Whether it’s from stress or dealing with other mess, this video has strategies to help you to breathe easier by relaxing muscles that can affect your breathing.
How often in life do we focus on treating the symptoms instead of getting to the root problem? Please take a moment here to pause and reflect. We all do it, we’ve done it and many of us are living it; daily.
It seems that each year that passes the expectations increase: work, life, home, social media. I find myself, especially at work, multi-tasking “to the max” (showin’ my age here) and then wondering why I’m tired and then later having difficulty sleeping.
Yet, in my work I help clients find a balance between self-care and care of everyone else. Some are more receptive than others. Some resist even the most basic of changes to help themselves live better.
It took me decades to figure out how important a daily routine of quality self-care for myself was, a routine I’m still tweaking. I cannot imagine where I’d be without it.
Today, where can we begin to take the time to turn off the faucet, so that we’re not just continuously mopping the floor? Where can we create space in our over-scheduled lives to care for our own physical, mental, spiritual and emotional needs? “Waiting” until the next break, vacation, holiday, day off, etc just kicks the can down the street. Be joy now. Bring it!
Love anyone or everyone by taking care of your basic needs! The world will thank you!
In downshifting this past week and being diligent in self-care to detox, I began to notice how much I was struggling to catch my breath. No cold, not an asthma attack, just every breath seemed labored. Remembering comments from a friend and fellow blogger, I began to look into “air hunger.” This lead to the book Self-Help for Hyperventilation Syndrome: Recognizing and Correcting Your Breathing-Pattern Disorder by Dinah Bradley. Since then, I’ve been relearning to breathe easily.
Most of us think of hyperventilating as something that is acute and requires a paper bag to cure (use caution with this, and avoid if having an asthma attack). However, in the book, Bradley discusses at length how hyperventilation can also become a less dramatic and chronic breathing pattern that can cause some potentially serious, or at the least some very bothersome health problems.
Examples of symptoms include: fatigue, anxiety, lethargy, depression, muscle aches, muscle tension, chest pain, numbness/tingling, and shortness of breath. When examined by a physician, having tests performed, and blood drawn patients were left without any answers as to the cause of their suffering. In the book, Bradley explains the physiology behind hyperventilation syndrome leading to the symptoms. Please seek immediate medical attention if you are having chest pains and/or shortness of breath! It’s better to get any emergency medical conditions ruled out.
When we breath through our mouths or quickly through our nostrils, it activates the stress response which then reinforces the breathing pattern; one which then becomes difficult to break. Frequent yawning, sighing or feeling like you cannot catch your breath are signs that you may have a hyperventilation breathing pattern. Breath retraining and making some lifestyle changes may be helpful.
Wear clothing that does not restrict your body, particularly your belly and chest from moving. Sitting upright with good posture also supports better breathing, as slouching impairs the movements of respiration. Focus on the exhale, more than breathing in. Be sure to keep your mouth closed, if your nostrils are not congested, with most of your non-exertion activities. Try to make the exhale “low and slow” while slightly pulling in at your belly and keep the breath as quiet as it can be. At the end of the exhale, pause slightly and then allow your belly to relax with the inhale. Keep the muscles of your neck and throat relaxed while you breathe in.
I highly recommend the book, it has many suggestions for ways to help support breathing more easily. There is no need to struggle to breathe.
May we all breathe easier and enjoy life more deeply today and everyday.
Despite the common belief that stress is “mental and controllable,” the stress response is actually a reflex. This means that the conscious (cerebral cortex) part of our brain is not involved in the process. When faced with an event that threatens us, leaves us feeling helpless or that horrifies us, our stress response is activated. This means that even a threat can activate the stress response.
So what is the stress response? Many call it the fight or flight response, however, there is also a freeze response, too. With the stress response, the body goes into overdrive. Muscles tense to prepare for action. Our senses become piqued – to take in more information. Our brains also have difficulty focusing during this time, probably to help us to respond to any changes in our surroundings. Breathing and heart rates increase to support the increased demand of oxygen for our muscles. Meanwhile, our digestive tract shuts down, to shunt energy and blood flow to our other organs that are geared for survival.
Sometimes, we can even dissociate – or feel like we are “out of our bodies.” In extreme cases, where we believe that death is imminent, these same process occur and yet our muscles freeze in place and we are unable to move.
In nature, animals who experience a stress response work through the cascade of biochemical reactions by the actions of fighting, fleeing or literally “shaking if off” after freezing.
