Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's Ground

I like to start my yoga practice with grounding. I also like to start each class I teach with grounding. I actually tend to put a lot of focus on it. I think we tend to spend a lot of time disconnected and the act of grounding helps bring us back to the present moment. I mean, how often are we thinking about what to make for dinner when driving to work, or how many phone calls or emails we need to return, or have our minds racing with mental to-do lists while we brush our teeth before bed?

So I like to ground. I like to connect. I like to take time out to 'be' instead of 'do.' I've recently started to see grounding have another positive impact. With the economy being unsteady and people constantly concerned about job stability and financial security it's really a good thing to make time to center and ground. We tend to define ourselves by what we 'do'. And to prove this, just think about what you would say to someone if they asked you about yourself. Most people would say "I'm a teacher" or "I run a business" or "I'm a writer." And while these are wonderful things, they are also things that can change. They aren't constant. This used to cause me immense stress. I always used to define myself by what I did. I was a runner, an exec, a writer, a reader... etc. But guess what? When it got cold outside I wasn't a runner anymore. When I switched careers I wasn't an exec anymore. When I got too busy to write, I wasn't a writer anymore... I was so disconnected from who I was that it left me aggitated and confused. I was just kind of floating from thing to thing and defined myself by things that weren't constant.

People tend to attach to the ever-changing. And now is as good a time as any to see that. Jobs are changing, money is changing, lifestyles are changing... but that doesn't mean that you are changing. Because who you are is so much deeper than what you do.

So if things tend to get a little chaotic around you or stress levels seem at an all time high, take a moment to ground. You can do it when you first wake up in the morning or right before bed... whenever you find some spare time. Sit with your eyes closed in a comfortable position. Allow your spine to straighten and your shoulders to roll back. Allow your breath to slow and relax you and take time to focus on the moment. Take notice of your body and your mind and how it feels to just 'be' rather than just 'do.' Staying centered when you feel like nothing else is can help alleviate stress and anxiety and help you feel strong.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Even Celebs Suffer From Anxiety!

Here's a list I found of famous people (everyone from A-list actors to poets to musicians) that also suffer from anxiety and anxiety disorders:

Carly Simon (singer)
Aretha Franklin (singer)
Lani O'Grady (actress)
Michael English (singer)
Sir Laurence Olivier (actor)
Earl Campbell (football)
Al Kasha (songwriter)
Emily Dickinson (poet)
Marty Ingels (comedian)
Nicholas Cage (actor)
Roseanne Barr (comedian)
Michael Jackson (singer)
Naomi Judd (singer)
Susan Powter (tv host)
John Madden (announcer)
Leila Kenzle (actress)
Sissy Spacek (actress)
Willard Scott (weatherman)
Johnny Depp (actor)
Sally Field (actress)
Shecky Greene (comedian)
Alanis Morisette (singer)
Burt Reynolds (actor)
Kim Basinger (actress)
Olivia Hussey (actress)
Oprah Winfrey (host)
Tom Snyder (host)
John Candy (comedian)
Sam Shepard (playwright)
Isaac Asimov (author)
Charles Schultz (cartoonist)
Dean Cain (actor)
Barbra Streisand (singer)
Anne Tyler (author)
James Garner (actor)
Jim Eisenreich (baseball)
Pete Harnisch (baseball)
Courtney Love (singer)
Naomi Campbell (model)
David Bowie (singer)
Nikola Tesla (inventor)
Charlotte Bronte (author)
Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet)
Sigmund Freud (psychiatrist)
John Steinbeck (author)
W.B.Yeats (poet)
Sir Isaac Newton (scientist)
Abraham Lincoln (president)
Barbara Gordon (filmmaker)
Robert Burns (poet)
Edvard Munch (artist)
John Stuart Mill (philosopher)

Interesting, no?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Memories Stress Me Out!

It's been quite some time since I've had to drive a long distance (which for me, long qualifies as anything over 30 mins!) and even though I've opened up my life more than ever and never turn things down due to anxious feelings I find that sometimes those old memories of anxious feelings come creeping up on me.

