EXCERPT FROM EVERYDAY CALM: 365 WAYS TO A BETTER YOU, LAUREL ALEXANDER, PUBLISHED BY SPRUCE (DIVISION OF OCTOPUS), 2009
DAY 267 – CALMING HEART MUDRA
Here’s a simple way to get out of your head and back into your body. Push both palms of your hands together and place them over your heart area in prayer position. Make sure the thumbs are touching your heart chakra area. Now breathe into this area by bowing your head, closing your eyes and connecting to your quiet place inside. You will notice the longer you stay in this peaceful hand yoga posture the more energy will be directed away from your head and back into your body and heart.
DAY 268 – LEGS UP WALL
Sit next to the wall with your knees bent and your side, shoulder and hip touching the wall. Swing around to bring your bottom up close to the wall supporting yourself on your elbows and forearms. Move your legs straight up the wall. After 10 minutes bring your knees to your chest and gently roll out to your right side. Wait for a few minutes before you get up. Before you get into this pose have a few blankets and/or rolled towels by your side to make yourself more comfortable. Close your eyes and breathe easily and deeply to relax.
DAY 269 – MAKE A THANKS LIST
Ken Keyes was a quadriplegic who radiated love and acceptance. He wrote: “To be upset over what you don’t have, is to waste what you do have.” When you are having an off-day and want to perk up, make a list of everything in your life that you can give thanks for. Start with the simple acknowledgment that you have a roof over your head, food in the kitchen and go on to add as many things as you can. You might include having a friend and a park to sit in. Weigh the positive against the negative and notice the difference as you move from stress to calm.
INSTANT CALM: Try listening to the Blue Danube by Straus to revitalise your nervous system and ease your stress.
DAY 270 – TAKE TO THE WATER
If you would like a calming exercise, water aerobics is a great choice. You could join a class or try this exercise to tone your abs as well as chill out. Hold on to the rim of the pool with your elbows while standing with your back to the pool. Without bending your knees, slowly simulate a sitting-in-a-chair position keeping your back in line with your limbs. Stay like this for ten seconds breathing easily. Do this cycle four times.
Smile, breathe and go slowly Thich Nhat Hanh
DAY 271 – STAY IN THE MOMENT
Don’t beat yourself up and feel bad about the mistakes you’ve made yesterday or last month. Keep in mind that you are human and no one is perfect. Being worried about the past or fearful about the future can keep you stuck. Rather than ruminating, feeling frustrated and giving up, think in the now and how you can change your way of thinking from agitation and negativity to positive pro-action and calm.
DAY 272 – HONOUR YOURSELF
Spend time doing things you really enjoy. If you like going to the pictures, listening to music, taking long relaxing baths, taking up new hobbies, etc., do it! It’s up to you to make yourself and keep yourself, calm and happy. It can be difficult to find time to do something big everyday, but small things count too. Read an affirmation, buy/pick a single flower or read a chapter in a book. It doesn’t have to be huge, simply enjoyable and rewarding to you.
INSTANT CALM: Laugh to invite play and joy into your life. Kids laugh 300 times a day. How about you?
DAY 273 – CANDLE GAZING
Sit in a comfortable position with the candle on a table, at eye height, a few feet away in line with your eyes. Make sure that there is no draught to prevent any flickering. Spend a few moments concentrating on your posture and your breathing. Soften your gaze and look at the flame. Concentrate on the outline and centre of the flame. After a few minutes or when the eyes feel tired, close your eyes. You should see the image of the flame with the eyes closed. Keep concentrating on the image and when this starts to disappear, open your eyes and repeat the gaze. Repeat this until you are able to hold the image without seeing the flame.
DAY 274 – COFFEA CRUDA
Just as coffee winds up the nerves, this homeopathic remedy unwinds you helping with hypersensitivity of all senses, nervous piercing headaches and sleeplessness from an overactive mind, coffee or too much excitement. Take 30c under the tongue when feeling wound up help calm the jitters.
I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve. Charles de Montesquieu
DAY 275 – INFUSION OF LEMON BALM
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and is an excellent herb for soothing the nerves and lifting the spirits. To make an infusion pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb or 4-6 fresh leaves and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. A cup of this tea should be drunk in the morning and evening, or when needed. Avoid lemon balm if you have an underactive thyroid.
