Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 12

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 12

“The spirit still has something for us to discover-an herb, a sprig, a flower-a very small flower, maybe you can spend a long time in its contemplation, thinking about it.”

–Lame Deer, LAKOTA

The world today is about hurry up! Get there faster! Work harder, produce more, hurry up, eat quickly, be on time, don’t get stressed- headaches, conflict, drink to calm down, go to training on stress management, time management-STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! Go spend 5 minutes with a flower or a plant. Look at it-think about it-look at its beauty, smell it, close your eyes and smell it again. Touch it; touch with your eyes closed. Listen to it; listen to it with your eyed closed. Slow your mind down. Think about the little things. Now close your eyes and pray.

Great Spirit, this feeling of calmness that I have, let me have it all day long.

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How About A Quick Quiz – How Stressed Out Are You?

How Stressed Are You?

by Cait Johnson

Recently, a friend said she had been feeling unaccountably drained and on  edge. As we talked, she admitted she was in the midst of a battle with her  husband over something their son had done, was feeling overwhelmed at work, and  was deeply angry about an unkind remark a co-worker had said to her. All of  these are big stressors: no wonder she was tired!

See where you rate on the stress scale. If your stress levels are high, this  book can help you find greater self-awareness around what needs to change in  order to bring more ease to your life.

There are no right or wrong answers. Rather, use your answers to gain a  deeper understanding of where you are not able to cope and what areas in your  life need attention and consideration, and then find a way to express your  feelings and needs. Changing your relationship to stress means changing yourself  from the inside.

About Your Work

1. Do you feel you have too much to  do?

2. Do you often work overtime?

3. Do you believe you are capable of  what is being asked of you?

4. Do you enjoy what you do?

5. Does your  work environment feel depressing? Sad? Loud? Pressured?

6. How do you feel  about your colleagues? Intimidated? Angry? Jealous?

7. Do you feel  unfulfilled? Unacknowledged? Unrecognized?

8. Would you rather be doing  something different?

About Your Family

1. Have you recently experienced a  death or loss in the family?

2. Have you recently been married, separated,  or divorced?

3. Has anyone in your family recently experienced a  particularly difficult time, such as mental illness or trouble with the  police?

4. Is anyone ill or in need of your care? And do you resent  this?

5. Do your parents worry you a great deal?

6. Do you feel unable  to share any of these difficulties?

About Your Relationships

1. If your primary relationship  is not a happy one, do you believe you have to stick it out regardless of your  feelings?

2. Do you disagree about money? The children? Your lifestyle  preferences?

3. Do you have sexual difficulties or differences?

4. Do  you feel unable to stand up for yourself?

5. Did you grow up watching your  parents have difficulties, either fighting or ignoring each other?

6. Do you  find it difficult to be committed to a relationship?

7. Do you have anyone  you can talk to?

About Yourself 1. Do you believe, or have you been told,  that you are no good, hopeless, worthless, or incapable? 2. Do you get  irritated or annoyed easily? 3. Do you always seem to be rushing from one  thing to another without being able to complete anything? 4. Do you have an  addiction of any sort? 5. Do you feel trapped and powerless to change  anything? 6. Do you panic easily or feel anxious about the future? 7. Do  you talk to anyone about your feelings? 8. Do you feel shameful about  something you have done? 9. Are you angry about something that was done to  you?

About Your Health 1. Do you get tired or run down  easily? 2. Do you get any regular exercise? 3. Do you eat while doing  other things, such as working, watching TV, reading the paper, or feeding the  children? 4. Is television, alcohol, or food your main means of  relaxation? 5. Do you have deep muscular aches and pains? 6. Do you  drink more than two cups of coffee a day? 7. Do you spend any part of the  day being quiet and reflective?

If your answers showed high levels of stress, forgive yourself! We live in  stressful times. But meditation, prayer, yoga, and other time-honored methods of  stress-relief might be helpful to you. Even a warm bath or a soothing foot-rub  could make a positive difference.

4 Sunny Activities for Summer Stress Relief

4 Sunny Activities for Summer Stress Relief

by Wild Divine

Everyone looks forward to summer outdoor fun, and you may even feel your  energy pick up when you head outside, but it’s not just a summer state of mind.  It has been proven that the sun can improve your mood, increase your energy, and  provide measurable health benefits.

According to Dr. Casey Adams, board-certified alternative health practitioner  and book author, the sun offers up multiple benefits: “The sun delivers heat,  raising core body temperature. Higher core body temperatures facilitate  increased cell function and higher energy. This increases our detoxification and  purification systems. Sun also regulates our natural biorhythm cycles. Boosted  core temperatures increase cortisol levels during the day, ushering more  relaxation and deeper sleep during the night.”

