Archive for September, 2013

A Surprising Remedy For Anxiety

What makes you most anxious—your finances, public speaking, expressing yourself in relationships, your health? We all have areas of life that put us on edge. There are many good strategies to use in those specific situations to handle how you feel. These include pre-planning, practice, and breaking these situations down into small doable actions that you can step into little by little.

Yet, what if your anxiety is more generalized? What if it comes up in many situations? In this article, we’ll explore a powerful practice that you might not associate with anxiety, but which can make a dramatic difference in how confident, relaxed, and empowered you feel in all situations in your life.

So, what is this surprising remedy and how does it work?

The answer is strength training. That’s right, strength training, as in lifting weight. Now, before you shake your head, let me explain.

When you practice strength training, your muscles begin to strengthen in the first few weeks and this increased strength makes you feel stronger emotionally as well. Strength training is also progressive. You get stronger and stronger the more you do it. You can very tangibly mark your progress as you are able to lift heavier weights and/or do more sets and repetitions. This is powerful positive reinforcement that makes you feel good about what you’re doing.

When you feel stronger, you feel more capable. In contrast, when you are anxious, you feel like you might not be up to the challenges you face. Feeling stronger gives you a generalized feeling of strength that translates into empowerment.

Strength training is also a routine that you can learn to rely on. It gives you predictable and repeatable results, which is emotionally satisfying and comforting. You feel more control in your life, when you know you can practice your routine and get reliable results. These results include not only changes in your muscle tone and strength, but also in your brain and body chemistry.

A good strength training workout releases endorphins which help you relax and feel positive. Strength training has also been shown to stimulate neuro-genesis in your brain—in other words, it promotes the production of new brain cells. These new brain cells expand the neural connections in your brain, which help you see new possibilities and learn new skills. For example, some of my best writing comes right after a good workout—and I often get some of my best inspirations and problem solutions during or after my physical training.

By focusing on feeling the muscles that you are working, strength training becomes a meditation. It trains your mind to focus, be present in your body, and let go of other distractions. This is a powerful skill that you can apply when you are feeling anxious. You can focus on being present in the actions you’re taking and watch your anxious feelings fade to the background. Have you noticed that once you’re involved in doing something you get in the flow and your anxiety dissolves?

Now, you might have an idea that strength training is for athletes or bodybuilders and that it takes hours and is very hard work. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. You can get good results from doing a few exercises, for a few minutes, just a few times per week.

The key is to do exercises that involve your whole body and do the exercises to the point where you feel your muscles working and you feel yourself breathing deeply. This tells you that you’re putting some pressure on your muscles and bones, so they will respond by getting stronger. As you get stronger muscles and bones, you’ll not only be healthier and feel better, you’ll stand more upright and look better, too. This will give your confidence another boost.

Here are a couple simple exercises to get you started:

1. Squat down as deeply as you can, while keeping your feet flat on the ground and raising your arms up overhead. Do 1-3 sets, of 8-15 repetitions, 3 times per week. You can make this more challenging by holding hand weights.

2. Hold the top of a pushup position with your arms and body straight while raising one leg, then the other, a few inches off the ground. Do 1-3 sets, of 8-15 repetitions, with each leg, 3 times per week.

Once you get started and begin to feel stronger, you may want to learn more exercises and vary your routine. This will make things more interesting and be even more effective. Strength training is a great example of how you can use your body to shift how you think and feel.

I’d love to hear your favorite strengthening exercises in the Comments below.

P.S. Take this free Holistic Fitness Quiz to learn more tips on how fitness training can positively shift how you think and feel!

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Mini Meditation: Relaxing Check-In

In our hyper-speed culture, it’s vitally important to relax and check in with yourself, at least a few times a day. This week, I had a client tell me she is doing a check-in each hour. She takes some deep breaths to relax herself and then makes sure she is on track with her priorities for the day. Great idea!

The deep breaths activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which brings you back to center, clears your mind, and initiates a cascade of positive effects in your mind and body. These include bringing your respiration, heart-rate, and brainwaves into calm coherence, and resetting your body for optimal health, digestion, and immune functions.