INSTANT CALM: For a computer break, close your eyes and cover with the palm of your hands.
DAY 276 – IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Slumped shoulders and a dropped neck inhibit breathing properly and lead to physical and mental tension and sluggishness. Straighten up now, pull your shoulders back and down, pull your neck gently back, unclench your teeth, look up straight ahead of you, take a deep breath and feel how good it feels to stand up for yourself.
DAY 277 – GET COMFORTABLE
To be able to relax, remove your shoes, undo your tie or neck button, loosen your belt or unclasp your bra. Sometimes all you need to calm down, if it’s possible, is a quick refreshing shower and something comfortable to wear. Being comfortable is a way of nurturing yourself and grounding yourself in your body.
DAY 278 – SLOW DOWN
Instead of talking, activity and searching for company, take time to slow down. It’s amazing how you fill your mind and your life with mindless activity. Not all of it is mindless of course, but much of it is. Consider what you fill your day with. How much is necessary? How much of it nurtures you? Allowing more space in each day will enable you to slow down.
INSTANT CALM: Create 2 minutes of “priority you” time every hour and listen to the needs of your body.
DAY 279 – ALL IS WELL
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by tasks and life, take the time to stop and sit down. Close your eyes and drop your head into your cupped hands. Take in a few deep breaths and say to yourself slowly, “Loosen up. All is well.” You might like to accompany this by considering tasks which you need to do right now, as opposed to tasks which you think you should do, but can wait.
Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re your. Richard Bach
DAY 280 – BAKE A CAKE
Creating a cake and eating it can be a soothing activity. Heat oven to 180C (gas mark 4). Grease an 18cm (7in) round cake tin with some margarine and cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin. Mix 175g (6oz) margarine, 175g (6oz) caster sugar, 175g (6oz) sifted self-raising flour, 3 large eggs, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake on the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. The cake is cooked when it looks well risen and golden and the top is springy. Let the cake sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and turn the cake out to cool. Split the cake horizontally, spread on some crème fraiche and add fresh strawberries.
DAY 281 – THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Find a place to site in silence. It might be at the bottom of your garden, a secluded place in nature or in your kitchen. Take note of all that is around you, really using all your senses to absorb your environment. Notice all the little things like colour, light, smell and touch. Treasure it, absorb it, immerse yourself in it and hang on to it for as long as possible.
DAY 282 – RELAX YOUR HANDS
It’s amazing how much tension you hold in your hands. Clasp your hands together tightly and release. Squeeze the fingers of one hand with the other, press and release. Become aware of how your tension feels. Then nestle your left in your right hand, the thumbs gently touching each other. Remain like this and relax, breathing deeply and easily.
INSTANT CALM: Be spontaneous. Eat ice cream for breakfast, hug the next person you see or skip to your car.
DAY 283 – LIME BLOSSOM INFUSION
This plant is also known as linden blossom. The dried flowers are the part of the plant used to make a calming and delicious infusion which reduces nervous tension. Pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the blossom and infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times per day together with putting your feet up! If you like a little sweetness in your tea, add a teaspoon of honey.
Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath. Michael Caine
DAY 284 – ACTIVELY SEEK CALMNESS
Actively seek calmness on a daily basis through your actions and thoughts. Be mindful of when you aren’t calm and use whichever techniques from this book that are possible and appeal in the moment. Notice when you are calm and enjoy the moment. If you are certain that you can achieve it, the positive energy will push you forward.
DAY 285 – UJJAYI BREATH
Try this yogic breathing exercise to calm your mind and body. Sit in a comfortable position. Keep your torso straight. Inhale slowly, keeping your mouth partially closed, contracting, the back of your throat to slow down the breath. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale, again partially closing or contracting at the back of your throat to slow down the breath. This breath will make a hoarse hiss-like sound like steam being released from a radiator. Repeat five times. As you get better at this, try to exhale for longer than you inhale.
INSTANT CALM: Slow down and experience the pause after each one of your next 3 exhalations..
DAY 286 – HAVE SOME RESCUE REMEDY
Rescue Remedy is a unique combination of five Bach Flower Remedies all working on emotional imbalances associated with daily stressful situations. The Rescue Remedy combination is famous for quickly restoring inner calm and control. The little yellow bottle is the only combination remedy formulated by Dr Edward Bach over 70 years ago and is a handbag and desk drawer essential. You can take it neat from the bottle or put it in liquid to sip.
