It’s time to relax. Now what? If you’re needing some fun stuff to do (solo, with friends or with family), we’ve got you. Here are our suggestions for some relaxing downtime: Continue reading
Bill Murray has made a career out of being someone.
He’s a someone who appears at wedding receptions for people he doesn’t know to just celebrate (if you can find the 1-800 number he uses in lieu of a manager or agent, you can invite the SNL alum to literally anything you want, really). He’s appearing in the upcoming St. Vincent about a cranky old neighbor who becomes the anti-hero for the boy next door. He’s been known to run around the streets of New York warning pedestrians about lobsters on the loose.
I was nine years old when my father, Deepak Chopra, taught me to meditate. Meditation has become an invaluable tool in my life to help me stay calm, centered, and focused since then.
A vital part of meditation is breath. It is also an important aspect of yoga in wisdom traditions. We know through sciences that breath is a critical component of the cardiovascular system, supports our digestive and lymphatic systems and is a reflection of our nervous system.
I use breath constantly as a tool to calm down when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed. And my daughters have also been taught to meditate to help them deal with stress at school. Your breathing is an expression of the activity of the mind. When we are settled, our breath slows down. When we are excited or anxious our breath gets faster.
There are a few simple breathing techniques you can try to help you stay calm and focused in a nerve-wracking moment. I go through a few of them in these guided meditations from The Chopra Well.
Ann Bruck, a trainer with Sports Club/LA explains that there are two different types of breathing when you are doing physical activity. There’s stimulating breath which aims to increase energy and alertness. You breathe in and out rapidly through your nose with your mouth closed for 15 seconds at a time. The other type is relaxed breath, where you inhale for a count of 1 and exhale for a count of 1. Then inhale for a count of 2 and exhale the same, until you reach a cycle of five. This will help calm your nervous system and bring your body back to balance.
What kind of breathing techniques do you use when you are working out? Do you have any meditations or exercises you use during the day to help you stay focused? I’d love if you shared in the comments below!
By Jan Bruce
I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge—ever. No matter what phase of my life or career. I hold ambition, drive, and resilience high on my list of values, without question. But I’ve also experienced first hand what it is to drive too hard, demand too much from myself and others. There is a sweet spot between ambition and anxiety, the point at which you operate optimally. You know what that feels like: the adrenalizing challenge of being spurred on, but not so much so that you’re weighed down by exhaustion.
This is an ongoing challenge for me, and for you, I presume: Knowing when and how to push harder—and to back off. The key isn’t to just get bigger, tougher, stronger, nor is to eradicate stress (good luck with that!). It’s to recalibrate and recharge, which are often overlooked or postponed, until it’s too late. In fact that is why I’m so passionate about the work I do at meQuilibrium—because I believe there is a formula for managing your response to the world out there and the thoughts in here.
Given how connected and driven people are (or feel they need to be) these days, making time to rest can feel like slamming on the breaks when you’re going 70 miles an hour. Moreover, as we “work” longer and longer hours, the idea of taking time off to rest and recharge can become increasingly daunting, especially if this time off serves as a total contrast to our normal routines.
I love vacation, and I make sure to take them—but I, too, know the dread of walking away from your email, your desk, knowing it’s all going to pile up in your absence. If you’ve ever needed a vacation from your vacation, then you know what I mean.
It’s tempting to think that a day spent lounging in sweatpants, eating whatever you want and watching back-to-back episodes of your favorite TV series is the perfect antidote to six days of non-stop business. But instead of following the “feast or famine” framework of rest and effort, I challenge you to think about one little thing you can do every day to ground and renew yourself.
Case in point: My brother regularly pulls 12- to 15-hour days at his work, and I can’t remember the last time he took more than two consecutive days off, let alone the last time he had a vacation. I was always baffled by this. How did he keep it going without an escape?
I finally understood his secret when I visited him one weekday and observed his daily routine: He’s fortunate to live in a beautiful rural area and makes a point of spending a few hours outside each morning, swimming, running or just enjoying the solitude. In those few hours, he gets the benefits that most of us associate with a vacation: time unplugged, outdoors, away from the demands of the day.
Here’s the kicker, though: He does this every day, and that’s why the rest of his busy, high-pressure life is sustainable. For him, normal life and vacation cease to function as the two binary options for how he spends his time. Because he has found a way to get the benefits of a little vacation every day, he’s not caught between the competing pressures of rest and effort.
Stop thinking about rest as the opposite of effort and start thinking about it as the foundation of effort. What can you do every day to build in a little more relaxation or pleasure, to draw you out of the moments that wind you up and leave you so tight you feel like you might snap? It could be as simple as indulging in a really good latte every morning or a walk with your dog. Find something energizing to come back to every day or every week to help you to recharge without forcing you to disengage. You’ll be well on your way to finding a more sustainable balance.
