Overwhelm is the New Black

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At Live Well we see so many people who, for one reason or another, find themselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious. In some ways it’s no surprise, modern life demands more and more of our attention. If you’re like me, when you have a spare moment, you’ll find yourself compulsively checking your emails or your text messages or reading something on your phone. Never before have we had such access to information and stimulation.

The consequence? We’ve trained ourselves to be switched on and ready to respond at all times. From a body/mind perspective this means we are perpetually in action mode. It’s interesting to note that you can be lying in a hammock on a tropical island sipping a cocktail but if you are thinking about work then, as far as your nervous system is concerned, you may as well be at work.

Generally speaking we spend way too much time switched on and not nearly enough time spent unwinding and relaxing. In fact most of us have become really good at ‘coping’ with being switched on for long periods and really bad at switching off and deeply unwinding. If you push yourself through the day with low energy and high stress, finding you need to rely more and more on stimulants like sugar and caffeine to keep you going through the day you will know what I’m talking about.

The solution? First to recognise where you find yourself. If you are overwhelmed but just keeping your head above water, don’t wait to see whether life’s going to get easier. If you’ve felt this way for a while, it probably won’t. If you’re already experiencing uncomfortable physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, episodes of panic as well as a feeling that you’re no longer able to keep a lid on things then you probably already have anxiety.

To break the cycle I suggest seeking professional help from someone who is going to offer not just short term relief but longer term holistic strategies. Psychologists, for example, will give you a range of mind tools and education. A naturopath can give you herbs and supplements to reduce symptoms, build resilience and restore balance. Acupuncture will reset your nervous system, helping you access deep states of relaxation perhaps for the first time in a long time. Kinesiology can help you understand the mental and emotional patterns that have been keeping you from switching off and of course a massage or pampering treatment creates a space and time where you can completely let go. Just remember ‘coping’ doesn’t have to be your norm, for your health’s sake it’s time to take action.

Top 3 Merry Stress Busters: How to Stay Centred and Authentic this Silly Season

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December is my favourite month of the year but getting caught up in the silly season can be a fast track to crazy-making if you let your monkey-mind take over and forget what's at the essence, not only of the celebrations at this time of year, but within yourself.  So to give you a little Yogic helping hand to staying merrily stress-free here’s my top 3 stress busters to help you stay centred and acting authentically this silly season:

1. Remember to BREATHE! 

Three (3) deep breaths can change your life! They definitely change your ability to stay present, rather than reactive in the face of stress or pressure. Deep, controlled, steady breathing actually changes your body and brain chemistry. This gets you out of the 'fight or flight' response and back into 'Yes and Bless' (also known as 'rest and digest'! Fight or flight can be thought of as the Blame and Shame system when it comes to our emotions!). The physical chain reaction that 3 deep breaths give you acts like a circuit breaker - rather than react primarily to a trigger, you gain a little space and can then CHOOSE your actions mindfully.

So when you're driving around on Xmas eve looking for last minute gifts because work has been mental and someone cuts you off in the car park, instead of flipping the bird, STOP, breathe in to your belly and fill your lungs as deeply as you can. Exhale for at least the count of six, ten is even better. Do this three times, then smile, say YES, you're welcome to have the right of way, send them your blessings for a safe and happy Xmas and go merrily and less stressfully along your way. 

Same applies if your Aunt tells you that 'you're looking bigger this year darling' or if you accidentally burn the Xmas tofurkey (yep, it's an actual thing, not a typo) -Breathe, smile, send your blessings and let it go... Often a little circuit breaker like 3 deep breaths lets you let go of the drama, or your 'story' about how things 'should' be and gives you the chance to see the humour in the situation or find some compassion for the other person.

2.Remember the answer is always LOVE

It might sound corny but asking yourself the question "What would love do?" when someone or something is pushing your buttons can help you gain a little perspective, and again a little space, before you react to a trigger. It works REALLY well when coupled with #1! 

This applies equally to your interactions with others as to your relationship with yourself. Often we find ourselves the hardest person to love, accept and treat with respect and this sees us making decisions that don't honour our best selves. This includes our actions such as food choices, the company we keep, and the way we interact with others and our thoughts such as negative self talk, guilt and shame. The perfect seasonal example is drinking too much at the work Xmas Party, taking actions you wouldn't be proud of if you were sober and then guilting on yourself about it all afterwards - sound familiar? 

The trick to preventing this chain of avoidable events is taking the time to consider your options (remember that 3 breath thing above at #1?!) and then asking "What would love do?" and listening in for the answer. If you really, truly loved yourself, what would your honest answer be? There's a trick to listening for the answer to this question too - it won't come from your head, so if you're thinking about it, you won't get an honest answer. 

