Protective Posture of the Heart

Photo: Pixabay

The idea for this blog article actually came to me during my morning yoga session.
It made me realise that our body sometimes adopts a protective posture to avoid pain.
This can happen after an injury, for example, or also when we experience pain during certain movements due to immobility, overstraining or inflammation.
Temporarily, this protective posture can be helpful, necessary or consciously wanted to enable relief and healing. In the case of major injuries, we are even prescribed this protective posture if, for example, joints, tendons or bones are temporarily immobilised by a plaster cast, orthosis or similar.

Normally, however, the protective posture happens unconsciously and and build ups continuously. Usually, we only become aware of it when we experience pain in another part of the body, because an imbalance has been created by the permanent protective posture, which has to be compensated for by an incorrect posture. And so the imbalance increases while our flexibility decreases.

And then I thought: isn’t it the same with emotions?
Don’t we also tend to avoid certain situations, people or events (or keep them at bay by being particularly tough) if our last experience was bad or painful?
For example, if you gave a talk in front of many people and had a total blackout, would you immediately go back on stage?
If you had a fall (from a horse, bicycle, motorbike, while skiing ….), would you get back on immediately?
If you were hurt in your last relationship, can you start again with confidence and trust in the new one?

Pain happens – no matter whether it is caused by physical or emotional injuries. And yes, relief needs a certain amount of time which helps to process (not surpress or block). Take this time! But then it is important not to remain in this posture, but to get moving again as quickly as possible and slowly rebuild flexibility – it’s the same with emotions as it is with muscles. Because if we maintain the protective posture, it may feel safe at first – but in the long run it has unpleasant consequences:

  1. Emotional imbalance: To avoid one feeling, we develop another one stronger, such as hardness to avoid sadness.
  2. Lack of flexibility: We unlearn how to deal with certain emotions – and suffer all the more when we encounter them again. I.e. there is even a
  3. Greater risk of injury.
  4. Pain in other areas: We may succeed in avoiding some injuries and pain. However, our isolation also prevents beautiful experiences, joy and liveliness – and makes us lonely in the long run.

And just like the physical recovery, the emotional recovery also feels uncertain and “shaky” in the beginning. But hold on, it will settle with time! This is the only way to stay lithely so that you can unfold your full potential and experience the complete “range of motion” of life and emotions.

Where have you fallen into a protective posture emotionally?
How could you regain flexibility?

And as I am writing this — doesn’t it all somehow apply to our thoughts and perspectives, too?

So – time for some stretching exercises – for the body, the mind and the heart – and then off into life!

Take Care!

Birgit

Are you sober?

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I’m not asking this because it’s mulled wine time. You can have it 😉
But when I decided to abstain from alcohol in November, I realized that we numb our bodies with all kinds of things – sometimes quite unconsciously.
Often we only notice it when we “sober up” in the corresponding area – that is, when we practice abstinence for a while. If we consume something regularly, we get used to it very quickly – and lose the feeling for the right measure. Anyone who has ever used the same perfume or aftershave for a longer period of time will be familiar with this: after a while, you get the feeling that the scent fades much faster. But the truth is that we perceive it less and less because our nose has already become accustomed to it. And when things go badly (for our fellow human beings ;-)) we continuously increase the amount until we smell it again.

“Anesthesia” can set in when we need more and more of something that boosts our reward system in the brain to achieve the desired feeling of happiness.
Or when we continuously distract ourselves to hide away from feeling.

Here is a small selection of common “anesthetics”:

  • Alcohol (to relax and unwind)
  • Sugar (happiness kick)
  • Caffeine (energy kick)
  • Food (do you eat for hunger or appetite?)
  • Work (“one more …. If I first… then …”)
  • Thoughts (brooding)
  • Social media / cell phone (the like kick, satisfying curiosity)
  • Television
  • Sports (“relief kick” upon completion)
  • Busyness (always having something to do, even if it’s not actually useful or necessary; no breaks)
  • Shopping (rewarding myself)
  • News (“excitement kick”)

You can find out if you are still enjoying and consuming at a normal level or are already in numbing mode by answering these questions:

Can you enjoy it without immediately wanting more?

Do you consume consciously or casually? (e.g. messages in the cell phone or the bag of chips).

Do you feel after a certain amount a physical or emotional “enough” (saturation)?

Are you aware of how often and how much you consume?

Are you aware in which situations you reach for the respective “narcotic” and which craving you actually want to satisfy with it?

Do you sometimes consume so much of it that you only notice the “overdose” when you are no longer feeling well?

Can you do without it for a certain period of time without any problems? (Answer yes only after you have tried it – you will be surprised …).

