Categories
Aerial photography Anxiety Dealing with a Crisis Distress Tolerance letting go of fear Stress

7 Anxiety Relief Techniques That Work

How to Quickly Reduce Stress in a Crisis

Take a moment to look at situations in a stable, rational way and adjust your perspective. Instead of investing your emotions in anxiety and stress, stop, pause and direct your responses to be calm and solution focused. Accept reality without fatiguing or exasperating yourself. Radical Acceptance is an anxiety relief technique to accept reality, even when it’s challenging and downright painful. During my work as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and Counsellor, I teach others to learn necessary habits needed to relieve stress and anxiety, and maintain healthy mental health habits. The human condition has an ability for joy, love and happiness, but we all face challenges, disappointments and uncertainty along the way as a part of our life journey.

Take Charge and Shift Your Mindset

In this complex and unstable world we need to have tools. Our prehistoric brain highlights fear, anxiety and negativity and works against us. Take charge through daily practice of re-framing thoughts and shift your mindset. Productive thinking boosts self-esteem and puts the clutter of negative thoughts in the trash where they belong. Our primal survival instincts get triggered, scanning in our environment for danger. Then we scare ourselves with irrational fear thoughts such as if the worst came true we would fall apart. We think when we go through a trauma or loss we are alone, but this is not true, our primal nature is to support one another with compassion. Use that same skill to have self compassion towards yourself. This lowers cortisol the stress hormone, and increases resilience during stressful events.

Acknowledge Painful Feelings

Recognize fear thoughts and replace them with safe and comforting thoughts by firmly directing your mind. Change and loss is natural and can lead to personal growth. Uncertainty can mean you’re on the right track and are opening yourself to new opportunities. When you use your imagination during a tough change or painful event to see the good and imagine that you’re creating something better in that space, you are changing the neural pathways in your brain. Acknowledge difficult and painful feelings as they come up and know this will change.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where stands in times of challenge and controversy” Martin Luther King

Focus on How This Change Brings You a New Perspective

A challenge is an opportunity when you look at it with a brand new perspective. If you are going through a tough change, find the good that came from it. When you visualize a positive outcome and move forward, it does not mean you erase the memory from your mind. You are now focusing on how this change brings alternative possibilities. It may have given you the gift of wisdom, knowing you’re resilient or an increased understanding of yourself. Acknowledge the fear and the courage it took to move forward. Looking for the good does not negate what happened to you. With your eye on a positive outcome you can gain perspective, and this will shift you into a better state of mind.

Develop True Grit During Tough Situations

When you put pressure on yourself to achieve a goal, your brain does its best to step up to the changing conditions. By changing habits, for example, you are perturbing the equilibrium of what was normal. Instead of going into high anxiety after a change, practice calming skills such as deep breathing, which connects you with your vagus nerve. Your reactive brain wants to go back to being the same and fear drives it. Welcome personal growth challenges under pressure to develop resiliency and develop a sense of true grit when the going gets tough. Train yourself to stay calm with forward moving energy. This provides stability during a sudden change or threat in your environment. You can learn how to be productive even during a crisis. This is something that takes practice as our brain is reactive. If you allow it to overreact with challenges, the flood of cortisol and adrenaline can deplete your energy. 

Put the Challenge into Perspective with Others

As humans, we can reassure and support others. Engage your community with empathy by putting things in perspective, as this regulates emotions. Respond compassionately to somebody in distress. Without getting anxious with them respond with caring and connection. If you dive right in and become upset with them experiencing negative emotions, this can cause overwhelm. Respond with genuine warmth and concern expressing compassion. Sometimes bearing witness to their pain with empathy is all that someone needs. Put the challenge into perspective and offer decision-making skills. With practice you can nurture other people in their time of need by offering them the gift of your wise self with your supportive words. Helping others with warmth and compassion releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is a hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being. 

Persistence,Courage and Strength

We need determination and endurance in life. Sometimes we need to tolerate pain and frustration, and during this time we need persistence and courage. Practice feeling strong by ignoring past hurt, perceived failures and let downs. Forge ahead and stop giving power to the past. Redirect yourself and focus only on the positive goal you wish to accomplish.

The Heart is the CEO

Remember that the heart is the CEO, and can quickly bring you to a state of ease. Instead of trying to master your worry thoughts ruled by the cognitive part of your brain, learn to re-calibrate to a belief of safety and refuge through regulating your heart rhythm. In my experience, this is the deepest and most permanent way to feel better. When you do heart focused breathing, you put your heart in a coherent state with thoughts of joy, love, appreciation, gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. This is a higher level of thinking which puts your heart rhythm in a smooth even wave. If you stay in a lower level state of anger, despair and anxiety your heart rhythm is in an incoherent state or in a jagged wave which can cause stress-related disorders.

