Browse Category: Healing

One Way to De-Stress: Toning

They say stress kills.

Studies are actually proving this is true; a recent study of cancer patients shows that stress reduction may prolong lives. We know that prolonged exposure to stress can cause vascular, cardiac, endocrine, and brain function changes. When the body is under stress — whether physical, emotional or perceived — it releases hormones like adrenaline that are responsible for the fight or flight response.

The immediate physical reaction includes:
• Increased Heart Rate
• Accelerated Breathing
• Constriction of Blood Vessels in Some Areas and Dilation of Blood Vessels to Muscles
• Dilation of Pupils
• Hearing Loss
• Tunnel Vision
• Perspiration to Cool the Body

While these responses were once helpful to keep us alive during our evolution and gradual climb to the top of the food chain, they are not helpful in any way shape or form while running late for work, stuck in traffic, or just plain having a bad day. In fact, not only does long-term exposure cause physiological damage, you can become addicted to the chemicals released during periods of stress, thus creating a cycle that’s difficult to break.

Long-term effects of exposure to stress can range from weakened immune system to major cardiac events. It has even been proven to cause visible signs of aging.

Everyone has a different response to stressors in their life. What may put you on edge might be a slight annoyance for me. Knowing what your major stressors are and learning to mitigate your reaction both emotional and physiological will play a major role in your overall well-being and happiness.

Photo courtesy Wiertz Sébastien via Flickr
Photo courtesy Wiertz Sébastien via Flickr

One quick way to immediately reduce your stress response is to place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Almost instantly you become aware of your breathing. Now focus on moving your breathing from your chest down into your belly. Breathe slowly, comfortably and evenly for at least 5 to 10 breaths. Then once you’re sure you are belly-breathing, remove the hand from your belly and with the remaining hand on your chest take another deep breath and exhale while saying “aaah.” You really want to take that sound into your chest and do your best to vibrate your hand.

This is called toning. The majority of my clients report a 50 percent reduction in their SUDS (Subjective Units of Distress Scale) immediately.

How to Make Decisions

magic8ballEeny-meeny-miny-moe, using a pendulum, consulting a psychic, or a personal favorite, waiting until there weren’t any other options remaining. All of these are perfectly valid ways to help you make a decision or a choice. None of them are based on any science or valid, reasonable adult behaviors.

For anyone who has ever had lunch with me you were acutely aware of the fact that selecting an entree could be as painful for me as Sophie’s Choice. I never understood why it was so difficult for me to make decisions – it just always has been. For as long as I can remember I have done my best to wait until I was all out of options in order to make a choice. Decision by default. That was how I ran my life.

In my line of work, this is not healthy behavior. I had always known it was unhealthy but until I began working with other people on their issues surrounding choice and decisions, I wasn’t anywhere near ready to begin looking at my own issue. I did several exercises and I consulted other experts in my field. I still wasn’t getting anywhere with my issue. It wasn’t until I spent some time in quiet meditation that the answer came to me.

Making decisions makes me feel, regardless of what I choose, that I am ultimately missing out on something. Deprivation was the theme; I felt I was going to be deprived of something by choosing something else. It was easier for me to take something when there were no other options remaining because then I wasn’t missing out on anything. In retrospect, I understand these are really flawed beliefs that are managing my thinking. Ultimately I was missing out on a lot.

Over the years I have found the best way to actually make a decision comes in the next five simple tips:

1. Commit to thinking — This means you need to spend time thinking about thinking about what it is you’re trying to decide. Set aside specific time and that is all you focus on. This brings your rational brain into action.

2. Separate your emotions — Our conscious thoughts are only a minute fraction of what’s going on in our brains at any given time. Your brain is taking in thousands of bits of
information every second from monitoring your blood pressure and heart rate to how the
air temperature feels against your exposed skin. All this information creates a feeling
within you, and this feeling translates as your emotions. Make sure you’re in a good place
emotionally to be making a decision.

