The Art of Allowing – When Everything is Topsy-Turvy

hands+candle2020 so far has been topsy-turvy for all of us. So much has changed, so much is uncertain. For some of us it’s disastrous in terms of income, housing and of course health. There is a wide spectrum between those most severely impacted and those who are affected in less extreme ways. But every single person is affected. As someone noted, “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re not in the same boat.”

We all intellectually understand that life is going to teach us some tough lessons. No one escapes sickness and death. Everyone is going to have challenges in their life to mold them into what they can become.

When we are faced with upheaval, we generally have two major approaches most of us take: the default of fighting and raging against it – or attempting to ride it out as best you can, knowing that there is an ebb and flow to life and that this situation is temporary, no matter how it feels right now. The latter usually involves letting go of the illusion of any control and working with what you’ve got.

Letting go of control is anathema to many of us; Americans seem to be especially afflicted with an illusion or obsession of independence. It has become part of the cultural struggle – for example, no government official can tell me I have to wear a mask vs. our actions affect others and for the good of all, I will wear a mask.

It is encouraging to hear and read about people who are using this unexpected time in our lives to do the proverbial “making lemonade out of lemons.” As we find ourselves in situations that make us pucker up at the very least, many are seeing ways to use this opportunity to reflect on what was normal. Was that normal optimum? How can we do things in ways that are more family-affirming and better for personal health and wellness? People are creating things that better meet their needs and desires now. What impact will that have as we move through and beyond the immediate crisis?

What is Your Mindset?

Our mindset is key to how we handle any situation. Some people have a foundational belief that life is one big struggle after the next, and then you die. They might feel like they are always unlucky or accident prone. Our current situation just reinforces that. Others see life as basically good with some rough spots that they will go through and probably gain knowledge from. From both positions, the expectation nearly always is that person’s reality. What we focus on, we will attract more of.

Most of the time we don’t even realize our mindset. We live on autopilot and by living that way, stay in the same rut we’ve come to expect. Cultivating and reinforcing a mindset of basic good is a key part of continuing to go through this pandemic year and beyond. By seeing negative events in your life as flexible, short term situations, you can more easily move on. Those who view situations as being temporary, will be more likely to see the same situation as a speed bump in life’s rear-view mirror. That mindset leads to flexibility and adaptation – two outlooks that help people recover from bad situations.

Create an allowing practice

If you find yourself struggling to maintain that belief that things will get better and we will get through whatever it is we face, creating an allowing practice and using it daily can be of help.

This is a simple practice you can do daily when you put your attention and awareness on allowing rather than resisting. Think of:

  • accepting things as they are;
  • identifying, receiving and celebrating the positives, surprises and gifts in the current situation;
  • trusting things will ultimately work out.

Taking a short time each day to do this can release some of the intense responsibility you feel for all the outcomes of everything facing you and your family. It may also release some of the anger (even rage) about the difficulties of these days. Give it a try!

Summer Superfood Smoothies For Health And Energy

smoothies Summer is winding down, but warm weather continues for many areas. I have noticed my early summer focus on healthy eating has diminished. Perhaps you have also. This is a good time to re-look at some options and boost our health and energy as we move into fall with all of its unique 2020 challenges.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of options of summer superfoods and what they offer, I wrote about them here:  https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/

Why are smoothies such a good way to consume those great superfoods? Here are three good reasons.

Quick and Easy Preparation

Superfood smoothies are very quick and easy to prepare. They take literally 5-10 minutes at the most to prepare. Gather your ingredients, do any chopping, throw the ingredients into the blender and within a minute the smoothie will be ready to drink.

If you are preparing for one person, I hope you have a personal blender which makes the process easier. There are many varieties; check them out here: Personal Blenders

They Taste Delicious

You can combine ingredients to fit your taste preferences, either of green-based or berry-type smoothies. Eating or drinking something “healthy” that we don’t enjoy means we likely won’t continue consuming it very long. So experiment with recipes and variations to find combinations you love and look forward to drinking. (I suggest a great recipe book below.)

