Just breathe.

…most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Put your hand on your chest. Feel it rise and fall as you inhale and exhale? That’s not

diaphragm

good. Most of us don’t breathe well. Most of us, most of the time, breathe shallow from our chest. Our lungs are located lower, and under our lungs is a muscle called the diaphragm.

I teach my clients something called Diaphragmatic Breathing. When we do this, the diaphragm contracts, the chest does not rise, but your belly rises and you can feel your lungs expand. This type of breathing is a natural, relaxed form of breathing in all mammals. This is how we should be breathing when we are relaxed and there is no present danger or threat. When we perceive danger or threat, we breathe shallow and fast…like an anxiety attack for instance. But, most of us have become so accustomed to breathing shallow, because we live very stressful lives, that the only time we are breathing diaphragmatically, is when we are sleeping.

Belly breathing maximizes the amount of oxygen that goes into our blood. This in turn circulates more oxygen to our muscles, organs and brain. The benefits can include improved lung function, improved heart function, relaxation, slowing of your heart rate, anxiety and stress management and reduction, lowering blood pressure, centering yourself, emotional regulation, self-soothing and calming the chaos in your brain, just to name a few. By practicing regularly, you can calm yourself with only one or two breaths. I’ve been practicing belly breathing for about 7 years now and can usually take one or two breaths and my body responds.

I teach this to nearly every patient I have. So, I thought it might be helpful for you. I’m going to teach you the basic tenets and you can practice it and let me know in the comments what you think of it. You want to breathe deep from your diaphragm (or belly). Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly. You will feel your belly rise and your lungs expand. Then exhale it all out through your mouth. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth and make these the same amount of time. So if you count as you inhale, “1…2…3…4…5” you would count as you exhale “1…2…3…4…5”. Make sense? Great!

distracted

When I was first learning this skill, my mind would wander. And no matter how much I focused on the breathing or on the counting, my mind wandered. What did I need to get at Target later? Whose birthday is next? Why did Game of Thrones end? How did Game of Thrones end? How much of a telephone pole is in the ground? You see? It was a problem. But, I found out that if I had a visual image I could focus on that. My visual was the numbers as I counted. My numbers look like black house numbers you buy at the hardware store. Your numbers could look like clouds or be colors or whatever works for you.

If you try to ignore a distracting thought, it just knocks louder on the door. It’s best to acknowledge the thought and then go back to focusing on the breathing, or the counting or the numbers. Something like this, “Oops, I can think about my Target list later, now I’m going to focus on my breathing.” then let the distracting thought pass through your mind and refocus. It’s more difficult at first, but it gets easier the more you practice.

Some patients imagine inhaling a warm light, or peace, calm, love, (positive things) and then exhaling chaos, darkness, sadness, anxiety. Try this. Use it if it works for you and don’t if it doesn’t. Practice at least 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time. Set a timer so you aren’t distracted by the clock. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and give it a try. When you need to use it, you will be surprised how fast your body responds after practicing for awhile. Let me know in the comments how it goes for you! Happy breathing!

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous!

Jules

So….I’m valuable.

If they have no perceived power over our value, then we no longer have the need to beg, coerce, manipulate, or perform for them.

I pulled a crisp new twenty dollar bill from my wallet. She watched me quietly. “How much is this worth?” I asked. “Twenty dollars.” she replied. I crumpled it up in my hand. “How much is this worth?” I asked again. “Still twenty dollars.” she said with a quizzical look. I threw it on the floor and enthusiastically stomped on it. “How much now?”. “Still twenty.” she20.jpg smiled this time knowing where I was going. I took the twenty and carefully straightened it out. “It’s a little bit weathered now, from all the mistreatment, but it’s value is still the same. This is you.” I held out the twenty with the wrinkles and creases. She teared up. “You are so valuable. You hold so much worth. And yes, some people in your life haven’t recognized that. Some people have crumpled you up and stomped on you. But it didn’t change your worth. It didn’t change your value. It says more about them then it says about you.” We sat in silence while she contemplated my illustration. She cried quietly. I waited silently, giving her space to experience her emotions. “No one has ever told me that.” she said. “I always thought that if someone rejected me it meant there is something wrong with me.” She sat quietly again. Then she whispered, “But it doesn’t have to does it?” I smiled as I could see her rolling new thoughts around, trying them on like a new outfit, turning this way and that as she formed an opinion on them.

When we let the opinions of others form our opinion of our self, we are in danger of our value being determined by the acceptance or rejection they give us. There is internal validation and external validation. Internal validation come from inside us. It’s our own knowledge of who we are, good and bad, and our acceptance of that. External validation comes from outside of us. It’s the opinions of others based on our looks, our opinions, our performance, our actions, etc. We are a culture of judges. We feel we have the right to judge others constantly. I do it. I comment on people on TV, on their actions, their outfits, their opinions. Isn’t that the point of reality TV? To make us all judges? I don’t do it as often in real life. I’m pretty okay with letting others be who they are, but it’s not always easy. As a friend once told me, “I’m aware of my faults and I’m working on them.”

We all want positive external validation. It’s human nature. An acknowledgement of our effort, a compliment on our looks, a respect for our opinion, appreciation of our work. It feels really good. But what if we don’t receive it? Or even worse, what if we are rejected? I’ve been rejected. It hurts. It can make us question ourselves. It can make us lose our confidence. It can make us feel worthless and fragile. But it doesn’t have to does it?

