SPRING Ahead- and Don’t FALL back!

When we think of spring, we generally think of things coming back to life- a little rain, a lot of blooming, and an overall fresh, new beginning. We may even set out to clean and organize our closets, yards, kitchens, or our offices. While we are at it, why not take some time and spring-clean our own selves- mind, body, and spirit? What’s good for the household is great for the psyche.

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

1 Take 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.

2 Consider 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. Lately, I have taken up the healthy habit of juicing! I enjoy starting my day off with a fresh squeezed glass of celery juice before eating or drinking anything. Not only are there many benefits to my body in doing so, but it also sets the tone for being mindful about the rest of the food I eat and drink throughout the day. http://http://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/10-health-benefits-of-celery-juice

3 Organize 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. If the idea of organization sets you into a frenzy, consider looking into a company that does this for you. It may be worth the investment to have a professional get you on the right track and learn a more organized way of living.

4 Say 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. Also, it’s revealing to look into why we are holding onto these unhealthy relationships. Do a little soul searching and get to the bottom of the root cause of this.

Recently, a friend told me that she tends to hold onto friends that are hurtful to her because that was a dysfunctional family pattern and she is ‘used to’ this type of abuse. Once she recognized this all-familiar yet very destructive pattern, she saw the need to change it and seek healthier friendships.

5 Stop 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.

6 Daily Centering
Notice I did not use the word meditation here? Though I love the practice of meditation, and if you already do have a daily practice, by all means continue to do so, I have noticed that this word can be intimidating to many people. So many clients come to me and say, ‘I tried to meditate but I couldn’t clear my mind.’ The good news- it is impossible to clear our minds so if you feel this way, recognize that you haven’t failed.

When working with clients, I help them get into a daily practice of breathing, relaxing, and visualizing a daily intention each and every day. Being mindful in this way and having a focus for the way you set your day to unfold is tremendously empowering. On my website in the products section, you will see my Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxation, and Visualizations. These are also available via streaming (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc.) Beginning the day with my 5-minute breath guidance is so beneficial in this centering process. I also highly recommend ending the day with this and any of my other relaxations/visualizations before going to sleep; many people who struggle with insomnia have told me it has been a game changer for them and is now a nightly routine, as well. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

Let the spring-cleaning of your mind and body last more than a season; let it last a lifetime. (And don’t FALL back!)

-S&B

*Want to post a comment? I welcome your feedback! Scroll to the top and click on article title to do so. Thank you for reading!

From Fearful to Fearless– Conquering FEAR

We may be conditioned to believe that fear is a negative reaction, a weakness, or ‘in our heads’. In actuality, fear can be a good thing. It can be a natural response to a physical danger. We inherited this response from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Imagine if they had not reacted in fear when an animal was chasing them. Where would be today? Would we even BE here today?

Fear stimulates the hypothalamus in our brain, which leads to the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal cortex releasing the stress hormone cortisol to prepare our bodies for danger. This physical reaction in our bodies can lead to sweating, shaking, and many times feeling a tingly sensation in our limbs, which stems from the blood leaving them and pumping to our hearts. As our heart rate accelerates and our breathing becomes more rapid, like a hunter, our vision narrows as our body prepares for fight or flight. We are preparing for this fear sometimes before we even realize it. As much as we might sometimes like to rid ourselves from these unpleasant sensations, fear is part of our innate survival kit.

Fear can also be falsely created or highly exaggerated, such as fear of darkness, spiders, loneliness, or fear of leaving our house. When the threat is nonexistent or greatly exaggerated our fears can turn into phobias. For example, if you get sweaty palms and feel shaky before a shot, you are most likely fearful. However, if you choose not to get the shot, your fear now becomes a phobia. There is a great acronym of unknown origin about fear. F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real. Though the fear appears real, there may be no tangible fear present, though it may feel that way. This perceived fear creates anxiety, worry, phobias, and avoidance.

Since anxiety is the precursor to fear, one of the best ways to help curb our fears is to deal with the underlying anxiety surrounding it. Four key ways to alleviate anxiety and fear are:

1- Healthy Belly Breathing with a 2:1 Breathing Pattern.

Healthy breathing involves breathing deeply into your belly and not taking shallow breaths into your upper chest. The exhalation is the part of the breath that relaxes you; so adopting a 2:1 breathing pattern is tremendously helpful in a fearful situation.

In 2:1 breathing, you will exhale twice as long as you inhale. So if you normally inhale to the count of 3, exhale to the count of 6.

