Category Archives: yoga

Don’t panic part 2: revisting anxiety and kicking panic’s butt

I’ve blogged about anxiety on Wellbeing bites once before — and about my own experiences brought on by panic.

My panic attacks are much less frequent now but I still get the occasional heart flutter or bout breathlessness that’s a reminder of the anxiety that used to be so familiar it felt like an extra limb. One that was determined to put me off balance.

Anxiety isn’t that healthy level of fear or panic you experience in a high-stress situation. In pressurised environments, being slightly fearful can actually keep you safe — even make you more productive.

This is about frequently feeling excessively high levels of anxiety when faced with the everyday.

Recently, a few amazing, strong people I know have confessed to being overwhelmed by anxiety, including a ‘super mum’ and an exec manager.

No one is immune, so stop feeling rubbish (and stop feeling alone) and let’s kick anxiety’s arse.

Begin with a panic-beating daily practice
Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier. As soon as you wake, spend 5 minutes running through what you know you’re doing today and visualise all going well. Now do a quick ten-minute meditation, some deep breathing or a few yoga stretches. Next, enjoy the little things – savour your morning cuppa, sing in the shower, dance in the kitchen, hug your family. The start of the day sets the tone for the rest.

Be mindful of your thought patterns
When you catch yourself having a negative thought, reframe it into a positive but realistic one. For instance, rather than “I’m never on time and the train is always packed this time of day” try “I’ll leave a little early today. If I don’t get a seat, that’s ok – it’s better for me to stand anyway”.

… and be aware of your reactions to your negative thoughts
Are you a fighter or flighter? When anxiety hits, do you get angry, scream and shout, self-destruct, take harmful action (fight) or freeze up, ignore, procrastinate, avoid (flight)?Being conscious of your reactions helps you to calmly moderate them so you can make a more rational decision about your action (or inaction).

Stop multi-tasking. Master the art of single tasking
Multi-tasking is a myth. Research has shown that your brain can only process one activity at a time, so if you try and do it all, your brain will become scattered and you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, ask do I really need to do this? If yes, get organised. Break your day down into chunks, schedule your task time out, delegate, ask for help. Do one thing at a time.

Reduce ‘noise’ and digitally disengage
To reduce anxiety, we also need to reduce the noise. But instant technology means we’re ‘switched on’ all the time. So switch off. Don’t check your email/Facebook/Twitter. Step away from the computer. Turn off your phone. If you’re working and switching off is impossible, check your email once every two hours. If it’s important, they can call or walk over to see you. Amazing eh?

Drink your way to calm
When you’re having a stressful day, do you push through by having an strong coffee? When you get home, do you have a glass of wine to ‘relax’? Me too. But caffeine increases adrenaline so you feel more panicky, and alcohol is a stimulant — resulting in amped up anxiety levels. Try green or chamomile tea instead (yeah, they taste like lawn but they do have a soothing, calming effect).

Take back control of your body
Anxiety often results in physical meltdown. Palpitations, sweats, jitters, breathlessness: panic attacks can make you feel out of control. So take it back. Try breathing exercisesmeditation, yoga or massage. Or just get out of the house and run or walk it off. If you’re in control of your body, it’s easier to take control of your thoughts.

Stop worrying about the ‘shoulds’
My friend the ‘super mum’ thinks she should be able to cope. That she should be able to function on a few hours sleep. That she should be able to juggle work, uni, exercise, socialising, family commitments and romance as well as a toddler who tears the house up – all while being a domestic goddess and looking like she stepped off the catwalk. On the surface, she does really well at it. Except that she’s freaking out. She’s not coping.

‘Should-ing’ is bullshit. Stop it now. 

I think that’s appropriate place to finish up. Let me know how you go with shaking off that extra limb – life’s a lot more balanced without it. And don’t forget to check out the original Don’t panic post.

