A health and wellness expert based in Manchester, shares some of her own mindfulness practices to help deal with feelings of stress, loneliness and anxiety.
When we live in this state of high stress it can wear on our body and mind. Rather than resisting the circumstances and creating even more unnecessary stress for yourself, use this as an opportunity. An opportunity to tend to yourself. An opportunity to clean your space, both external and internal. An opportunity to slow down and relax your nervous system so that it can enter a state of rest and repair. As we look to a new year, let’s pause, reflect and embrace tools for mindfulness, expansion and self-care.
Here are a few practices that you can use:
Writing is a healthy outlet to release our inner dialogue. With a stream-of-consciousness style of writing we can purge our thoughts before the start of the day and let go of them at the end of it.
It will also help bring your hopes, dreams, fears and confusions into focus and point us toward areas that need attention.
While some people may use the journaling to face an issue, others may find that writing leads them towards dreams they had never articulated.
Through a journaling practice we are called to look into our own darkness, reconnect with our inner world and find comfort within ourselves. Use the pages to express your fears, get them out of your body and onto paper.
If you need guidance, my morning pages include three questions:
Quite often the only thing holding us back is ourselves – release those unhelpful thoughts to make space for new ideas and opportunities.
Spread thanks for all of the heartwarming things that you have in your life. Because when you focus on the good, the good gets better.
What relationships do you want to commit to nurturing today, including the one with yourself. Where will you positively channel energy?
My evening pages include three questions:
But you can have your journal be about anything you want really. Give yourself permission to write. The more you practice, the more fluid it becomes.
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Most people presume that meditation is about stopping thoughts, but actually it’s about noticing thoughts without judgement. In doing so, you reduce stress and increase focus. Plus, there are so many beautiful ways to meditate and I invite you to try a mini meditation that can be practiced anywhere, any time:
1. Focus on your breath
Focus your full attention to all of the sensations of breathing. The air moving in through your nose, running down the back of the throat, filling and expanding the lungs… follow the breath out, and feel the subtle whisper of wind on your upper lip and the torso contracts, expelling the air from the lungs.
2. Body scan
With your eyes either open or closed, imagine a bright, white light moving through all parts of your body. Focus your attention on the sensation of your body, as you move your awareness from the tips of your toes, up the legs, hips, spine, fingers to collarbones, up the neck, noticing each part of the face, all the way up to the crown of your head, until your whole body is illuminated in healing white light.
Bring your awareness to any sensations you can feel in your body. A good starting point is in the palms of the hands. You might feel a gentle pulsation. Use your imagination to expand this sensation all the way through the body. You can also pay attention to the beat of your heart. Maybe you feel it in your ears, or belly. Stay with the sensation as long as you can.
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Stagnation can breed disease and being sedentary will only set an example for a sedentary mind. Move your body for at least 30 minutes every day. It can be as simple as stretching on your living room floor or taking a walk. Moving your body releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that make us happy. Create your own happiness by trying these three yoga poses:
Cat-Cow is a gentle flow between two poses that warms the body and brings flexibility to the spine. It stretches the back torso and neck, and softly stimulates and strengthens the abdominal organs. Coordinating this movement with your breathing relieves stress and calms the mind.
Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor.
As you inhale, you breath into Cat Pose- as you lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight forward. As you exhale, Cow Pose – round your spine toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Repeat this sequence infused with the breath five times.
2. Sun salutation
To begin, stand in Tadasana Pose where you distribute your weight evenly over both feet. Establish a slow, steady rhythm for your breath. Find your center.
Next, inhale and stretch your arms out to the side and overhead. Reach your heart and arms to the sky sending your greeting to the sun. As you exhale, hollow out your belly and fold forward. Connecting down into the earth. Relaxing your head and keeping your legs engaged.
Repeat this sequence five times and each time you flow through this sequence, synchronise your breath with the movements of your body to bring you into a greater sense of presence and ease.
3. Legs up the wall pose
A passive pose to restore the nervous system. Where you encourage your sitting bones close to a wall and rest your legs, inverted. This action will allow the blood circulation a gentle boost toward the upper body and head, which creates a pleasant rebalancing after you have been standing or sitting for a long time. If you are stressed or fatigued this pose is especially refreshing and relaxing.
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