Have you developed a Stress Busting Tool Kit?
How does stress impact the quality your life? Take a moment and consider what stresses you out. Can you sense how it affects your body and mind each day? Do you have effective tools to help you navigate stressful times? If you would like to pleasantly mitigate the negative affects that stress plays in your life, please read on.
For some people, stress seems to be primarily work related. They feel pressured to meet quick or persistent deadlines. Their daily schedule seems hectic and possibly unpredictable. Relationships with colleagues may be cloudy or tense. There are expectations placed on us by others that may not feel important, yet we don't want to disappoint. Many know not what to do about all this. Is that true for you?
For some, there are developing health concerns - yours, or a family members - that create worry and stress.
And of course, “change” can be unsettling for anyone. This can be especially true for those who are aging, and may have become comfortable in a particular routine. Change in the status of a relationship, a place of residence, a career path, your physical ability, or something else can leave you feeling anxious and unsettled. When this discomfort or worry continues for a prolonged period of time, it may have negative impacts on the quality of your health.
At the same time, many people are motivated by stress. The seriousness of the situation –- be that a deadline, a state of health, or something else — causes them to focus more attention on the issue than they might have otherwise. I think of my son’s tendency to procrastinate. A tendency that I, too, share at times. What I find when I am pushing to meet a deadline is that my mind becomes more focused, and my choices and decisions more clear. This is, in part, because I understand what my priority is at the time, and move forward in a more linear fashion when time is tight. The idea that stress can be empowering is labeled by the term "eustress."
Eustress is the positive response that one has to stress. It is a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. The prefix "eu" means "good". Combined "eu" and "stress" mean "good stress." The idea is that one can exhibit a positive cognitive response to stress. This is healthy, and can lead to feelings of fulfillment and even joy. This is but one manifestation of stress, and can be sensed in a physiological or psychological manner. It has to do with how one perceives a particular stressor. According to an article on wikipedia, eustress may result when one responds to stress by giving it a sense of meaning, or with hope or vigor and results in elevated levels of life satisfaction and overall well-being. While it may be uncomfortable, as stress of all kinds typically is, the experience is one that can lead to personal growth.
Knowing about eustress, would you agree with me that our perception of “stress” may be defined by the way we react to a particular situation, event, or even a person. How, then, can one become less reactive and more responsive to the demands placed on upon us?
The first step is to understand what you can control, and what you cannot change. This helps minimize the stress-inducing aspects of the stressful experiences in our lives. To paraphrase a quote from the Dalai Lama: "If you can change or improve something, do. If you can't, let it go."
For me, clarity around my influence comes in quiet moments. While sitting quietly in meditation, my mind experiences greater levels of ease, and is better able to process things. It's possible to cultivate "the witness perspective." The experience is similar for me when I am out in nature. Everything seems to slow down eventually; my body/mind drop into a more soothing and rhythmical pace. This, in and of itself, is a great antidote to stress.
Because I have found solace in quiet experiences, I aim to provide that for others through the work I do. Offering soothing experiences to my clients is a priority for me, in part because it allows me to contribute to making the world a better place ... one breath, one thought, one gentle and creative movement or restful moment at a time.
If you are someone who tends to get anxious easily, or feel unsettled in stressful times, it can be helpful to have a toolbox of techniques to fall back on as needed. I came across an article by Elizabeth Scott M.S. written for verywellmind.com that offers up fantastic stress busting ideas in line with my thinking, too so I thought I'd share it with you.
Click here to read the article.
Also, I encourage you to attend the weekly gentle and creative movement classes I offer in the Mountain Wisdom Healing Arts studio. They are designed to help you find center, turn off the noise of life around you temporarily, and let your inner voice guide you through the tumult of life more smoothly. As a result, over time you may find that you feel resourced and able to handle daily stressors with more ease and grace. Another great way to release stress and cultivate ease is through a Reiki Energy Balancing Treatment; it is a great antidote to the tension or anxious mind that can results from a fast paced and active life. Use this link to schedule a session today!
Finally, remember to breathe! If you're looking for ways to use your breath to turn off the flight/fight/freeze response to stress, and turn on the relaxation response in your body/mind, pick up a copy of my book: Learning to Breathe, Learning to Live: Simple Tools to Alleviate Stress and Invigorate Your Life. I teach and train from the book, so let me know if you'd like me to bring a workshop to your place of business, or social organization.
