In order to be in balance and to stay grounded with what is around us, we need to seek or find grounding and balance within ourselves…the best we can. Create a ritual for yourself – maybe something as simple as a 10-minute mediation to steady the mind. Or, start your morning with some gentle sun salutations and balancing postures to invigorate you and prepare you for your day. Finish the practice with a forward fold and a cozy Savansana.
Try These Soothing Techniques to Calm Your Mind and Body in Times of Stress or Anxiety.
Calming the mind during stressful or uncertain times can feel overwhelming. Navigating fear and uncertainty can be challenging for the mind and body as well. The breath can be used as a simple tool to support the mind and body and tap into our inner resilience. Breathing naturally soothes the nervous system, which helps calm the mind.
Today, I’m going to share with you two simple breathing techniques that you can do from home. Even though both of these techniques are easy, the trick is to remember to do them regularly. Developing a regular practice will help you build a healthy habit and reduce your overall stress level over time. You can do these sitting in a chair during the day or by simply lying on the floor. The beauty of this practice is that it’s incredibly versatile and easy to do from wherever you are at the moment, with whatever energy level you have.
You may have heard of the diaphragmatic breath, or belly breath before. The diaphragm is the most important of the muscles that helps move air in and out of the lungs. Attached to the ribs and lumbar spine, the diaphragm is shaped like a parachute or dome. When the diaphragm contracts on an inhalation, the dome pushes downward and if the abdomen is relaxed the belly will gently expand outward. On an exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back up. Belly breathing can help most people feel relaxed. As you practice it, periodically pause and observe any changes in the mind or body.
Benefits of this Exercise
In our day to day lives, it’s easy to become overstimulated with electronics or notifications on our phones. This belly breathing technique will help quiet the mind and calm the nervous system from everyday stresses. The exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (these are functions like digestion and heart rate).
- Helps quiet the mind and nervous system.
- Exhale helps to stimulate the parasympathetic stimulus nervous system. This is the nervous system in charge of controlling your body at rest (things like digestion and heart rate).
- Eases fears of unknown, uncertainty and doubt, and monkey mind.
- Helps restore your sense of self, internally.
How to Do It
- Sit in a comfortable upright position, or lie on your back on the floor.
- Relax your shoulders, letting go of all tension in your upper body.
- Put one hand on your chest and hand and on your stomach.
- Breath in through your nose for two seconds, allowing the air to expand into your diaphragm. Allow your chest to remain mostly still while your stomach expands like a balloon.
- Next, purse your lips and exhale for two seconds, gently contracting your abdominal muscles. If comfortable, seal your lips and exhale through the nose.
- Repeat this exercise several times for two minutes, in a slow and controlled manner. Afterwards, you should feel a sense of calm and relaxation in your body.
- As you become comfortable with this breathing practice, explore making the exhale longer than the inhale to experience a similar (or different) calming effect.
Basic Bee Breath
This next technique is known as the bee breath, or brahmari. The name brahmari is derived from the Sanskrit term for bee. For this breath, you’ll be making a humming sound that resembles a buzzing bee. Known for its relaxing effects, this breath can help break up mental thought patterns that cause anxiety.
Benefits of this Exercise
This exercise helps soothe the nervous system by focusing your breath and limiting outside distractions and thoughts. It can help calm the mind from racing thoughts and ease anxiety by using longer focused breaths.
- Soothes the nervous system with longer breaths.
- Helps create a calm, centered inner voice.
- Reduces inflammation in the body by decreasing stress.
- Eases your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system).
- Activates your body’s built-in stress release (parasympathetic nervous system).
How to Do It
- Sit comfortably in a seated upright position or or lie on your back on the floor.
- Take a breath in slowly through your nostrils.
- Exhale and make an “mmmmm” sound with your mouth closed. This should sound like a buzzing or humming sound. Keep your facial muscles relaxed and lips gently sealed.
- Focus on the sound you make as you exhale and ignore all outside distractions and thoughts. Notice and feel and vibratory sensations in your body. This should create a relaxing and calming feeling.
- Inhale again through your nostrils and exhale making the “mmmmm” sound. Repeat this exercise for two minutes.
You can do these breathing exercises wherever you feel comfortable. Whether it’s sitting upright at your kitchen table or office chair, driving in traffic, or lying on the floor, you’ll be able to reap the benefits by simply taking two minutes to focus on your breath. Remember, no matter how overwhelmed, stressed, or busy you may feel, taking two minutes to slow down and focus on yourself can help you recenter and regain control of thoughts again.
If you’d like to explore more, let’s get started. You can book a complimentary 1:1 consultation with me here.
After a 6am flight, a presentation and a photoshoot, I walked through the door of our guest house and practically collapsed on the floor. My assistant was behind me carrying my bags and I barely had enough energy to greet my team. “I have to lay down,” I said. My head was hurting, my throat was swelling, and I could barely keep my eyes open.
This wasn’t the first time I had overbooked myself on a business trip. Over the past few years, I had pushed myself to exhaustion to keep up with the pace of my work. Because I love what I do, I used that as an excuse to say yes to everything and sometimes push myself a little too far.
What do I do for work? I am an actor, writer, and marketing consultant, and on this particular trip, I REALLY overbooked myself.
