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Taking a Breath to Reduce Stress

Why is our breath important? It is an inner resource that we barely or never think about. It connects us to our bodies. For example, when we become anxious, our breath becomes shorter. Without knowing it, we hold our breath when we start moving down to the middle of the ladder or the sympathetic system within our autonomic nervous system. We lose the vision of how we see the world and where we are within the world in the moment. I wrote an article discussing this titled Up and Down the Ladder. Please let me know if you want a copy of this article.


It is possible to reconnect to your body when you are anxious, depressed or stressed if you do breathwork. There are exercises you can do to help you stay connected to your breath. It is best to do your breathwork every day to build up a shelf-life or storage of calmness in the body that you can use when you are overtaxed at work and home. Keeping your breath flowing freely will help you to be able to calm down, keep yourself in the here and now, and work through stressful situations.


Tai Chi is an excellent way to help you to connect to your breath. It is a very slow, flowing, moving meditation that enables you to focus on your mind and body. You can add breathwork in between the movements. Tai Chi can be learned and practiced by sitting, standing, and moving. You move your arms, hands, and body as you reduce tension and lower stress.


Instructions for Tai Chi form Open and Close the Door

You can do this exercise either standing or sitting. Take a deep breath in slowly. When you breathe in your lower abdomen goes out. Hold the breath for the count of 4. Breath out slowly. When your breath out, your lower abdomen goes in.


Relax your shoulders,

Relax your chest and arms,

Relax your stomach, hips and thighs, legs, ankles, and feet.

Raise your arms up slowly out in front of you with your palms facing down to the height of your shoulders. Keep your body relaxed. Breath in and out as you were taught earlier and keep your body relaxed.


Bring your elbows slowly into your chest.

Lower your arms to your sides leading with the heels of your hands.

Take a breath and relax.


Raise your arms slowly. As you raise your arms you are bring up all of the positive things you want to bring into your world today. Your intention for the day is to focus on the positive things you want in your life today. You raise up happiness, joy, kindness, self-love and safety.


Now, it is time to lower your arms. As you lower your arms, you release all of the negative things in your life right now.


Release your stress, negative thoughts, trauma, anxiety, sadness, and regrets. Imagine all of the negative things in your life floating away as you lower your hands. Take a deep breath. With every breath in imagine taking in all the good things that you want to happen for you today. With every breath out, imagine releasing all of the negative things that have happened to you on this day.


Let this exercise allow you to be comfortable with who you are and to have confidence that you will have a good day today.


How can you use this article to reduce stress?

How can you add this Tai Chi form to your daily self-care routine?

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Clara was feeling at peace because she just completed her Personal Reflections and Challenges for 2020. She is aware of what she needs to leave behind in 2020 and what she wants to take forward in 2021. It took her a week to review her relationships, work history, finances, education, and housing for 2020, and she is delighted and excited about moving forward in 2021. One of the essential things she decided to continue in 2021 is therapy with her mental health counselor. Clara met with the counselor to discuss her reflections.

During her session, the therapist pointed out that as we move through life, there are different winds that touch all of us. The winds bring situations that always blow across us and cause us to react. We cannot avoid the winds because they become a part of life. The therapist asked Clara to give examples of what she wants to let blow into 2021 and what winds she needs to put up barriers against in 2021.


The situations are:

1. Gains or Losses

2. Prestige and status or Disgrace

3. Praise or Judgment

4. Pleasure or Pain


Clara was employed at a community agency for seven years but lost the job due to COVID in September 2020. She found another job in January 2021 that she likes but at times, does not feel confident. She is not sure if she has the qualifications to do the job and constantly judges herself. This experience brought the winds of gains and losses. The therapist reminded Clara that while she is judging herself, she also needs to take the time to look at the positive comments she receives from co-workers and her supervisor. She is not in touch with the wind of praise. Clara will say positive affirmations every day and will also say a compassion mantra daily.


When COVID first started, the company where she worked announced that there was a possibility that they would cut back the staff. The reductions began in September, and this caused Clara to doubt herself. She was depressed because she felt she had lost the social status work gave her and considered herself a disgrace and failure. The therapist helped her to understand that nothing is permanent and that the winds of disgrace can turn into the winds of prestige. She encouraged Clara to look for another job. After she started her new job, Clara felt she would eventually recover her lost status.


Clara mentioned that there are times when there are several winds that blow at the same time. When this happens, she feels overwhelmed. For example, one time, while she was preparing to start work at her computer at home, the Internet went out and she was not able to get online. She immediately thought that her supervisor and co-workers would consider her to be inadequate and unprepared. Her sense of praise was hijacked, and she immediately started blaming herself. She later learned that her Internet provider was offline across her state for an hour, and several employees in her company could not get online either. The personal gains made in getting her new job were lost, and she could only focus on losing her new reputation at work. Instead of feeling good about working at home and not having to drive to work in a snowstorm, she felt the shame of not being online at the start of her workday.