If you can do the work to honestly know who you are, not the you meeting others expectations, not the you on social media, not the you that’s your front, but the authentic you. with all your imperfections and quirks and awesome qualities. If you do the workmirror.gif and face who you are, and become friends with that you, and accept yourself completely, no one can make you feel worthless again. Your value is then based on your internal validation. If external validation comes, YAY! soak it in, delight in the feeling. But, if no validation comes, or rejection comes, you will know that you are still the same person, and that rejection takes nothing away from who you are. It still hurts, but it doesn’t destroy.  You’ll be a bit more weathered from all the mistreatment, but your value will remain the same.

Once we are able to accept who we are, we can let others be who they are. We no longer need others to agree with us, because it’s no threat to our worth if they don’t. It frees us up to experience others in a new way, not needing anything from them. If they have no perceived power over our value, then we no longer have the need to beg, coerce, manipulate, or perform for them. We can enjoy others with no fear.  And that is a beautiful way to live your life.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m…a mom

“Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time.”

(Disclaimer…I know there are lots of daddies that show up as well, but only having experience of a mama, I speak from that. If you are a daddy and this applies to you, share it with your daddy friends.)

My son surprised me. He likes to do this. He said he wasn’t coming home for Christmas and I have been cursing the Army for a month for keeping both my boys from me. Thursday morning the doorbell rang and there he was, with his wife and kids, and I was totally confused. I was thrilled, but so confused. He showed up and all my sadness was gone. Those sweet baby kisses came, and I forgot all the days I had cried over them not coming home.

This post is for all you mamas who are especially busy this time of year. All of you who feel mommy guilt for not getting it all done. The ones worrying about not getting every teacher a gift, and decorating cookies with the kids like Pinterest. For all of you who are lucky to get all the gifts wrapped, let alone put bows and tags on them. For all of you that worry your kid will be scarred for life because you didn’t watch Christmas movies in matching jammies and write letters to Santa.

You worry about getting the presents they want, making the money work, getting to the programs at school and church. You go to the store with toddlers and babies to buy gifts, because finding a babysitter costs too much. You have to remember a million things, and then your second grader says they need a reindeer headband the next morning at school.

Mamas worry about everything all year. Mamas worry more at Christmas time. So many celebrations, so many places to take the kids and get them off their schedules. So many opportunities to feed into our mama insecurities.  I know. I was you. I remember.

You’ve never heard what I’m going to say. I’m going to tell you what Christmas is about. It’s about God showing up. It’s about God saying “I’m coming to you.” and then showing up. That tiny baby in the manger was God, choosing to be human, choosing to depend on humans for his life, choosing to experience all we humans experience, because of his love for us. He’s a great father.

Mamas, hear what I’m saying to you. Kids know who shows up. They know who is there every single day, listening, reading their favorite book for the 36th time, feeding them, taking them places, kissing boo-boos and healing broken hearts. Laughing and celebrating and having impromptu dance parties. They may be disappointed Christmas day if they don’t get the toy on the top of the list, but you show up every day, and that makes all the difference.  You show up. You’re a great mama. You show up, out of your love for your children, just like God.

Be kind to yourself this season. Give yourself credit for showing up the other 364 days, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to make this one day perfect. Because it won’t be. Do what you can, and enjoy the time with your family. My 85 year old mom tells me often “The days go slow, but the years go fast. Enjoy your moments.” Merry Christmas mama❤

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m freaking out…

Superman left for boot camp January 17. I’ve heard from him a couple of times while he was in reception, but I know from last year when Bear went to boot camp, that now I won’t hear from him again until I get a letter. Every day I check the mail, telling myself not to expect anything, but in my mommy heart I can’t help it. I hope there is a letter. At times my mind gets the best of me and I find myself imagining all kinds of not so pleasant scenarios that my army boy might be finding himself in. If I let my emotions take control, I could get pretty worked up. If I take control of my emotions, I control the fear and anxiety and it doesn’t have any power.

“But Jules, I can’t control my fear, it takes over and I can’t do anything about it!” I hear ya. I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in that same state of fear and anxiety. I’ve had anxiety attacks. I get it. Then I learned that I can control it! So can you!  Sound ridiculous? Read on…

solutionAnxiety is a state of fear. Fear is an emotion. Our emotions are controlled by a couple of things. 1. Our thoughts and words. Let’s say every time you get in your car you get anxious. First identify what you are afraid of and what your thoughts are. Then exchange those fearful/negative thoughts for empowering/positive thoughts. Write your new thoughts on post it notes and put them on the dash of the car. “I’m capable.” “I’m a safe driver.” “I can do this.” Every time you have a fearful thought, replace it by reading/speaking/thinking an empowering thought. The cool thing is you don’t even have to believe it! You are simply creating a new neuropathway in your brain, and eventually the empowering thought will become your default.

2. Our body. What is the first sign in your body that you are getting anxious? Maybe your heart or breathing speeds up. Maybe you clench your jaw. Maybe your hands get tingly. Whatever it is notice it. As soon as you feel the first sign, try a grounding technique using your senses. Find something to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Rub your jeans with your hands, focus on a something you can see, what can you hear, taste something strong like peppermint or cinnamon gum, hold an ice cube, smell some lotion or oil. Using your senses will help bring you into the present moment and calm your body. Take a few deep breaths and use your empowering thoughts.

There are a couple of other good tools I will give you for anxiety attacks. 1. Ask yourself anxiety“What’s the worst that will happen?” Often the worst that our emotional brain has us thinking, isn’t so bad once we say it out loud. Once we hear it spoken we realize that we can deal with it. 2. Use 1-100 thinking. Ask yourself “1-100 how likely is my fear to actually happen today?” Often our logical brain helps us realize that it’s not too likely, and it can help decrease your fear and let it go. If it is likely to happen, make a plan and take control of what you can control.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it doesn’t take hard work and practice. I’m just saying that it’s possible. I’d love to talk to you more about controlling your anxiety. Contact me for an appointment in the Kansas City area.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules