Winter Month Pampering

Wintertime gets a bad rap!  Wintertime can sometimes seem like it goes on forever!  We get stuck inside and stuck in ruts of comfort that are not always good for us.  Winter can be a tough time for many of us. The shorter days, colder temperatures, and lack of sunshine can make it hard to stay motivated and positive. However, there are ways to pamper yourself and make the most of the winter months. Even though this is a time when there doesn’t seem to be much going on, when you are in your home, you can find many ways to enjoy this time of year!  It can be a cozy time of the year, a time to start healthy habits, make plans for the future, and just enjoy being! As the winter months approach and the temperatures drop, it’s important to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. One way to do this is by indulging in some self-pampering. Here are a few ideas to help you get started feeling cozy and cheer you up!

  • Fix a hot cup of your favorite beverage, grab your blanket, and sit by a crackling fire. Instead of reaching for a can of soda or a cup of coffee, try making yourself a hot cocoa, tea, or chai latte. These warm drinks can help soothe the body and mind, and provide a comforting and cozy feeling to de-stress
  • Take a warm bath. Fill your tub with warm water and add in some Epsom salts or essential oils for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Light some candles and put on some soothing music to create a spa-like atmosphere
  • Light some twinkling lights in a dark room and meditate;
  • Grab your journal and jot down all that you are grateful for
  • Add cozy colors to your rooms by adding pillows, tablecloths, or bright bedspreads
  • Add throw rugs in areas where your bare feet hit the ground to avoid that chill
  • Wear your slippers or fuzzy footies to keep your feet warm
  • Add a pot on the stove of potpourri in steaming water and let the smells engulf the rooms
  • Find a good book and a special reading spot.  Cozy up with a good book and a warm blanket. Whether you prefer fiction or non-fiction, there are plenty of great books out there to choose from.
  • Bake your favorite cake or bread and enjoy the aroma
  • Spend some time making your favorite soup and enjoy it throughout the week
  • Have a binge-watching night of the show you love
  • Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Treat yourself to a new nail polish color or try a new design. Not only will your nails look great, but the process of painting your nails can be therapeutic and relaxing
  • Try a new skincare routine, because cold weather can be harsh on our skin, so it’s important to take extra care of it during the winter months. Experiment with different moisturizers, masks, and serums to find what works best for your skin.
  • Take a walk. Yes, we know, it’s cold outside, but getting some fresh air and exercise is still important. Bundle up and take a walk around your neighborhood. The fresh air will do you good, and the exercise will help to boost your mood.
These are just a few ideas that will help you feel cozy in your home!  By taking some time to pamper yourself during the winter, you can help boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being. And, isn’t that the ultimate goal? Taking care of ourselves, prioritizing our own well-being. You can do some of these things alone, and some with family and/or friends.  It’s up to you! Most of all, these things will help you enjoy the winter season by bringing healthy things into the season!

I’m Codependant…Now What?

Co-dependency is a term that is often used to describe a type of relationship in which one person is emotionally and mentally dependent on another person. This type of relationship is often characterized by codependent individuals who are unable to function normally without the other person.  A dysfunctional relationship pattern in which an individual is psychologically dependent on (or controlled by) a person who has a pathological addiction, e.g., alcohol, gambling)-codependent.

Co-dependency can develop in a variety of different types of relationships, including romantic relationships, friendships, and even parent-child relationships. In a romantic relationship, for example, one partner may become dependent on the other for emotional support, validation, and a sense of self-worth. This partner may also feel a sense of responsibility for the other person’s happiness and well-being, and may go to great lengths to keep the relationship together.

Co-dependency can also develop in friendships, where one person may become reliant on the other for emotional support and validation and may feel a sense of responsibility for the other person’s happiness. In a parent-child relationship, a parent may become emotionally dependent on their child, and may feel a sense of responsibility for their child’s happiness and well-being.

Co-dependency can have negative effects on both parties involved. The codependent person may feel a sense of helplessness and insecurity and may have difficulty making decisions and standing up for themselves. They may also become emotionally and mentally exhausted from constantly trying to please the other person.

On the other hand, the person on whom the codependent person is dependent may feel smothered and constrained by the codependent person’s constant need for attention and validation. They may also feel a sense of responsibility for the codependent person’s well-being, which can be emotionally draining.