In addition, Dr. Adams, among others, points to the need for vitamin D  production. It has been reported that as many as one in seven adults is vitamin  D deficient; however, vitamin D can be synthesized by exposure to sunlight.  Vitamin D is converted to calcidiol in the liver which is in turn converted to  calcitriol in the kidneys.  Calcitriol regulates the amount of calcium and  phosphate in the bloodstream, which ensures healthy bones and teeth.

So despite the warnings to minimize sun exposure, moderate sun exposure  (including a thorough application of sunscreen) can have tremendous health  benefits. For sun-aided stress relief, here are four suggested activities:

1) Meditate in the meadow – or anywhere outside. If you are  an experienced practitioner, simply find a comfortable place and let the fresh  air breathe new life into your practice. If you are a beginner, simply find a  comfortable seated position. Then close your eyes and take slow deep breaths.  Feel the warmth of the sun and allow it to flow through your body – from the top  of your head to the tip of your toes. Quiet our mind and think only of the  breath and the warmth. Smile.

2) Downward dog in the daylight. Take your yoga mat and find  a nice flat area outside and perform literal sun salutations! Many have found  that a higher body temperature improves their yoga practice. Doesn’t a warrior  pose in the park breathing in fresh air sound like a nice change of pace from  the hot yoga studio?

3) Walk with wonder – take in everything around you. No  matter where you’re heading to – the store, to find lunch on your break, or  nowhere in particular – notice everything you pass. The trees, the flowers, how  the sunlight reflects off the buildings, the birds chirping – just take it all  in. For that moment, think of nothing else but what your senses are delivering  to you at that very second in time. You are truly in the present.

4) Journal your joy. Step outside to write down what makes  you happy, what you are grateful for, why you feel joy.  Removing yourself from  your walled environment – whether it be home or office – can help you let get  past the distractions and away from the sources of stress so you can open up  your mind and heart to feelings of gratitude and contentedness.

Not only will participating in these activities bring your relief in the  daytime, they have also all been proven to help you relax and sleep better at  night. Combined with the boosted core temperatures and increased cortisol levels  achieved by the sun exposure, you should not have any trouble drifting off. And  there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to relieve stress.

Many have observed that moods elevate in the summer – and there is a  scientific explanation. But by proactively harnessing the power of the sun, you  can leverage this phenomenon to even greater benefit. So, put on something cool  and comfortable, lather on the SPF 30, and drink in the summer sunshine. Your  mind and body will reap the rewards.


National Stress Awareness Month

National Stress Awareness Month

  • Deborah, from HeartMath

April is National Stress Awareness Month and most of us are experiencing increasing stress levels. We know we should reduce our level of stress, but it can seem too hard to do when we’re just trying to keep up with everything we have to do. We may even be aware of the stress statistics like:

  • Chronic stress exacerbates health, communication and performance problems
  • Employees with high stress have 46% higher health costs (JOEM 2009)
  • 61% of the workforce is impacted by chronic stress, resulting in $300 billion of lost productivity (HERO).

We may even hear our inner voice whispering to change our ways or we may be the next statistic. It’s not surprising that Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association said, “Stress could easily become our next public health crisis.” The APA’s Stress in America survey found that many Americans caught in a vicious cycle of managing stress in unhealthy ways, but lacking willpower and time to change.

I’m writing this on April 16th, National Stress Awareness Day, which is a day to focus on how stress is affecting our lives and to become pro-active about reducing our personal, family and work place stress.

There are simple, effective steps we can take, but first we have to be aware of how stress overload is affecting our attitude, relationships and health.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that stress is an increasing and on-going issue and many U.S. workers feel stressed out and undervalued.

Addressing the connection between stress, attitude and health has been my focus since studying psychology at the University of Chicago. Last year, I was invited to present HeartMath’s stress solutions, which are being used by thousands of health professionals, health care systems, businesses and the U.S. military, to a group of business leaders interested in addressing the “stress problem.”

These stress solutions are based on 20 years of scientific research at the Institute of HeartMath on the critical link between emotional self-regulation and cognitive performance. They empower people to reset their response to stress, increase their resilience and achieve behavior change.

Pre- and Post-assessments of over 5,000 employees and individuals found that, in just six to nine weeks, HeartMath’s stress solutions reduced these clinical stress factors:

  • 58% reduction in metabolic syndrome (three or more major risk factors)
  • 50% drop in fatigue
  • 46% drop in anxiety
  • 60% drop in depression
  • 30% improvement in sleep

Post-assessments after six months and then one year showed sustained improvements. An independent actuarial analysis of one self-insured employer showed a 2:1 ROI resulting in health care cost savings of $585 per HeartMath trained person in the first year alone, with a projected 4:1 ROI in the second year. A similar ROI has been achieved in other organizations.

