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

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Stressing Less and Living Healthier in the New Year

With the holidays behind us and the New Year ahead, now is the perfect time to learn new techniques to keep stress at bay and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Since it is impossible to avoid stress completely, the following tips will help you cope with your stress and welcome in a peaceful 2019.

1   Breathe Deeply

  • Develop an awareness of your breath.
  • Are you holding your breath? Is your breath shallow? Where is the breath traveling within your body?
  • Inflate the belly slowly as if expanding a balloon inside of it.
  • Slow down your exhalation as you deflate this “balloon.” This is the key to becoming more relaxed and calming your nervous system.

2   Start Your Day with an Intention

  • State what you want to achieve or accomplish when you wake up each morning. You may do this silently or say it out loud!
  • Replace any negative, worrisome thoughts with this positive statement.
  • For example, “I am calm, relaxed, and my life is in balance.” Remember, whatever we think becomes our reality so state what you want in a positive way.

3   Visualize a Positive Outcome

  • Like an athlete visualizes his golf shot or free throw before approaching the ball, picture a positive outcome of what you want to happen when faced with a challenge.
  • Imagine yourself overcoming the obstacle and paint a picture in your mind of how it will look and feel in your life when it manifests.

4   Embrace an Attitude of Gratitude

  • Research shows that expressing our gratitude each day has a positive effect on our health and well-being.
  • Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for in your life as each day begins.
  • Experience the healing, de-stressing benefits of gratitude as you practice this technique. Families can benefit by individually expressing gratitude at shared meals together.

5   Lavender Up

  • Research has shown that scents can dramatically alter our mood, and lavender is known to be one of the most calming and soothing scents.
  • Lavender comes in all forms- soap, bubble bath, candles, etc. I highly recommend purchasing a quality grade of pure lavender essential oil.
  • Inhale the scent as you open the bottle.
  • Place a few drops on your wrist and/or neck. You can also place lavender on the bottoms of your feet to aid with sleep.

6   Get Movin’!

  • Walk, dance, swim, run, bike, do yoga… just get moving.
  • Exercise has been proven to increase endorphins and people who exercise benefit greatly from a more positive mood and lower rate of depression.

  Laugh a Little… or A LOT!

  • Read a funny book or watch your favorite sitcom or comedy. Not only is laughing enjoyable, but it also has aerobic benefits.
  • When we laugh, we release stress-relieving hormones and balance our immune system.

8   Collect a Good Tribe

  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
  • Distance yourself from individuals who drain your energy and feel obligatory in nature.

~These tips and techniques will equip you with a healthy arsenal of tools to use when you are faced with stressors. The breath, in particular, is one of the most immediate ways to calm yourself down in the face of immediate stress. Learning to breathe deeply will help you cope with stress and facilitate better health and well-being in your life. Take a deep breath and say hello to a healthy 2019!

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year!

-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!

December~ Dread-Free and Joy-ful Holiday Parties

Holiday parties, whether shared with family or co-workers, can be a great time to celebrate the holiday season with the people closest to us. It can also be a time of great dread for many people who have challenging family dynamics or work environments. I asked a few people questions about what their concerns are when they think about attending a holiday party, and decided to write this month’s blog in a Question and Answer format with the 3 biggest concerns- food, family, and frolicking- being the focus.

Q: What should I do if I am trying to cut back on calories and I know that I will be tempted to eat and drink more indulgent foods?

A: This is a huge concern to many people who admit to packing on the pounds during the holiday season. A few suggestions are to not arrive at the party hungry, but have a light, healthy snack first. Another idea is to watch your alcohol consumption. Whereas it feels festive and even a bit relaxing to hold a glass of wine or a cocktail while meandering around the room, drinking too many too quickly is a recipe for disaster both for your waistline and for your behavior! Try to have a large glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. Enjoy a spritzer with lime instead- far less sugary calories. When choosing food at the buffet, go for the healthier options if they exist- and avoid carbs, sugars, and dairy if possible. If asked to bring something to eat to add to the mix, instead of baking your favorite brownies, opt for a healthy salad or veggies and dip platter so that you know at least one thing there will be healthy! Our local Bunco group got into the Whole 30 Diet plan. For the past few months, we all have been bringing healthier options to our ordinarily unhealthy spreads. We all have realized we enjoy the food so much and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, so we have made this a permanent plan.

Q: I have a family member (or co-worker) who I know will be at the party and is very toxic to me. I can’t avoid them, but I get stressed just realizing I will be in the same room as them. What can I do?