Drinking Your Smoothie in the Morning Starts Your Day With Energy

Although smoothies are great whenever you choose, there can be benefits to having one for breakfast. Of course, they are a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and high-calorie pastries. And they deliver lots of nutrients which will help you to feel more alert and energetic and ready to start the day.

Now, let’s look at a few tips for creating healthy superfood smoothies.

1) Use either fresh or  frozen ingredients

Fresh ingredients are great when they are easily accessible and economical. But frozen ingredients can contain just as many nutrients as fresh. If they were picked and frozen right after being harvested, they’re going to maintain the same level of nutrients as they had when they were fresh. Many times frozen ingredients are cheaper to buy, and there is less waste too.

2) Use natural flavorings

If you find your superfood smoothies to be a little bland, always use natural flavorings to enhance them. Did you know for example, that dates can help to add sweetness to a smoothie instead of sugar? Honey is also an excellent natural flavoring to add sweetness.

3) Add water to thin the smoothie out

If you find the smoothie is too thick, water is the best thing to use to thin it out. It’s healthy, readily available and will help to thin the smoothie out without adding additional calories.

4) Tailor your ingredients to your needs

Any superfood smoothie will provide a healthy alternative to many of the other things you might eat. Perhaps you would like to boost your immune system or want to take off some pounds. If you have those goals, you can research ingredients or recipes that will work for that.

5) Pair your superfoods carefully

Not all superfoods will go well together. So, when thinking of what to add in the smoothie, be careful to match the right superfoods together. Orange fruits and avocado or kale and almonds, are great examples of superfoods which work well together.

This cookbook will help you with both tailoring your ingredients to your needs and in deciding on combinations of superfoods. It provides recipes, indicates what they offer your health, and is a great reference. http://Simple Superfood Smoothies: A Smoothie Recipe Book to Supercharge Your Health

smoothy book

 

Ways to Use Five Healing Spices to Boost Your Immune System

assorted spicesIn a previous post, A Spicy Approach to Staying Healthy, I introduced five healing spices that are likely in your cupboard and that can help keep your immune system strong. How can we use turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, and cloves to make a difference in our health?

Here are some suggestions for using each.

How to Use Turmeric

You can choose to use either the ground powder or the fresh turmeric root. The powder is easier to find. Turmeric is largely used in Indian dishes. So you can use as an addition to homemade curry.

Turmeric is a great spice for many savory dishes – roasted vegetables (try cauliflower), rice, quinoa and other grains. You can make a turmeric broth, adding ground turmeric to taste in a bone, chicken or beef broth. It can be the base for soups, or you can drink the broth. Adding turmeric to soup or chili is a good boost also. Start with a small amount and add to your taste.

Turmeric tea is the easiest way to have the spice daily. You can easily add it to a basic green or black tea, or in a turmeric milk. This is often called golden milk and combines any type of milk you like with turmeric and other spices. It’s a soothing tasty beverage.

A spice rub or marinade using turmeric, ginger and other spices you choose can be great for chicken, beef or other meats.

How to Use Cinnamon

You can purchase cinnamon as a whole bark, or in dried powder form. The powder has a stronger taste than the whole bark does.

The bark/cinnamon sticks can be added to water to enhance the taste as you drink the needed amount each day. I like to combine them with apple slices in my infused water. And of course adding a cinnamon stick to a wide variety of warm beverages like apple cider, chai teas and more enhances the flavor.

Powdered cinnamon is an extremely versatile spice that is used in all kinds of baked goods we especially enjoy in the fall and winter – anything with apples or pumpkin and much more.

There are many ways to add cinnamon to your daily consumption by sprinkling it on top of yoghurt, granola, fruit (especially apples, bananas, and pears), or ice cream. You can add it to smoothies, whether fruit or those including peanut butter, chocolate, or honey. Stirring a little into juice, tea, or coffee is also great. Another morning tip is to sprinkle cinnamon onto your coffee grounds; it will go through into your coffee as it perks.

Fall vegetables including sweet potatoes, squash, etc. taste great roasted with cinnamon.

