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Breathe And Relax, Vagus Is Back In Town!

This week I had the pleasure of working with some of the best therapists in the field of holistic care for people living with cancer. From GP’s, nurses, accupuncturists and counsellors through to dance therapists and volunteers, this collective of multi-disciplined experts work tirelessly at  Penny Brohn Cancer Care in what’s become known as The Bristol Approach Programme.

Their unique approach incorporates physical, emotional and spiritual support alongside mainstream medicine. Using complimentary therapies and self-help techniques they support individuals and their carers, ALL OF WHICH IS ENABLED BY DONATION! Yes, I know I’m shouting, but I think you’ll agree this is a message worth spreading. Please take a moment to check out their website from the link above and help get involved if you feel so inclined.

At the centre, facilitator and Shiatsu practitioner Markus reminded me of the power of a simple breathing technique, which I’d like to share with you now.

As you continue to read this, take a slow deep inhalation through your nose and as you gradually exhale  through the mouth, toward the end of the breath gently sigh the word Haaaa…. and again, breathe in slowly through your nose, pause  before the exhalation and as if  with a satisfied sigh, Haaaaa the breath out slowly.   Go on take one more breath.file0002115718863

Treat yourself to this little gem several times an hour and take a moment to feel the ebb and flow of your breath and notice how you feel. Relaxed and chilled I’ll bet.

Following on from Adrian’s blog last week (thanks Adrian) in which he introduced us to the vagus nerve, it might interest you to know that the vagus nerve is also involved in the above breathing technique.

Imagine this nerve like a meandering river that winds and wanders throughout the body from the brainstem to the abdomen, it gently touches body parts on it’s journey, the tongue, vocal chords and major organs like the heart, lungs, stomach, intestines and also glands that produce anti-stress enzymes and hormones. As it touches these organs it subtly influences such things as digestion, metabolism and the relaxation response.DSC_1565

When we make time to take a slow deep breath through the nose and gently exhale though the mouth Haaaa we encourage the relaxation response and just for a short time everything feels right in the world, as we send powerful messages of relaxation throughout the mind and body.

When we practice this type of conscious breathing it has the effect of keeping us present, allowing us space to step back from the ‘daily dramas’ of life.  We can temporarily quell anxiety and remind ourselves that a reservoir of peace is always just a breath away.

Please feel free to add your comments below and let us  know your experiences of taking your fair share of life force and energy in this way!



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Take a walk on the wild side.

In last week’s post I talked about the shadow side of the personality, the place where we store all the aspects of ourselves that we don’t like or that we think might not be approved of. The shadow could be likened to a dark basement that has a ton of ‘stuff’ stored in it. Maybe hidden away right at the back are things that have gone untouched for years, by this I mean parts of ourselves that we’ve banished.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves”

This insightful statement by Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung, I’ve certainly found to be true.  If we can take the time to explore the ‘mirror’ and investigate what it is that has pushed our buttons, we are likely to uncover a part of ourselves that we previously pushed into the darkness. By understanding and befriending these parts, we reclaim more of ourselves which leads to more self-acceptance and self-love.mgf3

It’s said that 10% of the mind is the conscious, logical, rational part (the short term memory) and the other 90% the shadow side (the long term memory).  If this is true there’s a lot of self-examination to do in order to find more inner peace and a deeper meaning to life.

On her way to a session with me, Hayley was really irritated by someone’s music playing from their earphones whilst on the train.  She ranted  about their lack of consideration, ignorance and stupidity.  Although I agreed in principle, it did seem that her anger was disproportionate to the incident. When I asked Hayley why she didn’t ask the person to turn their volume down a little and explain she was unable to read her kindle because of the intrusion. She didn’t know what stopped her from making that reasonable request and being more assertive.

When exploring her feelings of anger, Hayley instantly connected with the memory of a teenage part of her who was listening to music in her bedroom one evening, when suddenly her mother burst angrily into her room shouting at her to turn down her loud music. She told me her mother continued to remonstrate her for her thoughtlessness and lack of consideration for the other members of her household.

Triggered by the loud music on the train, the teenage part of Hayley felt angry, indignant and jealous that her fellow commuter could play his music without a concern while she had always felt inhibited and unable to listen to her music in a public area and even at home, she always had the volume turned really low.

Hayley was able to see her ‘projection’ onto the music playing passenger and some sessions later mentioned in passing that she no longer seemed bothered by other people’s music on the train.

She had reclaimed a small part of herself and gained some mastery over her emotional self.

Stress Hack 

So the next time someone ‘pushes your buttons’ try this exercise.

Close your eyes and go straight to that feeling and ask yourself “How old is the part of me that feels this way.” Go with your first answer. Ask the same kind of questions that you might of a friend who is asking for your support, such as, “why do you think you feel like that” Or “where are you and what’s happening the first time you feel like this. Use your common sense to have a chat with that part. You can ask, what this part wants or needs in order to feel better and then run an imaginary rescue/healing scenario to attend to the needs of that part.