The bottom line? Make sure to schedule some time for yourself this holiday season. When you take time out to do that, you can banish stress, or transform it into joy. Not only will you benefit, but all of those around you benefit, too.
Wishing you a joyous and stress-free holiday season.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C – I AYT
I came across a great article on the Very Well Mind site a few days ago, and wanted to share it with you. In it, author Elizabeth Scott MS, descripbes many effective stress releiving ideas.
This is the time of year when expressing gratitude might be more commonly done. Many prepare to gather with friends or family to celebrate the American Thanksgiving holiday, and may take pause to consider what's going well in their life. What are you thankful for today?
In an article in Forbes Magazine, contributor Amy Morin outlined Seven Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Here's what she discussed:
* Encourages people to seek ongoing relations with those who say "thank you".
* Improves physical health.
* Improves psychological
* Enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
* Improves sleep quality.
* Elevates self-esteem.
* Increases mental strength.
If all that can come from simply saying thank you more often, why not begin today?
I am grateful for the chance to help my clients elevate overall well-being naturally. And I am grateful to share my work with you!
May you have a meaningful and lovely, peaceful Thanksgiving celebration, where ever you are in the world!
Namaste, Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
source: Forbes.com; Nov. 23, Amy Morin.
Roasted Baby Summer Squash
8 baby summer squash (zucchini, yellow summer squash, patty pan squash, or any combination of the three)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil, plus additional for brushing
Salt and Pepper
1 cup packed mixed herb leaves (basil, parsley, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint)
4 cloves garlic
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, or turn on outdoor grill.
Slice squash in half (lengthwise for the long summer squash, horizontally for the patty pan) and take a small slice off the backs so they will sit flat in a pan, cut side up. Score the cut side of the flesh in a diamond pattern, slicing almost to the skin. Lightly brush the cut sides with oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Combine the 2 Tb oil with the herbs and garlic in a food processor. Process to make a paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.. Spread the past over the cut sides of the squash.
Roast for about 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. Remove from heat when the squash are tender and lightly browned. Serve hot.
Butternut-Apple Crisp - apples and winter squash are sweet, soothing to pitta and vata. The squash is grounding for vata.
3 cups peeled and sliced butternut squash
2 cups peeled and sliced tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1 cup packed brown sugar (I tend to cut this in half)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (or whole wheat)
1/2 tsp salt
6 TB butter, softened
1/3 chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a shallow baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine squash, apples, 1/2 cup brown sugar, spices and lemon juice. Toss to gently mix. Transfer to baking pan and place in preheated oven.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Cominbe the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, flour, slat, and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Stir together until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in the nuts. Spread evenly on top of the swash and apples.
Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve warm or cold. Ice cream makes it even better!
The source of these recipes is The Classic Zucchini Cookbook by Nancy C Ralston, Marynor Jordan, and Andrea Chesman
Five tips to help you move through the end of the summer season with ease.
1.) Drink more water.
2.) Eat moist and cooling foods.
3.) Take an afternoon stretch/rest break.
4.) Walk/exercise in the morning when the air if freshest.
5.) Tell your loved one (and others close to you) that you care about them.
As the summer season draws to a close, make sure you take time to get outdoors. Appreciate the long days, the warm weather, and the bounty all around you before its gone. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for this wonderfully abundant season, and let that soothe a tired heart, and softens a weary face. It does much to boost relationships with others, too and may even improve the quality of your sleep.
Here in Colorado, the air grows hotter as the sun rises higher in the sky over the course of the day. That, combined with living at a higher elevation, naturally draws moisture from our bodies each time we breathe. So it’s important to hydrate. Be conscious about how much water you consume each day. Aim to drink close to half your body weight in ounces each day. This alone will keep your muscles fluid and your body systems functioning optimally.
Eating moist and cooling foods help with that, as well. They also soothe and even cool a body that may be irritated at this time of the season by the hot, dry air or a busy schedule. Feeling “off” or a bit irritable? This is a natural reaction at the height of the Pitta (or summer) Season. Pitta is one of the three primary ayurveda doshas or psycho-physiological elements that govern all body/mind activities. It is best kept calm through the food choices we make.
Great choices to consume more of now include: melons, mangos, grapes, and pears, cucumbers, coconut, mint, broccoli, zucchini, as well as coriander and fennel, plain milk, butter, & ghee.