Shift Out of Your Primal Fear State

At any point in time we are in our primal fear state which is the fight flight zone of the sympathetic nervous system or we are in the healing and powerful state of the parasympathetic zone of the nervous system. This means we connect with the benefit of the restorative vagus nerve. Our primal brain limits us with fear, insecurities, doubts, worries and anxieties, as this is the cognitive part of our brain which is a lower level state. When we are overthinking things and getting into a worry loop, this can be mentally draining and effect health. At any point in time we have the choice to shift out of this primal fear state into the higher and healthier state of our heart’s intelligence, connecting with joy, creativity and inspiration.

Call to Action

1) Make it your personal challenge to stay calm despite misfortune and set an intention that you are strong and serene. This prevents our amygdala or our emotion centre from irrational over response. Accept life’s uncertainty and develop a calm response pattern overtime. Stay solution focused and calm when waters get turbulent in life. Equanimity takes training and practice, as our primal brain is normally reactive to keep us safe from harm.

2) Find music with a strong rhythmic beat. Music is a right-brain exercise, where nonverbal creativity, intuition, and perception live. Immerse yourself in a challenging and creative project. Distress and stress are a left-brain activity with solving mental tasks, problem solving and analyzing. The left brain can get fatigued, stressed, and strained. Engage your right brain with creativity to relieve distress.

3) Have compassion for others and use this same skill to have self compassion towards yourself. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. This lowers cortisol the stress hormone, and increases resilience during stressful events. Compassion releases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is a hormone that increases well-being.

4) Sit where you can be uninterrupted for 3 minutes. Close your eyes and visualize yourself calm through mental rehearsal. Imagine what a composed person looks like and have an image of yourself as calm. The breath has both emotional and physical benefits. Oriental meditators believe breathing is the secret to longevity as it eases the strain on both the heart and vital organs. Learn to breathe and stay composed during unpleasant events and emotional upset. Easy, rhythmic breathing patterns can get you through challenging times.

5) Ride the wave with 4×4 breathing until the distress has passed. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 4, hold for 4. Comparable to a wave, the emotion will appear intense, reach its peak, then pass and dissipate. 

6) Seek and find positive experiences for brain health, even in the middle of hardship and pain. Wonderful facts are still around you, even when life is difficult. With practice this builds strength, resilience, and boosts feel good brain chemistry such as serotonin. This benefits brain structure and health.

7) Whenever you are in your monkey mind with your thoughts are racing out of control understand that you are in a primal state and notice your negative inner dialogue. Say to yourself “OK, I am in a primal unhealthy state and I am now going to my powerful higher level state.” Put your hand on your heart, do heart focused breathing and know that your higher level of intelligence lies in the intuitive voice of your heart. Remember, your heart provides wiser counsel than the inaccurate primal chatter of the brain when under stress.

About the Author

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:

https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

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Categories
Distress Tolerance happiness Stress

4 Effective Habits of Happiness to Relieve Stress and Navigate Your Mind Toward Health and Well-Being

Make Happiness Your New Foundation

Train your heart and brain to make happiness your new foundation. There will still be challenges, but you will create a new baseline in your heart, brain and nervous system for happiness instead of stress. This new benchmark will increase your resilience and be an inspiration to others. The new habits you adopt make this baseline a possibility with our current knowledge of neuroplasticity. The brain changes according to its experience, and you can take charge and navigate your mind toward health and well-being.

“Take responsibility of your own happiness, never put it in other people’s hand’s” Roy T. Bennett author of “The Light in the Heart”

Acknowledge Your Stressors


Expressing happiness and enthusiasm is an inspiration to others in our fast-paced digital world where there is always something on the horizon. We have round-the-clock news reporting on the ineptitude of governments, storms, wildfires to wars, fatalities and now the coronavirus. Rapidly advancing technology brings with it the pressure to shape up and align ourselves to ever-changing trends on Instagram and Facebook. People are continually in search of likes and validation through social media. There is a long list of stressors that impedes our inner peace.

Strive for contentment despite what happens around you. We have an illusion that circumstances, places, trips, cars, purchases and more money will make us happy. These are short-lived boosts we believe validates who we are. Put your energy into your values, what is meaningful, and gravitate towards what will last.

You Are a Chameleon


A chameleon has perfected the art of camouflage through changing its colour and adapts to its changing environment with resilience. Similar to this old world lizard, our wise and resilient mind leads to genuine happiness through simple daily practices.

Call to Action:

1)Recognize and Reframe

When you notice stress is developing, select methods to neutralize it before it escalates. Redirect your mind to recognize negative thoughts and reframe them. Steer yourself away from crippling beliefs and distorted thoughts that have you confined. These are mistaken ideas which we have created which inhibit us from achieving our goals. Learn to reframe thoughts through effective and positive affirmations. Get hold of these limiting notions and don’t allow your emotions to control you.