Don Shaffer, President and CEO of RSF Social Finance writes about HeartMath solutions, “I feel we are at an inflection point in society at large. There is an incredible amount of uncertainty in the present and about the future. There is an unusual combination of factors going on now that are important in enabling people to see deeper into the very things that are most stressful right now, whether the economy, climate change and so on. I feel that what HeartMath is doing with stress reduction is part of what’s opening the field or opening a channel for people to be able to make progress in that path from being stressed out, uncertain, and anxiety-filled to a new level of personal and social responsibility. With HeartMath, I can take a step-by-step methodological approach to my own psycho-spiritual-biological health and see how that relates to the broader community and societal health. This is a unique time we are in, and because of the depth of the anxiety level, a broader number of the population is able to think about more radical and more far reaching solutions and HeartMath is able to be a bridge to that. HeartMath can speak in terms of biological health to spiritual health to community health.

How and Why to Use Positive Affirmations as a Stress Management Tool

Positive Affirmations Can Be Fun!

By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.

Positive affirmations are a great tool to reprogram your unconscious mind from negative thinking to positive. The idea is to take positive statements of what you would like to see manifested, and repeat them enough so that they’re part of your way of thinking and seeing the world; this operates in the same way that negative self-talk does, but in a way that benefits you. To come up with your own positive affirmations, use the following guidelines:

  • Look At Your Intentions:Think about what you are trying to create in your life. This means, look at the end product, and the behaviors, attitudes and traits you would like to see yourself develop in order to get there. Would you like to feel more peace? Would you like to practice more healthy lifestyle habits? Would you like to be a more supportive friend? You might want to write in a journal and brainstorm to figure out what’s important to you and get to the heart of what you want to create in your life. (A good starting point is to imagine your ideal life, pretend a fairy has given you three wishes, or try to visualize what you were put on Earth to be.) 
  • Create Statements: Once you get an idea of what you’re aiming for, try to put that idea into a few simple statements that reflect the reality of what you want to create. Phrase the statements as if they are already true, not that you would like them to be true. For example, the affirmation, “I am feeling more peaceful each day,” would be better than, “I want to feel more peaceful.”This is because you are programming your subconscious mind to believe the statements, and that helps manifest them into reality. You’re not trying to wantsomething, you’re trying to make it so. 
  • Be Sure They’re Positive: When making positive affirmations, be sure they’re positive! This means saying what you want to see and experience, not what you don’t wantto see and experience. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t want to feel stress,” or even, “I’ve stopped feeling stress,” use, “I’m feeling peace”. Sometimes your mind doesn’t register the negative, and it just hears the concept, “stress”, which is what you’re trying to avoid. 
  • Make Them Realistic: Your subconscious mind can benefit from positive affirmations that stretch and expand your perspective, but if you push things too far, your ‘inner judge’ steps in and negates the affirmations. Be sure that you’re making your affirmations realistic, but hopeful as well, and positive affirmations will work foryou. For example, the affirmation of, ‘Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and stronger, etc.’ might feel like too much of a stretch, and your subconscious mind might ‘beg to differ’. However, ‘I am learning from my mistakes,’ or ‘I am grateful for all that I have in my life,’ might feel more ‘real’ to your subconscious mind. Experiment, and see what feels right to you. 
  • Use Mine: If you’d like some ideas for affirmations designed to reduce stress in your life by increasing peaceful thoughts, feelings of safety, and fostering a stronger sense of self-efficacy, you can check out my Stress Management Affirmations, or you can discover them the fun way by playing Affirmation Hangman. (If you’re going to play the game, don’t look at the list until afterward, or guessing the affirmations in the game will be too easy!)

Once you’ve found your affirmations, here are some fun ways to introduce positive affirmations into your life:

  • Repetition:Probably the most popular way to harness the power of affirmations is to simply repeat them to yourself on a regular basis. Repeating them mentally several times in the morning or evening can be effective; repeating them aloud is even more effective because you hear them more clearly that way. 
  • Do-It-Yourself Recording:You can make a recording of yourself repeating positive affirmations and play it as you drive, get reading in the morning, or do other activities. Talk in a calm voice, maybe play your favorite soothing music in the background, and you have a recording tailor-made especially for your needs! 
  • On Post-Its:A fun way to use affirmations is to put them on post-its that you place around your house (on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, and other places you’ll likely see them) to give yourself positive messages throughout the day. This technique can be effective on its own, or can be used with other affirmation techniques as a reinforcer. 
  • Self-Hypnosis: To really increase the effectiveness of affirmations, you can use them with self-hypnosis. This is a way to really cement them into your subconscious thinking much more quickly than repeating them in your normal conscious state. (Here’s more information on the benefits of self-hypnosis and how to use self-hypnosis for stress management.