While it might seem like a good idea, grabbing an iced and carbonated drink to cool you down may actually impede digestion. All year long, it is best to consume foods and beverages as close to room temperature as possible to avoid overtaxing the digestive system.
You can cool your system by consuming more of the foods listed above. You can also cool it by resting when the sun is hot and high in the sky. Rather than going on a run or long bicycle ride at mid-day, can you move your exercise activities to earlier in the morning right now? That way you may have time to take a break when the day begins heating up. Rest, rather than activity, soothes an imbalanced Pitta Dosha. How can you work some quiet time into your afternoon?
If you think of pitta as the energy and power of the fire element, it’s easy to understand how the Pitta Dosha relates to the energy of transformation. Pitta personalities may exhibit some fiery qualities – because they typically dot their "I's" and cross their "T's" they make great planners, they’re good at pushing through obstacles, and they like to see results. However, those same qualities can tax the heart, increase digestive acids or blood pressure, and weaken the liver and gallbladder if they get out of whack. Taking time to appreciate the world around you (a walk in nature is the perfect way to do this) and to let others know you appreciate them will go a long way to pacifying an imbalanced pitta dosha.
I invite you, right now, to pause. Take a moment and bring to mind those people you love. Can you send them a message now? Telepathically, electronically, or by even picking up the phone and saying hello.
This is a great way to soothe the heart, and elevate the quality of your relationships. After all, life is short and the summer season is almost over. If you’ve been too busy to reach out and connect, please make time for that now. Your heart will thank you, and so do I.
If you’d like support as you navigate seasonal changes, or you’d like to know more about your unique wellness personality as expressed through your ayurveda dosha, please contact me. I am here to help you navigate the changes in life from a place of strength, calm, and coolness.
Namaste, Sharon Harvey Alexander C-IAYT
PS: To up the hydrating qualities of plain water and make it less "boring", consider adding a squeeze of lime juice and a tiny pinch of pink Himalayan Salt. Enjoy!
Seven Savvy Tips for a Soothing Summer Season.
In Ayurveda, summertime is the pitta season. This means that the heat in the environment can bring out the heat in our bodies and aggravate our mind and emotions. To manage the pitta dosha so that you feel calm and balanced even as the weather heats up around you during the hot summer months, follow these suggestions:
* Avoid exercising outdoors during the hottest time of day, between 10 AM and 5 PM.
* Stay hydrated, and add more moist and cooling foods to your diet. This means drinking up to half your body weight in ounces of fresh water, and eating fresh foods like salads, fruits and berries, and grains.
*Avoid rushing, pushing, or struggling to meet deadlines now. Instead, slow down and take time to “smell the roses.”
* Enjoy leisurely walks in nature, linger out in the cool evening breezes or under the moonlight, spend time in or near fresh, cool gently running water.
* Craft a cooling and calming aromatherapy spritzer blend from lavender, rose, mint, jasmine or ylang ylang essential oils and spray on your face, your skin, around your home or office.
* Practice soothing and cooling breathing practices including alternate nostril breathing; left nostril breathing; or slowly drawing air across the tongue as you inhale.
* Consider napping in the early afternoon for 20 minutes. This is refreshing to body and brain, and may support a later bedtime hour during the longer summer days.
Even bringing one of these soothing practices into your day will help tame the fires of summer that are often the culprit behind irritated skin, digestion, moods, and more. I invite you to implement these cooling and calming self-care practices in order to live your best life this summer and thrive.
Questions? Please reach out and let me know how I can support you.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, Reiki Master, and Holistic Stress Managment Educator
Murmuration.What is it?
As always, I'm here to support you in reclaiming, maintaining, or even elevating your well-being so that you can bring your best self into everything you do, and live the life you were meant to live with a smile on your face, and joy in your heart.
Can we elegantly navigate stress? Yes.
Do we sometimes need a tool or a technique to help us do so elegantly? Yes.
The times are stressful! The news around current events seems to get worse and worse. At times... heartbreaking. When will it stop?
While the answer is not clear, one thing you can do - RIGHT NOW - to ground and center, to focus and move forward effectively, is to engage with this simple breathing practice. The gal who introduced me to it calls it: 5-4-3-2-1. It is beneficial for deregulating the nervous system so that we can effectively process what's called "secondary trauma" or that which arises within us as the result of watching or hearing the news that's occurring far away.
I instruct it in two ways. The simplest and least time consuming is to...
