Why Mindfulness and A Healthy Vagus Nerve Help You Reset From Stress

Why Mindfulness and A Healthy Vagus Nerve Help You Reset From Stress

We feel it, talk about it, and tolerate it. We adapt to it and accept it as ‘normal.’ In the background, stress is silently wreaking havoc on our minds, bodies and lives. Of course, life can be stressful. The way we respond to stress is the difference between surviving and thriving. The problem is too many of us don’t understand how stress works. We don’t understand that we have can reset from stress, manage it and even reduce the amount of negative stress we experience. I’d bet every dime I have that if more of us knew these things, our mental health landscape would dramatically improve.  

In this post, you’ll learn: 

  • A basic overview of what stress is
  • What’s happening in your body when you’re stressed
  • (5) everyday choices you can make to reset from stress and manage it to start thriving 

No matter how many carefree smiles you see on social media, you’re not alone. The World Health Organization calls stress the health epidemic of the 21st century and there’s good reason. When negative stress becomes your set point, it can lead to serious bi-products like anxiety, poor mental and physical health, broken sleep, workplace burnout and even death. This type of sustained stress interferes with your quality of life and your ability to thrive. But it doesn’t have to.

You have the power to reset from stress, manage it better and thrive. 

Resetting from stress and managing it starts with a basic understanding of how stress works in your body and mind. Bu understanding a few key points, you have the power to improve your holistic health and your overall life. 

How we respond to stress determines how well we are mentally and physically.

In simplest terms, stress is your mind-body response to something external that you perceive as threatening, dangerous, or harmful. In my life-coaching practice, resetting from stress is a goal for many of my clients.  When I ask them,  “How does stress feel in your body?”  They tell me things like:

“My heart races…My head spins. I can’t think clearly.. I get cold and shaky.. My stomach hurts…I feel like I can’t breathe.”

This all makes perfect sense because the connection between the body and mind is irrefutable.

When your mind is under stress, your body sends you somatic red flags (physical warning)  that something is out of balance. 

That something is your autonomic nervous system. When you feel the red flags, that’s your cue to take action because this system regulates all of your super important involuntary functions like respiration, heart rate, blood pressure and digestion. There are two systems within that system that I’ll cover here, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. 

Negative stress cues your Sympathetic nervous system (S for stress). This side of the system is responsible for your flight, fight, freeze response. It’s like an air marshal on constant alert for danger.

The Parasympathetic nervous system is its peaceful counterpart. (P for peace.) This is your relaxation control center. When it comes to your nervous system, it’s the pilot you want flying the plane. When you cue this system, something called your vagus nerve kicks in, slows everything down and jump starts all sorts of internal magic that tells your body “All is well.”

How stimulating the vagus nerve helps you reset and manage stress.

The vagus nerve is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system.  (FUN PARTY FACT: It’s often called ‘the wandering nerve’ because well, it wanders from your brain right down to your belly, touching almost every hollow and solid organ you’ve got.) It’s the main relaxation nerve and the star of the show when it comes to resetting and managing stress. Bringing this all together is where mindfulness comes in. In simplest terms, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose and being with whatever you observe, without judgement. Here’s an example:

You body sends you the red flags. Instead of reacting, you PBA:

  1. Pause and connect with the source of stress
  2. Breathe slowly, into the belly, until you feel your heart rate slow down
  3. Assess how you want to respond. Response and reaction are very different things.

Mindfulness allows you to put some space between you and the source of stress. From this place, you can learn and respond instead of react. The more you practice, the better equipped you’ll be to manage stress in the future.

