To Reduce Stress-Simply Breathe

It’s been a while since we’ve posted but finally life seems to be quieting down (I probably shouldn’t say that too loud) and I’ve missed writing and connecting with each of you. Since opening the Midwest Mind Body Health Center in St. Louis last October, I’ve not had much time to “catch my breath” which is an excellent way to reduce stress and the subject of this post.

By learning to focus our attention on our breath “without judgement” we can help settle our bodies and minds which are often tense and overloaded. The breath offers an opportunity for mindful awareness because it occurs without us having to do anything.  All we have to do is “notice” the sensation of breath as it moves through our body. No more. No less.

If this sounds too good to be true it isn’t. Until I started studying mindfulness a few years ago, I didn’t believe these practices which include “breath awareness” could be so effective in relieving stress and tension but they can. In March there was even an article in the New York Times about mindfulness to reduce stress and worry. Seems everyone is catching the “mindfulness” bug.

To help you get started, here’s a link to the YouTube video I made so the students in my May “Mindful Stress Reduction Class” could practice “Simply Breathe”- However, as the NY Times article says, “If you don’t practice, it won’t work.”

So, here’s to your health one breath at a time. Enjoy!

Stop “Living in the Wreckage of the Future”

Continuing our conversation about how to free ourselves from the unhealthy  thinking habits we’ve cultivated for years, today’s post is about how to stop “living in the wreckage of the future.”  This is a phrase one of my clients taught me from AA which is intended to help folks in recovery not “catastrophize” about what tomorrow will bring and live “one day at a time.”  In truth, none of us knows what’s ahead but we like to believe we do to experience a sense of control and predictability about life.

Mark Twain said, “Most of my life’s worst experiences never actually happened.”  This quote is about how many of our worst expectations and fears don’t materialize although we think about them so much that we frighten and worry ourselves as if they had.  Recall the last time you were convinced something bad would happen and it didn’t.  How did you feel?  Was there a sense of relief or not?  Often we’ve built up so much anticipatory anxiety, it still takes days to calm down.

A new day

Since August is often stressful as kids return to school and we leave summer behind, opportunity for “living in the wreckage of the future” looms large.  So, tell your “catastrophizing self” I appreciate your concern but what I really need  is for you to shut up.  While this isn’t easy, with practice it improves and we can rest in the awareness that the present moment is usually okay.

Cloth or Disposable…And Other Choices Moms Must Make

As soon as a woman announces that she has a positive pregnancy test, everyone has their advice and questions on choices she must make.  Will you have an epidural or not?  Will you use cloth or disposable? and the list goes on.  This myriad of opinions can feel overwhelming, confusing, and even irritating as a woman begins her journey towards motherhood.

Because women have been conditioned to nurture and please others, we agonize over choices, worrying we are going to hurt someone’s feelings by not doing it their way or that we will make a “wrong” decision and harm our children.   Society exerts considerable pressure to conform and attain a level of perfection in mothering that is impossible. 

But parenting is more of an art than a science.  Intuition is as important as what experts say.  Learning to be ourselves and accept our choices, whether they conform or differ from others, is an important part of the journey of becoming a mom.  The ability to transcend the opinions of others and make our own best choices enables us to become the mothers our children need instead of anxious, guilt-ridden mothers subject to the popular opinions of the media or others. 

Following our intuition means we must take time to know ourselves, to nourish ourselves and to trust ourselves; it means we must take time for self-care or the voices around us will drown our own.

Jamie Bodily is founder and director of ParentsCount which provides birth and postpartum doula services, childbirth education and counseling.