stress

Meditation To Reduce Stress

Meditation

By Kristi Ketz

"I don’t like coming and going….I like being.”

What a profound quote!! Don’t ya think? Sounds kind of nice. Is it possible to drop into “being” while still coming and going? That is what I’m trying to do. Because as a multi-passionate entrepreneur, helper, and mom of two awesome little girls, I do a
lot of coming and going. Wait! Back to the quote. Who said that? ME at age 10!!! Apparently I said this on a 12-hour car trip to Florida during our annual family beach vacation when I was 12. I assume I was pretty miserable in the car when I said that! My dad thought it was so
clever that he sent my quote to the Christian Science Monitor where it was published. I must have had a little voice inside all of those years ago that knew the focus on going and coming took away the peace of being. Since that time I have done ANYTHING BUT BE. It was only until I was much older and in my late 30s that I discovered meditation. My first serious introduction was a nine-day mindfulness meditation retreat/training with Jon Kabat-Zinn in 2008. He is largely responsible for brining mindfulness meditation into Western medicine. I
later attended another nine-day retreat/training with his associates from the University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Program. I have seen the research and have reaped the personal benefits of using meditation to reduce stress and even lowering my blood pressure throughout the labor process with my second daughter. As much as I believe in meditation to reduce stress (and the many other benefits), I
continue to have a really hard time “being”. I still don’t enjoy “going and coming” but that is where I seem to stay much of the time. To-do lists, plans, goals, routines, time management, stress, busyness, feeling frazzled, and on and on. I say I want “to be” but if you looked at my life much of the time you would see a person frantically running from one thing to the next. You would see a person who says “yes” to too
many things. You would see a person looking scattered and unorganised. I claim that I love to relax and slow down but when I do I either feel bored, worry about all of my to-dos, and/or feel guilt for not being productive. I know that I’m not the only one who knows the value of meditation and has difficulty incorporating it into their daily life.

Meditation & Stress

My Meditation Practice and Barriers to Practice
Do I meditate daily? No? I really have been trying. And it helps. It makes a huge difference in my feeling of calm and peace. So, I’ve been meditating much more regularly in the last few months. It is AMAZING how even two minutes can change my mood, outlook, and how my body feels (immediate relaxation, decreased heart rate when stressed, less muscle tension). It really is a quick fix when I use meditation to reduce stress.

With these benefits, why would I have a problem regularly meditating? I don’t think I’m unique. I’ve neglected meditation because “I’M TOO BUSY!!” I’m on a time crunch and have these phone calls, emails, and texts I need to address. There are dishes in the sink and laundry on the couch. These tasks have a visible outcome - I can see the checkmark on my to-do list and know that I am moving forward. The problem is as I check one thing off the list, then more things get added. The list will never end. I have learned that I can spend my days being a slave to the never-ending list or I can take time for myself and my mental and physical health. As I heard Tony Robbins once say, if you don’t have 10 minutes a day you don’t have a life. Good point. If I don’t have 10 minutes a day to use meditation to reduce stress, then I’m really in trouble. So, I’ve been trying.

The Science Behind Meditation to Reduce Stress
I love the science behind meditation. In the past, I saw it as woo woo but there are physical and physiological changes in the body when we meditate. Like……

1. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital Study showed THE BRAIN CAN CHANGE FOLLOWING MEDITATION. Wow!!! Here’s what can change….there is thickening in the parts of the brain associated with learning, memory, and executive decision making. Who doesn’t need a boost in these areas? Also, certain parts of the brain get thinner (the amygdala in particular). This is an exciting finding to me because the amygdala is associated with threat, fear, and anxiety. I’ve dealt with enough anxiety for a lifetime, so if that part of my brain can change in the right direction, I’m all for it.
2. A study from the University of Wisconsin showed a shift in activity in the pre- frontal cortex in locations related to the processing of emotion when under stress. The group that meditated had shifts in activity from more right-sided activity to left-sided activity. Prior to this study, it was thought that the right/left activity in this part of the brain was a fixed trait and that by adulthood you were who you were….nervous or calm. So thankful that does not turn out to be true!!
3. The same study found that those in the meditation group had a better immune response when given the flu shot. As someone who has historically gotten sick after times of stress, wow!! I am all for meditation to reduce stress! I am. I really am. Despite my trying to find every reason in the book to do something else.
4. There was another study with patients with psoriasis who had to have light therapy (which can then lead to skin cancer). The study found that those who meditated during treatment healed four times faster and therefore were able to discontinue the therapy sooner and thereby decreased their risk of skin cancer.

