Stress Less: Instant Interrupt

Stress Less: Instant Interrupt

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Stress Less: Instant Interrupt And The Fool Proof Way To Undo The Panic Mode

In this installment of the Life Blowup Prevention Project, we continue to reverse engineer problems and find ways to address them at the root. Today we will explore how to prevent toxic stress by staying in the parasympathetic nervous system mode through diaphragmatic breathing and how to do it properly. You will prevent a decline in memory, creativity and problem solving, stress-induced insomnia, irritability and break down in relationships and many stress-related health problems like high blood pressure, digestive issues, weight gain, and fatigue. You will never again waste time “belly breathing” and wonder why it doesn’t work

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello, and welcome back to the Life Blow Up Prevention Project. Today we’re going to continue our conversation about eliminating stress, and we’re going to do this by breathing. And if you’re rolling your eyes because you’ve heard so much about breathing, let me tell you something.

In the last 20 years of clinical practice I met two people who are now to breathe, and they were both opera singers and I think it’s a conversation worth continuing until we get it right. 

So, what happens when we’re stressed? When we’re stressed we stop breathing, hold the breath or breathe very shallow from up here. 

Most of the oxygen exchange actually happens in the bottom portion of the lung, so if we habitually breathe from here we become chronically oxygenated. Without food and water you can go for days,  without air, few minutes, and you’re dead. So when we are running on a deficit of oxygen, what happens is you trigger your fight or flight response. 

There are very important things that happen when you are running away from a lion, real or imaginary. Whether it’s a deadline at work or your kids or whatever is happening in your life,  the physical response is the same, your blood pressure goes up, your digestion shuts down, You can’t sleep because part of your nervous system is still looking for that lion to eat you. So, you are entering very high energy,  breakdown mode, and your digestion is impaired so you cannot repair properly, and you cannot think straight. 

There’s no time for logical thinking when your life is in danger so your logic,  your knowledge, your resources, all of that goes out the window, and you become very reactive. So it is really,  really important that we remember how to breathe and to remember that I’m not teaching you anything you don’t know. When we are born,  when babies are born, we all breathe diaphragmatically. We all breathe properly. 

But there’s a huge misconception about what diaphragmatic breath is. Most people think diaphragmatic breath is a belly breathing. It is not. You could do this for hours, and it does not work because it doesn’t get you any more oxygen that you need. 

So what diaphragmatic breath is, it’s actually sideways breathing. So what happens is, when you breathe with your diaphragm, which is that muscle that’s shaped like this, it flattens, and it pushes the ribs sideways. So diaphragmatic breath is going to look like this. 

Neither your chest, not your belly moves. When you do this, you get the most oxygen for the least expenditure of energy. 

Now you cognitively rewire, now you have access to all of your resources knowledge, experience, you have better energy, better sleep your digestion comes online,  your reproductive system comes online, and your body starts functioning the way it should and you stop burning a candle on both ends. 

So, effectively, if you master this one skill, you have a command over your nervous system, and a lot of stress associated issues, both in and outside of work, in our families, but also physical issues, just go out the window, you can do this one thing. 

So this is your tip for the day. It doesn’t happen overnight so practice before getting out of bed before going to sleep,  maybe every couple of hours take a 60-second break and check your breath. The objective is to breathe this way 24/7. 

This is going to be an ongoing homework and your stress elimination project and journey is to learn how to breathe this way all the time. 

And if you forget everything I just said, diaphragmatic breath, and a stress mode are on completely different circuits. If you’re stressed you’re not breathing,  if you can breathe properly it’s going to be much harder to push your buttons. It’s as simple as that. 

So that is your homework. Stay tuned for the next installment in our stress elimination, and we’ll see you next time.

