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I think for most of us the answer is yes.

Yet, stress can mean many different things to different people.

And whether that stress manifests as emotional or physical, the real question is, “What can I do about it?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I prepare for my online class next Wednesday – Finding Ease at the Computer – and did this live video on the subject earlier this week:

Is Working at the Computer Causing You Stress? - YouTube

Here are the main points:

  • Stress is both mental/emotional and  physical. They are not separate.
  • Our “scrunched up” posture, or physical shape, as we work at our computer can be both a symptom of stress, and the cause of it.
  • Many studies have shown a correlation between our posture and our mood.
  • Compressed, scrunched posture (a typical posture you might see in someone sitting at their computer) correlates with feelings of anxiety, lack of confidence, and even depression.
  • Upright, open, expansive postures correlate, on the other hand, with feelings of joy, pride, confidence, and creativity.

I then shared three simple ways to encourage your natural uprightness and easy poise:

#1 Awareness

Simply paying attention, noticing your posture/physical shape, is always the place to start. How can you change something if you are not aware of it? And, you’ll find, that sometimes just the act of awareness can become the change.

Don’t Sit Up Straight!

Contrary to much popular posture advice, please don’t force yourself to sit up straight. Most people end up using way too much tension, which is not only unsustainable, it’s uncomfortable and counterproductive.

We are looking for a relaxed yet upright posture – something dynamic, with movement and flow. That’s “easy poise.”

So, rather than “sit up straight,” I invite to think of gently undoing the compression, slump or tension. You can think of just doing a little less work as you invite yourself to unfurl. If you feel yourself starting to use more effort or tension you have gone too far.

Think!

Explore thinking, “I am free to be my full height.”

Nothing more, nothing less.

You can take up the space that is rightfully yours.

When we reclaim our innate natural uprightness we are open, expansive. We can breathe and think more clearly. We are more comfortable and move more freely. We are less stressed.

Start reclaiming YOUR natural uprightness today!

I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your question or comment at the bottom of this page.

*** There is only 1 place left for my Finding Ease at the Computer online class, which takes place next Wednesday, March 28! If you’re interested, claim that spot now!

Click here for all the information and to register >>

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I just had a crash course in this when I visited my parents in Sheffield (UK) for two weeks in January.

It’s hard.

A bit of background – my mum has Alzheimer’s and has deteriorated a lot since I last saw her, and now needs help with things like getting dressed. My dad is 94, frail, hard-of-hearing, and house-bound.

They have care-givers who come at various times throughout the day to help with meals, taking medications, personal care and companionship.

While I was there I took on the role of care-giver in chief!

It is not a role I recommend.

I am in awe of people who do this day in day out – either as a profession, or out of necessity and love.

It seems to me it is critical to take care of yourself well when you are caring for others in this way. And yet, when immersed in the care-giving situation this is difficult. It’s so easy to put the needs of those being cared for above everything else, including your own needs.

So – how did I look after myself during my visit?

Imperfectly, to say the least.

This, however, is what I did every day as a crucial part of my own self-care:

  • Every morning I did the “Ease Cycle” – a modified version of a practice developed by Alexander Technique teacher Mio Morales that promotes release of tension and more ease in body and mind –  AND, it takes less than two minutes to do!
  • Every afternoon I did Constructive Rest, if only for a few minutes sometimes.
  • Each day I would take a walk outside if possible. Walking and moving in the fresh air is so beneficial to me. Some days this was a short walk down to the local shops and back, some days a longer walk – quite invigorating because of the hills in Sheffield! Unfortunately, the weather (snow and ice) made even a short walk challenging during the first few days of my visit.
  • Each day I also shared in my Facebook group, the BodyIntelligence Community, one thing I was grateful for, and one place in myself where I notice ease. Some members joined me in this practice, and it was helpful to read what they shared, too.
  • Each night I would watch a show on Netflix in bed! This may not sound like “self-care” but having the opportunity to just “chill out” and escape with a show on my own was something I looked forward to every day. Fortunately for me, mum and dad have an early bedtime of around 9:30.

As well as these daily practices (for want of a better word), visiting with friends was also an important part of my self-care and well-being. Fortunately, I have a couple of close friends who live nearby, and who I was able to see quite often, even if only for a short time.

While there I was definitely emotionally vulnerable and what you might describe as hyper vigilant – on the alert for problems. It was a state that invited a LOT of excess tension.

As an experienced Alexander Technique teacher, I was very aware of this – especially when I’d been triggered. While I couldn’t always do something about it immediately, I did, however, have REALLY USEFUL tools to help lessen my stress responses and recognize what was going one. Knowledge is definitely power.

