Maria Connolly Somatic Psychotherapy CoachingConnect with me on LinkedInLike us on Facebook

How to Soften the Body to Withstand Stress and Roll with the Punches

Here are three ways you can daily soften the body to withstand everyday stress and relieve the tension that causes stiffness and pain in your body and mind.People who are tense suffer more pain and are more prone to injury. This takes a toll physically and psychologically! Stuntmen, gymnasts, firefighters and even the elderly are taught to soften the body, tuck and roll when they fall. Skydivers are masters of softening their bodies to land without bruising or breaking a bone. They’re taught the “banana method”.

You may not be a skydiver but all of us occasionally trip. Softening your body into a curve makes your deceleration last as long as possible to minimize injury. Even when you’re just tripping over a curb, if you land stiff-armed you’ll likely break something. Tuck and roll to your side if possible, or if you’re falling face first let your elbows bend in a push up motion allows your pecs to take the force of the fall.

We carry so much tension and stress from daily life in our muscles and tissue and so it’s not surprising that we often suffer from aches and pains. Plus as we age, we lose flexibility, becoming more prone to losing our balance and falling. While learning to safely fall takes months of practice under the direction of a skilled trainer, there’s a lot you can do on your own to learn how to soften your body on a daily basis. You’ll find yourself becoming more flexible and at the same time relieve stress and tension.

It’s no mistake that a ball is round. Rounder objects handle stress better. When you learn not to be rigid but to soften the body you’ll stand up under stress better. This is well-illustrated by what engineers have learned about designing airplane windows.

Airplanes at first used square windows since that was the norm for homes and autos. However, when jets began flying faster and at higher altitudes, two planes fell apart in midair. Why? The sharp corners of the square windows were natural weak spots where stress concentrates. When subjected to repeated pressurization, the corners cracked and gave way.

Curved windows, on the other hand, have no focal point so it distributes the stress. Circular shapes are stronger and resist deformation, and can thus survive the extreme differences in pressure between the inside and outside of the plane.

What does that mean for you? Instead of letting everyday stressors make you rigid in your thinking and physiology, learn to soften the body and roll with the punches both literally and figuratively.

Here are three simple ways to soften your body…

  1. Slow down your frenetic brain by practicing deep breathing exercises. The brain mimics what the body is doing, so if you slow down, your chaotic thoughts will start to cool down too.
  1. Actively soften the body. Pay attention to what your body is saying and move it until it relaxes. Stretching exercises, yoga, and improving your posture will help. Daily practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques to stretch and soften your body will help you increase your awareness.
  1. Practice mindfulness in daily tasks. Quiet your mind by learning to be present in each moment instead of multi-tasking. Whether you’re walking or washing dishes, or eating, be mindful of that one simple thing.

Somatic coaching is a superior way of creating a greater self-awareness. I invite you to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype, so we can talk more about it.

And if you’re curious on how to enhance your overall health and wellness don’t forget to download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It will help you identify the areas that most need your attention right now and what you can do to bring balance to your life.

Failure Leads to Success When You Know this Olympic Secret

Learn how to reframe your view of failure and attain greater success in everything you do, by identifying and imitating the mindset of Olympic athletes.Are you a fan of the Olympics? I’m constantly amazed at the skill and dedication these athletes bring to their events. How do they do it? More importantly, how can their example help “ordinary” people be successful in life? Of course, they train for years, but the significant key to success is that they’ve developed an essential mindset – they’ve embraced the concept that failure leads to success.

Normally, how does failure feel? Even now as you think about it, does the heavyhearted feeling come creeping back? Do you sink into your chair as you relive the embarrassment and discouragement? Many people view failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

But highly successful people, no matter what their field of expertise is, know that failure is essential for success. But knowing it and embracing it are two different things. What’s their secret? The strongest predictor that failure will lead to success is when people have resilience and perseverance. They just never give up because they know that everything they experience teaches them something and gets them one step closer to where they want to be.

This attitude toward mistakes and failure makes all the difference in the world. Those who excel in life have worked hard to develop this attitude that hardships, obstacles and challenges are opportunities for learning lessons about themselves and the world around them.