Like this article? Follow these similar intents on Intent.com
Jan Bruce is the CEO and founder of meQuilibrium.com
By Ken Myers
Sometimes it’s nice to have guest over and spend a few days with you, especially if you haven’t seen them in years. What if your home became the only one they had? What if your temporary guest begins to take up roots in your home making the situation semi-permanent? It can quickly wear on your nerves. In the event of family members, you don’t want to throw them out on the street because you love them. So, how do you keep relaxed in your own home when you feel claustrophobic?
1. You Time – One of the most important things you need to consider is finding time for yourself. This is true even if you don’t have guests and merely have a large family. There needs to be something that you can do or somewhere you can go that is only for you alone. It’s not being selfish, but it can do wonders to keep your mindset clear of the debris caused from over stressing about a full house. It’s important to have time for yourself regardless of what it is. Even if you can get away for a couple hours every week and hit the golf course by yourself, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
2. Setting Boundaries – No one likes their personal bubble being invaded. However, not everyone will tell the invading party that they are doing so. As time progresses, this buildup of stress can release itself explosively causing more drama in your life. Set ground rules and boundaries for your guest. If they know how far they can go, then they will be less likely to compromise your personal space.
3. Immerse Yourself – For many people, finding solace in the online world of gaming can help keep their sanity. Others can find this same solace immersing themselves within an enjoyable hobby. If it can take your mind off of current events, it can do great things for your perspective. The more attention the activity can draw, the better off you’ll be. Some people will find extremely difficult tasks that require a great deal of concentration in order to remove themselves from the trappings of the home.
4. A Second Job – If you dread going home, you might as well make the best of the situation. Getting a second job can give you an activity that separates you from that which is driving you crazy. This job doesn’t have to be anything too grueling since you are simply using it to keep yourself occupied. Not only will it give you more time away from the home, but it could provide a few extra dollars for yourself as well.
5. Volunteer Work – If you don’t want to find a second job, there are many organizations that can use volunteers. Eat up your time by helping others. You may find that you enjoy volunteering and it could turn into a habit for you. It gets you out of the house while providing help to those who are in need.
Having a house guest for longer than you anticipated can become quite stressful on yourself. Without a way to relax or vent this frustration, you could cause a great deal of problems mentally and physically to yourself. Find ways that can divert your attention and save yourself from unwanted levels of stress.
Ken Myers is an expert advisor on in-home care & related family safety issues to many websites and groups. He is a regular contributor to www.gonannies.com. You can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon arriving in Bologna for a conference, I was determined to make every minute count: I checked into my hotel, checked my email, took a quick nap, showered and left for some sightseeing. At this point it was about 3:00pm and lo and behold, it was siesta (an Italian tradition when most businesses shut down for a few hours to ‘rest’). As a result, I was forced to stop my touristic whirlwind and took my own siesta in one of the few open bistros, choosing to eat dinner early so that I could take advantage of my “Perfect Storm” of jet lag, hunger and nothing to do.
At RosaRose I ate local fare and watched the Fords, or shall I say bicycles and mopeds, go by. As a European, this time off is custom. As an American, however, this is foreign (pardon the pun). But yet, with no cellphone to answer… no laptop on which to type… no internet to distract… you somehow acclimate quite easily. So easily in fact, you quickly find yourself dreaming of this lifestyle as your own.
Although I clearly had other plans for my day, my new agenda was quite appealing and I was in no rush to leave my little Perfect Storm Haven. My storm became a calm: my jet lag seemed to dissipate, my hunger was satisfied and my ‘nothing to do status’ became my very own enjoyable siesta. After a couple of hours, I left recharged and ready for another several hours on the go. Maybe there really was something to this siesta after all!
In Italy, life seems less hectic… more simple. Undeniably, it becomes easy to think of adopting their lifestyle. Turns out, there were several life lessons to be learned during my time in a simple Bolognese Bistro:
- Take a Break: We tend to busy ourselves constantly and forget how important it is to take a break, decompress and relax. Being forced to stop and relax because there is NOTHING ELSE to do, gives you an opportunity to really understand how wonderful it is to do nothing.
- Eat GOOD Food: This means good in quality and in taste. If the quality is good, there is a good chance it is going to taste good too. The higher the quality of food you eat, the more likely you will eat less. My siesta meal was prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella…although a bit higher in fat than I would normally eat, as an appetizer it made me full for the rest of the day!
- Drink Just Enough: Often, I feel that many people over indulge in alcohol in the United States. In Europe, drinking is a social aspect of the culture. A glass of red wine with dinner is very normal. That said, you rarely will see binge drinking among locals.