Say Stop;Reframe


Notice negative thoughts. An example would be “I can never seem to get this done” to “I am doing this easily and effortlessly.” Say to yourself, stop and reframe. Find a new way, no matter how challenging it is, to find one element of good in your situation. We become what we envision the most. Having fear as a guide impacts thoughts, influencing your abilities. Talk to that fearful person inside yourself; ask him or her to sit this one out so you may take full charge. When you alter your mindset to give yourself happy thoughts, you change your brain chemistry, heart rhythm and improve health and wellbeing.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love


It is unfortunate that we work less on lightheartedness and latch onto more stress. Anxiety and stress has turned into our default setting, and we have made that our new normal, becoming accustomed to fear as the familiar voice. Reroute your intellect towards a happier default setting for health and wellness.

2)Understand Fear of Happiness and Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm and happiness can be a source of fear, as we might dread being out of control. Our negativity bias scans for the worst, which causes anxiety. We perceive being too happy and positive might upset other people, or someone may perceive it as abnormal. But this idea is far from the truth. It is our brain’s primal natural tendency and need for safety that keeps pushing us towards familiar negative thoughts. 


Fear of being happy crosses many generations. We search for a hazard to arrive, and over time, projecting this culture of negativity completes a cycle of doom. This doesn’t mean that we ignore adversity, loss and pain. It means educating our upcoming resilient, wise and peaceful generation to have compassion for themselves and others. Establishing happiness as a foundation is a valuable achievement. Learn a set of higher level emotions such as joy, love, appreciation, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion to reduce fear and anxiety.

Photo by Jakob Owens 

3)Understand the Science of How Happiness Affects Your Heart

Heart coherence means your heart, brain and nervous system are in sync, which results in a smooth even heart rhythm and neurochemistry that improves mood. Studies show you can influence another’s heart rhythm by staying coherent yourself. The happier your state is, the lighter the mood is of those around you. Happiness and a genuine smile is contagious. Our relationship to joy is a responsibility for ourselves and others. Fear and negative emotions is contagious and has a ripple effect. Sometimes we have a false belief that if we’re not suffering or anxious, we are falling short and not doing enough. We have many generations of worriers. But by making happy our new normal, we help new generations to develop reservoirs of strength and resilience.  

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people. I thought this is what it is to be happy” Sylvia Plath author of “The Bell Jar”

4)Lean into a Happiness Habit Each Day


New lifestyle patterns such as reading inspirational material, Heartmath exercises, and mindfulness practice resources, help you gain insight into your brain’s neuroplasticity, which can cause lasting change. Repetition is the key to working beyond our reptilian brain that wants to stay fearful, negative and afraid. You have everything within you to recondition your brain to discover joy and happiness.

Get revved up on what you will do next, and focus on an idea that sparks your creativity and excitement. This creates a powerful positive force you can rely upon to keep pushing you forward. Think of this energy as emanating from an untapped precious source. This impacts vitality and health.

Once you are aware of this precious resource within, it becomes our responsibility to use them for the health benefits of our bodies. We often mistake excitement with fear. Transform your fear energy into forward-moving solutions and make whatever task you need to do easier. Make happiness your new revolution. Enjoy every minute of your journey and make your life a beautiful song.

About the Author:

https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt
Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.

Categories
Change Dealing with a Crisis letting go of fear Stress

Your New Adventure is Set in Motion;Here are 5 Steps to Master the Challenge of Change

Fear is a Normal Response

Understand that fear during a change is normal, and something that we all share. We can learn how to overcome fear and anxiety and see it as something that can ignite creativity to find find dynamic solutions and propel you forward. We can condition ourselves to make forward motion the only choice. When you’re trying to accomplish something, do not think of everything at once. Many things at once can overwhelm your brain. Instead, pick one thing and focus on it for a block time. By staying calm when you are under pressure your brain is more efficient and accomplishes more with less effort.

Understand that fear during a change is normal, and something that we all share. We can learn how to not let fear get bigger but see it as something that can ignite creativity to find find dynamic solutions and propel you forward

“For what it is worth it is never too late or in my case too early to be whoever you want to be. There is no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you have never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not,I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” Eric Roth; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

Tension and stress is counterproductive and inhibits productivity and creativity. The minute you feel your jaw tighten with a fear stress reaction apply a relaxation technique. We want to work with ourselves and our challenges. You are capable when faced with complex stressors to move forward when under pressure.

“When we least expect it ,life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at any such moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” Paulo Coelho author of The Devil and Miss Prym

Challenge Yourself and Decide Your Action Plan

You can never have complete certainty. We must exercise the ability to take risk even though it’s uncomfortable and uncertainLet your life adventure begin!

You can never have complete certainty. We must exercise the ability to take risk even though it’s uncomfortable and uncertain, and sometimes we have to decide without having every shred of available information. Once you decide, take every course of action you can to support it. The most important thing is that you’ve decided. Visualize the result you want and dive right in trusting your own instincts.

