If you’re hiking in the woods near my hometown in Oregon and you see the glowing eyes of a cougar, will your heart start racing? Of course it will! The fight or flight stress response kicks in with a vengeance, because you’ve heard reports of people being killed by big cats like cougars. You know you’re in danger. Your life depends on what happens in the next few seconds. It will take all the courage you can muster to stand your ground, maintain eye contact, and raise your arms to make yourself appear bigger and noisier to scare the big cat off.
Sometimes we meet people who are like wild animals. You might even work with them or they might be your family members. There’s no reasoning with them. They have mercurial personalities – their mood and behavior change in a flash. They’re so unpredictable you don’t know where you stand with them from one minute to the next. On the other hand, you may personally have trouble regulating your emotions so little things trigger either an aggressive or defensive state. In either case, the key to achieving more peace in your life, is to learn to tame your fight or flight stress response.
Because our lives are often stressful, many people live in a perpetual state of fight or flight stress response. This state should only last as long as you are in real danger. Then, it’s supposed to calm down. When you live under prolonged stress, your body thinks it’s in danger, when it really isn’t. Being in a constant fight or flight state will eventually lead to many health problems like poor digestion, adrenal fatigue, obesity, insomnia, and anxiety. And it doesn’t do your mood any good either, so your relationships suffer.
The good news is that sympathetic nervous system, which kicks in your fight or flight reaction, can be calmed down. The key to turning it off is to mindfully reassure your body that you are safe. When your body believes it’s safe, it shifts into parasympathetic mode, which signals your heart to slow down, your lungs to breathe deeply, and your digestion to resume.
How do you switch off the fight or flight response? A good place to start is to practice mindfulness in these three ways:
- Practice mindful awareness. Suspend judgment as you tune into your body sensations. Learn what the fight or flight stress response feels like in your body. Accept your natural biological response and give each sensation a name. Naming each one lessens its power. Reassure your body that you’re okay.
- Practice mindful breathing. The situation may seem to be out of your control however you can always control your breathing. And that may be enough to get you out of the fight or flight stress state. Here are some breathing exercises that will move more oxygen to your cells and shift you into the “I’m-safe-to-rest” mode.
- Practice mindful assessment. Discern the difference between discomfort and pain. Distinguish between unpleasantness and danger. Give your body the information it needs to know that the situation at hand is not going to kill you. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s not life threatening. Sit with and completely absorb the feeling that you’re safe.
When you give your body a chance to recover, you’ll improve your health and your relationships. If you’d like to learn more about shifting away from a reactionary response to a more intentional state, plan on joining us at our Women: Wisdom, Presence, and Flow! Retreat June 20 to 26th in Grand Canary Island. FLOW stands for Fierce Leaders Organizing Worldwide! We’re empowering women, like you, to live a vibrant life, elevate their presence, and make a difference in the world.
“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving toward your goals.” ~ LL Cool
I can hardly believe we’re at the end of 2018 and that it’s time to get ready for a new year. It’s an exciting time to create the life you want and to define your success. To that end, throughout this month I’m going to be sharing useful tips so you can make 2019 your best year yet!
It’s always good to take some time and reflect on what you did well during the last year. This is when your journal will really be helpful, because we tend to minimize or forget our wins. Or you could write a letter to yourself about the lessons you’ve learned this year.
To up your game and maintain greater focus, it’s vital to create a Master Plan to make 2019 your best year yet. I find that some of my clients get sidetracked in the minutia of life and lose sight of their bigger picture. Where can you start and what needs to be given priority?
#1 Priority – Fuel your body, mind and spirit. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you will not be able to implement the following suggestions. A successful Master Plan will make your own physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness top priority. Feel free to download my 7-Point Wellness Assessment and it will help you begin creating a healthier YOU today!
#2 Priority – Make restorative sleep a priority. Your health, mental clarity and ability to be productive depend on it.
#3 Priority – Develop systems. Goals are fine, but if you want to create real change, it helps to have supportive systems in your life so that you perform important tasks automatically rather than relying solely on using willpower.