- Slow Down: In the United States, especially in coastal cities, I feel that we run at a million miles a minute. Slowing down helps you enjoy more in life. For instance, when eating, don’t scarf…savor every morsel in a slow and purposeful fashion. You’ll feel satisfied on less food.
- Love the Ones Your With: During my time at RosaRose, it was apparent that people really enjoyed being together. They were smiling, laughing and chatting up a storm. Even the waitstaff were jovial. Whether it be friends, family or your partner, make time together special and fun.
Have you traveled to Italy or any other place in Europe? Did you have a similar experience? What valuable lessons did you learn from time abroad?
Originally published July 2012
Have you ever meditated? Perhaps you’ve dabbled but haven’t found the right groove to make it a daily practice. Or perhaps you meditate multiple times a day and could talk for hours about its effect in your life. Whatever your relationship to the practice, many people out there have only heard the term, “meditation“, but have little understanding of what it actually means or how the practice developed. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra defines meditation and discusses it’s history and context in Vedanta. He also explains some of the benefits of its practice. Take a look!
If this video inspires you to explore the benefits of meditation in your own life, then we encourage you to try it out! It might seem daunting to dive in right away, but by starting with short, daily meditations you will find it gets easier and easier over time. Here are two guided meditations to help you get started:
Do you have any tips for starting a meditation practice? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Biofeedback is a new method of self-care based on several key foundations:
- Our body is constantly under stress
- This stress is largely psychologically/emotionally based
- Such stress manifests as physical symptoms (such as insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, chronic pain)
- Thus treating the mental source of stress should be a primary method for treating physical ailments
It goes back to something we’ve known for many years, which is that our bodies and our minds are not separate entities, but rather interwoven mechanisms of a whole-person ecosystem. You’ve probably had the experience of feeling inexplicably nauseous or tense after an argument with a friend, or feeling irritable or emotional in the face of some relentless physical pain. Even if you practice plenty of meditation and keep excellent care of your body, the one is bound to encroach at some point on the other.
And this is where biofeedback comes in. This burgeoning method of care focuses on relaxation and mindfulness techniques to help patients deal with certain health concerns. Patients begin working with a doctor who can teach them the techniques, which they can in turn take home and practice on their own.
Here are 5 sample biofeedback exercises to achieve whole-person wellness:
Relaxation Sample Exercise (Kansas State University)
Biofeedback for Heart-Rate Variability (Livestrong)
Biofeedback Therapy Relaxation (Inner Health Studio)
Biofeedback Five Finger Exercise (Emporia State University)
Stabilizer Biofeedback Lower Abdominal Exercise (Holistic Sam)
By harnessing the mind’s power, you can potentially achieve noticeable improvements in your health, happiness, and overall well-being. It is similar to the way in which meditation, as we know, can have a profound affect on a person’s total wellness by helping reduce stress, increase focus, and lower heart rate. The first step to healthy living is setting the intent and investing the time and energy you deserve.
Try these exercises out and let us know how it goes!
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They were tell-tale signs of any weekend coming to an end: sunshine was fading into darkness, Mom was sitting on the couch reading the Sunday paper before bed, and the infamous “dun-dun” music was signaling the beginning of another episode of Law & Order SVU. Sunday nights were always fairly routine in my house, especially the always-timely buzz of dread I felt from anticipating the week ahead.
I’ve always struggled with what my mom called the “Sunday Night Blues”: you know, that feeling of anxiety or unrest in the pit of ones stomach when they haven’t checked their work email all weekend, or when that little red exclamation point that marks an “urgent” message feels like it was branded onto your brain before you left the office on Friday. When I was a kid, the anxiety was always related to something going on at school the next day. Now, it’s really mostly about the anticipation of my inbox on a Monday morning (no one should ever, ever have to deal with the site of my inbox on a Monday morning.)
After years of Sunday night struggles, I put a list together of the practical things I’ve learned over the years that help calm the waters when infinite emails await:
1. To steal a line from The Eagles, Take it Easy. This is the basis for all other Sunday night blues remedies. Snuggle up on the couch, do things that soothe the soul, and try to run all the errands on Saturday if you can. Make this a day where it’s at least an option to do absolutely nothing.
2. Prepare for the week ahead. Yes, I know: I just told you to take it easy. But being prepared is a big part of taking it easy so that you’re not taking it crazy during the workweek. Make it so Monday morning can be as serene as possible: do the dishes, leave out whatever you need for the next day so you’re not scrambling when the alarm goes off.