DAY 287 – TAKE DECISIVE ACTION
Act on adverse situations as soon as you can. Don’t procrastinate and hope it will go away or that you will deal with it tomorrow. Take decisive action now. By developing a sense of pro-active awareness of what is happening to you now and how you are reacting, you are better able to take positive action sooner rather than later, which will help you not only solve the problem, but will reduce your stress because it isn’t hanging over you.
The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress is the easiest type of existence.Norman Vincent Peale
DAY 288 – MIMULUS TO REASSURE
This Bach Flower Remedy will help you when you feel fear that you can put a name on e.g. fear of dogs, spiders, being alone, losing a job, illness etc. A few drops in some water sipped throughout the day will help calm you. It would also help to talk or write about your fears and work towards some practical and helpful solutions.
DAY 289 – SEEK OUT THOSE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD
You get to choose your friends so why not choose people who think you’re great? Stop dismissing those compliments from people who think you’re fabulous! How much time do you spend with people who make you feel good? Find a way to make time for the special people in your life. Don’t fall into the time trap of continually putting off the most important people in your life because you’re too busy. Stay in touch to let them know you’re thinking about them at those times when things are difficult. Make the people you love and the people who love you a priority every day!
INSTANT CALM: When your thinking feels over crowded, release the pressure from your head with a few gentle deep breathes and a stretch.
DAY 290 – A LAVENDER WHEAT BAG FOR HEADACHES
A tension headache causes a constant ache and tightness around your forehead, temples or the back of your head and neck. If you use a lavender wheat bag heated in the microwave, the warmth around your neck will decrease muscle spasm and relax tense neck muscles. Use a fridge cooled lavender wheat bag and placing around your neck will help ease a headache.
DAY 291 – ACTIVITY-ORIENTATED MEDITATION TECHNIQUE
With this type of meditation, you mindfully engage in a repetitive activity. This quietens your mind, and allows your brain to shift. Activities like gardening, eating, housework or creating artwork can be effective forms of meditation. Before you start, take a few deep breaths, relax your body and focus your awareness on what you are doing. As you do the activity, focus only on the activity, slowly and purposefully engaging with it on all levels.
Insist upon yourself; never imitate. Ralph Waldo Emerson
DAY 292 – MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUE
Mindfulness can be a form of meditation that, like activity-oriented meditation, doesn’t really seem like meditation. It simply involved staying in the present moment rather than thinking about the future or the past. Focusing on sensations you feel in your body is one way to stay in the now; focusing on emotions and where you feel them in your body (not examining why you feel them, but just experiencing them as sensations) is another.
INSTANT CALM: Simplify the speed of your day by reducing the number of things on your “to-do” list. Most importantly, make sure you are on your “to-do” list. Don’t forget yourself.
DAY 293 – AVOID OVER-BREATHING
Stress can cause hyperventilation which is when you breathe faster and/or deeper than necessary. With hyperventilation, your body has too much oxygen and needs a balance of carbon dioxide. When you hyperventilate, you don’t give your body long enough to retain carbon dioxide and so your body cannot use the oxygen you have. This causes you to feel as if you are short of air, when actually you have too much. If you find that you’re hyperventilating, breath slowly and rhythmically from your stomach. Also try and make the size of the breath smaller. If you feel you cannot gain control over your breathing, breathe in and out with your hands cupped over your mouth and nose.
DAY 294 – CHINESE LICORICE
Chinese liquorice root stands next to ginseng in importance in Chinese herbalism. Chinese liquorice is used throughout the orient because of its ability to build and sustain energy which is at least partly due to its power to regulate blood sugar balance (an imbalance in blood sugar can cause anxiety). Chinese liquorice is energizing but calming.
DAY 295 – HAVE A CUP OF ASTRAGALUS TEA
Herbal astragalus teas are particularly well known for their pleasant taste, cleansing properties, and slight calming effect, making it similar to many mild herbal supplements designed to combat fatigue and chronic stress. You can make a tea by boiling up to120 grams (or 4 ounces) of the fresh, whole root in one quart of water. A typical dose of astragalus tea is 2 cups to 4 cups per day.
