Doesn’t it feel like time mysteriously speeds up as the year comes to a close? I love that it’s a time for gathering together, but it certainly can get hectic when your typical routine is ramped up with extra duties, shopping, and holiday obligations. Juggling multiple priorities and all the preoccupations can create a constant swirl of thoughts, potentially disrupting sleep and your overall concentration, leading you to brain-drain.
You already know how important it is to keep your workouts consistent to help regulate your stress levels. At the very least, it’s ideal for you to get up move a bit, and stretch every 20 minutes. The Pilates principles themselves are perfect for de-stressing with centeredness on breath and inner body awareness. Additionally, there are a number of other ways to compliment and mix-up your de-stressing routine. Try out these approaches to shake off the “spin.” These activities stimulate the brain and can help you refresh and be more productive. Some of them do require you to truly unplug – meaning that you can step away from the computer or mobile device!
Pick up a crayon! That’s right, it’s not just for elementary school. The leisurely movement of coloring is a simple activity that kindles the imagination and brings back fond memories of your time in childhood. “Psychologists are now telling us that coloring, [is] an activity that they say, “generates wellness, quietness, and stimulates brain activity related to motor skills, the senses and creativity” Stop Everything and go buy yourself a coloring book.
Massage the spine with a Cat Stretch. Articulating the spine frees up muscle tightness, and moves the cerebrospinal fluids. These fluids not only help cushion the brain inside our skulls, but flow through spinal cord which can be stagnant if you’ve been sitting for long periods, or standing in line for the check-out. Like with your lymphatic system, these fluids need to circulate to eliminate waste and refresh. Don’t have space to drop to the floor on all fours to do a full cat stretch where you are at the moment? You can modify it for where you are. Stand beside a chair or low table, place your hands in the push-up position with your back as straight as you can to start, and go! Take full breaths and do 5-8 reps or simply set your timer for 1 or 2 minutes for your brain break.
“Forever is composed of nows” – Emily Dickinson
The Power of the Present Moment – a meditation with Davidji. I am the first to admit I don’t do enough to incorporate meditation into my daily routine, so this one is definitely a “to do” for me along with you! There are many sites out there for meditation, so I’m sure you can find one that resonates with you. I particularly liked this blog topic of being present and finding stillness in the all the busy day-today. There is also an accompanying recorded meditation. It helps you clear your mind and get you into a Zen zone. The Present Moment Meditation (15:41)
Cross the midline. Okay – this is my favorite brain break. Eric Jensen is an educator, collaborator with neuroscience experts, and a leader in the brain-based movement. He suggests a strategy of using cross-lateral movements in a repeating pattern to boost learning. An example of a cross-lateral movement would be using your right hand to touch your left shoulder, and vice versa, your left hand to touch your right. Sounds simple right?
The first time I was exposed to this strategy was when I was in a study group for the Franklin Method. We had been at it for hours, delving into the anatomical and cellular information. We needed a break from information overload! A young lady in my group said – “I know just the thing!” She stood up and showed us a little movement routine that I now realize is cross-lateral movement. Not only did we get our circulation pumping, but we also shook off the heaviness in our heads and could look at things with fresh eyes.
Since each half of the body is controlled by the opposite hemisphere of your brain (hence the saying those who are left handed are the ones “in their right mind”), the intent in using movements that cross the body in a repeating pattern is to stimulate synchronicity to both sides simultaneously.
The routine I learned was more full body and choreographed, but it had similar elements to this demonstration from Essential Mobility Exercise: Cross Body Pattern (1:22). The demo is a little more mechanical, but you get the idea.
*Want a more subtle and literally hands-on challenge that will tease your brain? I really love this one for coordination and connecting the two hemispheres. The gentleman in this next video says:
“The philosophy behind cross-laterals is that when we force the two sides of our brain to work together, we’re increasing the connections and connectivity, which in turn increases our problem solving abilities.”
Once you figure out what you’re supposed to do with the “Finger walk” (simple to complex) and the “Six shooter,” you can pretty much do them anywhere.
Well, these are just some suggestions for you to explore on your brain breaks. Didn’t you know you should be “stretching” your brain too? Have fun with these and other ones you discover as you de-stress!
See you in the studio!