Guest blog from Nancy Chadwick Burke. Original can be found here.
“Breathe, just breathe, c’mon now, here we go. Breeeaathe.”
How many times have I told myself this or others have had to tell me? I’m driving in the car, seatbelt fastened, both hands on the wheel, my mind’s dialogue spins fast, my breath is short and shallow. Whether on my way to the next agenda item, feeling anxious or just nerves have plagued my mind and body, I could use some deep breathing.
Maybe you are a Type-A person, competitive, ambitious, impatient, aggressive, running through the day’s busy-ness, all the while unaware of your shallow breathing. The tension alone from these tendencies sends signals for increased shallow breathing. Actually, you were probably unaware of anything internal, just relying on auto-pilot. I find the least considered “to-do” is the most important – breathing.
The typical person only uses around twenty percent of their lung capacity. Diminished lung capacity is an easy thing to achieve, something we don’t even think about. But what would happen if we used our entire capacity for breathing? What if we paid attention to our inhales, making adjustments to breathe more deep? This concerted effort results in more awareness and being more conscious of our bodies.
Healthy breathing affects all our body’s systems: immune, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, digestive – to name a few – calming and improving functionality. The mental and emotional side to healthy breathing cannot be left out, lowering stress levels, enhancing sense of self and awareness.
I find there is a little “Type-A” personality in all of us. According to Melissa Heisler, author of “From Type A to Type Me,” Type A’s hyperawareness is usually focused outside themselves; they are aware of everything external. I believe if you don’t practice healthy breathing, you won’t be aware of your internal system. Your mind and body will lack a connection. If you are disconnected how can you focus on your life path and the experiences you have?
Melissa says a foundational tool to help you become more aware is what she calls the State of Gray. This idea resembles other terms, “being in the now,” “doing nothing,” “refusing to obey the voice of knowledge,” “mindfulness. This State of Gray, a peaceful space between black and white thinking, has three components: turn off, release and surrender.
First, turn off all outside stimulation. Then release, consciously, tension, pain, tightness in your body. Allow yourself to be comfortable. Rest. Release thoughts. Lastly, surrender.
I understand this sounds easier said than done and it is a challenge. But there is one thing lacking here that you must do to get you through the steps, breathe, consciously and deeply. That will get you to what Melissa says plainly, “Just be,” in calm and quiet.
When are we not doing something – talking, thinking, imagining, listening, eating, moving? Meditation, yoga, guided imagery, self-hypnosis, or even prayer are some of the ways we can achieve State of Gray, according to Melissa. I can only suggest what worked for me, an analysis-paralysis over-thinker.
I have always been a shallow breather, an admittance I never realized until I got older and switched my exercise regimen from high aerobic output to more body focused with yoga, strength training, flexibility and core development. My unhealthy breathing was holding me back. Conscious and deep breathing enabled me to achieve the benefits from these practices taking the participation of my entire core capacity, lungs, belly and ribs.
I learned to apply this to many of my tasks throughout the day. As my memoir manuscript, “Under the Birch Tree,” continues construction, conscious breathing has gotten me through many writing sessions. In my quest to break through untimely writer’s block, my 10 minutes consists of stepping away from my computer, breathing deeply and releasing anxiety and the pressure to get it all done. This time-out enables me to refocus, think more clearly and be more productive and efficient at my task at hand.
Effective breathing takes practice, like yoga, where with each repetitive doing gets you that much better at it. So now what? What also can I do with this valuable tool called breathing? Find your State of Gray or allow it to find you. Conscious breathing and State of Gray go hand-in-hand. I couldn’t do one without the other. In a designated secluded, quiet spot, I allow myself to turn off all outside stimulation, focusing on my “to-do.” And then I become aware of my breath. I focus on the breath and relax, slowing down. I get comfortable, calming myself. And then the release, letting go tension, tightness and any pain held within my body. With my release, my breathing automatically turns deeper, filling my belly, expanding my lungs to the sides and back. After several breaths, I can’t help but to surrender and just be. I agree with Melissa. The state IS just like floating. The breathing is conscious and in turn allows me to be supported.
This mind – body connection is the most powerful thing we have. You don’t have to have Type-A tendencies to practice healthy breathing. You just need to practice healthy breathing, consciously.