How to Use Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne peppers are a staple in Southwestern American, Mexican, Cajun, and Creole cuisine. They are used as a powdered spice for seasoning and used whole in many Korean, Sichuan, and other Asian recipes. Exploring those dishes can add to your menu.

Cayenne can be added to spice mixtures for barbecue rubs, or marinades and to olive oil vinegar, and other ingredients for a salad dressing with a kick. Look for recipes for salsas and slaws that incorporate cayenne – fruit salsas can be greatly enhanced with them.

How to Use Cumin

Cumin is an essential spice for Indian curries and chutneys, and also in many Mexican style dishes. It also works well in a variety of rice dishes, stews, soups, pickles, barbecue sauces, and chili con carne recipes. It’s even good in muffins and bread mixes.

Roasted Cumin Potatoes are simple and tasty dish. Use cubed medium potatoes or new red potatoes. Coat them with olive oil and sprinkle with cumin, salt and ground pepper and bake on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

It is best to be conservative when cooking with cumin as its flavor can easily overtake a dish. You can always add more later.

How to Use Cloves

Whole cloves are often used to flavor warm beverages – apple cider, teas, etc. Put them in a tea infuser/strainer so they are easily removed when you are ready to drink. You can  stud ham, onions, glazed pork or beef with them before roasting or baking.

Powdered cloves can be added to dishes that use curry powder. A good way to tell when clove will be appropriate for more savory dishes is to think about what you use curry in. For example, an Indian dish that is using curry powder, like rice, will taste great with clove as an added spice.

Cloves are a good addition to Asian dishes and as a marinade for chicken, fish, or other meat with other species like turmeric and ginger.

And of course, cloves are great in baked goods that include cinnamon. They are so complimentary.

I hope this introduction to five spices that can boost your immunity and health has been helpful. Having all of these powerhouse spices on hand and using them as often as possible can make a difference. Perhaps turmeric is a spice you are less familiar with. To see what’s available, check this out: https://amzn.to/3eS4hQE   Stay healthy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Spicy Approach to Staying Healthy

SpicesAs we continue during a time of pandemic, our concern about not being infected by the COVID-19 virus persists and grows. We know the actions that will decrease our chances of that happening from our public health officials.

Generally boosting our immune system is critical even more than usual to ensure our general health and wellness. We need to keep our bodies strong, address deficiencies and be able to ward off other illnesses and conditions while living in this strange reality. Summer is a great time to focus on summer superfoods – fruits and vegetables that provide great nutritional value. I wrote about them here: https://carolbrusegar.com/great-superfood-choices-for-summer/  These can also help us drop the extra weight many of us have added during the past few months – the “quarantine fifteen” or so!

SPICES – Another Tool  for General Wellness and Strong Immune Systems

Used in holistic medicine, healing spices have numerous awesome properties which can be used as useful preventatives and to treat everything from the common cold to inflammation. The majority of spices on the market boast at least some healing properties and different spices offer different healing properties. But generally speaking they all contain a high level of antioxidants.

These antioxidants can help fight off free radicals, protect against heart disease and other serious conditions, and keep you looking and feeling younger for longer. They also contain great anti-inflammatory properties which can help with allergies and even help to ward off more serious health conditions.

Due to the strength of many spices, they can also be used to boost the metabolism. This really aids in weight loss, while also helping to provide a delicious kick when added to your meals.

To get the full benefits, you will want to purchase quality spices – a well-known brand and organic versions if possible. Organic spices often also stay fresher for longer due to their production and cultivation method. You may be suspecting that healing spices are exotic varieties which are expensive and perhaps hard to find. Fortunately, that’s not true! Some of the best healing spices to boost our immune systems are common ones that may be in your cupboard, even if you don’t use them in all of the ways that can be beneficial. Here are five:  Turmeric, Cinnamon, Cayenne Pepper, Cumin and Cloves.

Top 5 Healing Spices to Boost the Immune System

  • Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the best healing spices you can use, particularly in terms of boosting the immune system. It’s closely related to ginger and has been used for its medicinal benefits for more than 4000 years.

