In and out …
There’s your focus
There’s your calm
There’s your now.
Ok, so like all good practitioners worth their salt, I hit a wall and went and got myself a couple of new conditions to add to this physical body of mine. I feel like everything I've gone through physically and emotionally since becoming a naturopath has all made me a BETTER naturopath so I look at what I get as 'gifts'.
Gifts that will first help me take better care of myself and then I can help others going through something similar. So the gifts I'm talking about today are adrenal fatigue and an autoimmune disease. I am going to remain a bit cagey about the autoimmune disease until I have a proper handle on it because I want to be very clear on what to do about it and right now, all I know is that it can be greatly helped by getting the adrenal fatigue under more control so that's the focus right now. And basically the best way to do this is to lower stress levels and inflammation.
So I went to a health retreat for a week to re-set and I was reminded of so many things that had gone by the wayside since becoming a mum. I began to see quite clearly how my stress levels had risen to the point of having the stress hormone cortisol pumping around in my blood 24/7. I had waaaay more to do, more people to look after AND I was doing a lot less for the health of my nervous system than ever before. Of course my body was going to chuck a tanty!
So I wanted to pop these take home reminders of my week away in a blog so you can start to do some things at home to either a) prevent getting to the point of your body having a full blown tanty or b) start to heal that tanty your body is now chucking.
Are you with me? Let's GO!
The main thing I want to talk about is this place I am trying to inhabit a lot more...it's called the GREEN ZONE. It's where I am calm, my breathing is slow and I am in the moment. I'm responding instead of reacting. This zone is also known as the REST AND DIGEST ZONE. Because my body does not have adrenalin and cortiosl pumping through it means I am not shunting blood away from my internal organs and digestive system to my limbs ready to run from a tiger. So my food is being digested properly and all my internal organs have a lovely supply of oxygenated blood thankyou very much.
So the flip side to this GREEN ZONE is the RED ZONE. The zone, while sometimes necessary, is not somewhere I want to live. It's also called FIGHT OR FLIGHT. This is where I'm primed to react, run, escape from imminent danger (and for a lot of us that danger is 24/7 simply because we have too much going on).
So all my tips below will be tips to prevent you from going into the red zone more often and actually move you into the green zone if you have accidentally found yourself running from a tiger unnecessarily.
I can NOT stress this enough but you really can change your immediate physiology by focusing on your breath. Our breath is the anchor to keeping present. It is our reminder that we are here and we are alive in this moment and it gives us clues.
Are you holding your breath? Is it shallow and quick? Is it ragged?
These are all signs that you are in the red zone. All you need to do to move yourself back into that green zone is change your breathing. Yes. It really can be that simple.
A big slow breath (followed by more big slow breaths) will tell your body that you are not running. That you are in fact, relaxed! Diaphragmatic breathing (where you actually feel your tummy expand on the intake breath - pop your hands on your tummy if needed) releases a very calming neurotransmitter called GABA which tells your body that all is ok.
Cortisol recedes, adrenalin recedes, blood pressure goes down....yep, into the green zone you go! Now how can we remember to always check on our breath when we have gotten ourselves into a state?
Well I think prevention is always better than cure so bringing practices into your day that have you focusing on your breath is a must. Just by doing daily breath work, you are teaching your body to live more in the green zone so when it comes to those times when you are jumping into the red zone, you will be more practiced at using the breath to get out of there.
Which brings me to my next tips.
This is not just for skinny mini yoginis! Yoga is for everyone. I am overweight and I wear loose comfortable leggings and t-shirts and get just as much out of yoga as the people on instagram holding a pose that makes you wonder if they are in fact made of rubber!
For me yoga is all about the breath. My favourite part of yoga is setting aside that hour or so to just breathe deeply. That breath going to all parts of my body and calming it down. For busy people/mums/peeps who can just not switch off: yoga should be mandatory.
I don't even care if I can't do all the poses, just sending that breath everywhere and being totally present with my body is simply magical. It is also helping me be more flexible with my thinking as I use my breath to inch forward into places my body only slightly remembers.
Whatever you experience with your physical body will have a flow on effect to your emotional and mental bodies. And flexibility and pushing past comfort zones will change your life. Not even kidding. I did yoga daily at my health retreat and am now managing 4 classes a week in my 'real life'.
If you have been wondering, should I do it? Should I give it a go? Please, please, make today be the day you research it a bit more. Are there classes in your area? Can you download the Yoga Studio App and do it from home. I do recommend starting out with gentle classes - any with names like Yin or Restorative yoga as these will really help you with that breath work and calming down a stressed system.
Similar to Tai Chi, this is another beautiful way to work on your breath every day and I do it for 10 minutes a day when I wake up. It's a series of slow movements in time with some deep breaths. That's it.
You could do it while you are waiting for the kettle to boil or go barefoot onto a patch of grass in your garden, with the sun on your eyelids as you start the new day with some slow breaths. Have a look at some quick instructional videos on You Tube and see if you can incorporate this into your day.
And of course, any meditation help with practicing your breathing. It can also be just ten minutes you put aside to sit or lie with eyes closed focusing on your breath. You could use an app (Smiling Minds and Head Space are good) or you could simply count how long it takes to do an in breath and match your out breath to the same count.
See if you can slow that breath down to an intake breath lasting for a count of seven and then again on the out breath. Do this over and over and just keep bringing your mind back to the counting when it starts to wander (which it will always do - that's what it is designed to do, you just need to keep reminding it who is boss).
This is simply a practice of bringing yourself back into the present moment again and again and again. Our minds are everywhere and we are bombarded with so much on a daily basis. We just need to keep bringing ourselves back to the present moment.
Whenever I find myself snapping at the kids, it is often because I have gone away in my own head. I'm elsewhere and I feel like I'm being pulled back somewhere against my will when they ask me a question or are going too sloooow. This can be avoided by being present with my kids. Putting the phone away and not thinking about work. Just being here now. Just eating my food and not watching tv. Just doing the dishes and looking at how clean I am getting the plates. Just taking a shower and feeling the warm water on my body and really noticing how that feels.
FACT: Being present reduces anxiety and depression. It just takes some practice as we have gotten so good at thinking of something else while we are doing every task in our day and it takes a toll. If you feel anger, anxiety, overwhelm or stress rising, you are definitely not present in the moment, you are thinking of what could be going wrong in the future or what did go wrong in the past.
Just close your eyes and focus on your breath. Nothing brings you back to the present like your breath.
This is a great breathing/meditation exercise to do anytime. Even if you need to pop to the toilet just to remove yourself from kids/workmates/friends/family and become present again - Jin Shin Jyitsu breathing meditation
There is also a LOT we can do physically in terms of diet and supplements that we can do to help manage our stress as well as lifestyle choices like bedtime routines and technology management but I might leave that for another blog! I really want you to see if you can incorporate this stuff first. Even if it's just getting more aware of your breath and how you can make it work for you.
For those interested in using flower essences to help shift some stuck energy and have some tools at the ready to help you feel less stressed, the ones to look at are Help Blend (for anxiety, overwhelm and feelings of panic) Slow Down Blend (for impatience, rushing, finding it hard to be present) and Grounding Blend (great for adrenal support and helping you feel grounded and supported)
Let me know if you are already doing any of the practices I mentioned and how they work for you! I would love to hear from you in the comments. Or if you have any questions about any of this.
Let's do this together!
Yours in Health,