So, How Do I Meditate to Reduce Stress?
In my meditation training, I have learned that in addition to formal meditation there is informal meditation. Informal meditation is what I work toward in the hours and moments that I am not sitting doing a formal meditation. It’s a way of life. A way of being. It is not natural for me. It’s basically being 100% there in the present moment. So, if I’m folding laundry. I’m folding laundry….not thinking about what I am going to do next or what I didn’t get completed today. If I’m watching my girls’ favorite t.v. show with them, my eyes and ears (and brain) are also on the show and not on my phone scrolling Facebook. I’m not reviewing my to-do list in my head while appearing to be paying attention to the show. The more I can do this the more relaxed and calm I feel. I work on awareness of where my thoughts go and repeatedly bring them back to the moment. The thoughts are what are stressful. Either a sad memory. Or a big project that feels overwhelming. Anxiety about something in the future. This letting go and returning to the moment isn’t easy. It feels like a magnet pulling my mind down the rabbit hole of old, persistent thoughts. It is difficult to pull away from those thoughts but is becoming easier with mindfulness meditation. In our fast-paced world we feel we need to be doing, doing, doing. To get ahead. Or sometimes just to stay above water. But, in actuality, it is a pretty well-known fact that if we can “do” less and recharge ourselves, we can then accomplish more in less time. This also applies to multi-tasking. Mindfulness meditation has taught me that by focusing on one task and staying present, I have less stress and am able to complete the task sooner than doing several things at once (like writing an article, working on laundry, and doing the dishes all at once).

So, How Do You Start Using Meditation to Reduce Stress?
As hard as I’ve made it (and I know I’m not alone), meditation is very easy to start. You don’t need any equipment, just the willingness to sit down, be still, and continually redirect your thoughts to the present moment. There are various free apps that provide guided meditations. Feel free to message me for my favorites. I also have a free one available on my website. You can also just set a timer on your phone for as long as you want. One minute to one hour. It doesn’t matter. During that time, just sit down or lie down and pay attention to where your thoughts go and return them to the present. For me, the breath is the easiest anchor point. It’s OK when your mind wanders off because it will. I was taught that being dead is the only way to keep your mind in one place. So, don’t be disappointed when yours doesn’t
stay there. The benefits come from RETURNING your mind to the present not KEEPING it in the present. So, each time you catch it “out there”, congratulate yourself and return it to the present. I’d love to hear from you and see how your practice is going. I’m happy to answer
any questions as you practice.

Managing Stress & Anxiety Whilst Running Your Own Business

By Amanda Cavallaro

‘Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle’ – Bill Phillips

Business, can be both an empowering experience and a battle of stress and uncertainty all at the same time. The stress of growing your business and the day to day tasks that come with it, the ongoing uncertainties of ‘will I make enough money’, balancing work/life commitments whilst maintaining your own health and self-care. Stress is common amongst entrepreneur’s and surprisingly the right amount in short bursts CAN be healthy for a business, it can help you stay more alert and improve performance levels! Unfortunately, when stress turns into anxiety is when it can become a detriment to your health, emotional wellbeing and business.

There is no doubt that running your own business can be a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, fears and stresses. The key to stress is not only learning how to handle it but also learning how to channel that stress and anxiety into a positive driving force and energy to fuel creativity, passion and innovation throughout your business. There are several challenges that come with running your own business such as, workload, staff and customer management, maintaining a Healthy Balance (Home/Work), financial Stressors and a change of conditions (Product demand, Environmental and External factors). These challenges can often result in prolonged stress and anxiety which can appear in both physical and non-physical ways in the body. Here are some common (although not restricted to) signs to look out for..

  • Feelings of Overwhelm

  • Frustration

  • Irritability

  • Fatigue

  • Loss or change in appetite

  • Problems sleeping

  • Headaches, muscle tension

  • Decrease in Immune System (find yourself getting sick more often)

  • Nausea

  • Constipation/Diarrhea

  • Racing heart

  • Feelings of Unhappiness

  • Feelings of Guilt

  • Constant Negative Thinking

  • Memory Loss

Symptoms differ from person to person, I guess it’s fair to say that we all deal with pressure, stress and anxiety so differently. Each individual will notice they experience those symptoms with different intensities and frequencies. So, what do I do if I am feeling this way I hear you ask??? Below I have included some of my Top Tips to help you better manage your stress and anxiety whilst running your business and improve your performance.

1. Have realistic expectations of yourself and the business.
As we all know we are so hard on ourselves! Ensuring you set realistic expectations of yourself as well as the performance of your business will minimize guilt and disappointment. The key here is to set goals or have expectations that are realistic and within the capabilities of you and your business. Be specific when setting goals this allows them to be more measurable and as a result more achievable.      