Sit down. Bring attention to your posture. Sit back a wee bit, and rest as comfortably as you can - legs uncrossed and feet on the floor. Elongate your spine. Then take a few deeps breaths - in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
Now, look around you, and...
This practice may be repeated again and again. It may take a few rounds before you feel fully present in the here and now.
The more you practice it, the easier it will become. You will soon drop right in to the present moment. Use it to calm you mind and anchor you into a place that feels safe and known.
From that place, you get to choose how you want to interact with the news around you. Is it from a place of reaction? Or can you respond in a manner that may be more intelligent and useful, both to you, and to those around you?
If you have more time, or want something that will take you a bit deeper at the end of a long day, try this:
* Start as outlined above, sitting comfortably.
* Bring your attention to your breath.
* Take breaths that are comfortably long, and comfortably slow.
* Count backwards with each breath.
- First, from 5 to 1.
- Then, from 4 to 1.
- Then, from 3 to 1.
- Then, from 2 to 1.
- Then, take one long breath in, and sigh it all the way out. Notice how your feel. Notice the quality of your mind now, compared to when you began.
This is wonderful to do right before bed, too. Use it any time, any where to soothe, calm, and focus your mind and body.
As you navigate these tumultuous times, I wish for you the steadiness of a mountain's base, and the clarity found only on the summit.
Please share your experiences by leaving a comment to this post, below. Thank you.
Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
Yes, Vata Season is in full swing here in Colorado. The wind is blowing. The air is cold. And the ground is very, very dry. Many have complained of the wind over the past few days driving them (and their animals, too) nuts. If that's been your experience, too, you’re not alone. It is natural to feel unsettled, uncomfortable, or uneasy when conditions are cold, dark, and windy. Our skin dries out, our sleep becomes more restless, and it's hard to focus. The good news is… there are simple things you can do today to counteract the effects of the Vata Season.
In order to navigate the first few months of the year well, and set yourself up for a great spring, you’ll be wise to implement a few of these simple self-care practices now.
Here are my suggestions for how you can calm the unsettled effect the Vata dosha has.
Interested in learning more? Please click here and schedule a private consultation with me. I develop unique and individual wellness prescriptions that effectively address doshic imbalances.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and harmonious New Year.
~Sharon Harvey Alexander, C-IAYT
Are you looking for a delicious and effective cold and flu remedy to have on hand during the cold winter months? Elderberry Syrup might just be it! Not only does it boost immunity, it is simple to make at home from just a few basic ingredients.
Black Elderberries, or Sambucus berries, come from the Sambucus Nigra bush which grows widely across North America. The flowers are often used in the spring to make Elderberry wine. The berries, picked in the fall and often dried for storage, contain potent immune boosting constituents, including Vitamins A, B, and C. Remedies made from the berries provide great, natural support, in part because they powerfully disarm viruses associated with colds and flu.
While you can buy products made from Elderberries in health-oriented grocery stores and pharmacies, you'll save a lot of money by making the immune boosting syrup at home. It doesn't take much time, and you can vary the recipe to your taste.
For instance, I made five cups of the syrup just this morning by doubling the basic recipe, which I share below. I increased the amount of ginger (using fresh, grated ginger root), used much less honey, and added in some cardamom pods to give the finished product a bit of a kick. I will freeze the syrup in small batches, and pull out one jar as needed to add to teas or even take directly by the spoonful throughout the winter months.
Consuming a tablespoon two to three times a day at the onset of a cold may help bring you back to health in no time! Yes, some do refer to me as Mary Poppins! :>)
Here's a basic recipe for you.
Elderberry Syrup Recipe
1 cup dried berries (available at Natural Grocers)
5 1/4 cups fresh water
3 tablespoons fresh ginger root (sliced thin or grated)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder (or a medium sized cinnamon stick)
3/4 teaspoon clove powder
1 1/2 cups raw honey, or to taste (added after syrup has cooled)
Add the first five ingredients together in a pot. Place on stove (no lid) and heat 'til boiling. Then simmer for close to an hour until the liquid has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and let stand.
Once cooled, add in the honey and stir until well dissolved. Distribute into smaller batches to store until needed. May freeze. Add a spoonful to tea, pour over yogurt, or take straight up.
I hope you'll give making this yummy, and health promoting syrup a try!
Please leave a comment and let us know how it turned out for you!
Yours, in health and healing.