Wellness Tips for focus

Have you noticed your ability to pay attention suffers when you are stressed? The need to juggle work, home, finance and health can be intense.

The current situation and this new idea of normality can cause anxiety. Or our stress might be more noticeable because we are stopping or working in a different way, and so our patterns are less able to continue.

Uncontrollable stress can cause high levels of arousal chemicals (Our fight and flight mode read more here) to release into the brain, which causes our prefrontal cortex to ‘shut down’, affecting our decision making, planning, patience, impulse control, working memory, and ability to focus.

There are ways to feel and be present and avoid the overwhelm. When you manage your stress response so that you feel alert, safe, and interested, then less chemicals are released.

Here are some simple techniques to help you to get some perspective, to give you a sense of control and to strengthen the prefrontal cortex:

Deep breathing: Here is a simple exercise which you can try easily at home

Meditate: We love this 30 minute journey by Mooji

Make a schedule and include breaks and still or quiet time.

Try waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. (This also helps your brain to process anxiety while you’re sleeping)

Tips for coping with trauma and stress: Because when our cup is empty, how can we be of service to the world?

When we are stressed, we are inside of trauma. We all go through tiny traumas every day, and with each experience, our brains and our bodies respond. We enter into that heightened state of arousal: fight or flight (found out more about that here)

Our fight or flight response can involve a range of emotions, like anxiety, overwhelm, anger, and emotional outbursts. If you (like many of us) are experiencing that, know that you are not alone. Today we are offering some simple tips to deal with trauma and bring you back to homeostasis (find out what homeostasis means here), we would love to offer some tips for coping and transmuting:

1. Identify your emotions.

What emotions are you feeling? Stressful situations put us out of our power, and can result in us feeling angry, lonely, frustrated, scared or sad. Take some time to identify what you are feeling and why? Then see if you can take responsibility: is there anything you can do about the situation? Perhaps, if you are feeling scared, you may be able to then figure out some steps that would reduce this. Fun fact: we only hold emotions by 90 seconds (read more about that here).

2. Delay the urge to binge or go into a negative cycle.

Here are some suggestions to delay the urge to eat, or drink, or think negative thoughts:

* Go for a walk

*Try tapping (Here is a link and an explanation)

*Talk to someone (call a friend or a coach (Read why I recommend everyone has a coach here))

*Choose to be healthy: take a moment to meditate on this: what is the obvious thing to do if you choose to be healthy? (Try that meditation here)

*Journal or free write (this can be a great way to find out what we are feeling and let the emotions release).

3. Feeling angry? Let that anger out!

Those emotions that stay: it is often because we are ‘choosing’ to hold on to or bury them instead of get those emotions in motion. Here are some suggestions to let them out:

*Exercise: try boxing, running, or TRE (link here)

*Punch pillows

*Listen to music

*Shout (but not at someone!): Maybe cycle somewhere remote and scream and shout it out! Or just try communicating it with words to the person inviolved…

*Create it out: for example paint or write, maybe write a poem or a song!

4. Slide to the other polarity

You are not alone! Many of us feeling sad or overwhelmed. Hate and love are on the same vibration. So are sadness and joy. Try to turn the emotions you are feeling into their opposite. Here are some tips to make that happen:

Gratitude: Make a list of things you are grateful for (gratitude lists and journals are great)

Blessings: Think of 3 ways you can make your day a blessing

Give joy to someone else: The hermetic law of giving and receiving might be out of sync for you, so when you are feeling sad, try to do something nice for someone: then maybe this will trigger your feel good vibrations and heart opening!

5. Talk about your feelings.

This may be the most powerful way to release our emotions: tell somebody… and it will also bring them closer to you: sometimes we have no idea those close to us are suffering.

Box Breathing

Box breathing or square breathing, involves taking slow, even, deep breaths.

It can release stress, heighten performance and boost concentration and is easy to do:

Breathe in for 1 count
Hold for one count
Breathe out for one count
Hold for one count

You can also increase the breath to 2 second, 3 seconds, 4 seconds (etc)
Let us know how you get on!

