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Don’t stress the small stuff

My six essential stress-busting resources ……

Don’t stress the small stuff

Not all stress is all bad. We need a touch of healthy stress to keep us moving – and sometimes to activate that life-saving flight or fight response.

But modern life doesn’t see us battling wild animals on a daily basis, no matter how hectic the school run might feel. So we certainly don’t want to be in a constant high state of alert that means we’re unable to relax both body and mind.

But how can you stress less? Or at least learn how to ditch the stress over the small stuff?

Much of my own negative stress used to come from not being able to let go of work and feeling the need to control things. I needed structure and certainty – and that led to one of my biggest learnings: the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.

A helping hand

I learned first hand that you can’t give from an empty cup. These days, I have lots of stress-busting techniques that work for me, including receiving massage, practicing yoga, walking in nature, dancing, spending quality ‘me’ time with myself and with family and friends.

At The Loft I’m here to give you practical help and support by offering a host of Calm Works services for your body mind wellbeing. Choose what you think will work best for you – perhaps weekly yoga, a monthly massage or meditation, bespoke one to one wellness support, an Inner Calm session, a mini mindfulness retreat or a residential retreat?

I also encourage you to take inspiration from my following my top six resources for beating stress.

1. Discover your patterns: triggers and responses

What sets off your feelings of stress? How do you respond to these triggers on a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level?  

Sometimes a huge breakthrough can come when we recognise that some things are beyond our control and the only thing we can ever influence is how our response to situations.

For example, how do you feel when your train home is delayed?

Choice 1. I can get niggled and annoyed, moan about the awful situation with fellow passengers and give the ticket inspector a hard time.

Choice 2. I can accept that the journey will be delayed and make the necessary calls, eg arrange for the kids to stay with friends and cancel social plans, then pick up a cuppa and read my book while waiting.

Which option would you choose? How can we switch our mindset to respond differently about our triggers?

2. Get resourced up!

Go online and search for inspiration. There are oodles of resources on the world wide web from quotes to pictures e.g. pinterest is a good resource but beware you could get very distracted!

There are websites like www.fmtv.com who offer a range of documentaries, films, recipes and exercises to give you ideas. Plus they have free taster periods.

Create your own personal library of informative, inspiring and uplifting books, films, music and recipes! Which lead me onto ….

3. Be-ing inspired

I’ve gathered a selection of inspiring and through provoking books, films, online resources that help me to keep calm. I find I return to the work of Eckhart Tolle, Susan Jeffers and Brene Brown if I’m feeling overwhelmed or tense. ( Yes I still am working on this!)

Eckhart Tolle is perhaps best-known for The Power of Now but Tolle has written several books to explain his work. His website has more details and online teachings.

As he says: “Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

In Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers she shows us how life can be fulfilling and rewarding not in spite of but because of the uncertainty. This book has been described as providing a safety net in a world of constant change.

If you prefer to listen or watch, check out Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talks on vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame and read about her research on wholeheartedness. She delivers her research with humour too! They’re all here.

4. Meditation 

During stressful times, I know I need to sit and just ‘be’, rather than giving into the temptation of running around ‘doing’. Here is a recent blog post I wrote with simple tips to get you started.

When I create space to do this, it always gives me more support. I’ve done Transcendental Meditation (TM) courses and also yogic meditation and what I love about meditation is there are no special pieces of equipment. All you need is yourself.

However, there are great benefits to community and group meditation. How about joining in a monthly session at The Loft?

5. Mindfulness training

First and foremost I took mindfulness training to help myself – but it quickly became apparent that this would be helpful for clients too.

In the early days I used a form of reward chart to track my mindfulness time: nowadays many of the practices are completely embedded in my day to day life. It’s that consistency of commitment that has made the difference.

6. Coaching

Coaching has helped me to learn how my thoughts were either supporting me or reinforcing untrue concepts I’d formed about myself from conditioning influences in my life.

Having an expert listen to my answers and then share their insights has been incredibly helpful. It’s brought about some subtle yet profound changes. My go to coach is York-based Jules Wyman who specialises in confidence.

Whatever you choose to do, remember you do have a choice about your mindset and how you spend your time. Keep your basic wellbeing foundations in place when you are feeling off balance and stressed.

