By Sarah Schwartz, LCSW
It is at this point in the year that Chicagoans start to wonder whether the sun will return and whether the temperature will rise. We are together in this fight and undoubtedly, spring will arrive; it always does. In the meantime, many of us are looking for ways to recharge. Let’s be honest, hibernation mode has taken its toll for the majority. It is at this time that we need to return to focusing on our own needs and taking a closer look at simple and affordable ways to practice self-care.
The Power of Breath
Though it sounds simple, many of us neglect our breath. Breathing is something that we rarely put thought into though our breath is a great gauge of how we are doing. It is important to start by noticing your breath. Is it short, is it choppy, is it sharp? Upon taking notice of your breath, it is important to work to smooth out your breath. Breathing exercises are great because they can be done anywhere and at any time.
Here is an easy deep breath exercise to get you started: First, find a comfortable position. Begin by focusing on breathing consciously in and out through your nose. While doing so, place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Feel your belly rise and lower as your breath moves in and out. Then, take three deep breaths just like this. Take notice of how you feel upon completing three deep breaths. Continue this exercise at any point to center yourself.
Let’s face it, the majority of us spend the greater part of our days sitting and leaning over devices. It is important to be cognizant of the body and move and stretch regularly. Stretching is often an overlooked practice but it is so important to make stretching a daily routine in order to reduce stress and improve overall health. Like breathing exercises, stretching can be done anywhere and at any time. No special equipment is needed!
Here’s a quick and easy stretch for you: Start by working on a basic neck stretch by gently tilting your chin to one side, hold for a count of five. Bring your neck forward and then try the other side. Lastly, tilt your chin to your chest. Enjoy!
Spending time in nature is so therapeutic. If the weather allows or if you’re brave and open to bundling, enjoy a mindful walk through your neighborhood or a local park. Take time to focus on your breath and simply being present. If the weather is less than favorable, there are many local conservatories in the Chicagoland area where you can go and enjoy the warmth, beauty, and escape the elements. Get outside, off the couch, and allow yourself some well-deserved movement.
The beauty of the above activities is that they can each be done individually and/or collectively. Give yourself the time and attention you deserve. Breath, stretch, and explore yourself in nature to recharge your mind, body, and spirit!