An interesting example of how failure leads to success is that of Lex Gillette. He’s a silver and gold medal winner from past long jump competitions and will be representing the U.S. in the 2016 Paralympics. He is also completely blind! He trusts his coach to set him straight for each sprint and guides him with clapping and cries of “Fly, Fly, Fly” until he reaches the spring board. (Watch it here.) Before each competition they walk around the boundaries of the sand pit to help him create a map in his mind. What powerful proof that mastering your inner game really works!

He hasn’t gotten to where he is without his share of failures, however. And he makes this interesting observation, “Failing at something is essential. You go through some sort of hardship, and it helps catapult you to a higher level. I’ve had a number of failures in my life, and I’ve been able to tap into that inner strength in order to come back and be resilient. I see failures as stepping stones and things that I’ve had to do to get to my destination.”

Interestingly, Michelle Segar, a motivation scientist and director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan, noted that once a person fails, “you don’t have that fear over your head anymore, then you can really focus.” 

Another study interviewed 10 Olympic gold medalists and found that they all consider failure to be essential to winning their gold medals. “The majority of participants stated that if they had not underperformed at a previous Olympics, they would not have won their gold medals.”

The researchers hypothesize that learning from previous failure happened in two ways: 1) the athletes focus on why they feel distressing emotions, not on the emotions themselves, and 2) they distance themselves psychologically from the negative experience. They think about what went wrong and use it to propel themselves toward success in the future.

The only way to truly fail is to give up and do nothing —failing to properly prepare, failing to give it your all or failing to learn from past experiences. Would you like to learn how to reframe your thoughts so that every failure leads to success? Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) is a highly effective set of tools for accomplishing this. Please join us for the fall session of our Foundations of Life Coaching and NLP Class. Click here to learn more or contact me with any questions. It’s going to be a life-changing experience!

How to Stay Calm under Pressure

If you suppress your feelings so that you look calm on the outside, but inside you feel like you’re ready to explode, learn how to stay calm under pressure.Have you ever tried to suppress the excitement of a group of little children as they wait for a treat they really want? It’s not easy is it? The more you shush them, the more they wiggle, giggle, and chatter. You have more success if you channel their energy toward another activity until the treat arrives.

Similarly, trying to suppress your own feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration is like trying to put a lid on the excitement of a group of children. Suppression doesn’t work. Yet that’s how many people try to force themselves to be calm under pressure. And, as a result, they feel like a powder keg ready to blow.

A more effective approach combines channeling your physiological responses, thoughts, feelings and attitudes into productive activities. Rather than telling yourself all the things that can go wrong, you’ll be able to think about how things can go right. No longer will crises push you into a panic or state of paralysis, instead you’ll see that overcoming challenges starts to excite you, which actually gives you an inner peace and calm.

Here are some tips on how to stay calm as you channel your physical and mental responses into more productive activities:

  1. Understand what’s going on in your body. Stress and anxiety trigger the “fight or flight” response. Your brain perceives a threat and starts to produce hormones that tell your nervous system it’s time to get ready for action. Yet in many life and business situations, you can’t start fighting or fleeing. Consequently, your body doesn’t get to release these feelings. As a result, you end up with your brain and body in a feedback loop, freaking out. That’s when you say and do things you regret.
  2. Breathe deeply and slowly. Break the body part of the feedback loop by consciously breathe slowly and deeply. This increases the oxygen in your system, which calms the fight or flight reaction.
  3. Label the emotions. Break the mind part of the feedback loop by assigning labels to the emotions you feel. This moves you out of the “fight or flight” mode accessing the neocortex which allows you to think more clearly and productively about the issue at hand.
  4. Re-label your emotions. Next, eliminate the emotional triggers that caused the “fight or flight” response. For every emotion you identified in step 3, re-label it with a positive emotion. For example: fear becomes anticipation; frustration becomes desire; worry becomes concern; dread becomes caution; alarm becomes curiosity and so forth. By re-labeling your emotions, you’re convincing your brain that this isn’t really a dangerous situation but rather a situation you can learn from and enjoy.
  5. Put things into perspective. Stop over thinking and overreacting by asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen? Will this matter in five years?”
  6. Recognize that people are less focused on you than you think. You may see yourself as the center of attention. However, everyone else is focused on improving the situation not on you. The more you feel judged by others, the more intense your anxiety. Re-direct your mind from yourself onto becoming part of the solution to the problem at hand.
  7. Magnify your logic. When you bring logic to the forefront, you can maintain the right frame of mind. It forestalls the panic and anxiety as you dispassionately observe what’s really happening. This increases your awareness of the big picture view, seeing all the moving parts of the situation and their possible consequences.
  8. Take action. Procrastination is the enemy of calm, because it feeds the negative thoughts. Instead, empower yourself by turning anxiety into excitement. You’ll rise above the challenge and see your performance improve dramatically.

