Balance, Self Care, Women's Health

Diaphragmatic Breathing: The Most Underutilized Tool to Counteract Stress

Life is filled with an ebb and flow of ups and downs and there isn’t anyone on this Earth immune to the obstacles life can throw at us. Life is sometimes a smooth path and other times it is a bumpy, winding road. There is no way to control the obstacles in our path but we can control how we handle the ride. Embracing and surrendering to the flow of life truly changes the way we perceive our journey. There are so many different tools that can help us navigate tough times but the one that I believe is most underutilized is simply breathing. Intentional, diaphragmatic breathing that is. Diaphragmatic breathing can be done anytime, anywhere to ease any emotion; trauma, anxiety, stress, grief, irritability, or just because…life. There really doesn’t need to be a reason because there are so many benefits to a regular breath work practice. There are also many different breathing techniques but diaphragmatic breathing is a great starting place. It has been studied that this type of breathing can have beneficial effects on physical and mental health, stress and negative emotions can be counteracted, and can enhance sustained attention.

When our body holds becomes stressed or anxiety ridden we, unknowingly, establish a short, shallow breath that encourages the anxiety we are trying to relieve. This a mentally and physically detrimental cycle to continue. This deep breathing technique, anatomically, activates the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the body’s rest and digestion responses) by compressing the vagas nerve (which can assist in lowering your heart rate). This is significant because stressful situations or even everyday stressors can trigger the “flight or flight” mode. If this physiological response is repeatedly activated it can lead to chronic stress that can contribute to high blood pressure, cardio-vascular issues and can lead to depression, anxiety, obesity and addiction.

Not only can diaphragmatic breathing lower stress responses the body produces but it can also improve pelvic floor musculature which should be a focus for women’s wellness. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are synergists, they work together with inhalation and exhalation. They are both hammock like muscles that do the same thing at the same time. So, with inhalation, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor both drop, creating space in both the lungs and the pelvis. With exhalation, these muscles lift with the vacuum effect that takes place in the body. These two important muscles work best when the body is properly aligned. So, this is where posture becomes important for the pelvic floor and lungs to work autonomously.

How to take diaphragmatic breaths…

  • If you are seated, align your posture, head over heart, heart over pelvis, with a neutral spine. If standing, continue hips over knees, knees over ankles.
  • Place a hand on each rib cage, fingers on front side, thumb around back. As you breathe in through your nose, feel your ribs and lungs expand 360 degrees. You don’t want your chest moving much. Your belly will expand but it’s not the focus. Focus on fill up your lungs from the lower part up.
  • Then exhale through your mouth, completely drawing the navel toward the spine gently to help empty completely. This can be done at any time of the day just to relax and center yourself. Diaphragmatic breathing immediately triggers the vagas nerve which is directly related to our parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Practice in a mirror to visualize and become more self aware of the flow.
  • This can be done anytime, anywhere for as many repetitions as you need to feel more at ease. You can start with at least 3 breaths.

Using this as a tool to calm, relax, fall asleep, use during exercise and yoga, whenever you need a little refresher to re center. This tool can keep the mind and body functioning at optimum health. Breathing is something that we don’t have to think about doing, but when we, occasionally, put a little intention behind our breath, it can create less resistance in the flow of life.

Balance, Self Care

What You CAN do During Uncertain Times

Throughout life we experience times that can be uneasy, uncertain, and down right scary. No matter the situation, we need to be able to have the tools to move forward even when we aren’t sure of the outcome. Our whole world is going through this together as COVID-19 becomes the forefront of our vocabulary. Schools have shut down, events cancelled, social distancing will be our norm, all for the greater good of society. This extreme societal break is really nothing we have experienced before so in this prevention of mass spreading of this virus, mass hysteria has infected the country. Grocery stores can’t keep up with essential supplies, people are stressing over the uncertainty of their jobs and who will watch their kids since they will be home indefinitely. While these may be valid reasons to feel heightened, for the sake of our health, humanity and because this could become a temporary season, we need to recenter ourselves. Focusing on what you can do versus what you can’t do is the first step to refreshing your outlook. The better our outlook, the better we manage our stress with the unknowns.

