I sometimes feel that I sit down for too long… but that’s the nature of my work as a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, thankfully I’m able to balance some of that by teaching yoga, walking and swimming. A sedentary lifestyle is not good if you want to stay healthy moreover, it’s ageing too. Scientifically proven as one of the 5 components that make up Wellbeing, exercise and keeping on the move is a must if we want to stay healthier, happier and youthful.
I’m often heard singing the praises of yoga. It really is more than just exercise, it’s a system of health. Other Eastern philosophies such as Chinese Medicine, subscribe to the notion that we have an emotional body. According to these approaches the emotions reside in the organs. You can hear it in language such as “I felt gutted (stomach) or choked” (throat) or “… he had some gall” referring to the gallbladder that is said to process anger, along with it’s partner the liver.
I definitely recognise the existence of an emotional body in my own style of teaching yoga and also when working one-to-one coaching clients. As a client or student of mine you’ll be on the receiving end of my ‘nagging’ or as I like to think of it, encouragement! Prompting you to direct your attention to the tightest or most uncomfortable part of your body and then breathe deeply into it whilst stretching. It facilitates a beautiful release and expansion that often alleviates pain and discomfort. You just feel great afterwards!
I’m often reminded of my favourite saying that the body will express what the mind is concerned with It’s true and I’ve been interested to observe my own body in the last 3 to 4 weeks whilst going through a particularly stressful and emotional time. Although I’m doing the same amount of yoga practice as usual, I’ve really noticed how tight and stiff my muscles and ligaments have become, in fact my body has been aching and tense. I realise that at times like this it’s more important than ever to keep up my yoga practice (it would be so easy to let it slip)! I have found the gentle long held yin poses have been particularly useful in releasing toxic energy (a build up of negative emotions such as fear and anger).
Some years ago my colleague and friend Sabine Smith and I created a lovely CD also available as a download called Movement Now. This is a gentle yoga program that we designed for people who haven’t done any exercise at all for a while, people who want a quick easy stretch program, people who are stuck at their desks all day long and people recovering from illness or surgery. It’s really easy to download to your laptop then pop onto your phone then you can practice anywhere anytime. Click here to buy.
The short program is a real energy boost and you’ll also notice that it creates a nice peaceful state mentally and emotionally.
So if you’re going through one of life’s testing times remember to keep up your practice. If you don’t do yoga then walk, swim or do some exercise and keep the demons at bay!
I’m keeping it brief and focussing on the body again this week, specifically the hips. Hopefully you’ll have your own hips for your entire lifetime so healthy hip tips are coming up!
I teach hatha yoga a couple of times a week at Breeze and Virgin Active. So you’d think I’d know better than to sit for long periods of time. But sometimes when I’m feeling less than inspired, writing a blog can take me a bit of time and boy do I pay for it! When I stand up my hips can feel really stiff.
There’s no question about it, sitting for too long is bad for our health.
When we sit for long periods of time our hip flexor muscles are not working against resistance, they’re in a relaxed position. As gravity does its job and our upper body becomes heavier this weight then bears down heavily into the pelvic floor. Because our legs aren’t moving, our circulation and sometimes even nerve responses can be adversely affected because our legs are so inactive.
To keep the pelvic region healthy, move it!
If you work from home and are spending long periods of time at your desk, try sitting on a big exercise ball for some of the time, that way you’re engaging your core and moving around in order to stay balanced.
The Stresshacker’s Healthy Happy Hip Tips
Get up and move around a minimum of once an hour if not more frequently (set the alarm on your phone if need be).
Go for a short walk, perhaps up and down the stairs a few of times.
Stand with feet hip width apart and come up onto tip toes then down again in a balance, do this about ten times and focus on good breathing.
It’s also important to keep our hips mobile and since they are a ball and socket joint, they like to be gently rotated. If we only stand up and sit down, we tend to use them more like a hinge joint and this can make them stiff and tight. (unless you’re a kick boxer or salsa dancer!)
