When I was at the height of my persistent pain condition and anxiety the key piece of the puzzle was having health practitioners explain and teach me about comfort. At the time my nervous system was so wired, everything hurt and health care revolved around pain. (Even putting my arms above my head to do my hair was excruciating.)
I was sent to an incredible GP who introduced me to mindfulness. I read the book ‘Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman’ and listened to the accompanying recordings. He was one of the first practitioners to educate me on the relationship between anxiety, my nervous system and my pain without advising “You just need to relax”. (Let’s be real all that does is make anxiety worse and leave you asking how?!?!?)
I found this GP through one of my lecturers at uni who I had started seeing for physio. She educated me on the importance of pain free movement. At that point, I was in constant, unrelenting pain. She taught me to tune into micro movements which for me started with breath.
By giving myself permission not to push into pain and stay within the comfort of my micro movement, my nervous system slowly learnt how to be comfortable in a larger range and variation of movement. (Now look at what my body can do five years in the making ->)
When you’re in a stress or pain state pushing only moves you further into a sympathetic state reinforcing neurochemical pathways leading to discomfort. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that, life is unpredictable af and so long as we are living we will have to calibrate for comfort. The scale slides with stress, trauma, pain, grief/loss, celebration, happiness and joy. Comfort is not a level in a game you unlock, achieve and stay within because well, life.
Learning how to calibrate comfort therefore is such an important life skill. Focusing on where the comfort lies and tools to augment comfort (not necessarily just focusing on decreasing pain) can assist with choosing more helpful coping strategies. The end goal is the same but the journey feels different.
So if you are up-regulated and would like to see if breathing re-training and hypnotherapy are pathways to more sustained comfort for you and your nervous system please reach out!
Enjoy your day and always be kind :)
The World Health Organisation defines burnout as, "syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed". It is characterised by the following three symptoms:
It is a syndrome particularly rife in the healthcare setting and given current events is no doubt on the rise. On top of that with more and more people working from home it becomes more difficult to separate work from home life and achieve balance.
This is something I struggled with when working in the public hospital system full time and was a big driver in directing me towards starting Zephyr Movement. I have had a lot of practitioners that tell me they struggle to 'switch off' after work or simply struggle to relax. The following tips aren't revolutionary but a great reminder or push in the right direction.
1. When cooking/eating dinner practice mindfulness to leave work at work!
I'm assuming everyone is in need of a good feed after a long day at work. So whilst cooking/eating dinner utilise your 5 senses. What can you hear? Eg) The boiling water, sound of the knife as you cut the veggies, music or tv in the background. What can you smell? Eg) Different herbs/spices, scented candle in the room etc. Repeat for sight, taste and touch. This is an easy way to maintain focus on the present moment instead of what you may have left on your to do list or a patient you are concerned about etc.
2. Practice good sleep hygiene to facilitate relaxation!
Think about how you can make your environment more relaxing an hour or two before you plan on wanting to sleep. I'm not going to tell you not to watch tv before bed because I also do it. It helps you enter a theta wave brain state which is relaxing. However, turn the blue light off on your laptop/phone. Most models give you the option to set it up a timer automatically from sunset to sunrise. This assists regulating melanin production, a chemical that assists with circadian rhythm. Furthermore, find what is relaxing for you using all your senses. I use scented candles and warm fairy lights instead of the bright overhead lights and always listen to a hypnosis track as I fall asleep.
3. Listen to your intuition when you want to say NO.
We all know the sinking feeling in our gut that is a hard no. Sometimes it is hard to honour that feeling and say no to the extra shift or task your employer has set for you. I encourage you to sit down and work out what your personal boundaries are. How much time off do you need in a week? (A typical weekend is 48hours) What does my time off need to include in order to feel rested? (I.e. not just chores/ cooking for the week and exercise) These become little promises you can keep with yourself. Best way to start building boundaries with other people is to practice with yourself first. This way when you get asked to work that extra shift, you can think of it as saying yes to your wellbeing instead of no to your employer.
Hope this helps! If you are interested in breathing better for your wellbeing or want to try clinical hypnotherapy. Reach out and enquire here.
Stay safe and be kind :)
Working in wellness and as a physio in the area of acute respiratory, I was all about the 'deep' breathing...or taking 'big' breaths. Recently I underwent some professional development courses in breathing re-training and let me tell you what I learnt changed the way I will live and treat from now on!
First up, what is breathing re-training? It is based in physiology. Basically, it is the process of training the respiratory centre in the brain to 'normalise' the rate and volume of breaths taken. In doing this it will effect your blood chemistry because breathing is closely associated with the pH of blood. It has everything to do with the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen and the way the body compensates for keeping this balance. (Note: I put ' ' around 'normalise' because everyone is different with different medical histories/lifestyle factors that can affect the end result. However, the process will still move you closer to 'normal'. **It is for this reason that you shouldn't adjust your breathing without the guidance of a breath educator who knows your whole medical picture.
Secondly, what is normal physiological breathing? When I went to university we got taught a normal breathing rate for an adult was between 12-20 breaths per minute with a volume of air per breath dependent upon your body size. For example, someone my size would have a tidal volume of 500mls per breath. This volume would also change depending on whether you are sneezing, coughing, sighing, yawning etc.