In his book, “Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma,” Peter Levine discusses the anxiety and depression that can result from blunting or blocking the unfolding of the trauma response. In our modern society, we often suppress this natural “reset” process. This is when the conscious control takes hold and can “get us into trouble” and may lead to long-term effects such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. According to Levine, it is in allowing ourselves to unfold from the trauma that we are able to move beyond it.
Trauma is confusing. It can shake us to our cores and cause us to question our safety, our roles and how we are living our lives. When the trauma becomes “stuck” within us, we can mess up in even our basic roles. Parents can forget to parent. Students can have difficulty studying. Employees can have difficulty focusing. In our confusion, in a way, we forget who we are.
The unprocessed trauma also gets locked in our bodies and can also cause physical effects. For instance, over a week after being on scene following a fatal motorcycle accident, I noticed difficulty moving my left arm. As a physical therapist, I began to investigate the muscles and low & behold, my neck and shoulder muscles were “on fire,” so I naturally began to release the tension. The next day, I had a headache and felt like every sound was piercing my body. It was bizarre. I can only guess that unlocking the tension in my muscles released some of the unprocessed chemicals from the stress response. More things then began to unwind.
Things which usually were easy for me to do were suddenly a challenge. I could not focus if there were noises around. I felt like I had ADHD and sitting still was torture. I wanted to move – I wanted to keep going – didn’t necessarily know where, but movement was imperative. Rushing became my M.O. – again, for no external reason, I just felt like everything was moving in slo-mo and it was time to speed it all up. As such, my ability to prioritize was also off. Everything had an air of vital importance, and needed to be completed NOW! Or two minutes ago.
I was driving myself (and my children) crazy. It was at this point that I decided to read about the traumatic stress response, when everything that I was experiencing began to make sense. And it was then that I also stopped fighting it. Soon enough, the irritation dimmed down quite significantly. While sadness soon followed, after a day or so my smile returned.
What I discovered first-hand in this process was what Levine described: that allowing the process to unfold, I was able to return to a greater sense of clarity. Do I believe the process is over, no, I don’t. Yet I am in a better place now than I was even a week ago.
Self-care during this sensitive time has been crucial. I have used each and every one of these following tools; some more than others. Luckily, many of these were part of my daily routine.
May we each find and use the supportive tools we each need in recovery.
These are the things that I have found helpful in this process:
- Prayer & prayer requests
- Constellation Therapy Sessions
- Awareness of my emotions and focusing on “being present” in my body, reaffirming “I am here” to bring myself more fully present
- Allowing the tension – my visualization is to see the muscles unlocking, as if I were peeling open a banana. It sounds too simple to be true. Find an analogy/visualization that works for you. Then repeat it!
- Daily Meditation (2 times/day at bare minimum)
- Gratitude: for life, for my safety, for everything!
- Salt Baths – for relaxation of tight muscles
- Ionic Foot Bath (yes, this was amazingly
- helpful to get past the insomnia – really)
- Essential Oils
- More meditation – grounding, breathing, being present
- EFT Tapping
- Exercise: Walking, Stretching
- Eating Well
- “Taking it easy” – avoiding over-stimulation
- Researching/reading to understand the trauma response
For the past few weeks my ability to stay asleep at night has been very much hit-or-miss. I have played with varying bedtimes, reducing my overall caffeine intake and screen/TV times at night, while increasing my night time meditation. I’ve also tried dietary changes including increased magnesium intake (through oil and citrate), and even taking Valerian some nights. All with varying effects that were inconsistent, at best as I was still awake most nights at 0300 and unable to shut off my mind even with use of guided meditations. Well, I discovered a connection that has helped to completely change my nighttime waking.
For just over a month, I have been using The Insight Timer App for timed and guided meditations. This week, I stumbled upon a meditation theme of healing guilt & shame that really resonated with me. It was a long meditation, and I identified with many things discussed during it. Afterwards, I felt refreshed and as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.
Feeling this relief, I began to notice more feelings of guilt bubbling up. Wanting a shorter meditation, I did a search for “guilt” and about 4 out of 10-12 search results referred to insomnia or sleeplessness in the title, but not guilt. Curious, I listened to several and found that guilt has been the thief in the night, stealing my restful sleep. Honestly, I am still a little surprised by this and yet so grateful to now have this piece of the sleeplessness puzzle solved or at least knowing where to focus my efforts!
Following several meditations, I have been having some of the best sleep I’ve had in several months. If I wake up at 0300-something, I have been playing one of the (many) guided meditations on guilt (sleep specific or not) and find I fall back to sleep before the meditation ends and I stay there until my alarm sounds off in the morning. This is an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G improvement for me!