2. Celebrate your Wins
We are so quick to mourn our losses or focus on our stressors that we often forget to celebrate our wins. It is so important to be mindful of this rather than being caught up in the moment and automatically placing your focus on the next task. Your wins big or small are just as important to fuss over as your ‘losses’, it can be motivating and a great way to remind you to focus on the positive elements rather than the negative. This can be something simple you do for yourself and or your staff (such as going for lunch).

3. Sleep and Eating
The importance of good Sleep is underrated in our go-getter society. Sleep is not only crucial for our day to day functioning and health, but also our bodies way of having some time out to heal and re focus. Lack of sleep not only heightens your anxiety, impairs your judgement and affects your memory but also lowers your immune system. A good balanced diet is also another essential to your health, wellbeing and performance. It can be very easy to skip meals and survive on caffeine when busy with work. It’s sometimes so much more convienent to just reach for the easy option... or even at times nothing at all! Food preparation is great for those busy days, having easy on hand snacks to munch on (such as fruit, healthy dips and vegie sticks, prepared salads etc.). H2O is also another important one, keep a bottle at your desk as a reminder and be creative by adding fruit and fresh herbs such as mint to your water to make it more tasty and exciting!

4. Communication is Key!
If you have staff working with you in your business, communication is key! Discuss an open communication channel to allow everyone to be free to discuss concerns or worries they may have or you may want to bring up in relation to their work. Being open with each other reduces the anxiety and apprehension that sometimes comes along with dealing with disagreements or not seeing eye to eye. As a business owner, it is also very beneficial to have someone to regularly talk to such as a close friend or relative or even a business coach, psychologist or counsellor.

5. Maintain a healthy Work Life Balance
The temptation to give up all your time and energy and place it in to your business when it’s your own is very common amongst business owners. You want to do the best you can and give it your all. This can result in long work hours at the sacrifice of your family and heath. It is super important to set healthy boundaries in order to maintain a good balance between work and home life to prevent burnout, especially when working from home. Some of these boundaries may include setting specific work hours (9am-5pm) and then no work-related calls or emails after that time or setting aside allocated time to work on answering emails etc. out of those hours. One of those boundaries may include having weekends off to spend with friends and family or just time for you to unwind and re energise for the week ahead. Be sure to look out for warning signs and act accordingly.

6. Keep Active
Physical exercise is not only good for our physical wellbeing but also our emotional and mental wellbeing. It produces all those happy hormones we LOVE and gives us more energy. It is important to keep active especially if you are stuck behind a desk or computer all day. Get in the habit of scheduling time in your week for a walk, jog or even a class of your choice to get those muscles moving!  

7. Take a Break
We are working harder than ever and unfortunately it is at the cost of our physical and mental health! Just because it is YOUR business and there is no one there telling you to go and have some lunch or take a simple break, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it – be sure to take a lunch break and schedule time throughout your day even if it is 10 min time slots to stretch or go for a quick walk. We all know the feeling of a mind block, sometimes a quick change in environment gets those creative juices flowing again and gives you the recharge you need to keep powering through!

Many of us go by the concept that if our business is not the TOP priority in our lives we are not doing everything we can to make it successful. That we are in a sense ‘neglecting’ something that could be ‘better’ or ‘more’ amazing than we could ever imagine. The matter really isn’t that at all, the reality is that by making our selves the top priority in our lives, our business as a result will flourish.  

Amanda Cavallaro is a Anxiety Coach, Mum and face behind The Anxiety Wellness Queen. She is passionate about reducing the stigma associated with mental health and making a difference in the management and approach to treating anxiety. Amanda loves to travel and cook, she find it very relaxing and therapeutic. In the last 2 years her business has moved solely online and now works with clients all over Australia via phone and skype to manage their anxieties. Amanda has recently started a blog to share her knowledge and passion with the world.  You can find her on Facebook or Instagram.

Photo by Verena Yunita Yapi on Unsplash

Managing Overwhelm And Finding Your Zen

By Paula Bailey

Respond to emails. Create new content. Brief VA. Develop new product. Make sales target. Check client agreements. Tweet this. Automate that.

Business can be so busy and so very overwhelming at times!

Ever find yourself in a big mess by mid morning, stressed out by what to do next because everything seems to be vying for your attention and feeling like you’re almost frozen by the overwhelm of it all?

You are not alone! After years of dealing with these feelings myself and now helping other ambitious business owners also conquer the emotional rollercoaster that is running business, I have some key tips for managing the overwhelm and elegantly bringing some zen into your busy day.