Now I don’t need to have someone look at me and tell me to breathe, knowing the air surge will quell nerves, soften my anxiety or help me to focus. Anyone can start conscious breathing, even while driving in the car.
In our fast-paced, multi-tasking, on-the-go-deadline driven work, we are often caught up in the act of “Doing.” We move from task to task on our to-do list. We rush from work to class to home. We keep pushing ourselves to do more and do it better.
Do you have hobbies? Do you have passions? Or have you lost who you are to all of the things you are doing outside of yourself?
Do you sleep well at night?
Are you fit? Do you feel good in your body?
What is your blood pressure?
How is your digestion?
Do you have close loving relationships, or are those around you cowering after you gave your last order?
Do you feel a slave to the needs of those around you?
Do you celebrate your successes, or do you jump into the next task?
Do you feel overwhelmed by all you need to do?
Do you have work-life balance?
When was the last time you laughed?
How often do you smile during the day?
How much do you enjoy what you are doing?
How much of your day, life, and relationships do you miss because you are focused on the project at hand?
How much of your life have you forgotten in a blur of completed tasks?
Are you truly living your life or are you a machine frantically completing one task after another?
Do you feel stuck, constricted, strained, and restricted?
What is your personal cost of doing too much?
Journal about what you are losing in the desire to “have it all.” In your desire to control situations, how are you actually out of control? Are you ready to give up the frantic lifestyle and find peace in just being? What is scary about releasing all the to-do’s on your list?
New book is a powerful framework for reducing stress, improving well-being, increasing mental clarity, dealing with difficult people and facing challenging workplaces
CHICAGO (May 14, 2014) – After 10 years in the world of theater followed by nearly 20 years in senior corporate marketing positions, the stress of deadline-driven jobs led to author and speaker Melissa Heisler’s own mental and physical ill health. A trip to Peru awakened her to an understanding there was no outside reason for her pain – she was causing the pain she experienced. This awakening is not the end of her story but the beginning of her search for long-lasting means to manage the stress in her life. This journey is the foundation for her new book “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction.”
This no-nonsense, practical book provides a customizable framework to help readers reduce the level of their current stress and limit the amount of future stress. Heisler believes stress does not need to be part of human lives and she aims to help readers learn how to reduce its impact using tools including the Type-ME Habits of Awareness, Acceptance, Alternatives and Action.
“The American Psychological Association has reported that 77% of adults in the United States population are regularly experiencing physical symptoms due to stress. There is an enormous need to make significant changes to the level of stress experienced on a daily basis to improve not only physical health, but the quality of relationships, work and life in general,” said Heisler. “Through my own experience and those of my clients I know this stress can be reduced by empowering readers to change their lives through daily applications of the tools presented in my book.”
Heisler has launched a crowd-funding campaign to support editing, designing, producing and publishing the final manuscript. Of the total funds raised, 10% will be donated to the Pubslush Foundation for Literacy. The funding budget for this project has been fixed at $10,000.
To learn more, visit the “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction” Project Page: http://ww.BeTypeME.com
ABOUT MELISSA HEISLER
Melissa Heisler is a stress reduction expert, speaker, author, and show host. She speaks to groups including Fortune 10 companies on stress reduction and the myth of work-life balance. Heisler hosts The Empowerment Show with guest experts in health, business, career, spirituality, and women’s issues. She is a contributing author for the books, “Be There Now: Travel Stories From Around the World” and “Defining Moments: A Gathering of Women’s Journeys.” Her first solo book, “From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction” and her contribution to “Experiences of the Light” (Career Press / New Page Books) will both be published in 2014.
“Smart, loving, and clear-sighted, Melissa is just the coach to help you repair your own life and soul, so that you can help others without burning out.” – Martha Beck (Bestselling author of 6 books, columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine, and named one of the best known life coaches in America” by NPR, USA Today, and Psychology Today.)
The American Psychological Association has reported that 77% of Americans are regularly experiencing physical symptoms due to stress. The report goes on to show the cost to employers due to stress-related issues like missed work and health care costs. The annual cost has reach $300 billion making this an important issue not only for individuals but for businesses as well. There is an enormous need by the majority of the population to make significant changes to the level of stress experienced on a daily basis to improve not only their physical health, but also to improve the quality of their relationships, their work, and life in general.
