Think back to the last time you experienced stress. Call to mind the way your mind and body felt in that moment. Most likely, you’re thinking of tension in your jaw and muscles, and a brain that feels like it’s going a million miles a minute. You’re probably not thinking of slow, calm, deliberate movements or thoughts. Often when we experience stress, our body responds by accelerating the heart rate, increasing the flow of oxygen, speeding up breathing and tightening up fists and joints. This often happens without us even really noticing. But when we stop and pay attention to our body’s response to our emotions, we are then in a position to respond.

One very simple strategy when faced with stress is to simply slow it all down. This sounds so basic, but the body is often working on autopilot and we very rarely take the opportunity to notice and make deliberate choices to counteract the body’s stress responses.

Slowing it all down means literally taking everything in slow motion. Take a slow-motion walk across the room. When walking down the hallway to the copier, walk at about half (or less) the speed than normal. When eating lunch, take a slow bite, then set the utensil down until that one bite is fully chewed and swallowed before going for the next. Take a slow-motion stretch break, where you reach your arms into tree pose at a very slow pace.

These slow-motion movements may look silly to onlookers, and it’s not possible to spend a whole day in slow motion – but you don’t have to! Just a couple of slow-motion activities a day, or even just two minutes of slow movements during a short break, can make a difference.

You’ll find that your body naturally responds to slow movements. Your breathing will automatically slow down. Heart rate and blood flow will decrease to healthy levels. This is your brain-body connection at work. It’s not just luck that strategies like this work – it’s neuroscience. The body and brain are linked, and when you take a moment to notice the body’s response to stress, and then choose a new way to move your body, the brain will respond in turn.

So next time you’re feeling stressed, take a moment to check in with your body. And if you notice that your heart is beating, your breathing has quickened, or your muscles feel tense, try to slow it all down.

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