I used to go through severe panic attacks and episodes during my commute to work or while visiting family members and friends that didn't live around the corner. My hands would go numb as I tightened my death grip on the steering wheel and my breath would catch in my throat at the first sign of traffic.

I've found that I'm much more relaxed now when I drive, but every once and awhile, when a "longer" drive comes up, I can't help but notice my mind wander back to those super stressful times. I can almost feel my stomach clench and my palms sweat. It's not quite anxiety.... it's not quite anticapatory anxiety (because I'm not shying away from the drive or scared of it). My memories just come on strong and remind me how fearful I once was. And that memory freaks me out a little. The memories temporarily put me back into that feeling of immense dread and fear.

I guess the closest comparison I can think of is say you once took a tumble down a flight of stairs...nothing serious, just enough to get shaken. Then imagine every once and awhile when coming up to a flight of stairs your memory of that fall comes on so strong that you can practically feel your body ache like it did after the actual fall.

It's intense! And it's something I'm still finding myself working on because it's not a matter of working through a panic attack or anxious episode... it's about reprogramming my brain (in a way). I can't breathe through a memory or switch it to a positive because it's an actual thought of something that used to happen.

If you find this is something familiar to you, here's what I've found helpful: Instead of switching my thoughts or trying to ignore them (which, who am I kidding, ignoring thoughts is hard!) everytime I come across something that used to stress me out or cause me anxiety I make it a point to completely focus on how good I am now feeling. This way, when I get behind the wheel for a "long" drive my last memory of the car was me singing my heart out to some of my favorite songs with the windows down. I'm not changing my bad memories - I'm just focusing on creating new, happy ones to recall. Because if you can recall one memory, you can recall any memory. So why not make it a good one?

Take time to create new memories and focus on when you feel good and strong. Draw on those memories when you need a little boost of strength.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Relax and Renew with Legs Up The Wall

Try this if you're feeling particularly stressed and just need to rest, relax and restore.

1) Put a folded blanket, bolster or pillow next to a wall
2) Get as close to the wall as you can, place your feet on the wall and shimmy yourself up on your prop
3) Situate the prop under your lower back and bring your legs straight up the wall if you can (you can also cross your legs if it's not comfortable to have your legs extended up the wall)
4) Roll your shoulders back and bring your arms out to the side, palms up
5) Relax here and hold for a few minutes while breathing into your belly
*photo courtesy of

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Check Another Thing Off The List

Remember my post about new year goals? Well, I'm excited to say I will be crossing another goal off my list! This past weekend I booked a trip to Europe. One of my big goals this year was to visit another country and now I'll be hitting three. A mere year and a half ago I never would have even attempted to think about stepping this far outside my comfort zone. Setting goals is a great way to see how far you've come when working through anxiety.

Whether your goal is climbing mt. Everest, getting through a big work presentation or driving to the nearby store without feeling anxious - celebrate every step and try to do something every day to take you a little closer to accomplishing this goal.

Use your goals as motivation. You can't go from zero to sixty. As you work on enhancing your coping skills and working through panic attacks and anxious episodes, know that your goals await you in the future. I definitely didn't wake up thinking traveling was an exciting adventure- I worked myself up to it. Every time you use your breath to bring you back to a state of calmness, every time you complete even one yoga pose to connect your mind and body, every time you flip a negative thought to a positive thought you're working towards those goals! Never lose sight of what you want.

So revisit that goal list... hang it on your refrigerator, post it on your bedroom door... define what you want - and go after it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don't Take It Personally

I've been trying to practice the art of being less affected by people and not taking things personally. And while this sounds nice in theory, it's actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. I've recently come across some (what I believe to be) unprofessional behavior and I'm trying very hard to brush it off. I do subscribe to the notion that everyone should treat people with respect and everyone should be courteous and kind, but let's face it, that's just not always reality. So as I sit and find it hard to resist pondering how I went 'wrong' and what I did to deserve such treatment, I'm constantly having to shake my head (literally trying to shake the bad thoughts out!) and stop myself from indulging in this pity party.