The real answer will come from your heart, as a feeling, or a sense of knowing and it probably won't be easy to recognise at first, but intuition is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Another hot tip is: it probably won't be the easy/popular/people pleasing choice. It might involve saying no in the face of peer pressure, or missing out on something. Yup, FOMO usually keeps you stuck in your same-old behaviour patterns, where it's safe and easy but probably not really what serves your highest good.

3. Remember to practice Yoga DAILY

Yoga is not always about physical asana or learning how to control your breath. Yoga is a myriad of personal and interpersonal practices that you can use to learn to love and manage yourself, and to harmonise your interactions with others. 

Your daily yoga practice may take many forms; physical movement, meditative stillness, intentional breath, devoting time to truly listen to another person or a random act of kindness. It may look like something else entirely. That's the beauty of Yoga - it is personal to you. 

You can practice Yoga anytime you want, wherever you happen to be. Like on the golden sand of your favourite beach or in the seat of your car as you drive cross-country. You could practice in your place in the queue for photos with Santa. Where ever it is, the point is that you have the opportunity to give yourself the gift of presence - being mindful of where you are, who you're with and how you choose to direct your thoughts and energy (remember #2: What would love do?) towards them and yourself. 

Each time you practice it's like a deposit in your spiritual bank account, your energy grows and enables you to invest a little more each time you come back to practice again.

So when you're cruising the shopping centre car park after your yoga class on Xmas eve and cut off that person you could clearly see was waiting before you, maybe if you just took 3 deep breaths and asked yourself 'What would love do?', you might find it within yourself to practice a bit of Yoga right now too? Like the butterfly effect, you'd be surprised how far reaching your simple practice of breath, mindfulness and love  - your yoga in action - can be. 


Ramone is Live Well's Thai Yoga Massage practitioner and resident Yoga teacher. Her passions include exploring the connections between the body, mind and abundant health, helping people cast-off their limitations so they can start living more fulfilling lives and encouraging laughter, lightness and wildness once in a while! She combines these loves by hosting retreats that combine yoga, meditation and self-study in stunning, natural locations. 
Ramone specialises in Thai Yoga Massage for Pregnancy and is also a qualified Pre and Post Natal Yoga teacher tailoring individual programs.

Understanding Mindfulness

No doubt you’ve heard about mindfulness, it’s a style of mediation that has placed this ancient practice on the modern medical and cultural map. But what does mindfulness really mean and why all the fuss?

To be mindful of something is to give it your wholehearted focus. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you gave something no less than your complete and undivided attention? The truth is probably that like most of us, you spend your day juggling many things at once, which is in itself a phenomenal skill.

Multi tasking your way through life can be, at its absolute best, an exhilarating rush. There’s nothing wrong with being good at doing many things at once, however, when you perpetually spread yourself thin you become robbed of the spaciousness and the stillness that comes with a simple, singular focus. The beauty is you don't have choose one path or another, you just need to balance the mind’s need for stimulation with its need for silence.

Luckily practicing mindfulness is easy, its simply requires you to bring your awareness to your senses and notice what is already happening beneath the thrum of daily life. The focus of your attention can be anything. The magic is that by choosing a singular focus of attention the simplest things become absorbingly fascinating. A classic mindfulness technique is to allow your attention to become fully absorbed in your breath: start by feeling the sensations of the expansion and release of the air inside your lungs with each inhale and exhale. As you do notice how your mind starts to change gears and slow down.

Even a minute of mindfully observing your breathing can profoundly effect how you feel in body and mind.

You can also practice mindfulness in everyday activities like washing the dishes: just by taking your attention to the sensation of the warmth of the water on your hands or by noticing how the light dances in the soap suds. Any activity can be done mindfully just by being present to the sensations that are arising from moment to moment. The beauty of a singular focus is that it profoundly reduces overwhelm and allows your mind and nervous system to access states of rest.

Our lives are richer and more enjoyable when we experience fullness and emptiness, light and shade. If you regularly take time to be mindful, you’ll find yourself starting to notice and appreciate the little things in life again and rather than feeling saturated and overwhelmed with life you can better appreciate and savour the wonders we have literally all around us.

If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness please visit livewellnaturally.com.au/meditation-canberra/

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of meditatewithwes.com an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

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Nourish Yourself to a Stress-Free Life

The number one cause of all problems, whether they be physical, mental or emotional is stress. Recent research has increasingly confirmed the important role of stress in cardiovascular disease, cancer, gastrointestinal issues, skin problems, emotional disorders and lowered immune systems. In fact 75-90% of all visits to your doctor are for stress related complaints. I don’t know about you but that is a massive statistic and one that can be reversed with the proper support and guidance.