3. Don’t think under pressure — Pressure, whether external or internal, can create a false sense of crisis. Rarely are we truly in crisis. With adrenaline pumping and the pressure on, we start bringing emotions back into the mix. Take a breath and walk away if you can. Most times you can come back to make a decision.

4. Challenge your beliefs — I can’t tell you how many times in the corporate environment
I heard these words: “But we’ve always done it this way.” Just because something has
always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the right way to continue doing it.
Circumstances change, people change, beliefs change and shouldn’t your decision-making evolve as well?

5. Let it go — Take a walk, read a book, take a nap or simply get your head out of the game. I know this sounds contrary to what I was discussing earlier. However, I am not suggesting you do this until there are no options left. Often, moments of insight arrive when your attention is taken off of the decision you’re trying to make.

The Art of Relaxation

This past summer while wandering through a gift store at a local resort, my husband and I came across a book called “The Art of Doing Nothing.” My husband immediately picked up the book, handed it to me, and asked, “Did you write this?” He thought he was being funny; I laughed because I actually could have written it.

My darling husband and I are two very different people. He is a hummingbird, a workaholic, and always on the go. I on the other hand am either going 100 miles an hour or I’m stopped. There is no in between for me; balance is something I strive for. I’m all about extremes, and I always have been.

When I say my husband is a hummingbird I probably should refer to him as a shark. If he stops moving I’m pretty sure he thinks he’ll die. I can spend an entire Sunday in bed with a good book, a rainy day on the sofa in front of the fireplace, or lose hours in front of the television with a season’s worth of DVR programming. My husband simply can’t imagine doing nothing for the sake of doing nothing. Even on vacation he brings work for his downtime. He swears his way of relaxing is getting stuff done. The only times I can recall him sitting and doing nothing in the 19 years of our marriage was on two occasions: the first was the worst flu either of us had ever had, and the second was after foot surgery. Both times he was stuck on the sofa in the living room with nothing to do. The longer he sat doing nothing, the grumpier he got.

So as he asked if I had written that book, I was thinking perhaps he should read it.

Photo courtesy RelaxingMusic via Flickr
Photo courtesy RelaxingMusic via Flickr

For the rest of you out there who think you’re sharks and have to keep moving, let me give you five suggestions for simply doing nothing. I highly recommend it.

• Meditate — My husband thinks meditation is a euphemism for taking a nap. Frequently, I will admit, my meditation does end in a nap. Truthfully, I like the quiet time with me. It helps me get my thoughts together and puts me in a place where I can be more productive.

• Nap — research has shown that a 20-minute nap can actually reduce the risk of a heart attack. My argument here is that I’m doing my cardio. In all seriousness, many cultures consider siesta part of a normal day. Most of us are in communication 24-7, few of us get eight hours of sleep a night. Getting a nap will give you more energy and leave you feeling much better.

• Light a fire — Fireplace, fire pit, or a simple candle; the mere act of gazing into a flame will empty even the most cluttered minds. It’s almost instant relaxation. In Southern California where I live, I am guilty of actually having the air-conditioning on with a fire in the fireplace.

• Stargazing — Most of us live in areas where city streetlights inhibit our ability to stargaze, but that shouldn’t stop you. Get a blanket and go outside. Early morning, midday or nighttime – it doesn’t matter. Gazing up at the sky puts things in perspective. You begin to realize what a tiny role you play in the whole of everything. Often, even your problems don’t seem quite as big.

• Doodle — The act of putting pen to paper for no other purpose than to mark upon it is incredibly freeing. So much of our day – my day at least – is spent writing, corresponding, responding, texting, twittering and the like. To simply doodle is indulgent. It is relaxing. It is truly the art of doing nothing.

The truth is, relaxing really is doing something. You are lowering your blood pressure and your heart rate, reducing stress hormones, and ultimately doing something very healthy. We all live lives that have us going day in and day out. It’s important to find 15 to 30 minutes a day to do nothing, and to simply relax. Ultimately you’ll be happier, healthier and may even live longer.