Yes, I'm annoyed. Yes, my expectations got the best of me. But no, I don't have to let this affect me to the point of upsetting me. I gave myself ample time to be angry and now it's time to pass this hurdle and move on to bigger and better things. Because if I let this person get under my skin, I'm not hurting anyone but myself. Being overly affected, concerned or obsessed with something that's out of your control really only hurts you. And you deserve so much better!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Laughter Yoga Workshop Recap

I just wanted to share a few things that I took away from the laughter yoga workshop. I went with an open mind and was completely unprepared for what was to come. Introverts beware - this will definitely get you out of your comfort zone (in a good way!) We practiced laughing with each other and making eye contact, learned about the mental and physical benefits of laughter and completed the workshop with a laughter meditation that was by far one of my favorite meditations ever!

On a more serious note, we learned about how laughter helps to alleviate stress and anxiety and even depression. The man who led the workshop, Bruce Kaitlin, shared an interesting thought with the group - people are the only animals that experience anticipatory anxiety. Lions don't stress about what to catch for dinner that night and cats don't get anxious wondering if there's a trip to the vet in their future. But yet people can waste endless amounts of time and spend excessive amounts of energy worrying about the future.

Simple, but powerful thought. It's sometimes so hard to realize how much time we spend living in the future and neglecting the here and now, the present moment.

Bruce also emphasized the importance of being child-like, not childish. As adults, we take on so much stress and worry and become so serious so fast. We almost forget what it's like to just cut loose ( a point he made clear when he asked us how we would respond to a person next to us that was just laughing for what seemed like no reason. we all responded with odd looks and became uncomfortable) Yet how often do you pass a child that's laughing or giggling and you automatically break out into a smile too? It's contagious! But we fight against that feeling after grade school, rather than embracing it.

If you ever have a chance to experience a laughter yoga workshop - I highly suggest you check it out. And take a moment today to just laugh. Share a smile. Give a giggle. Have some fun!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Coaching Info!

I wanted to update you on some Stress and Anxiety Coaching packages I'm offering and am very excited about:

Telephone Coaching - each session is one hour and we'll address what's causing your stress and anxiety, the root issues and ways to help enhance your coping skills. Follow up emails are used to check in with clients and get feedback. Sessions can be purchased individually or in group packages.

Email Coaching - This is great for people on the go or those who want to connect immediately. Clients can send me unlimited emails and I'll respond with insights, suggestions and action assignments. This is offered as a monthly package.

More details will follow on the site, but I wanted to keep you posted.

Feel free to shoot me an email for details on any of these packages!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Currently Loving This: Quote

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them"
- George Bernard Shaw

I thought this quote was really interesting. I can't even remember how many times I avoided something because of my anxiety...

  • I can't go out tonight because my stomach has been upset all day and going out might make it worse
  • I can't drive to work today because I may have a panic attack
  • I can't go to the mall with my friends because my anxiety might make me feel sick and then I'd have to make everyone leave and I'd be embarrassed
  • I can't let my husband take me out to a restaurant as a surprise because what if he picks one that has food that upsets my stomach and then I can't eat and I'll be ill


It wasn't so obvious then, but all I was doing was allowing myself to be a victim of my anxiety. I let it rule my life. If I even felt the twinge of a stomach pain I launched myself into a panic and hid under the covers "just in case." I was so scared of having a panic attack in public or having someone 'find out' that I had anxiety that I eliminated that fear by completely shutting myself off from my life.

Don't become a victim. Don't let anxiety or circumstances control your actions and thoughts. I spent too long blaming my anxiety for my unhappiness and frustration with things. Anxiety and circumstances aren't out of your control. Having a bad day? Turn it around! Take out a piece of paper and write down everything you're thankful for or recall a memory of you having the time of your life and pull that happiness into the present moment. Feel in a funk? Journal about things bothering you and come up with some action plans to turn the situations around. Stressed about the economy and financial stability? Use this as an opportunity to take control of your finances and get creative. Have date nights in and rent fun movies, throw pot luck parties with your friends... or look for new and innovative ways to boost your bank account. Arts and crafts your thing? Start creating some things and sell them to friends and family or local boutiques. Or look into becoming a party rep for something like Pampered Chef or Party Lite.

Next time you're unhappy, don't look for something or someone to blame. Use your energy in a positive way and instead of waiting for things to happen, start to make them happen.