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Words Matter

Words Matter

Blog written by Ania Grimone

The Power Words

In the spring of this year, I think it was March, I signed up to ride in a 200 mile charity bike ride on the East Coast in October. It was somewhat of an impulsive decision, since my life was unraveling around me and I needed something to focus on that had both nothing to do with me and it was a lot bigger than my own troubles. I have never done anything like this, didn’t bike much except occasional Sunday rides of 5-10 miles and little escapades in the city on my mountain bike. This was a whole new ball game. It sounded like a good idea at the time and I didn’t think much of what it would take to prepare to do such a thing. I set out to raise some money right away, because I knew that once I receive the first check, I will be locked in. No backing out. I was really going to do this. I bought a road bike for the occasion and every week I looked at it, dangling from the hook in my garage, mocking me, daring me, nudging me. I ignored it. In the mid July I couldn’t take it any longer and took it for a spin. I felt like a 3 year old must feel on the first bike ride when they can actually keep the balance while knowing all along that it is just a matter of time till they bite the dust. It happened on the second ride. I was going too fast and reached for the breaks where they were supposed to be, but it is a different bike and they weren’t there. I bruised both my ass and my ego that day. But I didn’t break anything, so it actually gave me confidence to start riding more. From one week to the next I became better at it, stronger, more efficient. I met amazing people along the way who coached me and taught me how to ride a bike. Almost 2 months to the date of my first ride I rode my first Century, 100 miles in one day. I felt proud and accomplished and, well, ready for my big event. My friends celebrated. Nobody questioned it. My event happened last weekend and again, 2 weeks after the first century, I was able to ride another one, this one on the hills of Pennsylvania  and then keep riding long distances over the following 2 days. I felt great, no biggie.

That is until I started talking to other cyclists who expressed a surprise and amazement at my ability at 49 years old to ride so far with such a short practice. They shared with me that it can take 2-4 years to prepare to ride a century. WHAT? Why didn’t anyone tell me before? I would have never signed up for this thing!

What occurred to me at that moment was that the only reason why I was able to do this was that nobody told me I couldn’t. I was ignorant of what I “shouldn’t” have been able to do.  I had no expectations to contend with, no limitations. There was no overcoming, no struggle, no resistance, no conquering. There was simply deciding on a goal, mapping out what needs to be done and doing it.

It made me think about the hypnotizing power of the language. From the moment we are born, we hear our parents tell us “don’t do that”, “don’t touch that”, “you can’t”, “you shouldn’t”, “don’t be”, “impossible”. As we grow up, the society reinforces the hypnosis until, before we know it, it becomes the hum behind every thought and every decision we make and we stop questioning it. It becomes our truth and we begin to talk to ourselves the same way. We get duped into a box. There are some who when they become aware of it, fight it and sometimes manage to escape, creating the amazing overcoming stories that sell How To programs and create guru followings. For most of us, it translates into a life in a box, full of longing for what lies beyond and impotence to do anything about it.

But it made me wonder, what would happen if we broke the spell. If we took a full responsibility for the words that come out of our mouths. Whether they are directed at ourselves, at others or at life in general. What would happen if we would use the power of language ONLY in service of  love? If we only spoke the truth and what we really mean? If we never spoke negatively to ourselves or gossip about others? If we banished those self and other  limiting phrases out of our vocabulary? Not as a cheesy attempt at positivity or sugar coated bullshit, but as a step in our evolution, so we can wake up and then CHOSE what kind of hypnosis we want to be subject to. I’m going to do just that. Join me if you dare and we will compare notes.

Who Are You In The Midst Of Chaos?

Who Are You In The Midst Of Chaos?

Blog written by Ania Grimone

Who Am I?

It is at the same time the most profound and the most banal question that we can ask of ourselves and that we get asked by others. It can be asked from the most superficial level of “who the hell are you?” when you accidentally crash a wrong party at a hotel venue to the deepest spiritual inquiry between you and God or your conscience of whoever you talk to when you are alone. The most confusing part of this line of questions is that the answer changes from day to day, from circumstance to circumstance and we often get more and more confused the more we dare to inquire. So hats off to all of you who keep asking anyway. The paradox here is that who we are is simultaneously constant and ever-changing, allowing us to get temporarily satisfied with whatever answer we come up with in the moment  and at the same time know better than to settle that this is The Answer. I am a woman, a mother, a healer, a coach, a cyclist, a kayaker, a wife, a soon to be ex-wife, a confident person, an insecure person, beautiful person, ugly person, compassionate person, an asshole, a jerk, a generous person, a selfish person, a funny person, an uptight person, a smart and a stupid person, an intelligent person and a moron, a thoughtful person and an oblivious one. I am an immortal soul and a Divine being. I am mortal.  I am all of that. There are also things I am no longer. I am not a toddler, a grad student, a resident of communist country or a bigot. I think the key to finding the answer is to not get attached to any of them. We change, we evolve, our lives move forward and if we try to adapt to the new circumstances, while keeping our identity hostage, we suffer. So as you face the change in your life, as you look into the unknown, unleash the freedom of becoming whoever you need to be to face the future. Ask the question again: “Who am I”? and decide. Yes, it is up to you. And the more you connect to your truth and the more courage you have to follow it and step into that identity, the closer you come to finding out who you really are and what is your true power.

