Category Archives for "mindfulness"

Yoga and Meditation for Caregivers and Seniors

yoga and meditation for seniors and caregivers

So often, when we think about yoga and meditation, we think about it in terms of part of a “normal” weekly routine. But a couple groups of people who may not realize the extreme benefits are seniors and also caregivers. I recently virtually met a gentleman who works with these groups and he has a lot to share about the benefits and how to incorporate yoga and meditation into daily life for both of these groups of people. Read on to discover what Harry Cline from newcaregiver.org has to share!

It seems that everyone is embracing yoga and meditation, which is not surprising, as both practices offer some very real benefits. This is especially true for those of us in stressful lines of work, as well as seniors and their caregivers. If you’re curious about looking after your mental and physical health, it’s time to learn about yoga and meditation.

How Yoga Helps

One of the best parts of yoga is that it is the perfect exercise for all body types and ages. It helps us lose weight and gain strength and stability, all while improving our moods and mental clarity. Yoga helps to reduce stress better than any other form of exercise, and it may be better for our overall health than aerobics. It can even lower pain levels in seniors.

Working out, especially as we age, carries with it the risk of injury. However, yoga reduces that risk through a focus on slow movement, stretching, and balance improvements. This becomes even more important in our golden years when we may not heal as quickly as we once did. 

There are seemingly endless benefits to the practice, especially for seniors and caregivers, as it can also help us breathe more easily and even lower blood pressure. As for our mental health, yoga can help us better cope with anxiety, as well as lessen the symptoms of depression. And because mental health has connections to physical conditions (oral health, heart health, weight, etc.), you’ll also pay additional attention to your physical well-being. In other words, it really is one of the healthiest forms of exercise.

Another aspect of physical health that is benefited by yoga is your gut microbiome. Your gut is made up of trillions of bacteria that, according to research, can affect digestion, your immune system, and even your mood. The key to good gut health is proper diet and exercise to reduce stress levels and improve the function of all areas of your body. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise, since it can enhance digestion and increase the diversity of your microbiome.

Meditation’s Benefits

Life can be stressful, especially if we have difficult or emotionally challenging jobs. Meditation is one way of lowering that stress and improving how we feel. It can even improve memory by increasing the amount of gray matter in our frontal cortexes. Meditation also helps us make better decisions and think more quickly on our feet, which is especially beneficial for caregivers. If you need to remember many details, or even simply want to improve your memory as you age, it might be wise to take up meditation. We know for a fact that meditation can reduce stress thanks to a study by the US military. The researchers monitored heart rates to measure stress levels and found that meditation was a sure fire way to lower anxiety levels over time.

Working Out at Home

Starting yoga does not need to be an intensive ordeal. To determine if you enjoy it, you don’t need to go out for classes, as this can be difficult for busy schedules and seniors. Thankfully, there are plenty of workout routines seniors and their caregivers can try at home thanks to websites like YouTube, exercise videos, fitness apps on our phones and tablets, and even things like Wii Sports. Look around and see what is available, and what appeals to you. There are also several lists for the best instructional videos, so do some research to find a practice that you might enjoy, fits your athletic level, and your timetable.

Finding the Right Meditation

The sheer number of different kinds of meditation can be overwhelming; however, that also –  means there are lots for you to choose from. Read up on the different methods of meditating before you jump in so you can find something you know would not be onerous to try. Some may prefer focused attention, which can have you adopt a mantra, rather than something like basic mindfulness. There are guided meditations available that benefits seniors and caregivers alike, and these are especially helpful if you have a hard time focusing. You can listen to soothing music, count beads, watch a candle, or practice deep breathing. There is even a walking meditation for those of us who need to be doing something to concentrate best.

You don’t need to change every aspect of your life to get healthier, whether you’re a caregiver or a senior. Yoga and meditation done for 20 minutes a day can see a marked improvement in our well-being. It’s time to prioritize wellness and give yourself the devotion you deserve. Meditation and yoga are two excellent ways to improve our focus, balance, and strength.

Image by Christian Northe from Pixabay

Breathing for Busy Professionals

It’s easy to completely underestimate how vital breathing is to our well-being. Sure, we do it all day, every day. But how often do you take a few minutes to breath on purpose? In this video, I share some great info on how breathing affects us. Also, I share three great breathing exercises you can use starting today.

Burnout Prevention Strategy

We recently talked about recognizing your first clue that overwhelm is coming on. You know, that thing that happens *just before* you slide down the slope of, “Oh my gosh! I can’t take it anymore.”