6) everyday mindful practices to boost your vagus nerve health:

  1. Breathing. Long slow belly breaths frequently throughout your day are magical when it comes to stimulating your vagus nerve.
  2. Meditate: Meditation is medicine. Whether your practice on your own, with an app or at a meditation center near you- the benefits of meditation when it comes to resetting from stress, are crystal clear. 5-10 minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed is a great way to get started.
  3. Chill: When the flames of stress are burning high, cool your system down. Place an icepack on the back of your neck or belly. If it’s possible for you, close your eyes. In 15-30 seconds, your vagus nerve will begin to work its magic. You’ll feel your heart rate slow and your breathing relax.
  4. Connect: This could be with people you love or connecting with something that brings you joy like a hobby, taking a picnic in the park, playing a sport or visiting a place that gives you good vibes.
  5. Listen: Music is powerful. Grab your headphones and tune into something that makes you smile and want to tap your toes.  Neuroscience Research recently published findings in Frontiers reporting the positive impact of binaural beats when it comes to reducing stress and inducing relaxation.
  6. Move: Exercise is good for you (body, mind and soul). Period. Get your bootie out of your chair and move it, move it.

*If you’re ready to reset from stress and thrive, let’s talk about how I can empower you through mindfulness-based life coaching

 

How Mindfulness Can Help You Overcome Negative Thinking

How Mindfulness Can Help You Overcome Negative Thinking

Here’s a stunner. We have roughly 50,000 thoughts every single day and, scientists say on average, about 80% of the 50,000 daily thoughts we have are negative. Talk about a busy mind!

The way I see it, these data points represent incredible opportunity as I think about mental and physical wellbeing. Here’s why. We are in control of what and how we think which means have the power to manage negative thoughts AND replace them with positive thoughts. That means, we have the power to change our health and our life, once we understand how and make the choice to practice.

Negative tend to breed more negative thoughts. Ruminating on them sets up a cycle I call “black hole thinking” that pumps up your stress levels and floods your body with cortisol and adrenaline- the “Oh sh** protection mode” chemicals. As a general rule, this is not where you want to be. As the cortisol and adrenaline course through your system, they increase inflammation in your body and hijack your cognition. They also create chemical packages (emotions) like fear, self doubt, cynicism, and panic that cause you to feel depleted, confused, stuck- physically and mentally.

Breaking The Cycle

You can manage negative thoughts by disrupting the cycle and adopting a new thinking pattern. These actions rewire your brain, empower you to be present, healthier and create life enriching possibilities. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive and supportive thoughts is a choice that’s within your control. When your thinking is working for you, your life changes because the lens you use to view the world becomes one of possibilities. 

Here are three steps to get you started:

  1. Step 1: AWARENESS: Become aware of your thoughts and the quality of your thoughts.
  2. Step 2: CURIOSITY: Sit with the thoughts that are negative, scary and uncomfortable. Replace judgement with curiosity. This step helps you understand where your thoughts are coming from, how valid they and how those thoughts are impacting you.
  3. Step 3: INTENTIONALITY: Make a conscious choice to direct your attention. For instance, will you choose to stay with your negative thoughts? Or, will you choose to replace them with more positive and supportive ones that will benefit you and your life?

The Power of Positive Thinking

Meeting your thoughts with awareness, and intentionality is a courageous choice and it takes practice. This is mindfulness in action and it’s well worth the effort. Positive thinking produces the good vibes chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin which create balance, harmony, and happiness that support your mental and physical wellbeing.

Mindfulness empowers you to BE WITH your thoughts and observe them without absorbing them which makes it easier to navigate whatever life offers up with more ease, clarity, and acceptance. 

Here are three of the questions I offer my clients who want to start thinking more positively:

  • What’s the root of the negative thought?
  • How is that thought impacting you?
  • What else do you know about it?

I help my clients develop neural pathways through mindfulness based life coaching, that empower them to reset, step into their power and thrive. If you’re ready to change your thinking and your life, let’s talk.

Courage Is A Mindset

Courage Is A Mindset

I know a woman who left a narcissistic marriage after 30 years. She courageously committed to a journey of self discovery and healing. Today, her courage is helping her break the cycle of trauma and find her magic. I know a young man who lost his wife to cancer. He courageously chose to open his heart, believe in love and seek it out. Today, he’s happily married. I know a woman in her 70’s whose husband died at their kitchen table, without warning. Now, she’s pursuing her dream of becoming a ballroom dancer. Their common denominator is a ‘courage mindset’ that is connecting them with their personal source of strength, perseverance and wisdom. Their mindset is empowering them to live their best lives. A courage mindset empowers us to step into our lives, discover possibilities and thrive.