One particularly useful tool was that of being able to bring my attention to somewhere in my body that felt relatively at ease – it’s what you practice in the Ease Cycle, and is very useful in the moment, especially if I used this idea BEFORE a potentially difficult interaction. This is a practice and a skill I teach all of my clients.

Another very important part of my self-care in this situation was practicing self-kindness and self-compassion and recognizing when “shoulds” and self-criticism had slipped into my thinking. With awareness – and practice – I was able to give myself permission to be myself and feel whatever I was feeling.

And finally, the support of others was invaluable to me – the support of friends, both in person and around the world via email, text, and phone.

I knew I was not alone.

I hope that sharing the things I did to support and care for myself is helpful to you.

If you’re in the situation of being a care-giver for your parents, spouse, child, or other family member or friend, how do you support yourself? DO you, in fact, take time to look after your own needs?

We need to be our best selves to be able to care for our loved ones to the best of our abilities and make important decisions with a clear head. Putting ourselves first in this situation can be hard – maybe sometimes impossible. It is, however, worth working toward. We, and our loved ones, will be all the better for it.

Image © bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

If you enjoy my blog, I invite you to join the BodyIntelligence mailing list. When you sign up I’ll send you my FREE Audio Guide to help you reduce stress and boost confidence in just 2 minutes! You’ll also receive blog updates, tips, inspiration and advance notice of upcoming classes and workshops.

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In my Facebook group, the BodyIntelligence Community, we focus a lot on self-care.

In my experience many of us, and women especially, tend to put ourselves last. Self-care, if it’s even on the radar, is quite definitely at the bottom of the priority list.

This is a generalization of course, but women often put the needs of others before their own – the needs of their children, parents, spouse or friends – as well as work, business and career.

It’s no wonder stress, overwhelm and burnout are rife.

YOU, however, are your biggest asset, and that asset needs looking after.

When you’re stressed, just rushing from one this to the next, never taking a break, working non-stop, switching tracks, multi-tasking, fruitlessly trying to get the never-ending to-do list done, you cannot possibly bring your best self to your work, to your relationships – indeed to your life.

When you neglect your own needs, you end up getting run down or sick. You make mistakes. You find it hard to come up with creative solutions. You are irritable with colleagues and loved ones. You’re not present (either literally or figuratively) for the things that are important to you. You suffer. The quality of your work suffers. Your career suffers. Your business suffers. Your relationships suffer.

Everything suffers when you don’t look after yourself. You could call this selfish!

My approach to self-care – the BodyIntelligence approach – is based on the principles of the Alexander Technique.

Alexander Technique requires that you pay attention to yourself first – to what you are thinking and feeling and doing. If you try and skip this step it just doesn’t work.

Without this step there is no awareness, and therefore no possibility for choice and change.

Choice in how you respond to the situations you find yourself in. Choice in whether you respond with tension or ease.

It is self-care in the moment.

That is the beauty of the Alexander Technique – of your body intelligence. Once you’ve learned the internal skills, you can take them with you into anything you do.

I can hear what you’re thinking – that’s great. I don’t need to stop what I’m doing!

That’s true, but…

It is still hugely important to do the things for yourself that nurture you, mind, body and soul.

And guess what! You can take your body intelligence with you into your own specific self-care activities or practices – whether that’s a walk in nature, a yoga class, a hot bath, reading a book, chatting with a good friend, playing the violin, or even that most mundane act of self-care – brushing your teeth!

You’re practicing self-care in the moment as you practice self-care!

And when you do this, you will be more comfortable, more at ease, more present and connected, and more aligned (inside and out) as you do them. You are maximizing the effectiveness of any self-care practice.

We can’t and don’t work well when we’re running on empty fumes.

Self-care is the opposite of selfish.

This quote from Eleanor Brownn says is all:

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

SO, take care of your greatest asset.

Yes. Take time for YOU!

And so, I ask you: What have you done for YOU today?

Let me know in the comments below. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Image © iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

I invite you to join us in the BodyIntelligence Community and get inspiration and support for your own self-care goals and priorities. Hope to see you there! Click here to join >>

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Do you resist ease?

I confess. I do.

I do so even though I am fully aware of the benefits of bringing more ease into my life; even though I know specific strategies that can help me to shift from tension to ease in just a moment or two; even though I teach other people how to let go of stress and tension and move toward ease. Despite all this, I still resist it sometimes.

Why?

I have been giving this a lot of thought.

In truth, I am MUCH better at choosing ease than I used to be. (Yes – it can be a choice!)

