Posts In: stress

While most of us will arise from this pandemic with our wellness (or relative wellness) intact, few of us will be unchanged. If you know anyone who fears being infected with the Covid-19 virus, you know how scary it can be for them. My mother tested negative after a week of fever, fatigue and disorientation that resulted in a hospital stay. Waiting for the results, not being able to get tested, or wondering if you’ve been exposed all feel stressful.

Even the people I know who have been well during this time have altered their patterns, some significantly, like the business owners I know who have temporarily closed down. Others have gone for weeks without hugging family or friends, social interaction, or regular activities.

You may have experienced the fear of getting ill or losing loved ones. You might be feeling financial stress, unable to pay your bills, wondering whether you’ll have a job or business to which you can return. I also hear people talking about loneliness, boredom, and disappointment about lost opportunities like a birthday party for a family member, high school graduations, or a long planned vacation.

I too have experienced stress this last month. In addition to my mom’s illness and hospital stay, my brother died after battling brain cancer for three and half years. Not going back to visit my Indiana family was sad, but I knew it was the wise, right choice right now. My massage business is closed and my spouse’s business has been impacted. But with all of that I’m still well and hopeful. One of my lifesavers has been yoga.

My Yoga Survival Toolbox

I started practicing yoga in college to help reduce my stress. That has continued to be one of the things I love about my practice. Here are a few of the ways I use yoga to help me manage stress

Awareness: Sometimes when you’re going through a stressful time, yet you have stuff to do—a job to attend to, kids that now need to be homeschooled, meals to prepare, etc. you may bypass what you’re feeling. Sometimes paying attention can feel overwhelming or scary. Yet, noticing and acknowledging your inner world is crucial to shifting your inner landscape. You may not even realize how stressed you are until you pause to pay attention. Even that act may lessen your stress.

Breath. I use breath awareness throughout my day. When you’re under stress you may tend to hold your breath or to breath more shallowly. That triggers your body to stay in stress mode. When you learn to shift your breathing to that of a more relaxed state, even if you don’t feel relaxed at first, you begin to alter your nervous system. 

I recommend a breath practice that makes use of a longer exhalation, say an eight count exhalation to a four count inhalation, at bedtime. Try making it a habit before you fall asleep. It will help you downshift your nervous system making it easier to enter a deep and restful sleep.

Poses: I choose poses to support how I want to feel on a given day. Somedays I need to move so I might do more active standing poses. Other days I know I need the relaxation so I pick a slower paced yoga, maybe not even getting off the floor. I don’t have an expectation of what I’ll be doing when I sit on my mat. I refer to step one above and check in to find the most appropriate practice for me that day.

When determining your repertoire, consider spinal twists. There are lots of twists to choose from–seated, standing, on your back, and even on your belly. All will help you reduce stress and support healthy digestion which can become imbalanced during challenging times.

Yoga deserves its long standing reputation as a stress reduction tool. Simple, powerful, and effective. I invite you to experiment with these tools and see if they help you as much as they’ve helped me.

If you want to join me for live streaming yoga I’ve got two classes I’m offering right now on a pay what feels right basis. If funds are tight, join us for free.

I’m also offering private streaming yoga if you’d like a more individualized approach.

Holiday Sanity?

December 9, 2018
holiday-wreath


How’s your holiday season ramping up? A few years ago I ran into a yoga teacher I know and we talked about the stress of the holidays. I mentioned that next year I would be doing things differently by choosing fewer things to participate in. Her response? “But by next year you’ll forget.” 

Was she right? I made a pact with myself right then not to forget. I’ve always felt like at the time of year when we naturally want to hibernate, when the days are darker, when our natural rhythm invites us to be more internal, we plan even more gatherings. I decided to be really selective and choose only a couple events each December. 

This year I’m going to Regina, a local sound healer’s event on December 21. Then on Christmas morning my partner and I are volunteering at an event that brings breakfast and some essential items like socks, garbage bags, and flashlights to the local homeless population. That’s it. 

Want to know the other thing that created ease in my holidays? A few years back my sister lived in London and even though I sent my packages weeks ahead she didn’t receive them until after the holidays. In fact, she didn’t receive any of the gifts from my family in time. I felt terrible. The next year I mailed my gifts a month ahead. If I was going to get hers in the mail I might as well send the rest of my families gifts at the same time. 

That was the most restful December I’d had in years. It worked so well that, even though my sis now lives in Washington D.C. area, I’ve continued the tradition. My gifts were in the mail by November 26 this year. I’m not telling you this to pat myself on the back. I find plenty of ways to stress myself out. But I’ve gotten good at keeping the holidays restful and special. 

