If there is a health problem which can be reversed through yoga, it is that related to the heart. Yoga can prevent and also cure heart conditions quite effectively. The best part is you don’t have to get into any rigorous or difficult practices for keeping the heart healthy.

Most heart problems are related to poor dietary habits, sedentary lifestyle and personality problems like tendencies towards stress, anxiety, anger and fear. It can be one or a combination of these. The heart beats around 1,00,000 times and pumps 10 tonnes of blood in a day. This hard-working organ faces challenges when due to stress, anxiety, the breathing becomes irregular and shallow. The heart does not get its proper nutrition of oxygen from the lungs and its rhythmic beat is disturbed. Similarly, foods rich in fat and sugar thicken the blood, resulting in calcification of arteries around the heart, causing angina or even heart attack and heart failure.

yoga heart conditions Shashank asana

Whether the person is young and healthy or in old age and infirm, the beauty of yoga for the heart is that it involves practices like Shavasana, Yoga Nidra, mantra chanting and simple meditation techniques which all can practise. Besides this there are some asanas which again are simple but effective. After a few months of these simple practices, if the doctor certifies that a heart patient has crossed the danger mark for the heart, then he can start doing Surya Namaskar. If the person follows the regime of some simple asanas, Suryanamaskar, Shavasana, pranayama, mantra and meditation, then he will never look back and move towards a perfectly health life.

Start with your eyes closed, relax your body and centre the mind within. Chant mantra Om three times. Then start your practice.

If done with eyes closed and awareness inside the body, then asanas are powerful practices impacting your joints, muscles, blood circulation and stiffness. Yoga believes that prana, the vital life force, cannot function smoothly because of various blockages. This simple practice is the initial step in removing energy blockages. Keeping the eyes closed helps you break away from externalities, leading to relaxation in the mind-body complex.

yoga Makrasana

Begin with pranayama and chanting routine

If doing pranayama after a heart diagnosis, then do avoid Anulom Vilom, or alternate nostril breathing, and Kumbhak or breath retention. The recommended pranayama practices are Ujjayi, which is a diaphragmatic breath and Bhramari, where you breathe in while blocking your ears and make a humming sound before expelling the air through your nose. The sound helps you focus better.

After pranayama, chant “Om”, beginning with 11, then 27, going up to 54 and finally 108 times. Om chanting induces meditative states, calms the mind and the nerves and spiritually it is said to clean your sub-conscious and unconscious mind. This is a phenomenal benefit as heart ailments are closely linked with faulty breathing patterns due to fear and anxiety, which are partly a result of unresolved deep seated psychological problems.

Asanas that you can graduate to after the initial routine

After a couple of months of these simple practices, a heart patient can introduce the following asanas:

Shashank asana: Sit with your hands resting on your knees. Relax whole body, inhale deeply, straighten your arms over your head, then, with exhalation, drop your body forward from the waist so that the hips remain resting on your heels while keeping your arms straight and finally resting on the floor in front. In the final position, your forehead will be resting on the floor with arms stretched out. For some this may not be possible initially but with practice, the spine and muscles free up and you will be able to achieve perfection. Remain in the rabbit pose for as long as it is comfortable or for a minimum of five rounds of gentle inhalation and exhalation. Finally, with inhalation sit back with hands over the head and then finally lower it on your knees.

Makrasana: After this forwarding bending asana, practise Makrasana as a counter pose. This is again a gentle backward bending practice which improves lung functioning, thereby affecting the heart, and also strengthens the lower back.

Lie down on your stomach and cup your jaws in your palms in such a way that the elbows meet under the chin or are a little apart whichever is more comfortable. Relax whole body, then as you inhale, fold your right legs at the knee maximum. With exhalation, place it back on the floor. Repeat with the left leg and then with both legs together. This makes one round. Do a minimum of five rounds.

Naukasana: Lie down on your back so that the spine and head are in a straight line. Relax your body. Visualise the final position, inhale deep and as you exhale, lift your legs, upper torso and arms to 45 degrees to the floor with fingers pointing towards the toes. Keep your gaze fixed at the toes and hold the position as long as it comfortable. You may breathe in and breathe out in the final position on some days as a variation.

Inhale, come back to starting position and relax. This asana is a bit strenuous so should be practised after you have done other practices. It tones and strengthens the body. This is a good asana to practise last and follow it up with Shava asana.

A practical yoga routine with a good diet and lifestyle will ensure health and vigour.

(Kamini Bobde is a Kundalini practitioner who follows the Swami Satyananda Saraswati tradition of yoga. She is the author of Kundalini Yoga for All: Unlock the Power of Your Body and Brain. Published by Penguin)



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Photo from Unsplash Originally Posted On: www.fullformx.com/the-complete-guide-that-makes-relieving-stress-simple/

Many of us juggle between work, personal obligations, social media, and busy extracurriculars. Technology and handheld devices have made it difficult to separate work life from home life.

83 percent of American workers suffer from work-related stress. Stress management is crucial to living a balanced life. But with our busy schedules, relieving stress can be difficult to prioritize.

We have put together a list of simple ways to de-stress after a stressful day. Read on to find out how you can build these healthy habits into your schedule so your time off is more fulfilling.

There are several reasons work triggers stress. A change in operation, poor management, interpersonal conflicts, organizational culture, job demands, and the physical work environment are all potential triggers of work-related stress.

Experiencing stress at work can cause physical, psychological, and behavioral reactions that impact mental and physical health. It is important to manage that stress appropriately to care for your health and well-being.

There are simple steps to take to lower stress levels when you’re off the clock and ensure optimal health. Here are some things you can do to manage your stress level.

It is important to note that you may still be mentally present at work long after you have physically left the job. Smartphone devices and email have made it too easy for coworkers and managers to reach out after hours.

Create healthy boundaries by turning off all devices, even if it is just for 10-15 minutes a day. Create a separation from the outside world.

Instead, curl up with a LOW EMF Sauna Blanket, and a great book. Take a bubble bath, or light a candle with stress relief aromatherapy properties. Lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus are all great scents for lowering stress.

Exercising is a great way to eliminate stress. It’s not just great for body rejuvenation. When you exercise, you release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals which make you feel happier.

Get outside for a walk around the neighborhood or a jog on a local trail. The fresh air will help you focus on your breathing processes as well.

If you only have a few minutes, spend time doing some yoga at home. Yoga is a great way to move your body, and focus on healthy breathing practices. It lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure, making you feel better.

Lean on a Support Person or Animal

Sometimes all you need is a little bit of support. Phoning a good friend and sharing a laugh is a great distraction from the challenges you faced during your day. It allows you to separate work from your personal life.

If opening up to someone you love is difficult for you, you can also find comfort in a pet. Studies show that petting a dog lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Meanwhile, a cat’s purr can lower blood pressure, decrease labored breathing and even help heal infections.

Practicing gratitude is another great way to lower your stress level. By taking time each day to focus on the things you are grateful for, you automatically distract yourself from the negative thoughts causing you stress.

Begin by taking a few minutes each day to think of five things you are grateful for. Then, start keeping a gratitude journal.

Gratitude also activates serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which will make you experience more pleasure, so you can enjoy life more.

Meditation for Relieving Stress

Meditation is another great way to calm the mind and silence negative thoughts. This healthy habit only requires a few minutes of your time each day but can make a big difference to your mental and physical health.

Begin by finding a relaxing spot to sit. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Inhale and exhale to create a sense of relaxation.

It’s best to use a guided meditation through a meditation app or audio file when you are first starting.

Meditation makes you feel balanced by providing an overall sense of calm. It causes a shift in your mood, allowing you to refocus your attention and reframe your thoughts.

Studies show that meditation also boosts productivity and helps increase the ability to multi-task, so you may even see improvements in your ability to manage stress in the workplace.

Mindfulness is the ability to be present with your thoughts, acknowledging them, without analyzing them or casting judgment on yourself. By observing the world around you with an open mind, you avoid jumping to conclusions or acting on impulses.

Mindfulness can be practiced at various times during your day. It can happen when you are in the shower, brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast. Just set aside a few minutes to be present with your thoughts so you can work through them with clarity.

Being mindful allows you to cope with your feelings healthily and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Find a creative outlet to express yourself through. Creative activities like painting, playing music, or writing are great for relieving stress.

Finding a hobby, you are passionate about allows you to take a break from the everyday stressors of life, to focus on developing a new skill. It is a great distraction from negative thoughts or anxiety.

Doing something you enjoy is also a great way to release dopamine, helping you maintain optimal health and a sound mental state.

Busy schedules make it increasingly difficult to manage stress, especially work-related stress. Finding ways to de-stress is challenging if you haven’t created healthy habits to do so.

Thankfully, the tips listed in this guide do not require a lot of time in your busy day. But practicing these healthy habits lowers your stress levels and has a positive impact on your life. Following these steps makes relieving stress easy.

Follow the health section of our website for more helpful tips like this.

Information contained on this page is provided by an independent third-party content provider. Frankly and this Site make no warranties or representations in connection therewith. If you are affiliated with this page and would like it removed please contact [email protected]

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Editor’s note: To mark World COPD Day, which took place on November 16, we are running a multi-part series on COPD. Organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), World COPD Day is aimed at raising awareness of COPD and sharing current knowledge of the disease, its burden, and treatment approaches.

Emerging digital technologies allow patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) more options for managing their disease outside of the physician’s office. The ultimate goal: to improve patient outcomes.

“The most important tool is the pulse oximeter, and it would be best if everyone with COPD had one,” said Richard Castriotta, MD. FCCP, FAASM, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist and professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of California in Los Angeles . “These can be integrated into telemedicine visits to assess patients’ status remotely” in addition to aiding in self-monitoring.

To date, most research findings on the effectiveness of COPD self-management tools have been low-quality and largely inconclusive. However, limited evidence supports their benefits in COPD.1

In a 2022 single-site pilot study, 19 patients with COPD received training on the use of “smart” versions of a nebulizer, spirometer, and pulse oximeter, as well as the Wellinks mHealth app for self-management.2 Participants used these tools for 8 weeks, and attending physicians received data from these devices once monthly along with patient-reported data regarding medication use and symptoms. The results showed high patient engagement and satisfaction, with many participants perceiving the technology as valuable (81%) and easy to use (94%).

A 2019 study found high rates of symptom reporting and inhaler adherence in a small sample of COPD patients with heart failure who used an eHealth self-management intervention, and an earlier study found promising results with the use of a COPD self-management app that provided automated treatment advice based on detection of exacerbations.3,4

In a 2021 Cochrane review, the authors concluded that evidence is insufficient to draw conclusions about the benefits or harms of using digital technology in COPD management, though findings point to potential short-term improvements in quality of life and improvements in dyspnea after long-term use of digital strategies.1 

Similarly, a 2020 systematic review and meta-analysis found inconsistent evidence regarding the effectiveness of various mobile health apps compared to usual care in COPD patients.5 However, the significant heterogeneity in outcome measures used across studies indicate the need for a standardized framework for reporting outcomes in future studies focused on COPD self-management using digital interventions.

Additional research is needed to elucidate the benefits of the vast range of digital tools now available to facilitate care in this patient population. Among other remaining needs, “It would be a good idea to have the means to measure blood CO2 levels and also ambulatory blood pressure to have information during sleep,” Dr Castriotta said.

To learn more about the application of digital tools in COPD treatment and self-management, we interviewed Brian D. Gelbman, MD, clinical associate professor in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and author of the previously referenced 2022 study of COPD self-management tools2, and Jennifer J.B.J. Williams, MD, clinical assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

What are some of the current digital approaches used for COPD self-management?

Dr Gelbman: Home digital monitoring for COPD is slowly gaining traction, though it has certainly picked up speed during the pandemic. Many COPD patients have become familiar with home pulse oximetry, and now several home digital spirometry companies have entered the marketplace. Teva Pharmaceuticals introduced digital inhalers that can record medication compliance.6 Development is still in the early stages for more robust COPD self-monitoring and management tools that could ultimately combine all of these approaches into one unified platform.

Dr Williams: There are different digital approaches used in current clinical practice to assist in evaluating individual signs and symptoms in patients with COPD with the aim of improving overall chronic disease management. Many of the digital systems have been created to improve communication and symptom management, which will allow for improvement of patient support, care, and mindfulness.

In addition to digital pulse oximetry, some of the current digital technologies include wearable devices that measure activity levels, heart rate, stress and more; a home air quality-sensing device and related smartphone app; smart digital metered dose inhalers; an app-based personal spirometer with peak flow and FEV1; a COPD breathing techniques app; a personalized mobile health and self-management app for patients with COPD; digital peak flow meters; remote pulmonary rehabilitation; and COPD medication management apps.

Based on observations in your practice, how effective do these approaches seem to be, and how do patients feel about them?

Dr Gelbman: I believe patients enjoy having the knowledge to monitor their own disease state, and this empowers them to feel they have some control over their disease. As a pulmonologist, I believe these digital therapeutics can be highly effective. They may be able to detect exacerbations earlier and reduce unscheduled office visits, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. Proving that efficacy can be more challenging, as it will require large-scale studies. Digital COPD solutions may provide better access to pulmonary rehabilitation as well.

Dr Williams: Feasibility and usability features are key components to patient satisfaction with digital technology. Additionally, patients typically require some form of training in the use of digital products. Patients are generally positive about the digital technology experience, especially if they find the device easy to use and can perceive a clear benefit in the path to achieving their own health goal. Some patients perceive definite health benefits from using digital technology.

Patients are frequently willing to use the technology and are capable of doing so regardless of age, gender, or disease severity. The digital practices also support clinicians in improving patient care and optimizing decision-making for disease management in COPD patients.

Based on observations in my practice, I foresee 2 main barriers to digital use: The first is an economic barrier, as digital methods typically come at a cost and thus may not provide a realistic opportunity for everyone. The second barrier is in health and technical literacy, with some patients having difficulty understanding and using digital methods. 

I am working on new research in this area and plan to implement a COPD severity monitoring intervention. I currently use patient education to instruct and encourage patients in self-care COPD management at home.

What would you recommend to clinicians seeking to integrate the use of these tools into practice?

Dr Gelbman: At the present stage, I think we should be educating our patients and familiarizing them with basic monitoring tools such as pulse oximetry. That way, when complete applications are ready to assist with disease management, they will be familiar with the tools that will be utilized as inputs.

Dr Williams: The most common tools currently are the wearable electronic devices. Patients are likely to use the digital tools if they are user-friendly and demonstrate convenience and accessibility. It is important to target economic barriers and work-flow issues and to set realistic patient expectations in regards to patient-provider communication.

What is needed to further refine or develop effective digital tools for COPD self-management?

Dr Gelbman: Currently, the approaches are disparate which is preventing widespread adoption. Some home COPD monitoring companies work by charging the clinician for the service with the promise that they will be renumerated by billing for remote patient monitoring services. This reimbursement model is a paradigm shift that involves clinicians accepting some financial risk. Ultimately, I expect that third-party payers will have to cover the cost of these COPD digital therapeutics, as they have for other chronic disease states such as diabetes and heart failure, before we see widespread acceptance.

Dr Williams: Future research on digital devices for clinician and patient management are needed. These digital devices are aimed at improving machine learning and deep learning with the capacity to monitor symptoms and help predict COPD exacerbations while aiding in self-management and clinician monitoring of chronic airway disease.

Among other needs, further research and policy work should focus on wearable electronic devices, integration of COPD coaches, care managers, or community health workers into the care team to manage the remote care and alerts, business models that encourage technology development, and clinic budget models that allow for a reorganization of workflow.

What additional points would you like to note regarding the value of digital interventions in COPD management?

Dr Williams: COPD patients are particularly at risk of living day-to-day with uncontrolled symptoms. These factors make many of these patients vulnerable to exacerbations, poor quality of life, and increased mortality. Given the clear disparities in providing standard-of-care interventions for these individuals, there is a need to do more to lessen these gaps and enable healthy living. Many digital devices allow self-monitoring and offer clinicians the opportunity to provide early intervention with aims to deliver high-quality patient care, reduce hospital admissions, and improve overall quality of life in COPD.

Disclosures: Dr Brian D. Gelbman serves as a consultant for Wellinks.

