts and emotions. Many of the activities in our toolkit take a bottom-up approach to stress management. Because when we’re feeling very stressed or anxious, trying to change our thinking often isn’t enough.
Luckily, our nervous systems have a built-in capacity to balance out stress. In our workshops, you can learn how to utilize this ability. Many of the activities in our Toolkit are part of the groundwork. Here are some pointers to help you start practicing:
1: Try asking yourself these questions when you do the activities
Are there any changes in my breathing?
Are there any changes in my muscle tension?
Are there any changes in my heartbeat/pulse?
If there are any changes, are they pleasant, neutral or unpleasant?
Where in my body do I notice them?
2: If you notice any sensations in your body that are neutral or pleasant, you can focus your attention them. This can help your nervous system kick-start it’s natural recovery response. There is a simple formula to this:
ATTENTION + FOCUS = INTENSITY
Just like an itch becomes itchier when you pay more attention to it, you can “grow” pleasant or neutral sensations by focusing your attention on them. Just like focusing a watering can on a plant that you want to grow strong and sturdy.
Sharing the activities in our toolbox with others actually makes them more effective. Why? Because for many of us, paying attention to how our bodies respond to stress and wellbeing can be much easier when we are not on our own. You can do the activities with someone in your family, or in a video chat. If you do them together, you can carefully observe:
Is the person’s facial expression and complexion different than before? For example more awake or relaxed?
Are there any change in their eyes? For example “fresher” or “clearer”?
Are there any changes in the person’s posture? More upright and strong or more relaxed?
Does the person’s voice sound different than before? For example more awake or more relaxed?However, if you do these activities together, please keep in mind that it is important never to convince someone to do them if they don’t want to. Always remember to let people choose whether they want to try an activity or notice any changes in their body, or not.