It is the active ingredient, Curcumin, which helps to boost the immune system. It contains a high level of anti-inflammatory properties, required to ensure the immune system is functioning correctly.

  • Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the more versatile spices and it’s great for the immune system.

This is because of its impressive mix of antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. All work together to protect the immune system, as well as fight off numerous illnesses.

  • Cayenne

It doesn’t matter whether you use the supplement capsules or the real thing, cayenne will help significantly boost the immune system.

It contains a lot of Vitamin A and antioxidants. These don’t just protect the immune system, but they also ensure the body is better able to fight off any illnesses which may develop.

  • Cumin

Cumin seeds are often used as a spice to help boost the immune system. In fact, they’ve even been used in traditional medicine to improve a weakened immune system. When consumed daily, you’ll start to see a difference in how you feel within weeks.

It’s largely the spice’s Vitamin C content which makes it so efficient at fighting off illness and protecting the immune system.

  • Cloves

While largely used to improve oral health and ease toothache, cloves can also be used to boost the immune system. They contain an exceptional level of antioxidants which help the immune system fight off free radicals, as well as oxidative stress.

They’re also good for reducing the symptoms of infections and fighting off disease. Or, use them to fight off the common cold and aid digestion.

 Check your cupboard for these spices, and if any are outdated, replace them and start using them intentionally and regularly. In an upcoming post, I will share a variety of ways to use these spices and a few recipes.

 

 

 

 

Are You A Worrier? Managing Worry In Difficult Times, Part II

worry 4

 “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”  ― Corrie Ten Boom

Many of us consider worry a given.  It may be, as a friend often says, “Worrying about my children and grandchildren is a mother’s job. It’s what we do.” Or it may be accepting it as part of what your parents imprinted upon you as worrying was a strong part of their mode of living. “I just can’t help myself.”  I personally reject those characterizations.

Taking Control of Your Worries

While it may not seem like it, it is possible to take control of your worries. With a little patience, practice and persistence, you can become calmer and learn how to take control over your worry as soon as it starts to occur.

Here are some of the best ways to do that.

Create a plan

Having a plan in place to combat toxic worry can be very helpful. For this, you’ll need to write down all of the things you’re worried about. I suggested doing that in the previous post, http://carolbrusegar.com/managing-worry-in-difficult-times-part-i/.

Then consider what kind of worry each is – generalized, perfection, fear of making  mistakes, social or post-traumatic stress worry. (These are described in Part I.) Knowing this will help you in the next steps.

Once you have your worry list, you can start to think of ways to reduce them. How can you eliminate the worry and what steps will you need to take? Creating a little to-do list of things you can do to reduce the worry, and then ticking off the tasks as you do them will help you feel more in control of the situation.

Arm yourself with facts

You’ll often find that toxic worry stems from either a lack of information or the wrong information. You could be worrying about something that you don’t fully understand or have adequate information about.

So, if you want to take control, arm yourself with facts. Learn everything you can about the thing you’re worrying about. The more knowledgeable you are about the thing you’re worried about, the less you’ll actually worry.

One of the most difficult things about these times is that there either aren’t “facts” available or there are differing opinions which people claim as facts. Perhaps part of your worry is how to deal with these discrepancies as you make personal decisions. So taking steps to put boundaries around your worries can be helpful.

Allow yourself small worry windows

It may not be possible, or even healthy, to never worry about anything. Particularly in times of great uncertainty, there can be a role for non-obsessive worry. Make time to acknowledge your worries. Set aside small windows of time each day and train your mind to worry only during these designated periods.

Then, once the time is up, you aim to forget about your worries for the rest of the day. This allows you to use your time to take some action or just be in the present and enjoy what is. This creates a much healthier balance, ensuring you aren’t burying your head in the sand, but you also aren’t letting your worries take over.

Challenge your thoughts

When you start to notice those negative worrying thoughts, challenge them. It’s common to make your worries appear worse than they actually are – jumping to the worst-case scenario. Most of us are really good at asking what if this or that bad thing happened and dwelling on that.