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It's been a stressful couple of years (understatement of the century), and many of us, myself included, are struggling with anxiety more than ever. Last year, I sent myself into a tizzy over a slew of mysterious rashes that kept popping up all over my body. My anxiety got so severe that I had trouble breathing and needed to call 911 — it was hard to tell whether I was having a panic attack or going into anaphylactic shock. Luckily, everything was fine, but it was terrifying at the time. It turned out to be a good reminder that if I'm experiencing shortness of breath, sometimes it might be just my body's response to stress levels. It did make me wonder, though, how to tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety — or something more serious.

It's easy to go into a worry spiral just thinking about it, which could ironically lead to anxiety-induced shortness of breath. To help you avoid that, Scary Mommy asked Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII, a licensed clinical social worker and the executive clinical director at Gallus Detox, and Katie McLaughlin, a licensed professional clinical counselor and certified clinical anxiety treatment professional, for a little expert insight. So, if you're like me and need as much reassurance as possible that you're not *dying*, read on for more tips on recognizing when anxiety is behind your breathlessness.

How can you tell if shortness of breath is from anxiety?

"One of the critical signs that shortness of breath is from anxiety is that breathlessness worsens when in a state of emotional distress," Carleton tells Scary Mommy. "Unlike a heart condition or other physical illness, which may cause a gradual increase in breathlessness during physical exertion, shortness of breath due to anxiety is often triggered by sudden stress or fear. Your body may be at rest, but you still feel as if you cannot take a full breath."

What does shortness of breath from anxiety feel like?

According to McLaughlin, the easiest way to tell if shortness of breath is stemming from anxiety — rather than from a different medical condition — is to take stock of any other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as:

  • Worry that is difficult to control
  • Shakiness
  • Feeling overwhelmed or panicked
  • Fidgeting
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach or GI discomfort
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Unable to feel present with friends and loved ones
  • Being easily startled
  • Unable to relax

Why does anxiety cause shortness of breath?

My mind was flooded with worse-case scenarios about my rashes just before my panic attack. No wonder I started reacting the way I did. "People have shortness of breath when they are experiencing anxiety because the body's natural fight or flight response is activated," Carleton explains. "This triggers a cascade of physiological responses, such as increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and tightened chest muscles. The resulting physical symptoms can leave you feeling like you can't catch your breath. In addition to this, the heightened emotional state can lead to an increased sense of panic, making it even harder to take a full breath."

The good news, says Carleton, is that this feeling of shortness of breath is usually temporary and can be managed with relaxation techniques and exercise.

What are the treatment options?

It might sound simple, but being able to identify this change in breathing as a sign of anxiety can be pretty helpful, says McLaughlin.

"If we can name our experience, it often becomes much less frightening," she explains. "Once we know what is happening and why our breathing pace has changed, practicing grounding techniques and breathing techniques to send calming signals to the body is the next step."

The thing is, our brain doesn't allow us to tell it that we are actually OK (it's too smart, I guess), so McLaughlin recommends engaging in something called "bottom-up approaches."

She explains, "These are techniques we can practice in the moment, but also in times when we are not experiencing any symptoms of anxiety. If we make the time to practice calming techniques outside of times of anxiety, we have a much higher chance of being able to remember them when we need them, and calming down more quickly and our breathing rate returning to normal."

She suggests using the box breathing method. "This is where we breathe in to the count of four, hold our breath to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, and hold our breath to the count of four," she explains. "Practicing this breathing pattern has the power to send out those calming signals to quickly decrease anxiety. It's important to note that when I say 'quickly,' I mean within 15-20 minutes of actively coping. The body takes time to return to a calm state."

Carleton recommends other helpful activities, including mindful meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, or a guided imagery exercise.

When should you call a doctor?

If you are experiencing shortness of breath without any other symptoms of anxiety, McLaughlin and Carleton both advise checking in with a medical professional.

"Shortness of breath can be a symptom of many different physical conditions and illnesses, such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and lung cancer," Carleton says. "Usually, the pain would worsen during physical activity or be accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away."

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Ed’s note: This story was first published on 24 May 2021. But we know it’s a tough time, so we thought you might need something to help you find some calm in the storm that is our political world right now.

Read Part One of ‘Rest for the Restless Mind‘, here.

Breathing, meditation and visualisations

I cannot write about rest for the restless mind without speaking about the power of simple breathing, meditation and visualisations. For years, I felt that these were skills I needed to acquire by going on special courses, but, in fact, I’ve learnt that these everyday practices are readily available to us.

Here are some simple examples:

  • Walk while being aware of your breathing;
  • Slow down your breathing as you breathe through what you feel;
  • Breathe in new energy and breathe out your stress;
  • Inhale and exhale five times slowly;
  • Lie down or sit still (with your eyes open or not), and breathe and be still for as long as you can. Watch your tendency to want to do things. Do nothing but be still and breathe slowly for as long as you need;
  • Visualise nature being inhaled into the areas of tension in your body. Exhale your pain and worries. Breathe waves into your worrying gut and wash away your stress. Inhale a tree into your lungs, breathing inside of you, as you exhale your worries;
  • Do a simple meditation or breathing exercise where you breathe in and out while visualising moving towards the centre of your body. If you want, you can use your hands to wave good energy into your body and wave away bad energy exiting your body.

Develop your own ways to push against restlessness. We have almost forgotten that the simple act of breathing slowly and deeply is one of the most wonderful tools to soften the blows. Blow through that heavy pit in your stomach and expand your lungs.

Healthy distraction

Find a happy relationship between connecting with your thoughts, feelings and body cues, and slowing down the pace with some healthy distractions.

Healthy distractions are not about avoidance of your problems, but about finding breathing spaces on your journey of self-discovery. Healthy distractions can be anything from watering your plants, to talking to a friend, to making a meal, to simple everyday actions like walking, gardening, swimming, washing, writing, singing… All of these things can be healthy breaks from a busy mind.

Avoid the places that you know well enough and have visited often enough; avoid habits, like substances and screen-watching, that are making your mind restless and stealing your light, keeping you out of balance, robbing your energy and distracting you from yourself.

Your intention is not to resist the restlessness, but to gently meet with your worries in a safer way. Therefore look at yourself with constant breaks for air in order to gain some new perspectives. Like the artist stepping away from the canvas to ponder on the work, healthy distractions are a welcome relief for a busy mind. A short break can be a source of remarkable perspective and insight.

Take your busy mind for a walk in nature or in a book, and see how these activities create instant relief for your restless mind.

Step outside of your comfort zones

Say no to what comforts you but doesn’t tell you the truth. What is true is most likely outside of your comfort zones. Put down what is not good for you and do more of what you know is good for you. Preserve your energy by carefully choosing the people and experiences you would like to have on this journey and need right now. Move towards nature and movement in order to find nurture.

Give yourself permission to be

It seems hard to give ourselves full permission to be where we are truly at, be it lost, or anxious or struggling to be still. Give yourself permission to be where you are at and receive what you need.

In addition to the anxiety effects of our traumas and losses, we are increasingly restless because we wrestle with the experience of not being in control of our restless thoughts. Be it restless, lost, sad or all over the place, we struggle to accept the impact of a painful or stressful event on our minds and bodies. Often, I have to remind my clients about the real and human effects of an event and that what they’ve experienced is tough enough as it is.

Do what you need

Restore your sense of inner stability through sticking to your own promises to yourself. If you need rest or need to take action, do it without negotiation and bargaining — and start to feel better. Don’t overcommit to too many things at the same time. Maybe consider one thing per day. To focus on that thing requires some of your time. Give in to it. No debate.

Listen to what you need and move in the direction of your needs. Do not judge what you need; simply get to know it and see if it needs any attention. It is in the avoidance of what you know you need to do that your mind spins out of control.

Restore trust in yourself through listening to yourself and sticking to your own promises. Listening to yourself is about acting upon the cues from your mind and body and giving them what they need. If you need to stay away, put what you’re doing down and slow down. Or, if you need to step up, listen and do it.

Create a counter process

Develop a counter, inner voice that is a kind, understanding, compassionate and honest companion on your inner journeys. This voice might debate or even silence the voices that are critical, destructive or repetitive, as they will only make you question and keep you lost.

Discipline your critical mind instead of yourself. Tell your mind what you need, be it to slow down, stop judging, take one thing at a time, be silent or kind. Be reminded that you set your own pace and have authority over those voices that describe you.

Stop your critical, hard inner voices and practise a new voice that takes good, honest care of you. How you speak to what you do and who you are will change the way you feel about yourself. This might require challenging your thoughts by gently redirecting them to a space of kindness and understanding of yourself, rather than punishment.

