Did you know that there is a direct relationship with our breathing pattern and stress/worry/anxiety or fear? And that it can work both ways?
When we are fearful or anxious, our breathing pattern and posture changes - this puts us in fight or flight mode. When we relax our bodies and breathe deep, we go into relax mode.
Here is what happens when we get stressed:
1. Our shoulders go up around our ears
2. Often our jaw tightens
3. We take short (sometimes fast) breaths in our upper lungs - or we hardly breathe at all!
4. Our thinking moves to the reptilian brain which triggers
off our flight/fight response read more.
The good news is that we can change this pattern, just by doing the opposite of the above...
1. Relax the shoulders and let them drop
2. Relax the jaw, puff out the cheeks and blow out through the mouth (like a horse blowing through its lips)
3. Breathe deep tummy breaths, filling it like a balloon - exhale extra slow
4. The thinking moves to the hypothalamus which controls the relaxation response
Its an interesting thing that even when we are not stressed or fearful, we can still breathe shallow breaths in the upper chest. To some degree the body still thinks we are stressed, even though we are not! If we have had a long period of stress, our body gets trained into being "on the edge" all the time - it stays in the fight/flight mode. Luckily we can un-train the body and this is done through breath work. Click here for two different techniques for breathing.
Below is a poster with tips for releasing stress. Also some links to other websites for breath work.
Other blogs related to breathing and anxiety:
Please note that these blogs are from a lay person and not a counsellor, psychologist or medical professional. If you think you have severe anxiety or depression, you should consult with a professional.
Click here for my Worry and Anxiety resource page
Letting go of the past is not easy, especially if the past holds something unresolved.
Questions haunt us and they take a lot of energy....
WHAT did I do wrong?
WHAT could I have done differently?
Pondering on these questions can drive us crazy. These questions can form a loop in our minds and take up a lot of "free to air space"! Often there are no answers to these types of questions. Even if the person concerned could give you an answer, it could be emotionally loaded or distorted.
The good news is that with a bit of effort on your part, there is a way to make them lose their grip and stop their obsessing.
Step 1. Every time you go back to an old thought (which may include he WHY or WHAT questions), write it down in a notebook. When it repeats again, give it a tick and have this conversation with yourself:
"Yep, got that thanks. I can’t change this and at this stage there is no answer to it. Maybe one day in the future I will know the answer, maybe I will never know the answer to it. I do know that the question has already been asked, and if I am meant to know the answer it will come to me in its own good time. Thinking about this question is not helpful to me right now. In fact, I think it so much it is becoming boring”.
This kind of self-conversation can be quite helpful as it helps the mind change its focus.
Step 2 is CHANGE THE RECORD. By this I mean:
Step 3. Every time you get a repeat thought do Steps 1 and 2 again. Before long it will begin to change. The periods of obsessive thinking will get less, and the “I am feeling okay” time will get longer.
Many years ago a friendship ended suddenly. There were lots of “whys” floating around in my head, I kept thinking about the person, even though I didn’t see them any more. So I found a photo of that person, said all that I wanted to say to them and thanked them for the lesson. I told them I wanted to be free now. I then said “I let you go” and asked for them to be surrounded in love. I didn't have to love them myself, but I knew that there is some kind of benevolent love out there which could go to them. I then changed the record in my head by saying affirmations, getting involved in an absorbing activity or giving thanks for what I have.
Whenever this person came back into my mind I did the same process again. In fact, the first day I did it a lot of times – such was my habit of thinking about them. I was very strict with myself and stuck with the programme. The second day it was less, and by the third day it was considerably less. It was such a relief to stop thinking about that person. I felt free!
In time some answers did come to me - often unsolicited and out of the blue! I realised it wasn't all their fault and that I had a part to play in it too. By releasing my grip on the situation things began to open up and come clear.
If you have trouble letting go and would like some help, please contact me.
Learning to forgive your self is not an easy task – it’s a process which takes place over a period of time. There are many ways to arrive at the point of forgiveness. Each step brings a subtle shift towards inner peace and acceptance. I recently watched this video on forgiveness and it inspired me to write this blog. Here is my personal story of forgiveness.
