May~ Self-Nurturing for the Body, Mind, & Soul

 

With Mother’s Day this month, it can be a time to reflect upon the nurturing we received from our mothers, just as it can be a time to reflect on the nurturing we provide to our own children. For some this can bring great joy, but for others it can be painful, as many have either lost their mothers, or perhaps the relationship may not be quite as idyllic as they wish it were.

Parenting a child can also be conflicting. Whereas raising children can be deeply fulfilling, it can also be demanding and even depleting at times. Mothers tend to experience more illnesses, stress, and challenges brought about from raising children in their marriage than women who choose not to procreate. They must navigate a societal pressure to silence these emotions, as women are conditioned to think it ungrateful to complain about these challenges.

This month’s blog is about self-nurturing, as this is the kind of loving support we need in our lives since there are times we have may not have anyone else to turn to but ourselves. These suggestions will help you develop a healthy practice of caring for your own self, both physically and mentally.

Treat yourself to a massage or a facial- or both!  The sense of being touched is highly nurturing and soothing. Allow yourself to get pampered.

Go to movie…alone.  This may force you to leave the comfort zone, but once the lights are out, it’s just you and the big screen.

Spruce up your wardrobe.  Peruse your closet and buy yourself a few new pieces that update your look. Donate the things you rarely wear.

Breathe…Relax…Meditate!  Need guidance with this? I recently released an audio Deep Relaxation Series- download and listen your way to peace and bliss! http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

-Take a warm bath Light some candles, put in a few drops of lavender, and soak away.

-Be one with nature Take a walk, run, hike or bike ride. Be mindful and pay attention to the trees, sky, mountains, flowers, etc.

-Crank the music and dance!  You know the saying, ‘Dance like no one is watching you.’ Well, they aren’t. So get your groove on!

-Hit the gym Cardio, weights, yoga, swimming, or whatever motivates you. The endorphins gained in a workout will uplift your mood and nurture your soul.

-Curl up with a good book  Find a cozy spot to relax and engross yourself in that book you’ve always wanted to read. Or maybe read a magazine or do a crossword puzzle.

-Go to a farmer’s market, art fair, outdoor festival or concert  Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Sometimes it’s nice to be on your own agenda.

Women are incredibly powerful and amazing nurturers. Giving so much of ourselves while not taking care of our own needs can deplete us and is unhealthy. Practice self-nurturing and enjoy the sense of fulfillment gained when taking care of the most important person in your life- you!

-S&B

April~ The Art of Meditation

Meditation has become hyped up in the news and media in the past few years. The word alone can bring a sense of intimidation to many, as there is a bit of mysticism surrounding the term. I am often asked, ‘What is the best type of meditation?’ and I always answer, ‘Whichever one works!’ Along these lines, people often tell me, ‘I tried to meditate and it didn’t work for me; I couldn’t clear my mind.’ This is one of the biggest misconceptions about meditation. It is impossible to clear one’s mind until we take our final breath. The goal is to not be overly connected to our distracting thoughts and to extend the spaces between thoughts, thus experiencing the stillness that is waiting for us to settle into.

Since there are many types of meditation, I will share 3 of the most popular ones. I encourage you to explore each of these and find the one that works best for you. When I work with private clients, I help them develop a meditation practice that works for them and is easily assimilated into their lives. It’s not a requirement that one devotes an hour 3 times a day to sit on a rock in a remote place and meditate! I am an advocate for short 5-15 minute ‘burst’ of meditation practiced throughout the day.

1-    Guided Visualization

This form of meditation is usually guided by an instructor or a recording, but can also be self-guided. Involving breath awareness, progressive relaxation techniques, and creative imagery to relax the mind and body, we develop a sense of inner peace. This highly relaxing form of meditation is good for people who enjoy being guided or having a focus in their practice.

2-   Mindfulness Meditation

To practice, we sit straight with our eyes gently gazing downwards as we begin to develop an awareness of our breath and bodily sensations. It’s not necessary to suppress thoughts, but to observe them and eventually return to watching our breath. When practicing, we are not trying to change anything about our experience, but to observe what’s happening within and around us with a sense of presence.