Consciously relaxing in the way I’m going to describe, will also help you connect with inner knowing and check in for guidance on your top priorities.

Here’s a “Relaxing Check-in Checklist”:

1. Begin by lightly closing your eyes and relaxing and releasing any tension from your hands, feet, and jaw.

2. Put a subtle smile on your lips and feel the sensation of smiling inside your body.

3. Take a couple, slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth with a sigh.

4. Feel your body as a whole from the inside. Feel the entire space inside your skin. Notice any inner sensations that draw your attention. Notice any emotions you’re feeling. Notice any thoughts that pass through your mind. Remember your top priorities.

If you practice this Relaxing Check-In consistently, maybe even on the hour, you’ll discover you can quickly relax, connect with inner guidance, and get back on track with your top priorities.

Below you can enjoy a short recording of this Relaxing Check-In as a Mini Meditation. After you listen, please share with your family, friends, and co-workers through the social sharing links. Thanks for sharing!

Enjoy!
Kevin

P.S. Click Here to discover a wide range of meditation programs.

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Your Emotional Allies: 3 Steps To Be At Ease With Uncomfortable Feelings

Do you ever feel so mad that you might explode, so afraid that you can’t move, or so sad that you lose all will? When you feel anger, fear, or sadness, it’s natural to want to get away from these supposedly “negative” emotions. From a young age we are encouraged not to express them. People around us want us to cheer up right away, as if there is some danger in experiencing these uncomfortable feelings. After all, we’ve all seen what can happen when these emotions get over-blown and out of control.

However, what if these emotions are natural responses to life? What if they carry useful information? What if allowing ourselves to feel them is important for our health, well-being, and openness to inner guidance? In this brief article, we’ll explore why it’s important to reframe “negative” emotions as simply “uncomfortable” and how to turn them into allies.

So, how could anger, fear, and sadness be useful to us?

Consider that all emotions give you feedback on what is happening both inside and around you. They can alert you to what others are thinking, feeling, and doing and how this might be affecting you. They also give you information about what you are thinking, feeling, and doing and if that’s effective for you or not.

For example, anger naturally arises when you or someone or something important to you is, or has been, threatened. Anger is a protection response. It alerts you to set boundaries, say “no,” or take protective action—and it provides the energy and adrenaline to do that. At least this is anger’s natural function.

When we don’t allow ourselves to feel appropriate anger, it can get bottled up inside and come out in inappropriate ways, ways that are damaging and have little to do with protecting something important. In contrast, when we allow ourselves to feel anger, we can ask ourselves questions to discern if there’s an appropriate use for this energy. Then we can take action consciously and purposefully.

A good question to ask your anger is “Is there anything or anyone that needs to be protected?”

Fear can also signal the need for action. Often this action is related to potential future consequences. For example, when you have a test coming up, a little fear is an appropriate motivator that gets you studying. When you are afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills, fear might send you forth on a job search. When you are afraid of future health consequences of not losing weight, fear might get you started on a healthy eating plan and exercise.

A good question to ask fear is “Is there any action I need to take to handle this situation?”

Sadness arises to help you let something go. Sadness helps you grieve a loss that has happened or let go of something that no longer serves you. This enables you to move on to what will serve you best, now and in the future.

A good question to ask of sadness is “Is there something I need to let go of?”

These are all examples of how uncomfortable emotions can be healthy and informative. When you relate to them consciously and purposefully, they can help you navigate your life appropriately and effectively. If you:

1. Tune into your feelings,

2. Ask them good questions, and

3. Take appropriate action,

your emotions will resolve and dissipate naturally.

As you practice these three steps again and again, you’ll discover that uncomfortable feelings can be great allies. Instead of avoiding them, you can use them for the information and energy they provide.

I would love to hear ways that you’ve learned to work with your uncomfortable emotions in the Comments section below. And, if you find this article useful, please share it with your family, friends, and co-workers through the social sharing buttons. Thanks for sharing!

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