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Well Being For The Time Being

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy to find yourself constantly looking ahead to what's next rather than living in the present moment. It's even easier to get caught up in the needs of others and neglect ourselves. What if you could take a moment, take a breath, and find the space for yourself and for others? That's what well being for the time being is all about.


Well being:

  1. a dynamic state of thriving, informed both by our own deeply personal journey of wellness as well as the quality of connections within the communities to which we belong

  2. quality of life


Time being:

  1. “A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.” - Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

  2. the here and now


In other words, for a time being (each of us) to experience well being (quality of life), we must be aligned with our own values, identity, and needs in addition to contributing towards trusting, respectful, and authentic relationships within our various communities. That sounds like a lot to figure out, so what if I told you there was one easy thing you could easily do every day at any fitness level without any special equipment and no matter where you are?


As anyone who's ever flown has seen on the airplane safety instructions, you must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It is both an analogy for the importance of prioritizing self-care in order to effectively lead and support others and a reminder that breath-work can be a deceptively simple way to practice self-care.


Breath-work, a practice that involves conscious control and manipulation of the breath, has the ability to promote mindfulness, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being. Numerous scientific studies have highlighted these benefits. For example, research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that deep breathing exercises can activate the body's relaxation response, leading to reduced levels of stress hormones and improved mood (Jerath et al., 2006). Another study in the Journal of Psychophysiology demonstrated that breath awareness meditation can enhance attentional focus and cognitive performance (Dahl et al., 2015).


A field of flowers with the words, "you must put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It is both an analogy for the importance of prioritizing self-care in order to effectively lead and support others and a reminder that breath-work can be a deceptively simple way to practice self-care."

Stress and Your well being


Stress is a natural response to the demands of life, however, when stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can take a significant toll on our physical and mental health. Research has shown that prolonged stress can lead to a range of health problems, including:


  • Cardiovascular issues: Chronic stress is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.

  • Weakened immune system: Stress hormones can suppress the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

  • Mental health challenges: High levels of stress have been linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

  • Cognitive impairment: Chronic stress can impair cognitive function, affecting memory, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities.


The physiological and psychological effects resulting from stress not only limit you from living a life of contentment and satisfaction, but also reduce your capacity to show up for others. For anyone who provides service to others, whether as a leader, care-giver, community member, or as part of a service industry, the importance of investing in your own well being is obvious: if you are not well, your ability to provide support and the quality of that support suffers.


if it's so obvious, why isn't everyone doing it?


In a world that often glorifies busyness and multitasking, it's essential to recognize the value of slowing down and embracing well being for the time being. But even if you recognize the value, you may still struggle with investing in your own self-care. Don't worry, you're not alone. There are a number of limiting beliefs that can get in the way of putting this into action.


  • Some people may feel that they simply do not have the time or resources to prioritize self-care effectively. You may feel overwhelmed by competing demands and responsibilities, making it challenging to carve out time for self-care.

  • Some people argue that life often requires sacrifice, including sacrificing personal well being for the sake of others. You may feel a sense of duty or responsibility to put the needs of others above your own, even if it means neglecting self-care.

  • Some people may view self-care as a sign of weakness or inability to handle pressure. You may fear that prioritizing self-care could undermine your authority or credibility, leading to reluctance in openly discussing or demonstrating self-care habits.

  • In some cultures or industries, there may be a prevailing ethos of self-sacrifice and dedication to work, family, community, etc, above all else. In such environments, you may face resistance or skepticism when advocating for self-care initiatives, as you may be perceived as out of touch with cultural or organizational norms.


The Oxygen Mask is Real


By incorporating mindfulness practices into our daily lives, we can cultivate greater presence, focus, and resilience in the face of life's challenges. As the research suggests, the benefits extend far beyond our mental and emotional well-being, impacting our brain function, physical health, and overall quality of life.


You don't need special tools, equipment, training, or conditioning to get started. Let's look at how you can incorporate breath-work into your daily self-care routine with some simple yet effective practices.


  1. 4-7-8 deep breathing: Take a few moments each day to engage in deep breathing exercises. This technique adds in counting beats as you breathe in and out as a way to quiet and focus your mind. Inhale deeply through your nose for four beats, allowing your abdomen to expand fully, hold it for seven beats, then exhale slowly through your mouth for eight beats. Repeat this process several times, focusing on the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of your body.

  2. Diaphragmatic breathing: Practice diaphragmatic breathing to promote relaxation and reduce tension in the body. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your abdomen rise as you fill your lungs with air, then exhale fully, allowing your abdomen to fall. Continue this rhythmic breathing pattern for several minutes.

  3. Breath awareness meditation: Set aside time each day for breath awareness meditation. Find a quiet, comfortable space to sit or lie down. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath, observing the sensation of each inhale and exhale without judgment or attachment. Whenever your mind starts to wander, gently bring your focus back to the breath.

  4. Applying these in everyday moments: You can even use these techniques in situations (like stressful meetings) when you feel your body starting to react to stress and your fight or flight response starting. Pay attention to what that feels like, perhaps it's a tingling in the ears, a weighted pit in your belly, or a hot flush rising up your neck. When you feel it happening, pause and take a long, slow deep breath through your nose, then hold it for three seconds, and release it through your mouth for six seconds. Not only will that help you manage your stress hormones, but it will also provide you with space to intentionally decide how to show up and what words to say in that moment (if any).


An illustration of the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

In a world filled with distractions and stressors, breath-work offers a powerful antidote, allowing us to find peace and clarity amidst the chaos. By harnessing the innate power of our breath, we can cultivate mindfulness, reduce stress, and enhance our overall well being. Whether it's through deep breathing exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, or breath awareness meditation, incorporating breath-work into our self-care routines can help us navigate life's challenges with grace and resilience so we can show up with energy and compassion for ourselves as well as for those we choose to serve.


The next time you're feeling overwhelmed or disconnected, take a moment to pause and come back to your breath. In doing so, you may discover a profound sense of calm and well being for the time being.


If you'd like support on your journey, I help leaders go from overwhelmed to confidently capable of inspiring your teams to achieve extraordinary results. Reach out today to set up a complimentary consultation.





References:

  • Jerath, R., et al. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(2), 101–108.

  • Dahl, C. J., et al. (2015). The impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction on attentional control and cognitive performance. Journal of Psychophysiology, 29(3), 1–14.

  • Ma, X., et al. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect, and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 874.

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