3-   Mantra Meditation

A mantra can be a word or a phrase. Though this type of meditation has Buddhist or Hindu roots, the mantra does not have to be in Sanskrit, but can be in English. This technique helps those who experience a busy mind with distracting thoughts. Many that practice this are given a personal mantra by their guru (teacher), but you can also develop your own. For example: LET GO-inhale to LET, exhale to GO. A universal mantra that anyone can use is SOHAM (pronounced So Hum). Inhale to SO, exhale to HAM. This mantra translates to ‘I am that’, but the English translation is less important than the sound vibration. The mantra grooves the mind and replaces our distracting thoughts with these words/sounds instead.

*Try these 3 types of meditation and see which one resonates with you. Give yourself time; it’s not always easy in the beginning. Once you’ve found the one you enjoy, incorporate it into your daily life, perhaps lighting a candle at the onset. Look forward to this time you are carving out for yourself, knowing that you are positively enhancing your health and well-being.

-S&B

P.S. This picture is taken of me in a meditative moment at one of my all time favorite places in the world- Sedona! Though you don’t have to be meditating on a rock in the mountains to gain enlightenment, it certainly is a magical place to be doing so!  😉

 

 

 

March ~ 5 Spring-Cleaning Hacks for Your Mind and Body

When we think of spring-cleaning, we generally think of cleaning our closets, yards, kitchens, or our offices. Spring-cleaning is not only good for your household; it’s good for your psyche.

Clearing our minds of emotional drama, worry, and negativity can be just as rejuvenating. In this process, we open up the windows of our minds and let fresh thought patterns emerge. Practice these hacks below and commit to keeping the space (between your two ears!) free of self-limiting thoughts and negative dialogue all year round.

1Take a Social Media Hiatus

You don’t have to file for divorce from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but a temporary separation may be in order if you find yourself spending too much time posting and liking. When we are overly connected to our devices, we tend to disconnect from the world around us. Stop and smell the spring flowers and enjoy the company of those around you. Enjoy your meal instead of photographing it! Be Present.

2Consider a Cleanse

Now that the holidays are over, you might be feeling sluggish from indulging more than usual. Press the reset button and get a jump-start on your nutrition with a rejuvenating cleanse. There are many cleanses out there to choose from, so be sure to check with your doctor before beginning one and make sure it’s a healthy and nourishing cleanse.

3Organize and Simplify

We work better and live simpler in a more organized physical space free of excess clutter, making it easier to access the things we need. Organize your home office, kitchen, or closets. De-clutter and donate what you no longer need.

4Say Goodbye to Toxic Relationships

Letting go of toxic relationships is one of the most difficult, yet liberating challenges. Holding on to unhealthy relationships for fear of conflict is easier in the short-run, but builds resentment and frustration in the long-run. Weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and determine whether it makes you feel energized or depleted.

5Stop the 3 C’s- Criticizing, Complaining, and Comparing

Being critical and habitually complaining can be paralyzing, as it puts us in a state of perpetual negativity. The next time a pessimistic or critical thought arises, ask yourself ‘Is this truly helpful or necessary?’ If not, let it go in favor of keeping your mind a positive haven. Remind yourself of the worthlessness of comparing and don’t fall into the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality of living.

Let the spring-cleaning of your mind and body last more than a season; let it last a lifetime.

-S&B

 

February~ Loving Kindness Meditation

Valentine’s Day is a day of loving reflection and expression we share with our loved ones. It is equally important to send loving thoughts to ourselves, as well.

Loving-kindness is an ancient (about 2500 yr old) meditation practice that brings about positive attitude changes as it develops the quality of loving-acceptance. It acts as a form of self-healing as it frees the mind from pain, confusion, anger, resentment or other negative emotions. In my many years of working with cancer patients and individuals fighting serious illnesses, I have seen many individuals make radical shifts when doing this practice, having released some of the anger and resentment they have been harboring for other individuals. Some have even felt that this anger has been an unhealthy roadblock to their healing. Enjoy practicing this Loving Kindness Meditation all year round.

Loving Kindness Meditation

The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of your own self.  To begin with the self is critical, for one must be in a good frame of mind to be able to offer support, love, and kindness towards others.  After this feels natural and comfortable, you will be ready to offer loving-kindness towards others. Some suggest not sending it out to others until you have spent some time sending these positive thoughts to yourself.

