A lot of people call me complaining of stress, anxiety and depression. They have never learned how to connect with their inner calm, nor with the Divine, our source of love and peace. It’s not our parents or teachers fault, they either never learned these skills, or we rejected their teachings/role modeling out of our egoic reflex to be separate individuals. Or, we modeled ourselves in defense, with a desire to please someone who was based in ego, anger and fear, not themselves connecting with the Divine and the comfort the connection with the Divine, our Source, brings.
As we know, energy expands, and misery loves company, yet love and calm also expand once we connect with it. Some of us, particularly in our teens, get sucked in by negative energy when we are looking for a new sense of self. And, some of us get stuck there, staying in angst, stress, anxiety, anger and depression, looking at and expecting the negative while not learning from our mistakes.
One of the best ways to relax is a basic ability we are all born with — which is to BREATHE. That is the first action a newborn makes when leaving the womb. In order to live, a newborn has to breathe in divine, life-giving air. Newborns really know how to breathe, and be present in the moment, connected naturally with the Divine. As they grow, there are more opportunities for them to experience fear, and they stop breathing deeply into the belly. By the time a child is five years of age, they have been stressed enough that they lose the ability to connect with the Divine through the breath.
The foundation of relaxation and being in the present moment is to just breathe. Deep breathing is a powerful way to connect with the Divine, that expansive loving and peaceful energy within. Deep breathing is also a great way to lower your heart rate and therefore relax. Breathing is the foundation for mindful meditation, which can help focus your thoughts and actions while you are fully present, and so are able to choose who you want to be and how you choose to respond in situations. The breath and mindfulness allows you to recognize your thoughts and therefore be in control of them, instead of them controlling you. Being mindful can help you slow your heartbeat and reduce negative thoughts. It has positive mental, spiritual and physical benefits, reducing your stress, anxiety and depression. Your breath and mindful thoughts even encourage better sleep and general well-being. And we all want that!
There are many methods of practicing your breathing. One of my favorites is to inhale into the belly for a count of 6, hold for a count of 7, and release for a count of 8. Repeat this breath 10 times as a mindful meditation. Practice this breathing 3 times periodically during the day when you are not stressed to create muscle memory. Before you get out of bed and when you are going to bed are great times to practice this breathing. To sleep, just repeat this breathing until you doze off. This breathing will calm your mind, get more oxygen into your blood system, and distract you from anxious or depressing thoughts. It actually triggers a reaction in your parasympathetic nervous system, up your vegas nerve, and tells your brain to be calm, that you are safe.
Mindful meditation helps you learn to recognize and get your own thoughts under control. It helps you to be in the present moment and see different perspectives, rein in your thoughts and actions, and reduce anxiety and panic by slowing down your racing thoughts. Catch hold of your thoughts, look at them. Do you like them? Are those thoughts where you want your energy to go? If not, they too are transient, and you can change them!
Physical exercise has also been shown to reduce stress. Whether it is going to the gym or walking in your neighborhood, getting moving also moves your energy in general, releasing the energy that gets you stuck in anxiety, anger and depression. Emotions, after all, are only energy and like any energy, can be released with physical motion. Have a beef with your love? Take a walk together and talk about it. Walking together can release the energy, open yourselves up to mindfully exploring and sharing your true selves, allowing for more trust and connection in spirit.
One of my first “homework” assignments to clients is asking them to keep a journal. Journals are a time-proven way to reduce stress, to recognize your thoughts and how they lead you to experience and perceive your life. You can identify your stressful thought triggers in your journal and reframe them into ways that produce less stress and depression. In fact, the very act of writing down your thoughts in a journal lets your subconscious mind work in your favor to help you see things in a more positive manner. And, the ritual of putting your thoughts on paper transfers all the mental thought energy out of your conscious and subconscious mind and allows you to let them go and gain different, more loving perspectives, even working through childhood wounds.
Mindful thinking and journaling can give you the chance to realize that all is temporary. Most emotions are transient, unless you choose to hold onto them. Ask yourself, “Will this bother me in a year? Five years? Can I think of this differently?”
Just breathing and using the above techniques to center yourself, helps you reduce your anxiety, anger and depression… allowing you to practice being stress-free and the more you practice being stress-free, the more your life becomes that. Feed the stress-free breath, movement and thoughts!