What you can do…

Educate yourself. Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is wealth. Limiting social media and news can eliminate some of the mass hysteria, try not to get caught up in overwhelming yourself in loads of triggering posts. Understand the facts and know your local resources so you can plan accordingly. This alone will take a load off of the misconception and stress of not knowing what to do if it hits your household.

Focus on controlling your own actions and plans. Anxiety can stem from us trying to control things that are simply out of our control. This can be detrimental to our peace and heighten emotions. The best thing we can do is stay calm so we can make rational decisions in this challenging time.

Prioritize your family’s needs. Plan ahead and tend to you and your family’s physical and mental health. This is a time that the world is giving everyone to prioritize health, so please, take it if you are able. Re evaluate your priorities and say no to everything else. This can eliminate any unnecessary guilt that may arise. Get the essentials you need for the moment, the mass hysteria is driving people to buy in an extreme bulk. We are not being productive as a whole if we are buying stores out of supplies that everyone needs.

Gravitate toward the help. Whether you need help or maybe you have help to offer others, reach out to the organizations and individuals who you see joining or needing help. It is amazing how quickly people can come together in time of need. There are people who want to help and there are people who need it. If you are one of those people who need it, speak up, do not feel ashamed, everyone needs help at some point in life. Maybe this is a time for you. If you are someone who wants to help, check in with others you think may need it.

Stay healthy. Practice good hygiene, stay hydrated, eat nourishing foods, get rest and stay moving. This is a good time to ground in nature and get some fresh air. Set your body up for success, the more consistent we can be with making healthier decisions, the better prepared we are to handle or even prevent an illness.

Allow yourself some grace. This isn’t something we experience often and can be challenging. Give yourself patience and allow time for self care. What do you need in this moment? How can you make this stressful time easier for yourself? What do you need help with? Who can help you with this? What activities can you do to lighten the situation? Checking in with yourself often can lead you down a more calming path. Feelings will arise, and that is OK!

Find the silver lining. What good is coming out of this? What are you grateful for in this moment? My favorite activity to put my life in perspective is thinking of 3 things that I am grateful during intense times. This can really pull yourself out of a bad mental space. Social distancing can really be a good time to go within, spend quality time with family, and find creative ways to stay busy. You might actually create a new normal that sparks a new interest.

Know, this too shall pass. This is a new situation for most, but nothing lasts forever and we are all in this together. Rely on your support system, enjoy the time you are given, and get creative in your new definition of fun time. Time will pass and it will go by more pleasant if we can move forward as our best selves.

The ebbs and flows of life continue on even when we aren’t prepared for what’s to come. We aren’t able to prepare for an outcome but we can prepare for the way we handle it. Our actions are the key to how this season looks and feels. COVID-19 may be the culprit this time but we will always face times of uncertainty, none of us are immune. How will you move forward during this season of your life?

Balance, Self Care, Uncategorized

Balance, Wellness, and Self Care; Behind the Buzzwords

Balance, wellness, and self care, oh my! Literally, everywhere we turn this is slapped in our faces. Words that most will roll their eyes to, because how can anyone be balanced, well or even have time to take care of them selves in this tightly wound, fast paced, busy lifestyle that is enabled every where we turn?! We live in a world where taking time off of work for even just necessary appointments, parental leave, or God forbid, a sick child, we are looked down upon, sometimes reprimanded for. We are expected to have a thriving life, career, and children with little support getting there. Cue the shame, comparisons, and insecurities that eat away at a thriving life, career, and children.

It’s true though, the world we are in now is not the grounded, disconnected, simple life we might have grown up with. But we have gotten a lot of what we wanted, like more conveniences (hello, Amazon Prime), technology at our finger tips (literally glued to our hands), and connection to anyone, any place, at any given moment. What was hugely missed was the opportunity to keep some of the “down” time because of the fast paced lifestyle. But we didn’t, we filled it with more meetings, work, and/or mindless social media scrolling. We are now being indirectly rewarded for running ourselves ragged. Getting ourselves farther from balance, wellness, and self care. So, yea, when someone comes at you with get balanced, well and do your self care, that may be triggering.

These words, balance, wellness, and self care are buzzwords for a reason, because the world needs it more than ever. These buzzwords fly left and right, but when you can see the intention that they have behind them and how, maybe, just maybe, the world needs a little more of them, they might actually bring something positive to your life.