After a lifetime of stress-filled deadline driven jobs, I found myself a victim of stress-related illnesses. My digestion and reproductive systems were erratic. I experienced pain and tension in my muscles. I was tired, anxious, drained, and depressed. Over the past seven years I found my way out of stress and now help others do the same.
I am committed to eradicating stress in our society. I want to reach all those who are experiencing physical pain and discomfort due to their stress. I want to reach all those whose relationships and jobs are suffering due to stress. I want to reach those who are giving up, who have lost the joy in their lives. And I want to reach those who are not yet controlled by stress to teach them how to keep stress from building up.
For all these people, I have a gift, a tool for stress relief in my new book From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction.
I want to show them what I have learned so they too can find relief. They can learn to enjoy life even if their circumstances don’t change. They can learn to breathe easier even if they are nursing a loved one. They can enjoy time with their family even if their job is challenging. They can improve their physical health by making changes to how they react to life’s stressors. Everyone has the power to reduce their stress and enjoy more of their life.
Over the past seven years I have collected tools, exercises, and habits which have helped me and my clients find more peace and freedom in our lives. I have collected these into my first solo book, From Type-A to Type-ME: A Framework for Stress Reduction. The Framework presented in this book is customizable to your needs, your lifestyle, your belief system, and your time so you can truly create long-lasting changes to the amount of stress you experience.
Here is where I need your help. In order to bring this book to life, I need to know there is interest.
There are Three Ways to Help
- I hope that you can share the crowdfunding information with those you believe can benefit from this book.
- If you love my newsletters and/or working with me, please consider adding a testimonial to the “Engage” tab at http://TypeME.Pubslush.com It will show people who visit the site the potential value of the book and it will be used to promote the book through social media.
- Consider a donation. Everyone who donates will also receive helpful tools to reduce their stress, from an ebook to an intensive 7-month online program to personal coaching from me.
I appreciate your willingness to share the crowdfunding information helping me let the world know that stress does not need to be debilitating. It is possible to lead a less stressful life.
Thank you very much for your support. Together we can stop this epidemic of stress.
@ItsMyLifeInc You’re welcome! I’m excited to get your autograph and learn new ways to relieve stress with your book and newsletter 🙂
— Erin Bernau (@erinbernau) May 7, 2014
After a back surgery, Neva Balduff’s blood pressure dropped very low and doctors told her family things were grave. But not for Neva because she was not in her body. Hearing the words, “Let it go, let it go, set it free, set it free,” Neva then ascended into the sky. She did not experience a tunnel or a bright light. Instead two guides showed her the earth as she had never seen it before, an unimaginable beauty. She then experienced unconditional love and the promise, “My friend, there is so much more.”
Afterward she was afraid to tell her story. She was afraid of what her friends, family, and church community would say. In time, however, she began to tell her story and met others who experienced a near death experience but were also afraid of sharing their experience with the public. This event changed her life forever. It changed her outlook on life and the way she led her life. One of the ways it changed her life is she began to receive music. The music would appear as a thought in her mind and then she would work to record what she heard. This was just one of the ways there was “so much more” ahead for her.
Decades later her husband had a heart arrhythmia and fell. He survived but was never the same mentally. His could function in some ways, but his thinking was not clear. Like many spouses turned caretakers, the experience was difficult for Neva. All too often an illness is as hard or harder on the caretaker than the patient. She turned to prayer and meditation for support. Then she began waking up in the middle of the night with a compulsion to write. The words that came through her were not her own. They were a comfort to her during this time of stress. She collected these poems into the book, Uncommon Prayers for an All-too-Common Journey, so that others could feel the support and relief she did through these words.
Now at 80 years old she has removed all fear. She is no longer afraid of death as she believes it is simply a transition to another form of life. She still expects “so much more” and knows she will receive it as long as she is an open channel for inspiration. Her goal and wish for us is that we “Leave this earth more fully alive than you have ever been.”
Listen to this inspiring and thought-provoking interview.