Yoga can help!
One of the goals of Yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. This does not mean to stop thoughts but to lessen our attachment to our thoughts, to be less reactive and less driven by the transient thinking mind. An ability to intercept and manage thoughts can assist in the management of mood disorders including stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety?
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling of fear associated with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system; a person who is feeling anxious about an event or situation will have thoughts, bodily reactions and behavioural responses. Our reactions to situations and the way we respond to stress is often automatic and occurs out of our past experiences and we develop and utilise habitual coping strategies.
Whatever your default strategy is, relaxation exercises such as deep breathing, muscle release and visualisation techniques that I teach in my Online Yoga Classes are proven methods to release the muscular tension stored in the body at times of stress or anxiety. Regular practice teaches us to relax the body which in turn slows racing thoughts and feelings of fear that anxiety typically evokes and can also be used to treat phobias, chronic pain and high blood pressure. These exercises can bring about deep states of relaxation and as we become more familiar with the techniques we can transfer them to situations in our daily life.
Breathe through your NOSE for better health!
How should we breathe and why does it matter? It’s not just me who cares about this! Gwynn Wallace is a dysfunctional breathing specialist and an advocate of nasal breathing. He explains how nasal breathing offers health benefits; improved oxygenation results in reduced anxiety, fatigue and improved performance. Gwynn talks about his experience of delivering a post covid rehabilitation programme for military personnel and shares his insights and top tips. Tape closed your mouth and breath through your nostrils. All will become clear…
Would it help you to know that I also have been feeling a bit blue for the past few weeks? Chatting with a friend it helped me to know I was not the only one feeling a bit hungover after the short grey days this winter has gifted us. I am human after all (despite appearances to the contrary) and I have had my struggles with depression and anxiety throughout my lifetime. This however is not something I am used to talking about openly and especially not with my clients. As a Chartered Physiotherapist I am called upon to abide by a strict code of conduct which extends to professional and social contexts. Some of these rules include:
- You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional
- You must treat information about service users as confidential
- You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession
I trained as a Chartered Physiotherapist at Sheffield City Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University) between 1985 and1988. This was no mean feat as less than 12 months earlier my only sibling was killed in a motorcycle accident which made completing my A level studies very challenging.
When the time came to take up my place I was honestly quite glad to escape the melancholy which infused my home life and embark on my journey to become a Physiotherapist. In these ‘olden’ days we had a tracksuit uniform for college and our Physiotherapy uniform along with a strict dress code for work on placements which included: no makeup, no jewellery, no nail-polish, hair off the collar and American tan tights!!!
This might have felt constraining to some but not for me; I was always keen to please, do the right thing and do my best so I was quite at home. (Apart from once when I did get a telling off for the colour of my tights.)
On reflection this imposition of rules and codes of behaviour may have gone some way to fuel the cognitive distortions which I have come to realise I carry with me.
What are Cognitive Distortions?
Courtney E Ackerman says Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on regarding ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time.
These patterns and systems of thought are often subtle and it’s difficult to recognize them if they are a regular feature of your day-to-day thoughts. That is why they can be so damaging since it’s hard to change what you don’t recognize as something that needs to change!
Cognitive distortions come in many forms, but they all have some things in common.
- Tendencies or patterns of thinking or believing;
- That are false or inaccurate;
- All have the potential to cause psychological damage.
In his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (2012) David Burns describes the common cognitive distortions; some examples include:
- All-or-Nothing Thinking
- Disqualifying the Positive.
- Jumping to Conclusions — Mind Reading.
- Jumping to Conclusions — Fortune Telling.
- Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization.
- Should statements.
Your Inner Rules
Cognitive distortions include assumptions and rules that we hold dearly or have decided we must live by. Sometimes these rules or assumptions help us to stick to our values or our moral code and so are good, but often they can limit and frustrate us.
- Can you think of some rules you live your life by?
- Think about how the rule or assumption helps and/or hurts you.
- You can decide to either accept the rule as it is, throw it out and create a new one, or modify it into a rule that would suit you better.
The Cataloguing Your Inner Rules Worksheet can help you to think more critically about an assumption or rule that may be harmful.
Even if you are not struggling with depression, anxiety, or another serious mental health issue, it doesn’t hurt to evaluate your own thoughts every now and then. The sooner you catch a cognitive distortion and mount a defence against it, the less likely it is to make a negative impact on your life.
Want to know more about how thoughts create emotions?
Checkout the NEW’ Precizion Podcast
In this episode I chatted with Jacquie Whur; Clinical Hypnotherapist. We explore the interplay between our thoughts and emotions and most importantly how to get your mojo back in mid-life. We talk about the metaphorical hats of our identity that we wear throughout our lives and how menopause can be a time when we realise we have misplaced a couple. Are you sitting comfortably? then grab your ear buds, close your eyes and journey with us into the workings of the mind.
My New LIVE FEATURE ‘Mindfulness on Monday’
I am fascinated by the brain and the workings of the mind. My journey to know and understand myself is ongoing and I am highly aware of the ability of my brain to transport me to places I’d really rather not go! Mind management strategies are skills like any other and take practice.
Mindfulness teacher Sune Markowitz-Shulman and I are on a mission to share some simple tools and techniques that can assist us in getting to know ourselves and adopt more mindful approaches to living.
We kick off with the beginner’s mind, what it is and how approaching things with a beginners mind can shine a light of wonder on even the most mundane object, situations, experiences and bring us right into the present moment.
Join me Online for Hatha Yoga and Bone Healthy Pilates
As always please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions.
I look forward to seeing you again soon on Zoom.
With all my best wishes.
Move More, Feel Better, Live Longer