Life Is NOT an Emergency

 
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Do you feel like you live with a sense of constant urgency, anticipation and fear? Do you find that your mind is constantly in a state of chatter, worry, evaluating the worst-case scenario? If so, you are not even sort of alone. But also--if so, you are placing your body in a state of constant stress. If you are living in this space of thinking, worrying and anticipating the WORST, then you are potentially harming your body, mind, spirit and life.

The truth is, life is not an emergency. It just isn’t. However, we are living at a pace where it feels like making coffee in the morning feels like an emergency! When you add in thoughts about food, what to eat, what not to eat, body image, self-judgment and all the other things that are rolling through your mind, you are set up for serious stress. When you are in this state for an extended period of time you become more prone to big-time health problems.

The remedy is first to know that life is NOT an emergency. Then you have to remind yourself of this constantly—over and over again! You will need to say to yourself when you are rushing to make your coffee: “life is not an emergency”, when you are rushing to where ever you are headed next: “life is not an emergency”, when you are worrying about the right thing to eat or mentally punishing yourself for what you did or didn’t eat: “life is not an emergency.”

When you say this to yourself you begin to relax into the awareness that it is so. When you are stuck in the tension created mentally and physically by all the mental noise that creates the illusion that life is indeed an emergency, the stress response is activated. When you live in that constant state of stress response activation, you suffer. This is why your new mantra needs to be: “life is not an emergency!”

The truth is that stress is a killer. It robs you of the present moment, it robs you of joy, it robs you of your health and wellbeing. I will clarify that when I say stress, I really mean our response to the stress that will inevitably exist in your life. We ultimately have the final say in how we will respond to a particular stressor. We can *freak out* mentally and emotionally, or we can acknowledge that life is not an emergency and find a more useful way to handle the presented stressor.

Begin to evaluate where in your life that you perceive it to be an emergency. Start by bringing in this new mantra: “life is not an emergency.” Notice the impact that this simple awareness has on your life, your mood and your wellbeing. Notice how your muscles relax and the tension in your stomach and chest releases. When you are not in a state of feeling as though your perceived stressors are emergencies your body will respond by relaxing and releasing.

Your body does not know the difference as to whether your stress is actually occurring or if it is only in your mind. This provides good and bad news. The bad news first, if you are living in a state where you feel that your life is an emergency and live in that space in your head, then you are seriously *stressed* and your body is living in a constant state of flooded cortisol and adrenaline. The good news is, if you remind yourself that life is not an emergency, you are able to calm your mind and body and live within what is true right now. When you live in a space of what is true right now you can release the stress of the past and the future and find an ability to relax and just be here now.

If you have been living in a space of anxiety, stress and fear, the good news is that you can clear your mind over and over with this new reminder that life is not an emergency. While this may take time, effort and a determined focus, it is worth it to create the healing your mind, body and spirit crave.

Progress, NOT Perfection

 
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Do you feel ready to make BIG changes in your life and yet you are waiting for the *perfect* time to implement those changes? Perfectionism is a plague. The need to feel, be or wait until everything is *perfect* only ends up creating excuse after excuse after excuse. If you really think that there will ever be the perfect timing, circumstances, or anything else to start along your personal wellness journey, no matter what your goals, hopes and dreams may be, then you will find that you will never make it happen. 

Perfectionism is loaded with fear. It is loaded with negative self-talk and feels safest and most in control when it is ruminating on the fantasy of change rather than on allowing yourself to take imperfect action towards change. Change is a process and requires many steps. The change process involves your emotions, mindset and an ability to shift your perceptions about what you want. Having a BIG vision is helpful, but when it comes to putting the change you want into action, it is most helpful to start with small, doable steps. When you consistently place your focus, effort and mindset into completing these small steps, you inevitably will create progress.

Perfectionism will tell you lies such as, “you will begin your personal wellness journey or work on your vision and goals after the trip, the wedding, the weekend, this or that holiday…” only to have something else that will trip up your ability to be *perfect* only causing a constant delay of just starting. It is imperative to change your mindset, change your focus and change your perspective to one of “try, one of today is the day, to one of imperfect action is still action.”

Here’s the cool thing about taking imperfect action, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you want, there is still outcome. Even if your goal is not at 100% by your desired timeline, it’s way more likely to be some % closer than if you were waiting around for just the right time to begin. Let’s say your goal is to eat 7-10 vegetables and fruits per day or to exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 days/ week or to take a yoga class 2 x’s a week. Let’s say you reach the goal 60-80% of the time each week, how would that feel? How would it feel in comparison to not setting the goal, to not create and move towards your action plan and still be waiting for the *perfect* circumstances to begin your personal wellness journey? Yeah, that’s right, not so great! Whereas 60-80% is pretty great given that change is hard and life is busy and constantly distracting.