Develop an inner voice that is supportive, encouraging, honest and kind. Nobody can do this for you except yourself.

Manage your expectations of the process

The expectation that it will be a smooth ride might be unrealistic. In actual fact, any expectations could mess you up.

Stop trying to control what is not in your control and, instead, be as lost as you need to be. This might require a huge adjustment in your expectations and going against one’s usual patterns of control, problem-solving and fixing. Accept that everything that happens to you is not always in your control, especially if you’re doing your best with what you have. Stop putting expectations on life. This huge gap in expectations is what often messes with our minds and distracts us from continuing on our intuitive journeys.

The direction you are moving towards is where you feel like you are “at home” in yourself again. This kind of “landing” in yourself is often described as relaxing or breathing again — an inner glow that shines through your eyes at times. You feel more centred, silent and like yourself. You experience lost and found moments of brief peace, silence and insight. Whatever your journey, let go of your expectations and be where you need to be.

As you are making sense of your realities and show a dedication to them, your perspective on life might shift from tunnel vision towards an outward-bound, bigger-picture perspective. This can lead to feelings of gratitude and lightness of being as well as a renewed sense of energy and interest in life.

Stop the questioning

We like to overthink our worries through questioning, intellectualising and rationalising, rather than looking for our truths. Questioning yourself, your past choices and life in general might just be another way of avoiding yourself.

Asking what and why when you are dealing with loss and trauma can keep you in a familiar cycle that makes you feel even more lost. This is not the time to ask questions, especially about the meaning of life and who you are.

Rather, focus your energy on getting to know yourself well, while practising how to truly relax, just be and enjoy life. Spend time in good places with people who give off good, honest energy. This is much more rewarding than routinely asking yourself very circular questions about the many meanings of life.

Practise being still

Slow down on the endless rushing from one thing to the next, steadily robbing you of motivation and purpose. Rushing is just another way to stay disconnected from yourself.

You might find that you have lost connection with yourself and the people around you, despite your productivity and efficiency. A life dominated by administration and domestication can give you the sense of being in a good team, but it often feels empty. It is in the rushing that we lose ourselves and act in unconscious ways. Life starts to feel grey quickly.

Resist the rush through trying your best to slow down whatever you do. Take charge of your experiences of time: even five minutes of stopping and being still can be grounding; from this meeting place you might find the pleasure in the small things again — like the sounds of birdsong or taking your time to make and eat a meal.

Take it even further and practise being still by sitting anywhere and doing nothing. Tell yourself not to jump up or grab your phone. See if you can learn to simply be still. Take in what is around you as you slow down your breathing. This is, of course, not as easy as you might think, because we are programmed to constantly do, act and distract.

Take time to see what you normally would not see when rushing. Feel what you feel without the obsession to act. This is how you find the beauty in small things on any given day.

Share it with a friend or two

Not being able to share our well-being with loved ones can make us feel displaced. Being seen by others is a restful experience for the restless mind. Share what you think and feel with someone you trust and with whom you feel safe.

Find proof of coping and victories

To be safe in yourself is to believe in your capacity to cope with whatever life brings. You know that life can be difficult and loss inevitable, but do you believe you will be able to cope with it? This sense of safety requires trust in yourself, based on your history and experience. You need proof of having coped in order to be safe in yourself.

Your path might initially feel like a rollercoaster ride. What can be grounding is a simple reminder of your small victories — those little moments in which you wanted to run away, but dealt with whatever you were facing. Those moments where you had no choice but to be courageous. Maybe you’ve forgotten who you are despite fear or loss and need a reminder. Connect with those parts of yourself that can persevere and take charge.

The irony is, despite all our fears about not coping and despite often overthinking it, when trauma or loss actually hits you, you find yourself just getting through another day, even if it feels like you don’t have it in you. I am constantly being reminded in therapy that we do cope even if we spend big parts of our lives fearing not coping.

Taking it moment by moment, gently encouraging yourself to keep going while hearing yourself breathing deeply is how you move forward despite adversity. This is what coping means: kindness, patience and responsibility to yourself.

Postscript

This story was born in response to losses and traumas as a kind of guide to how to handle loss. But there is no waterproof guide for loss or trauma, as we all process these experiences in so many unique and often beautiful ways. You have to find your own path.

Loss and trauma are the inevitable beginnings of change. Even though the loss or trauma is not by your own choosing (mostly, it is not), it is what you make of your experience that can bring new growth and a renewed sense of self.

In our meetings with adversity and disaster, we get an invitation to go deeper and live consciously. We get this invitation for honest change often, and have the choice to go on a remarkable journey that can expand our appreciation for life.

Every step you take on your path of awareness, along which you continuously show dedication to your realities, you feel more present in yourself. On the other side of the work of introspection are moments of quiet knowing, relief and grounding. You might find more than a safe landing in yourself when you take what has rightly been called “the road less travelled”. DM/ML

Stefan Blom is a clinical psychologist who specialises in relationships. He lives and works in Cape Town and is the author of The Truth About Relationships (translated into Afrikaans and Romanian), published by Human & Rousseau. For more information, go to his website. 

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HOLD YOUR BREATH: Ruth Ashworth from Dudley is a dedicated in-school breath coach


School children of Red Hall Primary School are now practicing scientifically proven breath exercises to help them improve concentration and focus, manage stress and anxiety, and feel calmer and happier in the classroom.

They are leading the way, as a growing number of school children across the UK are reaping the benefits of practicing breathwork techniques as part of the school day.

Ruth Ashworth from Dudley, West Midlands, has been a primary school teacher for over 20 years and noticed an exponential rise in stress and anxiety within her classroom since March 2020.

READ MORE: Birmingham HIV and Aids memorial to be unveiled in remembrance event

Knowing the positive effects a regular breath practice can bring can have on physical and mental wellbeing, she undertook a training course to become a dedicated in-school breath coach, with School Breathe CIC, the UK’s first breathwork programme for schools. Ruth teaches daily breath exercises to her class.

She said: “With many children having dysfunctional breathing habits, it’s paramount they learn to breathe well from an early age. The school breathe exercises are enjoyable, easy to learn, with scientifically proven results.

"They allow children to gain an understanding of how they breathe, and the affect this can have on the way they feel.

"I use paced breath exercises to help children focus, slow breath techniques to help them feel calm, and specific techniques for children who may be feeling upset or angry. There’s a breath exercise to help children cope in any stressful scenario.”


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With the group stage almost over and the business end of the World Cup coming into view, you may be dreading nerve-racking 90 minutes after nerve-racking 90 minutes, or planning to hide behind the sofa to avoid the stress of watching penalties. 

Why do we put ourselves through it? One reason is that there’s a level of stress that can be exciting. There’s even a term for this, eustress, and it’s a concept that can help you change how you face stress outside of watching sport.

What is eustress?



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No matter how big of a fitness enthusiast you were before pregnancy, if you are thinking of getting back to your normal routine post-giving birth, it will require special consideration and time. After childbirth, it becomes tough to regain your fitness routine. It may seem easy, but hopping back on the treadmill or joining your pilates classes may get tough mentally and physically.

The first thing you need to keep in mind is to go slow. Choose the right routine for yourself that balances your convenience and the needs of a new mom. If you’re confused about where to start, worry not, we’ve got you covered.

Postpartum Exercises

Start with a combination of cardio, strength training, and low-intensity aerobic exercises, which help strengthen the muscle, boost energy, relieve stress, promote better sleep and help lose the extra weight of pregnancy.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pregnancy affects your core strength; that’s why newbie moms need to focus on building and strengthening the muscle and gaining the fitness level of pre-pregnancy. For that, pelvic floor exercises such as planks, side-plank leg lifts, glute bridges and many more are the best recommendations. These can be done easily at home, without any equipment.

Diaphragmatic breathing

It is recommended to begin within the first few days of giving birth. It is very simple, and you need to spare only a few minutes each day and focus on your breath to relax your mind and reduce stress. Diaphragmatic breathing improves core stability and slows the rate of breathing.

Swiss ball bird dog hold

This exercise is excellent for improving stability and posture and reducing lower back pain. It can easily be performed at home, using just an exercise ball for stability.

Walking

Walking is a very simple yet effective exercise to stay active. It improves the blood-oxygenation level and increases energy. It refreshes you and is a low-intensity steady, state cardio exercise. Walking also helps increase stamina and keeps you proactive and mindful.

