April is Stress Awareness Month
STRESS – Oh it’s that 6 letter word that starts and ends with an ‘S’ and we all know something about it.
So, what exactly is it? Well, its where there are more levels of Cortisol hormone (stress hormone) in your body than there should be and there needs to be more of serotonin (that’s your calming hormone) in your body for your mind and body to function correctly.
When we start to feel stressed that’s when the levels of cortisol are higher and we then start to have headaches, tightness in our shoulders and neck area, our brain function starts to decrease, and we start doing silly things. We need to start to notice when we are feeling stressed and what causes it for us to then do something about it before it gets out of hand.
Did you know that 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
So for you to not be a statistic you need to start to figure out how to change your thought process. To do this take 3 big deep breaths and channel our thoughts out into our exhales. We can also use our hands and place them against a wall and try to push the wall away. As you do this, the stress levels decrease as you are ridding your body of the cortisol. Go out for a walk in nature. Nature is truly our biggest healer and teacher so let it in and be stress and anxious free.
I would love to know how you cope with stress. Everyone is different and everyone has their own ways of doing things. I'd love to know so leave a comment below and I'll give your idea a try.
Stress can bring on a multitude of ailments within your body and headaches and migraines are one of them. Most of us suffer with headaches or migraines at some point in our lives. Did you know research suggests that 3,000 migraine attacks occur every day for each million of the general population. That's an incredible number and I'm sure that has gone higher within the last year because of WFH. So what can we do to help prevent it from coming on? Yes we can reach for the pills and go to see a GP but have you thought about turning to a more holistic method. Now I'm not going to sell you the latest trend but what I am going to say is that find a method that works for you and stick to it.
The best form of treatment is knowing what can trigger it in the first place so getting to know your body well enough will be the best course of action. Once you can feel it coming on, you'll then need to write it down what it was that you were just doing and try doing that task again and noticing what happens. If the same occurs then you know its down to that particular trigger.
Some triggers might be eating specific foods, for example high sugary foods. Another one might be missed meals because your body needs food for energy and for it to function correctly which then if you miss a meal, there isn't sufficient energy to power your body, hence the headache or migraine attacking. Another one could be mild dehydration and I suffer with this when I wake up first thing in the morning as I'm dehydrated from the night before while asleep. Alcohol can be another trigger and for obvious reasons such a alcohol makes you dehydrated. To much caffeine in coffee can also play a huge role in headaches, this is due to the body not excreting it. Sleep can be another trigger especially if you have had broken sleep. The list is endless. Also for those of us working from home and sitting at a computer all day, this can be another huge factor. With the head, neck and shoulders all hunched over and the flickering of the screen, this can bring on more headaches.
So how can we get around this problem? Note down when and where you were or are for this to trigger. What were you doing? How did you feel? Then you can figure out what it is and try and decrease your time spent doing that particular activity. Another option is to do some yoga and exercise for your happy hormones to be produced. Serotonin your calming hormone will be released when you exercise and the stress level cortisol will decrease. This will start to make you feel better. Let me know what triggers you have and I'll help you to overcome them.
Did you know that doing yoga or any exercise for 30 minutes a day, 3 times per week will dramatically decrease your chances of a headache and it will make you feel so good you wont want to stop.
If you suffer with headaches or migraines did you know that here at EasYoga we have over 220 online on demand yoga classes for you to access whenever you want to which has FREE access for 7 days when you sign up. This will significantly decrease the chances of you getting headaches anymore.
There are so many ways to combat stress and one of the amazing go to’s is meditation or just sitting quietly (as some people think meditation is a bit woo woo and I did to up until recently) and also breathing exercises are amazing at really helping you to combat stress.
One of my favourite quotes from Bryant Mcgill is, 'Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So, relax.' To me this sums up this year with all the challenges we all have faced over this past year.
Sitting still and Visualising Method
Come to a seated or laying down position. If seated, get comfortable and have hands resting wherever is comfortable. If laying down, have your feet more than hip distance apart, hands down by your sides slightly away from your chest, having the palms facing towards the sky. Gently push your shoulders down away from your ears and tilt your head so your chin is slightly facing towards the chest. This will lengthen the spine. Gently close your eyes and bring the tongue away from the roof of your mouth. Have your jaw slightly open, releasing tension in your face. Move any part of your body you need to, to feel comfortable. You need to fully release all the muscles. Fully release all the thoughts. Fully release all the tension kept in your body. Have a wriggle, have a giggle, and then settle down to your final comfortable relaxation state.
Slowly start to gather your thoughts, collecting them all up and putting them in a bubble and blowing them away with your exhale. Any other thoughts that come your way, let them go. Let them just drift past, trying not to cling onto them. You want your mind and body to be completely still.
Be conscious of your breathing for three deep breaths. Inhale using your diaphragm. Try breathing from the bottom of your tummy right up to the top of your collar bone. You are aiming to fully inflate your lungs. Gently push your shoulder blades down into the floor, spreading them away from your ears and away from the spine. On every inhale slightly pause at the top before your exhale. Do not pause if you have high blood pressure.
On your exhales you are aiming to slowly release from the tops of your collar bone, down through the chest, using your core muscles to push out all the extra air. Slowly count to three on the inhales and four on the exhales. On the inhale say to yourself, ‘let’ and on your exhales say to yourself, ‘go’. Listen to your body and feel it releasing. Releasing tension all over your body.
Find your final relaxation state. Notice your breath’s natural rhythm, allowing the tummy to rise and fall naturally.
Starting at the tips of your toes and working all the way to the crown of the head, relax all the muscles and bones in your body. Imagine the muscles peeling away from the bones. Relaxing.