Stand feet hip width apart and circle your hips in both directions. Next gently move your hips in a figure of 8 about ten times then back in the opposite direction.
At home in the morning and before bed:
Lay on the floor put a small cushion underneath your head, bend your knees to your chest and with one hand on each knee take the knees wide apart. Gently circle them in one direction 10 times then the other. Aim to keep your lower back (sacrum) relaxed to the floor.
When the digestive system is in good functioning order, all is well in the world and we feel happy and balanced. When it’s under par or dysfunctional, misery reigns and we can be subject to mental imbalance and emotional turmoil.
As one of the main elements in the body we can do much to keep the digestive system functioning at its optimal level. This naturally has a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the systems in the body that in turn helps us to feel strong, vibrant and healthy.
Those of us with weak digestion will do well to follow some simple rules to strengthen this system.
In order to do this, imagine that we’re going to build a fire.
Think of this fire as being inside and just below the navel (belly button). This fire (which we call Agni in yoga) helps to promote good metabolism by extracting the nutrients from our food and absorbing them into the body, discarding the waste (the elimination process) and burning up toxins. You’ll appreciate that this is a very simplistic explanation of a huge process.
If you’ve ever started a fire from scratch you’ll know that the hardest part is the getting the flames going. So we might blow some air on to the kindling to encourage the ignition. For us, this translates as taking part in some aerobic exercise, particularly that which pumps a little air upward in the stomach such as stomach crunches, or bringing knees to chest, or leg raises. I call this solar work.
Another way to fan the fire is by diaphragmatic breathing as follows:
Rest your right hand on your diaphragm little finger resting just above the navel and your left hand just above the right with the left thumb roughly in the middle of your chest. As you breathe in and out in a slow, relaxed, rhythmic, wave-like motion, only your bottom hand should be moving up and down with the exception of a slight almost imperceptible movement in the bottom fingers of your left hand.
For a more detailed training of diaphragmatic breathing, you can find good clear instructions available on the audio program Breathe Easy.
Having kindled the fire, we want to keep it burning and another way to do this is to fast from 7.00pm to 7.00am. So eat a good breakfast and where possible, eat a little earlier in the day to ensure you’ve had your last meal by 7.00pm. Naturally this requires a bit of forethought and planning and needless to say if you’re diabetic this is not a good idea, so take advice from your nutritionist or GP.
A bit tongue in cheek, but if you want to douse the flames, drink cold liquids such as iced water, cold beers and wine with your meals. Ensure that you over-eat and eat late into the night. A regular diet of fatty fast foods processed and refried foods should all have the effect of putting out your digestive fire! When this happens we have to start all over again, trying to drum up the energy from somewhere to build the fire all over again.
Signs that we don’t have a good digestive fire might be bad breath, a poor appetite, a feeling of dullness and lethargy, feeling unwell. Elimination can be inhibited and we may suffer from constipation or other digestive problems. When our fire is low or out we find it difficult to get up and get going it can feel like a real struggle to set and achieve our goals.
Signs that our digestive fire is burning brightly are
Feeling light and buoyant in the body (whatever it’s size). Feeling rested when we awaken. Having a glowing skin. Feeling physically balanced and centred. Having a clear mind and a positive out-look. We will feel on purpose with our goals and will feel healthy and energised.
So much of this is down to the choices we make on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis. Based on the above, scribble down a few notes and make plan of action to start a good fire and keep it burning brightly. Plan your meal times and what you will eat to keep the flames alight.
Wishing you good health and happiness throughout 2016.
If you’ve found this article interesting please feel free to pass it on to your friends.
Fear Anger Guilt and Shame are ‘blocker’s to feeling good. They prevent a good clear flow of energy, known in the East as Prana, Ki or Chi. Negative emotions such as the FAGS above, can lead to feelings of impatience, confusion lack of understanding and an inability to focus and concentrate.
Of course it’s important to be able to experience a complete range of human emotions, however excessive fear, anger guilt or shame, disproportionate to a given situation, is simply unhealthy!