Here are five things to look out for if you feel you are codependent, or questions you can ask yourself in order to understand whether or not you are codependent.
  • Putting other’s needs above your own;
  • Saying Yes when you want to say No;
  • Having muddy boundaries;
  • Do you feel trapped in your relationship;
  • Do you avoid saying what you are thinking in order to avoid arguments?
Here are some steps you can take to help you to break the habit or get out of the habit of being codependent:
  • The first step in breaking the habit of being codependent is to recognize the signs of codependency in your own behavior. Some common signs include feeling responsible for the other person’s happiness, having difficulty making decisions, and feeling helpless without the other person
  • You have to take care of yourself before you take care of others’ needs.  It’s important to practice self-care, taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
  • You respond rather than react to others.  Don’t immediately respond but give yourself time to think through what someone is asking of you.
  • Be patient with yourself and try to give yourself mercy, not being as hard on yourself if you slip up.
  • Keep your boundaries clear and think about how you want to be in the future. Learn to set healthy boundaries, for example, learning to say “no” when necessary and not allowing others to take advantage of you.
  • Focus on developing a sense of self-worth: One of the main reasons for codependency is a lack of self-worth. Focus on developing a sense of self-worth and self-love, so you are not dependent on others for validation. This includes, not letting others bully or treat you badly.  Recognize when a relationship is not healthy and do something about it.  Work on it with that person or walk away.
  • Therapy or counseling can be very helpful in breaking the habit of being codependent. A therapist or counselor can help you understand the root of your codependency and provide you with tools and strategies to break the habit.   Or joining a support group can be a great way to connect with others who are also trying to break the habit.  A group can be a safe space to talk about your feelings and the challenges you encounter.
Your time and your energy belong to you!  I’m not saying to never help a friend, or never do something kind for someone else.  I’m just saying know your boundaries and know when you are healthy.  Know when the situation is not healthy and pull back.  We teach others how to treat us.  We need to take this teaching to a new level and start treating ourselves better so that others treat us better.

 

Bad Day Pick Me Ups

Everyone has bad days from time to time. It’s normal to feel down, stressed, or overwhelmed. Sometimes days start out great, then just make a turn for the worst.  Sometimes it’s as simple as saying you woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  On other days, no matter what you do, unlucky things keep piling up. When we’re having a bad day, it can be hard to shake off the negative feelings and see the bright side of things. However, there are things you can do to help improve your mood and make the most of a bad day. Here are a few things that might help pick you up on a bad day:

  • Deep Breathing   Stop what you are doing.  Sit back, relax, and inhale slowly to the count of seven. Exhale slowly to the count of seven.  Repeat multiple times until you feel better.  Go back to what you were doing, this will help alleviate the negative emotions that you are feeling.  Taking a few minutes to focus on your breath and be present in the moment can be extremely helpful.
  • Connect with others  Reach out to friends or family members and talk about what’s going on.
  • Fresh Air  Go outside for some fresh air.  Take a walk around the block or the office building if you only have a few minutes.  This should help you feel better;
  • Perspective taking  Create a Gratitude list.  This list can consist of anything in your life that you are thankful for.  It doesn’t need to be anything big, just anything that you are grateful or thankful for;
  • Let go of some of your thoughts  Grab your journal and write down what you are feeling in that moment.  Be as blunt as you’d like, your journal is for your eyes only;
  • STOP  Take a break
  • Sense of humor  Acknowledge your bad day, then laugh about it!
  • Get Moving  Exercise can help boost endorphins and improve your mood.
  • Listen to music Music can have a powerful effect on our emotions, so put on some of your favorite songs and let yourself feel the music.
Remember, it’s okay to have bad days, and it’s important to take care of yourself.   You can get out of that funk by trying these suggestions.  They may not work immediately, but are sure to make your next day better!  When you’re having a bad day, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are things you can do to help improve your mood and make the day feel a little bit better. We can help ourselves through these temporary bad days.  All we need to do is become aware and do something to change it!

Give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions come up, and try not to be too hard on yourself. These suggestions are just a starting point and you might find that other things work better for you. It’s important to find what works best for you in order to lift your mood. Remember to be patient with yourself, and know that things will get better.

Getting the Most Out of Safe and Sound Protocol

Here are some tips for getting the most out of the Safe and Sound Protocol:

Follow the protocol as prescribed: SSP is a structured protocol that involves listening to specially selected music for a certain amount of time each day. SSP is typically administered by a trained practitioner who will guide you through the process. It is important to follow the recommended protocol to ensure that you are getting the full benefit of the therapy. This can help ensure that you are receiving the protocol in a safe and effective manner.   Staying engaged and fully participating in SSP process can help you get the most out of the protocol.