It takes time and effort, but you can develop the ability to positively look at each situation as an opportunity to turn anxiety into energy and excitement. I’ve found that there are a number of life pillars or core beliefs that will assist you in staying calm under pressure.

  • Have an understanding and practice of mindfulness.
  • Practice daily instead of waiting for a crisis to happen. It’s like getting ready for the Olympics – it would be silly to start training the week before.
  • Increase awareness through deliberate practice. Practice needs to be specific in order to be effective. For example, when you’re practicing slow, deep breathing, notice your heartbeat, identify your emotions, and so forth.
  • Become really good at predicting. Acknowledge that there are situations that make you feel pressure. Identify when, where and how it will show up (know yourself!) and make it part of your life cycle instead of avoiding it.
  • Keep your energy focused on the things you can change.

An effective way of learning these life skills is through Neuro-Linguistic Programming. My colleague, Nando Raynolds, and I are starting our fall classes September 15th, so there’s still time to enroll. Learn more about the benefits of NLP trainings and what we’ll be teaching by clicking here. Or contact me with any questions you might have.

Time Management Tips that Reduce your Stress and Increase Productivity

Seven easy time management tips that reduce your stress and increase your productivity by encouraging you to choose a state of mind that supports you.Do you feel like you’re always battling against the clock and there’s not enough time to do what you need to get done, let alone what you want to do?  And since the long to-do list never gets finished, are you left with a nagging feeling that you’ve failed in some way?

You CAN relieve these stressful feelings by mastering time management skills, learning to stick to your priorities, refusing to get distracted, and choosing a state of mind that continually supports you. As a result, you’ll feel a lot happier about the commitments you make. To that end, here are some suggestions:

Seven easy tips to reduce your stress and increase your productivity

Time Management Tip #1. Live an embodied life. When you have collaboration between your body, mind and spirit, your daily routine will revolve around your life’s mission. You’ll reflect the harmony of being fully present in all you do as you align your gifts and skills with your unique purpose. In turn, your life will become more meaningful and satisfying.

Time Management Tip #2. Set your intention. Before sleeping each night reviewing your accomplishments and allow yourself to feel success even in the little things you’ve done. Declare your intention for the next day. When you wake up, again declare your intention, and it will keep you motivated to follow through. (Your intention might be a goal, making peace in a strained relationship, or something that supports your physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.)

Time Management Tip #3. Resist the urge to multi-task. Have you seen the juggler who keeps many things in the air at once, but as soon as he drops one, they all crash? That’s what multi-tasking does to us. On the other hand, when you focus on one thing at a time and do it well, you increase your self-confidence, lower your stress and you get more done.

Time Management Tip #4. Prioritize. It’s okay to make a mile long list. Just don’t stop there or you’ll add to your sense of overwhelm. Pick two or three items from the list that are highest priority and focus on accomplishing only those tasks. Delegate when you can. And educate people that you won’t respond immediately unless it’s an emergency but that you’ll get back to them in 48 hours.  

Time Management Tip #5. Use time-blocking. Group related tasks into blocks of time. Say you have a doctor’s appointment – take your shopping and errand lists with you and do it all in the same trip. Or instead of reading emails all day (which is a huge time waster and stalling tactic), check them only in the block of time you designate for it. Allow sufficient time for each block of activity. Schedule the hard to do tasks when you have your greatest clarity and energy. Set a timer for 20 minutes and see how much more productive you become!

Time Management Tip #6. Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t overbook. Leave plenty of flexibility in your schedule to allow for the unexpected. That way you don’t add to your stress by feeling rushed or pressured. Learn relaxation techniques that let you unwind regularly throughout the day.