If you have any tips/tricks/magic spells to deal with anxiety or panic, please leave a comment. Also, if you haven’t already, take a moment to sign up to receive Wellbeing bites posts by email. I promise I won’t spam you — I’m good like that. C’mon, you know you wanna…

Anxiety girl illustration by Natalie Dee

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The secrets to self love, and how to drop your inner critic

So you’ve got this ‘friend’ right? She’s been a ‘friend’ for as long as you can remember. But most of the time she’s not very nice to be around. She’s mean. Really, really mean. She tells you you’re ugly/fat/scrawny/stupid. Sometimes she keeps at you until you burst into tears. She tells you your dreams won’t come true. That you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re going to succeed.

To be honest, you can’t remember the last time she said anything nice to you.

But you still spend a hell of a lot of time with this person.

Why? Why would you do that?

Because she’s you.

Have you ever stopped to think about the way to talk to and treat yourself? If one of your friends spoke to you the way you talk to yourself, would you think that was OK?

Of course you wouldn’t. So why are you letting yourself be so damn mean?

Stopping the self hate and exchanging it for kindness makes sense. But self love gets a bad rap – some people think it’s about being arrogant or having a big ego. It’s actually about healthy self-respect.

It’s a simple equation: higher self love = higher happiness.

So here are a few ways to be kinder to yourself and nurture self love:

1. Put yourself in your best friend’s shoes. Talk to and treat yourself the way your best friend would. Listen, empathise, comfort and soothe. Give yourself a hug. Tell yourself that you are awesome and that you are doing the best you can.

2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. You are amazing. There is literally no one else like you. That gorgeous, confident work colleague you wish you could be more like probably wishes he was as creative, funny and wise as you. It’s all relative. And, if you do admire something about someone else, tell them. Everyone loves a compliment and it’s true that you get back what you give out.

3. Be discerning about who you spend time with. Toxic people drain you (you know who they are). Spend time with people who have a healthy respect for themselves, and for you.  And stop seeking approval. It holds you back and stops you being the incredible person you already are. Not everyone has to like you, but you have to like you.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” 
Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist monk/teacher)

4. Write down all the things you like about yourself. 
This is really hard, but worth the internal struggle. At first you’ll find yourself criticising instead of applauding but push through. Start with something small or physical – maybe “I like the colour of my eyes” or “I like that I’m organised” and build from there. Keep adding to your list too. You’ll soon see that you’re awesome in so many ways.

5. Set a low bar for happiness. This sounds weird but by setting achievable daily ‘happiness’ measures (sunshine, a decent cuppa, a chat with someone you like, a hug from someone you love), you’ll reframe ‘everyday’ into ‘exceptional’.

6. Become conscious of straying from the self-love path. Wear a wristband and every time you catch yourself being mean to or critical of yourself, swap it to the other wrist. As you become aware of the frequency of your self critical thoughts, you’ll find that the wrist swapping slowly reduces.

7. Reward yourself with 30 minutes. Take a long bath, go out for a walk, read a few chapters of a good book, meditate, do a bit of yoga. If you can’t manage 30 minutes, take 10. You can spare it and you deserve it.

Seven simple ways to self love, but they all come down to the same thing.
You — inner meanie = happiness. 
It adds up. 

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Abundance mentality: creating a mindset for success

It’s been an amazing few days. Two blissful nights away with my husband (with no kids). Bushwalks in the beautiful Victorian countryside. A yoga class that challenged and re-energised me. Champagne. Lie-ins. An outdoor jacuzzi…

But what have I been thinking about?

Money. Lack of it.

Thing is I don’t actually have any current money worries. The rent is paid. We’re all clothed and fed. We even have an emergency fund.

All my money worries are about what might happen.

Sometime in the future.

Maybe.

My life is so full of abundance. Yet I’m stressing about lack. No, not even that – I’m stressing about the possibility of lack.

It’s time to create an abundance mentality.

Don’t be a cheapskate
Are you always looking for the cheaper option? Do you visit the 7-Eleven for a $1 coffee instead of the local barista? Do you drive out of your way to the petrol station because you have a coupon? When you go our for dinner, do you order the pasta when you really want the steak.