The therapist helped Clara to understand that strong winds blow away our losses and soft winds blow gains towards us. She mentioned that the winds do not last forever, and we need to learn how to let the wind blow over us and not stand in the path of the strong wind. When we take shelter from the strong wind, we give ourselves the opportunity to feel the soft winds blow. The strong winds cause stress, and the stress causes us to suffer.


The therapist advised Clara to learn how to respond to the winds and not react to them. She recommended that Clara take a Mindful Seat (please let me know if you need instructions on Taking a Mindful Seat) to see how she is feeling emotionally inside. If her emotions are high, she can do alternate nostril breathing, belly breathing, or gentle stretches to bring down her stress and anxiety. She gave Clara a poem by Dorothy Hunt to use as a journaling prompt. She will use journaling to help her form a path for responding to and softening the winds.



Here is the poem:

Peace is This Moment Without Judgment

Do you think peace requires an end to war?

Or tigers eating only vegetables?

Does peace require an absence from

your boss, your spouse, yourself?...

Do you think peace will come some other place than here?

Some other time than Now?

In some other heart than yours? 

Peace is this moment without judgment.

That is all. This moment in the Heart-space

where everything that is, is welcome.

Peace is this moment without thinking

that it should be some other way,

that you should feel some other thing,

that your life should unfold according to your plans. 

Peace is this moment without judgment,

this moment in the heart-space where

everything that is, is welcome.

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Updated: Jun 22

Are you struggling to get or stay motivated? Do you have goals that seem impossible for you to achieve? Try to find an accountability partner to help you get the things that are important to you completed.


Janet began teaching middle school soon after she graduated from college. She was excited to find a job in New England near where her boyfriend lived. They got married two years later and had their first child. This all happened 10 years ago. She and her husband are still happily married, but Janet wants to open a tutoring service for special needs children. However, she finds it difficult to get motivated and start putting her plans and goals together. She is having a difficult time starting her second dream. She finds teaching online to be extremely stressful and is busy caring for the children, her husband, and home. While her husband is supportive and encourages Janet to take a leave of absence from teaching to get her tutoring business started, Janet can not find the motivation to change careers.


While she is highly motivated to go to work, she is not motivated to start her second career, and there is no one around to hold her accountable for making plans, setting goals, and getting started. She can not find the energy to get started. She made an appointment to meet with a counselor through her HR Department and the counselor suggested that Janet find an accountability partner. Janet was interested but did not know what an accountability partner was or how to find one. The counselor mentioned that the first step is finding someone that shares the same or similar goals and making a agreement with that person to keep you accountable for your goals in exchange for you keeping them accountable for their goals. You can do this by making phone calls, sending messages, and attending Zoom meetings. Sometimes information is exchanged about goals that are met while other times information is exchanged about what got in the way and how obstacles were or will be removed.


While Janet and her accountability partner are particularly good at setting and accomplishing deadlines for work, they find it very difficult to achieve personal goals on their own. The counselor pointed out that the human brain functions best when it is connected to others. Many of the goals Janet and her partner made for their career change (making a website, creating a business plan, making a business Facebook plan) were tasks that were created in isolation. Janet felt nurtured, heard and understood by her accountability partner. When you communicate your goals and plans with someone else, there is a feeling that you must be accountable.


Janet’s husband was extremely impressed to see her making progress towards her new career goals after she started working with her accountability partner. She asked Janet if she could help him find an accountability partner to help him get back into exercising. Janet shared what she learned from her counselor.


  1. Make a list of what you need (e.g. someone to honestly tell you when you are not taking exercise seriously, someone to hold you accountable, someone reliable, etc.)

  2. Make a list of friends that enjoy exercising and exercise on a regular basis and care about your progress.

  3. Decide on the type of support you want to receive (verbal support, monthly meetings, receiving advice, challenging you in a respectful way, etc.)

  4. Make a list of communication techniques you would like to use with your partner (use I statements to prevent blame and conflict, give feedback on behavior and not on the partner or person, no accusations, no demanding, etc.)

  5. Set your goals and share them with your partner. Make sure that you make a list of what you want to accomplish first. Prioritize your goals and after they are completed, share them with your partner.

  6. Allow yourself to change your goals as you need to and work with your accountability partner to help you have a smooth transition as you make changes to your goals.


Having an accountability partner can be very exciting and rewarding. What do you need to have help with? Are you interested in having an accountability partner? Please send your comments on this article. Here is a link to Accountability groups on Meetup.Com

https://www.meetup.com/topics/accountability-partners/


Source: Breathe The Energy Special

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