anxiety

Rescue Meditations for Anxiety and Panic

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Have you ever experienced high levels of anxiety bordering on panic?  Symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, sweating, heart pounding, dizziness, and racing thoughts can be overwhelming when they arise.  And if it’s ever developed into a full-blown panic attack, you know the paralyzing fear that comes with that experience. 

When these symptoms arise for you, it’s a good idea to consult your medical doctor.  Some symptoms are shared in common with heart or lung issues, so you want to be sure there’s not an underlying medical concern that’s causing the symptoms.  But if you check with your doctor and you are otherwise physically healthy, your doctor might recommend psychological treatment and/or “rescue medications.”

Rescue medications, such as Xanax or Ativan, are anti-anxiety medications that help to bring your symptoms down to a manageable level when you are facing a high level of panic or anxiety.  I believe these medications can be helpful in crisis scenarios.

But if you don’t have these rescue medications or prefer a more natural approach, there are ways in which you can harness your body’s natural calming systems to relieve that anxiety.  Below are some suggestions for rescue “meditations” that you can do when you’re experiencing panic or even just feeling overwhelmed and stressed. 

If you find that these strategies aren’t effective or you’re continuing to experience symptoms, seek out help from your medical doctor or a mental health professional to address what is causing the panic.

Deep Breathing

When you’re panicked or anxious, breathing patterns are more shallow.  If you place a hand on your chest while you’re feeling stressed, you’ll likely find it rises and falls in short bursts.  The goal in taking deep breaths is to engage your diaphragmatic muscles in your abdomen.  This triggers your body’s natural calming system that helps you relax. 

To do this exercise, sit comfortably in a chair or lay on your back in a comfortable position.  Place one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen.  Take a few breaths and notice which hand moves.  Focus your breath so that your hand on your abdomen is rising and falling more with each breath.

Next, take a series of breaths with one of the following patterns:

  • 4-square breathing: breathe in for 4 counts, hold at the top for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and hold the exhale for 4 counts

  • 4-2-6 pattern breathing: breathe in for 4 counts, hold at the top for 2 counts, and breathe out for 6 counts

Do 10 repetitions of one of these patterns.  Using a breathing pattern that focuses on a longer exhale helps regulate the body. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of your body that calms the fight-or-flight response associated with anxiety and panic.

Guided Meditation for Anxiety (Yoga With Adriene)

On her YouTube channel, Adriene of Yoga with Adriene offers a playlist of short, guided meditations that can help you when your’e in a crisis.  She also has yoga practices designed to help you ground yourself or deal with anxiety on her YouTube channel.  If you have the time to do a longer workout or yoga practice, this might be a good fit for you.  Moving your body is a great way to deal with anxiety or panic.

Headspace or Other Meditation Apps

Headspace is a great app teaching the basic skills of meditation.  They include short videos describing how to approach meditation, and they offer their first 10 basic meditations for free. 

While you can only access those 10 meditations without a subscription, I’d recommend looking into their subscription, especially if you’d like to make meditation a more regular practice.  If you do have a subscription, here are a few of their “SOS” meditations I’d recommend:

SOS for Panicking

SOS for Feeling Overwhelmed

SOS for Flustered

There are plenty of other meditation apps that exist, such as Calm and 10% Happier. Try a few apps and decide which one you like best to use as a resource.

Visualize a Calm and Peaceful Place

Spend a few minutes thinking of a place you’ve been or that you create in your imagination where you can feel calm and peaceful. Identify what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell in that image. Envision yourself there and notice what emotions it evokes. Pay attention to the pleasant feelings in your body and allow yourself to enjoy them.

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise

Start out by taking a few deep, abdominal breaths, as described above. 

Begin by noticing 5 items in the room around you that you see.  Say them out loud.  Describe the colors you see, Identify any textures you’re aware of on those items.

Next, notice 4 things you can feel without moving your body: it could be your clothing on your skin, the feel of the chair in which you’re sitting, or your feet on the floor.  Say these out loud as well.  Describe the sensation of those feelings. 

Then notice (aloud – catching a pattern?) 3 things you can hear.  Describe the sounds: whether they are consistent or intermittent, loud or soft, familiar or unfamiliar. 

Notice 2 things you can smell or two things of which you like the smell (as sometimes in a sterile environment there aren’t many smells).  Describe what these things smell like.

Finally, notice 1 thing you can taste or of which you like the taste.  Describe that taste to yourself. 

Regular Meditation Practice

What I’ve shared above are short, quick meditations that you can do in a crisis.  However, the strongest benefits of meditation have been shown when you implement a daily meditation practice over the long-term.  Daily meditation actually changes the structures of your brain associated with stress and calm.  If you find you like these strategies for calming yourself, I suggest that you try meditation daily.

 

These “rescue meditations” are a way to distract yourself from the symptoms of anxiety and calm your body down so you aren’t so overwhelmed.  However, they are not meant to completely resolve the anxiety.  The panic will continue to come back until you recognize the source of the anxiety and resolve it.  If you notice the panic continuing, consult a mental health professional to begin examining the potential sources of your distress.

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Have you been dealing with symptoms of panic or anxiety, but aren’t sure why?  Are you feeling overwhelmed with stress in your daily life and looking for solutions to bring about more peace and calm?  Are you tired of dealing with the physical symptoms of panic?  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling that targets the roots of anxiety and helps offer relief from the effects your symptoms.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to set up your first appointment.

Self-Care for When You Don't Have Time for Self-Care

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Life is busy.  Whether you feel like a taxi driver for your children’s after-school activities, you’re working long hours at the office, you’re raising a newborn, or maybe all of the above, free time can be hard to come by. 

So when someone suggests that you take time for self-care, no wonder you laugh and say, “when do I have time for that?” 

Practicing self-care is an important part of taking care of your mental and physical health.  In particular, if you struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, or other mental health issues, self-care is an essential part of healing. Even if you see the need for self-care in your life, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have the time to make it happen.

Perhaps it’s an issue of cost.  Trendy “self-care” tells you to go get a massage, take a vacation, or otherwise spend exorbitant amounts of money with the promise of “relaxation and rejuvenation.”  For most people, this isn’t practical or realistic. While sometimes you might want to “treat yo’ self,” for the most part you can do good quality self-care for free.