Read all the Latest Lifestyle News here

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Tips on how to cope with the stress of finals week

Finals are approaching as students have returned from their Thanksgiving Break. As deadlines approach, the amount of schoolwork starts to pile up. This leads to student stress during this time of year. The Student Activities office is handing out Stress Kits in order to help students through this difficult end of the semester.

Starting on December 5, the NDSU library is open 24/7 for students to use, anticipating the amount of work that students will need to complete. This amount of workload causes students to become overwhelmed and stressed, putting them into bad habits and routines. 

Angela Reinke, the NDSU students case manager and member of the NDSU Care Team, explained what stress looks like and how to best cope with stress as a student. “Students have a lot going on in general and college can be stressful when they are trying to work,” she said, “finals add additional stress.” 

The Campus Activities office is also working to relieve stress. On December 5 they will be distributing Stress Kits to help students worried about finals. Students can put together their stress kits with products such as tea, stress balls, fidget toys and hot chocolate.

Student Activities also hosted a DIY Zen Garden event on Wednesday where students could created their own garden, which helps relieve stress.

“Stress affects all of us,” Reinke said. She explained that when people become stressed it leads to loss of focus, appetite and sleep. In some cases, stress can also cause hives, mood swings and headaches. People can also develop thinking errors, or cognitive distortions. This affects how people think as they will start to assume the worst in situations or blame others for not accomplishing a task. 

Although these are common effects of stress, each person is different. “I really prefer to think of it at an individual level, everyone copes differently,” said Reinke. Dealing with stress is about developing healthy coping skills so that the stress doesn’t turn into these physical or mental health concerns. 

The first thing that students should observe is how they are using their time, and how to best manage their time. Reinke suggests scheduling time to work on schoolwork, but also scheduling personal time and habits, such as sleeping and eating. 

This can help students use their time wisely throughout the day. She explained how these should be realistic accomplishments and time schedules that would look different to each person. “I don’t want a student to set themselves on a schedule that they are never going to accomplish,” said Reinke. 

Unplugging from social media is also a large part in using time management. “Social media is really a time drainer,” said Reinke, “we get caught up in what’s going on in other people’s lives and we really lose track of the time.” Reinke suggests scheduling set times for social media use to ensure that a student’s time is not wasted while scrolling through social media. 

Some things to make sure you are doing if you are stressed is to sleep well, by getting enough sleep, people can reduce their stress levels. Exercise is another healthy way to cope with stress. This could include running or going for walks, but it can also mean stretching or practicing breathing exercises. Reinke suggested square breathing exercises that can help relieve stress. 

Other mindfulness exercises such as STOP or 54321 are ways that students can refocus and take a moment to relax. “A lot of times we are in our head because we have so much chatter going on,” said Reinke. These are ways for students to take a moment to reset. 

Talking to someone is a good way to deal with stress as well. “There’s a lot of different places that can help students with stress or managing mental health issues,” said Reinke. The Counseling Center, Student Health Services and Sanford are all areas that can help a student who is dealing with stress. 

Reinke is a part of the NDSU Care Team which towards the safety and health of the campus. According to NDSU, “when a student’s behavior goes beyond normal classroom disturbances and/or the student appears to be in distress or crisis, you can contact the Care Team for assistance.”

For more information about the NDSU Care Team click here.



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Is our Chaotic World stressing you out? How are you managing your daily stress? Did you know that the nervous system is responsible for: Intelligence, learning, your memory, thoughts, feelings, movement, and basic functions like the beating of your heart, breathing, digestion and more? Join Naturopath Doctor Craig Fasullo for a discussion on how the nervous system functions and how that makes us feel. He will talk about the relationship between high stress and chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity; and share some exercises to do at home to feel better. He will also introduce biofeedback therapy, a treatment to help promote the balance of your nervous system and overall health.

This program is being offered virtually. Pre-registration is required.

To register call 860.533.6550 or visit us at healthyliving.echn.org/events/

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Brave Heart is back for their bi-monthly open discussions, and everyone can finally take a deep breath out, literally. On December 1, The Violence Awareness and Response Program is holding a healing activity event in the Centennial Student Union, giving students the option to release any pent up stress from life.

Headlining the discussion is MK Thao, graduate assistant on campus for the Violence Awareness and Response Program. Thao has been behind all of the Brave Heart discussions, and finds herself learning just as much as the students who attend.

“A lot of what I learned was just from a textbook, and from news and articles, but hearing peoples’ personal experiences really helped me. I feel like these events always help me check my bias and my ignorance,” Thao said.

This week’s Brave Heart event is serving as a means of unwinding and an opportunity to have a more relaxed discussion, contrasted to the event’s usual more pressing and heavy-weighted themes, such as domestic violence or sexual assault. 

Plans for the day include a meditation event with breathing exercises to soothe the soul, the making of custom door signs and open discussions on whatever the students feel they need to talk about. Unlike previous discussions, the topic for this week is up in the air, allowing coverage of any topic, no matter how big or small.

“Even if they just wanna rant about how their professor makes them feel frustrated, we don’t care. Come with what you want, it’s a healing activity, you can dump it on us and walk away, and we’ll collect your stress and burn it,” Thao said.

A major stressor for many college students are post-graduation plans. The uncertainty of a new graduate’s professional future can weigh heavily on their mind–and when family members are consistently knocking on the door asking what the future holds, it is  easy to feel empty handed.

For Thao, setting aside time in one’s day to take a mental break is essential. Whether that be reading a book, drawing or “cocooning in your bed” as Thao describes, taking time to let off steam is critical.

“Personally, as a young adult, there’s a lot of people telling you their expectations, and I forget about my own expectations sometimes. A healing activity could really help you figure out yourself, and who you need in your life,” Thao said.

Brave Heart was originally titled “Conversation Circle.” However, the name was recoined to “Brave Heart” this year, in an effort to eliminate the connotation of students feeling required to speak at the event in order to attend.

Next semester, Brave Heart plans to continue openly speaking on the unspoken issues in society in combination with the Women’s Center and their respective discussion series, “The F Word.”

 “The F Word” in question is feminism, a topic that scares many. Both conversations aim on tackling the topics deemed too taboo to speak on by the general public. The two hope to team up, tackling typical Brave Heart topics like domestic violence and sexual assault, while also discussing women’s rights.

According to Thao, students consistently leave the event more knowledgeable.

They appreciate that we focus on a wide range of topics, as well as a wide range of race and ethnicity. Each group’s experience is different. I feel like race and culture really play a role when we talk about these things, and we can’t expect everyone to experience the same things,” Thao said.

Header Photo: MK Thao, a graduate assistant on campus for the Violence Awareness and Response Program, works at the Women’s Center on campus. She is one of the driving forces behind the Brave Heart discussions, an event that has been occurring on campus in one form or another for years. (Joey Erickson/The Reporter)

Write to Joey Erickson at [email protected]

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REVIEW – Breath training is a hot trend right now to help manage stress, to reduce anxiety, and to improve your sleep. But how do you get started? Enter the Moonbird Breathing Coach! This system combines a handheld device with an integrated app to teach you how to manage your breathing to reach all of your goals. How well does it work? Inhale. Exhale. To the review!

What is it?

The Moonbird Breathing Coach is a device and integrated app designed to help you with breathing exercises.

What’s in the box?

You’ll get the Moonbird Breathing Coach, a charging cable, and a carrying pouch.

Design and features

The heart of the Moonbird Breathing Coach is the handheld breathing trainer. It’s an ergonomically designed pod designed to rest comfortably in your hand with a light grip. The soft-touch rubberized surface feels good in your hand. Side view is shown below.

That scooped out spot on the front face of the Moonbird Breathing Coach is where your thumb rests when the Moonbird is in action. You give it a shake to wake it up. An LED light in the center of the thumb pad indicates that it’s turned on.

When active, the body of the Moonbird expands and contracts to serve as a physical guide to your breathing. You simply inhale while it is expanding, and exhale while it is contracting. Here’s a shot of the Moonbird in its contracted state…

… and here is that same shot in the expanded state.

You could just use the device as a basic breathing coach (it will start on its own), but you’ll want the proprietary Moonbird app to guide your breathing practice. Setting up your app and pairing the device is a simple affair. Once paired, you’ll shake the device when the app is opened to connect.