I was a tense, tight, stressed-out mess before I discovered the Alexander Technique over seventeen years ago! Now I know effective ways to direct my awareness and thoughts to release excess tension, and I make it a practice to consciously choose ease as much as possible.

Yet the old resistance still exists. Maybe it always will.

Ease is an underrated quality, and many of us are resistant to the very idea of it – either consciously or unconsciously.

Even as I write this post on ease, I find myself wanting to think hard, concentrate, just get the job done, and use extra effort to hold the pen and put pressure onto the paper (yes, I often write long-hand first!). Old habits die hard. We have the “try hard” work ethic drummed into us from early in childhood. It doesn’t feel like working if I’m not putting effort, aka muscular tension, into it. We’re unconsciously making things more stressful for ourselves.

And yet, we get our best ideas so often NOT at our desks when we are “working.” I’m not the only one who comes up my most creative ideas or solutions to problems when I’m in the shower or out for a walk!

Unlike the woman in the photograph at the top of the page, we actually think more clearly when we are not tensing, tightening, hunching, scrunching or frowning in concentration – i.e. when we are not stressed.

The trouble is, we don’t then get the feeling we associate with working – and certainly not working hard – when we’re not tensing up, contracting our muscles!

I am writing this to remind both myself and you that EASE is NOT the opposite of work.

We can actually do more work, be more productive and creative – and have more fun doing it – when have less tension in our body and more ease. When we’re less stressed, we also won’t suffer from the after-effects of too much tension, such as headaches, back or neck pain.

Ease does NOT mean lazy.

Ease is neutral. You can be lazy with ease or you can work with ease. You can be lazy with lots of tension and you can work with lots of tension.

Most of us resist ease because it is easier (ha!) to go with our habitual stress patterns. Ease may use less muscular effort, but it requires more consciousness, more attentiveness to yourself in the moment, more presence on your part. It requires a willingness to prioritize ease – to give it more value than your desire to “get something done” for instance. This is true SELF care.

The trouble is, if you’re hurrying, you don’t feel like you’re hurrying if you’re not putting a lot of muscular effort into it. If you’re “very busy” you don’t feel very busy if you’re not putting lots of effort into it.

Of course, you won’t. You must accept that ease may feel odd at first, like you’re not working properly, that you’re not working hard – that’s kind of the point!

Ease may seem illusive. You can, however, learn to move toward the ease in any given moment – I promise! Even in acute, nerve-wracking situations, we can learn to make choices that lessen our stress responses and bring about more ease. Ease is our natural state.

The more we are able to choose ease over tension moment by moment, the more evidence we get that work actually gets done, AND we feel better, do better, and ideas come more freely and easily. The more we make ease a practice and a priority, the more our resistance to ease lessens. The more we practice, the more we are likely to remember that ease is an option in times of stress. We may not always choose to go there, but we DO have the choice.

So, give ease a chance. Your back, your neck, your business, your work, your friends, and your family, will thank you!

Do you often feel stressed and tense? Do you feel like you have to “work hard” all the time? Perhaps it is so much part of your normal operating system that you barely register it, until you are utterly overwhelmed? Then maybe you also have resistance to ease. Maybe you have forgotten, maybe you don’t know, that ease is even an option.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please write your comments or questions in the space below.

Photograph © hootie2710 / 123RF Stock Photo.

Interested in my approach to stress relief, ease, self-care and more? Then you are invited to join my Facebook group, the BodyIntelligence Community. It is a place where I aim inspire and support members with their personal development and self-care goals, as well as somewhere you can ask questions, and get answers from me and other community members too. Click here to join >>

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The simple answer: Self-care.

Self-care is one of my seven key strategies for relieving stress and is the simplest and most effective way to PREVENT stress and overwhelm from taking hold in the first place. In fact, it is a naturally integral part of all seven of them.

Yet, for most of us, self-care is the first thing to go during the craziness of the holiday season. For women like myself, we still have to take care of work, business, family and so forth as usual, on top of the added demands of the season – shopping, parties, baking, card-writing, decorating, and gift-wrapping to name but a few. And while many of these are fun things to do, it often feels like they are putting us over the edge in our already packed schedule and to-do list.

It’s no wonder that this time of year is notorious for bringing on high levels in stress.

In a workshop I ran recently, one participant described overwhelm as taking stress to the next level. If you’re already feeling stressed from work and running your home, the holidays can definitely take us into overwhelm.

In fact, you may feel you have so much to do, you don’t have time for self-care.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You need it now more than ever, so you can cope with all the extra demands on you.