Maybe you would like to start an experiment during the next days and weeks and do without one of your favorite “narcotics”?
It is definitely worth it! If you succeed, you will:

  • gain exciting insights about yourself
  • regain a sense of control
  • become more mindful and aware of your feelings
  • be more in touch with your body and its signals again
  • regain the feeling for the right (healthy) measure
  • use this awareness to better control what is good for you
  • taste, feel and perceive the respective “remedy” more intensively after the renunciation
  • feel clearer, stronger and more alive!

And: when you are in contact with yourself again, you can apply this conscious mindfulness to other areas.

How does that sound?

Here’s to more clarity and liveliness!

Birgit

7 Steps to Strengthen your Resilience-Muscle

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The other day I put on my running shoes and started running – although it rained a little.
While on track the rain got heavier and the wind blew from the front.
And although the water ran down my face, something happened to me during this run and I finally had to smile. I noticed how I was running out of my comfort zone and – that I enjoyed it. I felt alive, pure, present in the moment.

Yes, it’s about liveliness. It’s about standing the rain – or the wind. To get connected with your feelings, with the present moment.
And it’s about how exactly this can increase your resilience.

Admittedly, if we compare this year with a general weather situation, you could say that we have been in the rain quite a bit so far and any forecast was and is about as reliable as the weather report 😉
For such a situation there is no suitable exercise.
But it is a bit like marathon training. It also happens in small, intensive run segments, but all of them are shorter than 43 km.

How we cope with and deal with uncomfortable situations depends on the extent of which we are used to them. You won’t gain resistance and stamina if you take it easy or always choose the path of least resistance.

Our resilience is like a muscle for endurance. It can be trained – and it is advisable to do so continuously in order to be strong enough when it counts.

The training steps for your resilience muscle are always the same – whether voluntary or involuntary:

1. Awareness – You notice that something is stressing you or is triggering unpleasant thoughts and feelings in you. You discover a trigger and at the same time an area where you need more resilience. Let’s stay with my run. As the rain increased and I got wetter and wetter, I thought “Oh no, no!” I also noticed how I increased my pace.

2. Acceptance – Accepting means to accept the insight on your trigger. “Ok, I’m not used to walking in the rain” or “I don’t like walking with wet feet”.

3. Endurance – There is no way around it – only right through it. Especially in situations that we cannot choose, the simple and moving motto now is: “Face it, stand it, endure it.”

4. Adapting – Adapting can help with endurance and can affect both our behaviour and our thoughts. Can you do something different in an unpleasant situation to make it easier for you? Which thoughts would be helpful now? What should you focus on to make you feel better? “One step at a time – just keep going! – or “Haha, others go to the beautician and have their skin moistened so that it looks fresher. I have this included :-).” or “Oh, what am I looking forward to a warm shower and a tea afterwards.”

5. Recovery – Without question – enduring and adapting drains energy. Therefore it is important to allow yourself a phase of regeneration after such a strain. Your resilience muscle grows during the rest phase – just like any other muscle. I really enjoyed a long shower and put on some nice music for tea afterwards.

6. Learning – Reflection phase when the situation is over. How hard did you find it to bear? Which adaptation strategies worked particularly well? What can you learn from this for the next time? Changing my thoughts helped me a lot – and even brought a smile to my lips (I was thinking about it with the beautician ;-)) Learning: Running in the rain is cool and I can do it.

7. Adjusting – Put your insights into practice. What will you do (differently) next time? I will go running in the rain again and have bought a rain jacket. I am looking forward to the awesome feeling again!

It was especially exciting for me that I benefited in two ways just by changing my mindset in the situation: I felt alive and happy – and I trained my endurance and also made myself independent of the weather in my running schedule in the future.

When was the last time you trained yourself in accepting and enduring?
When did you voluntarily choose the more unpleasant option?
Or when did you consciously stay in an unpleasant situation and make it your teacher?

How and where could you consciously stand “in the rain” in the coming week to train your resilience muscle?

Leave the umbrella at home and dive into life!

Birgit

Nothing

Photo: Pixabay

Today I would like to invite you to do something that is super important for your personal development: nothing!
Yes, you read correctly! Growth does not take place during periods of stress – but during the following periods of rest.
This is not only the case in sports, where muscle growth is only enabled by training breaks. The principle can also be found in other areas:

It is easier to find solutions if we make ourselves aware of the challenge – and then let go (it’s for a reason that brilliant ideas rarely show up if we ponder hard enough, but rather in moments when we no longer think about the problem).

We process emotions in our sleep, e.g. by dreaming (by the way – everyone is dreaming – about it – even if not everyone can remember).