INSTANT CALM: Be kinder to your digestion and get maximum nourishment out of your meals by promising yourself to never eat whilst walking, standing up or doing something else at the same time.
DAY 296 – SQUARE BREATHING
Square breathing allows you to slow your breathing rate. Sit quietly and take in a few steadying breathes. Then inhale, counting silently 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Hold the breath, counting silently 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Exhale, counting 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Hold counting, silently 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Repeat the cycle half a dozen times.
If you want inner peace find it in solitude, not speed, and if you would find yourself, look to the land from which you came and to which you go. Ewart L Udall
DAY 297 – AUTOGENIC TRAINING
Autogenic Training (AT) takes several weeks to learn. Try this potted version. Lie or sit somewhere comfortable. Take in a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Say each of the following statements to yourself 6 times, breathing deeply and easily throughout:
- my right arm is heavy and warm
- my left arm is heavy and warm
- my right leg is heavy
- my left leg is heavy
- my heartbeat is calm and steady
- my breathing is deep and slow
- my stomach is warm and soft
- my forehead is cool
DAY 298 – DUCKS IN A ROW
It’s easy to make the mistake of over-reacting. When it seems that the whole world is out to get you and you feel like lashing out right away, wait! The situation at hand probably does call for a response of some kind, but slow down your response. You’ll handle a trying situation in a calmer state, and come to a resolution sooner if you take time to fully assess the situation. Get all your ducks in a row before you decide on a response.
INSTANT CALM: Before rushing off in your car, sit quietly for 60 seconds, take a few deep breathes and ground yourself.
DAY 299 – MEDITATION GASSHO
Gassho is a form of meditation meaning “two hands coming together”. Sit quietly with your eyes closed; fold your hands in the prayer position with your fingers pointing up and your thumbs touching the middle of your chest. Focus your attention on the point where your middle fingers meet. Take a deep breath in and move your tongue to the roof of your mouth. As you breathe out, let your tongue fall to the floor. The idea is to keep your attention focused on your breath and your middle fingers to keep you calm and centred in the present.
DAY 300 – BOOST YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
You might be feeling agitated because of low blood sugar. Everything you eat and drink gets absorbed into the body and stored in the liver as blood sugar to provide you with energy. However due to stress, hormones or bad eating, blood sugar isn’t always released appropriately. To balance out your blood sugar levels, eat breakfast, lunch and evening meal plus a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Make sure you have a small amount of protein with each sitting plus carbohydrates.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present. Eleanor Roosevelt
DAY 301 – EMOTIONAL BALANCING BURNER BLEND
Use a mixture of 12 drops geranium, 12 drops lavender, 6 drops grapefruit, 3 drops bergamot and 3 drops of fennel in a burner whenever you have a need for calmness. Lay down on the floor with a cushion behind your head and your legs bent at right angles and resting on a chair. Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 5 and exhale completely through your mouth for a count of 6. Repeat this breathing cycle 10 times.
INSTANT CALM: Turn off the noise. Let your ears hear the peaceful sound of silence. Switch off the man-made sounds from your phone, TV and mobile.
DAY 302 – DO YOU HAVE FOOD INTOLERANCES?
Anxiety may be a result of food intolerances. If you have a food intolerance, you may notice that your anxiety symptoms are relieved by removing that food from your diet. A food intolerance is not the same as an actual food allergy, which is why an intolerance will not be detected if testing for an allergy. If you think your anxiety is related to a food intolerance visit a nutritionist who will help you set up a food diary as part of an elimination process and help you find out which foods may be increasing your anxiety.
DAY 303 – DOODLE
The next time you’re feeling stressed, draw any big shape in one continuous line. Next, spend a few minutes filling in the outline with stars, hearts, zigzags, flowers, circles- anything you want. Breathe deeply and you’ll begin to feel a deep sense of relaxation. Doodling distracts the logical, controlling left side of the brain from focusing on what’s stressing you, which automatically calms you down.
DAY 304 – TAI CHI BREATHING
This breathing exercise is calming and balancing. Stand in an upright position with your feet hip-width apart. Your head, hips, and ankles should be aligned as if a string pulls you upward from the middle of your head. While inhaling, lift both arms as if they float upward into shoulder height. At the same time bend your knees slightly. While exhaling, lower your arms to the original position and at the same time straighten your knees. Repeat 4 times.