Before you proceed, please, take care of yourself with these priorities first! Then the following suggestions for developing and maintaining your focus will help you make 2019 your best year yet.
Remove distractions. Use the rest of this year to get rid of the clutter in your house, mind, desk, email inbox or schedule. This will help make room for any opportunity that arises.
Define your goals. When you define your goals according to a yearly, quarterly, monthly, and daily schedule, you’ll be less likely to lose your focus. Yes, that’s a lot of work to do before the year begins, but it’s worth it. It’s how you connect each day’s activities to your significant life goals.
Divide each goal into small tasks. Do you find yourself saying, “Where do I start?” “If” and “then” are small words, but they are indispensable tools in your productivity arsenal. Ask yourself, “If I want to accomplish my big goal Z, then what absolutely has to happen? If I want to work on Y, then I need to finish S, T, U, V, and W.” Baby steps and microhabits are your best friends for making progress.
Work on hard things when you’re fresh and energized. Days can pass without accomplishing much toward your big goals, if you don’t learn to work to your strengths. Whether you’re a morning person or not, be selfish and keep the first hour of the day for yourself. Start with something that gives you an immediate win, like meditation, exercise and setting your intentions for the day. As you’re feeling confident and centered, you can turn to working on the hardest project of the day. Leave running errands and repetitive tasks for lower-energy moments.
Create and stick to your boundaries. Especially if you work at home, you’ll benefit from creating boundaries about when you answer emails, the phone, the doorbell or when your family can interrupt you. I like this reminder from Steve Jobs:
“Focusing is about saying No.”
Hold breaks as sacred. Under Oregon law, the typical adult employee who work eight hours must receive at least a 30-minute meal period and two ten-minute rest breaks. Yet many people who work for themselves will not treat themselves that kindly. They push until late at night, skip meals, and work through break times. And their bodies hurt! It’s time to listen to your body and heal yourself from that abuse.
Reward yourself. Celebrate every small or big win each day. Get up and dance, grab a latte, cuddle your cat, buy a flower. Make each win memorable, because that’s how you’re going to know at the end of the year that you really did make 2019 your best year yet!
If you’re tired of going it alone and are looking for an accountability partner, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Let’s work through the rough patches so you can make 2019 your best year yet!
“You seem like you’re miles away.” It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Your body is there but you’re mind is somewhere else. Conversely, it’s also easy to be engaged mentally, but not physically. You know (the brain function) how to do something (lose weight, quit smoking, run a business, be a parent) but you don’t do (the body function) what is required to follow through.
If this only happens occasionally, that’s not a problem. However, if that’s your continual state of being, it’s a sign that you’re not fully connected with yourself or others. Not being fully present causes great strain on your relationships. And even more damaging, it makes it impossible for you to listen to what your own body is saying. It prevents your parts from being fully integrated.
There is great value in paying attention to your whole body as a source of wisdom and learning. You can learn to minimize distraction and become more fully present by incorporating somatic practices in you day-to-day activities.
What are somatic practices?
Somatic practices create an elevated level of self-awareness. Rather than focusing solely on thoughts and emotions, somatic coaching incorporates your entire body. The word somatic comes from the Greek root word “soma”, which means “the living body in its wholeness.” The body, mind, emotions and spirit influence each other constantly, even when you’re not aware of it.
Our society teaches us to concentrate on doing brain work. In school we memorize facts and pass tests, but we’re not taught how to live as a wholly integrated person. In business we sit at computers and strain our brains to the limits. But by the end of the day we’re exhausted mentally and just want to “veg out”. However, the body hasn’t been stretched or worked, so it’s too keyed up to settle down, therefore sleepless nights ensue.
By integrating simple somatic practices, you will get your work done, plus feel more centered and less tired. By bringing your whole integrated self to the table, your head is not doing all the work, and you’re not fighting with the parts of you that are distracted.
What are some basic somatic practices you can do to create deeper mind/body awareness?
- Mindfulness. Daily make a practice of noticing your body sensations and emotional responses.