We learning experiences only stick when we allow the mind to rest in order to sort them correctly in our synaptic library.

Now, before you take it literally and switch off, there is one more thing that is important: Your emotional mindset. Your “lazy day” will only have a positive effect if you really allow yourself to have it and give yourself an okay – without a guilty conscience!

So – go ahead and treat yourself!
(And in case you need it: I hereby officially give you permission to do so ;-))

Enjoy the nothing,

Birgit

Magic Sports

Photo: Pixabay

While doing my running routine along the Neckar yesterday morning, the humid autumn air in my nose and the morning sun on my back, I thought: isn’t sport amazing! It almost felt as if I could run away from this weird situation – which is now going into another round with the Soft Lock Down. And it is indeed a bit like that.
That’s why I want to promote sports this week.
It doesn’t have to be running – no matter what kind of sport will make you sweat – it will do you good on several levels and provide exactly what you need to be physically and mentally strengthened to cope with whatever comes your way.

In order for us to feel good in the sense of salutogenesis (a concept that explores how health can be established and maintained), we need a sense of meaning, comprehensibility and manageability of what is happening and what we are dealing with.

We feel good, when we

  • are able to act in a self-determined way
  • have a sense of control
  • experience self-efficacy
  • contribute to something meaningful
  • do something that we are mastering, that challenges us and encourages us – at best even lets us get into the flow
  • have a sense of achievement

A regular sport unit can be an island in your everyday life, which includes all this!

  • You decide when, where, what and how often you exercise.
  • You can control the process, train at your own pace and rhythm.
  • Planning the sport unit, completing it successfully and even noticing positive changes in your shape and fitness after a while strengthens your self-esteem and self-confidence – and gives your ego a boost – you’re really on top of it!
  • Furthermore you make a valuable contribution to your health – not only the physical, but also the mental health.

“Everything that is good for the body helps the soul.”
Prof. Dr. Manfred Spitzer

Plus: If you choose an activity that you really enjoy or combine it with something you love to motivate you (e.g. a beautiful place in nature or your favourite music to your ears), the whole thing is even more effective.

So, get at the helm of your well-being and enjoy your sportive island – best outside to get some fresh air!

Be good to yourself and take care!

Birgit

Do you see people in 3D?

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“You only know what’s beyond the horizon if you are able to cross it.”

I remembered how enriching but also how challenging it can be to broaden one’s own horizon, i.e. to exceed one’s mental or even physical limits just recently, when I recalled a series of films I saw on YouTube a few years ago.
It is HUMAN by Yann Arthus-Bertrand (link at the end of the article).
As a photographer, journalist and environmentalist, Arthus-Bertrand is known for his breathtaking bird’s eye views. The film series HUMAN consists of three parts, which are not films in the classical sense. Within 90 minutes each, the faces of people of different origins, genders, ages and cultures are shown in front of a black background. These people report on their experiences and views on the “great themes of humanity” such as love, war, death, poverty, work etc. The close-ups of the people alternate with pictures of their countries from a bird’s eye view.

As simple as the concept of the film may sound, all three parts totally captivated me. Looking into the eyes of these people – and equally into their souls and what moves them – moved e. It is the fact that it’s just statements and stories in the film – not commented or evaluated – that viewer to evaluate. You are not told what to think about it – instead, the film confronts you inwardly with your own opinion.
Some perspectives and stories sounded familiar and understandable, others challenged me, astonished me and pushed me to the limits of my beliefs. For when I suddenly perceived situations from the perspective of the person telling the story, with all the emotions that went with it, my inner “commentary” changed and my view became wider. It was as if I had previously looked at an object from only one side and someone invited me to walk around the object and look at it from behind.
The picture became more complete, got new facets and dimensions, became 3D.

How often do we look at the world in 1D?
How often do we not want to leave our point of view and change to another perspective?
Why should we?
Because the world is much more beautiful in 3D 🙂

Seriously:
Getting involved with someone else’s perspective, widening one’s view and heart and thus broadening one’s horizon has many advantages:

The more we have seen – and if only through the eyes of the other person – the …

… easier it becomes to appreciate differences. We no longer see them as obstacles, but accept them or even see them as enrichment.

… more we consider to be possible. If we consider more to be possible, we generate more options for action. More options for action in turn lead to better decisions and improved problem solving. And if we can solve problems more easily, we have less stress. So we become “fitter” in the sense of more adaptable.

… more we become more aware of our own perspective, feel our limits and where we run the risk of isolating ourselves.

… more we become more aware that what may be normal for us can cause a strange feelings in others and vice versa. This improves our social and emotional competence.

… more grateful we look at many aspects of our own life.

… more humble we become with regard to our beliefs.