You’ll place your thumb on that sensor where the LED sits, and you’re ready to get to work.

Using the app is simple and straightforward. Your opening screen provides some basic info about the battery life on the Moonbird, and defaults to starting up a breathing exercise.

To get started you can go to the “Guide” section, which provides a set of tutorials to help you understand the concepts behind the Moonbird and breathing practice. There are also libraries of guided programs that address topics such as managing stress, insomnia, and anxiety.

Regardless of what topic area or exercise you choose, you’ll find that the program uses an audio track paired with the appropriate breathing patterns for the subject matter to establish the rhythm of the exercise. You’ll keep your thumb on that pad to collect biofeedback on your session.

Here’s an example of one of the exercises, specifically box breathing. The opening screen tells you the breathing program for that exercise, and allows you to specify the duration of your program. You can also set any program as the default option when you fire up the device if there’s a go-to that you like.

The app then does a default check on your emotional and physical state at the time of the session. This can be turned off if you don’t want to use it.

Now you’ll get into your exercise. The app plays the voiceover audio from the breathing coach that gently prompts you to help your focus on the activity throughout the exercise. She’ll remind you to relax your shoulders, for example, or to release tension in your jaw. It’s actually quite comforting. Just follow the voice while you match your breathing to the device.

Your thumb sitting on that pad now delivers real time data to the app throughout the exercise. There are three data points it is collecting. The first is general heart rate. Below is an example of my heart rate being collected during the “Breathing Break” exercise. It is a simple measurement of beats per minute.

Next, is a measurement called Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is a measurement of your general ability to adapt to (and recover from) stress. This number ranges from 0-20, with a higher score being better. The actual ranges for “good” scores depend on the individual (the Moonbird will help you set your baselines in the tutorials).

Finally, you have the Heart Coherence measurement, which measures the balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. It’s basically looking for the synchronization between your breathing and your heart rate. The app tracks how much of your session maintains both systems in balance.

When you are done with an exercise, the app does a follow-up check on your emotional and physical state and saves all the session data.

You can then go back and look at your history of breathing exercises, and pull up old session reports as shown in the second screen below.

There are four preset breathing exercises:

  • A general breathing break (5 second inhale & 5 second exhale cycle);
  • A sleep relaxation program  (4 second inhale & 6 second exhale cycle);
  • Box breathing to calm stress (4 second inhale, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale, 4 second hold cycle); and
  • Anxiety reduction (3.5 second inhale, 4.5 second exhale).

You also have the option to create your own breathing exercise by choosing the inhale time, exhale time, and pause times in between.

Performance

The overall usability of the Moonbird Breathing Coach is outstanding and may be one of the best designs I’ve seen in the category of well-being/meditation-type devices. You don’t need to know a thing about breathing exercises going in, but the design will get you going within minutes.

The form factor is excellent. The contoured shape and soft-touch materials are comfortable to handle. The expansion and contraction action has just enough range that you can get a good feel for matching the rhythm to your breathing and you don’t need a death grip on the device. It feels good, which encourages re-use.

I also really like the “instant on” nature of the device. There are no dials, buttons, or switches to mess with. Just position it in either hand and give a quick shake to get going.

The app itself is equally simple and intuitive to use. I actually didn’t engage the tutorials for the first week and found myself able to get productive with the device very quickly. You can go deeper if you want with the tutorial programs (which are excellent), but you can skip all of that and just get into the breathing exercises for a quick-hit experience.

I don’t know how the device actually calculates the HRV and Coherence measurements, but we did some experiments to test them. My wife volunteered to run the Curb Anxiety program while sitting in front of the television for this test. You’ll see that she started at a higher score, then it dropped for a bit at the 50-second mark when she was distracted by the TV before coming back in line again.

Here’s the interesting bit. The Heart Coherence monitor shows a similar distraction in focus (the darker the blue, the more synchronized you are).

I’ve been able to repeat the same results with different programs. If I get out of focus I feel it… and it shows up in the results. Which is kind of cool.

Unfortunately, I wish that the app had a better way to show you if you are getting better at building and maintaining the Heart Rate Variability and Heart Coherence measurements. You can access each of your previous sessions as shown below and pull your own data, but it lacks the ability to show comparisons from session-to-session. I’d like to see this in future updates to the app.

As far as overall performance goes… I find myself using the Moonbird Breathing Coach more often than some of the previous meditation/wellness devices I’ve tested. The simple usability makes it easy to grab and go for quick sessions that don’t require an extended time commitment to employ. The stress management techniques are pretty effective once you get some practice, as is the sleep exercise when you commit to it.

One last note about battery life: it’s excellent. I used it for three weeks solid before my first recharge. Just make sure you don’t lose that power cord, as the proprietary plug can’t be swapped out with a standard off-the-shelf power cable.

What I like

  • Outstanding form factor
  • Excellent integrated usability between the device and the app
  • Wide variety of programs on the app

What I’d change

  • Would love to see more comparative analytics over time to measure progress.

Final thoughts

If you’re getting to breathing exercises, the Moonbird Breathing Coach looks like a great choice based on my experience. The comfortable design and dead-simple usability require almost no learning curve while encouraging experimentation and reuse. I’m really enjoying the simplicity of the app as well, which provides a good variety of programs without being overwhelming (or putting options behind a paywall). It’s a great overall package.

Price: $199.00
Where to buy: Moonbird.life and Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Moonbird.

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The holidays can be stressful for so many reasons. Maybe you don’t get along well with your family, maybe you’re worried about having enough money to spend on gifts, maybe it’s a busy time at work, or maybe balancing all of your plans is just taking a toll on you. Regardless of what you’re stressors are, there’s no denying that many of us feel our most anxious and busy at this time of year, even though it’s supposed to be a time of celebration. Luckily, there are many ways to manage your mental health so that you can actually enjoy the festivities!

To get the low-down on some of the best tips to have a stress-free holiday season, we spoke to licensed clinical social worker Lily Thrope, LCSW, PLLC, founder of Thrope Therapy. She gave us three essential steps to less stress: setting boundaries, breathing deep, and finding support. Find all of her helpful insight below!

 

 

75+ Gift Ideas For Everyone On Your Holiday List

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1. Set boundaries

For many of us, one of the biggest stressors during the holiday season is the fact that we spend extended time with family members we may not typically see—including ones we may not be the most comfortable with. For this reason, it's important to set clear boundaries with your loved ones. "Boundaries are extremely important in managing stress," Thrope says. She suggests reading Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free by Nancy Levin for further insight on this.

By now, you're likely already aware of a few topics that your family members may touch on in conversation that create stress for you. Being able to identify these stressors is the first step to setting a helpful boundary. "Sometimes it is helpful to have a conversation with a family member before the event letting them know where your boundary is," Thrope explains. "For example, letting your family members know that you are not open to any discussion around your body shape/size or your dieting habits before seeing them. This can let your family know that this is not on the table for discussion."

Of course, there's always the possibility that they may not respond well or that they'll overstep your boundary. In these cases, Thrope says you can "let them know that you feel this topic is uninteresting and stressful and you would rather speak about things that interest you such as your hobbies or career." She reminds us that "when we set a boundary we sometimes have to remind our family members of the boundary in real time." However, not backing down and not allowing your loved ones to disrespect your boundaries is essential to keeping your mental health in check. "Boundaries are extremely important because family members are not mind readers and might not know what topics feel triggering for you," Thrope says. "Speak up for yourself and set your strong boundaries."

READ MORE:

4 Expert-Approved Mental Health Apps To Download To Relieve Stress

Here’s How Stress Really Affects Your Digestion, According To A GI Expert

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2. Practice deep breathing

As cliché as it may sound, focusing on your breathing really can make all the difference when it comes to managing stress. "Before entering into potentially stressful situations I suggest taking 10 deep breaths," Thrope says. Whether you're lying down, sitting, or even standing, your breath is a tool that you always have with you. "The goal of the breathing is to center you and bring you back to your own thoughts," she explains. "When we are feeling anxious we are brought outside of ourselves worrying about many external factors, such as what others think of us. When we breathe and practice mindfulness we come back to ourselves and are able to be our own best friend through challenging moments."

