Updated: Dec 22, 2020
And one HUGE Happy Birthday
10:30PM last night I lay in bed drowsy, awaiting slumber, realizing that I was feeling joy, almost electric happiness. Having come from a background of anxiety and stress, especially through my thirties and very early forties, via personal health issues, the loss of a key close relative, raising children and whatever personal pre-dispositions I brought to the game, I now appreciate and am deeply aware of increasingly more frequent times when I "feel like my old self." Or possibly a a better self? This is where I am now. But it did not come by pressing a button.
So what went on yesterday that ended in this overwhelming feeling of well-being and inner physiological ease? Pondering the breatheIN2IT learning and studies, I knew EXACTLY what had led me to 10:30 PM calm. Interestingly, even though I study this area of wellness practice, work with a guru, and write about it, it still blows my mind, I still get incredulous, and enjoy connecting the dots. The picture that forms is consistently one of mind/body connection and practices that are science backed, not magic. In the end, what I created was a day of activity that coated my brain with soothing neurotransmitters, energetically connected me to others, and kept me out of the stress zone. Stick with me friends. This is pretty cool stuff.
They day proceeded as follows:
Woke early to record and process a gentle yoga and relaxation session for our yoga followers
Breakfast of fruit and nuts in a bit of oatmeal
Work at home with hot tea
Texts with friends throughout day on breaks as able
Planned giving calendar missed day of thanking a service worker in conjunction with a good friend
Pre-dinner hike in snowy woodlands with my teens until dark
Evening painting with my Facebook Watercolor group while Facetiming with mom
Baked cookies with my 19 year old son
Relax time in time with low lights, books and a puzzle
Lying in bed, upon retrospection, I had literally pulled out almost every well-being, tool wielding, gun slinging, badass stress busting technique in my arsenal (the PART Techniques, HeartMath and Nature Connection, specifically;).
I form an image of a Quick Draw McGraw type showdown with me at one end of the dusty western town main street and the most wanted criminal in the west, Stressed Out Sam at the other. We pace off, I am HeartMath breathing and focusing with each pace, Sam is holding his breath (I got this guy). On the count of ten I turn and fire. Practiced with my silver shiny well-being weaponry, I get the drop and fire first. Plus, I have so many more weapons than this guy! I could have faced off against Stress Sam, Anxiety Annie, Depleted Dave and Negative Nellie back to back. In fact, my well worn but trusty leather belt is loaded with about 15 well-being weapons that I could bring out at this time.
(cue sound of record stopping screech) Scratch all that. Too violent and not politically correct for the times. Let's try another image.
It's Tool Man Tim Time! Or for me, Tool Girl Bri with a splash of Bob the Builder, equals "Tool Girl Bri the
Builder." I like it. I can visualize the large red toolbox, hard helmet for extra protection. This image has humor too, as, like Tim, I am a bit klutzy with home repair and wielding tools of any kind. I am called to fix, prepare, bring out the correct tool as needed. It's not always perfect but it very often works out great in the end, lessons learned, stress in check.
In the interest of science, curiosity, my reader's edification, and just for fun, I looked back to my day and analyzed what Tool Girl Builder Bri had put together that ended in a blissful, peaceful 10:30PM, in order as above:
Countless studies prove the benefits of movement and relaxation/meditation, in the AM especially. Starting the day with mindful movement sets a nervous system tone and a calm focused state that can carry through the day and change the way we respond to stressful events or interactions as they arise. Relaxation, coherence and focus techniques allow us to access a part of the brain that is ABOVE the stress center. Just one of MANY articles : https://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/5-reasons-meditation
I think there are two keys here. The whole food, natural and rounded breakfast containing protein and fresh fruit is great. Additionally, the early yoga and relaxation puts you in a place of lowered stress, and again, above the stress area of the brain, into the clam, analytical, connection based space. We know from science that stress management enables us to reach lifestyle goals like healthy eating, sleeping and exercise with more facility. Example: When we are stressed we reach for the proverbial wine or chocolate bar right? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201303/dr-herbert-benson-s-relaxation-response
The tea brings a sense of immediate comfort, especially in winter - look up "Hygge!" Finishing a task during a work day releases dopamine. Working through large and small projects at a steady pace, perhaps using HeartMath to handle escalations and stressful work periods, puts your mind and body in just the right place to manage energy reserves and not be depleted at days end. http://blog.idonethis.com/the-science-of-motivation-your-brain-on-dopamine/
Reaching out a bit or receiving texts from friends just feels good. Connection is a major pillar of well-being and studies show it even adds to longevity. https://www.happify.com/hd/why-friends-make-us-happier/
Helping others is, plain and simple, a real "feel good." Helping others makes us feel better and feeling better makes us more able to help others. It's a good Merry Go Round - the kind you don't get sick on, if you have support coming in to balance what you give out. https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/71964/7-scientific-benefits-helping-others
There are bucketsful of articles, especially now, on the benefits of a walk in nature. It's difficult to choose as this is my area of focus and passion so I pinned the tail on the donkey. https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/06/09/health-benefits-walking_n_10376896.html Plus, being with your children or a loved one as you experience an extreme health and well-being activity just ..feels...really....good! This must be a primitive DNA response. Walking in nature is a COVID safe, extreme well-being and cognitive/neurotransmitter boost. (Shameless plug - Sign up for our "Benefits of Nature 4 Part Seminar in January!)