Leave yourself open to the possibility that things won’t be as bad as you think. Identify healthier, more positive ways to look at the situation. Look at what the probability of the worst-case scenario happening is. Also look at whether the worry is helping or hindering the situation. If it isn’t helping, why are you giving it the power to control you?

Interrupt the cycle

Sometimes, you just have to interrupt the cycle. When you catch yourself worrying over something, turn your focus to something else.

Four things many people use effectively are exercise, meditation, deep breathing, listening to particular kinds of music, and reading.

Overall, toxic worry can have a significant impact on your health and wellbeing. However, there are ways to tackle and control it. The above are some of the best things you can try to take control over toxic worry and start living a happier, healthier life, even in these times of uncertainty.

You will find options of music for relaxation and meditation that can help interrupt the cycle and manage your worry here: Music for Relaxation and Meditation

https://amzn.to/3eeJtST

Dealing With Our Fear In Times of Great Uncertainty

Fear and uncertaintyFear is a strong word. Sometimes we can admit we are fearful of things. Other times we couch it in terms like concern, trepidation, unease, apprehensiveness, or dread. Whatever you name it, there are plenty of things that may fall into these categories in this year of uncertainty and change.

It may have to do with employment and income, care of children and their educational arrangements, health and recovery, family relationships affected by limitations of interaction and more. You can certainly identify some things that have been upset, turned upside down, lost or threatened during this time of pandemic. Some of those cause us to be fearful of what is ahead.

Given our reality, fear and its related emotions are a given for most of us. Though we can’t see the future, or really plan for things very well as things continue to change, we can explore ways to face and manage those emotions and all that flow from them.

Here are four tips for facing your fears and some resources that can provide more practical direction.

Break it down and take baby steps

Identify one area of life where you have fears. Break it down to specific things you can address. This can be most easily done by doing some writing or journaling. You may want to start by listing all the things that cause you concern and then choosing one area that you can dig into more. Realize that getting started on how you think about this and what the possibilities are is a significant step.

Take steps to get support or assistance – you don’t have to do this alone

If you aren’t already sharing and discussing your concerns and fears with others – family, friends, colleagues – identify people to fill this role. In some instances, professional advice from a coach, mentor or other appropriate person may be most helpful. Make sure that these are more than gripe sessions, although there is always a role and a time for venting. Then move on.

Accentuate the positive

This can truly be a challenge some days, can’t it? Anything you do to avoid getting into a negativity spiral which tends to increase a sense of helplessness and paralysis is critically important. Actively identify what’s going right in your life and what positive effects and awareness has come with this altered reality. Start or continue a gratitude journal which can remind you when you have those down days.

Look toward the future with a hopeful, positive mindset and expectation. Although you may not know what it will look like or how to get there, trust that things will work out. It may be helpful to look up some stories about people who came through challenging times and get inspiration and ideas from them.

Take control of the story

Make a decision that you are and will be brave and confident through these times. As the negative things spin around in your head at times, take action to not let them take control. A helpful technique is to make a list of those thoughts and then for each one, write a positive to replace it. Focus on your skills, strengths and potential to shift your thoughts.

These four things can make a difference in how you continue through these times when very few things are “normal” and we don’t know how things will evolve. In addition, I encourage you to check these resources for dealing with fear (and all its related emotions).

The Fear Book is described this way by a reviewer: “One of the best books ever written. I never get tired of it. Perfect for all ages. Extremely helpful. Puts real therapeutic knowledge into simple language to understand. Very motivating, positive, and calming. You will not be disappointed with this book!”

https://amzn.to/37TN7QF

Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway is described this way by a reviewer: “I learned that fear stops us from becoming greater versions of ourselves, and the importance of not necessarily becoming fearless, but to change your mindset and telling yourself it’s okay to be afraid, be compassionate with yourself, and replace the negative inner voice with a positive one….”

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®: Dynamic techniques for turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action and Love by [Susan Jeffers Ph.D.]

https://amzn.to/3erDZFf

Finally, here is a great blog post by Henri you may also find helpful: “33 Powerful Ways of Overcoming Fear … Right Now” which has been updated just a couple of months ago.  https://www.wakeupcloud.com/overcoming-fear/

These are challenging times and we will make it through by encouraging and assisting each other through it. May these thoughts and resources be helpful to you.

