Does your smartwatch really need to tell you to get up and stretch?
Does the mind-body connection sound like a sci-fi movie to you? If so, I ask you to open your mind so your body can benefit. Our brains are a vast communication center. I often refer to the brain as our command center. Our bodies are being commanded all day and often into the night. We want our bodies to get up, get to work, eat, walk, run, sit and sit and sit longer. We want our bodies to work on computers, handle large machinery and cook dinner. We are very bossy individuals.
All these expectations take a toll on our bodies. The body needs attention like the mind. We restore ourselves through adequate sleep, but our bodies need more than R & R.
I’ll use myself as an example. I have a Samsung Galaxy Watch. I’m sure many of us have our preferred fitness trackers and smart gadgets. I love my watch, but sometimes she expects a lot out of me. She expects me to get up and stretch when I’ve been typing at my computer too long. I often don’t listen and swipe the reminder away. I keep typing. Who I am helping? My watch does not care if I get a stiff back. The watch will not be hurting. I’ll be hurting.
I’m a wellness and productivity coach, so I have NO excuse. I KNOW that I need to get up and I KNOW that it isn’t productive to keep plowing through. I’ve read the research and I’ve lived life both ways. I know my watch is right and she’s not as smart as me. Or is she smarter?
I wonder if I think it’s okay to swipe away the stretch reminders because I’ve already gone for my walk and done yoga for the day? That’s no excuse. I want to justify away my lack of action. That’s what I’m doing. Bodies are designed to move, and everyone has 5 minutes to get up and stretch. Even me. If you don’t have 5 minutes, then please ask yourself why.
My watch also reminds me when I’m stressed. The sad truth. My watch can be more in tune to me than I am. That’s a body-watch connection. Perhaps my watch should be training my mind! Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t have mind training in their product development pipeline. It’s up to me to adapt my behavior. I’m on the hook to make the change. It’s not as if my watch is asking me to run a marathon, so what’s the big deal?
It boils down to honor and priorities. Do I honor the mind-body connection? No, not enough. Do I honor myself enough to focus on 5 minutes of stretching throughout the day? Not yet, but I’m a working on it.
Why should I adjust my behavior? I exercise and I’m very dedicated to my practice. How could a few extra stretches make a difference? Well, for one, I’m giving my body what it needs to work longer and harder for me. Do we get something to drink when we are thirsty? Then why don’t we stretch during the day? I dish out commands to my body all day and my body is up for the task. My body is asking for a stretch, so I need to get up and stretch!
What is your body asking of you?
What message is your smart device sending you?
Big secret! You don’t need a fancy watch.
You need to tune into your body. Your mind is already communicating with you and your body is sending your mind signals. It’s science. It’s connection at its best. What happens when we continue to ignore the mind-body signals? The buzz no longer phases us. The, "Hello Kim, get up and do 5 torso stretches" doesn’t register. I’m headed for straight for unmanaged stress.
And unmanaged stress is a problem. I want to emphasize the word, unmanaged, not stress, in and of itself. Stress cannot be avoided, and we all need to learn how to manage it. We are more equipped to handle stress when we exercise regularly. Taking mini stretching and mental breaks offers other benefits. Notice I mentioned physical and mental breaks?
Our minds need a break as much as our body. We need to clear the fog to see in front of us. How can we be productive if we are constantly drained? Do your tires work like that? Nope. If your tire starts to go flat, your car will usually let you know you have low tire pressure. Address it or you’ll end up stranded on the side of the road. The same thing happens when we begin to deflate. A slow leak isn’t noticed at first, but that flat gets your attention.
How do your thoughts and emotions affect your health?Head in the clouds? Disconnected? Reconnect today!
Our thoughts are often consumed by work-related stress, money or personal problems. This can manifest as tense muscles, headaches or stomach issues. Unmanaged stress results in high blood pressure and other chronic situations.
The mind-body connection is a two- way street. It’s a bi-directional interface. If we suffer from chronic pain or manage a chronic disease, that takes a toll on the mind. We grow weary. The load becomes too heavy and our emotional mind is negatively affected. We become depressed or anxious and our ability to cope is further compromised. A positive mindset can have the reverse affect. Staying positive amidst problems helps you handle day to day stress.
Release Feel Good Hormones
Additionally, when we exercise, we release endorphins, a happy, pain killing chemical. We also produce chemicals that support our immune system. Our thoughts, feelings and expectations impact the chemicals produced in our brain. That’s why it’s important to stay positive. Our brains can produce chemicals that can boost our healing power. Negative thoughts and feelings have the opposite effect.
How does stress affect you?
Stress causes a reaction in all of us. No one is exempt. When your stress response activates, how do you respond? Do you spiral out of control? Do you take a few deep breaths and regain composure? Framing stress is important. Framing is another word for perspective. We are designed to react to stress. Our fight or flight response activates for good reason. We produce stress hormones and those hormones increase our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Our muscles tense and we must decide if we are in danger. If we aren’t in danger, we can calm things down. Frame that moment. Frame that stressor. Put it into perspective.
