breathing

Pause, Breathe, Be

Photo by  Fabian Møller  on  Unsplash

In this fast-paced world, with all the expectations, deadlines, and responsibilities, how can we possibly find a spare second to stop and take a breath?  Between cramming for mid-terms, preparing our taxes for that dreaded date of April 15th, and making sure that all of our daily duties are complete - it can be rough trying to actually thrive, rather than merely survive.  How many of our daily interactions are missed because we become so focused on our to-do lists and “what if’s”? Ask yourself, when was the last time that you actually stopped to notice that little gecko scurrying across the sidewalk or that peach tree flowering it’s first bloom of the season?  I know someone out there is thinking, “give me 10 more hours in my day, then I could potentially think about paying attention to those little things.” In reality, though, would those 10 extra hours really give you the time to take in these things, or would you just find other tasks, worries, and duties to fill you time with?

Believe me, I get it!  Life is demanding and there are always things that need to get done – but at what sacrifice?  We run and run and run, hoping that all of our hard work pays off in the end yet we continue to struggle in even seeing a glimpse of that so-called “pay off.”  In turn, we develop resentment – resentment against ourselves, others, our jobs, our pets, our kids, our bills, and anything else that we can point a finger to.  All the while, we’re allowing ourselves to fall deeper and deeper into our own pit of yuck. I don’t know about you, but this is definitely a cycle that I don’t enjoy.

Even though we can’t always change our responsibilities or tasks, we can certainly alter they way in which we respond to them.  One question that I’ve found to be helpful is, “will the world stop spinning if I don’t get this done right now?” Unless the task at hand is cutting the wire on the nuclear explosive device, the answer is usually no.  There is always time for us to stop and take a breath. Breathe, re-center, and refocus our energies onto the here and now. Those 10 seconds could mean the difference between a good decision and a bad one, a healthy response and a malicious one, or a smile and a frown.    

Allowing yourself to pull away from the ‘yuck’ of yesterday and the angst of tomorrow will afford you the opportunity to see and experience that which is right in front of you.  Challenge yourself to stop and breathe; take in the beauty that is surrounding you right here and right now. In not taking advantage of the present, the gifts that are right in front of us will soon become the disappointment of yesterday.  Just breathe...


LifeTip: Mind Over Matter

Photo by  Ben Sweet  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Ever heard of the phrase “mind over matter”? This phrase refers to our mind’s ability to conquer infinite limitations brought on by external factors - our environment, the situations we are in, the challenges we face, our interactions with difficult people, and even mental/emotional barriers we experience. The idea of our mind being able to conquer the challenges we often experience throughout our lives, sounds quite appealing; however, as powerfully resilient as our minds can be, they can also be equally as self-destructive.

Our brains are an extremely unique organ in our body. In therapy, we often talk about the connection between our mind and our body. We draw attention to the way our body reacts to our emotions, thoughts, situations we are in, etc. to provide us more information on our experience and how to respond to such reactions. In considering the idea of “mind over matter” we may target our thoughts as a point of reference to the mind-body connection.

For example, perhaps I notice I’m having the thought, “I’m never going to get all of this work done.” If I sit on this thought I may have a second thought, “I should be able to do this” ...and so on. These thoughts may bring on emotions such as anxiety and distress. I notice that I experience anxiety and stress as tension in my shoulders or feeling a “pit” in my stomach. In this scenario, my distressing thoughts affected the way my body reacts (i.e. muscle tension and pit in my stomach). This is one example of simply how much power our thoughts have over our bodies and our emotional experiences. Maybe you have had a similar experience with unhelpful thoughts. Sounds unpleasant, right? The good news: while our minds can be extremely powerful (in this example in a self-destructive way), they can also be quite powerful in moving us forward when we learn how to manage our thoughts.