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
― Eleanor Brownn

Looking after yourself first means you’ll be better able to make reasoned decisions about what you need and want to do to be effective, productive and happy this holiday season. You’ll have more energy and be more available for your loved ones AND your work. You can be your best self!

So, what does self-care mean practically? Actually, it looks different for everyone, but there are definitely universal needs like getting enough sleep. Here are some of the things I do for myself regularly in terms of self-care:

  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet as much as possible, allowing for treats, of course!
  • Get enough sleep. Apparently, the majority of adults don’t get enough. I find that if I don’t get seven to eight hours I don’t function well.
  • Move! I walk (and occasionally run!) outside virtually every day. The exercise and the fresh air both help clear my head. In fact, walking is when I often get my best ideas. I also make a point to get up and move around every so often if I’m doing a lot of computer work.
  • Take breaks! If I work non-stop without a break, I know I can’t think as clearly and I’m much more prone to mistakes.
  • Have a cup of tea – or sometimes a glass or wine – with a good friend.
  • Practice mindfulness or being present in whatever activity I’m doing.
  • And my all-time favorite, Constructive Rest!

I teach this simple and powerful self-care practice to all my clients. It’s a way of taking a few minutes time out of your day to rest and restore yourself mentally and physically as you lie down in a semi-supine position. In fact, I think so highly of this practice that a few years ago I created the 30-Day Constructive Rest Challenge, in which I encourage everyone to commit to doing it for a few minutes every day for 30 days, so they can truly experience the benefits for themselves.

Fundamental to my teaching, however, is helping you cultivate the type of thoughts, body awareness and attention to help you relieve stress in the moment. It’s this practice of mindfulness and presence that you can apply any time and anywhere, so you have the internal tools to help you effectively reduce stress and find more ease whatever you are doing.

You do not even have to take time out of your day to practice this sort of self-care – it simply requires a little thought and attention while you are doing what you do already!

The holiday season is crazy busy for most of us. I urge you to make YOU a priority this season. By doing so you will have more energy, strength and resilience to get things done AND have fun! It will not only help you be more productive, but will also give you time to be more discerning about what really matters and what does not.

So, whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t!), I wish for you some time for yourself – to do the things that nourish you – and in turn you will lessen, or prevent, overwhelm and stress and burnout before they start.

How do you look after yourself? Is it a priority for you? Or do you neglect yourself when things get busy? What are your main challenges when it comes to self-care? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Photograph © sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

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How many times a day do you tell yourself what you should be doing?

Or what you should not be doing? Or should not be thinking? Or should not be feeling?

This is just one of the ways we often speak to ourselves, whether spoken out loud or not.

Our internal conversation with ourselves is, more often than not, unkind, judgmental, rude or pushy. We would never speak like that to a friend or colleague.

It’s often also full of fear and negativity.

Whether conscious or subconscious we may believe this helps us get things done. But does it serve us?

Think now about something you “should” be doing. Or all the things you “should” be doing!

Did you notice how that made you feel, physically and emotionally?

It’s possible you’re so used to thinking this way, you didn’t notice anything different.

What I observe in myself and my clients is that this type of thinking is accompanied by excess tension, tightening and contraction – a narrowing both physically and mentally. This kind of thinking causes STRESS.

Now try thinking this, in exactly the words it is written.

“I am free to choose.”

Don’t concentrate on the thought. Think of it as a whisper to yourself about a delightful secret. If you don’t quite believe it, see if you can be open to the possibility.

This is an example of a different way of thinking – the type of thinking I encourage my clients to explore and use.

Did you notice how your body responded? Did you have an emotional response?

You may have had a big response – a big breath, a letting-go of tension, a feeling of relief, perhaps?

Or you may have experience something subtler.

It can take a while to become aware of ourselves in this way, so don’t worry if you didn’t notice anything, or if you can’t quite put your finger on what did change.

We often behave and feel as if we don’t have choice. That we are not free.

I believe, however, that we always have a choice, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Of course, there are consequences to making certain choices, but still, we have choices. If we can remind ourselves that freedom and choice are possibilities, reality even, we will likely feel better about what we are doing. It’s empowering and freeing.

What we think, and the way we think it IS important.

The truth is, a single thought can change our whole attitude, physical and mental, in a split second.

In the words of William James,

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

This means that self-care can happen in a moment – the moment it takes to choose one thought over another.

We can learn that it’s not the situation itself that is the problem – it’s our response to it.

This has long helped me in how I operate in my work and in my life in general.

