Is your stress ailing you? Here’s what to do about it.
By Kelley Black
Stress causes poor breathing, and poor breathing increases susceptibility to stress – setting the stage for emotional difficulties, a breakdown of bodily systems, illness and more. More often than not, the answers lie within. Here are some suggestions to help you lower your stress level.
Silence the Inner Critic
Along with simple breathing exercises, one can use the science of sacred sound (mantra or NAAM) to reset and balance the autonomous nervous system so that the rest/relaxation (parasympathetic) response becomes stronger. Sacred sound serves as the perfect neurostimulator and is a potent tool for elevating moods, clearing negative, self-limiting thoughts, increasing your capacity to make positive choices and elevating your immune system functioning. Finally, by understanding and harnessing the power in your hands through the application of mudras, you can access, stimulate and heal every part of the body and brain.
What is the soundtrack on your personal iPod? What are your 50,000 thoughts a day telling you? If they are saying things that do not serve you, stop them in their tracks.
Use the middle pillar mudra (hands in front of your solar plexus, palms facing each other, approximately six inches between your hands). Inhale and say to yourself, “I am a beam of life,” then exhale as slowly as you can. Repeat three times.
This exercise cuts negative thinking, freeing up your mind to think and directing you to things that serve you.
Conquer Your Negative Emotions (Anger, Fear and Anxiety)
When you feel anger rising, cool yourself down with a yoga breathing method called Sitali pranayama. Simply inhale through your mouth as slowly as you can, then exhale through your nose. Do this for up to five minutes, or until you feel cooled down. Sitali, which literally means to “cool,” works like an air conditioner on an overheated system – reducing anger, facilitating receptivity and enhancing communication – all by taking a person out of defense mode. When done correctly, this breathing exercise can help transmute anger into its antithesis: creativity.
For fear or anxiety, put your hands on your heart. Inhale and as you inhale say to yourself, “I am, I am.” Hold your breath with your tongue on your upper pallet (roof of mouth) for eight seconds. Exhale as slowly as you can and hold your breath out for eight seconds. Repeat three to 11 times.
Conquer Your Racing Mind
Is your mind is racing with all the things you need to accomplish so that you are finding it difficult to focus on the task at hand? If so, try another breathing exercise in combination with the Gyan mudra. Put your hands in front of you with the tips of your thumb and index finger touching on each hand with palms up – and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Then do the following sequential breathing exercise. Inhale nose, exhale nose. Inhale mouth, exhale mouth. Inhale nose, exhale mouth. Inhale mouth, exhale nose. Repeat three times, or for one to three minutes. Done successfully, this exercise may be the most effective time management tool of all! It will bring your mind to a neutral point, facilitating clearer thinking and problem-solving.
Conquer a Nervous Stomach
Are your nerves getting the best of you and causing digestive disturbances? If so, make a calming tea of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds to help regulate your digestion. Alternatively, you can put two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to one mug of boiled water and drink it. Both will help with stomachaches by restoring normal digestion and will often ease chronic disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.
Conquer Low Energy
Imminent deadlines and long hours leaving you feeling a little depleted? Give yourself an energy boost with the following exercise. Bring your hands together in the Golden Triangle mudra. Your thumbs on each hand should be aligned with the tips of your index and middle fingers. Put your left hand on your lap, palm up, and your right hand on your neck in the indented space where your neck intersects with your skull. Take long, deep breaths for one to three minutes – inhaling and exhaling for at least five seconds each time. This exercise boosts the life force, or prana, bringing energy to all the systems of the body.
Conquer Tightness in the Chest
On the verge of a panic attack because you’re not ready for tomorrow’s big presentation? Is your chest tightening up? If so, bend and straighten your arms alternately as though you are fanning your heart for one to three minutes. Place your palms on your heart and inhale as slowly as you can. While inhaling, visualize a white light in your chest growing and expanding until it fills your whole body. As you exhale, think of anything you don’t need leaving you.
Reduce Your Overall Stress on the Job
The average man breathes 16 to 18 times a minute; the average woman breathes 18 to 20 times a minute. Because breathing directly impacts your mind, mastering your breathing allows you to control your state of mind. The slower you breathe, the better. Take a moment at the beginning of the day to note how many times you breathe per minute. If it’s more than eight times per minute, you’ll vastly increase your ability to deal with negativity and emotional swings on the job by slowing it down. Added benefits include: added clarity, cool-headedness and patience and a whole new level of alertness.
Kelley Black is the founder of Balancing the Executive Life, one of New York City’s premier holistic stress-reduction and self-healing programs for overworked entrepreneurs and executives. She’s worked with executives from such companies as PepsiCo, Pfizer, Credit Suisse and Northwestern Mutual Financial and Network. Visit balancingexec.com for more.
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