Reclaiming Balance: Transforming Stress into Serenity
Breathe and Flow Newsletter | Issue 006
Dear Seekers of Serenity,
We hope your week has brought many joyful moments already. A big warm welcome to the 600 new subscribers who have joined us this past month on our voyage to dive deeper into the world of yoga 🚀❤️
We’re just a few weeks away from announcing a big project we’ve been working on all year. As we come into the final stages of this project, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our stress and how we navigate it with a healthy approach. We are delighted to have you join us for this newsletter as we journey into self discovery and growth and share some helpful tips on understanding and managing stress.
In the last couple of weeks, have you experienced any moments of stress which have caused your heart to race or even felt the dreaded stomach-twisting knot inside? 😖 Sometimes it’s tempting to wish that we could be immune to all stress - I mean wouldn’t life be sooo much more relaxing?!
We know, we know…stress is all part of the human experience, but if it is too much and is no longer serving you, it’s good to have a few tools ready to cultivate better approaches and responses to build resilience for those inevitable stressful times.
This issue looks at ‘The Stress Test’, the power of reframing stressful moments and drawing on the power of movement (including yoga asana of course!) to put together some tips on how to cultivate an inner peace which is unshakeable.
So, if you really want to find out how stressed you really are, here is the CO2 or ‘Control Pause Test’ with Flo, to test your sympathetic tone and stress level.
Stress is a psychological and physiological response to a perceived threat or challenge. But, unlike thousands of years ago when we were trying to avoid getting killed by a wild animal in the forest, in today’s world the stresses are mostly not immediately life-threatening (thank goodness!) In fact, sometimes, the things which are causing us the most stress are the things which are entirely out of our control, or things which may or may not ever actually happen (those ‘what if?’ hypothetical worries).
⚖️ An important thing to remember is that not all stress is created equal. Eckhart Tolle describes the two types of stress: distress and eustress. Distress refers to negative stress. It is the type of stress that is harmful, or overwhelming and can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. It often arises from situations that are perceived as threatening or harmful (like facing a global pandemic). Eustress, on the other hand, is a positive form of stress. It arises from situations that are challenging but not overwhelming (like giving a presentation to your work colleagues) and can be seen as opportunities for growth and development, even acting as a motivator for individuals.
Whereas distress can have a negative impact on productivity, creativity, mental health and overall well-being, eustress has been found to enhance performance and holistic health.
So, we know that certain stress is needed as input to our system, but this needs to be the right kind of stress and the right amount.
Your mind listens to every word you say.
What are you going to tell it today?
One useful tip taken from the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) approach is to learn how to reframe ‘stressful’ situations, perhaps even looking at them as a opportunity to utilize that eustress power! Your mind listens to every word that you say and you can guide it by giving it information and instructions. For example, you may feel anxious about an upcoming trip or activity or you are worrying about what might happen at your upcoming doctor’s appointment.
Ever noticed that anxiety and excitement can actually feel similarly in sensation within the physical body, as though these two emotions are two sides of the same coin? 💭 In that case, it’s only your perception which gives the feeling it’s name. What if you were able to reframe the worry into ‘I’m so lucky and excited that I get to take this trip and I’ve planned really well to make sure that I am prepared for it’ or ‘I am worried about my health symptoms, so seeking professional medical attention will actually empower me by at least having new information to act on.’
Sometimes, stress signals a deeper message (you could call this your gut feeling). Take the time to reflect on why you're facing this decision, challenge or situation. Is it for personal growth, quality time with loved ones, or to gain knowledge or valuable experiences? If it doesn't align with your goals, consider whether it's worth pursuing. Remember though, some of your proudest achievements which started with discomfort and stress led to significant growth and rewards.🏆
There are no problems. Only situations - to be dealt with now, or to be left alone and accepted as part of the 'isness' of the present moment until they change or can be dealt with.
So, you’re reframing and practicing some techniques in your brain, now how can your body get involved?