With everything that’s happening in the world right now, as well as my own long to-do list and personal concerns, I have found this ability to be invaluable to me – providing me with moments of self-care, moments of ease and stress relief whenever I remember to pay attention. It’s a practice, that’s for sure, and one I can, and must, come back to over and over again.

So, YES, it is possible transform stress into ease with a single thought. 

This idea is central to what I teach. I specifically teach my clients to direct their attention and thinking in a way that inspires expansiveness, release of tension, freedom of movement and being, possibility and choice. In fact, the participants in my EASY Self-Care Program receive a carefully crafted and sequenced “Thought for the Day” each weekday for 12 weeks as a key component of the course.

Self-care really can be quick and easy – just the time it takes to shift your thinking.

[Click here, if you’d like more information on the program. Registration is open. Join by November 15 and receive two valuable self-care bonuses.]

How did you find the exploration? What thoughts do you notice yourself having that are not helpful? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave your comment in the space at the bottom of the page.

Let go of Stress and Find more Ease in just 12 weeks with The BodyIntelligence EASY Self-Care Program

Just in time for the holidays!
Transform stress into ease, and discover more presenceenergyproductivitycreativity, and general well-being with this empowering 12-week online program of short, simple, and profound self-care practices that will EASILY fit into any schedule.

Sign up by Wednesday, November 15 and I’ll also send you these two valuable bonuses right away, so you can start reducing stress and taking care of yourself with these empowering practices:

Constructive Rest Audio Guide
Get a head start with this simple, yet powerful self-care practice. The Constructive Rest Audio Guide includes an 18-minute MP3 audio, in which I gently guide you to release excess tension, and an 18-page written guide containing all you need to get you started.

Power Pause Audio
The Power Pause is a fabulous, quick way to refreshrestore and re-energize yourself so you can bring your best self to your work and life in under five minutes. You can listen to the audio lying down in the traditional Constructive Rest position, as well as sitting at your desk (just pop in your headphones and listen), standing, or whatever suits you.

More information and sign up here: bodyintelligence.me/bodyintelligence-easy-self-care-program

Photograph © delcreations / 123RF Stock Photo

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What do Carla Harris, Shonda Rhines, Shawn Achor, Brené Brown, and Michelle Obama have in common?

They were all keynote speakers at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women and they were ALL fabulous and inspiring!

I was lucky enough to be there on Tuesday, along with 12,000 other women (and maybe a handful of courageous men!). Apparently, it is the largest conference for women in the US.

I got a key take-away message from each of the keynotes that resonated with me deeply.

From Carla Harris (wall street banker, motivational speaker, gospel singer, and author of Expect to Win):

Know That You Know That You Know

Out of many great points, this was the one that stuck out for me. That is own your own value; trust your knowledge and experience. As women, many of us tend to question our own worth – it’s the imposter syndrome, or “feeling like a fraud.” I am aware that I am prone to this if I’m not mindful, and these simple words really resonated. It feels like a deep knowing and trusting of yourself.

Relating this to the BodyIntelligence principle of mind-body unity, there’s a physical expression – a certain, recognizable body language – that goes hand in hand with having a deep trust in your own abilities and worth. It’s expansive and open, and is perceived as confidence, both by others and yourself.

From Shonda Rhines (executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder, and author of Year of Yes):

Rename Your Fears

This is important. We hear the words we use – both out loud and to ourselves. Shonda’s point was that how we name something dictates how we deal with it. She has never named anything as an obstacle – rather a reality or “how things are,” which enabled her to deal with it (e.g. being the only black woman producer was a reality rather than an obstacle) or renaming her fear of public speaking (she is an introvert like me) as an opportunity – an opportunity to practice courage. The more you summon the courage to do what you fear, the easier it becomes.

Fear is a huge factor in how we feel, move and appear to others. Fear can even start with just a thought, which we often repeat over and over to ourselves, making the fear even bigger. I love Shonda’s idea of renaming or reframing your fears. I talk to my clients about reframing nerves as excitement. A little tweak like that can make a huge difference in how we feel.

From Shawn Achor (best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness, and leading expert on the connection between happiness and success):

Smiles are Powerful – Use Often!

Shawn Achor’s talk on happiness and joy – rather than pleasure – included an experiment. If you have someone near you, try it now. One of you is A and the other is B. A must not let her face show any reaction. Look each other in the eyes. B is to smile at A while looking in her eyes for 7 seconds. You can then switch it, and try the other way around. Out of a hall of nearly 12,000 women, only a handful managed to keep a straight face. Smiling is contagious, especially when you’re making eye contact. Smiling improves our mood. As Shawn Achor says, when the human brain is positive every single business and human outcome improves. Powerful stuff!