A Healthy Spine

Working from home and the fear of all of this can be stressful so self care is so important.

Research shows that humans naturally move from full focus and energy to physiological fatigue every 90 minutes, so we are offering a free class with us: Fifteen Moves to make you feel better at the desk https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/take-a-break-15-moves-to-make-you-feel-better-reduce-stress-and-boost-your-immune-system-tickets-101371222054

Between stimulus and response there is space… in that space lies our freedom.

And so our goal is to help you keep your head held high, stay grounded, and spread love in these uncertain times. This weeks tip is about the spine.

When we sit still for a long time, we inhibit natural movement of the spine, making this a primary problem area, and also reducing the blood and oxygen pumped to the brain thus affecting our mood, concentration and stress levels.

Do you ever feel like you just can’t sit still at that desk any more?

We understand! I also have scoliosis, so I really know how important a supple spine is to a healthy body so the video we are sharing above is Dr Chaterjee practising his lunge clock… it’s an easy exercise that you can do every morning… or maybe give it a go in the office to keep the spine moving!

Fascia and wellness: What is Fascia?

I first learnt about fascia whilst I was working for choreographer and rolfer Russell Maliphant.

Unhealthy fascia can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, dehydration, overusing or injuring your muscles, unhealthy eating habits, poor sleep quality and stress, so if you spend all day tense and tight at a desk, then it is likely you will have formed some fascia patterns that are less healthy.

When I joined Russell Maliphant’s dance company, I was not particularly flexible, but every day, for a year, we began with ball rolling (using contact juggling or acrylic balls) to work on releasing the tight areas in our body. The difference was amazing: I could tell instantly the changes with a daily practise of ball rolling. This, combined with my yoga teacher training with Abby Hoffman and rolfing with Giovanni Felicioni and I am convinced I grew that year!

So what exactly is fascia? I am a vegetarian (so I hope this won’t offend anyone!) but if you think of a piece of meat, you can often see a white, sometimes transparent web interweaved through the tissue: this is fascia. And we have it too: covering our whole body! Fascia forms a 3d ‘web’ of our body, extending from our head to our toes.

When fascia is healthy, it is flexible, it is supple, and it glides. Releasing the fascial adhesions is a bit like clearing out the cobwebs between the muscles, allowing the muscles to slide and glide efficiently.

Fascia surrounds and infuses every muscle, muscle fibre, bone, blood vessel, nerve and organ in our body. It connects all the tissues (the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood). There are four different kinds of fascia (structural, intersectoral, visceral, and spinal). It also directly affects our body systems (like our muscular and neurological systems). By keeping fascia healthy, we improve body symmetry and alignment, we increase blood flow (which means faster exercise recovery), you may find a reduced appearance of stretch marks and cellulite and scar tissue will breakdown.

Having healthy fascia means you will be less likely to injure yourself from physical activity, you will experience less day-to-day pain, and an improved sports, yoga or dance performance. When the connective tissue between the tissues are softened and re-aligned, the muscles are freed up meaning easier and more effective movement is possible.

So how can you work with your fascia?

Fascia works in slower cycles than muscles do: both contracting and stretching slower, so to stretch the fascia, it can be beneficial to practise slowly for example doing yoga, massage, or trying ball and foam rolling.

Yoga:

Yoga works on our fascial network. Psychological and physiological trauma is also held by our fascia so we might approach our fascia with patience and care.Yoga (especially slow yoga like Yin Yoga) can change our connective tissue and restore our fascial fluidity. It can also benefit to think of the body as a whole organism, instead of in parts, so here is a little yogic meditation to experience your fascia!