Nourishing ourselves is not only beneficial for our wellbeing, but also crucial if we are to live our lives optimally and fully. When most of us talk about nourishing ourselves, we think diet. However, I believe it is important to view nourishment in a more holistic sense. If we just focus on our physical bodies through diet and exercise, we could possibly neglect our mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as well. So, for me nourishment refers to what nourishes our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical bodies with a holistic and complete focus.  This article is divided into four sections addressing how to sustain and nurture all four of our body systems in order to live a stress-free life.

 

Physical Nourishment

Physical nourishment begins with what you put into your body. All of us have probably heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Yes, it may be a cliché it is also true. I for one can vouch for the benefits of changing to a clean diet. Growing up I used to eat lots of junk food; chocolate, chips, processed and refined biscuits, pastries and bread. I had low energy levels and my digestive system was struggling. Five years ago I started cleaning up my diet; I became a vegetarian, reduced and eliminated dairy, processed and refined sugar and gluten. I’m not saying eliminating meat, dairy and gluten are best for everyone. However, reducing at the very least processed and refined foods such as sugar and white flour will set you on the path to greater health. Incorporating and increasing vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds and ethically sourced meat (if you’re a meat eater) are the cornerstone of what experts deem as a healthy diet. Focusing on when we are hungry and full - instead of emotional eating, eating until our plates are empty or boredom - will ensure that you are eating for all the right reasons. 

Exercise is equally as important not only to your physical body, but the other three bodies as well. It has been reported that exercise not only makes you physically fit, but can also reduce anxiety, depression and stress. There is no right or wrong way to exercise, what works for one person might not work for another. For example I don’t like running. However, I love walking, swimming and yoga. Different people resonate with different types of exercise more than others. The most important thing is to do something you LOVE. Exercising at least three times a week, for about 30-60 minutes is the agreed upon average by professionals. For me personally, I practice yoga for 30 minutes as soon as I wake up every morning, and I go for a 30-minute walk with my toddler every day. I can tell you right now I didn’t used to exercise this much before having a baby and I can definitely feel the positive effects it has on all aspects of my life. I have more energy so I can chase my little man around all day; I am living in the present and have more clarity of mind to focus on my studies. 

 

Mental Nourishment

Nourishing our mental bodies is probably the least likely talked about. However, it is fun, challenging and gratifying. Just like our physical body we also need to tone and workout our mind.

Many people, me included have what the Tao terms “the monkey mind.” Our minds are running rampant, controlling our lives, and playing scenarios in our heads about possible futures or regretful pasts and torturing our actions. How many of you lie awake at night thinking about your grocery list, the things you need to do tomorrow or what you should have said to your co-worker when they mocked you today at lunch? This used to be my mind all the time, and can still be some of the time when I am not focused on the present moment.

Research has shown that we have between 45,000 and 51,000 thoughts a day. That’s about 150 to 300 thoughts a minute. Research has also shown that for most people 80% of those thoughts are negative. All of these repetitive thoughts are poured into creating your reality. When you start making conscious positive thoughts, you actually become more aware of the negative thoughts that are always threatening to take over.

So how can we wrangle our little monkeys so they are tame and living in the present; not the past or future? The first is meditation. Like exercise there is no right or wrong way to meditate. I know when I first started (and even still occasionally now) my mind wonders. When this happens just gently and lovingly bring your attention back to your breathing. Your breathing is always in the present so it will always bring you back and away from persistent thoughts and worries. There are many different types of meditation and the fastest way to discover them is with Google. However, for now the easiest form of meditation is focusing on your breathing. The cool air coming into your nostrils, and the warm air exiting as you exhale; the feel of your stomach rising and falling with each breath in and out.

Other activities you can practice to work out your mind is reading, learning a new skill, studying, being aware of your internal mind chatter and bringing yourself back to the present, resting your mind, having positive outlooks and goals, reflecting and having a healthy self-esteem. This list is by no means an extensive list of what your mental body can accomplish but it is a starting point.

Much Gratitude,
Steph

Steph Fleeton is Live Well’s Wellbeing Coach and Holistic Therapist. She specialises in successfully treating Stress, Depression & Anxiety, as well as Parenting & Children. Through these coaching sessions you will be able to release the emotional charge fueling your problems such as Stress, and be empowered and inspired to take control of your life, to be happy