I think we often do or say things that harm ourselves or others when our needs are not being met. This could come from an early childhood experience where we feel we are not “good enough” or “not accepted”. There are many reactions to feeling not good enough – trying to be better than someone else, feeling we have to prove ourselves, trying to obtain as much attention as we can from other people at any cost, treating other people like they are not good enough, being selfish, being invisible… the list goes on.
For much of my life I was blind to how I was behaving – I was doing the best that I could with what I knew. It was only through many years of experiences (sometimes difficult ones), personal reflection, asking questions, reading and learning that I realised how much “not good enough” was affecting my life – and hurting others.
I remember at one point writing my story in two different versions. Firstly, as the victim(poor me) with all the things that went wrong, blaming everyone else and taking no responsibility. Secondly, as the heroine, the person who learnt and adapted from each experience, who was helped by others and was willing to change. A person who became a better one over a period of time. Writing these two stories was quite a challenge for me. As the stories unfolded I started to see the effect of my actions – and the impact it had had on people close to me. Upon this realisation I wept with sadness: I felt ashamed and guilty.
This guilt stayed with me for a long time. I remember trying to appease a past relationship through a new one. Somehow I felt if I could “make things up” with the new partner, I would get be forgiven and get off the guilt hook. Of course this didn’t work! My new partner refused to accept my attempts to make things better, and I felt desperate and frustrated. I had no way of healing this situation with the original people. I had definitely learnt my lesson and wanted to do things differently (restorative justice) but how could I be free of this guilt? I was in a no-win situation – lesson learnt but I was stuck in prison with guilt. The guilt made me feel so bad. It fed back into my “you are not good enough” conditioning.
In the end I realised that the only way forward was to stop punishing myself and let myself out of jail. Ohhh it was hard. Had I punished myself long enough? I had certainly been flogging myself with remorse, regret and recriminations for a very long time.
And yet, I could not really stand strong in the lesson, if I didn’t free myself of the guilt. I had two choices:
Option 2 seemed the only alternative. So I tentatively stepped out into forgiveness. I let myself off the hook. I decided I would forgive myself once and for all. To do this I created an imaginary process where I talked to all the people concerned. I talked about my needs and how I had wanted them met, and how I acted to try and get them met. I stepped in their shoes to see things from their point of view. I was fair to myself, I accepted that it was a two way interaction and I wasn’t totally at fault. I was gentle with myself. I wasn’t born with the manual on how to live life – and sometimes mistakes are made. I told them what I had learnt and how I choose to behave now. I explained what I could have done differently, and what my new standards are now, based on this knowledge.
I asked them to forgive me. And then I FORGAVE MYSELF. I said goodbye to the guilt and walked out of the prison I had made for myself. I then celebrated that it was all over and thanked them for the experience.
Over the following months I watched my mind for the old punishing thoughts that wanted to return. Each time they came, I reminded myself that I am forgiven, and that it’s over now. I have learnt the lesson and live differently. I give love to myself, I accept what happened and that I cannot change it. I let myself feel inner peace.
Forgiving myself has brought inner peace to me. I am still learning and growing. I expect I will do many forgiveness processes in my lifetime – for mistakes in life are common. However it is wonderful to be free and shining my light once again.
Please do not think this is a magic formula for forgiveness. It isn’t. Many people have helped me along the way: friends, family, counsellors, authors, healers. We all have our own way of getting to inner peace. It’s just a matter of conscious choice. Do we want our heart to be hurt and closed all our lives? Or do we want to have it open, trusting, wise and free?
I recently watched the movie “Mr Holmes” – it is a wonderful story of forgiveness and healing for an old man and the people around him. Life is such a mystery and one of the greatest miracles is that of getting to a place of forgiveness.
Beginner's Massage Course 3/4 October. Cost $200. There are limited spaces so please book early. Click here.
Women's Pamper weekend 7 p.m. Friday 9th October, all day Sat 10th and Sunday 11th until 5 p.m. Cost $300 ($250 if paid by the 6th September). Click here.
Crystal Healing course Saturday the 19th September 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost $100. Click here.