My challenge to you? Take one minute right now and list the one thing that’s most important to include in your holiday season.  Then take another minute to make a note of some obligation you can let go of. I bet there’s at least one. You really don’t have to attend that staff party you hate or make cookies for the exchange or do the secret Santa thing. Unless you really want to. Be mindful about what would feel good to you. 

By the way, I have two remaining spots in my February Purposeful Yoga Retreat in Mexico. It would make a great holiday gift, don’t you think? You can get the details here. 

stressed woman

 

Overwhelm. It’s a word I hear a lot from clients and potential clients. Maybe you’ve experienced overwhelm at some point. That sense of having what feels like an impossible number of tasks on your to-do list. Or feeling like something too big to handle, too painful to live with entered your life.

When you experience overwhelm your nervous system gets triggered. Your muscles tighten. Your blood pressure amps up. You start to feel unsafe, perhaps a little irritable. You might even shut down.And with all of that you become less productive and more inefficient.

Before Strategy and Ohming

I’ve been in overwhelm and I know the last thing you want to do is take a break to hash over the situation. After all, you have a pile of stuff with your name on it and, tick tock, time keeps moving. In fact your adrenal glands, detecting danger, have shot out a nice dose of chemicals to help keep you moving.

Before you start to solve the problem of overwhelm, before you decide that yes, meditation is your ticket to calm or that you really should stop procrastinating, you have to decide IF your overwhelm is a problem. 

What if the sensations you’re feeling are actually a blessing? What if overwhelm is really your inner wisdom come calling?

What Would the Dalai Lama Do?

I remember having a quick conversation back in the mid-90’s with one of the counselors at the wellness center at which I worked. The conversation was quick because that’s all I had time for. I was busy, yes, overwhelmed with all that was on my plate.

I was a massage therapist with a full time busy practice, teaching yoga plus an occasional non-yoga class. And I was living life, taking care of a home, navigating a new relationship, etc. This counselor told me a story about the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if it’s true, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The story went like this. The Dali Lama was being advised of his schedule for the day, which was especially full. The advisor suggested maybe His Holiness should shorten his meditation time. The Dali Lama, being extra wise and lama like, said he would instead increase his mediation time.

I heard the message and started to look at my reasons for cutting back self-care to finish the “really important and necessary” stuff on my to-do list.

That story stuck with me. Now when I get tempted to do more or to shorten my workout or meditation time I do my best to listen to the message of my overwhelm rather than pushing through it to more action.

Signposts

I don’t think overwhelm is a bad thing. Nor do I think it is always about procrastination or being disorganized or inefficient. In fact, I think it is a blessing (even though it can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.)

Being in overwhelm tells you that something is off. It’s worth pausing and making space to discover what underlies your particular brand of overwhelm.

Here are a few possible nuggets I find lurking in my own and my clients’ overwhelm.

  • Self-esteem issues
  • People pleasing
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues
  • Fear
  • Money issues
  • Distraction from what’s really important
  • Not enough information

Of course coaching is one option to getting your arms around overwhelm. So is a retreat. But there are lots of ways to handle overwhelm. I’d love to know your go-to solutions.

I didn’t take a single day off for rest and renewal during my first year of full-time self-employment. Even though I loved my new profession, my clients, and being my own boss I ended up depleted.

At the end of that year I treated myself to a week at a yoga workshop in Mexico. The first three days while everyone else body surfed or walked the beach I sat in a hammock and stared at the ocean. You know, that kind of vacant, not very bright staring. It was all I could do.

From that hammock I vowed to never again let myself get that depleted.

Why no vacation for me?

Because I was afraid I wouldn’t make it without a paycheck. Now I know that being successful (in my business and my life) means I must take regular time away from work.

This year I rested, swam, and paddle boarded in Troncones, Mexico for a couple of weeks, added some vacation days to a conference trip to Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, and spent a week with family in the midwest.

But those weren’t my only renewal periods. I highly recommend mini breaks in addition to longer times away. Yesterday I took advantage of a break between clients to walk to a local park and play on the swings. It was our last day of sunshine for months and kids were in school so I had my choice of swings.

Do you need a get away?

The best time to plan your get away is before you’re stressed and crabby, before you have to push yourself through your days, before you find yourself doing anything but work.

But, hey, if you’ve let yourself get depleted as I was and ocean staring is not in your near future, consider an emergency mini-retreat.

And if you need further enticement here are a few more benefits of time away from work.

  • Stress reduction
  • Enhanced job performance
  • Increased creativity
  • Improved physical and mental health

A day off to hike or read a novel, a day trip to a local day spa, a girls night out…  What renews you?

 

 

 

 

Ready to Get Aligned & Thrive?

Be in the know. Articles, videos, upcoming events...