Turn on Your Heart Light

With Valentine’s Day falling in the month of February, the word LOVE comes to mind. Likewise is that image of a heart, usually bright red; the cut-outs we made in school as children even come to mind. This also makes me think of the term ‘open-hearted’. I would like to dive more into what it actually means to have an open heart and how we even know whether ours is open our closed.

Yoga practitioners may have heard their instructors speak of the 7 chakras. For those readers who aren’t familiar with this term, chakras are the main energy centers within the body. Not only are they associated with certain body parts and bodily systems, but also each main energy center has associated physical ailments that can occur when these systems are out of balance.

From the 1st chakra comprising of the feet, legs, and lower spine all the way up the body to the 7th chakra at the very crown of the head, all of our body parts and systems fall into one of these 7 main energy systems. The 4th chakra, which is called the Anahata chakra in Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, is located in the center of the chest, where the ‘yogic heart’ lies. It comprises of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. It is an important energy center of the body as it is the center point between the upper and the lower chakras in our body. When we place are hands together in prayer position at the end of a yoga class and utter our ‘Namastes’, we are finding the perfect balance between our physical bodies- our lower 3 chakras-and our more ethereal or spiritual bodies – our upper 3 chakras.

Yoga and meditation teachers focus on ‘opening the heart’ in their teachings to their students. But what does this actually mean? For many people this area of the body may be blocked. Perhaps we have been hurt in a relationship and are protecting ourselves from diving into yet another.. When our heart chakra is blocked, we have difficulty with empathy, compassion, self-love or loving others. When we are open in this energy center of our body, we freely and openly can give and receive unconditional love and express loving compassion and empathy.

Our health can be adversely affected when our heart chakra is not open. Some of the ailments associated when our heart chakra is not in balance are asthma, lung disease, heart disease, and also diseases of the breasts. It can be difficult to let go of past hurts and to put ourselves in a vulnerable position when we fear potentially repeating this pattern, but holding back and feeling the negative emotions that correspond to this energy center of our body can be detrimental to our bodies and our spirits. Here are some suggestions to keep this energy center healthy and in balance.

Self-Love

Take care of the most important person in your life- YOU! When you look in the mirror don’t focus on your imperfections but see the beauty in the reflection staring back at you. Look into some meditations that focus on self- love and practice them in a quiet place.

Gratitude

Appreciate and honor the gifts in your life with a daily practice of expressing and being grateful for these gifts.

Forgiveness.

In my work with cancer patients throughout the years, I have witnessed many breakthroughs of my clients letting go of anger and forgiving- both themselves and others. Remember- Forgiveness isn’t about letting others off the hook, but about letting yourself off the hook.

Visualizing the Color Green

Each chakra also has a corresponding color within it. Green is the color of our heart chakra. Imagine a beautiful shade of jade green filling the center of your entire chest and within your heart and lungs as well. Holding a green stone – jade, aventurine, green calcite are great choices, when focusing on opening up this area of the body also magnify this intention. Although it is not green, rose quartz is also a wonderful 4th chakra stone said to open and heal this area of our body.

~This brief explanation into the chakra system and the importance of opening up our chakras is only the tip of the iceberg to what is called ‘energy medicine.’ If you would like to learn more, I highly recommend 2 books on this topic. Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss is one of my all time favorites. Listening to her audio book is a great way to learn. Also, The Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith is an equally comprehensive exploration into the 7 chakras of our bodies.

So turn on your heart light… and shine with love this month and always!

-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

 

 

July~ Get Cooler This Summer!

It’s that time of year where the temperatures are rising and we plan our outdoor activities around the sun’s most powerful rays. If you are determined not to let the heat stop you from your outdoor activities, here are a few suggestions to help you stay cool and beat the heat.

One of my favorites is an ancient yogic breathing technique called Sitali. Nowadays when people associate yoga with the word, ‘hot’, this may sound counterintuitive–A COOLING technique from yoga? Whether you practice yoga or not, this breathing technique is an excellent way to cool your body down from the inside.

1   Sitali- ‘Cooling Breath’

In addition to cooling the body, Sitali is said to do to curb hunger and thirst, improve bad breath, calm the mind, reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and promote a more relaxed state.

How To Practice Sitali:

  • Take a few deep, full belly breaths to start.
  • Open the mouth and bring your tongue out slightly.
  • Curl your tongue lengthwise
  • Inhale deeply through your curled tongue and into your mouth as if you are drinking in air through a straw
  • Close your mouth and hold the breath for a moment before exhaling deeply through your nostrils
  • Repeat for 5-10 breaths and you should begin to feel slightly cooler from within

*Note: If you are unable to curl the tongue in this way, you may bring your tongue out slightly between your lips and practice this breath technique in the same manner.

2   Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate

We all THINK we are drinking enough water, but many of us are not. The saying ‘When you are thirsty, it is often too late’ is true when it comes to hydration.

According to the Mayo Clinic, men should drink about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages per day in a moderate climate and women should drink about 9 cups (2.2 liters) per day. The key word here is moderate. When the temperatures are rising, and the heat becomes more extreme, the recommendation is to drink at least 16-24 ounces of water per hour. In addition to water, consider drinking coconut water or a sports drink with electrolytes for an added boost. Check the label and choose one without sugar, as sugar is dehydrating.

3  Foods that Hydrate

In addition to water, choose foods that are hydrating over others that dehydrate your body (ex. coffee, sugar, salt, alcohol).

  • watermelon
  • celery
  • cantaloupe
  • cucumber
  • grapefruit
  • tomatoes
  • carrots
  • greens
  • peppers

There are many other important ways to combat the rising temperatures, including seeking air-conditioning when the mercury is rising. Equally important is keeping our furry friends hydrated and cool. Remember that we have the luxury of wearing shoes on the burning pavement, but our dogs’ bare paws can burn and blister quickly. Consider purchasing booties to protect your dog’s paws. We recently purchased a pair for our dog, and though he needs time to practice walking in these, we got quite a bit of comic relief watching his first steps. Here’s to you finding ways to keep your cool this summer!

-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

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

 

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