Courage is:

  • Vulnerability to go inward, be with your pain and learn from it. It’s making the choice to move forward in the face of fear and uncertainty, like the woman who left her narcissistic husband. 
  • Choosing to open your mind and heart to love, after you’ve experienced hurt, like the man who lost his wife to cancer. 
  • Being with your grief, reinventing yourself, and having the audacity to live your dreams, like the woman who’s husband died in front of her without warning.
  • Allowing yourself to be seen. It’s sharing your voice at the risk of ridicule or rejection. Courage is speaking up for what you need.
  • Accepting your whole self, without judgement. It’s asking yourself, “What can I learn right now that will empower me?” especially when you’re uncomfortable. Courage is questioning your beliefs, values and perceptions. It’s letting go of the things that no longer serve you, so you can live a life that does.
  • Meeting criticism with curiosity and cruelty with kindness. It’s asking one more question that helps you understand.
  • Trusting after you’ve been betrayed and offering unconditional forgiveness for yourself and others.
  • Saying ‘f#!@k it’ to fear. It’s trusting yourself enough to free fall as you take your next unfamiliar step toward the person you want to be and the life you want to live.

Courage is a mindset. Adopting it is a choice.

I coach courageous people. Here are three questions I offer to help them deepen their courage mindset:

  • When have you been powered by courage?
  • How did that impact the choices you made?
  • What became possible for you because you met it with a courageous mindset?

*If you’re ready to have a courageous conversation about your life, head to my contact page. Let’s talk. 

Why Your Layoff News May Be The Best Gift You Ever Got

Why Your Layoff News May Be The Best Gift You Ever Got

Lay-offs seem to be happening all over the place. It’s worth noting that being laid off is not the same as being fired. Layoffs are not personal. In other words, if you’ve been laid off, the chances are pretty high that you did nothing wrong. By contrast, being fired is usually a result of you doing or not doing something that was within your control. If you or someone you know has been (or may be) laid off, I want you to know this. Your layoff may be one of the best gifts you ever got. Mindfulness can help you realize it. 

Whether you love your job, tolerate it, or flat out dread going into work, if you’ve been laid off, it was likely jarring. It forced you out of what you know. Now, maybe you’re one of those people who loved (or at least liked) you job. Or maybe, you’re one of the countless millions who have been slogging through the workdays feeling miserable, stressed, stuck and under appreciated.

If you’re in that last group, you’ve been plodding along this way for years at the risk of your own mental and physical health. You’ve kept going because you have a family to support, bills to pay, and a lifestyle to maintain. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. Fear of change has created a state of inertia that has kept you stuck in what I call, ‘the loop.’ In the loop, you put yourself last and tolerate crappy work circumstances. You stop dreaming. You race so hard and so fast you miss the joy around you. You forget all of the things that make you special. Your layoff gives you a chance to get out of the loop and start living and working on your own terms. Mindfulness can help you get there.

Coaching people who are navigating the layoff cycle has taught me a few consistent truths.

  1. Their first reaction is typically fear, followed by its’ good buddies, anger, confusion, and panic. Their thoughts immediately go to the very worst things that could happen. They reach full freak out mode and react to protect themselves.
  2. Within hours of getting the layoff news, they make every attempt to replace the job they lost as soon as possible. They head to LinkedIn and change their status to “Open to Work.” They rapid fire applications to jobs that they don’t really want, send their resumes to recruiters and ‘activate their networks.’
  3. Fear activates their nervous system’s emergency button, making it hard to think or make clear choices. As with most things, mindfulness changes their experience. It empowers them to observe without absorbing and take intentional forward steps that empower them to write their next chapter from a place of choice.
  4. Resetting unlocks a world of possibilities. There is reaction and there is response. My clients learn how mindfulness helps them reset their nervous system, respond and realize the gift of their layoff.

Here are three of the invitations I offer my coaching clients to help them with their initial reset:

  1. Breathe. Breathing resets the nervous system, restores balance, reduces stress, and improves cognition. 
  2. Allow time for decompression and rest. This reset improves overall health, clarity and rekindles creativity, 
  3. Explore what brings you joy. By exploring what brings you joy, you can be more intentional about finding your next gig.

