Here is a practice to get “unstuck” and move forward for this new phase of our collective healing. It involves release, reflection, and intention.
Anxiety during the pandemic – in children and adults – has affected mental health on an unprecedented level. While we need to address the overall ramifications of COVID-19, you can begin an individual practice of releasing the emotions that came with the uncertainty of the last year.
Anxiety builds up as tension in the body – stiffness in the back or neck, uneasiness in the stomach, sweaty palms, and headaches. Through breath, body awareness, and movement, you can be aware of where you are holding tension, and actively release it.
Here is a simple body awareness exercise:
- As you are reading these words, take a conscious breath, in and out, and do a quick body scan.
- Take another breath, in and out, and sense where you are holding tightness in your body.
- Where you notice some discomfort, shift your attention to that area of your body, and breathe in and out.
Another simple exercise for release is to “Blow Those Butterflies Away”, an exercise I share with children in my book, Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More. It is a good exercise to release anxiety that often builds up as queasiness in our stomachs.
- Take a deep breath, in and out.
- Put your attention on your stomach
- Take a deep breath in.
- Actively, blow out your breath, visualizing colorful butterflies scattering in the air as you blow them out.
Time alone or in small pods with the same people and routine has, in its own way, become our new normal. While we hope for a return to school and the office, socializing with friends and family, and a return to live events like sports games or concerts, so much of what it is to come remains unknown. And, how we acclimate back to a new normal, even if we are hopeful and excited, can create anxiety, especially for kids.
To move forward, it can be helpful to actively reflect on the emotions of the past year.
Here is an exercise you can do alone or with your kids to look at the past year and prepare for what lies ahead.
- Place a chair, facing a window or open space, if possible.
- Sit in the chair, looking forward, and take a deep breath. In and out.
- Open the space in your mind of what lies ahead.
- Now, stand up and actively turn the chair around.
- Sit in the chair, and in your mind, reflect on the past year.
- Events may pop in and out, conversations, pivotal moments.
- Do a quick body scan, and feel where you may be holding emotions in your body. (Note, in addition to stress, you may have many positives emotions like love and connection so honor those with gratitude).
- As emotions like fear and anxiety arise, feel them in your body and pay attention to those areas.
- Take a deep breath in, and actively blow out. (Like Blow Those Butterflies Away above).
- Commit to accepting what has happened, but also releasing these past emotions as you blow them out.
- Stand up, and turn your chair around again, looking ahead.
- Take a deep breath in and out, knowing that you are ready for the future.
An intention is like planting a seed for the qualities you aspire for in your life – health, connection, inspiration, a sense of purpose. Often, when you plant a seed, you don’t know how it will blossom, but you trust that with attention it will grow into something beautiful.
There is a phrase in the Upanishads that says:
You are what your deepest desire is,
As is your desire so is your intent.
As we begin Spring, a season that will be unlike those of the past because of the pandemic, it is an opportune time to reflect on our deepest desires and set intentions for renewal.
Here is a simple exercise to set an intention:
- Sit comfortably.
- Take a deep breath, in and out.
- With your attention on your heart, think of your deepest desires – not material desires, but the qualities you truly want in your life (things like security, health, love, purpose).
- As you breathe in and out, what may arise are emotions you treasure – like a loving bond with a child – or experience you aspire for that will give you joy and connection (like being of service in your community).
- Take a deep breath, in and out, and take full ownership of your desire.
- Complete this sentence without justification or questioning.
- My intent is _____________.
By stating an intent, you plant a seed for this desire to manifest in your life through your attention and actions. Anchored in this intention, you are ready to move forward with clarity, energy, and purpose.
Find more tools for release, reflection, and intention on the Chopra App, available now.