Seek First To Understand
Understand what overwhelm is. When we feel the tendrils of anxiety slowing curling around our gut it’s useful to know that overwhelm is really your mind projecting you into a future - a future that doesn’t even exist yet. A future that doesn’t ever have to exist either. Accepting this without judgement on yourself opens the gateway to being able to glide through those moments in business.

Play Observer
Rise above it. With your new knowledge of what overwhelm is, if you catch yourself going ’there’ change it up. Rather than living in it and letting your mind run rampant, rise above it. Literally. Imagine yourself in the clouds. Rise above your body for a moment and look down at  yourself. Play observer. Notice that you are not really in this non existent future and that you can choose to remain present.

Follow These Steps
Now that you are a little more present, follow these steps to move from chaos to zen.

  1. Be Still: Cease everything you are doing in that moment

  2. Now: Feel the seat beneath your bottom. Feel the floor beneath your feet.

  3. Breathe: As you tune into these sensations, slow your breathing down. Take a deep breath in, BIG breath out. Inhale, then exhale….

  4. Gratitude: As you notice the seat and floor beneath you, acknowledge the support they give you. Tune into the infinite support that is around your every second of your day.

  5. Reflect: Keep breathing and your reflect on this moment now. This perfect, now,  silent moment.

  6. Ask: What do I move forward on next? Choose one small thing that you can complete today. Begin it now with the commitment to complete it today.

  7. Peace: Continue on with your day knowing that you can come back to this now moment any time you need by using these simple steps.

I hope this helps to provide mindful peace in those times when business seems to be chaotic and overwhelming. Remember you always have all the resources you need to be make your awesome business the success you desire!

Paula Bailey is a mindset and performance expert for ambitious women in business. Known a the ‘Sassy CEO Strategic Planning Queen’, she teaches her clients how to build and scale their businesses using a unique mixture of mindset, consciousness, performance and planning strategies based on the fastest start companies on the planet. You can find her at paulabaileylive.com

Is Stress Preventing You From Growing Your Business?

stress-and-business

By Kelly LeGendre

Yeah, I already know what you're thinking... ANOTHER article telling me how stress is ruining my life? I mean, that's all well and good, but between deadlines, a never ending to-do list, and an overbearing mother-in-law who just decided to drop in for the weekend, what exactly is a girl supposed to do?

I know it can be easy to gloss over stress-reduction recommendations when you're thinking of stress as something that might/maybe someday impact your health in a negative way. What I think a lot of women don't realize is that stress can have huge impact on your hormonal health and quality of life in the here and now. 

In my day-to-day life, I work with women who want to naturally increase their fertility. And most of them are totally clueless when it comes to all the ways stress is keeping them from getting pregnant. But when you take a look at the physiology, it's not surprising that so many busy, professional women are having trouble conceiving these days.

In fact, while I know it might sound crazy at first blush, the effect stress has on your hormones is so far-reaching that it might even be derailing your efforts to sustain and grow your business. Seriously.

When you experience stress, whether it be mental, emotional, or physical, your body starts pumping out three hormones: cortisol, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and norepinephrine. Cortisol is the one we're concerned with here, and since most of us are living lives where stress is pretty much a constant in one form or another, our bodies are continually manufacturing cortisol. 

This means trouble on two fronts. 

First, it can be difficult for your body to keep up with the demand. Cortisol is made from a precursor hormone called pregnenolone, which is also used to manufacture progesterone. Cortisol is more essential to your immediate survival when you're facing a potential life-threatening emergency (say, running for your life), so when your body starts running low it begins to shunt all available pregnenolone away from making progesterone and into manufacturing more cortisol. The end result? You end up low on progesterone and other critical sex hormones.

Next, while epinephrine and norepinephrine dissipate rather quickly, cortisol tends to linger in your body and cause all sorts of problems, even after the immediate stress is resolved. One of the side effects of elevated cortisol is insulin resistance—an attempt by your body to keep quickly useable fuel in circulation for when the whole running-for-your-life thing starts. 

This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, but since stress these days is much more likely to come from a looming deadline than a looming predator (and unfortunately, your body doesn't know the difference), cortisol induced insulin resistance just further whacks out your hormones and sends you on your way toward metabolic syndrome and, eventually, type II diabetes.

I'm sure you're wondering what all of this has to do with running your business...

Well, in addition to a lot of the symptoms normally associated with wonky hormone levels (rough periods, infertility, etc) low progesterone levels can also be responsible for things like anxiety, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. And cortisol is even worse. If you ever find yourself feeling distracted, overcome with negativity, thinking everything feels harder than it should be, worrying about things out of your control, or crying for no reason, it's likely that unbalanced cortisol is to blame. High cortisol can also decimate your memory and make you feel like you're constantly fighting an uphill battle to get things done.