Practice relaxation techniques: SSP  involves listening to music with headphones, so it is important to find a comfortable, relaxed position and make sure you are in a quiet environment. You may also find it helpful to practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques during the therapy.  Listening to the music in a mindful and present-focused way can help listeners stay grounded and focused during the protocol. It can be helpful to practice mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your senses, to get the most out of the protocol.

Set aside dedicated time: SSP requires a time commitment.  It is important to set aside dedicated time for the listening protocol and make it a priority in your schedule. To get the most out of the protocol, it is important to be consistent in your listening habits and to follow the recommended schedule.

Be patient: SSP is a process that takes time to work. It is important to be patient and give the protocol time to work. You may not notice changes right away, but the benefits of SSP may accumulate over time. It is important to remember that SSP is a long-term process and the benefits may not be immediately apparent. It can take time to see improvements, so it is important to be patient and continue to follow the recommended protocol.

Talk to your SSP practitioner: If you are participating in SSP with the support of a therapist, make sure to communicate with them about your progress and any concerns you may have. Your therapist can provide additional support and guidance as needed. They can help you make any necessary adjustments to the protocol to better meet your needs.

Engage in self-care: SSP can be more effective when paired with other self-care practices, such as getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity.  SSP is known to be emotionally and cognitively demanding, so it is important to take care of yourself during the protocol process. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat well, and engage in activities that help you relax and recharge.

Remember, the benefits of SSP will vary from person to person, and it may take some time to see progress. SSP is just one tool that can be used to help individuals regulate their nervous system and improve their overall well-being. It is always a good idea to discuss any potential therapy options with a healthcare provider to determine if it is appropriate for you.It is also important to note that SSP should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may include other therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of treatment for your needs. SSP is not a one-size-fits-all solution and may not be appropriate for everyone.

 

Benefits of Fostercare Group Therapy

Foster care group therapy can be beneficial for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma and may be struggling with emotional and behavioral issues as a result. Group therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for these youth to process their experiences, share their thoughts and feelings, and learn coping strategies to manage their emotions and behaviors. Foster care group therapy can provide a number of benefits for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma or instability in their lives.

Some potential benefits of foster care group therapy include:

Improved social skills: Group therapy can help foster care youth learn how to interact with others, express themselves effectively, and build healthy relationships. Groups can provide an opportunity for foster children to practice and develop social skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution.

Increased self-awareness: Group therapy allows youth to reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which can help them gain a better understanding of themselves and their motivations. Groups can provide an opportunity for foster children to process and work through their experiences, which can help to promote healing and growth.

Enhanced coping skills: Group therapy provides an opportunity for youth to learn and practice coping strategies to manage their emotions and behaviors, and to develop healthy ways of dealing with stress and challenges. Groups can provide foster children with tools and strategies for coping with stress and managing their emotions, which can be particularly important for children who have experienced trauma.

Supportive environment: Group therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for youth to share their experiences, express their emotions, and receive support and encouragement from their peers and the therapist. This concept of support, that group can provide a sense of belonging for foster children, who may have experienced feelings of isolation or disconnection due to their experiences in foster care.

Greater self-esteem: Group therapy can help foster care youth develop a sense of belonging and acceptance, which can improve their self-esteem and confidence. Groups can provide an opportunity for foster children to explore and develop their sense of identity, which can be especially important for adolescents who are navigating the process of identity development.

 

Overall, foster care group therapy can be a valuable resource for foster children, helping them to build resilience, coping skills, and a sense of connection with others.

 

Benefits of Safe and Sound Protocol

Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is a form of treatment developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that is designed to address issues regulation of the nervous system as well as help individuals with trauma and stress-related disorders. It is a form of auditory intervention that uses music to help regulate the nervous system and improve social engagement, communication, and well-being. Some of the potential benefits of SSP may include:

Improved social engagement and communication

SSP may help individuals with social difficulties, such as those on the autism spectrum, to better understand and respond to social cues and to communicate more effectively with others. The SSP can help individuals with social anxiety and other social communication challenges to feel more at ease and connected with others.

Enhanced regulation of the nervous system

SSP may help individuals to regulate their nervous system, which may lead to improved emotional regulation and better overall functioning. The SSP can help regulate the nervous system and reduce stress and anxiety by promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. By increasing feelings of safety, SSP helps individuals feel more grounded and secure in their environment. 