Change is a vulnerable time. When you reflect on your life, to overcome difficulties you had to be resilient and flexible.  Recognize how strong you are. This resilience gets stronger as you exercise it. Remind yourself of your talents, inner resources and the support of family and friends. You have the power within you to get through your challenges and come to your own emotional rescue no matter what happens in life.

“You can’t rewind the past.The only way to learn the secret is to press play.” Jay Asher author of Thirteen reasons Why

Imagined Worries, Fears and Anxieties

When I was pregnant with my first child, those were beautiful and emotionally nourishing times knowing that a beautiful life was growing inside me. There was also an overwhelming fear because of uncertainty. There were various opinions of others offering advice, and I scoured books and websites for clues on what to expect. My mind filled in the gaps of imagining what could happen. As prepared as I was, I knew it may not go according to plan. During those times I needed to live in the moment, as allowing my brain to fast forward ahead with imagined fears and anxieties, could affect our baby, and it was my job to stay centred, strong and relaxed in the journey. The fact that I gave birth proved to myself I could overcome any challenge or uncertainty with my intuition and intelligent heart as my guide.It’s important to recall how well you overcame challenges and fears in the past.

Call to Action

1) Find something in the tapestry of your life’s journey you have overcome and recall it in great detail. You have overcome past challenges and were born with a great will to survive in times of hardship. Faced with great adversity many people have found strength and courage to move through change and so can you. Find an empowering affirmation and repeat it to yourself such as; “I am strong, resilient, and know exactly what to do”. Recognize that you have successfully used your resilience in the past and have the skills for future challenges.

2)  Accept that change is inevitable. Never doubt your ability and power to overcome any challenge. Know that you have a courageous and strong survival instinct.

3) Write out what you want, the direction you want to go, and decide by making one action step.

4) Allow yourself to understand your feelings of uncertainty and have compassion for yourself, then step outside of your comfort zone. Acknowledge that when you are in the fresh new part of a painful event, there is a normal period of rocky emotions and feelings of uncertainty. Make this part of the voyage easier by holding your head up high and being determined. Surround yourself with people who inspire you!

5) Understand that like the wild horse, as highly developed herd animals we can be intuitive, sensitive and flow with change in the moment. Go with the changes and have a willingness to correct your course or stop and ask for directions. You can always change course and map out a new plan. Your adversity polishes you to become stronger and more resilient than ever.

About the Author:

About the author of this blog: Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters, which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:

https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

Categories
Anxiety Dealing with a Crisis Distress Tolerance Stress

When Your Emotions are Unruly and Untamed, Try These Three Simple Steps

“Don’t react while you are upset because at that time your reaction will be based on negative emotions; but intuitive and positive thoughts flow when you are calm.” Hina Hasmi author of “Your Life a Practical Guide to Happiness,Peace and Fulfilment

Direct your emotions when your mind is unruly and untamed. It is essential to practice steadiness of mind on a daily basis to benefit health and well-being. Bring your wandering mind back to the present moment should you get lost in the swirl of worries and thoughts. Thought reframing as a habit becomes not only a great practice and a practical route out of these disruptive or maladaptive thoughts, it helps us radically shift our perspective. Reframing makes it possible to change our viewpoint by planting ideas, concepts and emotions with positive alternatives. This change in thinking patterns is therapeutic and allows us to connect more effectively with others both personally and professionally. 

Your thoughts are only mental activity and chatter. Acknowledge them as they come up but don’t pay too much reverence to them as they are usually full of inaccurate material. Thoughts will always arise and then disappear as they follow this natural route. Disregard them, and like a pressure cooker instant pot, let them blow off steam with all the frantic drama. Remind yourself that your thoughts have no power over you, thank them for the feedback and then let them go.

Your attitude and the story you tell yourself matters, as it is your personal style that describes to others who you really are. For example, a persistent attitude has been attributed to determining successful outcomes. Keep and cherish the story you love about the unique and incredible person that you are highlighted at all times.

We are programmed to find meaning in our stories and make sense of things and this comes in the form of a story. If you don’t see the good with a positive vision of yourself, you may be unknowingly creating an unhealthy self image.The brain with its negativity bias relays inaccurate analysis or predictions about the present situation which can deprive you of joy and happiness. When you sense chaos, your brain’s natural tendency will be to create stories to gain a sense of order. A majority of these made-up stories however, are inaccurate and inconsistent. 

In our present world our minds are overwhelmed with so many things happening each minute, information overload becomes too much for us to process, and we need to pick which elements to pay attention to. When experiencing stressful events, it is the positive stories that are healthy. Disqualifying the positives means that we are afraid to pay too much attention to sharing positive emotions. To recall positive emotions and beautiful memories takes practice because of our brains’ natural tendency to latch onto negativity. It is not your fault, but it is time now to take charge to feel lighter and happier.  