Holding on to your money because you don’t think you have enough creates a ‘scarcity’ mindset.

I’m not saying splurge at every turn, but will these ‘savings’ really make a difference? Loosen the purse strings once in a while and let yourself experience what those bits of paper and metal should actually be buying: pleasure and happiness.

Give it away
Yep, you heard right. If you’re short on cash, give it away. Give to a friend in need, give to charity, give to your local Big Issue seller. And it doesn’t just have to be money. Time-poor? Give five minutes to listen to a friend. Don’t feel loved? Give a hug or tell someone how much they mean to you. 

Givers gain. What you give will come back to you in spades.

Have an attitude of gratitude
You probably think a lot about  the things you don’t have. What about all the things you do have? Take a few minutes and write a list of all the things you’re grateful for. The big and the small stuff. Once you get going, it’s amazing how long that list becomes. Give the positive stuff your energy and see how rich you really are.

Reframe your thinking on lack
In his best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the ‘abundance mentality’ as thinking “there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody”. So your workmate gets a raise. Instead of thinking that’s not fair, think awesome, she got a raise – that means I might get a raise too. Be happy for others when things go their way – it doesn’t mean there’s less for you.

So pick up a pen and write your gratitude list. Be a hugger. Turn off the TV and call your friend. Congratulate others on their success. Order the steak. Enjoy every sip of that pricey coffee and tell your barista how brilliant he/she is.

Money is nothing more than numbers on a screen. Say thank you for what you have and clear the way for more of the good stuff.

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Top tips for a sweet night’s sleep

I don’t mean to be a drama queen but I feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for years. My youngest child is a bit of night owl. Except for last night, when he slept through the WHOLE NIGHT.

So why do I feel so unbelievably eye-poppingly, body-achingly tired today? More tired than the mornings when I’ve had barely a few hours of sleep?

Temperamental toddler or not, most of you will have experienced waking up from a ‘good’ night’s sleep still exhausted. And what about the nights when you go to bed absolutely exhausted only to find yourself still tossing and turning hours later, unable to find your off switch?

Being sleep deprived has simply become part of life. A massive 96% of us report regularly feeling tired upon waking and almost 30% of us have taken a sickie due to lack of sleep. We’ve become experts at ignoring our body’s signals and pushing through our sleep-deprived state. We’ve got too much to do and sleep is the first thing that takes a hit.

Add to that our digitalised lives, which keep us ‘switched on’ all the time. How many of you sleep with your phone by your bed? What’s the last thing you do before you turn in for the night? Check your email? Twitter? Facebook?

Now, in addition to sleep deprivation’s negative impact on cognitive function, productivity and lifespan, a new study has revealed that lack of sleep causes irreparable damage to our brains

It’s time to take action.

Six solutions to sleep deprivation

1. Pre-sleep meditation
OK, so this is still using your phone just before bed. But using free meditation and mindfulness apps like Omvana and Headspace (my current favourite) to take ten minutes to relax each night will help you drift off to sleep more easily.

2. Get some exercise (in the day)
I know, I know. It’s that last thing you want to do. But in 2013, The Huffington Post reported on the National Sleep Foundation’s poll, which found that people who exercise regularly experience better quality and more consistent sleep than those who don’t. Try some yoga or Pilates, or even better, some outdoor or ‘green exercise‘, which delivers a host of other health benefits including improved mood and self-esteem, and lower blood pressure.

3. Go to bed and get up earlier
According to the chi cycle, your body functions better when you wake up between 5 and 7am and go to bed between 9 and 11pm. Your body will be more in tune with the earth’s circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep. An early wake up also gives you that precious time to exercise before the rest of the house gets up.

4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Your choice of beverage is crucial to good sleep habits. Avoid both alcohol and caffeine 4 hours before you turn in. Caffeine is a stimulant – it makes it harder to go to sleep, makes you sleep more lightly and makes you get up to go to the loo more often. Booze may help you fall asleep initially, but it causes more frequent night wakings, nightmares and headaches.