Rebecca Gambles is running courses on Past Life Healing, Angelic Reiki and Animal Communication over the next few months. Please contact her here for more information or go to www.angelicsoulhealing.com
Massage Special Offer
Relax and unwind with a 1 hour back, neck and shoulder massage
If you have a sore back, then this is the treatment for you.... Relax and ease out those tight muscles - wonderful for releasing tension and stress relief - a superb way to unwind.
Massage Special Offer: A 1 hour massage for $50 (normally $70)
For many years, I have massaged people in the workplace and in my private practice. A common question is, “What can I do about my sore back, neck or shoulders?” Another one is, "How can I be permanently pain free?"
Quite often, people are resigned that pain in this area is part of their life and forever will be so! However this is not true. With a clear programme and good therapy, pain can be greatly reduced, if not banished, from the body. In my experience, it takes an applied strategy using a combination of techniques, over a period of time, to shift pain out of the body. Here is what I suggest:
1. Proper treatment. Some people go to their GP, physiotherapist, osteopath, a remedial massage therapist (specialising in muscular problems), a chiropractor or a Bowan Therapist. (This is not a complete list). We all have to start somewhere and find out what’s going on with our body. An experienced therapist can assess your posture and tell whether your issue is muscular, a bone misalignment or something else. You need to find out, and have regular sessions for a few weeks. From my experience, sessions need to be at least weekly, initially twice weekly in severe cases. This is because a therapist needs a chance to release tension and reset old patterns. If there is a long period between sessions, the body reverts back to its old posture. Whomever you find, make sure they are professional and experienced. They should be able to explain what’s going on in your body, give you the appropriate treatment or refer you to the correct person who can help you. Depending on how bad your condition is, you should feel benefit from the session, although sometimes there is some discomfort after your first visit. As the body starts to loosen, lactic acid is released, causing some temporary pain. If the body's bones are out of alignment, usually massage is used as a compliment to, or the main part of the treatment. Once the muscles are relaxed, the bones can come into place.
2. Prescribed exercises. Self help is just as important as proper treatment. Ask your therapist for exercises to support the treatment. Alternatively you could go to a gym and have a postural assessment. Ask a gym instructor for gentle exercises to help with alignment - provided it does not contra-indicate with your treatments. Then it’s your job to do them! Every day.
Here’s a success story. I used to have a sore neck. I joined a gym and noticed there was an osteopath working there. I was so tired of the neck pain I booked an appointment with him. He assessed me and said my pain was related to an old pelvic injury. Because my pelvis was out of alignment, my whole posture was incorrect, and most of the pain was in my neck, which was compensating for the imbalance. After the treatment, he took me into the gym and gave me an exercise programme to tone muscles in my legs, pelvis and torso. I had a few more sessions with him and diligently did the exercises. After three months, all the pain was gone.
A client of mine had pain in her upper back and neck. She was a secretary and worked all day at a computer. Her shoulders were rounded forward and chin stuck out. I gave her deep tissue massage around her shoulders, upper back, chest and neck. She began swimming, which toned her muscles. She also did a few specialised exercises and used a hot water jet in the spa to relax the muscles in her shoulders. Gradually, the muscles began to work as a team again, the chin tucked in, her shoulders came back and the chest opened. She still has the occasional maintenance massage, but keeps in good shape.
3. Assess your work area or find the causes of postural misalignment. It could be that your work station is positioned incorrectly (neck and shoulder problems), a heavy handbag (shoulder problems), the way you get in and out of the car (hip problems), the way you lift heavy boxes (low back), holding the phone handset to your ear with your shoulder (neck problems) or typing without a break or stretches (RSI). Ask someone independent to watch you work and give you feedback. Look up information on the OSH website. Make adjustments for a better life!
4. There are definitely natural remedies which help our muscles and joints. They can be relaxants, nervines, anti-oxidents, anti-inflammatories or natural pain relievers. I often recommend people also use Aromatherapy blends or creams to rub onto the sore area. That way you have the remedies working on an internal level and also externally through the skin direct into the muscles.