Reduced stress and anxiety

SSP may help individuals to cope with stress and anxiety by teaching them strategies to regulate their nervous system and improve their ability to cope with challenging situations. SSP helps individuals develop a larger capacity for emotional regulation which can help them better manage stress and negative emotions.

Improved sleep

SSP may help individuals to improve their sleep by promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety.

Enhanced learning and performance

SSP may improve an individual’s ability to learn and perform tasks by enhancing their ability to regulate their nervous system and to attend to tasks. Furthermore, with some clients, SSP may help individuals improve their memory and attention, which can lead to better performance at work or school.

Elevate communication

The SSP can help individuals with communication challenges to better express themselves and understand others.

 

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of SSP may vary from person to person and may depend on the individual’s specific goals and needs.  Furthermore, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of this treatment approach. It is important to note that the SSP is not a substitute for medical treatment and should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. It is also important to work with a trained and qualified provider when using the SSP, and it is always a good idea to discuss any potential SSP listening with a trained SSP provider to determine if it is appropriate for you.

Learn more about Safe and Sound Protocol!

Building Mindfulness Through Games

Building Mindfulness Through Games

Children begin to explore the world and problem solving through play. Caregivers and adults can use play in a purposeful way to help children learn and practice skills that will help them throughout life. First, let’s consider the game I Spy. This game helps to build observational awareness and as adults, we use observational awareness every day: driving our cars, in the grocery store, or walking on an icy sidewalk. We are always looking around aware of what is in our immediate surroundings. This skill keeps us and others safe. However, let us take this a step further. I Spy also helps practice mindfulness and can be a great tool to self-regulate, build cognitive flexibility, and inspire imagination.

How Does Playing I Spy build Mindfulness?

Mindfulness, at its very basic form, is focused awareness. I spy requires each player to focus in on the smallest or largest details of their immediate surroundings. This is one very small part of mindfulness called mindful seeing. This can also help us to stay calm and regulated during times of high stress by refocusing our brains and bodies to
remain present on the here and now.

How to Engage Your Child

Caregivers can introduce this game at any time. To familiarize the child with the game you can begin using it at home during playtime or low-stress events such as waiting in line. This will allow time for the child to learn the game in a more secure low stressful setting. With younger children, you can focus on colors and increase difficulty depending on your child’s ability. Don’t make it too hard or too easy or the child can easily lose focus. Once the child is familiar with the game it can be easily played during times of higher stress such as going to the doctor or the dentist. Most of us know or have played I Spy as a child. With no accessories or game pieces, it can be played anywhere! This game can be played with multiple children at once and with the varying ways to describe objects it is a great game that can be modified to be used with children and adults of any age.

A quick recap of the game:

  • Use colors, shapes, textures, or any other descriptive adjective to point something out in your environment.
  • Guess using Yes or No questions to find out the answer.
    • Is it big?
    • Is it small?
    • Is it the red flower?

 

I Spy Emotions

Taking I Spy to the Next Level,  I Spy can be modified in so many ways. Each modification has a slightly different goal. One additional way to play I Spy is with emotions. I Spy Emotions helps children and parents express and identify emotions and how emotions influence bodily sensations, thoughts, and actions. For example, a child may say “I Spy something that makes me feel happy” (the child is looking at a picture of a cookie). Once the object is identified caregivers can begin to explore further by asking open questions such as: What does happiness make your body feel like? When you feel happy what are some other things you think about? Can you show me how that cookie makes you feel? If some emotions are harder such as fear or anger caregivers can ask open questions to identify what the child needs to feel safe. For example, the child is scared when they see a picture of a bee. The caregiver could ask “What can I do to help you feel safe?” “What are things you do to stay safe from bees on the playground at school?”.   When the roles are reversed caregivers can model healthy skills to the child by sharing their own ways of staying safe or coping with stressful emotions.

Play and imagination are so important through all stages of life but for our children play is essential in developing lifelong skills. Children are always playing with a purpose now you can too.

School Seperation Anxiety: How can you help your child get through these tough times?

Picture this, the morning of the first day of school! It’s a very exciting but also scary day for children and guardians alike. You bring your child to their bus stop or drive them to school and everything seems fine until you start to say goodbye, then tears come. You may experience an array of different feelings as well. Frustration that you may be late to work, sadness that you have to experience your child being scared, or anger that your routine is now thrown off. Feeling these emotions is expected and many guardians go through this experience every year. Whether your child is 3 or 18, they may experience this in the beginning of the school year. They may fear being separated from you or anxious because they are experiencing something new. 