When you recognize that clue and use a tool to prevent the feeling overwhelm, burnout, and “I’m going crazy!” you set yourself up for prolonged success.

One of the tools that is the most effective in preventing that feeling of chaos and too-much-busy-ness is super simple. And when you use it, you can let go of the craziness of the day. Want to know what it is?

It’s gratitude.

I know. It sounds too easy. And maybe even overdone. But it’s true. When you take the time to express gratitude for the people in your life and the small successes throughout the day, it really does change the way you perceive what’s happening to you. It even gives you the extra boost you may need to make it through what may be a truly challenging day.

When you take the time to acknowledge and celebrate throughout the day, for yourself and those around you, you set the stage for an improved experience and outlook. Simply pausing to enjoy the moment changes how you feel inside. When someone you work or live with does something well, tell them! You will both feel so happy inside!

When the frenzy of the work day presses in

It’s super common to get into the middle of a well-planned day and all of a sudden you have emails and IMs pinging in from every direction. Maybe your boss or a contractor is demanding you immediate attention.

Stress starts to mount, right?

Phone calls. Stress. Deadlines. Everything starts to get kind of overwhelming.

You may find yourself pouring a second (or fifth) cup of coffee. Or perhaps you decide to skip lunch (or eat in the car between appointments) to try to get more done. You simply have too much to do and you have to do *something* to make up for lost time.

But this is not the way to REALLY find freedom from the frenzy.

It may seem right in the moment. Get a cup of coffee. Plow through lunch. Work later.

But no.

Trust me. It’s not the way.

The way to find freedom from the frenzy in the middle of the day is to push the pause button.

Yes, it seems beyond counter-intuitive to stop when there’s so much to do. But I promise it works.

If you’re feeling frenzy in the middle of this day, I invite you to push pause. There can be a variety of ways to do this, and if you already know what works for you, do it!

I have one tool I’d like to share with you today. It’s simply managing the breath. I love this tool because you ALWAYS have it with you! You don’t need any special tool. You don’t need a yoga mat. You don’t need workout clothes or perfect weather.

You can manage your breath at your desk, on the stage, on the playing field, in traffic, in a meeting, at home. It works EVERYWHERE!

Here’s the technique:

  • Focus on the breath and slow it down
  • Inhale  1-2-3-4
  • Pause 1-2
  • Exhale 1-2-3-4
  • Pause 1-2

Hopefully you feel better already! You can use this technique anytime, anywhere, and no one even knows you’re using it but YOU! As you use it, you build a new tranquil mind and create freedom from the frenzy of the day.

Get my free pdf guide for even more tools to take back YOUR day, or book a Discovery Call to explore personal coaching options to create your tranquil mind and life!

Book a discovery call

Yoga During Health Education Week: Solutions for Mesothelioma Patients

Between October 15th and 19th, the nation is focusing on Health Education Week 2018. Our minds and bodies are linked in many ways that are still being defined. Every person can have a pathway to better health through yoga, including mesothelioma patients. Because this rare cancer of the lung lining can be incredibly debilitating, yoga offers several answers for a better quality of life. The following practices are shared with mesothelioma in mind. However, these are great practices for anyone dealing with a challenging illness, like cancer.

Putting You in the Moment

The human mind tends to ruminate on the past and future. Thinking about the present isn’t always a priority. Yoga helps patients with terminal cancer by putting them in the present. Feeling their bodies stretch and relax is important for both mental and physiological improvements.

There’s nothing to truly worry about in the present. The focus is on moving the body into certain positions. Mesothelioma patients need this reprieve so that they can deal with life after the yoga session.

Encouraging Deep Breathing

One of the most basic moves in the yoga world is breathing deeply. Most people, including cancer patients, breathe with a shallow inhalation. Bringing more air into the lungs allows extra oxygen to reach the tissues. Cancer patients need as many nutrients as possible in their bodies. Therefore, transporting oxygen and other nutrients to tissues can make a difference in prognoses and outlook on life.

Fighting Fatigue and Creating Quality Rest

According to the Oncology Nursing News, yoga encourages rest in the evening and fewer worries during the day. No other medicine or activity can boast both of these benefits together.

Yoga stimulates the entire body. Patients feel elated after the workout. Additionally, patients enjoy good feelings and an energetic mind the rest of the day. As this sensation declines, the body feels tired. Patients typically enjoy a deep rest so they can tackle tomorrow’s challenges with more energy.

Increasing Flexibility

Patients dealing with mesothelioma have a tightness in their chest. This can translate into limited movements among the limbs. Yoga classes with teachers who are experts in their field can help patients with their flexibility issues, states the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. These professionals know how to move the body so that no detrimental effects occur as a result of the movements. Flexibility returns to the body after only a few sessions.

