What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? If it's a work day, you probably hit the snooze button a few times, then spring out of bed in a panic, propelling yourself into your day with your mind on everything you have to do to get out the door. Or maybe you find yourself in the shower, without any real memory of how you got there. Sound familiar?
Jack Wiener, a certified and licensed psychoanalyst, founder of the former School for Creative Movement in NYC and author of The Way of the 4th Toe: Into the Feeling Body, believes that the most important thing you can do as soon as you wake up is to gently bring your awareness fully into your body, so that as you move through the rest of the day, you maintain a sense of grounding that can help you cope with the physical and mental stresses of daily life.
"When you sleep, your body goes into itself," says Weiner, explaining that while you're snoozing, the sensations of your muscles become very minimal. In other words, you're not consciously aware of your body; you're not in a physically or mentally grounded state of being.
This state of being works for the purposes of sleep, but not for your waking hours. You want to be "in" and aware of your body during the day. When you experience stress or anxiety throughout the day, says Weiner, these emotions and sensations can cause you to instinctively "pull in" to yourself, which, ironically, is the opposite of being grounded in your body. Weiner describes this process as a literal contraction and tension of your muscles. If you're not aware, this happens automatically, and can affect everything from your breathing to your circulation to how the events of your day affect you.
If you can bring yourself back into your body and release the tension in your muscles, then, says Weiner, you're more able to cope with stress, and you're more emotionally aware and alive. Not only are you carrying less tension in your neck and shoulders, but if you can maintain an awareness of being in your body, then it's easier to not get caught up and swept away in the worries and anxieties. "It's so simple, yet so profound," says Weiner.
So, how should you start the day? By doing these three simple things:
Before you even get out of bed ...
1. Gently flex and point your feet for 15-30 seconds. This, says Weiner, is a good way to gently begin to activate your musculature and to bring your awareness to your feet, which is literally grounding. Then, wiggle your fingers and gently open and close you hands into a fist shape for 15-30 seconds. "Those are small little things," says Weiner, but they can really help you if your standard MO is to immediately activate your whole body by springing out of bed with your mind on what you have to get done.
Next, as you get out of bed ...
2. Consciously place your feet on the floor. Stand there for a moment, fully aware of the floor beneath you, and concentrate on feeling grounded.
3. Do a gentle hamstring stretch. "This will sustain your connection to the ground," Weiner says, and delay the pulling up into your upper body that leads not only to a lack of feeling grounded, but to tension in your neck and shoulders. The more grounded and "in your body" you can start your day, says Weiner, the more you will be able to carry this feeling and awareness into the rest of your day. Good morning, indeed!
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