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you watch his entertaining and informative TED talk – The happy secret to better work.

I am reminded of Marjorie Barstow (she was a famous first-generation Alexander Technique teacher) who said, “You always move better with a smile.” It’s true! Our whole functioning as a human being improves when we smile.

From Brené Brown (research professor at the University of Houston and best-selling author of The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and her latest book, Braving the Wilderness):

Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

Brené gave four practices for true belonging – defined by her like this, “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” The fourth practice is to walk through the world with a strong back, a soft front, and a wild heart. This spoke to me deeply – physically, intellectually and emotionally. It speaks to knowing who you are and the values you hold dear, and owning this unapologetically (strong back); it speaks to being open, compassionate and vulnerable (soft front); and it speaks to being courageous in the face of fear, following your passions, and letting yourself feel things deeply (wild heart).

This is what I got from the talk. I just got her new book, Braving the Wilderness, which will, I’m sure give me a deeper understanding. (We’re reading this in the BodyIntelligence Book Club – if you’re interested in reading along or joining us, let me know!)

If you’re not familiar with Brené Brown, check out her TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.” It is one of the top five most-viewed TED talks in the world!

In my work, we use thoughts – self-directions – to help us move through life with greater ease and confidence. “Strong back, soft front, wild heart” ticks all the boxes of helpful ideas. And even though I love it exactly as Brené expressed it, I’m finding myself sometimes modifying the words to put them in a structure I find very effective. So here are three thoughts you can also explore: “I am free to notice my strong back,” “I am free to notice my soft front,” and “I am free to notice my wild heart.”

From Michelle Obama (who needs no introduction!):

Invest in Yourself

Michelle Obama had many pearls of wisdom to share, but this one stood out for me. She was talking about how she works out every morning (at 5 a.m. if I remember correctly) and how this is HER TIME to do something that’s for her exclusively. Working out might not be your thing. The point is, however, to invest in yourself. Carve out time just for you to do what supports you and you alone. Her message was to find times to put yourself higher on your priority list.

She is preaching to the choir here. Self-care is something I teach, write about, and advocate by any means I can as much as possible. It’s the foundation for my entire body of work. I just read that a woman in Osaka, Japan “died from overwork” after 159 hours of overtime in one month, taking only two days off.  This is extreme, but it makes the point loud and clear. If we don’t make time for ourselves, we will suffer – and everything we care about will suffer, too – including life itself.

I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to hear all the speakers, especially Brené Brown and Michelle Obama, both of whom I have long admired. It was a truly moving experience for me to be there in person. I loved the messages of all the speakers, and I hope these takeaways give you a taste and a little inspiration.

Here am I at the conference with my friend Helen Samson Mullen.

I’d love to hear what you think and what resonates with you. As always, please feel free to leave your comment in the space below.

Upcoming BodyIntelligence Self-Mastery Course in Wilmington, Delaware

Managing Stress and Overwhelm

Invest in Yourself! Learn 7 key mind-body strategies to help you deal with stress and overwhelm from the inside out, so you can feel calm, confident, and in control, and ready to face what life throws at you.

6-week course starts October 18, 2017. Click here for details >>

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We are always going to find ourselves in stressful situations. That’s a given.

Learning to respond differently – in a way that reduces significantly the amount of stress we experience, before, during and afterward – is key.

Here are seven simple, actionable tips to help you relieve stress in the moment. Each tip comes with a short video and a prompt – a simple thought or self-direction – to help you put the tip into action.

#1 Notice Ease

Did you know that how you pay attention to yourself and your environment has a huge impact on the amount of stress you experience?

My first tip is to shift your perspective so you consciously notice ease in and around you, rather than tension, stress and things that are going, or could go, wrong. This is a simple and powerful idea that, when practiced often, can lessen considerably the amount of stress we experience.

Learn more in the video:

Tip #1 Notice Ease - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to notice ease.”

#2 Your Neck IS Free

Did you know that tension in your neck is not only a symptom of stress, but can also be a cause of stress? It’s a double-edged sword!

In tip #2, I share a way of thinking to help you let go of that tension.

Learn more in the video:

Tip #2: Your Neck is Free - YouTube

Prompt: “My neck is free.”

#3 Feel Your Power

We so often make ourselves smaller – often unconsciously. We are literally contracting our body, and this plays a significant role in how stressed we feel at any given time.

Tip #3 is about feeling your own power and taking up the space that is rightfully yours.

Learn more in the video:

Stress Relief Tip #3: Feel Your Power - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to be my full height.”