Supporting the Mental Side of Life

Feeling down during a fight with cancer is understandable. Participants can fly with their minds and bodies through yoga, however. When participants move their bodies into achievable positions, they feel good on a mental level. The body naturally releases good hormones, which leads to happier times.

When the mind isn’t supported by a positive outlook, both physical and mental decline are possible.

Finally, fighting off negative emotions, including depression, is an important facet of yoga training, reports Psychology Today. This activity has dozens of benefits that should be explored by mesothelioma patients. As patients look for alternative ways to improve their lives, keep Health Education Week in mind. A better tomorrow is in store for everyone who tries something different.

Are you exhausted?

are you exhausted

I’ve had three or four conversations in the last week with people feeling completely overwhelmed with life and utterly exhausted. The story I heard goes something like this: “I’m working more than 40 hours a week, and I have to get the kids to/from school, and I have this big project at work, and my rec softball league is in a tournament next weekend, and I have to walk the dog twice a day, and grocery shop, and make dinner, etc. And then I got really sick last weekend. And I think I’m depressed. Sigh.”

They’re exhausted. Sound familiar?

I’m still not sure WHY we do it, but as a society we seem hell-bent on driving ourselves into the ground. We over-schedule like we think we can add hours to the day; take on projects and volunteer opportunities to add to our “resume” like a high-school senior trying to get into an Ivy League school. And then we are flabbergasted when we get the latest cold, flu or virus. It seems like we are actually TRYING to be exhausted.

Would you like a solution? Because there is one.

But I have to tell you, you’re not gonna like it…at first.

Let’s start with an obvious example. Toddlers get kinda crazy when they’re over-tired, right? Everything gets over-blown, nothing makes them happy, they start to scream, and then cry, and the next thing you know, they’re throwing a full-blown temper-tantrum. Why? Because they’re exhausted.

Good times.

I’ll try to deliver this softly. We’re not that much different as adults. Truly.

Over-scheduling and over-committing leads us to become overtired. We start to blow things out of proportion, nothing makes us happy (not the triple espressos, not the afternoon donuts, not the mani-pedi, not the date at a nice place), we get short-tempered (with our co-workers, friends and family), we may even cry, and the next thing you know, we’re having a major melt-down. Why? Because we’re exhausted.

So how do we solve this problem?

You may think you know where this is going. But, I’m NOT going to say you should find 3-5 things to cancel or drop. I think it’s WAY more fun to look at things to ADD than take away. I know that sounds a little counter-intuitive, but stay with me.

Write it down!

First, write down the things that are truly important to you. Like in your calendar. And start with the basics. Like sleep. Yep. Sleep. None of us functions well or rationally without adequate sleep. So, start there. Your list is probably a little different than mine, but here are some initial areas to consider:

  • Sleep: research shows adults need 7-9 hours. Yes. Every night. Every. Night. Decide on your bedtime and stick to it like your life depends on it. Because it kind of does.
  • Meditation: Get on the meditation bandwagon! If you haven’t yet, you are honestly missing out on a complete game-changer. No more excuses. Start today and do it for the rest of your life. You will be SO glad you did. Not sure where to start? Try this app, or this one, or maybe this one.
  • Nutrition: Decide what kind of meals are important to you. And eat them somewhere other than in front of your computer. Or iPad. Or phone. I’m serious. Give yourself enough time to eat and actually enjoy your meal. A good 30 minutes for each one. Write it in!
  • Movement: What’s your jam here? Yoga, Group Fitness Class, Hiking, Biking, Walking, Martial Arts. Whatever it is, schedule in time for yourself to do this a few times each week. And keep this commitment to your sanity and well-being. We all thank you!
  • Necessary Tasks: Ok. Add in the mandatory tasks that MUST be done every day/week. Work, carpool, grocery shopping, etc. Just don’t do it UNTIL you have the other things scheduled.

Now that you have the framework for your week, add in the extras. If it turns out that there’s not enough time for that extra project or activity, let it go. It WILL be ok! When you start to guard your time and energy and decide AHEAD OF TIME what you are willing to spend it on, the rest will fall into place, or fall off the schedule.

Here’s what’s cool…

When I have done this in the past, what I have found is that I may let a couple things go here and there, but a lot of things stay the same. Yet, somehow I FEEL completely different about it all. During the process of doing this activity, I realize *I* am in control of my life and I can choose at any moment to add or subtract things from my life. I realize how powerful “No” can be in protecting my sanity, and I also realize how powerful “Yes” can be when I say it to something I REALLY want to do! And the best part? I don’t feel exhausted anymore! I feel energized to live the life I created!