… more we perceive the world and people in a multi-faceted way.

… more we improve our ability to really get involved with our counterpart and to build up a connection.

The good thing about it is that the world becomes much more colourful and diverse for us. The price for this is that we have to say goodbye to quite simple black and white / good-bad thinking. This can be challenging because our own convictions of what is wrong and right or who is good and who is evil give us supposed orientation, support and security. But they equally prevent us from approaching each other benevolently, openly and with the best of intentions.

If you are ready to see people in 3D, then

– why don’t you take some time next week and listen openly to someone you “don’t understand at all”? Let yourself in and become aware of your limits – and then dissolve them very gently.
– look for an opportunity to volunteer in a field that opens up new perspectives (e.g. helping out in the soup kitchen, reading to children …)
– take a look at HUMAN – or if you prefer more action: I think the film “Avatar” wonderful opportunities to changing perspectives. .(Funnily enough, it even ran in 3D in the cinema ;-))

Good luck looking through the 3D glasses – there is a lot to discover!

Birgit

HUMAN – Vol. 1
HUMAN – Vol. 2
HUMAN – Vol. 3

Avatar

7 Tipps For Being Alone Without Loneliness

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Man is a social being. Even if you may sometimes long for quiet moments on your own – we need contact with other people, exchange, a feeling of belonging, a sense of attachment.
This is why the last weeks and months are a great challenge, also from a psychological point of view.
Not only because we have to keep our distance and can only perceive a small part of the meaningful facial expressions of the other person because of the masks, but also because for some people a feeling of social detachment can quickly arise in the home office. Those who are missing the feeling of making a contribution because of short-time work and are home alone should be careful not to get into a situation where being alone suddenly turns into a feeling of loneliness.

The following points can help you to maintain confidence and mental well-being despite adverse circumstances:

  1. Regular daily routine: For many people, nothing is the way it used to be; work is done on a smaller scale – or the work is temporarily absent or has to be accomplished in another location. Whatever has changed, try to maintain a regular daily routine. Routines give our soul stability and security – and compensate for the many other imponderables. If you are currently on 100% short-time work, get up at the same time and start the day as usual. As nice as the thought of going with the flow may be at first, avoid “getting bogged down”. Even in home office, a trend has now become established that is supposed to give the brain the signals for “start of work” and “end of day”: fake commuting. Some home office workers leave the house in the morning as usual – as if they were going to work, and then return to their workplace (at home) after a walk around the block. This also makes it easier to switch from work to private mode.
  2. Daily plan and conscious start: Even with no or reduced work: make a daily plan with the most important tasks you want to accomplish that day. For sure there are many things you have always wanted to do: self development, gardening, the sports unit, household repairs … successfully completing tasks gives us the satisfying feeling of contribution and self-efficacy. And then …
  3. Recognize your achievements: When you have completed one task, make a short break before moving on to the next. And in the evening, look back on the day and write down your accomplishments.
  4. Healthy lifestyle: Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise every day. A balanced and healthy body is a good resource when your mind is out of balance (which is not that often the case when we are physically balanced).
  5. Treat yourself to something special: Take a bath, read your favourite book, do handicrafts or do something else that gives you energy and joy. This also means that you are worth it to perpare regular meals for yourself with joy and care.
  6. Cheat Day: Yes, you can treat yourself to a day now and then when you can the reins relax. Staying in bed for a long time, binge watching of your favourite show, couching, putting pizza in the oven — whatever it looks like to you. Let go.
  7. Stay in touch: Even if we think it’s a bad substitute – phone calls and video calls are still better than no contact! So why not arrange for a virtual coffee or a glass of wine together via Zoom or Skype. Until it is possible again to meet in person, this is a good way to see each other without any risks.

Take care of yourself and be good to yourself! Be your best friend – you are wonderful!

Stay healthy,
Birgit

Let mind wander

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Today I read an article about how important it is to let your thoughts wander from time to time. In today’s world of optimisation and efficiency increase, lost thoughts are rather seen as counterproductive. But far from it.
The corset in which we like to put our mind regarding the many things to be done and with which we want to make it work and work out in a controlled way, might have just the opposite effect.
Yes, focus is good and important. When we devote ourselves to a task, we should be there with full attention. But when focused concentration turns into strained short-sightedness, productivity is quickly dying. Maybe you know this – it feels as if your mind winds into a task. Your gaze becomes narrower and narrower, your mood more and more strained, your neck stiffer and stiffer. You forget to drink, eat and you sit on it for hours. But instead of an exhilarating flow you feel slower and slower.
Sometimes your mind wanders away exactly in such a situation.
But instead of calling it back strictly, let it go. Maybe it is especially important to get you out of your tension in that moment.
Sometimes your thoughts drift away if you give them space to do so. Just take a deep breath and lean back.