Number 7 was double benefits in a way that I had not planned. Mom and I were reminiscing about holidays past while I painted a winter scene from my watercolor group for beginners. Like many of you, I cannot see my Mom in order to keep her COVID safer. With facetime in one hand and art group laptop in the other, social connection AND creativity came together. My evening snack was a serotonin cookie;). https://healthypsych.com/the-link-between-creativity-and-happiness/
This one is obvious. I love my son and it is not always easy for a 51 year old mom to connect with her 19 year son. Joy!
The studies on getting away from our tech at night and getting back to good old books is increasing as we sway too far in the tech addicted direction. https://www.sleepadvisor.org/reading-before-bed/. Science is showing us that blue light from devices decrease production of melatonin, which is a critical sleep hormone.
I am so sensitive to the physiology of gratitude, that as I lay in bed going through the day's thankful list, I am often asleep before I finish. We all have tools that work better for us that others. This one is a real tried and true for me. Gratitude immediately reframes your life perspective. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201111/how-gratitude-helps-you-sleep-night
I also thought about what I had eaten on this day of days. Unsurprisingly, I ate well and healthy. I can be a stress eater but this day, HAVING SET MYSELF UP EARLY WITH A TONE OF RELAXATION AND NOT IN THE STRESS REPSONSE, I did not feel pulled to the bar of chocolate or the the carb loaded day. Dr. Benson's research that shows how not being in the stress response can help us to more easily access a healthy lifestyle. And THAT is one key reason why we teach the PART Program, which is is based on his work at Harvard. And, a reason that physical rehab facilities search out anti-anxiety techniques for clients. The less stressed clients are the ones that are better able to follow their healing protocols.
As the day went on there were the typical snafus that any day brings. BUT, having set the tone early with movement and meditation, using techniques as I went, I was much better able to handle interactions positively and with calm as well as stressful events as they arose. So much so that those events do not define the day. Every day is not like this of course. Some days are better than others. There is often not time to take a long hike, talk to mom, read a book, bake cookies, get work done, talk to friends, read at night, AND do yoga and meditation. BUT, the more we practice the practices, the more the day shifts to what makes us feel good and is good for us, knowing that these techniques are adaptive responses and pro-active methods, this all adds up to wanting more and to getting more savvy with how to fit them into the day and adjust the day to fit the practices. The more you practice and get the good feedback, the more you practice TO get the good feedback. (reference work by Dr. Frederickson - PART Program Week 7.) We can make small shifts in our day away from habits that harm or are neutral, toward habits and practices that help. Many of our students say that the PART course has made them more confident. Having a ready, practice and education/awareness based toolbox can do that.
This day had shifts of attention, choices and bits of focus moved toward strategies that science now proves make us feel better, not superficially, but to the core, to the tippy tip ends of our DNA telomeres, which we want to preserve and rebuild (and that's why these techniques and facing off against stress is key to health and pre-empting dis-ease - BUT you can draw your weapon first...errrr, you can get the tool out of the toolbox that fits for you;).
So how to end this blog in a profound but apropos manner? Today there is only one way. Today is my business partner and friend, voice of ease, meditation science/practice and mind/body medicine guru Aimee Lamendola's birthday. She is ageless so don't even try to guess her age. I only know it because of the business documents we need to have;). I cannot think of a better way to honor her work and general being than to write this blog.
Happy Birthday Aimee! Thank you for seeking to help as many as you can out of the stressed self and back to the true self.
Our next Zoom PART Program cohorts starts in January. Limited enrollment for small classes. Register at www.breathein2it.com.