So, are you ready to take your life back? Tell me, what are the three most important things in your day/week?

Terrible Night’s Sleep?

Sadly it happens to all of us. For whatever reason, you didn’t sleep well last night.

This happened to me not long ago.

I found myself at the airport having hardly slept at all. I was on a trip and REALLY needed to sleep well. But no. Hardly a wink. The air conditioning was out in my hotel room and they were booked solid so I couldn’t just switch to another room. The nearest hotel was several miles away and it was already 2:00am when I realized what the issue was. Ugh.

What to do?

Because I travel a lot, I’ve developed a few ways to make it through this situation with as little disruption to my day as possible. I can even function at a pretty normal level! In this short video I share with you my tips for getting through the day when I haven’t had any sleep to speak of.

 

Jenn’s list of things to do when you haven’t had any sleep:

  • Wear your glasses! Your eyes will thank you for it!
  • Get a nourishing breakfast – this is not the day for a sugary danish. Nope. Eat something real!
  • Go ahead and have a creature comfort – for me it’s a yummy latte!
  • Create time in your day for a Yoga Nidra meditation – enjoy the equivalent of an hour’s sleep for every 15 minutes of Nidra!
  • Here’s a link to my favorite meditation app these days

It’s certainly a drag when this happens, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day! Enjoy these simple tips to help you make it through the day when you’ve had your sleep hijacked.

I’d love to hear from you! What are some things you have discovered that help you navigate the day after a night of poor sleep? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

#metoo? Yoga may help*

#metoo

#metoo: It’s been all over social media and the news for months now.

You may be among the millions who posted #metoo on your social media page. In fact, it’s very likely that you are. A recent study found that nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.

So to say sexual harassment and assault are prevalent would be a ridiculous understatement. These experiences are wide-spread and affect many more of us than we ever knew before.

Here’s what I’m most concerned with at this point: Can yoga help? And if so, how?

Throughout my studies for Yoga Therapy, I have learned so much about all kinds of trauma – from childhood experiences to military situations, to natural disasters, to – yes – sexual harassment/assault.

Depending on a whole host of factors, each person experiences trauma differently. Even the SAME trauma. Even a #metoo trauma. One person in an auto accident may go into fight mode and do everything possible to escape an overturned car, while the other person in the same car may freeze and be unresponsive until well after help has arrived.

What’s fascinating to me about the different responses is that we have little to no choice over how we will respond in any given situation that we perceive as potentially life-threatening. Our body, through a truly amazing chemical process, has decided for us the “best” response before our rational mind has even gotten the full download of what’s happening.

Crazy, huh?

So there’s really no benefit in going back over what happened to figure out WHY we didn’t act differently. Because honestly, it’s not really up to us in the first place.

Regardless of what happened exactly, something important to note is that very often in life- or safety-threatening situations, our frontal lobe (or thinking part of our brain) goes off-line while our limbic brain (survival part of our brain) takes charge. This is important because we process trauma in the pre-language part of our brain. This can be true in any type of trauma, even a #metoo trauma.

But, why is this important?

It’s important because it’s very difficult (or even impossible) to process trauma through talk-based therapy when our language center was checked-out for the event in question. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So, what to do?

Our limbic brain is all about fight/flight/freeze and the ACTION that needs to be taken to avoid the threat. So, we can address the trauma through – action. Movement-based therapies have been found to be extremely effective in supporting the healing process. What’s super cool is that we can support healing and movement through past traumas (that we haven’t even been able to talk about yet) through movement therapies like yoga.

Trauma-Sensitive yoga can help in a variety of ways*:

(summarized from Yoga and PTSD: A Primer on Symptoms and Potential Mechanisms of Change, Yoga Therapy Today Winter 2018):

  • Less re-experiencing of memories. Through the mindful practice of poses, we can develop the ability to better control the fluctuations of our mind. Basically, we get better at choosing what we think about.
  • Improvement in Psychological Flexibility. This means we improve our ability to stick with it even when we are challenged. We do this in yoga poses, but it helps us to manage our inner sensations when we are in a crowded place or other situation where we may feel anxious.
  • Reduction of irritability. Yogic breathing and meditation help us learn how to soften our internal experiences. Study participants still had emotional/mental triggers come up, but found them to be less troubling and experienced less symptoms.
  • Improved thoughts and mood. Through acceptance of each individual’s experience, participants learn how to accept their own thoughts, emotions, and moods without judgment. This allows participants to feel freely without “holding back.”