Fuel yourself well, hydrate and move your body to get your hormones working. Override your brain by simply smiling which can help to release endorphins aka happy hormones!

For more tips on beating stress, check out my three-point plan here. Need support? Contact me at hello@calmworks.co.uk

As always wishing you wellness

Joe

🙂

Spring clean time: body, mind and spirit

Abdominal Massage – Calm Works

Clear out out the cupboards, fill bags for charity, empty the loft, tackle storage spaces, power through that pile of paperwork. When it comes to spring-cleaning, it’s easy to see they physical stuff (unless, of course, you choose to turn a blind eye to it and squeeze the door closed on it).

It’s not so easy to see the inner clutter we gather over time – but this can have a huge impact on how effeciently our bodily systems work.

My colleague Sally Duffin from Nutrition in York would be showing you her poo chart now. You might think it’s a bit ‘ew’ but your poo is a great indicator of whether your system is running smoothly or not.

With perfect timing, this month is IBS Awareness Month.

IBS can show itself in many symptoms, from bloating, cramps to both diarrhoea and constipation. We know stress can play a major role in the smooth runnings of our bowels – if we are feeling emotionally delicate, the guts will often be a little fragile.

A soothing abdominal massage performed with oil can really help to soothe you deeply. Letting go of tension in the guts could also help your digestive system run better – as will drinking more water and eating enough fibre.

The positive and caring touch from a massage may help to release stored tension and anxiety within the tissues. Nerve receptors in the skin communicate with the brain to release more relaxation hormones, creating a general feeling of comfort.

There is something very touching about receiving a belly massage. Essentially, this area is the centre of our being and usually stays wrapped up under layers. We rarely pay it any attention unless we have a stomach ache and that’s when we’re naturally drawn to hold and hug it, providing self care.

But why wait until you are in pain or discomfort to feel the benefits of an abdominal massage? How else might a belly massage help you?

Interestingly in yogic philosophy, the abdominal area is one of seven key energy centres (known as chakras in Sanskrit), situated along the length of the spine.

This energy centre is called the solar plexus (or manipura chakra) it is an area associated with personal power, will, joy, self confidence and the element of fire. It’s closely connected to the lumbar spine, eyesight and movement, as well the digestive organs and adrenals.

On an energetic level feeling blocked or imbalanced in your solar plexus could make you feel dis-eased, out of sorts, unhappy and lacking. Imagine how you might feel if you received a session to clear away this sort of rubbish?

Certainly regular abdominal massage can be hugely beneficial, especially when combined with self massage and guided relaxation. Occasionally, the breath may deepen during a treatment, as other tensions (physical, mental, emotional) are released. As with all treatments at The Loft, clients are in control of the session, dictating the depth and speed of how I work.

I offer bespoke abdominal massage treatments so do let me know if this is of interest to you and if you’d like to explore expert nutritional support, why not make an appointment with Sally at Nutrition in York? We can work together with you looking after your wellbeing from the inside out!  

To find out more about massage and to get in touch, click here.

20 brilliant ways to start your day

When it comes to transforming our lives, looking at the habits of successful people can be inspirational – and it’s certainly worked for me.

A while back, I came across a series of articles about how influential people began their day. It turns out they all had a routine which became their foundations for success.

From jumping into a private plunge pool to committing to a daily run, they all adopted various activities to set them up for the day – and it inspired me to gather my own selection of morning rituals.

This came at a time when I was actively looking at ways of putting metta loving kindness into practice. If you haven’t come across the concept, it involves directing loving kindness towards ourselves first, which will then ripple out to others.

As a result, my morning rituals focus on this idea – that unselfish self-care will have the happy by-product of benefiting the world around me.

As with all my practices, I do like a bit of variety, because I’m easily bored! Instead of a set routine, I choose from the following ideas and I’ve found each and every one to be genuinely beneficial.

  1. Waking wiggle

On waking, I have a wriggle and stretch, noticing how my body is feeling. Any areas feeling a little bit out of whack? Anything needing a bit more TLC? How can I ease into those areas today.

2. Steady breaths

I always take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose, with a sigh on the out breath, always noticing how my body responds. It’s important not to rush this –  just take it steady.