Growing in Relationships

Growing in Relationships

Blog written by Ania Grimone

It has been 28 years since I left my country and embarked on adult life adventures. I thought I was leaving for 2 months and I have never gone back. Not permanently that is. But even though I visited at times, I have not had an opportunity to spend any length of time with my mom without other people around budding in on conversations and sharing our experiences. This year we decided to spend 2 weeks together in a beautiful region of Kaszuby in Northern Poland at a health retreat ( AKA eat vegetables for 2 weeks, exercise all day and listen to the evils of western diet).

As a side note, it was interesting to notice that even though their philosophy and nutritional guidelines are something I subscribe to, the mode of presentation suggesting that I must live according to those  rules or else,  elicited in me a fierce resistance. I suppose it is not unique in any way as nobody likes being told what to do. We all want to feel that we have a choice and an option to exercise it or not.

It was even more apparent as I spent  time with my mom and realized that even though I am almost 50 years old, in her eyes I am still a child, who needs to be directed, protected, warned, questioned and instructed. It was as if my mom froze in time and refused to acknowledge the passage of time despite the obvious proof to the contrary. I wondered; was it because she could not see me any other way, or because if was important for her to feel as only moms off youngsters can feel – indispensable. Or was it even more broad than that? Could it be a simple resistance to change?

Day to day we acquire different experiences, perspectives, we accumulate information and as a result of it we change. I am a different person today than I was yesterday, a year ago or 10 years ago and yet, people around me insist on holding me to who I was when they took a mental snapshot and formed an opinion of me. Hell, I do it myself. My son constantly reminds me: “Mom, stop treating me like a child, I’ve got this!” Ugh! Can I trust it?

It is such a paradox that the only thing that is truly constant in our lives is change and yet we resist it tooth and nail. We cling to our habits, routines, opinions, relationships, positions, places of residence or beliefs,  even when it is obvious that we have outgrown their usefulness and would be better off figuring out what IS useful for us now and going for it.

Why do we do that? Well, part of it is hard wired in our brains. It is what psychologists identified as familiarity heuristic, the subconscious preference for familiar, which we associate with safety and well-being. Things that are unfamiliar or foreign – people, places, ideas may carry unknown risks, so we reject them on the “gut level” as unsafe.  We can carry this bias  even when it can lead us into self – defeating choices and we tend to do it more when we are under pressure than when we are relaxed and can actually evaluate what’s happening.

So what am I saying? That you should not trust your gut? Well, it appears that what you consider a gut feeling while under pressure, may actually be a stress response  strongly favoring the familiar, regardless if it is actually in your benefit or benefit of those around you. I noticed that when we were traveling, which is very stressful for my mom, she would be more likely to order, direct and correct, which would create conflict and push back on my part. When we had time to breathe, she would be more open to consider me in a different light and adjust her behavior, leading to more open communication and growth in our relationship.

So it seems that in order to navigate change better, we need to take a breath.  Resist reacting from automatic pilot, look at what is happening, what needs to happen, what you want and what would help you get there instead. When faced with new situation, don’t reject it on principle. Stop. Wait a bit. Give yourself time to know what is it that you are actually deciding against, what are it’s true merits and faults and only then make a decision. Who is this person in front of you NOW? Look at it consciously, intentionally, mindfully.