#4 Pause for Thought

Time can be a HUGE stressor. Giving yourself a moment of TIME to think – to consider how you actually want to respond in any given situation – is a gift. It’s a simple idea, but not necessarily easy to put into practice.

In Tip #4 I share suggestions to help you pause for thought and give yourself the gift of time.

Learn more in the video:

Stress Relief Tip 4: Pause for Thought - YouTube

Prompt: “I have time.”

#5 Exhale

Did you know that the way you breathe in could actually cause stress?

Instead, in stress relief tip #5, I invite you to exhale.

Learn more in the video:

Stress Relief Tip #5: Exhale - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to breathe out.”

#6 Smile Often

Do you know how powerful a simple smile is?

A smile has the power to relieve stress, improve your mood and productivity, help you move more freely, and more!

Tip #6 is very simple: smile and smile often!

Learn more in the video:

Stress Relief Tip #6: Smile Often - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to smile.”

#7 Move Your Body

Do you spend a lot of your day sitting?

That can be very stressful for the body, and impacts how stressed you feel emotionally. It’s all interconnected.

Tip #7 is about incorporating movement into your awareness of yourself, and find times to actually get up and move, along with a simple suggestion of how to do that with more ease.

Learn more in the video:

Stress Relief Tip 7: Move Your Body - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to move.”

Bonus Tip: Constructive Rest

It would be remiss to talk about stress relief without mentioning Constructive Rest.

Constructive Rest is a fabulous way to destress AND prevent stress. It will help you build stress resilience if practiced regularly.

Watch the video:

Stress Relief Bonus Tip: Constructive Rest - YouTube

Prompt: “I am free to rest.”

You can find lots of Constructive Rest resources on my website, including my free, 30-Day Constructive Rest Challenge.

I’ve received so much positive feedback about this program over the years. This is just one of the comments:

“I really appreciate your 30-day email series introducing Constructive Rest. I now find it critical to my mental health, as well as my physical well being. I am sure I am getting taller and more graceful, and being relaxed enough to sleep is a gift.” [Martha, USA]

If you haven’t tried it already, I can’t recommend this self-care and stress-relieving practice highly enough.

*****

Please use the space below if you have any questions or comments. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Ease photograph © domoskanonos / 123RF Stock Photo.

If you enjoy reading my blog, please join the BodyIntelligence mailing list. You’ll receive blog updates, tips, inspiration, advance notice of classes and workshops, AND my FREE Audio Guide to help you reduce stress and boost confidence in just 2 minutes!
Click here to get it now >>

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about free-writing, and how helpful I was finding it – helpful in sorting out my thoughts, writing blogs, class planning, sifting through problems, and so forth. How such a “purposeless” task, was actually helping my productivity.

Well, I stopped writing…for a while.

Why?

I am figuring it out.

Why, when I know it’s helpful, have I stopped doing it regularly? Why do I feel this resistance inside me?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I got out of the routine I’d started to establish when I went to a conference in San Diego.
  2. I was busy with other things and didn’t feel like I had time.
  3. I was avoiding thinking about some things, and writing my stream of consciousness seemed “risky.”

Habits are notoriously difficult to break. Creating new habits – which often involves breaking old ones – seems to be just as hard.

It’s often at the point when we have experienced something different (in this case, the usefulness of the free-writing) that something “comes up” that we can rationalize as a reason why we can’t do it right now (whatever that new behavior is).

This sometimes happens in learning the Alexander Technique – perhaps you discover a way of releasing habitual tension when you are, for instance, typing on your computer keyboard. It won’t FEEL, however, like you are “working” anymore – it will feel a lot easier. And then you get to rationalize, with thoughts like, “I don’t have time to be aware of myself when I’m working,” or “I can’t work properly if I’m not concentrating hard (and tensing up),” and even “I don’t feel like me when I let go of that tension, so I won’t be able to work.”

Alexander Technique is transformational – usually gradually, at a pace which is manageable – but sometimes the changes can feel like your whole identity is different. “Who am I if I don’t tense up while I work?”

I am currently going through some difficult times with my parents in the UK, who are aging, ailing and fading in different and challenging ways. I’ve been avoiding writing recently in part because the habit isn’t truly established yet, and I’ve been distracted and busy, but mainly because I know that when I write my parents’ situation is top of mind, and I don’t want to think about it!

…which is ridiculous, because I am thinking about it virtually all the time!

I am, however, reluctantly bringing myself back to the writing. There’s no joy at the prospect, as there was a few weeks ago. Each time I do, though, it’s helpful. Just the act of letting all my thoughts and worries spill onto paper is therapeutic. The writing is an act of self-care.