Slowly relaxing the soles of the feet, ankles, calves and shins. Relax the knees, kneecaps, back of knees. Relax your thighs (quads and hamstrings). Bring your attention towards the front of your pelvis and start to relax. Relax the hip joints, the front and back of the pelvis. The top and bottom of the pelvis. There is so much tension kept in the pelvis area. Breathe into the area deeply. Relax the lower spine, feeling the back muscles peeling away from it. Bring your attention around to the front of your body. Relax your internal organs, your tummy area. Relax the middle of your spine, chest ribs, the muscles in between the ribs (intercostal muscles). Relax the top of your spine. The collar bones. Bring your attention to the shoulder blades. Relax the shoulders. Relax your upper arms (triceps and biceps). Relax your elbows, forearms, wrists, hands and fingers. Imagine someone lifting your arm up and releasing it to the floor. It would be so heavy that it would fall quickly. Bring your attention towards the back of the neck, relaxing the muscles. The front of the neck, relaxing the thyroid glands, voice box. Relax your head. Feeling your head heavy, sinking into the floor. Bring your attention to your face. Relax your forehead, eyes, cheek bones, jaw. Finally relaxing your mind. Stay here for as long as you need to. Breathing in and out. Clearing your mind.
Visualisation – When fully relaxed, slowly start to visualise yourself marooned on a deserted beach. No one else around but you. Sitting under a palm tree gazing out to the crystal-clear waters of the ocean. Imagine the colours around you. Bright blue sky, green palm tree leaves, white soft sand. Imagine picking up the nice white soft sand and letting it run through your fingers and toes. Noticing how soft and pure it feels. Noticing the gentle breeze on your skin, the warm sun beaming down on you. Letting all your thoughts and worries go. Listening to the waves gently lapping on the shore. Just feeling calm, relaxed, being present in this present moment.
You may want to take a walk down to the ocean. Slowly get up from where you are sitting under your palm tree. Walk down to the ocean feeling the soft white sand between your toes. Feeling the warm sun still beaming down on you. Maybe picking up some shells as you go. As you reach the shoreline, slowly take a paddle into the shallow water. Noticing the coolness of the ocean around your feet and ankles. Watching little fish swim around your feet. Feeling your feet sinking into the sand. Maybe stay here or take a walk through the water. Just walking gently. Noticing your feelings.
How calm, relaxed, and heavy the body feels. Stay here for as long or as little as you wish. Start to slowly walk back up the beach, feeling the soft sand around your toes. Gently sit back down under your palm tree. Still gazing out to the ocean. Noticing how calm and relaxed you are.
As you slowly start to bring your mind back into the room, gently wriggling your fingers and toes bringing the sensation back into your body. Maybe hug your knees into your chest or have a stretch and a yawn. Bring the right arm up above your head and slowly, when you are ready, roll onto your right side, resting your head on your arm. Stay here for as long as you wish. Noticing how relaxed, calm, and heavy your body feels. When you are ready, push up to a comfortable seated position, hands resting wherever is comfortable.
We are going to take three long, big deep breaths. Slowly inhale and slowly exhale. On the second breath inhale to fully expand your lungs, pausing at the top only if this is comfortable and then on the exhale really releasing any tension held here. On your last breath, take a big deep inhale using all your lung capacity and a bit more. On your exhale let out a big sigh. Noticing how your body feels after your relaxation and breathing.
You are now free to carry on with your day, or if practicing this at night, rest soundly feeling calm, relaxed, and rested.
So many people suffer with Anxiety, Stress, Insomnia, Tight muscles etc. This is mostly due to not using the correct breathing techniques.
Have you ever looked at the way babies and children breath? They use their abdomen as well as their chest to inflate their lungs, giving them a full round of oxygen to flow throughout their bodies. Its only during adulthood that we seem to breathe shallowly and not use our lungs to their full potential. Hence why we feel sluggish, tired and stressed.
We are not getting near enough oxygen to our lungs to function to our full capacity. Hence low oxygen levels to our brains making it work inefficiently. Your breath is one of your best defences against daily stress, frustration, and genuinely living a healthy lifestyle. Once you learn the art of expert inhaling and exhaling, you'll likely to start to feel better. You might notice that you have developed more resilience and grace and just learn to let go.
I have put together Five Top Tips to help you breath better and make you feel more alive. So read on.
1. Sit up straight and push your shoulders away from your ears, sliding them down your back. Come onto your sitting bones so rolling slightly forward. Reach through the crown of your head and close your eyes. Take 3 big deep breaths in, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. With every inhale say to yourself 'Let' and every exhale say to yourself 'Go'. Notice how you feel.
2. Ujjayi Breathing. I absolutely love, love, love this breathing technique. Click on the video to watch a tutorial on this and other breath techniques. Its amazing to calm the mind and relieve stress.
3. Close your eyes and come to a relaxed seated position. Bring your mind to your happy place. This may be somewhere at home or on a holiday somewhere. It should be something to calm your mind and bring content and happiness back into your life. Sit just breathing, using the mind to calm your breath.
4. Studies have shown that just practising deep breathing for 45 minutes a week (which is just 6 minutes per day) can help lower high blood pressure. This is because deep breathing helps to improve blood flow in the small blood vessels and regulate heart rate, slowing the heartbeat and helping to stabilise blood pressure.
5. How many times a day do you think we actually breath? Try 20,000 😮 That's a huge amount of breaths that we are not using to their full potential.
When you take in shallow breaths, the oxygen content isn't getting to the brain which makes your concentration less. Try taking some big deep breaths to counteract this. It will make you feel more energised as well. It doesn't cost anything, and you will thank your body for it.
So enjoy your breathing.
So now you know a bit more about Stress and Breathing exercises and hopefully you will be able to put into place some of the techniques we’ve used. Let me know how you get on.
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Have a great day.
Lots of love xxx