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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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

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