Time Management Tip #7. It’s okay to say “no”. Women are especially prone to taking on too much at once. Before agreeing to a request, give yourself time to consider it. You don’t need to feel compelled to give a reason when you decline, and you don’t need to feel guilty in honoring your own time and commitments, because you’re allowing opportunity for someone who really wants to do it to say “yes.”

It’s essential to choose a supportive state of mind and eliminate limiting beliefs in order to use these time management tips most effectively. In our FREE talk on August 25thChoose Life Enhancing Beliefs, Nando Raynolds and I will show you how to utilize NLP techniques in your life. It will be held in Ashland, Oregon at 6:30 PM to 8PM. Learn more about it by clicking here or contact me for more details.

Self Sabotaging Behavior – 5 Traps Women Need to Avoid to be Truly Happy

self sabotaging behaviorWhich would you say is more damaging to your health: stress from a car accident or from a messy house? Which is worse: a breakup with a romantic partner or a friend who makes you crazy because she never follows through on what she promises?

The answer lies in whether the stress is short-term or long-term. We’re actually equipped to handle life-threatening situations. It’s the constant, nagging stress that causes problems. Why is that?

“Today, many people live in stress mode all the time, and the constant release of steroids like adrenaline and cortisol can lead directly to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, depression and cancer, and indirectly to bad health habits like undersleeping and overeating.” says James Ehrlich, MD, clinical associate professor of endocrinology at the University of Colorado.

Interestingly, women produce a higher amount of oxytocin than men do, which counters the rush from cortisol and epinephrine and puts them into a “nurturing, tending and befriending” mode, according to a WebMD article on why men and women react differently to stress. This means that if you’re not careful, you can find yourself focusing solely on giving to others, which will leave you depleted.

What is it that makes your stress level rise? Is it chaotic surroundings or disrupted schedules? Do you fall prey to negative self-talk or negative body image fed by food and fitness issues? Or do relationships make your blood pressure rise?

The underlying cause for many of these stressful issues can be traced to self sabotaging behavior. You’ll achieve greater happiness and freedom to excel if you adjust your perspective on the following five traps:

  1. Imagined fears.Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of rejection and even fear of how your decision will impact your family, friends and others – all of these are paralyzing. And it’s all imaginary. It’s not real. How many fears in the past actually came true? It’s better to focus on what’s real. Your desires for a better life are real. Your dreams can become real if you cultivate a mindset that gets rid of self sabotaging fears.
  1. Perfectionism. Women tend to compare themselves to others wishing to be smarter, more attractive, or more successful. These comparisons are harmful. The only comparison that’s beneficial is – how can I become a better version of myself? Love yourself for who you are.
  1. People Pleasing. Trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting. Worrying about what others think is nonproductive. Let everyone know what you need and think. If you set boundaries, you won’t fall into the trap of not having a life of your own, being at everyone’s beck and call. The world needs to see the “real you”, and they’ll respect you more. You absolutely do have gifts, skills, and personality traits that are extremely valuable. Value yourself, and others will value you more.
  1. DOing instead of BEing. When you measure your value by how much you achieve, will you ever feel like you’re good enough? Not likely. You won’t be able to slow down for even a moment because there’s so much to do! Give yourself a break and learn to be mindfully present in each moment. Enjoy the journey. In the end, what will make you feel more satisfied – accomplishments or a life well-lived?
  1. Self-punishment. So many women struggle with feeling unworthy or undeserving. They minimize their value as an individual. They downplay their accomplishments. You won’t become egotistical if you stop to recognize and acknowledge the positive good you do. When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, choose to self-correct, find a better way, and keep moving forward. Everyone fails. That’s how we learn to do better.

Are there areas in your life that could use some attention? I’d love to partner with you as you create a life in alignment with your purpose. Join me in my new workshop, The Power of Embodied Presence – Empowering Women Through Somatic Education and the Art of Relationship. This highly experiential, one-day workshop draws on neuroscience, mindfulness, somatic principles, and adult development theory to help you unlock your inner wisdom and create harmony between your mind, spirit, and body. Mark your calendar – July 16th. Click here to learn more.

Recent Posts

About Maria

Our Address