What I learned through Tess Graham's courses was that 40years ago normal was 8-12 breaths per minute. A comparison of the difference could be depicted in what breathing looks like during a panic attack with the paper bag vs when the person has calmed themselves down. Think about the symptoms associated with breathing that fast and big.
If humans have been around for 100s of 1000s of years why would the physiology (the chemical and physical makeup have changed so much?) Ms Graham hypothesised that it was the change in lifestyle. We live more fast paced lives and stress is at an all time high, juggling all the different areas of modern life. Plus, our diets. Yes food has an impact on breathing. Now I am not a dietician or nutritionist, just a physio and breath educator, so all I will say is that complex carbohydrates can increase your breathing rate too.
So what does correct breathing look like? --->
Breathing re-training is intrinsically safe when performed without ANY discomfort. However, because breathing is so closely linked with this inherent balance in our bodies. Changing your breathing without supervision or too quickly can result in a healing response whereby you may feel more emotional, have changes in your gastro-intestinal function among other symptoms.
Think you may be over breathing?
(**Think about the following question during exercise and/or sleeping not just during resting breathing...)
Curious to start your own breath re-training? Well to celebrate a year since Zephyr Movement opened its doors! You can receive 10% off any breath re-training initial consult for the week starting Thursday 23rd July (because Thursdays are my favourite day!) ending Thursday 30th July!! Enquire here to claim :)
Enjoy your day and nurture your lungs by simply breathing a little more gently from now on.
Let's talk mindfulness...before I had a persistent pain condition, studied hypnotherapy and struggled with my anxiety I had no idea what this word meant! I knew it was kind of in the meditation realm (which I found incredibly intimidating) but that was about it.
Mindfulness simply means directing your attention toward the present moment. Now why would you want to do this? In practicing bringing your mind back to the now no matter how many times the mind tries to distract you. This can be with what you're going to cook for dinner or what time what meeting is on. This teaches you emotion regulation. I often describe this as creating space between the situation and your reaction to it. Meaning, instead of yelling at the person who took the last toilet roll from a place of lack and fear (couldn't help myself #soznotsoz) having another couple of seconds to realise that person is wearing a nurses' uniform and it may have been the only chance she had to get supplies before another string of shift work. Perhaps that person would have been able to observe the uniform in that moment if their thoughts weren't on trying to remember what meals they needed to prep, how much the shopping was going to cost or whether they'd run out of toothpaste? In other words focused their attention on the present moment. Wait wasn't that mindfulness? :) I can hear you asking but how?!? Where do I start? Ok ok ok here are some great ways to start.
1. Breathing!! Try focusing on how you are breathing in this moment. Is it slightly difficult or effortless? What body parts move on the in and/or the out breath? How could you alter your breathing in this moment to relax the most muscles? Would it help if you breathed into the areas of tension? Breath is a great anchor because if you are alive you will continue to breath and each breath will be different moment to moment keeping you PRESENT!!
2. The Senses!! Pick a sense; sight, sound, scent, taste, touch. Now take a minute...how many orange objects can you see right now? What are the background sounds you have been zoning out? (For me it's this pesky fly!!!) What smells can you detect...perhaps a tree or candle or flower? What does this inside of your mouth taste like and is it different between each swallow of saliva? What do the different textures of your clothes, the chair beneath you feel like? The pattern embedded on the back of my legs says I should definitely get up from this chair soon.
3. Get curious with how you move! Even getting up out of a chair will be different each time you do it. Notice if there is equal weight between both legs, do you use your arms to push up, do you make a sound as you get up? Tune into the movement and get present with how you perform it. This is often why I love pole. When hanging upside down by the skin of the back of your knee you have to pay very close attention to what all of your limbs are doing, what is actually gripping the pole and exactly how close your head is to the ground. You are forced to be present.
If that doesn't sound like your idea of fun. I challenge you to stay present through the whole or part of cooking dinner tonight by noticing your breath, taking in all the senses and noticing in great detail how you move. To think that one small shift in self-awareness during an every day activity could result in lowered heart rate, decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus, just to name a few!
Have fun with it and let me know how you go!
Hope you enjoyed this little intro to mindfulness. Remember to be kind ✌️
If you missed part one maybe go back and read that first. Otherwise here is part two!
4. Order spaces while you’re learning to order your mind:
5. Cooking can be enjoyable and bring routine to your day:
6. Incidentally learning mindfulness
7. Being forced into deep connection and vulnerability:
This little glimpse at the slow and simple life showed me a little about why mental health is such a problem? Social media means we can distract we don’t necessarily have to confront, it also encourages comparisons, blows expectations up and blocks seeing human vulnerability and suffering. It can make us feel like we’re not doing enough, don’t have enough and just aren’t enough in general. Back in the day if you were the best in your town at something you were the best in the world as you knew it. Know that I’m right there with you figuring it out as I go but hope this helps or entertains who ever has read all the way to the end 😊
PS: You are more than enough right this second! Be kind ✌