- Monitor and become more aware of your breathing patterns. Here are some resources for you:
Tap into the Powerful Anatomy of Breathing to Promote Better Health
Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your Relationships
Breathe Your Way to Wellness With the Yoga Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
- Suspend judgment as you scan your body. Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-motivation empower you to let go of self-judgments.
- Centering. Find that space within you that keeps you calm and at peace. Here are some resources to discover the best centering practice for you:
How to Center Yourself to Achieve Greatness.
10 Centering Techniques to Live an Embodied Life.
Discover Centering Practices That Promote Excellence.
- Grounding. After you’ve centered yourself, connect yourself to the ground. Move your attention from your head down the length of your body – your heart center, belly, legs, and feet. Feel yourself connected to the ground. Think about the time someone pushed you before you were aware that they would. You almost toppled over, didn’t you? Then think about how being aware ahead of time makes you able to hold your ground. You instinctively use your awareness to drop your energy and settle more into your body to ground yourself.
- The Feldenkrais Method®. Create a daily practice of body awareness through movement. I continually use this method to resource my back and make my body more resilient to stress.
- Visualization. Mindfully use the power of your thoughts to your advantage and engage your body in the new awareness.
- Reframing exercises. Rewire your brain to handle any negative event in a positive way and anchor the new action into your body.
- Anchoring techniques. Preset your response to specific situations by choosing positive somatic states.
These are just some of the somatic practices I use to help my clients feel more resourceful and excel in life. It’s empowering to know that you can mindfully choose to respond in a way that leaves you feeling whole and at peace. It just takes practice. With practice, your body will become more flexible and resourceful and you will become the person you want to be.
I’d love to explain further how you can use these and other powerful somatic practices. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” ~ Anne Lamott
Every day we’re bombarded with advice to become more organized, to get more done, to write endless to-do lists as we break big projects into smaller portions. So the idea of daily taking a break from work may sound strange to you. And while I wholehearted support the concepts of being organized and prioritizing to get things done, there has to be a balance in life.
If you feel as if you have to be busy every moment of every day, and you don’t think you’re successful unless you have a lot of accomplishments – and you’re in an endless cycle of “Check! Done that! Move on! Check! Done that! Move on!” – perhaps it’s time to reassess what you’re really accomplishing.
Actually, scheduling some downtime and taking a break from work on a daily basis will increase your ability to come up with innovative ideas and creative solutions. However, a more important reason to take a break is that if you don’t, it’s only a matter of time before you experience burnout, which could damage your body and spirit so badly that they’re not able to fully recover.
So as a friend, let me ask you: When was the last time you really disconnected from your business and responsibilities? When you didn’t listen to anything but the buzzing of the bees? When you didn’t watch anything but the clouds floating by? When you didn’t plan anything except…well, you didn’t plan anything at all! How often do you get to experience total creative silence as you simply practice being in and enjoying the moment? If you can’t remember, you’re way overdue. You are, no doubt, already on cognitive overload.
Think about it: You know you need to eat every day, right? You do it, not only because it’s enjoyable, but you expend the calories in your output of energy. And your body automatically knows to breathe in after exhaling. Why? Because you use up your supply of oxygen and your body demands more. As children, we knew how to play…when did that change? When did people forget to take breaks and enjoy life?
You constantly give all day long. You push to do things for your family, your friends, and your job. Yet if you aren’t regularly taking a break from work, you’ll run out of resources. Your body and brain needs downtime to repair itself. Not only is a good night’s sleep essential for refreshing yourself, but taking a little bit of time off during the day is necessary too.
The benefits of taking a break from work are countless. Your mood will improve. Your stress level will go down. Your energy will return. Your heart will be healthier. Your creativity and productivity will skyrocket. Your relationships will flourish. You’ll do your most excellent work if you’re regularly taking a break from work.
Isn’t it time to give your body and brain the space and time it needs to process all that you’re taking in every day? Your body may already be telling you it needs a break…are you listening? Unfortunately most of us have learned to ignore these messages from our bodies. Please, download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. Go to a quiet place and give yourself the gift of reconnecting with yourself this month. You owe it to yourself.