Nature and Fractals Reduce Overwhelm and Stress

Fractal 1Many of us have times of overwhelm and stress during these times of uncertainty. It may be only sporadic or more pervasive. Overwhelm is the consistent state of feeling in over your head, overburdened, and unable to sustain manageable control over the various expectations in your day. It has a domino effect. Usually beginning in one area of life, it can extend to all areas as the body begins to fatigue from the chronic stress.

If your overwhelm becomes more than occasional, you may notice that you develop chronic headaches, stomach aches, body aches, and can’t seem to get enough sleep.  These are symptoms of adrenal fatigue and your body’s natural reaction to chronic stressors.

Mother Nature’s Surprising Antidote to Stress and Overwhelm

As we continue forward, it’s helpful to expand our strategies for coping with the stress, not only of the immediate but of all the unknowns of the coming months. Most of us find that being out in nature is one of those strategies. What is it about a stroll in the woods or going for a walk along a country lane that seems to bring a sense of inner peace?

Or perhaps walking barefoot on the beach, watching the waves and collecting seashells brings much joy into your heart.

Is it simply because you’ve “got back to nature”? Is it because you are outside breathing fresh air for a change instead of being stuck in the stress box you call your office?

Those are all true, but there is another perfectly natural one-word explanation for why you feel so calm and content. FRACTALS! They’re all around you, wherever you look.  They are even inside you – your body is full of fractals: Your veins, nerves and even your bronchial tree is fractal.

What are fractals and how do they reduce stress?

The simplest way to describe a fractal is a pattern that repeats itself over a decreasing scale.

Take trees for example. The branches are copies of the trunk, only smaller.  The smaller branches are copies of the larger branches they stemmed from. Twigs are copies of the smaller branches. Each part of the tree is a smaller copy of the whole.

If you were to look at a snowflake under a magnifying glass before it melts, you would see that it is made up of the same complex repeating pattern.

Since the beginning of humanity, we have been surrounded by fractals.  They are Mother Nature’s building blocks and our evolutionary comfort zone. More examples include fiddlehead ferns, broccoli, aloe vera plants, crystals, angelica flowers (and many others), lightning, and seashells.

How do you use fractals for stress relief?

  • Don’t spend so much time inside. Get outside more. Stand and watch the clouds, or sit on a park bench and watch the trees swaying in the breeze for a few minutes. Do some deep breathing and fill your lungs with fresh air while you’re there. You’ll soon feel your stress melting away like a snowflake that lands on a surface.
  • If you can’t go outside when you feel your stress levels rising, just look out the window for a few minutes instead.
  • Add fractals to your indoor environment and take breaks to view and appreciate them and their soothing patterns.  These can be houseplants like fractal succulents or aloe vera. They can be seashells that have those patterns.
  • Fractal art and other man-made fractals, according to research, are equally effective. You can just as quickly lower your stress levels by watching a fractal screensaver on your computer for a few seconds or watch a video like this one:
  • Fractal Coloring Books can serve this purpose, too. These are distinct from mandalas and are labeled as such. Here are some examples:

Yes, it might seem incredible, but studies have shown the calming effects that fractals have on the mind really do take effect very quickly.

Fractals are all around, hiding in plain sight. Focus on them and relieve your stress and overwhelm!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can We Process and Handle Emotions During These Stressful and Uncertain Times?

StressAs we continue through the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that each of us have some level of emotional stress. Whatever your situation, there has been and is change and uncertainty.  Emotional health is particularly important during times like this.

What is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is your ability to regulate your emotions instead of allowing them to control you and your life. Emotional wellness requires you to accept your feelings, and acceptance can lead to understanding, greater insight into yourself and your life, and the ability to make better decisions for yourself. You also know how to express your emotions in healthy ways, which can lead to stronger relationships and feeling closer to other people.