There are many breathing exercises out there, but centering yourself with your breath can be as simple as counting each one. You can count your breaths at any moment, whether you're preparing to enter a stressful situation or even right in the middle of one. "You can do it sitting at the dinner table as well as while you are taking a bathroom break," Thrope says. "I love that breathing is free and accessible anywhere anytime. Breathing also acts as a mindfulness routine and mindfulness is very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety." And so simple!

READ MORE:

The Quick And Easy Breathing Exercises Health Experts Swear By For A Better Day—We're Trying These Immediately!

How To Be More Present: 12 Ways To Live In The Now

two women hugging

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3. Find support

Finally, remember that you're just one person—and sometimes you'll need a little support to lean on when things get really stressful. "Finding support during this time is also really important," Thrope tells us. That support can come in many forms. Having friends and family to listen to you and offer help when you need it is always great, but sometimes you may also need professional help. "Having a therapist that can help you navigate stress relief is really impactful," Thrope notes. "Having a space to process all the different stressors in your life, whether business, interpersonal relationships or anxiety can help you feel more zen during this challenging time."

Of course, there are many options outside of therapy as well. As she tells us, "it can also be helpful to vent to friends or family or journal during this time. Your self-talk will be really important in avoiding stress and maintaining a calm in our own mind." 

The bottom line

At the end of the day, the holidays can be extremely stressful, point blank. Above all, it's important to remember that you're not alone if you feel in over your head with stress and anxiety—and also to remember that these feelings won't last forever. Knowing yourself, your stressors, and the relaxation methods that work for you can make all the difference in these stressful times. And when in doubt, follow Thrope's advice: set some boundaries, take some deep breaths, and lean on your support system. 



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Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present at the moment. It’s a form of meditation that can be practiced anywhere, at any time. And it’s not just for people looking to improve their mental health – mindfulness benefits everyone, regardless of age or experience.

Keep reading to learn more about mindfulness and the ways it can help improve mental health.

What Is Mindfulness, And What Are Its Benefits?

Mindfulness is focusing on and being aware of one’s present thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. The goal is to observe without judgment or evaluation. Developing mindfulness practice can help us become more aware of our thought patterns and emotions and be better equipped to respond rather than react in times of stress or difficult situations.

Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also increase our ability to be compassionate towards ourselves and others and help us develop more meaningful relationships with the people around us. Additionally, practicing mindfulness can improve concentration and focus, increase self-acceptance and appreciation for life, and improve overall physical health. It can also help us to become more accepting of complex emotions and situations, allowing us to take a non-judgmental approach toward ourselves and others.

Mindfulness is not something you can do once and expect to reap the benefits forever – it is an ongoing practice that requires dedication to make a difference. There are many different tools and exercises that you can use to cultivate mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, journaling, or simply taking a few minutes each day to be still and observe your thoughts without judgment. With regular practice and dedication, mindfulness can help us become more aware of our thought patterns and emotions, better equipped to respond rather than react in times of stress, and lead a fuller, more meaningful life.

The benefits of mindfulness are vast, but it is essential to remember that mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone’s experience with mindfulness will be different, and the best way to find out if mindfulness is right for you is to try it. With practice, patience and dedication, anyone can learn how to incorporate mindfulness into their daily life and reap the benefits of this powerful practice.

How Can Mindfulness Be Used To Improve Mental Health?

Mindfulness can be used in a variety of ways to improve mental health. Mindfulness meditation is one way that is often used to help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. This allows for greater self-awareness and insight, which can positively affect overall mental well-being. Other methods include mindful eating, breathing exercises, body scans, and incorporating mindful activities into daily routines. Studies have shown that these practices can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving focus and concentration. Additionally, mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of how they respond to situations and provide them with tools to manage emotions better and cope with complex life events. Mindfulness is a practical approach to improving mental health and overall well-being.

What Are Some Tips For Practicing Mindfulness Meditation?

Start by carving out a space in your home that is designated for meditation and practice regularly.Choose a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair, with your spine straight and chin slightly tucked.Take several slow deep breaths to help relax your body and mind and bring your attention to the present moment.When thoughts enter your mind, notice them and let them pass without judgment or attachment.Focus on an object such as a candle flame, a mantra, the breath, or a body scan technique to help you stay mindful of the present moment.If your mind wanders, don’t judge or criticize yourself; refocus on the object of meditation.When you’re done meditating, take a few moments to observe and enjoy any peace or calmness that has emerged from your practice.Can Mindfulness Be Used With Other Treatments For Mental Health Conditions?

Mental Health

Yes, mindfulness can be combined with many other treatments for mental health conditions. Mindfulness can be integrated into cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). It can also be combined with medication to relieve anxiety, depression, and stress symptoms. Mindfulness can help individuals better understand and regulate their emotions, become more aware of their thoughts and behaviors, and make healthier choices. Additionally, it can provide support for those struggling with substance abuse issues. Mindfulness has many potential benefits when combined with other treatments for mental health conditions.

How Can I Get Started With Mindfulness Meditation If I’m Interested In Trying It Out?

If you are interested in trying mindfulness meditation, there is no better time to start than now! Here are some simple steps that can help you get started:

Find a peaceful and quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. This could be a corner of your home or even outside in nature.Take a few deep breaths and settle into the present moment. Let go of any expectations or worries about how your meditation will go.Focus on your breathing. Concentrate on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body with each breath cycle.If your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to your breath.Continue focusing on your breathing for as long as you feel comfortable, then slowly transition out of the meditation practice.Mindfulness meditation can be a powerful tool for cultivating inner peace and well-being. With regular practice, you will quickly start to experience the benefits that it has to offer!

Conclusion

Mindfulness is an effective and easily accessible tool to help improve mental health. With regular practice, mindfulness can be used to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while also improving focus and clarity of thought. Suppose you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness or want to try it. In that case, many resources are available online and in person, including counselors and mental health clinics like the Brooklyn Center in Brooklyn, NY. No matter your age or experience level, mindfulness can be a great way to promote overall well-being and mental health.

Media Contact
Company Name: Brooklyn Mindful
Email: Send Email
Phone: 917-740-6291
Address:26 Court St
City: Brooklyn
State: New York 11202
Country: United States
Website: brooklynmindful.com/

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National Family Caregivers Month (November) recognizes and honors those who selflessly care for their loved ones. Being a Veteran’s caregiver can take a toll on your physical and mental health. One way that VA can support you is through Annie text messages.

Annie is a VA messaging service that sends different types of text messages to your phone. Annie’s caregiver support texts are designed with caregivers in mind. The texts can help you to reduce stress, take care of your loved one, and feel cared for and not alone.

The messages include tips and activities to help you reduce your stress in a healthy way. These include breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Annie also sends motivational messages, so caregivers feel supported.

“Messages remind me to breathe.”

More than 11,000 people are subscribed to Annie for caregivers. Here are some thoughts from Caregivers who took part in recent surveys:

  • “I so look forward to Annie. It is a bright spot in my day and helps tremendously.”
  • “The messages always come at the times when I need to know I am not alone.”
  • “I don’t always know what to do when I’m stressed. Messages calm me down.”
  • “These tips and quotes are perfect, help my sanity and remind me to breathe.”
  • “I used breathing exercises, those were great. They helped me take time for myself to calm down and breathe, then rethink the situation.”
  • “These texts for me were great reminders to take better care of myself and not be too hard on myself. Thank you!”

Being a caregiver can be overwhelming at times, but Annie can help. Caregiver Support Teams are available at each VA medical center to help you find the right support for your needs.

Contact caregiver support to sign up for Annie

If you are a caregiver and want to sign up for Annie, find and contact your local Caregiver Support Team member.

Annie text messages are automated and responses are not regularly checked by VA staff. Caregiver Support Team members cannot exchange text messages with you through Annie.

Many Annie text message subscriptions are designed to help Veterans too. Visit the Annie webpage to learn how the service can help Veterans take charge of their health, one text at a time.

For more resources for caregivers, visit the VA Caregiver Support Program website.

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A low-cost, prenatal intervention benefits mothers' mental health up to eight years later, a new UC San Francisco study finds.

In the study, one of the first to look at outcomes so far into the future, pregnant women who participated in a group wellness class that met weekly for eight weeks were half as likely to be depressed eight years later compared to women who received standard care, according to the study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Previous research on the same group of women found the intervention also cut their short-term risk of depression and diabetes, and supported healthier stress responses in their children.

