Simple Actions To Regain Focus (Part 4)
The Five Simple Actions To Regain Focus
I am going to focus on Five Simple Actions that you can easily implement into your daily life that help to slow your mind down and give your body an instant feeling of comfort and alertness.
They can be used at any point and time during the day.
Are these actions the be-all/end-all cure to your experiences of stress and anxiety?
They are, however, actions that will trigger your mind and body to “chill out” in the moment.
Further, once you start using them regularly they will help you to develop a relaxation-cycle that competes with the stress-cycle that you’ve most likely been experiencing for years now.
Basically, what you are doing is training your mind to relax just as you have, inadvertently over the years, trained it to stress.
There is no reason to wait until the end of the day to “wind down” when you can train your mind and body to “wind down” for little periods throughout the day.
So let’s get to it…
Action 1: Relax Your Face
“Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?”
For many years I was the guy who had a permanent crease in my brow line, just over my eyes.
I can’t tell you how many times people would ask me “what’s wrong” even if I was having a good day.
Other than in our neck and shoulders, tension primarily settles in our face.
Our eyes, brows, temples, cheeks, and jaw line are wonderful stress sponges that suck up all the irritations we incur during the course of the day.
Why should I just focus on learning to relax my face when I am feeling tension during the course of my day, especially if my shoulders and chest are what feel tense?
There is a saying in car racing (and driving in general)…
Where the eyes go, the car will follow.
The same basic idea applies to relaxation…
As the face goes, so goes the body.
As your facial muscles relax and loosen, your body (shoulders, chest, etc.) will follow – almost automatically.
In shrinky-dink (psychotherapist) terms this is referred to as secondary gain.
In this context, it’s good stuff.
So do it.
There are a number of techniques that we can learn and practice to fully address muscle tension in our face and the rest of our body – things like:
Progressive muscle relaxation
Eye socket massage
There is a mountain of research illustrating the benefits of ALL of the techniques mentioned above and I recommend learning as many of them as possible.
Unfortunately for our purposes here, those techniques do not fit our current criteria because they require:
4) Other People
Technically, the lion pose does not require any of the four criteria mentioned above.
However, it requires you to stick your tongue out and try to touch your chin with it.
Don’t get me wrong, look this pose up and try it and you will see that it does provide a nice amount of stress relief.
However, my guess is your co-workers, friends, or kids might get a little distracted if you seemingly randomly open your eyes as wide as possible and stick your tongue out for 30 second periods throughout the day.
A lot of the research goes into detail about focusing on specific areas of your face one at a time (i.e. start with your forehead, then move to your eye sockets, then your nose, then your lips, then your cheeks, etc.).
Again, this technique is effective, but we are looking for a quick and efficient way to relax your entire face that will not take much time or concentration and will not interfere with whatever it is you are doing.
Here is what you do…it’s very simple and all centers around your jaw.
First step: Loosen your jaw muscles and relax your bottom lip. By doing this your mouth will open very slightly. The opening should not even be large enough to fit a finger in it. Other people should not be able to notice anything different by looking at you.
Second step: Now that your jaw is loose, breathe through your nose. I know this may seem obvious, but your natural reaction to even the slightest opening in your mouth will initially be to breath through your mouth.
Third step: Focus on your jaw muscles and cheeks feeling “warmer and heavier” Notice how the jaw muscles and cheeks on the right side of your face are feeling warmer and heavier. Now notice the same feeling on the left side of your face – your jaw muscles and cheeks getting warmer and heavier.
Fourth step: Keep you jaw loose for at least 30 seconds.
This technique is going to take some practice to get used to.
At first it may feel awkward and your tendency may be to automatically close your mouth and bring back the tension.
I know this seems counterintuitive, but like the rest of your body, the muscles in your face contain what’s called “muscle memory”.
Over time, the muscles in your face have “learned” to feel tense throughout the course of the day.
So when you start to make them relax, their natural reaction is to return to the place that they “remember” – which is being tense.
Don’t worry though, it will not take long for them to “learn” the relaxation response.
Because when you relax them, they get fed via an increase in blood flow and more nutrients.
Therefore, the more momentary breaks you use to relax your face, the easier it will become and your face will thank you.
When you first start practicing this technique I suggest that you do it at home while you are watching TV, which can serve as background noise similar to that which you encounter throughout your day.
You will find that the “warmer and heavier” your jaw muscles feel, the more it will feel that your mouth is opening.
I have found that this is more a matter of self-consciousness than reality.
I have had many extremely self-conscious people with these concerns keep detailed notes of when they relaxed their faces during the course of the day to see what, if any, responses their “secret exercise” generated from others.
What surprised me was that if a co-worker or a friend did notice a change in the person’s facial expression during the relaxation they did not ridicule the individual as feared.
The majority of people were curious about the exercise and how they could learn it themselves to use during the course of their day.
At the beginning, I would schedule times to perform this action.
I often suggest that people simply do it at the top of every hour.
In an ideal world, that means that during the course of the average work day you will get to perform this action 6-9 times.
In reality it will be more like 3-4 times, which is fine.
The whole goal here is for your facial muscles to learn to relax easily at any time and in any place.
Remember – as the face goes, so goes the body.
1. Loosen your jaw muscles and relax you bottom lip.
2. Breathe through your nose.
3. Notice the feelings of warmth and heaviness in your jaw muscles and cheeks.
Stay tuned for the Second Simple Action coming in Part 4…
Its the best advice that Lieutenant Dan ever gave