PhD Self-Care Project: Body Awareness Exercise

Our bodies often tense up when we feel stress or when we are feeling anxious about something. One of the first things that I do is acknowledge the feeling and try to identify what the exact feeling is. Is it stress? Is it fear? Is it lack of motivation and procrastination? Normally, I find that I just get stressed about the quality of my writing. The imposter syndrome creeps in and, instead of using positive stress that helps me get the job done, I waste minutes getting stuck on useless worrying about producing the perfect draft.

What I’ve found that helps me break this cycle of worry-then-procrastinate-then-feel guilty-then-worry again, is to pause and focus my mind on something else. First, I find a quiet nook and a spot to sit. I take a few moments to slow down my breathing and pay attention to my body. I become aware of any tension I am feeling in different parts of my body. I consciously and actively repeat the word ‘calm’ as I imagine the tension draining out of the particular body part I have focussed on. I would start focussing on any tension from my feet and slowly make my way up to my face and head.

My body usually tenses up when I feel stressed or anxious. Re-focussing my attention to specific tense body parts help me to break down the task of ‘Ember would you please just calm down’ into more concrete, achievable steps. Also, instead of thinking about my current worries, my thoughts are diverted to something else, which helps to stop the unproductive, negative thoughts. Soon after this quick mindfulness exercise, I quickly realise that I was able to overcome the mini-roadblock and get back to the task at hand with confidence and a sense of control.

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