When we shine the torchlight of self-enquiry into that dark basement and it settles on an aspect that we chose to bring out into the light. There’s a shift, an instant enlightenment and as a result a small part of the whole, feels better.

Want to be more assertive? Listen regularly to Assertive Empowerment Now. Also check out the Guide To Being Human and enjoy!






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The Power of the Pen – Why Getting Away from Your Computer Can Have Surprising Consequences

Ways to remember
Those of you that take my online courses will know that I’m a bit of a dinosaur, insisting that you write everything longhand in your journals.


Because you are far more likely to be able to remember and recall that information. It has been a long-held belief of mine from my own personal development work, that writing longhand embeds the learning more fully into the brain.

My thinking is, that the way you make sense of information is personal and specific to you, therefore your notes are written in such a way that is totally unique to your learning style.

As a result you are far more likely to remember them.

Continue reading The Power of the Pen – Why Getting Away from Your Computer Can Have Surprising Consequences

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How to Lose Your Baggage and Lighten Up: Thought Hack

Lose baggage and lighten up

What lurks in the shadows? All that stuff we put to the back of the mind to look at sometime later – or perhaps never at all…

Back in the early 90s when I first started my practice the subconscious mind or the unconscious mind as it was often called, was also known as the dark side or the shadow.

What lurks in the shadows? Among many things the shadow houses our memories, perceptions, unresolved issues, and parts of ourselves that we are not too comfortable with.

It’s all that stuff we put to the back of the mind to look at sometime later, or perhaps never at all.

Continue reading How to Lose Your Baggage and Lighten Up: Thought Hack

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Are You A Space Cadet? Why It’s Time To Wake Up!

Zoning Out - Are You A Space Cadet? Why It's Time To Wake Up! - The Stresshacker Sue Smith

Have you ever missed your train, your stop, your appointment? Do you find time passes and you don’t know where it went? Are you spacing out?

Where and when did you learn to do that?

By the sheer nature of the fact that as children we spend a lot of time being told what to do – and when and how – we have internalised that ‘parent’ part that even today may nag, criticise or even bully us to do certain things.  But it also may be that as a child you were left to your own devices for hours on end with very few boundaries or guidelines. In that case, your parent part might be vacant or spaced out with little input.

To know and understand your parent part you will need to spend some time remembering analysing and recalling your early messages. I explore this in more depth in my book, I Just Want To be Happy.

Zoning out can be a way of coping

Your inner child part is very much determined by your parent part. For example, if you were nagged, told off a lot or – worse – bullied or abused, how did you deal with that? One way that children ‘cope’ is to dissociate, disappear, take off and ‘space out’. I remember doing this as a child in a maths lesson, I was bored and disinterested and spent most of my time in the clouds floating about. Needless to say this in turn got me into more trouble!

So what is spacing out? Clients have often described it as that lovely timeless feeling: you’re there but not there. You have that sensation of drifting in thoughts, like bubbles, smoke, or like feathers or leaves floating away.

But now it’s time to zone back in

Now this is all very nice and perhaps a great way for us to cope as children, but is it useful as an adult? Probably not. When yet another day has passed and you haven’t delivered the goods, met the deadline, painted the bedroom. When you’ve missed the stop for the fourth time this week, or been late to pick the kids up. Well, it’s just not serving you any longer is it.

It’s a bit like an out-of-date program left running on a computer: it’s just taking up unnecessary space that could be used for something better.

So how do you stop spacing out?

Grounding. Grounding. Grounding. Stop taking off and get back into your body. Feel the sensation of your feet in your shoes. If possible be barefooted so you can really “earth”. Instead of getting out of your head, get into your body. You won’t become enlightened if you’re not embodied!

Then start the reprogramming.

The inner dialogue could go something like this, “I am X years old. I can do this!” Be conscious and awake. It will help if you address your inner child directly, giving them some attention by saying something simple like, “I’m just off to a meeting and I don’t need you to come along. Why don’t you stay at home playing and I’ll go off and do the grown up things and see you later.”

It may sound twee (and a bit odd!), but don’t take my word for it – try it yourself. I know it works! You can also address the inner parent by saying to that part, “You know what? Thank you for all the nagging, but STOP IT NOW! I’m X years old and adult and I don’t need your incessant rules. I can do this, so GO AWAY!”

Richard Bandler, originator of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) would say tell that part to “Shut the f*@$ up!”. And it works – that nagging, parental part of you or that childish part of you will quieten down for a while.

We have to expose these parts and make this conscious. You’ll have plenty of time to practise since these parts pipe up time after time.

So, the next time you don’t want to miss your connection on the train, or you need to leave on time, get yourself grounded and make sure your inner Adult is in charge.

Please let me know how any of these activities help you. Comment below.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.