Life Tip: It’s helpful to first practice observing your thoughts. What thoughts come up for you? Are they encouraging, discouraging, neutral? Are they facts? Are they based in reality or in your emotional experience? Once we practice observing our thoughts with a nonjudgmental stance, we can begin practicing strategies to manage the thoughts that are unhelpful or do not seem to serve us. We might first notice the thought and ask ourselves, “is this a helpful thought?” We are not necessarily challenging the accuracy of that thought, because in the moment it might feel real. It is likely more realistic to evaluate the helpfulness of a thought rather than its accuracy. Another strategy might be to simply notice the thought you’re having and create distance between yourself and that thought. For example, I notice that I’m having the thought, “I’m not going to get my work done.” This allows me to take a step back, simply notice the thought, and let it pass; rather than becoming that thought or allowing it to impact my emotional experience.

Always remember: Thought challenging strategies take practice! They might not work the first time, the second time, or even the third time - so try not to feel discouraged if you struggle to challenge distressing thoughts. When in doubt, refer back to some simple thought challenging tips:

    • Practice observing your thoughts, without judgement!

    • Ask yourself, “is this a helpful thought for me to have?” If the answer is no, move onto another more helpful and productive thought

    • Create distance between yourself and the distressing thought you observe - call a thought just that, a thought, and do not let it define you or your experience

    • Practice grounding techniques (i.e. deep breathing, 5 senses) when your thoughts get ahead of you and attempt to bring yourself back to a more emotionally neutral headspace


Mind over matter works for those who work on it. Believe in your ability to change your inner dialogue to be more helpful and productive!


LifeTip: Working Through the Chaos of the Holidays

The holidays are in full swing and you have made it past Thanksgiving. Congratulations! You hopefully have a moment, although probably brief, to breathe before the next big one, but the buildup may be starting to create anxiety. What do you do? There are several things that can help you get through it.

First, remember to breathe! Yes, people probably tell you this all of the time and it can sometimes make you want to scream. You breathe all of the time, your unconscious mind makes you do it. However, you can take some conscious control over it by slowing your breath down, which in turn will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (nerd alert!). All this means is that your body will put on the “brakes” and slow down, relax your muscles, and slow your heart rate. To slow your breath down, breathe in through your nose, count the number of seconds it takes you to inhale, breathe out through your mouth, and double the length of your exhale. Breathe in for four seconds, exhale for eight. One way to do that with less effort is to purse your lips together when you exhale—like you are trying to blow the flame of a candle without blowing it out. This is a great breathing exercise to try with the tiny humans in your life. Kids love to blow out candles, even the make believe kind!

Second, make a list. Having a million thoughts, ideas, and tasks that need to get accomplished can add to the anxiety. Write everything down, so they are no longer floating around in your head or popping up at the most inconvenient times like when you are in a meeting or reading a book to your child and you want to remain present with them. But you can never remember to bring the piece of paper or journal with you? Put it in your phone. Find whatever works best for you. When you finally have a moment, maybe at the end of your day, see which things you can cross off your list for the next day. Be careful not to schedule too many tasks in one day.

Third, make time for yourself. If you have to, put it on your list so that it becomes as much a priority as buying groceries. Maybe you are a parent and have a full-time job,or a student in the middle of finals, or just a person who feels like there is never enough time in the day. Take a shower at night when the kids are asleep, this could be your time and it may be only 5-10 minutes but it’s your time. Splurge on the fancy soap or the extra soft towel. Practice some mindfulness and appreciate your moment (See Huffington Post article link below for more ideas).

Fourth, get your body moving. There are so many benefits to exercise, but for anxiety, it can help you get all of that extra energy out, clear your head, and increase your endorphins. Again, where is the time? Go outside with your kids and run with them. On your lunch break, get a walk in for 15-30 minutes. Do an online yoga practice at home. Make it something you actually enjoy doing. Not another to-do list anxiety provoking task.

All of the ideas listed above are for you to try out and see what works for you. Everyone is different and handle situations differently, so please take what serves you and leave the rest behind. After all, the goal here is mindfulness and self care, not one more should. We are with you.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/meditation-in-action-5-tips-to-be-mindful_n_3253336.html