Post reset, my clients learn:

  • Their layoff felt personal, but it wasn’t.
  • They can choose to stew or thrive.
  • How unwell and exhausted they were.
  • To appreciate the gift of time they’ve been given.
  • Mindfulness is the gateway for creativity, cognition and optimism.
  • They can choose work that brings them fulfillment and joy.

*If you’re ready to navigate your career transition mindfully, head to my contact page and let’s grab some time to talk about how I can empower you.

What I Know Now But Never Learned About Self Love

What I Know Now But Never Learned About Self Love

“Make a list of five people you love.” This was the opening question of an energy workshop I attended at the front edge of 2023. As we went around the room, people listed off the usual suspects, “My kids, significant other, friends, my dog…” Not a single person, including me, said, “Myself.” Maybe that explains why we’re so quick to judge ourselves and so slow to love ourselves. Why it’s so easy to focus on where we’ve failed. Why we conform, hide our authentic selves away and have no problem listing off what we need to improve or fix about ourselves. Why we ruminate at the end of the day on everything we should have done, should be doing- what didn’t get done.

Why are we so resistant to celebrate what we accomplish and where we make a difference because we participated? Why is it hard for us to acknowledge every little courageous step forward we’ve taken that led us to progress and growth? Why do we shy away from the kind words and compliments other people share with us? Why is it so hard to feel proud of ourselves? To allow ourselves to sink into the fullness, imperfection and joy of who we are?

Why is practicing self sabotage so easy and self love so damn hard? 

In my case, it was childhood conditioning. The words ‘self-love’ were not part of my Southern family’s vocabulary. I was raised by good, kind, well meaning women who were never taught the concept or practice of self love. They learned that loving yourself was selfish, even egotistical. They rarely ate a hot meal or sat down (to enjoy their cold meal) before every dish was done. They went to work, even when they were sick, and rarely left the house without their “face on.” They valued what other people thought of them more than they valued how they thought about themselves. They pushed beyond exhaustion and considered it a badge of honor. They were industrious women who thought sleeping more than four hours a night was for the weak. They shared their opinions but it rarely occurred to them to speak up for they needed to be healthy, happy and whole. Focusing on what you did well was bragging. Loving yourself first was blasphemous. When it came to love, God came first. 

To be fair, the women in my family lived through some seriously hard shit like The Great Depression, polio and world wars. They were taught to “Suck it up. Grin and bear it. Power through. Be grateful for what you’ve got and don’t ask for a bit more.” I’m sure these beliefs helped them survive but they also killed any notion of self-love. Watching them and listening to their stories made it easy for me to feel selfish for ever thinking about putting myself first. I learned to compare myself to them, judge myself when I fell short, question my value and quietly settle for less than I wanted or deserved. The way I was raised primed my pump for self-sabotage.

After decades of self-work- mindfulness, introspection, meditation and coaching, here’s what I know now.

  1. Self love is unconditional, not selfish. 
  2. Self love is essential to thriving.
  3. Self love is the ultimate act of kindness we can offer ourselves.

Holding deep, unconditional love for ourselves changes the way we think, feel and make decisions for ourselves and our lives. In practice, self love is forgiving ourselves, knowing the light and darkness in ourselves and accepting them equally. Self love is speaking up for what we need, want and deserve and not tolerating a darn bit less. It’s celebrating ourselves, being kind to ourselves, and believing in ourselves.

We are mirrors for everyone around us. As we practice self love, that love we hold for ourselves becomes the lens of forgiveness, beauty, celebration, kindness, and belief that we share with the people in our lives. Imagine how this type of self-love could change your life. Imagine how it could change the world! 

Here are three of the questions I offer in my life coaching practice to help my clients develop awareness around self love:

  • Who’s first on your list of the people you love?
  • How are you practicing self-sabotage?
  • How are you practicing self-love?

*If you’re ready to cultivate self-love for yourself and thrive in your own life, let’s talk