For my mom and me it translated into advancing our relationship beyond the mindless repetition of the old dynamic, we got to know  and appreciate each other a little more as who we are today, which deepened our trust and willingness to connect.

So remember, when life throws you a curveball, stop and breathe…

Grief

Grief

Blog written by Ania Grimone

Where do I begin. Today I met a man I used to love. 27 years ago he asked me to marry him and I said yes. I remember a sense of doom as I said it, rather than the elation and excitement which would normally accompany such request. I loved him. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.

Little did I know it was almost the last time we spoke. What followed was a series of circumstances, some of which involved a crime committed against me, my cowardice in admitting to it, a betrayal by people I loved , who were meant to protect me but did not, lack of communication,  and our utter inability to handle something that was so beyond a scope of an ordinary 20 some year old man and a woman. Neither of us really could comprehend what was happening. We were brutally separated by circumstances left to imagine the part the other played, feeling abandoned, unworthy, betrayed and with a sense of deep longing.

But life goes on. I managed to pick myself up and continue. Create life which was  at times more or less satisfying, forging relationships, sometimes more or less intimate, I became a mom, which saved my soul. But there remained a part of my heart untouched by others. Reserved for a man I loved and lost without understanding why it had to be this way. There were years I didn’t think of him. I moved to US, I got married, had a son and a career. There were moments when I heard a name,  played tennis or saw someone’s smile when my heart would twitch, but I would stuff it behind the wall and move on.

That is, until I received an email 3 or 4 years ago with a simple name of a train route we used to take from Paris to Fontainebleau. My heart stopped. The intensity of all that I felt took my breath away. Do I dare respond? It was less about me and more about what that meant for the life I had. Would resurrecting the feeling take away from people I had in my life? Would it be a betrayal? Could I risk it?

And yet, I had to. The pain I carried with me for so long didn’t just have to do with life I didn’t get to have, it had to do with  the need to know, with a need to say “ I am sorry “ and with a need to be heard, to bring closure.

We did that. We spoke and filled the gaps in understanding and it helped. It set me on the path of healing. We spoke sometimes, joked around, gingerly shared the details of our lives and created a semblance of a friendship. Then two years ago I went back home and we decided to meet. I was a no show. I ran. Again. I could not bear meeting with the past. He was hurt, but shortly we settled into the rhythm of short check ins, texts and assurances that we still occupied each other thoughts.

Fast forward two years and we finally met. I had no expectations and yet I hoped that we would spend an afternoon laughing, reminiscing the good times, walking on the beach and… not sure what else.

What I did not expect was an avalanche of feelings. I felt shy of the initial  scrutiny. I know he felt the same. The hesitant, awkward moments when we compare the image we carry in our hearts to this person standing in front of us, ravaged by time and life, triumphs and sorrows. The unexpected surge of tenderness. The moment when you see the stranger in front of you, but you are able to look beyond the changed body and hints of cynicism and see the person that you once knew. The same man I loved, at the same time altered beyond recognition. The paroxysm of feelings competed for a place up front and center in my heart. Feelings which I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but promptly hid behind a polite smile.

The meeting was at once satisfying and deeply disappointing. It felt like a funeral of sorts. A true end of an era. And I realized again that this was grief. When you must let go of that which you cherish, because there is no other way. When the truth and the finality has finally hit you and you feel the gut wrenching sadness, the loss,  the injustice, the helplessness, and the choking red white rage.

And your heart breaks and the wall you constructed falls with it. And you realize that there is nothing left that needs protection and safe keeping. I feel so utterly vulnerable and exposed. I feel like I am walking through a rubble, looking for keepsakes, but those too are buried.

So what now? Grief takes time, but in the midst of it, I know I have a choice. I can chose what  I will cherish and bring with me as I move forward with my reconstructed heart. What will I use to strengthen me, to inform me, to empower me, to enlighten me and to weave into my life from this point on?

I must also chose what I will leave behind. Willingly, courageously, intentionally, so it will no longer hinder me and make me give only part of myself to the ones willing to love me now.

I feel that as I burry the past, I myself am rising from the dead. And with every wave or pain and regret I get to strengthen my resolve to not let the past rob me of what is yet to come.

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