Practice: Feel Your Fascia in Downward-Facing Dog:

  1. Find Downward Dog: Start on all fours: on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips forward with the middle finger pointing directly forwards. Then, engaging mulbandh (lift the peruineum, sex organs and navel up towards the spine), lift the pelvis up, creating a triangle: looking between the feet or to the navel, long in the back of the neck. Now in Downward Dog, spread your awareness and attention throughout your entire body.
  2. Scan along the your spine in this pose: imagine a warm light drawing up the front of your spine from your tailbone, along the front of your sacrum to the lumbar to the thoracic vertebrae, then behind your intestines and heart.
  3. Relax your throat, your tongue, your jaw, and let your head completely relax, then re-trace the length of your spine without the tension.
  4. Move your breath into the back of your ribs: Can you feel the ribs moving under your shoulder blades? Are you moving your lower ribs behind your kidneys?
  5. Move your weight around your feet in this position. If your heels are off the ground, move slowly on the balls of your feet. Feel how the different positions changes how you feel in the rest of your body. If your heels are down, move slowly all around your feet like a clock, and notice where there is tightness: see if yu can breathe into those spaces.
  6. Can you let the area between your sits bones open? Try rotating your knees inward in the pose to help locate any tension, and then keep working your hips upward. Remember, you are whole. Someone may describe you in parts… but you are one whole! From here, I usually practise my ‘elephant downward dog walks’ ask me for a private lesson or take a class to learn more!

Other ways to work on the fascia:

Massage therapists can help with a technique called Myofascial Release that uses sustained pressure to loosen and lengthen constricted fascia. It breaks down adhesions between the tissues and softens and re-aligns them, freeing up muscles and allowing easier and more effective movement.

Rolfing:

Rolfing® is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity. Rolfing bodywork affects the body’s posture and structure by manipulating the myofascial system (connective tissue). Often considered a deep-tissue approach, Rolfing bodywork actually works with all the layers of the body to ease strain patterns in the entire system. Research has demonstrated that Rolfing creates more efficient muscle use, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement. Rolfing has also been shown to significantly reduce chronic stress, reduce spinal curvature in subjects with lordosis (sway back), and enhance neurological functioning. Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long-term. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. Rolfing is different from deep-tissue massage, in that practitioners are trained to create overall ease and balance throughout the entire structure, rather than focusing on areas presenting with tension. As a structure becomes more organised, chronic strain patterns are alleviated, and pain and stress decreases.

Foam Rolling:

Foam rolling is a great way to check in with your body to learn exactly where your fascia is tight and holding tension. When you hit a trigger point or tight spot, sit and work on that spot for 30 to 60 seconds as it slowly dissipates. Over time this will help restore the fascia to optimal health.

Wellbeing Herbs: Nigella Seeds

I had a good friend in London whose partner was writing a PHD on these herbs, and claimed that a pinch a day would keep the doctor away. Here are some of their said magic powers (But as always seek medical advice first!)

Kalonji or Nigella or Onion Seeds belong to the buttercup plant family

1. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are substances that neutralize harmful free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells.

Research shows that antioxidants can have a powerful effect on health and disease.

Antioxidants may protect against: cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity

2. Lowers Cholesterol

While you need some cholesterol, high amounts can build up in your blood and increase your risk of heart disease.

3. Cancer-Fighting Properties

Kalonji is high in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals that may contribute to the development of diseases like cancer.

Studies have found some impressive results regarding the potential anti-cancer effects of kalonji and thymoquinone, its active compound.

4. Helps Kill off Bacteria

Disease-causing bacteria are responsible for a long list of dangerous infections, ranging from ear infections to pneumonia. Some studies have found that kalonji may have antibacterial properties and be effective at fighting off certain strains of bacteria.

5. Alleviates Inflammation

In most cases, inflammation is a normal immune response that helps protect the body against injury and infection

6. Protects the Liver

The liver is an incredibly important organ. It removes toxins, metabolizes drugs, processes nutrients and produces proteins and chemicals that are crucial to health.

Another animal study had similar findings, showing that kalonji protected rats against induced liver damage, compared to a control group.

7. Blood Sugar Regulation

High blood sugar can cause many negative symptoms, including increased thirst, unintentional weight loss, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

Left unchecked in the long term, high blood sugar can lead to even more serious consequences, such as nerve damage, vision changes and slow wound healing.

8. Prevents Stomach Ulcers

Some research shows that kalonji could help preserve the lining of the stomach and prevent the formation of ulcers.