Breathing to Calm Stress

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Breathing consciously is one of the most powerful ways to calm the body’s stress response (sympathetic nervous system) and activate the body’s rest response (parasympathetic nervous system), powerfully changing the cascade of hormones and communication molecules flowing through your brain and body for the better. Try integrating the following breathing practices into your daily life and notice the effect on your mood and mental clarity.

If you have no time at all, try: 

Observing Your Breath: Don’t change your breath in any way; simply observe your breath. Where is your breath going in your body? Feel your lungs expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Focus on the changing sensations as air moves through your nose and fills your chest and abdomen. You may mentally note, “inhaling,” as inhaling and, “exhaling,” as exhaling.

Belly Breathing: Place your hand on your abdomen and as you inhale let your belly expand, like the belly of a baby or a puppy dog. When we are stressed, we take short upper chest breaths. Breathing deeply into the belly tells the brain that we are safe, bringing blood to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the highest part of the brain. “Willpower pause” is the term researcher Kelly McGonigal uses to describe how two minutes of deep belly breathing shifts blood away from the reactive parts of the brain to the PFC, allowing us to respond with clarity and resilience during times of stress. Amazing! 

Focusing on the Exhalation: Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you let it out through your mouth, focus on squeezing out every last sip. Notice the effort in the muscles between your ribs (called intercostal muscles). The amount of air you move out of your lungs determines the amount of air you can draw in. 

If you have 3 minutes, try:


Counting Your Breath: This is a powerful anti-anxiety technique. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth (like you were blowing out of a straw) for a count of 8. Repeat the processes three more times, maintaining the 4:7:8 ratio and notice the effect on your nervous system. Do four breath cycles at least twice a day. 

If you have 5 – 10 minutes try: 

Making your Breath Deeper and More Easeful with an Anchor: Sitting or lying down, scan your body for any areas of unnecessary tension and let the body soften. Bring your attention to your belly and invite your breath to be deeper and more easeful. At the bottom of each exhalation, silently whisper a word or phrase that makes you feel safe or peaceful. This word or phrase is an anchor for your attention. When your mind wanders, invite your attention back to your breath and your word. Keep inviting yourself back for 5-20 minutes. Researchers use the term “relaxation response” to describe the healing that occurs through this practice. In one study, participants who practiced for 10 -20 minutes once or twice per day demonstrated changes in the expression of genes related to immune function, energy metabolism, and inflammation. Relaxation literally changes the substance of your body!

Resting in Your Breath: Find a comfortable position lying down. Let the eyes close and the arms and legs rest heavy. Find your breath wherever you feel it most easily – belly, chest, or nose. Now, sense that you are “being breathed” by the universal life force. There is nothing you have to do, just enjoy being breathed. Inhaling to receive this nourishing life force and exhaling to let go. Allow yourself be carried by this mysterious life force, resting in the fundamental rhythm of nature to which you already belong. 

 

By Kayleigh Vogel, Wellness & Positive Psychology Coach 

http://www.kayleighwellness.com

 

3 Nutrition Tips for Social Distancing

By Beth Lipton, Health Coach

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You don’t need me to tell you how stressful the situation we’re in now is. We’re all living with it and coping as best we can. What we eat has the power to ease or exacerbate our stress, so here are a few strategies to help keep you well and calm.

Watch out for stress eating: I’ve seen a lot of talk around social media about stress eating, and it’s completely understandable why this is happening—especially if you’re bored, which can make it even worse. If you’ve been stress eating, no judgment. We’re just at the beginning of this quarantine, so it’s the best time to get yourself set up with healthy habits. The best defense against stress eating is noticing when you’re doing it (or, ideally, when you’re about to do it). Every time you go to eat something outside of meal times, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Check in with how your body is feeling. If you are hungry, note the sensations in your body, how your stomach feels (and if you’re truly hungry, have a snack—something with vegetables, protein and healthy fat, like sliced vegetables with a hard-boiled egg). If you’re not sure, or you find you aren’t actually hungry, engage yourself in an activity that isn’t eating. I recommend making a list of tasks you’ve been wanting to accomplish for a while and referring to it in these moments, instead of turning to TV or social media, which invite snacking. Clean out a closet, FaceTime a friend or loved one, organize some area of your home. Engage in something that requires your brain and ideally your hands, too. 

Eat nourishing foods. You know that to stay well, you need foods that are good for you, with plenty of nutrients. Eat plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and protein—grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish. If you don’t eat animal protein, whole grains and beans in combination are fine. Avoid snack foods like chips and puffs (even organic ones, and ones that say they have a serving of vegetables), and really watch out for sweets. A little something is fine, like a piece of dark chocolate. But sugar is an enemy to your immune system, and none of us needs that right now. If you’re “corona baking,” stick to recipes that sweeten with fruit like bananas, apples and dates, or that rely on just a touch of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Utilize recipes that are lower in empty carbs like white flour. (Shameless plug: I post recipes like this free all the time on my Instagram.) Not only will sticking to whole, nourishing foods help you stay well, you’ll also feel so. Much. Better. 

Order in sometimes… but have it steamed. I’m in favor of supporting restaurants by ordering in some meals right now. Your best bet is to order your food steamed and add your own seasonings/sauces. Restaurants often use low-quality vegetable oils, because they’re less expensive—but those oils are highly inflammatory to the body and can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. It’s not as sexy getting food delivered that’s steamed, but it can make a real difference in how you feel—plus, you want to avoid unnecessary inflammation as much as possible while we’re all vulnerable. We all know to avoid processed foods—you’ll be hard-pressed to find one more processed than vegetable oils. Avoid them whenever you can, starting with takeout.

I hope these tips are helpful to you, and that you stay well and safe throughout the crisis.

– Beth Lipton, Health Coach

Website: Bethlipton.com

Free Resources to Keep You Healthy & Centered during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, likely throwing off your daily routine and sense of balance in this turbulent time.

Taking care of yourself, whether through fitness, nutrition or mindfulness, can help retain a sense of normalcy and keep you feeling (somewhat!) centered.

We’ve rounded up some of the best free offers from fitness apps, meditation apps and more below. We’ll be updating this regularly so bookmark this page and keep checking back! Continue reading

Meet On Your Mark Owner & Nike Master Trainer: Emily Hutchins

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What’s your advice for people looking to get back into a regular fitness/health routine this Fall?

Small victories.  Don’t over schedule your workouts…start with 3x week and build up your time so you don’t burn out. 

What’s your favorite part about your class?

The group energy and the work ethic our members put in at the gym…they don’t just go through the motions, they work, learn and perform

What would be your best advice to those who have never tried a class at OYM?

Don’t attempt to get ‘’in shape’’ first.  Leave it to us to help carve out your training journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day, small progressions lead to big victories.

Do you regularly switch up your workout routine?

Yes, every 4-6 weeks you should re-evaluate your performance.

What’s the most rewarding part of working out for you?

Feeling good, being injury free, and knowing how that translates to the long term.

– On Your Mark Owner and Nike Master Trainer: Emily Hutchins