If you aren’t sure how to breathe in the healthiest way, my website has a great explanation of healthy breathing. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/healthy-breathing

2-  Progressive Relaxation

Relaxation of your entire body is one of the most beneficial stress and anxiety reducing practices. With practice, this can be done on your own, but initially it is beneficial to listen to a progressive relaxation guidance. My Deep Relaxation Series has 2 of these- Full Body Relaxation and 61-Points Relaxation. http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products. Both of these involve traveling throughout the body and relaxing the entire body from head to toe. This is also a great practice to use when trying to fall asleep.

3- Visualization Techniques

A helpful visualization technique to use involves becoming aware of all of your senses. This technique is often used in fear-of-flying classes. To practice this technique, you simply bring your focus to each of your five senses and ask yourself what each of them perceives. This allows you to completely focus on the present moment and not let your mind take you to a fearful place.

4- Rationalization Exercises

Approach your fear with curiosity. Try and be a passive observer of your own mind and body as you ask yourself:

-Is what I am feeling real?

-What am I really afraid of?

-When do I feel this the most?

-How does this make me feel?

-What is the worst possible outcome?

-What is the best possible outcome?

These above techniques will activate the relaxation response in your body, which triggers your brain to secrete hormones that calm your mind and body. You have a choice in a fearful situation; to either ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Recover’. Hopefully you will empower yourself to not let FEAR cripple your life and hold you back, but to propel you forward to live your best life.

-S&B

 

June~ Get your ZZZ’s on- Breathing Away Insomnia!

Insomnia is one of the biggest frustrations that many people face night after night when trying to fall asleep. Many, if not most, of my clients often ask if there are any breathing techniques that can support sleep. The answer is a big resounding YES!

A former insomniac myself, I used these techniques to cure my own insomnia and have a healthier relationship with my mattress and pillow. I reluctantly admit to taking sleep medications for many years, until I began to fear their adverse side effects and went off of them nearly ten years ago. I can honestly say that it can be done- and doing so will be a much healthier choice if you are one of the nearly 9 million Americans relying on sleep medications to fall asleep.

Lack of sleep has a direct negative impact on your health, quality of life, safety, and job performance. Try these techniques and you will likely be off to dreamland.

Belly Breathing

Deep belly breathing is the first step in preparing for relaxation and sleep.

The way this is done: Bring your awareness to your belly and place your hands on your belly to feel the breath as it enters this area of the body. Imagine that you are slowly inflating a balloon into your belly. Just as slowly as you inhaled, slowly exhale as if you were gradually releasing the air from the balloon (i.e. your belly). Repeat several times, focusing on the inhalations and exhalations remaining consistently smooth, deep and even. When practiced properly, this technique relaxes the muscles of the body, balances the heart rate, provides a thorough exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, calms the nervous system and relaxes the mind.

 2:1 Breathing

Since the exhalation is the part of the breath that releases carbon dioxide and relaxes us, exhaling twice as long as you inhale can promote a more deeply relaxed state. This can also be helpful during moments of extreme stress or pain.

The way this is done: While you are doing deep, even belly breathing, try to get a count for how long you comfortably take an inhalation and an exhalation. For example, you may count 4 seconds when you inhale and 4 seconds when you exhale. Now, instead of exhaling the same duration as your inhalation, exhale TWICE as long. So if your comfortable inhalation is 4 seconds, you will then exhale twice as long- or 8 seconds.

8:16:32 Breathing

Another excellent way to fall asleep is actually an ancient eastern practice coming from yogic breathing techniques. It can be done while practicing deep, even belly breathing, or to maximize its potential, you can incorporate the 2:1 breathing above into this method.

The way this is done: While lying on your back, take 8 deep, belly breaths. Then turn onto your right side and double the amount- taking 16 deep, belly breaths. Then, turn onto your left side and take 32 deep belly breaths. Theoretically, you will fall asleep before you reach 32!

Additional Suggestions

-Prepare the room by making it as quiet and dark as possible.

-Essential oils can be tremendously supportive. Lavender is one of the most soothing, relaxing scents. Rubbing lavender on the bottoms of your feet and the back of your neck is a great way to induce relaxation and sleep. It is very gentle on the skin and rarely, if ever, causes irritations. Purchase a pure, therapeutic grade essential oil.

-If a ‘to-do list’ comes into your mind as you lay down to fall asleep, create a mantra-like saying to stop yourself from getting drawn in. For example ‘Now is sleep time; plans are for tomorrow.’

-Avoid electronics before going to sleep. Books and magazines are far more sleep inducing then technology, which inhibits falling asleep. Seek calming, wind-down activities instead of those that cause stimulation.

*If you aren’t certain if you are breathing in the healthiest way and would like to be guided through some deep breathing and relaxations to support sleep, you can find my Deep Relaxation Series- Guided Breathing, Relaxations, and Visualizations on iTunes or directly through my website on the Products page. You will soon be off to healthier living and sleeping in no time!

http://www.stopandbreathe.org/products

-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