3. Start smiling

A great start to the day is to smile and say something I’m thankful for in my life. Not sure where to start? I have pictures of family and friends in my bedroom and crystals hanging in my window, which bounce spheres of rainbows around the room as the sun rises. It’s a magical thing to see and always raises a smile.

4. Air is energy

Opening the windows to get some fresh air circulating around your home is a simple but effective way of bringing energy into your home.

5. Morning mantras

Mantras – yogic words or sounds repeated to aid concentration in meditation – can help greatly and if you are you feeling stuck in any area of your life, feel stressed or find yourself in a negative mindset here are a couple of examples for you.

This one helps to remove obstacles, while this has a beautifully calming effect.

Want to find love? Improve your financial position? Can’t sing? Try listening to these sounds with awareness while sitting in meditation –  or have them playing in the background while you’re working.

Set a regular daily practice and notice any changes to how you feel about the situation. You might get some insights, or maybe just feel clearer.

6. Altar area

In traditional Thai homes, a small altar area is commonplace – and it’s a beautiful way of making a dedicated space in which to sit and meditate. Try making an offering with words of dedication, perhaps lighting a candle or incense.

Need help to set up a meditation practice? Come to my monthly session – click here for details.

7. Stick your tongue out

It may be prosaic but the Ayurvedic practice of tongue scraping is simple and effective. Find out more here.

8. Morning zing

All the teen magazines used to say models did this – but it turns out it really is a healthy way to start the day. Try freshly-squeezed lemon juice in hot water to cleanse and refresh.

9. Vinegar vigour

As an alternative, take apple cider vinegar with hot water and sometimes honey. Read more here.

10. Fun up your exercise

Fitness doesn’t have to be a routine. If it makes you smile, you might even do it more often! My favourites are hoola hooping, rebounding (mini trampoline), vibration plate or yoga. I just mix it up, depending on my mood. Need reasons to start? Check out this inspiration.

11. Dawn disco

I love playing upbeat dance tracks to get me bopping along. If you’ve got Spotify or Apple Music, check out their selections of themed tracks – a bit like old-fashioned mix tapes!

Most of us have sedentary lifestyles, so a bit of a boogie, working to move all your joints and get your heart pumping can be really helpful. Just try not to head bang too much!

12. Protein power

I always find eating a nutritious breakfast with added protein – perhaps peanut butter, chia seeds or eggs – gives me a real boost.

13. Vitamin verve

Making a fresh juice (get recipe inspiration here) or smoothie is a great way to get a boost of veggies and fruit. Five a day before you’ve even started.

14. Brush boost

Remember dry skin brushing? It’s still a wonderful way to boost the lymphatic system.

15. Take the plunge

If you have a plunge pool, great. I don’t think many of us do though. My alternative is a cold shower. Brrrr – but it gets the blood pumping!

16. Morning meditation

It doesn’t have to be an epic session. Just a few minutes of meditation helps refresh my mind and calm my body.

17. Massage without the masseur

Self-massage is actually a wonderful way of rejuvenating, detoxifying and stimulating your energy channels. Discover more benefits – and how to do it – here.

18. Getting practical

Less spiritual but just as important, I like to make a list of things to do – and then prioritise them. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t overburden your schedule. Make it achievable.

19. Hugs r us

Grab that morning hug – and make it last. Live alone? Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a big hug. Holding your hug for 20 seconds allows the body and breath to soften – try it with your loved ones and notice how their breathing changes.

(PS Maybe tell them beforehand, as 20 seconds can feel like an oddly long time if you’re used to a quick hug!)

20. Spread a little colour

I love wearing colourful clothes that I feel comfortable in. Uninspired by your wardrobe? Enlist the help of an image consultant (York folk should check out Jackie Crawford) for a wardrobe edit, image analysis and personal shopping – if you think it’s an unnecessary expense, think again: they’ll suggest valuable tips, helping you to spend wisely and feel better about yourself. Priceless.

As I said, I don’t do ALL of these every morning (I’d have to get up very early!) but I do select from them and have found them all to be beneficial to my wellbeing.

 

  • What about your list?

  • Which things can you include?

  • When will you start?

  • How will you track your progress?

In the past, I’ve used a weekly dry wipe board to make a note of what I get up to, so I can see when I’m getting distracted and not keeping to my regime.