Maybe you’re over the trend of self-care justifying selfish and self-centered behaviors.  I get that.  It’s not meant to be “I do what I want” or “I do what feels good” all the time.  True quality self-care Is not designed to replace loving other people and being the best parent, friend, spouse, partner, child, employee, or person you can be.  It’s meant to prep you to fill those roles well without burning out.

Self-care involves physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health.  Sometimes self-care feels exactly like what you don’t want to do, but it’s what will be good for you in the long-term.  Think of it like training for a marathon: you may hate going on those longer runs, but you know in the long term your training will help you prepare your body for the race ahead of you.

How to Make Self-Care Work for You

Check your thoughts about self care.  If you’re looking at it as if it’s selfish or wrong, you won’t be able to benefit from it, instead getting distracted by feelings of guilt.  Reframe self-care as something you’re doing to take care of your mental health and better fill the roles in your life.  See self-care as a discipline, something you consciously consider.  Work it into your routine, like taking a vitamin. 

When you’re short on time, get creative about how you do self-care.  In a recent training I completed on compassion fatigue, the trainer talked extensively about a concept she calls “flexi-self-care.”  This type of self-care takes advantage of small bits of time you have throughout your day where you can pause for a moment and do something nurturing.  Identify for yourself ways to practice self-care that take as little as 1 minute and make a practice of trying these things lately.

Take a look at some of these examples of self-care on a time budget.

1 minute of self-care

  • Take three long, slow, deep abdominal breaths. (It can help to place a hand on your abdomen to feel it rising and falling.)

  • Do a yoga pose.

  • Give a loved one a hug.

  • Feel your feet flat on the ground, supported by the earth beneath them.

  • Read a favorite quotation, affirmation, mantra, or Scripture verse.

  • Look out a window and observe what’s happening outside.

  • Identify what emotion you’re feeling currently and where you feel it in your body.

  • Squeeze a stress ball.

  • Look at a picture of a loved one. 

5 minutes of self-care

  • 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise: name and describe 5 things you see, 4 things you feel without moving, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell or like the smell of, and 1 thing you taste or like the taste of.

  • Write a list of 10 things you are grateful for.

  • Send a text to a friend.

  • Stretch out sore muscles. 

  • Four-square breathing: breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.  Repeat 10 times.

  • Complete one small item on a to-do list (ie. making a phone call, responding to an email, scheduling an appointment).

  • Visualize a place that feels calm and peaceful and enjoy the sensations associated with it.

  • Open a window and take a few deep breaths of fresh air.

  • Drink a glass of water.

  • Listen to your favorite song.

  • Light a candle and watch the flame.

  • Play with a pet.

  • People-watch.

10 minutes of self-care

  • Do a 10 minute YouTube workout. (I like this playlist from Yoga with Adriene.)

  • Eat a healthy snack.

  • Write in a journal.

  • Put on a dance music playlist and dance around your space.

  • Clean out your email inbox.

  • Tidy a space in your home.

  • Watch a YouTube tutorial for an activity you’re interested in learning.

  • Work on a crossword puzzle or a word search.

  • Play catch with a dog or child (or even with a wall!)

  • Do a Headspace meditation.

  • Watch a video that makes you laugh.

  • Pray.

  • Read a magazine article. 

20 minutes of self-care

  • Go for a brisk walk outside.

  • Read a chapter in a book.

  • Listen to a podcast, lecture, or sermon about a topic that interests you.

  • Call a friend, family member, or significant other on the phone to chat.

  • Work on a craft project, draw, or paint.

  • Write a thank-you note to someone.

  • Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sip it slowly.

  • Take a hot shower.

  • Play a musical instrument.

  • Clean a room in your home or your desk at work.

  • Create a photo collage of images that help you feel loved, inspired, or that bring you joy.

Take these lists and make them your own.  Pay attention to how long it takes you to do these activities: you  may find that prayer can be as short as 1 minute, or your one yoga pose develops into a 10-minute yoga practice.  Be willing to be creative and try out some of these tools to make self-care something you can do every day, not just as a special treat.

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Are you struggling to find time for self-care?  Have you been dealing with anxiety or depression and aren’t sure how to shake it?  Maybe you’ve tried some of these self-care practices before, but they’ve fallen short of what you need.  At Restored Hope, I offer counseling services to help you explore the roots of your anxiety and depression and begin to feel like yourself again.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to set up your first appointment.

Take a Deep Breath: Five Mindful Strategies for Dealing with Anxiety

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During my first year of my master’s program, I saw how anxiety, stress, and lack of time would hit me with intense experiences of overwhelm.  I was working close to full time hours at a nanny job, attending class 4 nights a week, and serving in my church in my “free time.”  Any extra time I had was filled with studying and attempting to navigate my way through our massive textbooks.   With a temperament that errs on the side of anxiety and perfectionism, it was easy to talk myself into a state of stress that would make it difficult for me to function.

My school was a commuter school about 30 minutes away from where I lived, so I began listening to podcasts in my car.  (Cue the beginning of my obsession with podcasts).  One of those podcasts interviewed a life coach and therapist who gave tips on dealing with anxiety.  She taught a technique involving deep breathing, which I’d never tried before.  I decided to give it a go in the 10 minutes I sat in my car before class.  Let me tell you: it was like magic.  I felt like I could enter into the classroom in a completely different and relaxed state of mind.

Everyday anxiety is something many people experience, especially during stressful seasons in their lives.  Anxiety engages our internal fight-and-flight response, which pumps up our body with adrenaline and cortisol, a stress hormone.  By practicing deep breathing and other techniques below, you can take control over your body’s instinctual reaction.  As you slow down your breathing and your thoughts, you’re essentially reminding your body that you aren’t in danger.  This calms your fight-or-flight response.

Here are some tips on how you can respond with mindfulness when you feel yourself becoming anxious, nervous, and overwhelmed.

Daily Meditation

As the foundation of all the exercises that follow, daily meditation helps you become attuned to your body.  Spend time in a quiet room in silence for a few minutes to start.  Gradually increase to more time as you become more comfortable.  Pay attention to the way your body feels, noticing each part of your body, any emotions that arise, or any physical sensations. 

Oftentimes meditation is associated with “clearing your mind,” which can discourage you if you feel as though you can’t turn your thoughts off.   Instead, accept the likelihood that thoughts will cross your mind, and allow yourself to notice them, but not shame yourself for having them.