3. Speaking of alarms, set the alarm a little earlier than usual. I’m sure a few eyeballs just popped out of their respective heads, but give me a moment to explain. I’m a professional snooze-button-pusher, but come Monday morning, all bets are off. Here’s why: I think it’s important to give yourself a little more time than usual for you when the week begins. Whatever it is you like doing – working out, writing, just sitting with a cup of coffee – give yourself time before the week begins to just reconnect with yourself. It makes the week ahead much easier, and helps you get in touch with whatever intentions or ideas you want to put into action during the 9 to 5.
4. Clean house. Clean spaces make for clear minds. In an effort to have a clearer mind myself, I try to keep my spaces as clean as possible to avoid the anxiety caused by clutter. Things like cleaning my desk before I leave work on Friday, getting the crumbs out of my car seats and de-cluttering my apartment make all the difference in the world when it comes to maintaining my serenity.
5. Take responsibility only for what’s yours. In a workplace environment, where people are often individually responsible for a whole lot at once, it’s important to remember what’s actually your responsibility and what’s not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked in with myself about what I’m so frantic over and realized it actually falls under someone else’s umbrella of responsibility. It’s easy to get caught up in the game of making sure no stone goes unturned to save face, but if the impending crisis that awaits on Monday really has nothing to do with you, than try to remind yourself that you’re not solely responsible for holding the whole world together. There are tons of forces out there working in your favor: let them do their job while you see to doing only the one to which you were assigned.
6. Ask yourself what you’re really afraid of. Usually, what I think I’m afraid of isn’t really what I’m actually afraid of. When I get to the core of what’s worrying me, I try to come to terms with that fear actualizing itself. If I can visualize myself at peace even in the “worst case scenario”, I can remember that no matter what happens, I’m going to be okay.
7. Plan things to look forward to. The week doesn’t have to be all about work – in fact, it shouldn’t be. Make time to see friends throughout the week and plan gatherings or activities with yourself that put a spring in your step.
8. Hand it over. I have something I call a “God Box” (you can call it a “universe box” or whatever floats your boat) that I use to let go of everything I’m afraid of. After writing down all of my worries on individual pieces of paper, I’ll put them in this box next to my bed and give them over to the universe. It’s my way (and many others’ way – I did not come up with this ) of letting go and letting God when there’s nothing I can do about something that’s troubling me. Many times, months after I’ve written something down, I’ll pull it out of the box to find it’s been resolved in some way I never would have expected. Doing this over and over serves as a great reminder that everything will be okay in the end…
…because as we’ve been told over and over, everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.
(Authors note: Yes. This even applies to Mondays.)
Most people attribute living life in distraction to stress and busyness. No matter whose fault, the external or the internal, not being completely present because you are multi-tasking or ruminating about what’s next on the list can lead to critical errors in judgment and careless mistakes. You might even notice that when you are distracted, you are more accident prone. And everything takes longer to do because distraction feeds directly into procrastination.
Distraction usually happens inside out. A daydream or a worry dominates the real, present moment. To stop being absent, begin to cultivate the habit of focused attention during the good times, the lighter days with less to do, because you want this alive and alert mindset to become a reflex action when you are stressed. Stress makes you revert to habituated pathways, so make good focus your go-to mindset. A Zen saying states: Be master of your mind rather than be mastered by it.
12 Steps to Cultivate Laser-Like Focus:
- Clean out the clutter both mental and physical. Clutter obscures goals and confuses problem-solving.
- Make up your mind to be aware. When you find your mind wandering, observe it and don’t judge. Simply bring yourself back to the moment.
- Bring your attention back to your breath when you feel distracted. Relax your breathing into deeper, slower and shallower breaths. Breathing deeper oxygenates your brain to improve focus.
- Words are very powerful. They can trigger stress by bringing on a negative mindset, or calm you down and remind you to be present to the task at hand.
- Have a phrase prepared in advance which accomplishes this relaxation response for you.
- For most people some sort of exercise triggers mindfulness which then transfers to activities of daily living. Exercising is like a moving meditation and promotes focused attention to all other tasks.
- When you are involved in conversations, start to really listen. Listening attentively is great training for a sharper focus.
- No matter how mundane, reinvent the task at hand with enthusiasm to make it new. Imagine how the task is a step to accomplishing a major goal, can heal a nagging thought, or promote a pathway of discipline.
- Cluster all the single tasks that are in proximity of each other – either physically like in the same neighborhood or mentally because they require the same kind of analytics to achieve them. This is the antidote to multi-tasking.
- Don’t gobble your food or eat on the run. Practice eating mindfully. Live in greater awareness regarding all things.
- Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Distraction begins in the land of shame and guilt.
- If you daydream a lot when you drive, attend class, or do your work, set aside daily time for daydreaming. If your daydreams are distracting you, maybe they are trying to tell you something. Once you identify the message or see a pattern, your focus will quickly improve.