It has been my long held belief that excessive FAGS are precursors to physiological ailments. Many a strong, stoic person who keeps going, putting on a ‘brave face’ despite horrendous life events, may later find themselves suffering all manner of health issues.
The body will express what the mind is concerned with.
When we supress natural emotions such as FAGS they have to go somewhere, as my partner’s mum used to say “they don’t go in your boots!” But they do need to be expressed and many people deal with their emotions by somatising them i.e. storing their feelings in the body.
Eastern philosophies tell us that we have layers of body and one of those layers is the emotional body, which they suggest, is the organ body.
The organs although separate, operate in pairs, such as gall bladder and liver, urinary bladder and kidneys. They sometimes share systems, such as the interrelated cardio-vascular and respiratory system of the heart and lungs.
We’re said to have pathways (traditional yoga says 72’000 of them) that are meant to bring energy in the form of chi or prana through these pathways to the organs, in order to keep them working at their optimum level, to leave us feeling well and balanced.
Eastern approaches to health such as acupuncture and yoga suggest that unexpressed emotions are stored within the organs, which can eventually become overloaded and in the extreme, manifest as illness.
Many clients and yoga students who present with physical pain in their body begin to recognise a correlation between that pain and anger for example.
Others may identify fear that impacts their breathing, leaving them feeling tight and restricted in the chest. Thankfully it is possible to override these old pattern with simple breathing exercises and a few shifts in thought patterns at a deeper level.
Sometimes negative feelings can be paralysing for people leaving them feeling stuck and low with a general feeling of malaise and lethargy.
Whatever the manifestation, the presence of FAGS will leave us feeling mentally and physically drained and has an enormous negative impact on our self-esteem and wellbeing.
Did you know that when you make a shift in your physiology it changes your emotional state, which can quickly have a positive knock-on effect on your thinking? This is just one of the reasons yoga has become so popular today. Even if it’s a tough class at the time, we plough on knowing that we’re going to feel so much better, stronger and more energised at the end of it!
Try some of the physiological, shifting suggestions below and see if you can change your state!
Exercise really is important, so aim to get moving again. If you’ve tried and failed, buddy up with someone. By making a commitment to someone else you’re more likely to honour the arrangement. Arrange a walk. Plan a swim together or attend a pilates or yoga class. Join a gym. Check out your local church hall, there’ll be all kinds of classes to try there.
Ever thought of singing? Book a lesson or join a local choir. They’re not all about singing Christmas hymns. There’s a 100 strong Rock Choir in my area for example.
Develop a 5 minute exercise routine:
Bring alternate knees toward the belly or chest X 5 on each side to start with, then as you bring one knee up connect it to the opposite elbow for another 5 on each side.
Stand with feet hip width apart and circle the hips 20 X in one direction then the other. Follow this with ‘snake hips’ make a figure of 8 with your hips in one direction and then the other for 20 cycles.
Again with feet hip width apart (preferably bare feet) On the inhale lift both arms out in front of you, then up over your head and back round X 20.
Next take arms out to the sides and up beyond the head bringing the hands to meet above the head and back down again X 20.
Would you like to experience a weekend of yoga bliss? During the weekend you will stretch, relax deeply, learn new fascinating tips for de-stressing, enjoy the breath taking scenery of the Sussex Downs, eat scrumptious, freshly prepared (and often home grown) vegetarian cuisine and make new friends.
And and of course there’s the yoga!
Don’t take my word for it, here’s what others have to say:-
We’ve talked about the 11 signs that you’re working too hard. If you recognised yourself in those signs that you’re over-doing it, we’ve put together some tips to help you slow your life down again.
Twelve things you can do for a calmer, happier, less stressful life.
1. Put your arms in the air
Stand with feet hip width apart:
inhale raise arms up in front and overhead, as you exhale bring arms down beside you
inhale raise arms out beside you then up overhead exhale bring them back down beside you
repeat 10 times.
If you’re stuck in a stuffy environment do this on and off throughout the day. Yep, people will think you’re odd to begin with; you’ll get over it and they will get past it. Putting your arms in the air helps to make you feel more lively and can help give you a different perspective. Try it now and see!