One thing that should be recognized is separation anxiety is the most common type of anxiety disorder in children. The CDC has reported that approximately 6-16% of children, ages 3–17, struggle with this. This is a significant amount of children, but the good news is that a majority of children with separation anxiety only have it temporarily. If you find that your child is having trouble transitioning, then it may be time to reach out to their school counselor and/or find a therapist who specializes with children with anxiety. It is also important to remember that you are not alone and that these resources are available to you.  

Let’s start with addressing some popular questions that you may have:

What does separation anxiety look like in children? 

  • Some symptoms to watch out for are clinging to people who are safe to them, showing distress or crying when not with a person they are used to, constant worry about parents leaving,  refusing to sleep alone, nightmares about losing a loved one 

Why does my child have separation anxiety?

  • This is a great question! Every child is different and there can be many different reasons why a child may develop anxiety. Some of these techniques may work better for your children than others since every child’s experience is unique. Some children have shorter spurts of anxiety and this could be because the child fears the unknown. Think of times where you felt nervous walking into a new job, class, etc. The experience is similar for children, but with the added layer of not having experienced it before or not having past experiences to assure the child that they are safe.
  • Your child may also have had experiences that have impacted them and caused separation anxiety. The most common reasons for persistent separation anxiety are deaths in the family, a family history of anxiety, trauma or big environmental changes such as divorce, natural disaster, relocation, etc. If you know or suspect your child has separation anxiety then it would be helpful to practice these tips a few weeks before the start of school.
  • Visit the school before the first day and meet the teacher with your child
  • Read books with your child about other children who are scared to attend school. I have listed some great books below to help with back to school anxiety 
  • If your child expresses worry about school, invite your child to talk about these emotions. 
  • Practice being a part from your child before school 
    • Deep breathing
    • Grounding 
    • 5-4-3-2-1 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste
    • Self Affirmations
    • Tensing and relaxing major muscle groups (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) Click here for a guided relaxation exercise for children. 
  • Buy or make sensory tools that your child can bring to school. Click here to see DIY fidget toys that you can make with your child the night before school.
  • Try your best to stay strong: It is inevitable that you will feel empathy for your child. You may even start to tear up on their first day. This is normal but try not to show too much of your fear or sadness to your child. Reach out to your own support system for help with this transition. Your child is already anxious and we want them to be able to process their own emotions without worrying about others in the moment.

 

What can guardians do after they drop their child off to ease their child anxiety?

  • Keep promises, try your best to get to school or the bus stop on time so that your  child does not have to wait for you to pick them up. Consistency is going to help your child feel safer.
  • Give positive feedback when your child gets home. Giving them positive encouragement that will help build their confidence.

Lastly, remember to take care of yourself during this time. It may be a hard transition. Make a self care plan for yourself if you are having a hard time transitioning. You can also try talking with other parents about their experience and reach out for support if needed. 

 

Hopefully this information will help you navigate how to best help the child in your life to cope when having anxiety before or during school. Remember you are not alone and we are here to help. 

 

Resources

DIY Fidget Toys

CDC Resources 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation 

Pediatric Coping Skills 

Overcoming Separation Anxiety

 

Taking a Break Does Not Make You Lazy

Do you know that feeling of calm and relaxation you get while on vacation, and how focused you feel when you return to work after a week off with no cares in the world? Do you wonder how can I feel like that more often? The answer is taking breaks, developing a self-care routine, and using those days off when you need them.

A topic I talk about with client’s week after week is the idea of self-care, down time, and taking a break. It seems society has programmed most of us to measure our self-worth by our productivity (particularly productivity that other people can see, and approve of). Have you ever heard the phrases “if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean”, “so much to do so little time” “is that ALL you did today?” or “you can sleep when your dead”? These are all examples of ways society has taught us that we are not as valued if we are not conforming to the standard of productivity that has been set. These statements and ideas can lead to feelings of guilt, selfishness, and shame when someone tries to take a break, which will have an overall impact on someone’s mood and mental health.

What if I told you resting, taking breaks and down time ARE productive, and are often referred to as self care- it has a positive impact on your mental health, decreases overall stress levels, prevents burn out at work, and improves overall mood and emotional regulation. Taking a few moments away from what we are doing allows our brain time to think of situations differently, sort out important tasks, and reset. You might return to your work desk with a new idea, or be able to parent with more patience.

