Silhouette of father and son walking on pier holding hands with sun in background

Stressing Relaxation- the benefits of daily relaxation strategies throughout the day

Silhouette of father and son walking on pier holding hands with sun in background
Perhaps the answer is to build relaxation into every day and throughout each day as a habit?

Stressing Relaxation

Relaxation is really important. How much value do you put on relaxation? What time and effort do you allocate to relaxing? Is your life an endless scramble to get things done and move on to the next thing? Do you ever stop and smell the roses, taste the air or stop and enjoy peace and quiet?

Now or Never?

It seems that we are waiting for the right time to relax: evenings, Saturdays, Sundays, bank holiday weekends, short or long breaks away. Because we tell ourselves we can recuperate at a later date, we drive ourselves to go flat out for as long as it takes.

Yet will that date ever come? The truth is as a culture, we do not even relax during these opportunities. We work evenings and weekends, worry about work and what is going on at home while we’re on holiday, continue getting less than our allocated hours of sleep and remaining connected through mobile devices to a global internet community.

A Curious Case

With all this 24/7/365 distraction it is no wonder our physical, emotional and mental health is deteriorating. We find it harder and harder to relax, unplug and enjoy the simplicity of a well prepared meal, a good conversation, quiet moments with oneself or pottering in the garden. 

As well as affecting health, well- being and relationships, our distracted habits are making us generally less productive, creative and focussed than ever before.

The Answer is Starring you in the Face

What can we do to redress this unbalanced situation? How much better do you feel after a holiday when you have totally unplugged and slowed down? After a spa day, how much more relaxed, rejuvenated and centred do you feel? Hopefully, your answer to those questions is “loads more”. If relaxation is something we only do on holiday (perhaps?), we are building up the habit of fast, busy living for the majority of the year. In the face of getting more done, we work longer hours and more days with inferior results. I heard in a recent webinar that we are 18 times less productive now than we were a century ago!

Perhaps the answer is to build relaxation into every day and throughout each day as a habit? Create routines and rituals that get you thinking about other things than work and social media. Prepare meals and eat them leisurely either alone or with company. Sit and listen to music or read a book. Stretch. Talk with friends face to face. Meditate. Swim in a river. Walk in nature. Take time to breath deeply and relax throughout the day. Spend a couple of minutes thinking about what you are grateful for. These are just suggestions. Find out what works for you.

Benefits of Relaxation

The truth is, when we are relaxed, we are more confident, productive, creative, resilient, self-aware, pleasant to be with, kind, healthy, generous, authentic and so much more like the best version of ourselves. It feels right. Yet our life styles point to ever more things to do and less and less relaxation. 

There is a tipping point for each of us that can lead to diminished physical, mental and emotional health and well- being. We have the ability to create an exceptional life- relaxation is key. 

Perhaps it is time to take control of our own relaxation. Find the balance point between sufficient rest and productivity, quality of life and meaningful work, enjoying our success and celebrating the gift of life that is our birth right. 

Over to you

What do you do to relax? Do you struggle to make time to rest? How is your quality of rest and relaxation? What do you call rest and relaxation?

Pass it on

If you found this article useful, I’d really appreciate it if you passed it on to someone who would benefit. Relaxation is an essential part of growing confidence from the inside out. If you’d like to know more about confidence and relaxation please get in touch. You can also sign up to the free confidence e- course for here. 

various DIY tools in an orange tool holder secured to a bare wooden wall

When your body speaks- the power of awareness

various DIY tools in an orange tool holder secured to a bare wooden wall
Your body is a tool kit that can be used to determine your state in any given moment, feeding back to you your state of mind and being

You cannot consciously and purposefully change anything without being aware of it first.  Awareness gives you power to choose your actions. It is perhaps the single most important aspect essential for personal growth.

The Learning Cycle

You may know this cycle of learning:

  • Unconscious incompetence
  • Conscious incompetence
  • Conscious competence and
  • Unconscious competence.