Giving yourself thoughts of safety while in a swirl of emotions will help you stay grounded and calm despite your present circumstance. Having a consistent daily practice to challenge difficult thoughts changes both your neurochemistry and heart rhythm. This also works towards building your resilience overtime to stress and overwhelm. Our life is a work of art, and we can become the masters of directing our story. 

Three simple steps to practice when in an uncomfortable emotional state:

1) Recognize your negative thought.

2) Say stop.

3) Say SNAP! and then reframe the story.

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters,which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:
https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt
Categories
anger Anxiety assertiveness Conflict resolution Counselling Stress

How to Deal With Difficult People With These 5 Simple Steps

Difficult people will challenge you with their judgments, old behaviours and patterns along with projecting their opinions. If you’re not grounded in confidence, clear and strong within yourself, you may be triggered, prodded and poked with your emotions in every direction, until you find yourself stewing in an angry reactive emotion. This can be stressful, physically exhausting and wreak havoc with your nervous system.

Anger Can Drain Our Energy Quickly

Reactive angry emotions can drain our energy extremely quickly. Let’s look at ways that we can release this old familiar pattern that is reactive, and drawn into people’s drama. You can learn ways of thriving in every situation, joyfully without fear and create a different perspective. You have everything you need to experience life with your feet planted firmly on solid ground, without being tossed and pushed around by circumstance, people’s negativity and your own thoughts.

Reacting to a Negative Event Causes a Chaotic Heart Rhythm

If you go over and over in your mind about a negative incident that happened after being harmed emotionally, you are adding more pain to the already traumatizing event. Ruminating of how things could have gone differently in an interaction, is illogical, as no amount of thinking about it changes the facts it is a past event. The sooner you let go of it, the better it is for your health. Reacting to a negative event causes a chaotic heart rhythm, as well as a flood of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to stress-related disorders such as heart disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia and weight gain. Some people are bad for our health.

Learn The Fine Art Of Bold Communication Skills


Associate with people who are positive and supportive and if it is possible, let go, modify contact, or assert yourself with critical and negative people. Think of this as a step you take for your physical and mental well-being. It is important to identify who these people are and take action. Setting clear boundaries can improve your relationship with them. By learning the skill of assertiveness, you are saying to yourself and others that you value yourself, and it will set the tone for mutual respect. With practice, you can learn the fine art of bold communication skills, and this will help you set clear boundaries.

Quick Emergency Exercise After An Argument

1) Imagine that there is a drain  at the bottom of your feet.

2) Exhale out any negativity and see it disappear outside of yourself as it goes out of the drain at the bottom of your feet.

3) Inhale again breathing in fresh clean air and white light.

4) Keep exhaling negative material out of the drain and inhaling the clean white light until you feel clean, clear, and lighter.

5) Stay there for one minute and notice the peaceful and clear feeling you have. 

Through repetition, you become skilled with developing a filter that allows things in that make you feel good, and filtering out what is harming you, or could cause you harm. By taking on another’s negativity you’re harming yourself. Pay attention to how good it feels to have a peaceful feeling that is strong and wise. Each interaction in your life is teaching you valuable life lessons. Protect your well- being like gold.

I invite you to share with me your wisdom, experiences and insights.

Kim co authored the #1 Bestselling book Emotional Intelligence: Mental Health Matters,which provides a set of supportive tools and inspiring stories to help women conquer negative influences, harness the power of psychological wellness and thrive emotionally.For more information go to:
https://www.awomanofworth.com/kim-mowatt

Categories
Anti-Aging Costa Rica happiness Healing Stress visualization

Try This Simple Two Minute Fast and Effective Technique For Stress Relief

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” 

Steve Maraboli; Author of Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

President Harry Truman dealt with stress remarkably well during World War II. His stressful job did not appear to have aged him, and he still had a youthful vitality. When asked how he did it, he stated “I have a foxhole in my mind.” His explanation was, that as a soldier needs recuperation and rest in a foxhole, he needed a retreat into his imagination to recover and rejuvenate from pressure. We can create this foxhole in our minds when mentally exhausted and drained by redirecting our thoughts into a movie of our own making. As your nervous system does not know the difference between a real or imagined experience, you can release yourself from worry and strain, with a two minute mental vacation.  

My forehead quilted in the tension,and I took a deep inhale after a stressful staff meeting. I went for a coffee break, in a quagmire of baffled cerebral congestion. While listening to the familiar, comforting slapping of Marlie’s clogs down the hallway, my mind is now travelling.

In times where everything I’ve known crumbles away, giving way to disorder and chaos, I remind myself of a distant memory; one I carry along with me on my mental journeys. A memory of a place untampered by civilization. An island away from the rest of the world.

This place was a secluded beach I and Glenn had found, close to Cabuya, Costa Rica. We were the only souls there, besides the creatures that held us in wonderment.