There are several apps that offer guided meditations, if you’re someone like me and are too easily distracted to sit quietly.  I’m a particular fan of Happify and Headspace, but there are many out there you can try and find the best fit for you.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is the practice of mentally becoming aware of each part of your body by isolating one muscle group at a time, tensing and flexing the muscles.  Pay attention to the feeling of holding tightness in your muscles as you tense them, and notice how it feels to release and relax them afterwards.

This practice can also help you fall asleep at night or re-energize yourself during the day.   In the morning or throughout your day, start by tensing and releasing your toes and work your way upward through different muscle group such as your legs, knees, stomach, chest, arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, and forehead.  At night, do the opposite - start with the muscles in your forehead and work your way down through your body. 

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing was the technique that I heard Dr. Jennifer Degler speak about on that podcast all those years ago.  She introduced four-square breathing: a technique where you breathe in for 4 counts, hold the breath for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts.  Completing about 10 cycles of these deep breaths allows you to begin to feel the anxiety melt away.

As you’re practicing these breathing exercises, you’ll want to breathe from your diaphragm or abdomen.  In order to do that, it can be helpful to imagine that there is a balloon in your stomach, just behind your belly button.  Breathe in through your nose, trying to make that balloon expand.  As you breathe out through your mouth, imagining the balloon deflating.  Another helpful strategy involves laying on the ground or on a sofa, placing your hands on your stomach, and feeling your stomach rise and fall as you breathe.

5-4-3-2-1 Senses Grounding Exercise

This is a personal favorite of mine, especially when I’m feeling particularly triggered by thoughts or emotions.  Begin taking a few deep breaths, noticing the rise and fall of your abdomen.  Next, take a look around you and notice 5 things that you see.  Notice the colors, textures, and other characteristics of those objects.  Next, move on to identifying 4 things you can hear, noticing the quality of the sound, whether it is loud or soft, repeating or one-time.  Continue down through this pattern by noticing 3 things you can touch/feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.  You’ll feel yourself becoming grounded in the present reality around you, and emotions will likely become less distracting and more manageable.

Breath Prayer

Often when we talk about Christian meditation practice, it is accompanied by reading or memorizing Scripture and seeking to understand truth about that passage.  While that can be helpful to engage your mind, when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, this isn’t always the quickest way to address that anxiety.  Instead, integrate some of the earlier mentions of breathing exercises and Biblical truth through breath prayer.  Breath prayer involves identifying a short phrase or sentence of truth about God or prayer to God.  Examples might be phrases such as, “Lord, have mercy,” “God, I need you,” or “Holy Spirit, come.”  You could also use short Bible verses that are meaningful to you, such as “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV).  Repeat those words to yourself out loud or in your mind while you are practicing deep breathing.  Breathe in on the first part of the phrase, and release your breath on the second half of the phrase.

While these mindfulness strategies didn’t immediately fix my stress levels or perfectionism, they did provide a way for me to calm my body down and remind myself of truth.  Test out some of these strategies for yourself when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, and see which ones help you to lower those levels of stress.

This article was originally posted on May 4, 2017.

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As you begin to address your worry or stress, you may find that you feel better for a short period of time, but then the anxiety floods back in.  Or maybe even the thought of making time to complete these exercises gives you more anxiety.  At Restored Hope, I’d love to hear your story of anxiety, perfectionism, or stress and help you navigate to a place of calm and peace in your life.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based therapy office where my goal is to support you on your journey to healing and wholeness.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out my form here to schedule your first appointment today.

Eight Hygge Ideas for Your Mental Health

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Imagine sitting in cabin lit only by a roaring fire in the fireplace and a few candles scattered throughout the room.  You’re wrapped in a blanket, holding your favorite book in one hand and a mug of hot tea in the other.  You’re full and satisfied from a delicious meal of soup and bread finished an hour or so earlier.  You take a look around the room to see your loved ones gathered around you, enjoying their quiet, cozy time.  You peek outside to see a blizzard blowing through, coating the trees and ground with a thick layer of snow.  You smile, grateful to be warm and wrapped up indoors and safe from the cold.

I don’t know about you, but this is my personal picture of happiness.  And, incidentally enough, the Danes would agree with me.

Hygge (pronounced HOO-ga) is a Danish word recently popularized through the book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living* by Meik Wiking.  Danish happiness researcher Wiking wrote from his research on what makes the Danes consistently rate among the happiest people in the world.  His theory centers around practicing what he called “the Danish art of cozy.”

As you consider the major elements of hygge, it’s easy to see why this concept can provide so many benefits to physical and mental health.

Health Benefits of Hygge

Hyggeligt activities include such behaviors as practicing presence, or mindfulness, to the present moment.  Mindfulness can lead to clarity of thinking, a sense of calm, reduction of negative thoughts, and reduced stress.  The sensory nature of hygge can also contribute to being in the present moment, in noticing the warmth from the fire or a hot drink, the smell of a burning candle, or the feel of a soft blanket.

In particular for trauma survivors, relaxation strategies like these are essential in calming the fight-or-flight response of the nervous system.  Hygge is about safety and self-care, which can significantly affect the feelings of lack of safety that propel anxiety.

Social support is another key element of hygge that has major health benefits.  Spending time with loved ones allows you to cope better with stress, improve your motivation, and reduce feelings of depression and negative self-talk.  Spending time with people you love also ups your level of oxytocin, which increases empathy and can be a healthy alternative to destructive, addictive behaviors.

Hygge is about being kind to yourself.
— Meik Wiking

Practicing gratitude for these relationships and the connections you have with others similarly reduces stress and decreases depression.

Embrace Your Hygge

Give yourself a break.

You can use this physical practice as a way of changing your mindset from one of perfectionism and busy-ness to one of slowing down, appreciating the moment, and allowing space.  When you approach your life with this mindset, you’re likely to be more kind in your self-talk, compassionate toward yourself and others, and experience more pockets of joy throughout your day.

Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break.  Relax.  Just for a little while.  It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay.
— Meik Wiking

Create a hyggekrog.

A hyggekrog is a space set aside in your home where you can experience hygge, like a reading nook or corner that feels particularly cozy.  Set aside some space in your home with the intention to use it for your hygge time.  Include an assortment of hyggelig items in the space, like your favorite books, a cozy blanket, a candle, and a houseplant. 

Turn off your screens.