“I have never made any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
Albert Einstein

From whatever situation your mind decides to go its own way – release it and follow it with ease and curiously on its (sometimes chaotic) path.
Allow yourself and your mind the mental relaxation exercise and enjoy the mental break like a walk – just for the sake of the walk.

Maybe you will come up with new ideas. The best ideas and solutions are usually found in the most unusual moments (especially when you are not looking for them).
However, it will certainly be easier for you to concentrate and to devote yourself to your tasks again with pleasure afterwards.

Happy drifting and good luck for the coming week!

Birgit

You Can. End of the Story.

So how was your week?
Should you have done more sports?
Should you have called your family?
Shouldn’t you be much further in this online course?
Would you much rather see everything on the to-do list checked off?

Look back – what you did last week and what you have completed successfully, whatever you spent your time with, is a mirror for what was important to you (consciously or unconsciously).
It is simple:
If you didn’t do the “should – would – could”, it was not important to you.
Or something else was more important to you.
And if you look back and recognize that you did a lot of things that were not important to you – then it is high time to take a closer look at how this could have happened.
Reality Check.
Face it – even if might be uncomfortable.
Insight and acceptance create clarity and clear the way.
Save yourself the “should-would-could” whining – and the energy.
Invest it wiser.
There will always be more tasks and opportunities than time.
It makes a difference, however, whether things “fall down the drain” (maybe exactly the ones that are important to you?) – or whether you consciously take them off the agenda, e.g. say no, or simply allow yourself a realistic time management – to ensure that there is time and space for “should-would-could”.

You have the choice – do you want to go through the next week as a designer or a driven one?
What is your should-would-could?
What is important to you next week?
Don’t write it on the To Do list, but do it – if possible right away.

What you spend your time with and what you do shows the world and yourself what is really important to you.

Get at the helm!

Your Birgit

Healthy Forest

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I love the forest. All year round. But especially now in autumn, as it is a feast for the senses. These colourful leaves, the intense scents that are even more intense due to the humid air, the soaked, soft forest floor, leaves that slowly sink to the ground ….

And because temperatures are now falling and the weather is more often dominated by rain showers and high air humidity, it is particularly important to spend time outdoors. Anyone who now continuously parks their body in the warm flat and on the cosy couch is particularly susceptible to colds – not only when exposed to colder temperatures.

Exercise in the fresh air is good for your health and exercise in the forest even strengthens the immune system. It is scientifically proven that just one day in the forest increases the number of our natural killer cells by almost 40%! And for seven days.
And what could be more important than a stable immune system right now?

The positive effect of the forest on our health has been well researched.
It was in the early 1980s when the Japanese Forestry Commission recommended that spending time in the forest regularly should be established as an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. This resulted in Shinrin Yoku, the so-called forest bathing.

What the forest can do for us

It has been proven that the forest is like an aromatherapy.
It can …

  • contribute to relaxation with its calm and natural sounds and smells
  • lower the cortisol level in the blood (relieve stress)
  • help you to switch off from everyday life with its impressions
  • relieve muscle tension
  • moisten the airways and mucous membranes
  • prevent depression and burnout
  • lower blood pressure
  • prevent cardiovascular diseases

How the forest helps us

There are several conditions in the forest which contribute to its health-promoting effect:

  • increased concentration of oxygen in the air
  • increased air humidity (good for the defence function of the mucous membranes)
  • environmental influences such as heat or cold are alleviated by the leaf canopy
  • the leaf canopy also serves as a noise barrier and provides a soft light whose green tones have a calming effect
  • Terpenes, messenger substances released by plants, have a positive effect on our immune system. We absorb them through our skin and breathing.

How you can benefit from the forest

Even regular walks in the forest have a positive effect on our immune system (as little as 20-30 minutes per day help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the blood). If, in addition, you wish to bathe in the atmosphere of the forest according to Japanese tradition and thus enhance its positive effects, you can enrich your walk by

  • consciously perceive the surroundings with all your senses – listen to the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of the animals, immerse yourself in the colours that appear to your eyes, perceive the smells that surround you, walk consciously and feel the soft ground under your feet, let your fingers slide over the rough bark of a tree, lean against it…
  • choose a rather slow pace
  • go to a time when you are not under deadline pressure
  • take breaks and drink regularly. Take a pot of your favourite tea with you and enjoy it consciously
  • combine the walk with relaxation exercises such as Qi Gong, breathing exercises or a little meditation

So – off to the forest & stay healthy!

Yours, Birgit