Basically, unbalanced hormones make life (not to mention running a business) feel a million times harder than it needs to.

So what's the solution? You obviously can't completely eliminate stress from your life, so it's all about minimizing what you can and finding better ways to deal with what's left.

The first step is offloading. Make a list of all the tasks you deal with in your business and your home life in a typical week—is there anything you can delegate? So much of the work we do is just busy work and when push comes to shove there are always things that can be eliminated or consolidated. 

If you find you're getting overloaded with menial business tasks, maybe it's time to hire a VA. If you're spending too much time on domestic work, consider hiring a housekeeper a couple times a month. Anything that can free up some extra time and brainpower is a worthy expense.

Once you've eliminated what you can, the next step is finding a way to reduce the remaining stress you can't avoid. When we work for ourselves, it's all too easy to let our other interests fall to the wayside. Take some time everyday to do something (non-business related!) just for yourself. Block out a half an hour to read a book, take a walk, or do whatever it is that makes you feel more you.

Then of course, there are the two things that every single article ever written on stress reduction wants you take up—yoga and meditation.

I wish I could disagree, but the truth is that there's a reason they've become cliches. One of the reasons they're so effective is that they can not only help you de-stress while you're practicing, but both actually train you deal with stress more effectively in your day-to-day life as well.

By slowing down and forcing yourself to sit and just chill with your crazy thoughts (or even physical discomfort) without distractions, you become more familiar with the way your mind reacts to stressful situations. And once you're able to recognize those reactions during your practice, it becomes a million times easier to spot and calmly defuse them in the wild.

Mindfulness meditation is the gold standard for learning to calm your mind, but if you've a true beginner, guided meditations are a really accessible entry into the practice. In most, a speaker leads you through progressively relaxing your entire body and then usually gives suggestions for releasing stressful thoughts. 

Try googling “guided meditation for stress” or “progressive relaxation” and listen to a few to find one or two that you like. Make time each day to practice each day—I personally like to listen to guided meditations while relaxing in bed before falling asleep. When you start to fall in love with meditation (and I promise you will if you start with this type), then try taking it up a notch with a mindfulness or mantra-based practice. There's a ton of info to be found online about both.

Finally, herbal support can be a godsend when it comes to managing stress. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, eleuthero, rhodiola rosea, holy basil, and astragalus can help moderate your body's stress response and regulate cortisol production. I recommend supplements that include a blend of adaptogenic herbs, with my personal favorite being one called Adrenal Response, made by Innate Response.

So eliminate as much stress as possible first, find ways to deal with the rest, and then consider an herbal formula if necessary. If you learn make stress-management a priority, I promise you'll not only feel a million times better, but you'll finally be ready to take your business to the next level as well.

Kelly LeGendre is a licensed acupuncturist and holistic fertility consultant who has been helping women overcome their fertility challenges and grow their families for over a decade. She created The Fertility Fix program in 2012 to teach women to take control of their own hormonal health through a combination of functional nutrition, herbal medicine, and lifestyle modification—and conceived her own son on the program! Click here to get her free ebook, The Fertility Fix Guide to Supercharging your Fertility. 

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Blog Biz // How To Fail Forward

how-to-fail-forward

If you're going to fail, fail forward.

How great is that statement? Simple, profound and full of truth right? When I stumbled upon this article earlier in the week it manifested itself right at a pivotal moment when all the balls I was trying to juggle in the air seemed to come crashing down at once.  The kind of moment where nothing is working as it should and you just want to crawl under the covers and wish it away.  Do you know the feeling? It's like the attack of the To-Do list. I felt as though I was failing as a blogger, business owner, friend, sister and partner.  It was all a bit overwhelming if I'm truthful but there has been such a sense of clarity over being able to turn the concept of failure on it's head and realise that each moment of frustration, of 'failure' has been an opportunity to learn, grown and evolve.  That not everything needs to be perfect and that you learn lessons along the way. And man have I learned a few key lessons this week.

We can sometimes be a bit hard on ourselves and while it's great to push ourselves to our outer limits, I'm here this week to say then when it comes to blogging or running your own business, the concept of failing forward is essential. You will fail - and when you do - fail forward. It's part of the journey, it's where innovation is born and it's nothing to be feared. Embrace it.

If failure has motivated or changed you (or you just had a crap week and want to make me feel like I'm not alone!) then please your wisdom below.

Image by Jonathan Wherrett.  Get our weekly Blog Biz series straight to your inbox by signing up here.