Today I wrote:

I am sad.
I am worried.
I want someone to tell me what to do.

Of course, I mean I want someone else – like a parent – to tell me what to do. That won’t be possible. There is, however, someone who will tell me what to do. And that person is me!

I have Andy (my husband) and friends, not to mention professionals like doctors and care-givers, who give me tremendous support and advice. It is up to me to act, though.

I am tired. Stress is tiring. Self-care is more important at the moment than ever, for me to be there for mum and dad in the UK, not to mention for my family at home and for my business. If I want to have the energy for everything, not to mention clarity in my decision making, I must prioritize my own well-being, however difficult that feels.

In other words, I must practice what I preach.

Free-writing is now an important part of my own self-care, along with other daily practices like Constructive Rest and a walk or run outside. Looking after myself, both in the moment, and with specific self-care practices like these, is essential for me to bring my best self to the world.

I am committing myself to these practices.

And I am putting this “out there” to help me with my commitment to myself.

In my Facebook group, each week I ask, “What are you doing for YOU?”

This is my answer. What is yours?

Image © gregorylee / 123RF Stock Photo

If you enjoy reading my blog, please consider joining the BodyIntelligence mailing list. You’ll receive blog updates, tips, inspiration, advance notice of upcoming classes and workshops, AND my FREE Audio Guide to help you reduce stress and boost confidence in just 2 minutes! Click here to get it now >>

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I have an awful confession to make. It feels awful to me, anyway.

I have over-committed myself and something has got to give.

This means I am not going to be able to do everything I have said I would do – at least at the time I said I would do it.

I pride myself on keeping my commitments, on being reliable, on the fact that you can count on me to do what I say I am going to do.

I recently opened registration for my online course, the BodyIntelligence EASY Self-Care Program. This is the second time I will be running the program. I thought it would be easy this time. I have already created the content, after all. There are a few things that need to be tweaked, of course, but essentially the meat of the program is there.

The program was supposed to start on June 12th. I leave for an Alexander Technique conference in San Diego early on the 13th and will be away for a week.

When I was talking with my friend Kirsten Harris (fabulous Alexander Technique teacher and artist in Scotland) about the program last Thursday, we came up with an idea to help make it a more personal experience for the participants, so that everyone, if they wish, can have a little one-on-one time with me to get things going, and help them come up with an easy and doable “self-care implementation strategy!”

It’s a great idea. I want to do it. But I don’t have time. Not if I keep with the current schedule.

I have over over-committed myself, and underestimated everything I need to get done before I head to California, where I’m not only attending, but am also presenting a workshop and participating on a panel – both of which require preparation!

I’m also giving a talk on Thursday at the Women’s Power Networking meeting in Glenn Mills. That needs preparing.

I have other class and teaching commitments throughout the week.

AND I am committed to self-care and quality work. To me, these two things go hand in hand.

Burning the candle at both ends, while I know it may sometimes be necessary, is NOT the way to produce creative, quality work. It is not about EASE. It is not about looking after yourself first so you can show up as your best self.

It is the opposite of that.

It is the opposite of everything that I teach.

And so, reluctantly, but practically, I am postponing the start of the program, so I have time to give it my best, to think through and put together the new elements, and to give me time to market it properly. It also means I’ll be available during the first week of the program, which will be needed for the new personal elements.

I am committed to practicing what I preach.

And so, while I am breaking my commitment to start the program when I said I would, I am NOT dropping the program, I am simply postponing it.

And, more importantly, I am keeping my greater commitment to myself and the BodyIntelligence approach to self-care and ease. I am keeping my commitment to the principles which underlie the program.

Strangely, this doesn’t feel easy right now, but it will. I am sorry I am not able to start when I said I would. I am letting down the people already registered. It feels awful.

It is, however, the right thing to do for me, my other commitments this week, and the program.

AND, I am very excited about the new components of the course. Now I will have time to put it all together properly, and future participants will benefit. I look forward to sharing all the details with you soon.

And if you relate to this post and have comments or observations to share, please do so in the space below. I’d love to hear from you.

Image © shefkate / 123RF Stock Photo

The BodyIntelligence EASY Self-Care Program now starts on July 17th. If you’re interested in being kept informed about this, I invite you to join the BodyIntelligence mailing list. You’ll also receive blog updates, tips, inspiration, advance notice of upcoming classes and workshops, AND my FREE Audio Guide to help you reduce stress and boost confidence in just 2 minutes! Click here to get it now >>

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