INSTANT CALM: Enjoy your cuppa or drink away from your desk, the phone or TV.
DAY 305 – TURKEY PITTA BREAK
Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry 100g of turkey for 5 minutes until cooked through. Add ½ chopped red onion and fry until softened. In a small bowl, add a little fromage frais with thyme, black pepper and parsley. Split one wholemeal pitta bread and add the mixture of chopped turkey, fromage frais and fried onion to three chopped vine tomatoes, cucumber and Chinese lettuce. The feel-good chemical, serotonin, cannot be produced by the body without tryptophan. Without serotonin, you feel low. Turkey is a natural source of tryptophan.
He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.Marcus Aurelius
DAY 306 – DESCRIPTIVE WRITING
By sitting still and becoming aware of what’s around you, you realize how much you miss in the general hustle of the day getting from point A to point B. Take your journal and go sit somewhere where you can write and observe people e.g. a favourite cafe. Write a page or two about what’s around you. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? Take a closer look at one person or object in your view and describe it in detail. Continue writing and notice how you come into the now and how calm you feel.
DAY 307 – MASSAGE WITH YLANG YLANG
Ylang ylang is a tall tropical tree about 60 feet high with large, tender, fragrant pink, mauve or yellow flowers and is cultivated in Java, Sumatra, Reunion, Madagascar and the Comores. The name means ‘flower of flowers’. The essential oil has a euphoric and sedative effect on the nervous system. You could use ylang ylang as a blended bath oil (sweet almond oil or jojoba) to ease anxiety, nervous tension and stress. Lie back in the warm, scented water and enjoy the calming effect.
DAY 308 – MOVEMENT MEDITATION
Movement meditation combines breathing and gentle movements to create a calm state. Take several deep breaths. Then, move into a relaxed, squatting stance with your knees slightly bent and your hips and pelvis loose. Center yourself by visualizing your feet connected to the soil. Visualize the center of the Earth, from which you draw energy. Gently move your body in an undulating, snakelike swaying motion. See yourself as a flower opening up or as an animal moving through the brush. Dance, if you like. Use sound or music to focus your attention on the movement and on the vibration. Feel the areas of your body that are tight and let the movement loosen them up.
INSTANT CALM: Spend an extra 5 minutes making yourself feel better with what you wear, how your hair looks, your jewellery or your make up.
DAY 309 – COOL BLUE
Blue is the calming colour and makes it a wonderful colour to use in your home. Blue is so soothing that is a good choice for nightwear. Put some blue in your life when you want to calm and relax. Use calming blue in a colour meditation or visualization. This might mean visualizing yourself under a gorgeous, sparkling blue waterfall that cleanses and refreshes you. Or see yourself resting within a translucent egg of blue light, which offers a sense of renewal and protection.
Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. St. Francis de Sales
DAY 310 – BALANCE WITH PEACH FLOWERED TREE
If you’re experiencing mood swings, the Australian Bush Essence Peach Flowered Tree could help you get back into balance again. This is an essence if you have mood swings. It can also be used if you tend to get enthusiastic and then for no apparent reason, lose that enthusiasm. Are you one of those who don’t ‘follow through’ on their goals? If so, taking this essence will help you develop stability and commitment.
DAY 311 – REISHI TEA
Reishi has the unique ability among medicinal mushrooms to calm and support nerve function if you are stress or anxious. To make yourself some Reishi tea, slice the dried mushroom and simmer in boiling water for 2-3 hours. Strain and add a little honey or fruit juice to overcome the bitterness of Reishi and drink hot or cold. The tea can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Do not use aluminium or cast iron to prepare, store or serve Reishi Tea.
INSTANT CALM: Lie in bed for 5 minutes before heading into your day. Say hello to your body, connect with how its feeling and ask it what it needs.
DAY 312 – BREATH AND NAVAL MEDITATION
This Taoist meditation is a good way to develop calmness. Sit comfortably. Press your tongue to the palate and lower your eyelids until almost closed. Focus on the gentle breeze of air flowing in and out of your nostrils. When inhaling, focus on the navel rising and the entire abdomen expanding like a balloon. When you exhale through your nose, follow the breath out as far as possible, drawing the inhalation down into the abdomen and making the exhalation long and smooth. You may focus attention on the nostrils or the abdomen, or on both, or on one and then the other, whichever suits you best.