Picture a typical day in your life. Does it contain any stress? How much of your day is spent dealing with stress?
My leap from engineer to yoga and wellness coach was catapulted by stress. Our culture's need for stress relief and management was made so clear to me that I nearly jumped out of my skin for the opportunity to help.
Why do I care about relieving other people's stress? Because I've experienced its effects and how easily it can seep in, consume your thoughts, and drain your energy.
But before I realized how much stress was affecting my own physical, mental, and emotional health, I unknowingly witnessed it silently deteriorate the health and life of a loved one.
Five years ago, I learned my father, at 58, had a heart attack. He didn't have any major health conditions and never had a heart attack before, but this was his last. While relaxing on the couch at home after another long work day, the attack struck, and he was gone.
After his death, my mother was left owner of his electrical contracting business and quickly uncovered how much work he had been doing on his own. The bidding, blueprints, purchasing, payroll, taxes, and not to mention overseeing and troubleshooting job sites; his staff was stunned by his sudden absence.
How did one human complete all this work and still take care of his family and home? How could he always keep his cool and never complain?
If you ever had the pleasure of knowing my father, Brian, you may likely describe him as a man of few words, easy going, hard working, and great to get along with. Could you ever tell how much weight sat on his shoulders?
Not in my lifetime as his daughter did I see a true glimpse of how hard he worked. He was just the best dad from my eyes. Always eager to listen, take his family on vacations, and be there when we needed it. He made it look so easy, I assumed that it was.
I see now that he held his stress inside. Never complained, very rarely lost his temper (and trust me, as a teen I gave him countless opportunities to lose it!), and always got things done. Where did his stress go? Buried underneath his quiet and calm demeanor.
Over time, he did develop high blood pressure and cholesterol, common conditions in today's working world. Managed by typical medications and evening beers to unwind from long work days, his heart was silently working hard to it's last beat.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the world, and stress is a leading cause of heart disease. Yet stress is worn as a badge of honor in our culture.
A sense of importance is found in carrying the fullest schedule of work and activities. Our conversations revolve around our to-do lists and we often feel obligated to "prove ourselves" through our accomplishments.
But what we don't often talk about is how f***ing difficult it is to actually do these things!
We've become so busy, we lost time to acknowledge the need for, much less engage in, relieving stress. Used to carrying stress, we forget that we don't have to hold so much! We might even cling to our stress like a child with a helium balloon, as if it's part of our identity and can't possibly be let go.
It seems we're too hurried to stop and smell the roses, to even notice that we are breathing. But if we realized that letting go, slowing down, and focusing on our breath could help us live longer (and work more effectively)...
Would we still be too busy?
Slow and conscious breathing activates the body's parasympathetic nervous system, or the "rest and digest" state, that is needed to maintain basic vital body functions.
However, under constant or frequent stress, the body gets stuck in "fight or flight" mode, the sympathetic nervous system. In this state, breath is short and shallow, inhibiting sufficient oxygen flow and renewal through the body. Our bodies then deplete our energy and health faster than it can replenish, allowing illness to seep in over time.
None of us need to suffer silently from chronic stress, and I'm on a mission to help others find relief from it.
It all begins with the breath. No matter what relaxing activities work for you, if you can't consciously breathe while doing it, it's not helping as much as it could!
I invite you to stop right now and take 3 slow, deep breaths.
Yep, right now. You can do it!
Let the mind focus on your inhale. Feel the the cool air entering your nostrils and filling your lungs. Invite the breath in deeper. Experience the sensation of your chest rising, heart beating, and blood pumping through your veins.
Now notice your exhale. Try to slow it down. Feel the warm air leaving your nostrils. Feel your chest soften as the breath is released completely. Maybe you find that brief moment of stillness before your next inhale.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Remember what a gift it is to be alive and able to breathe.
Smile. You've got this.
Find it difficult to quiet the mind and breathe? I'm happy to help guide you through it!
Whether we practice guided meditation, breathing exercises, or matching breath with mindful movement through yoga, I've got your back, and breath!
Contact me for more information.
Wishing you a long life of peace, prosperity, and many mindful breaths to come.