Let’s take a look at my schedule….
- Thursday 3pm– Met with a corporate client in San Francisco.
- Thursday 5pm– Stopped by a coffee shop to use WIFI and finish a consulting project.
- Thursday 7pm– Had dinner with another tech client. During dinner, my throat started to swell up.
After my client dinner, I stayed up until 1am because I was packing and still planning logistics for my trip.
- Friday 4am– Took Lyft to the airport to catch a 6am flight to Phoenix. Drank tea and slept on the plane because my throat was very swollen (I could barely talk at this point).
- Friday 9am– Finished coordinating catering for my workshop.
- Friday 11am– Took a Lyft to my office and finished my presentation.
- Friday 12pm– Presented a workshop about blogging for your business.
- Friday 2pm– Changed and did hair and makeup for a photoshoot. Tried to nap on the hammock outside for 20 minutes.
- Friday 3pm– Did a photoshoot with my photographer and struggled to keep my eyes open due to my cold.
- Friday 6pm– Traveled to our Airbnb to meet with my team. Practically collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. My team was very understanding and let me rest, while they went to check in for the conference.
- Friday 9pm- Prepared for a 3-day business conference that required 10+ hour days and working through the weekend.
Yikes! It’s no wonder I got sick. This was one of the trips that made me change the way I was working and living. I like to compare a scenario like this to chocolate. You may love chocolate, but if you have too much of it, it will make you sick.
Self-Care is More than Ticking off a Checklist
It was after this trip that I knew something had to change. I wasn’t proud of my sleep habits and that I didn’t build any breaks into my schedule leading up to the trip.
As someone who enjoys running, working out everyday, and eating well, it seemed like burnout wouldn’t affect me. But it did. As a result, I spent years researching and working with coaches and doctors to find out the root cause of my fatigue and chronic pain.
For one, I do have severe scoliosis with a curvature in my spine of about 50 degrees. This contributed to a lot of my pain and fatigue that would usually leave me stuck in bed by the end of the week. I knew I didn’t want to live like this, and I worked hard to learn different therapeutic approaches for improving my quality of life.
When I moved to San Francisco, I started taking Saturday morning yoga classes in my apartment building. We had our own yoga studio, so I could simply go down the elevator and do yoga without having to leave home. The class was taught by Julie Watson. One of the residents in my building said, “you have to take her class, she’s so therapeutic.”
After taking group classes, I had the chance to work with Julie one-on-one for private yoga therapy sessions. I had just booked an acting tour which had a demanding travel schedule, so we met at her studio for sessions when I was back in San Francisco. The timing couldn’t have been better. At this point in my life, I was dealing with a lot of stress due to my travel schedule and an unexpected move that came up.
What I Learned in Yoga Therapy:
Julie taught me really simple breathing exercises that I can do anywhere. These exercises help me clear my mind and I still practice them often.
Try this breathing exercise at home: Lay flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Next, close your eyes and count backwards from 4-3-2-1. Counting backwards helps focus your mind so that it’s not running in circles, which is what Julie describes as “monkey mind.”
Other tips that Julie gave me while on my theater tour:
- Drink warming drinks: During the winter months, Julie suggested that I try having hot tea or soup at the end of the day after performing. This was something simple I could do in the hotel. I could easily carry tea in my purse.
According to Julie, “Hot drinks or cooked foods helps improve digestion and elimination, which therefore gives your immunity a boost. They can also be very nourishing and grounding, which is needed during cooler temps or when you’re feeling scattered or cold.”
- Remember to breath: So much tension in our lives can be attributed to forgetting to breath. This simple technique reminded me to breathe through stressful moments and let go of tension in the body before it turns into stress.
- Self–Massage: Julie also taught me effective self-massage techniques. Using oils, like coconut oil or vitamin E oil, can create a calming effect that can help you sleep better.
You Don’t Have to Suffer for Your Art
I think artists and creative entrepreneurs can sometimes get caught up in the idea that they either have to choose between their well-being or their art. However, I’ve tried to develop a career and lifestyle that integrates health and wellness into my work. Together, I think we can break the stereotype that you have to suffer for your art.
I think art can enrich our lives. It can bring us more energy and vibrancy. It can inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. And caring for our health and well-being is an integral part of creating good art.
I learned first-hand that it takes an immense amount of energy to perform. You’re going to feel tired afterwards. Fortunately, these techniques and tools have allowed me to recover in a healthy way so that I can still enjoy a day off, have coffee with a friend, or even visit a museum (without being on a schedule!)
Can I cure myself of scoliosis & chronic pain? Maybe not completely, but the techniques and tools I have learned through private yoga therapy have improved my life by a significant amount.
If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that life is for living, not just working. I think Julie does a fantastic job in bringing out the best in people and teaching them simple tools to live a healthy, balanced life. I’m so thankful that we crossed paths and we got to work together.
I hope today you can take a breath, take a moment, and simply enjoy this life and this day you’ve been given.
For someone who is always in action, I asked Julie what I should do next and she said, “pause.”
Momentum doesn’t always come from being in motion. A pause can be the one thing that you need in order to move forward.
Ready to start your yoga therapy journey? To book a virtual session with Julie, please click here.