We start the process unaware of what we don’t know (unconscious incompetence). Then through guidance or insight we realise that we don’t know something.  We discover we need to improve (conscious incompetence). This spurs us to learn and consciously apply our learning.  Firstly in quite a crude and clumsy manner.  Then with progressively more skill as our knowledge and experience develops (conscious competence). In time we act with great skill without paying conscious attention to our behaviour (unconscious competence). Then the process repeats, endlessly growing our skill base and competence. True growth never stops.

Judgement Free

This is as true for our feelings and emotions as it is for our practical and intellectual skill. Emotional intelligence is an important part of our behavioural and relational repertoire. Awareness of how the body feels is a route into our state of being in this moment. We recognise tension, discomfort, relaxation or pleasure in the body.  That tells us valuable information about how our body responds to this current situation. It takes practice to notice these feelings in the body rather than think about them and judge the reaction. There is great power in noticing how we feel without judgement.  Then we are free to act from where we are emotionally. 

We can then make a choice about whether this response serves us and the people around us.  Mindfully we begin to take responsibility and make changes to alter the way we affect the outcome.

Awareness Applied to Public Speaking

Recently I had a public speaking engagement.  I noticed myself getting nervous, tense and shallow breathing developing into panic behaviour. As soon as I realised it I began relaxing and deepening my breath which calms me down. I was able to deliver the talk without any difficulty. Previous experience tells me that left unchecked this panic reaction leads to ineffective communication, forgetting my lines and not interacting with the audience.  As a consequence the attendees do not get what they came for. It was better for all that I noticed.

How awareness influences conversations

When we are having a conversation with someone, very often we pay attention to what is happening between us and them. Is the atmosphere calm and relaxed, charged and edgy, aggressive and threatening? That is one level of awareness. Another is noticing what is going on for the other person and how they are contributing to the environment. A third is how you are feeling and how you affect what is going on. Only by being aware of how you are feeling can you affect the space around you consciously. The onus is on you to notice and then take responsibility for your role in co- creating the outcome.

Body as Tool Kit for Awareness

Your body then is a tool kit that can be used to determine your state in any given moment, feeding back to you your state of mind and being.  Developing methods to increase your awareness of your body and its feelings is important for greater relaxation, confidence and well- being.  I cover these and many other strategies during my Moving Meditation Courses.
You can e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future events and  to discuss creating bespoke courses for your workplace.  We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.

Over to You

How do you use your body to be aware of your state?  What do you find easy or struggle with about awareness?  Do you use your awareness of your body to adapt how you are in situations like the public speaking one I described?  Are you aware of how you use your body when you communicate with other people and yourself?  I’d love to hear from you.

Pass it On

Think this article or the Moving Meditation Course might be useful for someone you know? Why not send them a link to the blog or forward them the details of the course? I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.

Woman sitting on a stool reflected many times in a series of mirrors

Body and Mind- a two way mirror

Woman sitting on a stool reflected many times in a series of mirrors
The relationship between mind & body is like a two way mirror. They both affect each other

Your posture in stillness and motion communicates to you and others all the time. The way you hold yourself is conveying to you how you feel and what is going on inside your body mentally, emotionally and physically. Your state of mind influences how you hold and use your body. Therefore, the body is a mirror to the mind.

A Mirror to the Mind

How does your body feel when your mind is focused? Perhaps it feels energised, calm, efficient, powerful, fluid, at ease or fast. Think of a word, group of words or phrases that describe the sensation. How does your body feels when your mind is distracted or confused by comparison? May be it feels agitated, uncomfortable, irritable, tense, unsettled or sluggish? Again, please think of appropriate words or phrases. Hopefully, this makes it clear that the mood of the mind affects the way the body feels and by extension the way it holds itself and moves.

Be careful to ensure you notice how your body feels, not how your mind is thinking when doing this exercise. Thought and feeling are very different. One comes from the mind the other from the body. It is a question of where you place your attention. Most people place their attention on the mind. This has its place. It is also of benefit to pay attention to what the body expresses- it is much more receptive to what is happening in the moment.

The Hips Don’t Lie

When I teach martial arts, I can tell whether someone is focused or distracted simply by the way they move. As you get to know someone you are able to discern how that person is feeling simply by looking at their body. When someone moves slower than normal or seems to look less vital than usual, it might illicit a question from you asking if they are OK? If their lips are pinched or their brow furrowed you might ask if they are worried or agitated about something. This type of awareness is familiar to most of us. When someone does not recognise the signs that another person is upset and interacts with them without regard for their feelings, you might be surprised or incredulous at their apparent insensitivity. Perhaps instead it is simply a lack of awareness of these cues that might require some training and practice.

