Take a deep breath
Let’s start today by taking a lovely deep breath in, really fill your tummy full of air, pause for a moment and now slowly and gently exhale, do this 3 times before you continue reading and notice how you feel. Calmer, relaxed, more focused?
Today I have something a little different for you; I would like to set you a little challenge. It’s a 21 day challenge to finding some breathing space each day and here’s why:
Life today is pretty stressful and when you throw a couple of kids into the mix the stressometre goes up to a whole new level. For most of us we just carry on as normal, adding extra balls to juggle to our already overstretched arms and at some point sooner or later you are going to drop a ball. For me that moment came after the birth of my second daughter. Whilst pregnant I was working 24 hours a week in my office job, working on the computer until 10pm when my little one went to bed, teaching 4 antenatal/baby massage classes a week and all the other roles a wife/mother has to do. When a new baby was added to that load any chance of ‘me time’ was out of the question, add silent reflux and a baby that quite literally didn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time and I was a little wired to say the least. When my youngest daughter hit 6 months I knew something had to give, I was literally running on empty and nobody was benefiting. It’s been a 2 year journey to date and, although the steps I have implemented have been small and gradual, they have made a huge difference and I no longer feel like I’m dropping my balls *coughs*.
For 2015 I have set myself a goal to create 20 minutes a day, every day, just for me. These 20 minutes have to be spent doing something that will recharge my energy not drain it, last week I did great, every day I spent 20 minutes doing Qi Gong exercises (Qi Gong is an ancient system of exercise and breathing techniques designed to release your Chi, your live force energy) I was doing great but then a few broken night’s sleep and I missed a morning, then another and well you know the script, before long it had been a few days and I’d ‘fallen off the wagon’. This is where my 21 day challenge comes in, it has 2 main advantages.
1) It takes 21 days to form a new habit, so if you can consistently do something for 21 days it should stick for life, it doesn’t seem like a long time but I bet if you’ve ever tried to stick to something for that long you quickly fall back into old habits, and that’s because old habits are hard to break.
2) It can be hard to keep up your motivation and if you missed your morning routine it’s easy to say ‘oh I’ll just start again tomorrow’ so to help you with this I have created a secret Facebook group for those that wish to join me on this challenge. The group is designed to hold yourself accountable, when we admit publicly to people that we are going to do something we are more accountable and when you have a partner or better yet a team of people to hold us accountable it makes an even bigger difference and can keep you right on track.
So this 21 day challenge is all about finding 10 to 20 minutes in your day to fill up on your energy reserves and to commit to it for 21 days so that it becomes a new lifelong habit.
Wait I hear you ‘I don’t have 20 minutes a day’, I know I used to sing that tune too but trust me when you start feeling the benefits you will make 20 minutes a day. We often waste a lot of time purely because we don’t have the energy to do anything else but when you deliberately cultivate that energy (which can be done by just breathing!) then you start to create more energy and therefore have more time to relax because you are more productive. Its win/win we just need to get into the habit of doing it. How would you feel if you went to work and forgot to brush your teeth? You’d be licking them all day and smiling with your mouth shut, you’d be conscious of it all day long and that’s exactly how we want to feel when we forget to fill our energy tanks that day!
How to fill your tank
How you chose to spend those 10 to 20 minutes a day is up to you but trust me you don’t need to leave the house or spend a penny to do it and the health benefits are amazing. You can join me on the secret Facebook group here (sorry guys but this is a women only group) where we will all share our tips and progress and if you missed a day we can help you get back on track. Here are a few examples of ways to fill your energy tank:
- Deep breathing – there are countless health benefits to deep breathing including releasing endorphins which are our own natural painkillers and feel good hormones, I used breathing techniques alone to birth my second daughter with no other pain relief (our endorphins are 200 times stronger than morphine!!). Don’t underestimate the power of the breath, a simple inhale to the count of four, a pause to the count of 3 and then long, slow exhale to the count of 8 is amazing, try this for 10 minutes and you’ll feel the difference. Read here for 18 Benefits of deep breathing.
- Exercise – this can be as strenuous or as gentle as you like. It’s been a long time since I included any exercise in my life so I prefer gentle movement like yoga or Qi Gong, if you don’t already have one get yourself a DVD you can do at home. If the kids are still small or exercise isn’t your thing (hands up that’s me) then you may have to push yourself on this one, but it wouldn’t be a challenge otherwise. Last week I spent 20 minutes each day doing Qi Gong and I really felt the difference, it was subtle but I felt more calm and centred. These things can take time before we notice big changes so we have to persist, I’m the kind of person who likes immediate results; if I haven’t lost a pound after a workout I’m disheartened! But those 10 minutes a day add up and after a month or so you will notice a huge difference in your mood, your physical body and your sleep.
- Meditation – Google the benefits of meditation and the lists are endless! This study shows how meditation literally increase gray matter in the brain involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking. Ironically we often over think meditation but it’s simple just spend 10 to 15 minutes monitoring your thoughts, don’t try to stop yourself thinking which is like trying to stop breathing, just see what thoughts come to mind. This type of mindfulness allows you to acknowledge what comes up but then let it go, imagine putting the thought in an envelope and posting it or, inspired by the image for this blog, imagine holding the thought like a butterfly and then releasing it so you are both free. Think of meditation as a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.
Those are just 3 simple examples to get you started, you could take a bubble bath, read a life-affirming book or go for a walk, just make sure it’s something that fills your energy tank and doesn’t drain it (watching TV and drinking alcohol don’t count!).
Are you with me?
So are you with me? Are you ready to take time each day to fill your energy tank so you no longer feel like you’re running on empty? When you take time to nurture yourself everyone around you will benefit, we need to make self-care a daily habit, you wouldn’t neglect your child’s daily needs so you shouldn’t neglect yours either. Let’s make 2015 our best yet!
Join the secret Facebook group here and take the 21 day Breathing space challenge, we start on Monday 19th January. Self-care isn’t just another thing to add to your to do list, it’s the one thing that will make that otherwise endless list seem doable! Let’s do it together x
With love and deep breaths
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkadog/6958006653/”>Beverly & Pack</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>