Over this week, I worked through guilt that I’ve been carrying about my divorce, children, work, finances, relationships, personal needs and life in general. This has also had physical benefits, as I am able to more freely move my head and neck, probably from having many emotional burdens lifted from my shoulders.
I am absolutely astounded as to how much guilt there was and still is. In another meditation about guilt, the speaker talked to how feeling bad (aka guilt) is an expectation. WOW! So guilt is so ingrained that we do not seem to know what it even looks like?! She also spoke to letting go of statements such as “I could have done better at ….” While this statement CAN help us to improve ourselves and our condition, if we perseverate on it (which I find I do, a LOT), it can lead us straight down the halls of guilt.
These meditations have been life changing for me. I feel as if I have unlocked more rooms in my secret vaults; able to see the unconscious drive. For instance, I have noticed how many of my decisions I make based on guilt avoidance instead of doing something because it is the right thing to do in my heart.
Intention sets the tone for our outcomes, with intentions based on fear instead of love, we are setting the stage for more problems than solutions. I’m changing that. This includes feeling bad for how I’m feeling; this just compounds the guilt!
I highly encourage you to take a peek inside at the guilt you may be carrying. If you’ve had a strong emotional response, including resistance, this may be a sign that you need this more than you think.
Namaste & May you Return to a Greater Sense of Peace and Restful Sleep
Handling Regret Using Empathy (Guided meditation)
P.S. The Insight Timer app is free and filled with many amazing meditations to suit your time, and your goals. There are zero agreements between myself and the developers to say these things. Happy Growing!
For the greater part of the last 6 months, I had been suffering greatly from insomnia that was progressively getting worse. Over the last month, I have successfully broken that cycle and I believe it has had to do with making many small changes. I am now sleeping better and longer without taking Valerian, melatonin, nor any other sleeping medications (though I do supplement with magnesium, I’ve done so for years). While I was generally able to fall asleep well, I was unable to remain there for more than 3-4 hours before waking. Some nights, I was unable to return to sleep at all. I was not a happy camper on those days!
This calendar year involved a slow progression of changes for me, perhaps if I had made them closer together, I’d have broken the cycle sooner. Here are the things that I did that made the biggest changes to my sleep (from my morning routine to my nighttime routine):
- Adding Macaccino to my morning coffee has given me a more even-keeled energy boost without the jitters nor keeping me up if I choose to have some mid-afternoon.
- Reducing the full-caffeinated A.M. coffee to 1/2 to 1/3 by mixing my grounds with decaf. There are some half-caff buying options, as well, but not if you want 1/3 caff…
- Changing my thoughts during the day & at night:
- I discovered how I was often thinking “how horrible I slept.” So when I noticed those thoughts, I changed them to gratitude for sleeping (even if it was not great, I found gratitude in what sleep I did get).
- Whenever I wake up before my alarm, I avoid focusing on the fact that I’m awake; now I usually just roll over and go back to sleep. Really.
- Turning on the “night shift” on my phone after 8:00 P.M. and reducing my night-time screen time (the blue light of electronic devices has been linked to extending wakefulness)
- Taking Epsom Salt soaks at night before bed after stressful days – magnesium helps to calm the body and we do not store it, so we need to get it in somehow. Magnesium Sulfate = Epsom Salt and it is absorbed through our skin as we soak.
- Unplugging my clock and not looking at the time on my phone when I do wake up.
- Using a folded wool blanket after reading the benefits of heavy blankets for sleep (it’s folded on top of a sheet, so I can easily push my foot out and cool off if I get too hot). Wool is also supposed to help with “earthing,” or grounding of our energy, too.
- Hanging up blackout curtains and some nights even using a sleeping mask.
- Magnesium via Ionic Liquid Magnesium (it’s quite salty in liquid form, they also have tablets) OR the more tasty, but tart Natural Calm
- Meditating before bed.
- Avoiding alcohol at night. I found it actually caused me to fall asleep and not stay asleep.
- Listening to “sleep stories” on the “Calm” app. There’s even a story about sleep science. I’ve never heard the whole thing. It puts me right to sleep!
By sleeping well at night, I’ve had more energy during the day. I’ve also been writing more and, in general, I’ve been a much happier person.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful for anyone who is having difficulty sleeping. Honestly, I found the less sleep that I had, the more obsessive I became about sleep and the less I actually slept. Shifting my thoughts created a huge impact, but many of the small things listed above also added up to break the insomnia cycle.
So many of us in the healing community will bend over backwards to help others in need, even complete strangers. Yet, so often we fail to take care of ourselves. We are often overweight, arthritic and in deep emotional pain ourselves. If so, then we are missing several important points in our healing practices.
With each healing modality I have learned from Healing Touch to Reiki to Oneness Blessings, inductees were taught to work on ourselves first. The more clear we are as channels for Universal Healing energies, the more helpful we can be to those with whom we are working.
While we may perform these “heal thyself” rituals just prior to helping another, it seems that we are failing to take the time to truly heal ourselves outside of our craft, and even fully during our sessions. This shows up in our physical and emotional bodies.
In my experience, having spent a great deal of my life overweight, extra pounds represent the feelings of shame for my needs, shame for existing, and protection from others.
Fat is an insulator. It keeps our energies stuck inside of us and also keeps the energies of others away from us. I also feel that this extra weight seals in our anger and sadness.
If you’re carrying extra weight, where are you unhappy? Marianne Williamson’s book A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever is a fantastic resource for learning how to change how we feel.
Bodily pains, in my experience, represent where the energy is dense and not moving, or moving minimally. This seems to stem from a lack of love. Our physical bodies are the physical manifestation of our mind. So one must then be willing to ask, “what is it that I fear?” Louise Hay writes about this in You Can Heal Your Life.
What I’ve noticed is that the more flexible I’ve become spiritually, the more flexible my physical body has become; without me doing Yoga or other stretches. Following an evening where I came to terms with some of my suppressed anger (there was a lot), I was able the next day to touch my toes for the first time without extensive stretching. My anger was keeping my body rigid. It was keeping me stuck.
To be a more clear channel, we must keep our own conduits clean. Bodily and emotional pain are our wake up call that we’re ignoring something.
Another important point that many of us seem to miss is that the person we are truly needing to heal is oneself. When we heal the aspect of the other person within us, then we heal both them and ourselves simultaneously. When we just focus on the other person, we are missing the point.
As healers, our first priority is to heal ourselves throughout the healing session. This can be a challenge, as we must first be willing to see that we carry an aspect of that person within ourselves. When doing healing or prayers, if you can see the other person within you, and heal that aspect within you, you will be more than doubling your healing dollar. Otherwise you and your clients are missing out on the buy-one-get-one-free deals of the century! Who wants to miss out on BOGO? A perfect example to which I’m speaking can be found in the concept of Ho’Oponopono and can be explained in Zero Limits by Joe Vitale.
I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
The main concept here is that the more you can love and forgive yourself, the more you can love and forgive others. You may now go forth and heal thyself. Each and every time, without exception!
While studying for my certification test in the fall, I felt it important to share self-care facts about the care of the pelvis. It was then that I started a new blog called The Happy Pelvis.
I’ve been slow to write posts as they are a bit more intensive. Hopefully you or someone you know can benefit from learning better ways to care for your body.
When we do not feel safe, our minds instruct our muscles to contract. Basically, all muscles in the body are at a heightened state of arousal (not necessarily sexually) and this is a way for us to be more reactive in the need to fight or flight (think: battle or be able to run like hell).
Medical Disclaimer: The Content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
However, as most of us guard (hold our muscles tight) during our daily lives when mental or emotional stress arises. Yet in our modern world, we do not have the physical release of our muscles because we miss out on the action of fighting or fleeing. Muscle pain and dysfunctional movement patterns can develop. Most people who guard also have a heightened startle reflex and are jumpy at the slightest input.
The problem with muscle guarding is that muscles are made to move, to stretch and contract, and not to be held statically (think stagnant water). When held in an isometric position (a mantained muscle contraction without movement), muscles build up metabolic wastes, have higher levels acidity and lower levels of oxygen.
This keeps the muscle fibers in a contraction, as oxygen is needed on a chemical level for relaxation (think rigor mortis in the living). Tissues become toxic and painful, increasing the inflammatory process in an attempt for healing/recovery, which can then become a vicious cycle of dysfunction.
On the other hand, by moving our muscles without fighting against ourselves, we can help to maintain normalized amounts of oxygen levels, a neutral pH, as well as improved strength and flexibility.
Strategies that can help reduce excessive muscle tension;
– Movement: running, yoga, swimming, martial arts, even just walking as exercise
– Stress reduction strategies
– Sex with a trusted partner
– Massage Therapy
– Chiropractic Work
– Physical Therapy and Dry Needling
– Counseling including Hypnotherapy
– Increased attention to posture and how you move your body. Are you raising your shoulders when you don’t need to, or in standing do you clench your buttocks?
Choose from the strategies above to see what works for you. I find that I need most of the above to help me to get rid of excessive muscle tension, some work directly (dry needling, therapeutic massage) than others (journaling, writing), but I find that each strategy when used properly can have a cumulative effect in improving my overall sense of well being.
See The Body for similar posts.