Are you having trouble hitting deadlines? Do you procrastinate when you should be getting things done? Chances are, no amount of time management tricks will fix this until you deal with the deeper issues holding you back.
This guide will take you through all the emotional reasons why you might be sabotaging your own time-keeping, and includes some practical tips on what to do to get you back into time-management heaven.
Take the following steps and surprise yourself at how quickly you can do it.
Five Simple Steps For Fixing Your Time Management Issues.
Step One: Send Your Inner Child to Bed
First off, it’s important to recognise that you’re making a choice. You can either get this done now in the quickest most efficient way or you can time waste, procrastinate, whine (inwardly or outwardly!) or make a million different excuses.
The reality is nobody cares.
Grow up and get on with it. A bit of mental discipline never hurt anyone.
Bit harsh? Thing is we have an internalised child part. For many of us the child part doesn’t want to work, the child might be fearful of ‘getting it wrong’ so wants to avoid, play or hide. Some people find it stressful even thinking about deadlines and so prefer just to do nothing rather than deal with the worry. If you let that child part of you dictate your behaviour you’ll never hit your deadline.
You are a grown-up! It’s time to remind yourself out loud how old you are. Say to yourself, “C’mon Julie, you are a 36-year-old account director” (obviously, fill in your own name, age and occupation instead!)
Tell that part of you that wants to procrastinate, that it isn’t helpful, that you don’t want it or need it. Tell it to go away and find a different game to play and remind yourself instead of how great you’re going to feel when the task is completed.
This is the most simple step, but by far the most important one. If you do NOTHING else, take this moment to send your child off to play and make it clear to yourself that your adult is in charge. Oh, and you can tell your inner parent to stop beating you up too – that’s not going to help you get things done.
If you’re driven by the carrot it might be good to tell your child part that when the deadline is achieved you can lie in a bath, watch that film, go shopping – or whatever the ‘reward’ is. If you’re a stick person, you’ll need to come up with something that will make it painful if you don’t succeed. Check out the article below which has tips for how you can visualise things to motivate yourself.
Take a moment and – with your adult head on – make a plan. I would hate to remind you of that old adage that if you fail to plan you plan to fail, but it is true.
First write a list of the steps involved. Do this by hand, that way you get the feel-good factor of ticking off the completed segments and the sense that you’re nearing the deadline. It will also make you feel adult and efficient.
Give yourself specific instructions, not vague to-dos. For example, if you write “start research by ringing X and ask the following questions” you’re more likely to feel inspired and get the job done than if you write something that feels too vague or over-whelming like “research book”.
Next, think about the deadline. Can you break it down into three parts or four parts? Chunking down into more manageable pieces makes it much easier to approach.
Another way is to write out everything you have to do to hit your deadline and then 1,2,3, 4, it. The highest priorities are ones, the next are twos and so on. Stick to the plan, get on and do the ones first.
Plan your space
As part of your planning, get everything you need in one place. You don’t need any distractions. If you have to keep getting up and down to get things, you run the risk that the child part might interfere and then you’ll wander off down the procrastination road again.
Less is more. Once you have everything put it into neat piles, on another desk or on the floor. Only have on your desk/table the things you need to complete the first stage of the assignment. Clear the clutter away, it’s distracting and you need every bit of help to stay focused. Don’t use that as an excuse to spend the next three hours re-organising your office, however. Limit your clean up time to 15 minutes. If you need a glass of water or a cup of tea get it now.
Plan your breaks
Do you know yourself? If you know that you will work better with a couple of breaks, schedule the breaks in on your list above. Other than a toilet break, stick to those breaks on your list and time them. I suggest 10 minutes is long enough to make a drink, look out of the window etc. Then it’s back to work. AVOID LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE! This is likely to be the biggest temptation and the strongest hook. Be disciplined, wait until you’ve hit your deadline.