There was a vast stretch of white untampered sand, strewn with stones and adorned with seashells, the lapping waves washed the pebbled shores a crystal white, and the weeping jungle reached out from the tree line towards the sea, with howling monkeys dangling from its lean branches. Parakeets hopped along on the higher branches, quickly scurrying away when the capuchins neared them. The Capuchins were smaller monkeys than the howler monkeys and a native to the area. My curiosity led me to them, but I stopped short when the nearest one bared vicious canines at me.

Across the sand, crawling creatures emerged to witness us. Iguanas skittered away as we crossed the girth, bobbing their heads in mutual curiosity at us, and skittering further away when we neared them. Out in the distance, across the waters, massive aerial harpoons descended from the skies, pelicans aimed for prey. The minute display spun my mind.

This place is away from the rest of the world, a part of the earth allowed to grow untamed, closed off by nature itself, its thick vegetative arms cradled the bay, and stretched as far as vision carried till it transcended to jutting rocks that rose high into steep terrifying cliffs, a home to a diverse array of fauna and animals. The shrill calls of life from the trees were almost lost to the rushing roars of crashing waves, and the gentle stroking of cool and whistling salt breeze.

In my mind, this place is wild and far-reaching, unbridled in it’s growth, reminding me of how unruly and untamed our minds can be. Every time I find myself with cluttered thoughts, I’m reminded of this place and of the essence in practicing steadiness of mind daily. Bring your mind gently back to a peaceful place when it gets lost in a swirl of thought and worry.

By finding a peaceful and quiet sanctuary in your imagination you positively shift both your neurochemistry and heart rhythm which benefits health. Our life is a work of art, and we can become the masters of directing and creating our story. 

Whenever you feel tension mounting, give your mind the break that it deserves with beautiful memories. Create a two-minute experience to boost your brain chemistry, and practice it regularly. Studies show this can increase your productivity and effectiveness at work by reducing stress. I invite you to share with me your thoughts in the comments below. Where will you go on your next vacation? 

Categories
Anxiety Counselling Heartmath Technique Horseback riding Horses that heal Stress The Science of the Heart Trauma

One Natural Essential Anxiety Remedy That Has You Feeling Better Quickly

The morning I met Annie started out as usual. A quiet and mild misty June morning on the ranch, I made coffee and set out two horsey mugs with cream and sugar, with two western placemats on the log table on the deck of our heritage log home on Abel Lake. My greens shake in hand, and our dog Karma at my side, I sought to start the day early with Annie who arrived to the ranch late last evening from Vancouver for counselling. To the chorus of the morning birds, I wandered the grounds searching for her. She was not at the cabins. Her bed was made, almost as if no one had slept in it. The worry shook whatever slumber I had left in my eyes. Retracing my steps, and resorting to check the last place I expected her to be, I left the cabins and picked my way in the misty cool of dawn across the property to the great heritage barn doors.

Barn photo

Usually the horses were quiet in the mornings, but I knew something was different that morning, as a few neighs alerted me when I approached. I paused in the doorway and my eyes searched the dim-lit barn. Almost instantly, my eyes settled on the small figure of a woman sleeping beside our mare SS Prime Tyme.

Her beat-up hat concealed half her face as I neared her, also noting her pointy toed cowboy boots. Her small arms stroked Tyme’s neck, and the sight pinned me in place. There was a softness in the connection between the two, one I had never seen of Tyme; a feisty Pinto Arab Saddlebred that resisted almost everyone that dared to tame her, and yet, there she was, lying in the shavings next to a small stranger, quiet as a mouse, still as a statue and in love.

“Annie?.”

I startled her. Big frightened eyes tossed my way as she stepped back. Tyme snorted and stood up, her long white mane covered in shavings.

Annie and I had only met briefly the night before, when Annie had come down to the ranch to see me. Her tired eyes had avoided contact and her arms almost never left her side. The rims around her eyes suggested a lack of sleep, and the lip biting told much about the anxiety turbulent within.

I offered her coffee, promising her we would come back to see Tyme. She fidgeted all the way back to the ranch house, keeping distance as I tried small talk, sifting for a common opening through which we could communicate. Her eyes never left the ground along the way and her replies never surpassed two syllables.

Once she had settled onto a chair at the table, with a simmering cup of coffee before her, I could tell her thoughts were afloat. Her eyes searched the room and her shoulders quivered now and then.

“You know, I’ve never seen Tyme so calm with anyone like that.” I smiled. She reciprocated weakly, keeping her eyes on her cup. Slowly she raised it to her lips and inhaled. Then she drank deeply. The liquid must have struck a chord for she beamed up at me with the brightest smile I had seen that day. Beside her, on the floor, Karma wagged her tail enthusiastically, watching her with knowing eyes. Annie reached out as if to touch her but then receded.