5. Relaxation. Very often our muscular tension has been accumulated after years of ongoing stress and tension. When was the last time you really wound down? Chilled out? You know what I mean. Well, if it’s been awhile, then it’s time to do it again. A couple of times a year I prescribe myself a chill out programme. For example, going away for a stress free weekend, walking in nature, swimming, sunbathing,having a relaxation massage, finding a comfortable couch and listening to my favourite relaxing music for 20 - 60 minutes every day for a week, meditating, doing some deep breathing, employing someone in to cook meals and do the dishes so you can take a break, doing a gentle yoga class, walking on the beach daily, making a point of taking it easy every day for a week. Relaxing does not mean reading an emotionally stressful book, watching TV programmes, the news or stressful movies – these are all very stimulating and activate the adrenal glands. Click here for more ideas on how to relax.
6. Heat. First, if you have an inflammatory condition - where the affected area feels hot and burns - don’t use heat. If this is not the case, then heat is a wonderful healer. Put a wheat bag under your neck and shoulders when you are in bed, or have hot baths. Your local swimming pool might have a spa with jets - use them. Some people use infra red heat lamps. They are very effective. Have saunas. Heat brings blood to the affected area and enables healing to take place.
7. Emotional component. Very often muscular pain is associated with emotional tension. Perhaps you don't like your job, or a person in your life is causing you stress. This makes our muscles tense up. For example, if we feel "not good enough" we tend to round our shoulders and curve our back. If we feel confident we open our shoulders out, hold our head high and straighten the back. Often we live from the past and don't even know it, its like background noise that we just get used to. By attending to our emotions and learning new skills to deal with difficult situations, the body relaxes and moves into a new posture.
Case study. I had a client visit me several years ago in tears. She told me she had just been diagnosed with a serious back problem and would have to take pain killers for the rest of her life. She was in her late fifties and was concerned about the effect of the long term use of drugs. I gave her a massage, and as we discussed her options, she started to relax. I then recommended she see a colleague of mine who was a Bowan Therapist and a Herbalist. He gave her herbal pain killers and anti-inflammatories. He looked at her xrays which showed there was wear on the bones which caused pain in the lower back. He explained that if the muscles were in the correct position and working properly, they would be able to hold the bones in the correct place, which would reduce the pain and reduce the wear on the bones. He then gave her a Bowan Therapy session to help the muscles relax and work together correctly. She came back to me delighted with the results. She hadn’t needed to take any
drugs, using the herbal remedies for pain and inflammation instead. I then gave her a BodyTalk session to help her body “remember” the Bowan session. We also worked on the emotional component to her back pain. She visited the Bowan Therapist a few more times, eventually only visiting when the pain came back.
Often clients ask, “How long does it take to get better?” There are variables. Generally, the longer you have had the condition, the longer it will take to heal. This is because you are retraining your body into a new posture. You are creating a new habit in your body. However, if you apply yourself to doing what it takes to get better, then benefits are felt fairly quickly. It just depends on how badly you want to be pain free, to be motivated.
To put a few weeks into yourself can have huge long term benefits to your personal comfort and health. All you have to do is clear your diary of any unnecessary activities for a few weeks and put yourself in there instead. You have nothing to lose by trying these different methods, there will always be some gains.
Elayne is running a special offer for the month of February 2013 - $50 for a one hour massage/consultation (usually valued at $70). For advice on a treatment plan for muscular pain or to book a massage contact Elayne.
Depression has a way of sneaking up on us. It comes out of situations which create emotions within us which we don’t know how to express. Over a period of years experiences like the loss of a loved one, a trauma, an accident, an unfulfilling relationship or job accumulate. Over time these deep feelings and start to build up. There may be occasional emotional outbursts but if we are not well supported in expressing ourselves and change does not occur we switch off to how we feel – neatly tucking our feelings away in the recesses of our mind/body. Eventually we become emotionally numb: this is depression.
Emotional imbalances may show up physically through inflammatory conditions known as the “itis” such as rhinitis (colds), conjunctivitis (styes), gastritis (tummy bug), psoriasis (skin conditions) and bronchitis. The skin, fasciae, lungs and large intestine all relate to the autumn so look out for conditions relating to these organs.