A: Unfortunately, not every guest at the party will evoke a wonderful, positive vibe, though it would be fantastic if that were the case! Almost everyone experiences this dynamic with both work and family gatherings. The pre-party ritual is key. Before leaving the house, take a few deep breaths, center yourself, and imagine a light of protection around you. Have an inner mantra of ‘I am going to fully enjoy this gathering with all the wonderful people in my life’. Young Living Oils makes a wonderful essential oils blend called White Angelica. It is a combination of 10 essential oils said to create a positive atmosphere, inspire feelings of security, and shield us from negative energies. I make a ritual to dab a few drops of this soothing and protective oil on myself while inwardly centering myself and protecting my own energies before walking into a more challenging situation. Instead of focusing on the 1 or 2 potential energy drainers, try and focus on the other wonderful friends and family that will be there.

Q: I have social anxiety and I am not good with small talk.

A: Not everyone can be the life of the party and talk effortlessly with others. It is important to be honest with yourself in admitting this. Most people love a great listener and many people enjoy talking about themselves, so that makes it a great idea to ask people questions. Think of some conversation starters in advance, but it’s probably wise to avoid the social taboo topics of politics and religion, as that can be divisive. Less controversial would be asking about upcoming vacation destinations or holiday plans. When stuck in the dreaded ‘dead-end conversation’ where you are running out of things to talk about, try and bring someone else into the conversation. Taking breaks and walking to a quiet place, if possible, can help recharge you, also. My husband and I talk about this dynamic often, as I typically am more comfortable making small talk and I am fine with large gatherings, where he prefers intimate 1:1 conversations. We try to support each other and not have unrealistic expectations for the other person.

~Hopefully these tips will ease your stress level when faced with your annual holiday party and allow you to sail into the holiday season with a renewed sense of excitement and joy… AND your favorite jeans will still fit after New Year’s!

Happy and Healthy Holiday Wishes From my Family to Yours.

-S&B

 

 

 

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

 

August~ Stress-Free Back to School Tips

With summer coming to and end and vacations, sleepovers, and homework-free evenings behind us, angst can creep up on both parents and children. The unknown expectations and demands of a new class, or even a new school, can contribute to this sense of anxiety as we mourn the loss of our carefree summers and transition into the new school year. Preparing for this can empower you as a family to openly embrace this new beginning and all its possibilities with open arms.

1-Change Sleep Patterns

Many of us have gotten used to not setting an alarm clock and allowing ourselves to sleep in and stay up later at night. The early bus and carpools will soon put an end to that! Rather than wait until the last minute and see your child off to school in a daze, start to go to bed and wake up earlier a week or 2 before school begins.

2-Model Positivity

Show your children excitement about the new school year and all of its possibilities. Kids pick up on their parents’ attitudes and emotions, so if you are showing dread or angst about this, your child will likely feel the same. Be the family cheerleader!

3-Belly Breathing Techniques

Healthy breathing is one of the most effective tools to manage stress and/or anxiety. Practice this technique with your children and notice how you and your kids will be much well equipped to manage stress in a healthier way.

  • Bring your hands to your belly and focus on your breath coming in and out of your nose.
  • As you inhale, imagine that you are slowly inflating a balloon into your belly, expanding your belly outwards.
  • Now slowly exhale as if you were gradually releasing the air from that balloon (belly). Feel your belly come in when you do so.
  • Repeat several times, focusing on the inhalations and exhalations remaining smooth, deep and even.

*When practiced properly, this technique relaxes the muscles of the body, calms the nervous system, and relaxes the mind.

4-Prepare vs. Procrastinate

Instead of scrambling around at the last minute early in the morning when racing the clock, lay out clothing, pre-pack lunches, and make sure homework is done and put away the night before. Showering or bathing the night before is equally timesaving. By doing these few things, you can take the time to have a healthy breakfast together and see your children go off to school in a more relaxed manner.

5-Open Communication

Years ago, when my daughters were school age, we had a wonderful ritual I would like to share and encourage others to adopt. When they came home from school, we went to the ‘talking couch’ together and my girls shared the best & worst parts of their day. If something was wrong, they vented and if something was right, we celebrated! The bottom line is to keep the doors of communication open between you and your children, so that they know they have an ally to help them navigate the ins and outs of their educational career.

~Have a wonderful re-entry into school this year and practice managing stress and anxiety together by carving out some healthy moments to breathe, relax, and communicate together as a family.

 

-S&B