“No, it is quite alright.” I urged. She touched her lightly, and Karma’s warmth and soft eyes radiated onto her and she smiled again. Our conversation truly began after she had downed her cup of coffee. Gently, I inquired, needing her to be free with me if I was to help her. She only divulged a bit of information, before suddenly, she clammed up and beads of sweat began to form on her brow.

It was then I decided we both needed to drink in the beauty in front of us. We walked down a path to the shore of the lake. Watching the peaceful water returned the calm expression to Annie’s face. This bit of her I had only seen in small flashes back at the kitchen.

“Annie, suites you perfectly,” I smiled, taking in her soft facial features and those trusting eyes. Her face lit up briefly, a faint smile graced her lips, one that told tales of a beautiful young woman with a dark present and an uncertain future. It worried me she had sat out in the barn alone and in the cold, clinging to Tyme.

“What brought you out so early?”

“I was feeling breathless back at the cabin.” She grimaced and her eyes glistened. Her pain was vivid in her eyes, circled by tender swollen skin. “Something hangs heavy over me, smothering me. I can’t break free. I was going to come to see you at the house crying but, the lake…” She paused, casting a wistful gaze over the spread of glass before us. “And the sounds.” We both listened, the loons had not yet begun their orchestra. Then the crickets drummed and, in the distance, the coyotes yipped.

“There’s a peace here. It’s like coming home. Which is strange as I have never been here”

Horses Chrome Heart

But she was about to understand why, because I had already decided when I first saw her I would and must help her. I offered another cup of coffee and her favourite breakfast of fruit and avocado whole grain toast. She drank her coffee intensely as I sat beside her and we talked. Annie’s attention shifted uneasily throughout our discussion, there was an underlying edginess that kept her at bay, especially when she talked about her traumatic experiences; memories she couldn’t shut out.

I realized this was not of an external force but of her own doing. Most of the people that came here were tied down by painful memories of the past that they could not let go of, and Annie was no different. Each reminisce made her shudder and averted her attention. It became too difficult to continue talking about them. That day as I taught her how to groom, saddle up and ride, I started introducing to her lessons in the Science of the Heart.

A Few Years Later:

The birds came alive in the trees as the sun rose on the horizon over the lake, radiating a newness across the ranch. Mid spring cooed soft whisperings over the rolling pastures with the shimmering long grass waving. This promised the calm of new beginnings, the joy I would share in the company of one of my strongest clients, a woman named Annie. Her waif like smile floats to mind as I think of the haloed intensity in her eyes, and her bravery willing to take life by its horns. Her hearty laughter carried across the ranch as she gave me a beaming smile, the morning light shining on her face untouched from makeup, her light from within. She had just arrived from our heritage log cabin beaming with triumph. But the joy in her eyes did not conceal the emotions of the night before, and I quickly noticed puffy, tender skin surrounding her eyes. Had she had been crying? The pause in my chest only held a moment, as I quickly learnt her tears were that of joy. “I feel so safe here, it really is like coming home”, she said, her cowboy hat weathered from her past adventures, her long dark hair curling around the edges. Stretched in front of her were the same cowboy boots, a dusty red and denim blue with pointed toes  scuffed with pride.

Annie had been struggling over the past few years with appreciating her original character and beauty. She had been frail, and withdrawn when I first met her, with hollow eyes that fled from any eye contact and small shoulders that carried a weight much too heavy. My heart felt her pain. But with it, out-poured hope, hope I could do only my best to help her, and I gave her the intelligent heart tool. The progress she made was transformational, and gradually, I could see her vibrant self piecing back together.

We spent our time marvelling at the ethereal blue of a beautiful morning sky, creating animals from puffy clouds, while listening to the calling of the coyotes in the hills. As she pulled on her chaps and sipped her coffee, our dog Karma licked her face and knocked her avocado toast off the log table. Instead of reacting, she tossed her head back and her laughter rung musically. For her to experience her joy first hand, one that was non-existent years ago, is something that I cherish.

Karma photo

“Karma you are a bulldozer!” she exclaimed! We both laughed, as Karma smiled and wagged her tail.

Later, we wandered out at the shore of the lake where a still sheet of dark glass reaches across to the other side of a tree line. The lake is surroundedby tall silhouette spires, the forms of sleeping trees. The stillness only lasts a moment as yodelling drifts across the calm surface. Mating calls from the loons, their hooked necks stay afloat the water as they communicate. We remain wrapped in this dreamy musing state, until she says in a flat and almost mournful voice,

“I wish we could roam the hills and the pastures beyond it. I could get lost and never come back.” Her eyes glisten with both a golden but sad joy. I feel it too, the yearning to mount one of our horses and run free. The ranch sits secluded by surrounding hills and trees, by our lake in the Cariboo, somewhere in the backcountry, with miles of land to explore just minutes away. The idea tingled at my fingertips. I was more than delighted at the thought of this.