While you can practice hygge while watching a favorite movie or TV show, reducing screen usage allows you to stay more present in the moment, and it also helps to promote physical activity and improvements to sleep.  Choose to turn off your phone for an hour up to an entire day, or keep it elsewhere so that it doesn’t distract you.

Read a book.

Recent research has found that reading for even a short amount of time daily can drastically reduce stress.  Choose a book that is a personal favorite or a new interest you’d like to explore and set aside some time to read it.  You can read on your own or invite friends to join you for a day of reading your own books together (talk about an introvert’s dream!) 

Host a hygge get-together.

Invite a small group of friends over (Weiking writes that the best number for hygge is 4) for a warm meal, good conversation, and some hot drinks.  You could schedule this time around the premiere of a favorite TV show or the release of a movie you’ve been anticipating on Netflix.  Or choose a theme for the evening and create food and activities that support that theme.  Plan a craft night where friends can bring knitting, crocheting, needlework, or any other crafty hobby they have.

Bake or purchase sweets.

It seems the Danish love sweet pastries (see: cheese or fruit Danish).  Weiking talks about the production of dopamine, a feel-good neurochemical, that is released when you eat sweet foods.  Take some time to make a favorite dessert or treat yourself to a pastry from the bakery.

Create a hygge playlist.

What type of music helps you to feel the most cozy and calm?  Are there certain songs or genres of music that remind you of home?  Put together a playlist you can use when you’re practicing hygge by yourself or when you’re having a get-together, or use a pre-made playlist.  Sometimes the music itself can provide a cue to relax and slow down. 

Play!

Nothing puts you more squarely in the present moment than play.  Whether you’re playing a board game, enjoying a sport, or simply doing something you loved when you were a child, you’ll find the joy of stopping your work for a short time to enjoy an activity that is frivolous and light-hearted.  Invite friends into this playful attitude and experience the happiness that a break for fun can bring.

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Are you feeling overstressed and overworked?  Tired from all of the busy that seems to push you through your days?  Are you dealing with feelings of depression or hopelessness?  Anxiety?  Wrestling with the after-effects of trauma?  At Restored Hope, I offer space for you to heal from past trauma and present symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule an appointment and start seeing freedom from your stress and negative thoughts today.

*These are Amazon affiliate links.  Click here to read more about Restored Hope’s Amazon local associates policy.

12 Tools for Dealing with Anxiety and Depression

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When you get hit with an episode of depression or anxiety, it can feel sudden or unexpected.  You may be at a loss of what to do with the feelings of lethargy or restlessness. 

Anxiety and depression can be like two sides of the same coin.  One can cause the other, and you may feel like you’re switching back and forth between the two as your body adjusts from worry to sadness.  Both are often driven by negative thoughts.  They tend to cycle into each other and feed off of each other, as when anxiety leads to isolation or withdrawal from relationships, which contributes to depression. 

The next time that you face one of these unexpected experiences, try one of the 12 tips below to help you manage your negative mood and feel better

  1. Get outside and take a walk.

Exercise is an easy way to let off excess energy or steam, to become motivated to face the day, or simply to enjoy a rush of endorphins.  To get a double whammy, go outside for a walk or a run.  Nature can ward off feelings of anxiety or stress.  Yoga is another great exercise to release negative emotion, especially if you’ve experienced trauma.  Watch a free yoga video specific to anxiety or depression and notice those negative emotions melting away. 

2. Take a few deep breaths as you imagine a place that feels safe and calm to you.

When I work with clients who are dealing with anxiety, I often find that safety feels out of reach.  For those with depression, feelings of happiness or contentment are difficult to come by.  Take a few moments to imagine a place where you feel happy, content, and at peace.  It may be imaginary or real.  As you bring it to your mind, focus on the sensations and sounds, emotions, and images you see.  You may practice this exercise while lying down on the ground and resting your hands on your stomach so that you can feel the rise and fall of your breath.

3. Reach out to a friend or family member.

Depression and anxiety are inherently isolating.  Anxiety can lead to fear about social interactions, which causes withdrawal.  Depression can come with lack of motivation to connect with the people you love.  But often you’ll find that having a conversation with someone you care will be just what you need as they talk you down from the experience of a hard day. 

4. Dream about your future.

One common aspect of depression is losing hope for the future, while anxiety leads you to worry about the worst possible outcome.  You might feel discouraged that you aren’t living out the dreams you had when you were younger.  Take a step back and identify activities that bring you joy, moments when you’ve felt truly alive, or the purpose you feel for your life.  Identify one small step you can take toward that purpose that can help you gain a sense of ownership and control over your life.

5. Clear your space, mentally and physically.

I have a hard time when my space feels cluttered and overwhelmed.  If my desk is covered in papers, my home is messy, or my bed is unmade, my mind feels cluttered as well.  My physical space tends to represent my mental space.  I take the mess as a reminder to spend 10-15 minutes tidying my physical space or writing down tasks to clear my mental space.  I’m always surprised how much more productive this simple act of clearing can make my day. 

6. Read.

Reading a book is a quiet, focused practice that allows you to slow down and focus on one task at a time.  Find a book that focuses on a topic that interests you, a fictional story that you can get wrapped up in, or a memoir with an inspiring message of overcoming.  If you find yourself having difficulty focusing or you’re not a big reader, find an audiobook to listen to instead.  To keep the spirit of the quiet, focused practice with an audiobook, choose to focus just on listening rather than multitasking. 

7. Listen to a good podcast.

I’ll admit – I’m a bit of a podcast obsessee.  Just like a good book, there are so many options of what you can absorb and enjoy in the podcast world.  Do you like true crime?  There’s a podcast for you.  Productivity? Humor? History? Travel? There’s whole categories devoted to these topics.  Choose an interest from your dreams you listed earlier and dig deep into some of the top podcasts for each.  You can also find great podcasts specifically devoted to depression and anxiety

8. Say no to pressure.

A big component of anxiety is worry about the things we think we “should” be doing.  When those “shoulds” become overwhelming, depression sets in as we realize we cannot be perfect.  You have permission to set down that list of “shoulds” and allow yourself the space to breathe and take care of yourself.  If you’re constantly under the weight of an endless to-do list, you will be less productive than you could be otherwise.  Allow yourself space for self-care and return to your day with a clear mind.