What do I mean?

Well, start by evaluating your life, what area of your life could use a little more balance? Where could you be more intentional? Maybe self care for you, in your hectic life, just means taking a five minute walk in fresh air or maybe even just taking in some deep breaths to calm your nervous system. It doesn’t have to be trips to the spa or getting your nails done, unless that is something that lights up your life. You do you!

Becoming more balanced doesn’t have to be complicated. Start simple with something manageable. You don’t even have to spend money, get creative. The best place to start is to think about things that put a smile on your face, refreshes you and makes you feel good. Following those instincts lead you on the path to a better well being. Another little insider tip, balance is something we have to actively work on and give attention to. Life can hit us hard when we aren’t looking so it becomes a give and take. I call this action, Balancebuilding®. What feels balanced to you is not always what feels balanced to someone else.

We can’t change societal stigmas without first changing ourselves. If we want the world to have a better balance we need to first find our own. If we want the world to be well, we need to prioritize wellness as individuals. If we want the world to acknowledge self care, we need to take it. We can only give the energy we have.

Where do you go from here?

  • Acknowledge where you are. Hold yourself accountable.
  • Meet yourself where you are.
  • Show yourself some love and grace. A journey to one’s self is never easy but always worth it.
  • Reach out for help and communicate your needs clearly. Whether that is to a family member, friend, or even a professional to help get you where you want to be.
  • Communicate from a place of love. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed and anxious that we can sound harsh. Speak from your true feelings and exactly what you need. Understand that people are not mind readers and you can not hold them accountable for what you didn’t communicate.
  • Organize your priorities. Making a list of your top priorities daily or weekly will help you say no to things that are getting in your way of being your best self.
  • Take action! Again, balance and true wellness take intention. Plan your day according to your priorities.

These steps will encourage the feeling of accomplishment, self confidence, and your authentic self. Doesn’t that make for huge successes? Behind the buzzwords are actions that could truly save your well being. Aren’t we all just trying to be truly happy as our authentic selves? What are you waiting for?

Balance, Self Care

End of a Decade, Beginning of a new Birth Year

It’s New Year’s Eve and also the day I have made 34 trips around the sun. I never really thought of my birthday on New Year’s Eve as very special until I got older. What is most people’s end of a year is my beginning. And it is such a self reflective day. I’m not sure there has been any other year that I have had this much personal growth.

Last year, I started a new tradition of picking a word for the upcoming years. These words act as affirmations and can be a motivation to resolutions. It is something to come back to when you find yourself off track. My word was DHARMA. Dharma is a sanskrit spiritual word for your personal truth or duty, life purpose. I have dedicated this year to that and it has been a year full of digging deep within myself to focus in on the energy I put into the world. I have found the more you give the more you receive.

My year consisted of…

-Quitting my corporate job to be a stay at home working for myself Mom

-Lots of yoga training-RYT200 Yoga Certification

-Pre/Postnatal Yoga Certification

-Pelvic floor Yoga Certification

-Teaching my first yoga classes/workshops

-Went on 2 vacations

– One sans Maddux and the other was Maddux’s First vaca

-I finished breastfeeding after 15 months 🎉 #freedom

-I won 2 life changing experiences on Instagram–One was a 60 min consult with Heaven Sent Sleep- it was definitely heaven sent. For the first 14 months of Maddux’s life he NEVER slept through the night. Like I’m talking multiple wake ups! I couldn’t do it anymore. Since then, he has slept through the night, every night! The other experience I won was an Akashic Record reading from Melita Mollohan. Wow. What an experience. She gave me insight into my life and also reassurance into other parts. The main thing I appreciate is the peace she gave me for the upcoming challenging parts. If you ever get the chance to do so, do it!

-Started writing a book

-During a challenging matter (a later blog post will explain) I actually created one of my proudest creations yet, my Postpartum Wellness Recovery Course. This is when I realized I was put here to help women and moms navigate through life with the best of tools. Balancebuilding was perfected in this moment.

-Sold our home

-Moved to a rental

-Found a home in Buckhannon

-Found a little more “go with the flow attitude”

-Found the difference between myself as a Mom and as an individual.

-Discovered detachment to material things/situations/and whatever does not serve me any longer is the key to really living life.