Sometimes I take a day off but some things – taking cold showers, for example – have stayed. It took a while to get my body acclimatised but now I love them. They also mean I plunge straight into the sea when I’m on holiday.

It takes 66 days to create a habit so choose which one(s) you’d like to play with and gradually see how you feel. Some you might do daily, others every now and again.

I’d love to hear how you get on – and if you need support, just get in touch – it’s what I do! hello@calmworks.co.uk

Wishing you a blooming marvellous Spring!

Joe

🙂

From sketch to masterpiece: Five steps to the art of meditation

 

I like to think of meditation as similar to creating art. And like all art, mastering meditation takes time, consistency of focus, the ongoing desire to improve – and lots and lots of practice.

Also like art, meditation can be a skill you develop throughout your whole life; challenging and enriching in equal measure.

And, boy, the benefits are so worth it! With that in mind, here are my five simple steps to setting off on a lifelong love affair with meditation.

  1. Begin to understand the benefits of meditation

For me, meditation is pressing pause and taking a breather for your mind (and body).

It’s about taking a few moments to sit* ( although you can also meditate while walking or lying down) and gently observe the working of our automatic mental processing units: our minds.

After meditation, we return to our everyday lives, having given ourselves some headspace. It usually helps us to realise that our thinking minds are so often thought tornados rather than calm still water.

2. Accept that meditation isn’t easy

Who wouldn’t want to:

  • feel less negative stress
  • have less anxiety
  • reduce addictive habits
  • be more emotionally resilient?

And swap them for:

  • Being more creative
  • Achieving more
  • Feeling more confident
  • Having increased focus
  • Showing more compassion

Oh – and the last one ….. feeling happier?

Given that list, let’s face it, if it was easy, we’d all be doing it, right? And that’s the challenge more about this in number 5!

3. Look into the science behind the practice

Zoran Josipovic, from New York University, is among the scientists leading the way in exploring the reasons meditation has endured for so long, in so many cultures. His fascinating series of studies into how contemplative practices affect the brain include carrying out MRI scans on Buddhist monks.

Science still has much to understand about exactly how meditation works but scans show there’s a decrease in beta waves and a lasting drop in anxiety and rise in creativity, compassion and memory function.

It’s a great area of exploration for academics – and understanding the facts might help you convince yourself that meditation is a genuine lifelong contribution to your wellbeing.

 4. Make a start

Once you’ve made a conscious decision to commit to your mental and emotional well-being, your next steps could be to find an online guide and do it yourself, or perhaps go to a mediation class or group and sign up for a course.

It doesn’t take a huge commitment to say yes to your mental well-being and take time for you:

  • SET your timer ( I suggest starting with three minutes daily for a week, ideally at the same every day)
  • SIT, feet flat on the floor, with your eyes closed, until the alarm sounds
  • SEE how you feel

You don’t have to sit cross legged, sniffing incense and chanting (although to be honest I do like a good whiff of a joss stick).

If you need support, I offer one to one tuition combining ancient yogic philosophy and modern mindfulness skills (lots of overlap!), a monthly meditation session close to the new moon dates, as well as mini and residential retreats.

5. Find your commitment

It’s the consistency of focus that prompts many of us to make excuses not to meditate. Dare I use the ‘c’ word?

Ok here I go.

Commitment. Yes, that’s the one. Meditation takes regularity, scheduling it in as you would would a daily shower or cleaning your teeth.

It’s a great analogy actually – think about your mediation practice as a way of sieving your mental state. Like giving your brain a rinse out.

Keep up the good mental hygiene and you’re left with the real gems: a clearer mind, calmness and more productivity.

The big picture

Like all art, meditation can’t be mastered in a day. But it will reap immediate benefits and you’ll see positive improvements every step of the way.

With each practice, we slowly begin to change the way our brains work. Wherever you begin to meditate: at home, the office, in the car, alone, with the family or in a group, this little slice of kindness to yourself will help to paint a life picture that’s more harmonious.

Now is that worth three minutes every day? Be warned – it is addictive and you might find yourself sitting a little longer. Enjoy your explorations!

You’ve got my details. Drop me a line and let me know how you get on introducing yourself to meditation in 2018.

You can find me here; hello@calmworks.co.uk

07799 145548

www.calmworks.co.uk