9. Reframe your thinking.

Depression is characterized by negative thoughts about yourself, while worries tied to anxiety lead to catastrophic thinking.   When you notice these negative thoughts entering your mind, pause and ask yourself if there’s another way of looking at the situation.  See if you’re dealing with any cognitive distortions which run rampant in the anxious or depressed mind.  If you’re fearing the worst possible outcome for a future event, avoid this pitfall by looking for the most realistic outcome.

10. Give yourself credit.

One of the common cognitive distortions involves ignoring the positive things that you do in favor of focusing on the negative.  You might be angry at yourself for procrastinating on a project for work or forgetting an important form for your child.   What you aren’t noticing are the positive accomplishments you’ve made that day.  Particularly for those with depression and anxiety, even simple acts like getting out of bed or making a meal for yourself can be major accomplishments.  Make a list of all the accomplishments you’ve made in a single day.  Write down everything you can think of, even if it seems trivial.

11. Practice gratitude.

When you’re so focused on negative circumstances you’re facing on a daily basis, it can be difficult to remember the positive.  Take some time to write down a list of 10 items for which you’re grateful.  Gratitude has the effect of reducing depression and increasing a sense of optimism.  It breaks the cycle of negative thinking about the past and future and refocuses you on the present moment. 

12. Know that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.

As you are plagued by the “shoulds” mentioned earlier, you might notice yourself continuing to spiral downward as you are hard on yourself for not feeling better.  Anxiety and depression come in waves, and they can’t be controlled by simply forcing yourself to feel better.  You might find that you try all the items on this list and realize that none of them has eliminated your anxiety and depression.  This can further perpetuate the shame-based beliefs that there’s something wrong with you because you aren’t immediately feeling better.  To stop this cycle, remind yourself that it is okay to feel what you’re feeling.  Know that you can ride these feelings out and that you’ll eventually feel better. 

How will you use these ideas to combat your anxiety and depression? 

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Are you struggling with feelings of hopelessness or crippled by negative beliefs about yourself?  Do you feel frozen in your anxiety, unable to enjoy the same activities you did before?  Are you feeling isolated and alone?  At Restored Hope, my goal is to help you understand your depression and anxiety more fully and experience freedom from the symptoms that have been dragging you down.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to schedule your first appointment at my Ann Arbor therapy office.

An Attitude of Gratitude

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A regular practice of gratitude has been shown to inspire health benefits including increased exercise, optimism, and reduced physical pain.  Gratitude has a multitude of mental health benefits as well, such as better sleep, reduced depression, and reduced stress.  Studies by the National Institute of Health indicate that gratitude can increase dopamine in your brain, which serves as a “reward” hormone to make you feel good.

Gratitude also has spiritual benefits.  When we thank God for the gifts He has given us, we are then better able to receive those gifts with gratitude rather than continuing to demand more.  Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.”  Meditating on this verse helps me to be aware of all the needs I have that are being met, rather than comparing my current status with what I wish I had.

Oftentimes, if we struggle with depression or anxiety, gratitude isn’t our first response.  Instead, we face hopelessness about our life circumstances.  We can have a thought pattern of only seeing the negative in our lives, without taking the time or energy to appreciate the good things we experience.  I personally can tend to default to a more “glass half empty” frame of mind.

But what if, instead of only looking at the bad, we chose to see all the good in our lives?  Have you heard of the difference between the “scarcity mentality” and the “abundance mentality”? The scarcity mentality says, “I’ll never have enough/what I want,” while the abundance mentality comes from the perspective of “I have all that I need.”  How might it feel if you chose gratitude for the abundance in your life rather than focusing on things you lack? 

Here are some ways you can practice gratitude in your daily life. 

Keep a gratitude journal.

Each night before bed, or each morning when you wake up, take some time to write out a list of things you are grateful for in a journal designated for just that purpose.  You could take Ann Voskamp’s approach and write a list of three different things you’re grateful for on a daily basis, culminating in over 1000 different things to be grateful for in one year.  In the past, I’ve combined this practice with the practice of an examen to reflect on my day and the good and bad that happened throughout.  Looking back over this journal, it is easy to see how full our lives are of good things, and to experience joy at the gifts we have. 

Practice gratitude in your relationships.

We often become so accustomed to loved ones in our lives that we begin to lose sight of the ways they love or serve us.  This is a particular problem in marriages, where the praise and appreciation that are so prevalent at first tend to taper as you spend more and more time together.  Sit down with your partner or with a close friend today and share with them ways that you are grateful for who they are and what influence they’ve had on your life.

Sit in nature and write lists of all the things you see around you for which you are thankful.

Have you ever watched the TV show Planet Earth?  Whenever I flip on an episode of this or any other nature show, I'm fascinated by the creatures and landscapes that exist in this world and their beauty.  When we take the time to sit outside and look at the world around us (even in the winter!), we can connect with a world that is much bigger than we are.  We can also experience more peace and calm as a result.

Pray.

At times in the past, my gratitude journal has taken the form of a prayer journal, where I spend time thanking God for the blessings in my life.  Whether this takes the form of a nightly ritual or an extended conversation with God, it can be a refreshing and renewing practice for my faith and to remind myself that God has provided all that I need.  Sometimes combining prayer with a walk can be helpful, as it allows space to be in nature as well.  Another area we can practice gratitude in prayer is paying attention to answered prayers: what have you been praying for where God has provided an answer? 

Write a thank-you note!

We’re taught as children to write thank you notes for the gifts we get at parties, and we often continue that practice with other special events in our lives, like weddings and baby showers.  While this custom tied to formal events can feel rote and like a chore, what would it feel like for you to write a thank you note to a friend…just because?  Try sending a thank-you card to a friend or family member for no reason other than to practice gratitude for the ways they’ve been present in your life.

Stop comparing yourself to others!

This is a big one, and I can often be the #1 culprit.  When we compare ourselves to others, even if we do so in order to view ourselves more favorably, that is not gratitude.  In fact, when we do it, it often leaves us with kind of an icky feeling.  Gratitude is about finding the things that are positive in your own life, without comparing to anyone else.

What step will you take this week to practice gratitude in your life?

This article was originally posted on March 25, 2017.

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Are you having a hard time finding anything to feel grateful about?  Maybe you relate to the idea of the scarcity mentality, where you feel hopeless and unhappy with your current life circumstances.  Here at Restored Hope, I’d love to help you on your journey to change your circumstances and your outlook to live a happy and fulfilled life.  Contact me at my Ann Arbor therapy office to hear more about how you can find support and help to live more wholeheartedly.  Call me at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to reach me.