Being emotionally healthy also means that you are better able to handle the obstacles and setbacks that life will offer you from time to time. Emotional well-being comes when you are more resilient to disappointments and change, and it allows you to set and honor healthy boundaries for yourself and others.

Four Life Hacks for Improved Emotional Health

Here are four life hacks that can be used daily to help process and handle emotions.

Name What You are Feeling

The most important habit that can help you improve your emotional health is being able to understand your emotions. This starts by naming what you are feeling. Identifying your feelings and understanding the nuances between, say, apprehension and fear, helps you to recognize patterns, identify triggers, and determine which emotions are causing you to make which decisions.

Without understanding what you are feeling or where these emotions came from, you cannot make the best decisions about what to do with them. Plus, when you put a label on your feelings, your physiological response is decreased. When you recognize that you are feeling rage, for example, your body stops producing as many stress hormones because it understands that you are not in danger.

Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness teaches you to accept and acknowledge these things rather than become overwhelmed by them. This means you are managing your emotions better, which can make you more self-aware while enhancing your ability to concentrate improve your emotional health.

Turn Negative Self-Talk Around

Self-talk is the voice inside your head that is narrating your life. It can be a voice of optimism and positivity, but too often, it is a voice of criticism and pessimism. When your self-talk focuses on what you did wrong, what is wrong with you, and how you need to improve, it affects your emotional health and well-being. Changing that negative self-talk into more positive affirmations is essential for improving how you feel.

When you hear that negative voice chime in, ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is based in reality. If the answer is no, then you have confirmation that your own negative bias is sabotaging you, so you can ignore those thoughts and move forward. If the answer is yes, then decide which two or three things you need to do to resolve the problem, then start acting. Ignoring that negative voice is also a good tactic. If you ignore your inner critic long enough, they will eventually stop talking.

Become More Curious. 

Curiosity is a hallmark of the emotionally healthy. When you are curious, you are open to ways to keep learning and growing in your life. This leads to continuous improvement and development. When you are curious about yourself, you become more self-aware and pay more attention to your needs, as well. Asking questions of yourself and others keeps you open to new perspectives and ideas, which helps you develop better empathy, too.

Perhaps the most important things we can do during these times is to seek out tools like those above to help us navigate uncharted situations.  New situations are confronting us regularly, and that is going continue into the foreseeable future. Take care of your emotional health as diligently as you do your physical health and you will be more equipped to weather all that is ahead.

If you are curious about this topic and eager to learn more, this book can help:

Master Your Emotions, The Art of Feeling Good by Jason Dyer

 

Deep Breathing for Stress Relief

Breathe“Calm down, take a deep breath.” “BREATHE.”  We often give or receive this advice when we or someone else is stressed, irritated or angry.  It is really good advice, but a few breaths in the midst of a stressful situation are but a tiny piece of the most effective use of deep breathing for our well-being.

During these days of the pandemic, we have a group of stressors that we may not have experienced before. Expanding our repertoire of tools to deal with them can only be a good thing.

Did you know that your body has a natural relaxation response?  Deep breathing exercises can effectively invoke your natural relaxation response and change the way your body responds to stress.

Your body can use deep breathing to allow the following body functions to happen:

  • You can increase the level of NO (nitric oxide) in your cells. This helps dilate blood vessels
  • You can lower your blood pressure
  • You can slow your breathing down with deep and meaningful breaths
  • You can lower your heart rate so you can feel calmer
  • You can slow down your metabolism so that it is more relaxed and efficient

Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. By doing deep breathing, you engage your brain so that you experience an increased sense of focus, profound calmness, and relaxation of the body.

While you can do deep breathing exercises anywhere, you need to do it for 20-30 minutes per day to lower your levels of stress and anxiety. That time can be spread throughout the day, as described below. Deep breathing will bathe your brain in the vital oxygen your brain needs at all times.  You can experience calmness, peacefulness, and a better sense of well-being.