5. Keep your room for sleeping (and maybe one other thing)
Your room is sacred – only use it for sleeping and sex. Don’t eat or watch TV or have a lively debate. And make sure it’s dark – don’t give your body any excuse to stay awake.

6. Take a nap
Cats and Spaniards are on to something. Having a siesta isn’t lazy – our bodies are hardwired to nap, so there’s no need to feel guilty. No good at napping? Neither was I until I had my babies. Napping is a skill. Learn it.

Start today. Go take a nap and get an early night tonight. Give the coffee and wine a miss and have a cup of chamomile and a quick meditate instead. Let someone else get up for the kids. Your sleep affects every aspect of your waking life – it’s time to take it seriously.

Don’t Panic!

Anxiety – it lurks in the shadows and used to be something that no one admitted to. But many of us have fallen prey to it at some stage or another.

I remember when I had my first panic attack about a decade ago. I was on my way to work when my heart started to beat furiously. Then I lost my vision. I thought I was dying and grabbed at some poor commuter to help me off the train. After a couple of minutes, my vision returned but I felt like a freak. It scared the hell out of me.

Since then, I’ve equipped myself to deal better with my anxiety issues. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone. Panic Anxiety Disorder Association Inc. (PADA) reports that 12% of Australians will experience anxiety and panic disorders at some point in their lives.

Physical symptoms of anxiety and panic include muscle tightness, heart palpitations, chest tightness/pain, dizziness, numbness, tingling and panic attacks.

When I first experienced acute anxiety and panic, my doctor only offered me sedatives or anti-depressants. Fortunately, there now are numerous natural alternatives that treat the cause rather than the symptoms.

First, as always, look at your diet and lifestyle. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables with a little meat and fish. Foods containing L-Tryptophan, such as turkey, help the body to relax. Relaxation exercises and meditation also play an important part in healing, as does talking with a qualified therapist.

Bach Flower Remedies aid in relieving a variety of emotional disorders. St John’s Wort, Valerian and Omega 3 are said to relieve depression and maintain emotional balance, but consult a naturopath first. Anxiety can sometimes be the result of an iodine deficiency and it’s recommended that anyone suffering from anxiety and panic symptoms have their thyroid checked.

Deep breathing is the body’s natural defence against anxiety. Try this breathing exerciseYoga, acupuncture, holistic kinesiology and Bowen Therapy are also great ways to alleviate panic and anxiety.

When it comes to anxiety, the most important thing is not to suffer in silence. Get some expert advice and don’t let panic get the better of you.

Now check out part two of this article, Revisiting anxiety and kicking panic’s butt.

Hyp-Yoga: The Perfect Combination?

I just treated myself to the most wonderful relaxation massage. I’m 20 weeks pregnant at the moment – halfway through and grumpy about cramps in my calves and a sore back. So it was about time for a pamper.

Laying there, belly cushioned, I felt completely relaxed for the first time in ages. On the massage table, I made a pact with myself to do more of the things that make me feel that way. I floated back to my desk to find an email about a new phenomenon that’s sweeping the US – Hyp-Yoga.

Created by three female certified hypnotists and yoga instructors, Hyp-Yoga sessions start with breathing exercises followed by a series of yoga poses combined with positive hypnotic suggestions. The idea is to use yoga to open up the body and heart and then use a whole body relaxation technique to induce a deeper state of hypnosis. The focus is on helping you achieve your personal goals and living a healthy, successful life.

Being a US-based practice, the Hyp-Yoga website is a little skewed to weight loss and looking younger, but it still sounds like a delicious combination and perfectly in line with my newly created pact. Can’t wait for it to hit our shores. Let me know if you’ve heard anything.

In the meantime, I’m starting pre-natal yoga at Balaclava’s Yoga Moves next week after a whole year off… wish me luck!