Self-Care/ breaks can be divided into several categories. Emotional Self-Care or taking time to process our emotions, and regain control of them. Some ideas are: Journaling, going to therapy, and meditation. Physical Self- Care or taking care of your physical needs, and enhancing your physical well-being. Some examples are: taking a walk, taking a nap, or taking a long shower/bath. This also includes taking time to eat throughout the day—away from your desk or daily tasks! Mental Self-Care or activities that can engage your mind or broaden your perspective. Some examples are: listening to a podcast, reading or going to a museum. Social Self-Care or actively engaging in relationships with others. Some examples are: calling a family member or friend, making plans with a friend, or spending quality time with your significant other. Spiritual Self-Care or engaging in activities that help you connect with your soul. Some examples are: spending time in nature, yoga, and volunteering for a cause that is meaningful to you. Practical Self Care or every day ways of reducing stress. Some examples are: meal prepping, tidying up your home or work space and deleting emails. Finally, professional Self-Care or activities that help you feel fulfilled in your career. Some examples are: setting good work/life boundaries, taking mental health or sick days when you need to, and participating in ongoing education.

Building time into your week to engage in self care from each of these categories will contribute to improved productivity, and fulfillment. By having a solid self-care routine we can avoid getting to a place of feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. To do this, we need to work on changing our own, and others mind set around taking breaks. To combat the statements and ideals shared through society and rid ourselves of the guilt that is often associated with taking a break, we need to replace the negative statements with more positive ones. Try saying to yourself, family and friends “you deserve a some you time”, “I admire how rested and stress free you are after taking time for yourself”, “your worth is not defined by anyone else’s definition of productivity.”

I am giving you permission to take more breaks, and engage in more self-care and relaxation. I hope you can grant yourself that permission as well. You just might be surprised at how much easier work and life tasks can be when your body and mind are fully charged, after all we wouldn’t expect our phones to do a weeks’ worth of work on fifteen percent battery.

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” – Anne Lamott

“The best time to relax and take a break is when you don’t have time for it.” – Steven Aitchison

What’s the big deal about breathing?

Take a Deep Breath! What’s the Deal with that?

Chances are someone has told you to “take a breath,” during a time of stress. To be honest, that phrase used to annoy me. I would think – I am breathing. I’m here, aren’t I? Do you have any other advice for me because breathing doesn’t help.

What I’ve come to learn is that there is breathing and then there is breathing. There are shallow breaths, where you take air into your lungs without expanding them. Then there are belly breaths that fill your lungs with air and expand your diaphragm through your abdominal wall. They have very different physiological effects. Especially in times of stress.

Short, rapid breathing, like what most of us do when we are experiencing anxiety, incites the nervous system and triggers a heightened stress response. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, calms your nervous system and signals your mind and body to relax. Moreover, when practiced regularly, belly breathing has been shown to reduce stress levels, increase your attention span and even reduce pain levels.

How Do You Do It?

Let’s try this together –

Put your hands on your rib cage and breath normally. Your rib cage likely does not expand much. Now, holding the same position, place your attention on your abdomen. Take a deep breath and notice how your abdomen expands. Continue breathing this way.

Can you feel your rib cage expand along with your abdomen or does it remain mostly still? In order to gain the calming benefits, we must expand both at the same time.

This may feel unnatural at first as if your lungs and your abdomen are expanding at different rates. That’s okay! It takes time to build this capacity. Your body is used to breathing a different way.

Keep going…

Practice belly breathing daily.

When you go to bed at night. When you are sitting in a carpool line or waiting out a commercial break. Not only will this reduce your overall stress levels, but it will also allow you to better engage this technique, in a moment of crisis, when you need it most! 

It might be helpful to understand the science behind it. Our bodies are miraculous. They function automatically. We don’t have to tell our nervous system to send signals to our brains. But – we might want to influence the kind of signals our nervous system sends.

Our sympathetic nervous system sends stress signals(fight or flight). The parasympathetic nervous system sends the signal a rest-relax response. 

It isn’t possible to “turn off” our sympathetic nervous system and we wouldn’t want to, as it serves to protect us from danger (fight or flight). Given that we encounter more stress and anxiety in our daily lives than we do in any real danger, it is beneficial to learn how to turn down the volume! 

Belly breathing can help. Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling for the mind and body to relax.

Anne
– Stepping Stones Therapist 

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