By Shelby Spears
I didn't realize it until adulthood, but I've always been an anxious person. I would easily get nervous and shy as a teenager and dealt with a lot of stomach issues in college. The height of my anxiety came at the peak of my journalism career while investigating politicians and hustling through tight deadlines.
Through exercise, proper nutrition and focus I've eliminated panic attacks and stomach issues and largely reduced stress. But relaxation is still a struggle for me. I have never been one to be good at sitting still. As a child I fidgeted, a lot. As a young adult I often found it hard to focus and even now in our Spears Strong recovery workouts and in my attempts to meditate - I still struggle to find that true inner peace.
Jonathan often turns to me and asks, "Are you breathing?!"
I tend to hold my breath when something gets difficult or stressful. And as a new business owner, let me tell you many days are filled with unexpected stresses. In fact, as I write this my breathing has turned shallow. Pause. Deep breath.
I think my problem is in part that I have long used stress to my benefit. I'm good on tight deadlines and I thrive on adrenaline. And, in fact, stress can be a good thing! (here's a great Ted Talk on that). But, over stressing and constant stressing is not good.
Lucky for me, April is National Stress Awareness Month. And it comes just as I decided to commit to getting better at the mental side of health. The effects of continuous stress are scary, especially for a hypochondriac like myself. Note to those of you like me: don't google the side effects of stress. It will just stress you out.
Meditation helps and I try to meditate in my morning warm-ups (light exercise I do every day to get my body moving) but honestly regular meditation is not something I'm doing consistently. For those of us who are relaxation challenged, sitting or laying and doing nothing can actually be overwhelming.
Instead of trying to tackle my major goal of stress reduction and better stress management in one month, I've decided to take on a smaller, more achievable goal - to learn to breathe better. I invite you to join me in this challenge if stress creeps into your life or if you're looking to get into meditation or if you're just looking for a way to unwind.
We recently launched an Online Accountability program and I invite you to join in on one of our ongoing challenges. Through the month of April, make it a point EVERY DAY to do the following at least once (as many times as possible is great):
Pause what you're doing. Breathe deeply in through your nose, filling your belly with air. Exhale for as long as you can, expelling as much air as you can. Repeat three more times, focusing only on your breath.
That's it! Just take moments in your day to really focus only on your breath. Close your eyes if it helps but you can do this anytime and anywhere. Think about how you feel before and how you feel after.
"Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness," according to the American Institute of Stress.
Looking for additional ways to unwind? I highly recommend a massage with Spears Strong Massage Therapist Sara Stevens. Nothing beats touch for relaxation and she's amazing. Or you can check out our Relax & Restore class, another great way to get some release.
Interested in joining our Online Accountability group? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.