Let your new mantra become, TRY. Let your mantra be: what ONE thing can I do today to help move me in the direction of my goal? Let you mantra be: I can do it, I will do it, I have to do it no matter what. Today is the day to start. Today is the day to take any action, no matter how small. Today is the day to set out on the journey towards the change you want. Start with your vision, then set your goals, then create your actions steps, then create a plan and then do one thing every single day that moves you in the direction of the life that you want to live. I know sounds simple, but it’s definitely not easy. Perfectionism does not just go away without a fight… This process requires daily focus, review and action. This process requires dedication and pushing through many difficult emotions, thoughts and fears.

Motivation can be hard to come by so having a determined mindset is where you begin. Your journey is yours. It does not have to be *perfect*. If you are suffering from perfectionism, ask yourself why. What happened in your life that made you feel as though being *perfect* was the only way? Ask yourself what messages you received about being *perfect* that have led to feeling stuck, stagnant and the inaction that is happening in your life at this time as a result. Please be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your perfectionism is not useful. When you try, even not knowing what the exact outcome will be, know that it will feel awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning. The concept of being *perfect* at all is a myth. No one is perfect. Offer yourself a moment to acknowledge this and then decide what imperfect action you will take TODAY! Let me know what action you do take and how it feels, I’d love to hear from you!

BREATHE

 
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Whether or not you are breathing is a deciding factor as to whether or not you are alive. Breath is life. Your breath works as a part of an automatic response within your body, meaning, you will breathe whether or not you are thinking about it. The cool thing is, if you bring your breath into your conscious awareness and under your conscious control, you create the opportunity to control your nervous system.

The pace, rhythm and direction of your breath all directly point to your mood state, mental state and can trigger your nervous system towards causing stress or a state of relaxation within your nervous system. There are two major elements of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, or the mode of fight or flight or freeze and the parasympathetic nervous system, the mode of rest and digest. Ideally, unless of course there is a true emergency, we all want to live in rest and digest mode.

The importance of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system response, or remaining in rest and digest mode most of the time is well documented. You see, stress is the cause of upwards of 90% of illness. The stress response as you experience it in your mind and body can be caused by something stressful that is actually happening, or it can be caused by just by thinking about something happening that is distressing. The good news is we can do something about the latter—when the stress response is triggered by our thoughts. This something is super simple and is absolutely free of charge. This something is using your breath.

When you take ahold of your breath, you can take ahold of your whole nervous system. You can calm your mind and body and reconnect to what is true right now, rather than what is occurring in your mind that is creating a fearful, stressful response within your mind and body. Your body does not know the difference between the real or perceived stressors and will respond accordingly to either. When you find that you are catastrophizing and creating the stress response within your body, you can bring the process of breathing into your focus by slowing down each inhale and each exhale and calm your mind in the process.

Breathing diaphragmatically engages the parasympathetic nervous system response. Try this, place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your chest. As you breathe, notice which hand is moving. You are not judging your breathing process. You are simply noticing your breath in order to improve your ability to calm your mind/body. If your hand on your chest is moving but your hand on your abdomen is not moving (meaning your chest is expanding as you inhale), you are paradoxically breathing. This type of breathing can come about by feeling as though you have to suck in your stomach all the time, and it can actually cause you to go into fight or flight mode. Yikes!

If this is how you generally breathe, don’t fret! You can change how you breathe right now! You can practice diaphragmatic breathing in order for it to become your new method of breathing. To diaphragmatically breathe, allow your abdomen to expand into your hand as you inhale and allow the hand on your chest to remain relatively still. As you exhale, draw your navel in towards your spine. Allow this to become your new pattern of breathing—abdomen expanding as you inhale, navel drawing in towards your spine as you exhale.

When you breathe in this manner you are creating an opportunity to calm your nervous system in the here and the now. By allowing your attention to rest on your breath, not in your stressful, repetitive thoughts, you ease your body of the excess cortisol and adrenaline produced by your stressful thoughts. In the moment you recognize that you are feeling stressed within your body due to a thought or perception, rather than an actual stressful occurrence, try this process of connecting with your breath. Breathe diaphragmatically, slowly and deeply. Begin to slow down each inhale and each exhale. Focus on your exhale and allow just a slight pause at the end of your exhale and at the top of your inhale. Follow your breath with your mind. Notice the sensation of your breath against your nostrils. Notice the cooling, calming impact of your breath as you inhale and the warm, soothing impact of your breath as you exhale. 

When you focus on your breath you create an opportunity to become fully engaged in the present moment, the only moment. When you are fully engaged in the present moment you create the opportunity to live your life right as it is unfolding, rather than in the anxiety of the future or wishing for a different past. Your breath is your link, it is your powerful anchor to the present moment. Use it. Be aware of it. Allow it to create the transformation of your nervous system that is possible. Be here now, be aware of your breath and allow stress to no longer rule your life, your body and your mood state.

If you’d like some guidance on how to breathe, you can listen to my 5-minute guided diaphragmatic breathing practice here in the resources section of my website. Has changing your breath changed your life? I’d love to hear how using your breath to manage stress has impacted your life for the better!