Step Three: Make Your Workspace a Happy Place
If you’re feeling lethargic place some lemon oil somewhere in the room. Apparently, the Japanese pipe this smell through the air- conditioning in their offices as it is believed to stimulate mental clarity. A recent study also suggests it enhances your mood.
Put something brightly coloured near your work station. This might just keep the creativity flowing. I tried using a multi-coloured feather duster. I was amazed – it worked (and, let’s be honest, I would never use it to dust)! According to a study by the University of British Colombia, red in your workspace improves your attention to detail, while blue makes you more creative. (Further reading: Color in Office Environments [pdf]).
If you’re still feeling uninspired and uncreative step back and observe your thoughts for a moment. Are they helpful and supportive or negative and sabotaging? The most important things we ever hear are the things we say to ourselves. If you’re feeding yourself messages like, “I should never have taken this on, I can’t do it, It’s too difficult” what kind of a reaction would you expect? It’s far better to say to yourself “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”.
Did you know that your unconscious mind has a massive storage capacity? Many believe it contains a record of every bit of information you have ever picked up from the moment of your birth. It’s where a hidden cache of information, memories, skills and talents reside. Use it. Ask your unconscious mind good quality questions in order to get good quality responses. So instead of , “I wish I’d never taken on this assignment, I’ll never do it in time,” say to yourself, “how can I get this assignment finished in record time?” You will be amazed and impressed with the solutions that begin to filter through.
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
The interesting thing is that whatever we believe becomes our reality. I’m going to say that again because it is so important.
Whatever we believe becomes our reality.
Successful people don’t wonder whether they will meet their deadlines, they know they will. Do you know why? Because they don’t entertain the idea of failure, it doesn’t enter their world. Successful people believe they will succeed.
To meet your deadline have the absolute total conviction that you can and will do it. When you have strong positive beliefs they strengthen your determination which then fosters your will power. Your will power supports a good sense of self and so your confidence grows. It’s an analeptic circle: in time you develop strong faith and a pride in yourself because you know you can achieve what you set out to achieve.
Step Four: Be Disciplined
Work steadily and allow yourself to get in the flow. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel as you begin to reach your deadlines more quickly.
Modern psychology, NLP, attributes the smooth running of successful businesses to the placement of good systems. Once you have a good system in place it runs on its own with very little need for maintenance. Getting up, going to the toilet, having a shower, cleaning your teeth, in that order, constitutes a system. After a while you haven’t got to think about it, that’s just the way you do it. It works!
In exactly the same way, once you have your way of hitting your deadlines in place, you won’t have to think about it. It becomes automatic. Having your systems in place leaves space for the creativity often required for the work and time for having more fun.
Step Five: Leave a Buffer
Leave yourself a little longer than you think you will need, especially the first time you set up this system.
At this point you are training yourself. Aim to get more done in less time. Set yourself chunks of time throughout the assignment and work conscientiously. Set the alarm on your phone and work consistently until the time you’ve allocated yourself is up. Then take your break.
Imagine you are the Managing Director of your company.
You are setting a good example to your other employees. Remind yourself periodically of Step 1 – you are not a child! Get on with it!
Part of developing this self-discipline is to get hold of your brain and gain mastery of it. The nature of the mind is unruly. It wants to be constantly on the move darting into the future – “what shall I get for dinner?”, “I wonder what John’s doing” – or flipping back into the past – “I can’t believe he said that”, “I wish I was still sitting in the Alps looking at the blue sky”.
Don’t go there; it’s lazy unstructured thinking and not the thinking we need for hitting those deadlines! Get in the now. Be present. Think only about the job in hand. Focus on what it is you want to achieve with this project/deadline.
This is a massive step to maturity, placing your attention on what you want. When you realise that you can concentrate your self–confidence takes another flying leap.
And do you know what? Look forward to it! Hopefully you are working your dharma: living the life you have chosen or at the very least working in a field that you want to be in. If not, you need to put some time aside and work out what you do want to do. Life’s too short to spend most of it in an occupation that you don’t like or enjoy. When you are working more from your heart and you have a passion for what you’re doing, it really should be as effortless being.