All in all, the research and preliminary studies are very positive in showing that yoga can be an excellent support to primary care options*. Trauma-sensitive Yoga Classes are available in many cities. If you think you’d like to try it, check with local studios, gyms, and community centers.

*I am a Yoga Therapist, not a Doctor or Licensed Therapist. The statements made here are my opinions supported by my experiences and research, and are not intended to be prescriptions or medical advice. Yoga Therapy is meant to support the work of Licensed Healthcare Professionals. Please check with your Healthcare Professional to see if yoga therapy is right for you.

When the wheels fall off your day by 7:30am

gratitude even when the wheels fall off

This used to happen to me all the time. I’d be rushing around day after day and before long, the wheels would fall off the whole thing before I’d even left the house. I know you know what I’m talking about!

Have you ever had “wheels off” kind of day? It looks like this:

  1. alarm fails to go off properly – wake up 45 minutes late
  2. skip morning workout and shower
  3. try to look presentable without a shower
  4. grab a coffee on the way out the door
  5. spill coffee on your outfit trying to get in the car
  6. go back inside, change clothes
  7. leave without coffee (or breakfast, for that matter)
  8. get to work late disheveled and hungry, naturally, you hit rush hour traffic
  9. grab terrible office coffee
  10. skip lunch to make up for being late
  11. mid-afternoon grab a candy bar from the vending machine and another bad cup of coffee
  12. sludge through the afternoon, grumpy and on an artificial caffeine/sugar high
  13. bottom out on sugar crash
  14. get home, order pizza
  15. veg in front of the tv for 4 hours
  16. go to bed late and exhausted

Yep. Me too. It feels terrible and if you don’t rescue it somewhere along the way? The same scenario (or something similar) unfolds again the next day.

I used to honestly believe that if the wheels fell off on Monday, then the rest of the week was doomed!

But it’s not!

After PLENTY of my own experience trying to salvage yet another day waking up too late and getting to work late, I began to realize some things. There are some little changes I can make along the way (even on the REALLY bad days) that can consequently turn the whole day around.

Want to know a couple of my secrets?

  1. Purchase a great hair clip that makes it look like you MEANT to wear your hair tied back!
  2. Yes, I’m serious about #1.
  3. Play music that helps reset your mood, or listen to your favorite book or podcast as you drive.
  4. Before you get out of the car, take 3 deep, even breaths.
  5. I mean it! Take 3 deep breaths – it’s amazing how much it can calm you down, and only takes about 30 seconds.
  6. Take the lunch break. You need it. And everyone around you needs you to take it too!
  7. Pull your favorite essential oil or healing crystal out of your desk. Something as simple as a beautiful stone or a soothing aroma is better at getting you through the afternoon than caffeine and sugar.
  8. If cooking isn’t going to happen, at least drop by the grocery and choose something with nutritional value on your way home. Lots of stores have decent hot meals that can be consumed immediately.
  9. Sure, watch some tv if you want. But not 4 hours please! Take a nice evening walk or bath, read a book, have some herbal tea and GO TO BED on time!

Are you ready for the biggest one? This is THE single best way I know to take a wheels-off day and turn it into a dream day! It will literally REVOLUTIONIZE your life.

Drum roll, please….

Gratitude.

Yes, I’m serious about this one too – even more than that hair tie!

If you are serious about recovering after the wheels fall off your day and your entire lifestyle – it’s ALL about gratitude.

  1. Gratitude for waking up in the morning
  2. Gratitude for even have a shower available (even if there’s not time to use it)
  3. Gratitude for hair clips
  4. Gratitude for transportation to work
  5. Gratitude for coffee, even bad coffee
  6. Gratitude for vending machines
  7. Gratitude for making it home safely
  8. Gratitude for the pizza delivery guy (be sure to express that to him with a nice tip, after all, he’s the reason you don’t have to cook tonight!)
  9. Gratitude for television
  10. Gratitude for a bed to sleep in

Do you see how even the yucky day can be SO MUCH BETTER when you add in the gratitude? My experience is, when I start purposefully adding in gratitude even when the day starts off awful, it’s not two hours until the whole thing has turned around!

Most of all, when I go to sleep with gratitude on my mind, I’m much more likely to wake up well and ready for my day! Why? Because, it’s a choice. When I choose gratitude at night, I am choosing to end my day the way I want tomorrow to go. Therefore, choose gratitude!

So what do you say? Will you choose gratitude today?

I LOVE to hear from you! Comment below and let me know what YOU are grateful for!

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