Seven Signs You Might Have Clinical Anxiety

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Your heart is racing, your hands are shaky, and your palms are sweating.  Your pupils dilate, and you feel panic rising in your chest.  You start to feel nausea growing in the pit of your stomach, and you feel slightly dizzy and off balance.

Maybe you’ve had this experience when you were about to give a speech, run a race, or play a sport.   This is an example of what happens when our bodies go through the fight-or-flight response that characterizes anxiety. It’s our body’s response to any perceived threat: our adrenaline kicks in to give us that extra boost of energy to push through.

However, when you struggle with clinical anxiety, that fight-or-flight response never truly turns off.  You’re responding to all of life’s daily worries with an adrenaline surge, and your body and mind get worn out as a result.

Occasional anxiety can be helpful, because it keeps us motivated.  But when it becomes problematic and interferes with our lives, it becomes more harmful than good.

You may be asking: what is the difference between just feeling worried or anxious occasionally, and actually struggling with an anxiety disorder?  Here’s some common signs of clinical anxiety:

You notice physical symptoms, like feeling restless and worked up all the time, or your muscles feel tense and tight.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can often be one of the early indicators that you may struggle with this particular disorder.  Have you ever noticed you’re feeling nervous by holding up a hand and watching it shake?  Pay attention to how your body feels: if you notice shaking, trembling, twitching, exaggerated startle response, or feeling shaky, these might be indicators that you’re feeling some anxiety.  It can also show up in common stress responses, like headaches or stomach issues.

I’ve recently noticed anxiety shows up in me in the form of an internal shakiness: when I’m feeling fear or anxiety about an upcoming event, I shiver as though I were outside in the cold, even if I’m in a warm room.  While I may not be feeling the emotion of fear or anxiety, I am aware that I am anxious because of my body’s response.

Your negative thoughts and fears feel like they’re on a constant loop that you can’t turn off, and you feel worried about most areas of your life.

It is common to experience anxiety about a particular area of your life from time to time.  Clinical anxiety, however, is characterized by worrying so much about all different areas of your life such that you can’t shut the worry off, even when you may need to for an important reason.  This anxiety is excessive, interfering with daily life and the tasks at hand.  It is a general rule that the more areas over which you are feeling anxious, the more likely it is that you are struggling with an anxiety disorder.

The worst-case scenario is the first option that pops into your mind.

Everyday worries can usually be explained or rationalized away, and they typically don’t jump to the worse possible option.  On the other hand, clinical anxiety cannot be rationalized: even when you know your fears are unfounded, the experience of the emotion of anxiety won’t stop.  Even if your fears aren’t realistic or logical, they can feel overwhelming.  This is often one of the most frustrating parts of experiencing an anxiety disorder!

You’re at a loss to figure out what made you anxious in the first place.

“I know I’m nervous because I have a big test tomorrow.” Understandable, right? Feeling anxious about a definable problem like a big exam can be expected.  But when the exam is over and the worry doesn’t stop, or you wake up one morning and feel on edge without any particular reason, that might be an indicator of a more severe form of anxiety.

You have hard time focusing, or you forget what you were doing right after you begin.

Have you ever had the experience of sitting down to focus on a task, and immediately thinking of five other things you need to do?  The constant stream of anxious thoughts running through your head can be too much for your brain to hold.  Trying to keep track of multiple different threads of worries at once can distract you from the task at hand, which leads to forgetfulness and difficulty maintaining attention.  This can have an impact on your ability to be productive, which then feeds right back into anxiety you feel about being unproductive.

You’re short-tempered and easily irritated.

Having so many things on your mind can detract from your empathy and understanding of others.  You can feel overstimulated and overwhelmed by the stress response you’re experiencing.  For that reason, you may notice yourself becoming more annoyed or frustrated with people or circumstances around you that increase your worry.

Some symptoms of anxiety can mask themselves as depression: feeling tired all the time, lack of energy, and/or insomnia due to racing thoughts or fitful sleep.

You might think, “I worry a lot, but I don’t always get keyed up.  Mostly I shut down, and feel sad, exhausted, and unmotivated.”  Anxiety and depression play off of one another, so much so that what feels like depression might actually be anxiety.  They are two sides of the same coin: you may be depressed and your body needs to create anxiety in order to get you energized to complete the task at hand, or you may have anxiety followed by depression when your body decides it is too much and slows you down.

With anxiety, the constant stream of worry and anxious thoughts that you’re experiencing wears your body down.  As a result of your body functioning mostly on the adrenaline produced by the fight-or-flight response, you are more easily tired out.

This article was originally posted on April 6, 2017.

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If some of the above characteristics feel true to you, it may be time to seek out a mental health professional to see if you’re experiencing clinical anxiety.  Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based therapy office where I work with you to identify if what you’re struggling with is understandable worry or a more clinical issue.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to contact me and hear how I can help.

Surrendering Survival Mode: Letting Go of Coping From the Past to Thrive in the Present

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A few summers ago, my family held a garage sale, which is often quite the production.  Between my parents, my sisters and I, we have 4 separate households from which to sort through overstuffed closets and forgotten storage cabinets, hoping to find hidden treasures to add to the sale pile.  I’m often surprised by just how much stuff we’re able to produce from those parts of our home we barely think about.

One of my contributions to the sale was a Keurig coffeemaker. I loved it when I first received it.  But over the years, it had gone through some wear and tear.  Coffee brewed from it didn’t taste as good, I could only use filtered water in the tank, and I had to reset the clock settings often due to a frequently tripped fuse in my home.  I also noticed I had started drinking coffee less often, replacing it with a newfound love for tea.

Once, that Keurig was my lifeline.  Working long days and early mornings created a serious need for coffee. But as I entered into a new career, I used it less and less until it just became another piece of stuff to sell in a garage sale. That coffeemaker sat on my counter for over a year with me barely using it before I realized it was time to give it up. 

I got to thinking about how we cling not just to material items, but also to relational patterns, distorted thoughts about ourselves and our world, and defense mechanisms we learned in childhood that help us cope.  Oftentimes, we start these behaviors or thought patterns because they work – they ease our pain or anxiety.  They serve us in some way or another, meeting a need or a desire that we have difficulty fulfilling in a healthy way.