The stress response is necessary when we are in danger, but most of the time we aren’t in danger. If the stress response lasts too long, we will manifest physical symptoms. Our blood pressure and heart rate were not intended to stay high. You were not designed to stay tense, moody or depressed. Our brains are designed to activate the stress response when needed and turn it off when it’s not needed. It’s a switch and if we don’t practice the off mode, the light burns out.
How do we control our stress response? I’d like to say that I use modern day technology and I have my stress completely under wraps. However, I will not communicate a falsehood. Having said that, my smart watch comes in handy. I promise this isn’t a pitch for Samsung Galaxy Watches. I do not get paid to write for them. I’m simply letting you know that tools are available to help us manage the mind-body connection. One problem. The tool is only as good as the end user who uses it. It is and will always be up to us to act. We are the "action" piece of the puzzle in the mind-body connection. It’s not our smart watches or smart devices.
Now that I have clarified the roles, let’s get back to the watch. She lets me know when I’m stressed. There is a colorful scale ranging in color from blue to red. The far left is a calming blue. That’s the indicator to let me know I’m not stressed. The far right is red. When I’m stressed a little arrow finds its way to the "other" side. The alarm has sounded. What will I do? What do I do?
I find this piece of the technology quite captivating. The watch also has a nifty inhale and exhale exchange application. Six daily sequences of 6 inhale and exhale exchanges minimizes stress. We need to breathe. I don’t know about you, but I’m doing that anyway.
But there is a difference in our automatic breathing and our awareness breathing. We must STOP and focus on the exchange a few times a day. One, two, inhale, exhale. Forget about dinner. It will cook itself. And, yes, you’ll remember to put the wet clothes in the dryer and make the vet appointment. It so easy to purge your mind. I am being a bit facetious. It isn’t easy to purge your mind, but it is necessary. My techniques may not work for you. After all, we all have our own M.O. for solving problems, but this technique works for me.
I close my eyes and block out other stimulation. I pause and listen for sounds around me. I like to tee myself up for what is happening around me before I hone focus. If my wandering mind is still off on her trip, I anchor her by placing one hand on my chest and the other on my abdomen. Then I count. Sally Samsung (I finally named my watch) provides a soft chime between the inhales and exhales. This helps me achieve deeper, more meaningful breaths.
Recognizing & Managing Body and Mind Signals:
If stress is managing you versus you managing your stress, you may want to try these techniques:
- Take a few deep breaths –
It may seem silly to pause and focus on a few deep breaths, but something magical happens in your brain. Those deep breaths message your brain and tell it to relax. Your Master Control Center can give another command and it can be a calming one. You must decide that it’s time to stop the stress response cycle.
- Visualization is another great technique -
People experience success when they imagine that themselves in a calming environment. When you feel stress, try to take a few moments and imagine yourself in the place that you find most peaceful.
- Present moment awareness –
Living in the present and accepting it is not always easy. We pile on our to do lists and often are looking forward to Fridays. We revisit our past or think about our next moment in time. Practice appreciating the moment you are in. If it’s unpleasant, this too shall pass.
- Yoga –
I’m a HUGE fan of yoga. Yoga has changed my life and I run around like a Yogi evangelist. I not only manage chronic back pain with yoga, I benefit in many other ways. Yoga reminds me of killing many birds with one stone.
I must focus on my breath. The focuses breathing tells my mind it’s time to relax. It’s time to be in a calm state.
I improve balance and flexibility
I tone my muscles and build a stronger core. The core strength supports my back.
I sit quietly. I do not always meditate, but I calm my mind. During balancing postures, I focus on a single object. I build my balance, but I also focus.
All those benefits jump off my mat and go with me throughout my day. I also enjoy mixing up the type and timing of my yoga practice. Sometimes I practice first thing in the morning. I’ll pull out my mat or jump in my trapeze for a mid-day break. And one of my favorite sequences is a restorative night- time practice. It helps me sleep like a baby.
- Body Scans and Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques –
These techniques are like one another, yet different. They both allow you to carve out time to focus on your body messaging.
- Body Scans –
You generally lie down but can stay in a seated position. Close your eyes and start scanning your body. You may start at your head or your feet. The purpose is to move from one body part to another and notice. You are trying to pick up on body sensations. The sensations might be tension, pain, numbness or nothing. The technique is honing your awareness. It helps in two ways.
Take a break and tune into your body. You are then more likely to take care of yourself because you aren’t ignoring the messages
Body scans are great practice techniques. The more ‘in tune" you become during a body scan the more you are learning how to tune in. This is beneficial as you go through your daily life. You will become more skilled at recognizing body communication.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation differs from Body Scans. Progressive Muscle Relaxation’s purpose is to tense and relax various muscles. Your mind focuses on the state of tense muscles as they compare to relaxed muscles.
Do we need our smart devices to tell us to take care of ourselves?
Does technology need to lead the mind-body connection crusade? I appreciate Sally Samsung’s efforts, but it’s my responsibility to get moving or take a few deep breaths.
Unmanaged stress is not limited to an occupation, gender, race, or persona. We are all guilty of pushing ourselves too hard. And when we push too hard, we find ourselves at the intersection of Wellness and Productivity. We land on Stress Street. Now we must decide which way to go.
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Now get up and stretch!