Types of Deep Breathing Exercises

There are several ways you can go about deep breathing to reduce stress:

  • Visualization with deep breathing. This only takes a few seconds to complete the exercise. You consciously relax the tenseness in your shoulders and neck, which is where many people tighten up during stress. Then you take a deep breath and visualize the bottoms of your feet as having holes in them. Imagine that, through those holes, warm, comforting air is flowing up from the ground to fill up your entire body. The warmth is relaxing and you’ll feel less stress within seconds. Imagine your muscles soaking up the warmth and relaxation under the feeling. Do this several times a day when you feel the most stress.
  • Breathe with a stuffed animal. This exercise takes a little bit longer but it can be extremely soothing. The purpose of the stuffed animal is to remind you to breathe through your abdomen. As you take those deep breaths, it will rise and fall with each breath. If it isn’t, you aren’t breathing deeply enough. Lie down on a couch or bed and put one hand in the area of your chest. Place your stuffed animal in the middle of your abdomen. Keep your eyes closed and allow your body’s muscles to sequentially relax from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Breathe in a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out. Try this for about twenty breaths and repeat throughout the day when you feel the most stressed out.
  • Escape breathing. Escape into your mind by seeing yourself in a calm and serene place. Use all your senses to imagine yourself in this place. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself as calm as possible in this place. It may be a beach with the crashing waves of the ocean, the forest with its rustling leaves and the sounds of birds, or a meadow, where the wind is blowing serenely on your face as you breathe in deeply.

Fitting Deep Breathing into your Day

Try these tips:

  • Do the deep breathing exercises while engaged in other daily activities: while stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, sitting on the train or bus. You can even do deep breathing while walking around.
  • Set one or two deep breathing sessions per day, perhaps in the morning and just before going to bed. This will allow you to de-stress so that you can start your day stress-free and end your day stress-free.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is when you use your brain just to notice the world around you without any type of judgment or criticism. This will increase your focus on the here and now so that you aren’t dwelling on past stressors.

To explore the topic more, check out these books for adults and children about deep breathing for health:  Deep Breathing for Adults and Children

Can Reflection Help You Deal With Change?

changeWe are all in the midst of change these days, aren’t we? Change is tough for all of us to deal with, and for some especially hard. Sometimes, reflecting on our own experiences can be helpful when dealing with change.

Think about these questions. How do you typically deal with change in your life? Do you immediately dig in your heels to avoid moving in new directions? Are you cautious but open? Are you eager for anything new? Knowing how we generally operate can be helpful to you and to those around you during this time.

Change is to a large degree what we make of it, how we respond to it. If we choose to embrace it, we often find it works to our benefit. If we are highly resistant, we block ourselves from seeing and embracing the positives that the change may present.

How have you been responding to the restrictions placed on us by our covid-19 crisis?  And how are you looking toward the decisions about when you will resume some form of activities that were your “normal”? Your comfort level and convictions about what is best for others around you will influence your responses.

As we move deliberately from “stay at home” to less restrictive living, we will be making these decisions. They are significant steps that can have major implications. Sometimes it is okay to fight the change when something doesn’t seem right about it. It can take courage to be the one standing up for what you believe if others are rushing back into activities about which you have discomfort or fear.

If you are not doing so already, try journaling about these ideas and questions. It can be amazing what clarity you can have when you begin writing rather than just allowing things to swirl around in your head. You can download and print a journal designed for these times where you can reflect and record what these days have been and are for you and those close to you. You can print as many copies of each page as you can use. http://carolbrusegar.com/Journaling-Through-Crisis

Reading about others’ experiences during challenging times can be affirming and illuminating.  You can start with newspaper and magazine articles that are current. The experiences of medical workers, of those in prison or in specific geographic locations widen our perspective of what is happening.

In addition, reflections and reports of others who have lived through pandemics are available. The Flu Epidemic of 1918 is probably most like this situation; seek out and read more about that. Amazon has a wide variety of things to consider.  https://amzn.to/2ZCQ4By

The polio epidemic which began in 1949 is another occurrence to read about. https://amzn.to/2YsOEL1

Even if you aren’t a history buff like I am, I highly recommend that you gather some of these resources and share them with others.  You will gain new perspective on the present and what is to come.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

~ Maya Angelou