A Two- Way Mirror

This mirror between mind and body is actually two- way. The actions of the body can be used to affect the mind. We know how much better we feel in our mind after some light exercise. Just the way you hold yourself can affect your mood. Research with MBA students showed that interviewees performed better when they sat straight (perhaps having a conversation with another person or doing some mindfulness activity) or moved around (standing, walking or using “power poses”) before the interview compared to sitting slouched (such as looking at their mobile phone or “weak poses”).

Martial arts students always say they feel more focused, confident and positive after the session, even one that is not very physical, just for some light movement and holding themselves in a more upright and confident way. This is not unique to martial arts. This is something we feel after a walk in the country or taking the dog out, a trip to the gym or a swim in a lake. It is the feedback the body is sending the brain that makes the mind feel more calm, focused, revitalised and confident.

Ways in which the body affects the mind

It is with this knowledge that we can use the body to purposefully affect the mind so that we have a mindset of focus, confidence and relaxation. Here are some ideas:

  1. Regular exercise

    Physical activity relaxes and focuses the system of the body so that we can be more productive and creative personally and professionally.

  2. Reduce artificial stimulation

    When we feel tired and lethargic we often reach for the high caffeine drinks and the high sugar and fat foods to get us through the day. This momentarily stimulates the body and mind but quickly leads to a crash. Being more organised about food through the day means you can take snacks that better fuel the body in a healthy way. For more information go here.

  3. Rest more

    Mind and body do not want to be stimulated all day, every day. They need rest to recharge. When your body is telling you it is tired, please listen and schedule some R & R into your week. Rather than struggle on regardless, take some time as appropriate and rest up. Have you noticed how you get ill after a long bout of late nights and early mornings? Your body battles through for you but the lack of rest and continued stress lowers your immune system and you become unwell. Ignore this long term and it may become more severe.

  4. Avoid continual stress

    Short- term stress is an essential part of our lives and our bodies respond well to it. However, continued stress without much let up has all kinds of negative effects on mind and body, including inattention, health issues, lack of productivity and effectiveness etc.

  5. Being aware of how you stand and hold your posture can have a huge affect on how you feel

    Long hours spent still and slouched over a computer, TV, books and meals leave the muscles tight, the breathing shallow and the body generally operating below par. This often leads to feeling lethargic, being unmotivated and reducing productivity and engagement or unnatural stimulation. Regular movement and better posture throughout the day lead to more energy, greater motivation, productivity and engagement because the body and mind are more active as a consequence of this two- way mirror.

How the body controls the mind

It is to this final point that I would like to focus lastly. Use this two- way mirror to control your mood. A confident posture creates a confident mindset and so you are able to portray a confident demeanor. Exciting the body through fast movement excites the mind as well, conveying a vitality that is attractive and engaging. Sitting still with strong posture makes the mind calm, making you more receptive to what is going on around you.

What do you need to convey to make this meeting go well or get the results you want from an interaction? Do the people around you need you to be confident, a leader, a listener, a joker or a guide? What does a situation require of you? Once you know that, then you can use your body to help you achieve the correct mindset. Communicate this to yourself through your body and your mind will follow suit. Not only that, the people around you will also feel what you are trying to convey and that can be invaluable in the many roles you play in your life.

This is one of many tools I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I also cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future courses.  We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.

Over to You

What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.

Pass it On

Think this article or the Moving Meditation Course might be useful for someone you know? Why not send them a link to the blog or forward them the details of the course. I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.

Woman with eyes closed, smiling and taking a deep breath by the ocean

The Power of Breath

The breath is a powerful force. Not only does it keep you alive, it also helps you manage your mood and state of being

When was the last time you considered your breath? You take breathing for granted. As long as it is working so that you can work, rest and play you do not give it a second thought. From the moment you are born this essential process happens subconsciously, fuelling the body, feeding the cells the oxygen they need to perform their essential tasks to keep you alive and in good health and getting rid of the carbon dioxide that would otherwise build up to toxic levels in your system. On average, you take about 960 breaths an hour (that’s over twenty three thousand breaths a day). Until that moment when this process stops and your thoughts, emotions, feelings and awareness are no more.