Before we know it, these habits become ingrained in our minds or in our daily practice and can develop into codependent relationships, depression, anxiety, addictions, or any number of difficulties in our lives.  We can often look at these patterns and know they cause problems, but they can feel familiar and safe after being used for years.

In a different season of life, we needed these thoughts or behaviors to cope.

Think of a child who is physically abused by her parents when she speaks up to protect her brother from similar harm.  We might expect that child to learn to stay silent and spend time alone in her room, avoiding interaction with her family.  As she gets older, she may make herself feel better by turning to food, sex, perfectionism, or alcohol.  These behaviors might have provided temporary relief for her then, but if they continued to be her only source of coping into adulthood, they could easily become addictive or problematic behaviors.

Maybe you’ve experienced a similar story. As a child, you may have learned to do what you needed to do to find ways to deal with the pain.

But these thoughts and behaviors might be holding you back and creating problems in your present-day life.

As adults, we have the opportunity to choose a different path, letting go of the old behaviors and stepping into newer ways to cope.  Often, though, that process isn’t something that can happen overnight.

When I sold that hardly-used coffeemaker, it felt like I was cutting off an arm.  I could think of about 100 reasons why I needed to keep it, and I almost felt physical pain at letting it go.  But I needed to clear it out, to have more physical space and declutter my home.

If this is how I felt about a piece of junk I barely used anymore, how much more difficult is it to let go of the unhealthy ways we’ve dealt with pain in the past?

Sometimes, giving these up feels impossible.

Many times, these behaviors and thoughts are based on past experiences that are no longer threatening us now.  It is important to learn how to let go of those things that are causing more frustration, pain, or harm than they’re worth.

But we can’t let go of these life patterns without filling that space with something different.  We need to learn to adopt new behaviors and thoughts that fit in our current season of life.  We need to get rid of the things that take up that mental and emotional space in order to make room for healthy self-care, more accurate views of ourselves and our world, and restored relationships.

What thoughts and behaviors are you clinging onto that helped you at a different season of life, but need to be let go of now?  

Now I don’t think about my Keurig much.  I drink coffee less often, avoiding the caffeine because I know how it affects my anxiety.  I still find comfort in wrapping my two hands around a warm mug, but more often than not it’s filled with tea.  While this material example is minor compared to changing old coping patterns, it’s reminding me to let go, to create space in my mind and heart for the things that I need in the phase of life I’m in right now.

This article was originally posted under the title "The Curious Difficulty of Letting Go" on January 26, 2017.

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Are you in a season where letting go of past coping thoughts and behaviors feels impossible?  Do you feel ready to let those patterns go, but you're unsure about how to get started?  Have you tried different positive coping behaviors in the past, but none of them have worked?  At Restored Hope, I want to help you on your journey of learning new ways of dealing with painful emotions so that you can lead a more vibrant and wholehearted life.  I offer therapy at my office in Ann Arbor, where you can schedule your first appointment at 734.656.8191 or via email.

A Toddler’s Guide to Mindfulness

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Have you ever watched what toddlers do or listened to what they talk about?  There’s something special about the way children interact with the world.  As adults, we can become consumed by timelines and schedules and priorities.  But those things don’t matter to kids – they see things through different eyes.

Before I became a therapist, I worked for a few years as a childcare provider for young children.  One 2-year-old I watched was notorious for getting easily distracted – a simple walk along the sidewalk could take what felt like ages, as he would stop every few feet to point out an insect, pick up a rock, or comment on the leaves scattered around the neighbor’s yard.

One day, I followed him up the stairs so he could get dressed, chatting about what we were going to do that morning.  In my mind, I was planning each step for our entire day, almost by the minute.  To be honest, I was rushing him a bit too.  (We were going upstairs, which is always a several minute production for a toddler learning to climb...and always having to do everything without my help.)

I started listing off our plans for the day.  "Okay, after we get dressed we're going to get ready to drive in the car, and then we're going to go to Target to get something and look at the Christmas trees, and then we'll have our playdate, and then..."  The little one suddenly stopped on the stairs and said, "NO."  I assumed he meant he didn't want to leave the house, so I started reminding him of all the fun things we were going to do and how he would have to leave in order to do those things.  He stopped me again, and said:

"No.  Getting dressed upstairs."

And it hit me.

While I was fluttering around thinking about all the things we were going to do that day, this little one was focused on the one thing right in front of him.

Which was, evidently, going upstairs to get dressed.  Honestly, I was probably overwhelming him by hitting him with all these plans and ideas when he could only handle thinking about one thing at a time.

How often do we do this in our lives?  We mentally jump so far ahead into the future and end up trying to juggle thinking about 27 things at once.  For me, it can start simply, where I'm thinking about whatever's coming next in my day.  Or it can happen on a long-term level, where I analyze my career or my relationships.  Or deeper still than that: I can feel such concern over my dreams and ambitions, or my fears of failure, or not measuring up to a professional or spiritual standard.  These worries can cripple me in a place of discouragement and hopelessness at my lack of progress.

And just like this 2-year-old, if I let all those worries flood into my mind, I get overstimulated, overwhelmed, and I shut down.

This moment spoke a truth to me that I needed to embrace at that point in my life: just stop.  Stop trying to figure out every detail.  Stop trying to think about the next big thing, the next stage I want to enter in life, or all those questions that I feel the need to have answered.  Let go of the obsessive anxiety and attempts at gaining control over my circumstances, which I think will keep me safe and protect me from harm.  The pride I had in believing I could control my life was being shaken by the wisdom of a toddler.

The truth reinforced in me that day was this: when we become caught up in negative thoughts about the past, or worries about the future, we lose sight of the beauty of the present moment.  We miss all that is happening right in front of us when we’re caught up in those stresses.  While planning and creating a vision for the future has a time and place, on a day-to-day basis, it is important to take things just one step at a time.  When we choose to be mindful of the present moment, we experience fewer negative emotions, less stress, increased focus and memory, less emotional reactivity, happier relationships, and plenty of other health benefits.

When I walk in the present moment of life, I feel so much more gratitude for the things around me.  I experience the grace that comes with knowing I don't have to have it all together, and I don't have to be perfect or achieve all the things I desire to achieve in my life.   And I can rest in the simplicity of life where I'm not always rushing ahead to the next thing and trying my hardest to control every outcome.