The four types of people to send this meditation out to:

  1. Yourself
  2. A beloved person in your life
  3. A person that you may be currently having a challenge or difficulty with
  4. A neutral person that you barely know. (ex. a salesperson in a store, mail carrier)

Starting with the self and then systematically sending loving-kindness from each person in the above order will have the effect of breaking down the barriers between yourself and others.

Say the words silently or out loud if you choose. For each person, recite the full meditation 3 times. Picture each person, including your own self, in your mind’s eye right in front of you as you send them loving kindness.

The words of the meditation:

(For the self, say ‘I’ and for the others, change to ‘You’)

 

May I/You be filled with loving kindness.

May I/You be well.

May I/You be peaceful and at ease.

May I/You be happy.

—S&B

January~ 10 Tips to a Stress-Free New Year!

I am excited to begin the new year with a monthly blog for my readers and website visitors! I look forward to sharing my tips each month with you to help you lead a more balanced, stress-free (or at least stress-managed!) life. With the holidays behind us and the new year ahead a blank slate, now is the time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and adapt a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress, these tips will help you cope with the stressors you face and live a more peaceful life.

1. Check Your Breath

  • Check in with your breathing and take note.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where do you feel the breath traveling within your body?
  • Start by simply developing an awareness of how your breath feels.

2. Balloon Belly

  • Inflate the belly slowly as if you were expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • SLOW down your exhalation as you deflate this ‘balloon’. This is the key to getting more deeply relaxed and immediately calming the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • After a few deep, even belly breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed.

3. Tense/Relax

  • Hold tension in your fists and all the way up your arms for a few moments.
  • Slowly release the tension gradually until there is no tightness being held.
  • Do the same thing with your feet, legs, and then your buttocks. Feel the muscles contract and then release.
  • Scrunch all of the facial muscles inward and hold. Then release.

4. Lavender Up!

  • The essential oil lavender is one of the most calming scents and several studies demonstrate how our sense of smell can have an effect on our moods.
  • Dab a few drops of this relaxing scent to your pulse points on your wrist and on the sides and back of your neck. Rub it between your hands and inhale this calming, soothing scent. Or place on the bottoms of your feet if you are having trouble falling asleep.

5. Make a Statement

  • Inwardly state what you want to achieve whenever you feel stressed, tense, or overwhelmed. In a sense, you are replacing a negative thought with a positive one.
  • For example, if a defeating, overwhelming thought creeps up, replace it with ‘I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.’ Remember, what we think becomes our reality so state what you want positively and work towards that goal.

6. Visualize Your Outcome

  • Like an athlete who visualizes the perfect golf shot, free throw, or home run before they even approach the ball, visualize a positive outcome of what you want in to occur when faced with an immediate stressor.
  • See the obstacle being overcome and how it would look and feel in your life when that happens.

7. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research has been shown demonstrating the positive effects of having gratitude and thankfulness in one’s life. Even in the face of the most difficult moments, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Gratitude doesn’t only have to be practiced once a year at Thanksgiving anymore! Families can also benefit by individually expressing gratitude at every shared meal together.

8. Get Moving!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike ride, do yoga… just MOVE! Exercise is a proven way to increase the endorphins in our brain and people who exercise regularly benefit from a more positive mood and a lower rate of depression.

9. Laughter Therapy

  • Read a funny book, watch a funny TV show or movie, or even engage in spontaneous laughter. Seek a Laughter Yoga class for this type of laughter. Not only is it enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and bring balance to the immune system, as well.

10. Pocket Journal

  • Keep a small notepad with you and pull it out if your thoughts are overwhelming you and you are experiencing tension.
  • Without deciding in advance what you will write, write whatever comes to you at the moment in a freestyle way.

All of these tips and techniques can be a healthy arsenal of tools to use when we face challenging moments in our lives and experience stress, tension, worry, anxiety. Use the ones that work best for you. The breath, however, is on one of the most immediate ways to calm us down in the face of immediate stress. It has been said that it is virtually impossible to have an anxiety/panic attack when one breathes in this way. Learning to breathe in an optimal way can help us cope with stress and facilitate greater health and well-being within our lives.

–S&B