The Power of Breath

The power of my breath was brought home to me most strongly when I as a teenager learning to SCUBA dive. Part of the training process is to learn drills should something happen underwater and you have to safely get back to the surface. One such drill is buddy- breathing. You always dive in pairs and if one of you runs out of air or your equipment malfunctions the other one can share their air while you both make a safe ascent. On one such practice dive, I was sharing my air with my buddy. As my buddy passed the mouth- piece to me so that I could take my 2 breaths, the instructor, unknown to me, turned off my air.

The feeling of trying to draw air and getting nothing in return sent me into panic. In fear I broke for the surface, which can be fatal for a diver, as the air is pressurised and expands as you rise. The instructor grabbed me before I got too far and got me to think about what I had to do to be safe. As I shared his air gratefully I felt the panic subside and clarity of thought return.

Needless to say, it was a dramatic lesson in how we are wired to take that next life- sustaining breath. I was also intrigued about how to control my thoughts, feelings and emotions in such a situation. Knowledge, practice, awareness and experience are all essential ingredients to success during an otherwise potentially stressful event. There are practical steps you can take to ensure you respond with confidence, calm, effectiveness and creativity.

The Relaxation Response

There are two strands to the way you respond to situations. There is either the relaxation response or the stress response. We are most familiar with the stress response: fight, flight or freeze. The relaxation response is less well known and is coined “rest and digest”. These two strands activate completely different parts of the nervous system.

When you are stressed and in the fight, flight or freeze response your sympathetic nervous system is engaged, driving your heart rate up, quickening your breath and dilating your blood vessels and muscles for action. This stress response is really important and useful in small doses. When your system is exposed to this long term, it can harmful affects on your mind and body, suppressing your immune system, making you irritable and aggressive, reducing effectiveness and creativity and much more.

Conversely, when you are relaxed, your parasympathetic nervous system is active, your heart slows, your breath slows and deepens and your blood vessels and muscles relax. You are meant to be relaxed for the majority of the time, promoting a strong immune system, a calm and relaxed demeanor, giving you resilience during stressful situations because generally your body and mind are not worn out by the excessive effects of long term stress.

The Power of Awareness

When you find yourself in stressful situations for much of the time, you can learn to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.  This promotes relaxation. You can learn to relax your muscles and calm and deepen your breathing so that you remain calm, attentive and aware throughout the day. The first stage to this is awareness. You have to realise that your body is reacting in a stressful way. Awareness exercises practiced regularly allow you to become more mindful of your state of mind and body so that you can recognise your state of being and consciously act to alter your state. They have the additional advantage of regularly relaxing your body system, keeping it calm for more of the time so that you enjoy better health and well- being. You will also interact with people better as a result and give off a feeling of calm and confidence.

Deep breathing in meditation and pranayama (yoga) practice is used to access spiritual connection, calming the body and allowing the mind’s brain waves to change to a beta state and even lower giving deeper rest, relaxation, awareness and realisation.

Controlling the breath

The breath is a powerful force. Not only does it keep you alive, it also helps you manage your mood and state of being. People tend to breath one of two ways, either by moving the chest or stomach. Chest breathing tends to be more shallow and is reminiscent of the stress response. Breathing from the stomach is much deeper and calmer. You are not literally breathing with your stomach. You are moving your stomach out, leaving room for your diaphragm to contract down, drawing more air into your lungs. This is much more healthy, calming and relaxing for the whole body. This is how you control your mood and response. Practice breathing deeply using the stomach and you can use this to activate the relaxation response during more stressful situations.

Moving Meditation Course

This is one of many methods I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future events.  We can also discuss  how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out.  Click here to find out about the next Moving Meditation Course running in June and July 2017.

Over to You

What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.

Pass it on

Is this article or the Moving Meditation Course useful for someone that you know?  If so, please send them a link to the blog or forward the details of the course. I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.