I look at this list and I am astounded and proud of how much I have done and how far I have come! I also notice that most of this list can be mapped back to my word of the year for 2019, DHARMA. I really stuck to it even though sometimes it might not have seemed that way. Progress over perfection. This is why reflection is so important to where you are headed.

You don’t realize how much a year can change your life until you reflect. My new word for this upcoming word is EXPANSION. I want to expand on what 2019 brought me. I will soon be starting 2020 off in a new town and I am excited to see what it has to offer! Change can be scary but it also can create growth like you have never felt.

If you haven’t done some self reflecting on 2019, I suggest you do so. Focus on the good and look at how far you have come. This will help you create your goals and intentions for 2020 and a positive mindset for starting the year.

Journaling prompts for self reflection…

If I could tell my 2018 self about 2019, what would I say?

If I could pick 2 pivotal moments from 2019 what would they be?

What was the greatest improvements I have made this year?

How can 2020 be even better than 2019?

What do I plan to bring to the table in 2020?

I would love to hear from you! Let me know if something resonates, and keep being your best, true self! Thank you to those who have reached out on my special day and I hope you all have the best New Year!

Balance, Self Care

Hello, meet Ego.

Hi, I’m Ego and I am here to wreck your dreams.

Well, I, personally am not Ego, but we all have one!

Ask yourself…

Is your Ego blocking you from achieving your dreams?

What is the one thing you would do if that negative voice in your head stopped talking?

That negative voice actually has a name, meet your Ego! Your Ego could be holding you back from losing the weight and finally keeping it off, from finding your purpose in life, from freeing yourself of past traumas, from truly feeling happy, the list could go on!

We all have an ego, and most people associate ego with over confidence and arrogance. Ego can definitely be that but it is also the loud, obnoxious voice in your head giving you doubts about yourself, comparing yourself to others, pushing major insecurities and leading you down a path that is not true to your self. Ego causes self-limiting beliefs that can hold you back from achieving your goals and some of your biggest dreams. Ego heightens any fear or anxiety you have causing a false perception of the future. Ego just waits around for the perfect opportunity to talk yourself out of the things your soul yearns for. Just think of it this way, no one likes to hang around “negative Nancy”, so why would you let “negative Nancy” control your every move?!

Your soul is the exact opposite of your ego. Your soul is your true self, the self that is confident, authentic, a bright light that is ready to radiate from your body. A lot of people never let their soul shine because their Ego is too loud, masking their highest potential. Your soul is your gut feelings that you knew you should have listened to the first time around, it is peaceful and loving, warm and inviting, literally your own built in cheerleader! Your soul is what is connected to the divine, higher powers above and was given to you to lead you on your path step by step.

Unfortunately, so many of us, including myself, struggle with quieting the ego enough to listen to our soul. It is even more prevalent now with social media basically screaming ego each scroll you take. But there are tools that you can do to quiet your ego.

  • Meditation– Meditation is a practice that can help you focus on accessing your inner peace. It can train your brain to silence out those loud negative voices. It can be tough when starting meditation but it is like exercise, start in small increments and work your way up in time. You will start to really get know your soul by quieting the noise.
  • Mindfulness– Just being aware of your present moment and being mindful of everything will help you be clear of every decision you are making. Being mindful can help that inner voice be heard clearer.
  • Journal– Journaling your thoughts day to day is a good way to get out what you are feeling. Putting the good and the bad on paper and leaving it there can help to get any pent up emotions out of your body. When we build up anger, anxiety or sadness, the ego feeds off of that and can bring out false perceptions of people, situations or even yourself.
  • Turn negative into a positive– When you catch yourself being negative, immediately turn that into a positive. For example, if you catch yourself feeling like you aren’t good enough, think of at least one thing that you love about yourself. Eventually you will train your mind to just go to the positive.
  • Do more of what lights you up– Really think hard about what you love and do more of it! Ask yourself if there is something you can’t go a day without thinking about that makes you smile. That thing that makes you smile and you think about often could be the thing that pushes you to your inner peace and bliss.

These simple and effective steps could be the one thing that is standing in your way to achieving your dreams. These are all things you can do at your freedom with yourself, for yourself. Turn down the volume on your ego and let your soul shine!