Research has shown that exercise (movement) works like a natural stress-buster for your body. It helps lower the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and exercise triggers the release of endorphins, those marvelous chemicals in your brain that act as natural pain relievers and mood boosters. Yup, the ‘post-flow’ buzz is real! This rush thanks to endorphins brings feelings of calmness and positivity; think of them as ‘happy chemicals’ doing their thing! 😊 Also, when we work hard to overcome challenging periods of a routine or session (these are physical stressors) we are actually growing more muscle or strength which will boost our recovery too! 💪
The beauty of movement and exercise through yoga is that it can offer whatever it is you need: a strong powerful flow to release some excess cortisol, a restorative yin class to rest and recover, some dynamic rebalancing of body and mind with natural mobility moves or even a breathing technique to reset your nervous system. ⏰ Starting the day with a routine rooted in yoga is transformational for your body and mind and impacts how you will deal with stress for the day ahead - don’t just take our word for - try it out! Additionally, the very act of doing yoga asana (movement) has been found to improve sleep quality, enhance cognitive function, and promote emotional well-being; all things which help us deal with stressful situations.
Movement which also pairs with you getting outside is a hugely beneficial way to spend a slice of your day in order to reduce stress. Nature is medicine…it's incredible how spending time in nature can work its magic, both inside and out. Whether on foot, bicycle or doing some yoga under the sky, it has an uncanny ability to make us feel alive again. It's like a reset button for our souls so it makes total sense that doctors are now prescribing time in nature or ‘Green Prescriptions’ to people who are suffering with many different mental health issues. 🌿
Rest and recovery is key to managing physical and emotional stress. We love to use Yin Yoga as a restorative part of our practice and always include it in our programs because it’s so important to practice it alongside the stronger, more physically challenging ‘Yang’ flows. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system - the body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode, allowing your body to carry out life-sustaining processes (like digestion) and rejuvenate in order that you can continue your creative, energy-filled, demanding pursuits the next day. Check out the full yin playlist here and give your body and mind what it needs.❤️🩹
As we shared in this previous issue, meditation is another powerful tool for stress relief, offering a calming and centering practice that promotes relaxation, mindfulness, and mental clarity. Sometimes, sitting with the difficult, stressful feelings is useful so that we can learn how to observe them rather than be carried away by them. We also have many guided meditation videos which can be a helpful tool to use when you just want to let it all go. Even just 5 minutes per day can make a difference to how you feel - we promise! 🧘
So, let’s put all of that into some pearls for you to take away into your day…
➕ Practice Reframing: Change your perspective on stressful situations. Find a non-judgmental, positive outlook, focusing on compassion, growth and opportunities.
🤸Engage in Regular Exercise: Exercise, especially through yoga, reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while triggering the release of your body's natural mood lifters.
🍃 Get outside into nature! Spending time in nature offers benefits including less stress, better sleep, increased happiness and focus.
😴 Prioritize quality sleep and rest time: Ensure you get sufficient rest and sleep, as it improves cognitive function, emotional well-being, and your ability to handle stressful situations effectively.
☯️ Try more Yin Yoga: It activates your body's relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and supports rejuvenation and recovery.
🧘 Meditation and Mindfulness: Regular meditation practice promotes relaxation, mindfulness, and mental clarity. It allows you to observe and detach from stress-inducing thoughts and emotions.
🫁 Harness the power of your breath: If in doubt, STOP, take a moment to gain control of your breathing and slow it down - it will change how your whole body feels.
Don’t forget you can join in the conversation about this and many other topics on the Breathe and Flow Discord Channel, and also hop on over to our Breathe and Flow Kit, where we share our recommended reading list, many of which link to living life in a more peaceful way.
Wishing you zen vibes, deep breaths, and big bear hugs.
P.S Scroll down for some positive press on why laughing reduces stress too! ⬇️
Disclaimer: It is important to note that while all of the above elements can offer various benefits for stress relief and mental well-being, it should not be considered as a standalone alternative to medical intervention for serious mental health illnesses. Medical professionals play a crucial role in assessing and treating these conditions.
Morning Coffee Positive Press
Ever wondered why getting the giggles makes you feel so much better? Life can get a little bit serious at times, but laughing has the power to improve our mood, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance social connections. It serves as a natural antidote to the challenges and pressures of life, leaving us feeling happier, lighter, and more at ease. We love this insight by Sophie Scott about laughter and it definitely explains that positive vibe you carry around after a good chuckle.
Another reason to roll out the mat, or pop on those walking shoes today…