The autumn season has its own particular qualities and affects on our bodies and psyche. As the weather cools down and summer changes to winter we start to look inward. Positive emotions connected with the autumn are courage to experience our feelings, integrity and ability to speak our truth. They naturally arise within us at this time of the year and its the perfect time to work with our emotions. Feelings of sadness due to climate changes and the effects on the environment (like falling autumn leaves) begin to naturally arise. Unresolved grief may also turn up. If we have the courage and honesty to express sadness when it turns up our personality becomes more refined.
Depression is experienced as lost enthusiasm for life. It is very debilitating. A common coping mechanism for depression is keeping ourselves busy, so we can pretend we are doing just fine. Yet deep within there is a nagging ache of unhappiness. Workaholism, the constant need for activity or entertainment can be a sign that we are covering something up. This need can lead to a person becoming involved with activities that are unfulfilling instead of what satisfies them. Louise Hay in her book You can Heal your Life says that colds are “too much going on at once. Mental confusion, disorder. Small hurts”.
Underneath depression is a myriad of other unexpressed feelings, anger, resentment, frustration, unfairness, worry which all take a lot of energy to suppress. We literally “put a lid on it” to depress all these strong feelings from arising – they can be quite frightening and we can feel unsure how to express them safely. For many of us, its better to keep them locked away inside of us. Unfortunately they just don’t go away, we can’t “think them out” or “explain them away”, the only way they will change is if we can feel them. It takes alot of energy to keep all this powerful emotion in, so its not surprising that exhaustion, tiredness, loss of libido and distancing from people comes along with depression.
Our inner message is that we are not enjoying life and don’t deserve to live. To rekindle our spirit we need to feel and validate our unexpressed emotions and also find our passion in life.
Here are some helpful tips ....
When you feel a bit low find a sad movie and be prepared for a good cry. If you can’t cry but have a lump in your throat, spit into a tissue instead. It sounds strange, but its better to get something out then swallow it back down. Do this as often as you like and the feelings will begin to change. This is a great way to move through sadness at a pace you can manage.
Find a counsellor for when you feel really low. Don’t burden your friends with your troubles all the time. They are not trained in how to help you and it becomes a burden for them. Work with someone skilled who can explain your patterns and give you the support and techniques appropriate for you.
If angry feelings arise taking walks uphill, using a punch bag or using shaking chi gong whilst thinking about the anger helps you to move the feelings through your body. Its invigorating and releasing at the same time.
Support your “inner work” with things that nurture you. Good food, hugs, massage, being around kind people, spending time with animals and walks in nature. Deepen your relationships. Enjoy the nurturing and be grateful. These moments give you time out from your sadness and a fresh perspective.
Sometimes chemical imbalance within the body adds to the depression. Herbs and a good diet can change your inner chemistry and affect the way you feel.
There are also flower essences, homeopathic remedies and essential oils which all have positive affects upon our emotions.
Cultivate your spirit with things that uplift you... singing, dancing, music, humor, laughter, theatre, uplifting movies and books, non-competitive sport that’s fun – pay attention to what lights up your enthusiasm for life and go for it!
There are a number of wonderful meditations which convert negative emotions into positive ones. In the Taoist practice we have the Inner Smile mediation, Earth Chi Kung, the Six Healing Sounds and the Inner Beauty meditation. It is a longer process than counselling and you have to be committed to the practice. However it is very effective and feelings start to change all by themselves. These practices have additional benefits to your health as well and are an alternative to “talking therapies”.
A clear perspective on life develops when we can recognise and express our feelings. Gradually we are able to become completely honest with ourselves and others, and grow from our feelings and find our passion in life.
Gilles Marin “Five Elements, Six Conditions” A Taoist Approach to Emotional Healing, Psychology, and Internal Alchemy
Louise Hay “You Can Heal Your Life”.
Elayne Lane is an Aromatherapist, Massage Therapist, Touch for Health Kinesiologist, she also practices Chi Nei Tsang and teaches chi kung classes from the Universal Healing Tao. She can be contacted on 03 5470373 or www.learnhealing.org.