Wipe-Breathe-Move-Repeat: Your Steps to Create Mental Wellness
Your body has all the mechanisms to downshift the overwhelm, and go into calm. And we’ll use three different ways to get started on it. So number one is, we got to catch that you feel overwhelmed, or stuck or frozen. Somehow you’ll get a clue that you are triggered. So let’s assume you find yourself a little frazzled.
Step 1: Wipe
And the first step now what we’re doing together to be going into mental wellness, is that where you’re doing a wiping motion to interrupt your stress response, or the overwhelm response in the brain.
So in the middle of your brain is a part that’s called the limbic system, and that runs your emotions, you fight a flight, you freeze your drives, mix memories. And by doing a wiping motion, as we feel overwhelmed, that’s your first step for this part of the brain to not amp up the engine.
Step 2: Breathe
Then we’ll find our nose and we start breathing. Inhale through one nostril, exhale through the other, it doesn’t really matter which one you want to go with first. And you will notice, right when you start breathing and exhaling like that, that it calms you down, right?
After one or two breaths, the reasoning is that there is a direct connection from the nose to the part of the brain that processes what’s going on. And that has a feedback link to the limbic system and turns that down. So once you have a turn down, couple of breaths, maybe 234 .
Step 3: Move: Bi-lateral Movement
Then you can keep the brain in that very relaxed and calm place by moving your body halves in an alternating fashion: for instance, when you walk, you move your left and your right leg in an alternating fashion. When you ride your bike, the same thing happens. You play drums, box, or tap your feet- all of it will create what we call “bi-lateral” (both halves of your body) movement. The bilateral motion of your body activates the opposite halves (hemispheres) of your brain. When both brain halves are activated in that alternating fashion, the part of the brain that houses your emotions, stress and overwhelm (your limbic system) decreases in activity, making you feel more calm, more “neutral”, and/or less anxious.
Many situations where we take reasonable safeguards in life (e.g., wearing a seatbelt when we are driving), there is no need to be or remain stressed. While it’s healthy to feel alarmed if you are hiking on a trail and you see a snake right ahead of you- in that case, it is healthy to react, feel possibly some fear or surprise, and back away from the danger on the road. In other instances, for example, paying the water bill, there’s no need for us to feel stressed, frazzled or overwhelmed. To downshift your stress response where it is not needed for your survival, engage in a bi-lateral movement (see one of the above).
Step number one, we catch it, we interrupt the limbic system from wanting to amp up by, you know, wiping ourselves of like touching with that sensory input from us touching ourselves. In this motion, we get a different message to the brain that distracts that limbic system doesn’t have to call your turn on. Then step two as we find our nose, do a couple of breaths and we really tell the brain with that. Okay, limbic system you can stay calm. And then as we go into maintenance, we want to maintain the calm, we could do a gentle self tap, you know in that speed that I’m showing you. They’ve studied it that it helps call it the butterfly hug if we keep it like this close to our shoulders, but you can literally do it with your toes or your your left and your right foot with the inside and you do 26 of these repetitions and it literally keeps your body in that very maintain your calm state.
Can you mess this up?
I’ve had several people asking me these questions:
Can I mess this up? Can I, for example, what if I forget to breathe while doing the motion? What if I only do tap my feet in an alternating fashion? What if I get the order of the motions confused?
That’s fine, the bilateral motion will calm down that limbic system. Adding additional motions such as the wiping, will possibly bring about the relaxation a little quicker. The actions do not need to occur in a specific order.
What if I can’t remember that the wiping thing? Or I’m somewhere in the meeting? So it’s too obvious to do this. What if I, what if I sit there and get so overwhelmed that I can’t even do the nostril breathing?
You can do the above actions in a subtle way, and they will still work. So you could breathe through your nose by just pulling the air in gently. It may sound like you have a stuffy nose. That’s ok :). The breath will calm down that limbic system.
Or let’s assume you forgot to, you know, do the wiping motion and find yourself with the breathing. And then there is like a ton of other thoughts coming up or other sensations or you’ll feel more panic in because you feel you don’t get enough air.
Any of these steps, whether that’s the breathing, or the wiping, or the self tap, as ways to move our mental move into mental wellness and to kind of move beyond what kind of startled us and all these activities are your pathway into a more clear and calm state.
I just want to encourage you to try this out as you feel fit just a couple of minutes a day. Maybe you can do it on the way to work as you’ve parked and you’re like, Okay, you know, I just do that on the way into a situation. At the end of your day, a couple of minutes will be totally enough to make you successful with this practice.