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I had packed brown bag lunches of peanut butter and honey wholegrain sandwiches, some nuts and cans of V8.

“Let’s take a coffee down to the barn and say good morning to the horses!”

She brightened a little more as I said this and, in that moment, I recalled her dedication to the animals. She had been falling apart when she first met SS Prime Tyme, our spicy Tri coloured Pinto Arab Saddle-bred, but we call her Tyme for short. Tyme is one of the few horses with spirited wildness on the ranch; fierce and poised in stature. I never could have imagined that these two would have been a match, but they were from the first day a few years ago. Somehow their hearts met halfway and from that day, Annie found herself engrossed with giving Tyme her all, spending day after day in devotion to caring for her, giving her baths and brushing her long white mane and tail.

In many ways, the process mirrored her efforts to regain herself; each gentle stroke across Tyme’s back, echoed subconsciously within her, consoling and invigorating the frail child within her that was left from her psychological trauma.

She raced me to the barn, stopping momentarily as a burst of flapping wings sounded over our heads, heralding a flock of barn swallows taking flight, with the soft chirping of their younglings calling after them. Their nests sat a few feet above our heads in the old rafters of the heritage barn’s roof. You could almost see the small pink beaks of their chicks, snapping from above the barn door, with their sleepy heads peeping over the brim of their nests.

A familiar neigh from inside reeled our attention, and it was Annie’s turn to take flight. Annie’s small arms wound tight around Tyme’s neck, not nearly long enough to make it halfway.

Tyme whinnied joyously, leaning into the hug. Annie only let go to stroke her neck. I gave the two friends their moment.

“What about if we just ride out and never come back?” She beamed back at me, eyes sparkling.

“If you had a choice where would you ride to?” I asked amused.

“I guess I just want to leave everything behind, to leave the tedium. But I like the fact of coming home and having a place to go to. And as you’ve said before, happiness is found within, no matter where you are. It’s that calm in the midst of chaos and confusion; a completeness that never fades. It’s not your circumstances that call the shots and tell you what your state of mind should be. Peace of mind is a choice and a commitment.”

Her wisdom and insight astonished me. For a moment, profound joy fills my heart, and my eyes water.

“You see Kim, I have been listening to you all these years.” She added with her genuine smile, a smile that reached with instant magnetic connection.

Annie, a petite woman with three children, had been shaken with grief when I first met her. Her abusive husband had just died. The trials of domestic abuse had broken something in her, somehow her personality shifted, leaving in place a frail child, one that wished to shut the world out. More than often, she would disappear, leaving friends and family worried. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, erupting into tears, rage and frustration at the slightest whim. Her unstable state was her undoing, one that kept her from help.

It was the tools of Heartmath that gave Annie room to calm herself when dealing with difficult emotions. The exercises helped to regulate her heart rhythm, giving her the mental space to reflect and assess situations without responding impulsively. The progress was gradual but sure, allowing her to tackle her anger, anxiety, frustration and self-doubt.

How? Annie learnt that ten minutes of heart focus breathing twice a day and did them during those minutes it triggered her during stressful events which helped her to make better choices. One of the many gifts of the process, was the carefree joy that restored to her life and a tremendous increase in her self-esteem. Annie was an example of someone who had replaced her darker side with a lightheartedness, resilience, and compassion. A trio that had affected her life and relationships positively.

Seeing this progress in Annie after years of dedication fills me with a wholeness that cannot be replaced. I believe that resilience and calmness in the face of adverse events and difficult emotions is something that needs to be practiced, not just for emotional health but mental and physical health. We must adjust as we go with the changing conditions of life, which is often uncertain and unpredictable. By learning flexibility and openness to change, and practicing the tools that work for us, we are equipped for any challenge that comes our way.

The techniques of Heartmath are unique from traditional therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, because rather than ask you to reframe your thoughts cognitively, it treats the emotional turbulence directly and works quickly to ease stress through the heart’s intelligence.

Heartmath exercises interrupt this negative pattern by training us to change our heart rhythms. This shifts us away from our stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline towards our feel-good neurochemicals such as serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins. With practice we can create a new healthy baseline pattern that allows you the ability to stay calm and balanced in the face of daily stressors.

It is more effective to follow your heart’s intelligence, rather than listen to the constant misleading chatter of your mind. The cognitive part of your brain gets bombarded with information and confused with false assumptions, ideas, and judgments. By pressing the delete button on that chatter and asking what your heart says and feels, you receive an uncomplicated answer. The wisdom of your heart allows you to feel peaceful despite life’s uncertainties. Heartmath is a powerful assistant for any of our life challenges.

“The power of the heart is capable of overcoming without effort every negativity. To start using the power of the heart is the most significant choice you will make in life” Steven Redhead ; author of “Unleash the Power of Your Heart and Mind.”

For more information:

http://www.heartmath.com