"So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:34 (NLT)

Who knew a 2-year-old would have a wiser outlook on life than I would.

One step at a time.

This article was originally posted on February 9, 2017.

If you’re in a place where the world around you seems to be moving too quickly, your mind is racing with thoughts and worries about what’s in the future, and you have a hard time slowing down enough to focus on the present moment, I’m here to help you. Restored Hope Counseling is an Ann Arbor therapy office where I focus on helping you navigate through anxiety and depression, giving you the support and tools you need to slow down your anxious thoughts and move toward a happier, more wholehearted life.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear more about how I can be a support to you.

Self-Care Saturdays: Take a Mindful Moment

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Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays!.  In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them.  These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself. 

Mindfulness is a trendy topic mentioned often by psychologists these days.  Over the past few years my curiosity about mindfulness has been peaked, and I’ve tried out meditation, yoga, and other stress-relieving activities to see what all the buzz is about.

And I’ve found that the reason mindfulness is so popular is that it works.

As I’ve been growing my counseling private practice and seeking to achieve balance between my business schedule and personal commitments, I’ve realized that stress is a common factor in my daily life.  Since research has shown that mindfulness benefits healthcare professionals, I thought I’d give it a go.

I picked up a month-long yoga practice this past month on Yoga with Adriene, and I truly believe it has changed my life.  Doing yoga daily creates space for me to intentionally slow down, practice breathing deeply, and grow in conscious awareness of my body and how I hold myself throughout my day.  My goal for the month was to feel better, and I certainly did.

What is mindfulness?  How does it benefit me?

If your concept of mindfulness includes the image of a Buddhist monk sitting cross-legged and letting out a few “om”s, you’re likely not alone.  Mindfulness, however, is a much broader reaching practice than just these examples.  Mindfulness is defined as a state of conscious awareness in the present moment without judgment.  You can practice mindfulness while you’re walking down the street, driving in your car, or playing with your children.

A multitude of studies completed in recent years show all the health benefits of mindfulness.  It reduces stress and improves mood, likely due to slowing down the fight-or-flight stress response.  Mindfulness increases focus and attention, which then links to an improvement in job performance.  It leads to a reduction in symptoms of chronic pain and has shown positive benefits with cancer patients’ recovery.  For recovering addicts, doing mindful practices actually encourage change in the brain structures that have been formed through addiction.  It also offers benefits to those who suffer from depression or overly intense emotions.

What about the benefits of yoga?

Yoga is one major way to target those benefits of mindfulness, but it also carries its own positive effects.  Yoga can be a form of exercise to increase your flexibility, muscle strength, and tone.  It can provide cross training for running or other cardio exercise.  It also can help you to become a more mindful eater as you grow in awareness of your body and how it feels.

Psychologically, yoga targets stress and provides relief through relaxation, reducing anxiety, and improving your mood.  Yoga can help you to build a positive sense of self, which is often threatened by the shame or negative self-talk characteristic of depression.  If you are a survivor of trauma and struggle with dissociation, yoga can help you become more in touch with your body and help you to ground into the present moment.

One of the most beneficial concepts for me in my yoga practice was the beginner’s mind.  As a former dancer, I believed that in order to prove my flexibility and be the “best” at yoga, I had to do all the intense pretzel-like postures the instructor was doing.  As a recovering perfectionist, I still felt pressure to do every move “perfectly.”  Luckily, the instructor encouraged me to listen to my body and not push myself beyond my limits.  Being able to slow down on the mat and give myself permission to be imperfect allowed me to approach other areas of my life with the same calm and willingness to learn.

One potential roadblock for Christians who are hoping to try yoga is the potential struggle with its Buddhist roots.  As a Christian myself, I wrestle with this concept too.  I’ve chosen to use poses that involve a prayer posture or my intention for my practice as a way to connect with the Lord in prayer and surrender, seeking to set my mind on Him.  In yoga classes, you may come across language that feels uncomfortable or doesn’t fit with your Christian beliefs, and that’s fine! If it’s too difficult for you, you can try a different instructor or seek out Christian yoga classes.

How can I practice mindfulness in my life? 

Try a breathing exercise.

Taking a few moments to enjoy some deep breaths helps to slow down your nervous system and decrease anxiety.  Practicing breathing can be a task that takes as short as 10 minutes or less – it doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of your day.  It can be helpful to use a guided meditation in which to do this.  I really like the Headspace app, which gives you fun animations to help you start and 10-minute meditations to walk through.  For my Christian friends, I’d also recommend Everyday Prayer, a short podcast series with meditative prayers to increase a sense of mindfulness.

Test out mindful eating.

As you eat your next meal, pay attention to the flavors and textures of the foods you are eating.  Notice the smell of the spices in the food.  Pay attention to how your stomach feels, if you notice yourself feeling full or stuffed as a signal to stop.

Go for a mindful walk.

Take a walk outside.  Pay attention to the feel of your feet pressing against the ground, the temperature of the air, and the feeling of wind on your skin.  Look around at the sights around you, whether they involve nature, other people, or buildings.  Smell the fresh air outside.

Yoga.

As talked about before, I’ve become a big proponent of yoga after I’ve seen how I’ve felt as a result of doing it daily.  I love Yoga with Adriene.  She offers hundreds of free yoga videos on her YouTube channel, and if you subscribe to her newsletter you receive a monthly calendar with a practice she’s chosen for each day of the month.  Check out YouTube for other free yoga channels, or join a class in your area.

Practice consistently.

As you likely know if you’ve tried and failed to start a new exercise regimen, you don’t begin to see the benefit to your fitness levels until you’ve made the practice a habit.  Practicing mindfulness daily is an important step to experience its health benefits.  You can choose a time and place that works best for you – I like doing my yoga first thing in the morning (and I go to sleep in my yoga clothes so I’m ready to go when I wake up!)  It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment either: even just taking 10 minutes a day can show a marked difference.

How will you practice mindfulness this week?

 

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Do you feel like you’re constantly juggling a million tasks and struggling to find space to breathe?  Do you love the idea of taking a yoga class, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into your busy schedule?  Are you burned out and tired with the loads of stress you’re carrying?  My hope is to offer you a fresh breath of air through counseling.  At Restored Hope, I offer therapy sessions focusing on self-care and creating space in your schedule and your life for rest.  Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to chat more about how I can help.