Qi Gong is the art of working with your internal energy to improve your state of being. Quite literally, “Qi” means “internal energy,” and “Gong” means “to work with.” In all of Lee’s classes, he focuses on teaching students nourishing practices for personal empowerment and wellbeing.
One of the most common reasons people start to practice Qi Gong is to overcome stress. Not only does it feel unpleasant to be stressed out or anxious, but it also is harmful for your health.
Although Qi Gong is a very effective way to deal with stress, it is certainly not the only method. In fact, every action or behavior throughout your day has an impact on the energy within your body. Essentially, all of life is Qi Gong.
While most of our blog posts focus specifically on Qi Gong practices, we recognize that Qi Gong is a way of life, not just something that is practiced at certain times of the day. Therefore, we decided to share five simple stress management techniques that you can use in your everyday life to let go of anxious energy and return to a place of composure and groundedness.
Before diving into techniques for managing stress, it’s important to understand the nature of this unpleasant energy.
Stress is your experience of your nervous system reacting to something that is perceived as threatening. At its strongest point, stress is your “fight or flight” mechanism that helps keep you safe when your life is in danger.
There are times when this nervous system response is healthy and important. Back when humans were hunter-gatherers, this ability of the body helped people to stay safe and protect themselves against animals or attackers. Even today, there are still instances in which your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) can save your life.
There are other times when your sympathetic nervous system is activated but your life isn’t in danger. In fact, in the twenty-first century, it’s very rare that you actually need to get stressed out in order to stay alive. Most of the time, your body is simply overreacting based on its evolutionary programming.
The important thing to emphasize is that stress is a response in your body. From your body, it moves into your mind and emotions, where it transforms into anxious thinking and uncomfortable feelings.
Now that we’ve established what stress is and where it comes from, let’s talk about how to overcome it.
Step 1: Notice: It’s important to become sensitive of when you’re feeling stressed. Sometimes, it can be difficult to pause and notice these things when you’re in the midst of a busy day and have a lot on your plate. However, if you don’t bring your awareness to your state of being, you’re going to be powerless to do anything about it.
Just like how in Qi Gong you work with your mind in order to become aware of the energy in your body, you must learn how to do the same when you aren’t in a dedicated Qi Gong practice.
If you find it difficult to notice when you’re feeling stressed, perhaps try to put a sticky note on your desk, computer, or other place where stress often comes up for you. This will help to remind you to check in with yourself and realize what is true for you.
Step 2: Label: Once you’ve stopped and noticed that something doesn’t feel quite right, try to label your experience. Perhaps say to yourself, “I am feeling stress in my body,” or “My mind is experiencing anxious thoughts.”
By putting a label on your feelings, you are able to create a separation between yourself and your experience. Instead of being the feeling, you are now viewing it as something distinct from yourself that can be transformed. This makes it easier to accept and work with.
While this process is very effective for managing stress, it is also a great way to identify all feelings that you may experience. When you realize that you’ve been emotionally activated, noticing and labeling your feelings is a powerful step towards moving through them and returning to harmony. Anger, sadness, frustration, and stress are all experiences that can be labeled and worked with.
Step 3: Do Something Physical: We mentioned earlier that stress is a physical response to your environment. That means it’s something that is experienced within your body and not just your mind or emotions. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that you can’t “think” your way out of a stressful state. Your brain may be useful for thinking through math problems, but stress can’t be solved in the same way.
When you’re feeling stress, it’s a good idea to take a break from whatever you’re doing and move your body. Exercising, doing Qi Gong, or taking a brisk walk are great options. By moving your body, you’re able to cycle through your nervous system’s sympathetic response and return to a more grounded state.
It can often take between fifteen and thirty minutes for your body to calm down and start to relax, depending on your level of stress. If you find your mind starts to wander during your movement activities, just try to notice and bring it back to the present moment. Seek to be aware of your physical sensations and work with the energy in your body rather than focus on your thoughts.
Step 4: Take Slow, Deep Breaths: After spending fifteen to thirty minutes moving your body, it’s time for some slow, deep breathing. Stand or sit in a comfortable, upright position and start to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It can be helpful to place one hand on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest so you can feel your lungs expand and contract with each breath.
On your inhale, breathe in through your nose, bringing fresh, nourishing energy into your body. On your exhale, release the air out through your mouth as you let go of any stress or anxiety. Don’t be afraid to make a loud, audible sound on your exhale as you visualize yourself letting go of anything you don’t want. For many people, this comes out as an “aaaaahhhhh” sound.
Taking slow, deep breaths is a wonderful way to continue letting go of stress and cultivating the energetic state that you wish you experience. Try to bring you attention and awareness to each breath in order to enjoy each moment as fully as possible.
Step 5: Reorient and Set an Intention: Once you feel that you’ve cleared most of the stagnant energy from your mind and body, it’s time to reorient and set an intention for the experiences that lay before you. Even if you have some challenging tasks ahead, you always have a choice about how you want to feel as you go through your day.
Now that you’ve cleared stress and become aware of how you feel, you’re in a great position to find a new way of navigating through the world. Instead of allowing your mind to be in a reactive state, you can set an intention to embrace the day with inspiration and optimism.
To do this, imagine the feelings and mindset that you want to experience moving forward. At this point, don’t think too much about what you have to do, but rather, focus on how you want to feel. Envision yourself composed, confident, and ready for what the world has to offer. Continue breathing as that vision grows within your heart and mind.
After focussing on the feelings you want to experience, start to imagine yourself going about your day and accomplishing your goals. Instead of focussing on the problems that previously caused you stress, try to imagine yourself finding solutions. A positive and confident outlook can go a long way in helping you succeed in whatever you’re doing.
These simple techniques are a great way to turn your day around whenever you notice that stress and anxiety is getting the best of you. Sometimes, all it takes is realizing your emotions and dedicating thirty minutes to shifting your energy. Even if you can’t immediately change your environment, there are usually ways you can improve your experience of your environment.
Thirty Day Challenge
If you’re interested in learning some Qi Gong practices that you can integrate into this framework for overcoming stress, be sure to check out Lee’s Thirty Day Challenge. This program offers thirty different Qi Gong routines that each span just seven minutes. This means that even the busiest parent or worker can find time to practice each and every day. Lee often points out that it’s possible to completely transform your energetic state in seven minutes of dedicated practice time.
These routines offer a great way to start your day or let go of stress whenever it creeps up on you (step 3: do something physical). By doing slow movement practices that bring your attention to the physical sensations in your body, you’re able to move through frustrating experiences and return to a more empowered state of being.
This program is extremely affordable and is a wonderful resource for both new and seasoned practitioners alike. Click on the banner below to learn more and start practicing today.
By Ian Drogin