Given the economic and social burden of maternal depression and its potential impact on offspring, our findings suggest a meaningful benefit of a modest investment during pregnancy that supports well-being across two generations."


Danielle Roubinov, PhD, UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry and first author of the study

The eight-week class intervention, led by Elissa Epel, PhD, UCSF professor of psychiatry and her team, involved groups of eight to 10 pregnant women who met for two hours a week to practice mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises, focusing especially on mindful eating, breathing and movement. They were led through group lessons and activities by a master's degree-level health professional. The women also received two phone sessions and a postpartum "booster" group session with their infants.

BIPOC study participants were priority

Historically, most studies on prenatal depression have comprised primarily white women – but not this one, noted Nicki Bush, PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and senior author on the study.

"Our participants were lower-income, racially and ethnically diverse women who are systemically exposed to factors that put them at risk for depression, such as racism and economic hardship," Bush said. "Also, the final years of the study were during the COVID-19 pandemic, when depression rates were higher for everyone, and the burden placed on communities of color was even greater. Even so, the treatment effects held up."

In the study, 162 women were assigned to either the intervention group or standard care group. The women's depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) before the wellness intervention classes, after the wellness classes, and 1, 2, 3-4, 5, 6 and 8 years later.

Though both groups of women had equal symptoms of depression before the class, 12 percent of the women who were part of the wellness class reported moderate or severe depressive symptoms at the eight-year mark compared to 25 percent of the women who received standard care, which was a consistent pattern throughout the years.

"Mindfulness practice is known to help alleviate stress in many situations and can meaningfully affect coping and health, and it seems here that it was particularly powerful during pregnancy, with enduring effects," Bush said. "Our sense is that the community connections and social support involved with the (wellness class) group were therapeutic as well."

Stress management, nutrition and exercise during pregnancy

The researchers are currently collecting additional data to better understand how the intervention had such a long-term effect. Potential mechanisms include long-term changes in coping and stress reactivity, nutrition, and exercise.

Up to 27 percent of pregnant women suffer prenatal depression, which is predictive of postnatal depression. Maternal depression is also associated with social, emotional and cognitive deficits in offspring.

"This dramatic demonstration of both short-term reduction of depressive symptoms and long-term prevention of more severe maternal depression, even during the pandemic, is remarkable, even to us researchers," Epel said. "It's likely that the effects of increased stress resilience in these women is having pervasive effects on their own health and their children. We would never have known about the durability of these changes if Dr. Bush and her team had not followed them for eight years. We already know pregnancy is a critical period and the lesson here is that we need to heavily invest in pregnancy wellness interventions."

The researchers hope the low cost and relatively short time commitment of the intervention class will make it easy to scale up to larger groups of pregnant women -; especially women of color and those with lower incomes.

"It's critical to have interventions that meet the needs of lower-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are especially likely to experience the stress of social inequities," said Roubinov. "We're excited to see how these results can be scaled to reach more women, and a more diverse pool of women."

Source:

Journal reference:

Stice, E & Davila, J., et al. (2022) Introduction to the special issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: “Best practices” in prevention and treatment for racial and ethnic minority people. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000767.

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If you feel like your stress has been next-level lately, you might find a tiny bit of comfort in the fact that you’re definitely not alone. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2022 Stress in America report, concerns about money and global uncertainty, to name two huge factors, have spiked personal stress to sky-high levels in the US.

Part of the reason we’re all so unnerved: 87% of respondents agreed that “it feels like there’s been a constant stream of crises over the last two years” (understatement), and 73% reported that they feel “overwhelmed by the number of crises facing the world right now.” And on top of an ongoing global pandemicever-upsetting news cycles, and rising gas and grocery costs, many of us are also still dealing with common daily-life stressors like family, career, and relationship drama. 

There’s no quick-fix way to make stress disappear, of course. (And if it’s a chronic issue that’s preventing you from living a fulfilling life, talking to a professional may be the best way to relieve some of the pressure and improve your well-being—more on that later.) But there are expert-backed stress-relief activities you can experiment with when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

By drawing from research on psychology practices including cognitive behavioral therapymindfulness, and meditation, you might be able to build a kit of coping tools that work for you when life becomes too much. Below, two licensed therapists share their favorite strategies for getting short-term relief from stress and anxiety. 

What is stress, exactly? 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is your body’s reaction to something that’s happening to you or around you. An important presentation at work, a hectic and noisy commute, or even a date with someone you’re excited to meet can all put your body on notice that something big is happening, which can activate your fight-or-flight stress response.1 A stressor can be a one-time thing (like an upcoming exam or turbulent flight) or a long-term occurrence (in the case of a chronic health condition, for example, or an overwhelming job).

Stress is a bit different than anxiety, though, which many of us are also familiar with. When you’re stressed out, your physical symptoms will usually naturally resolve once the stressor goes away. Anxiety, on the other hand, which is your body’s internal reaction to stress, might not dissipate so quickly. Even when there isn’t an immediate physical or emotional threat, anxiety is a psychological state that tends to linger. 

Some physical symptoms of both stress and anxiety include:

  • An elevated heart rate 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Restlessness or insomnia
  • Racing thoughts or worry 

No matter how your stress manifests, if it starts to feel overwhelming and you’re looking for relief, consider trying some of these expert-backed stress-reduction strategies for relaxing your mind and body.

Stress-relief activities that actually work

Count down to get grounded.

When your internal pressure is high, tuning into your external environment is one stress-relieving practice that might help you feel a bit more chill. Rhayvan Jackson-Terrell, LCSW, wellness director at NYC Health and Hospitals and a telehealth therapist, tells SELF that she often recommends the “5-4-3-2-1 method” to her clients as a mindfulness activity designed to get you out of your head and into the present moment. 

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The stabbing pain in your side is known as a side stitch, side ache, side cramp, or exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). It’s considered exercise-related pain, but exercise doesn’t cause side stitches. Side stitch is caused by stress or pressure on the diaphragm muscle.

This article will explain the symptoms of side stitch, the causes of side stitch, and what treatment, including prevention, looks like. You’ll also learn when to see a healthcare provider. 

Suriyawut Suriya / Getty Images


Symptoms of Side Stitch

You’ll know when you’re experiencing a side stitch. You may feel a stabbing pain near your rib cage or a sharp cramping feeling on both sides of your abdomen. While it can feel incredibly uncomfortable and limit what you’re able to do in the moment, side stitches are common and not typically a cause for concern.

Side stitch symptoms may include:

  • Sharp or stabbing pain on one or both sides of the abdomen
  • Pulling feeling under or near the rib cage
  • Aching in the surrounding area
  • Cramping sensation

Causes of Side Stitch

When you get a side stitch, it’s commonly because your diaphragm is spasming. The diaphragm is the muscle responsible for respiration (breathing). It’s located right under your rib cage.

Side stitches are often experienced by athletes. There are three underlying causes for side stitches, including:

  • Diaphragm muscle cramp (diaphragmatic ischemia
  • Stress on stomach ligaments (peritoneal ligaments)
  • Irritation of the muscles lining the abdomen and pelvic cavity (parietal peritoneum)

According to research, runners and swimmers may be more likely to experience side stitches while exercising, but it also occurs in people participating in team sports and in cyclists. One report estimates some 70% of runners may experience this type of pain.

Other causes

Other reasons side stitches may develop include:

  • Swollen spleen
  • Rib fracture
  • Muscle strain

When to See a Healthcare Provider

You’ll know whether or not your side stitch is cause for concern by how long it lasts. Benign (harmless) side stitches are transient, meaning the pain does not last. So, if you stop or reduce the intensity of your physical activity, side stitches may resolve within minutes. Some cases of severe cramping can leave a lingering soreness in the area for a few days.

If you’re experiencing severe and debilitating pain, or ongoing symptoms including cramping, pain, or any swelling that continues, it’s time to speak with a healthcare provider about what could be causing the symptoms. 

How to Treat Side Stitch

Treatment for side stitch can involve stopping a stitch when it’s already happening and doing your best to prevent side stitch in the first place.

How to stop a side stitch in its tracks:

  • Slow down (i.e., if you’re running, start walking).
  • Stop the activity.
  • Bend over forward.
  • Press your hand inward and upward on the stitch location.
  • Contract or tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Breathe through pursed lips as if drinking from a straw.

If you’re still experiencing pain, you can try walking slowly with your arms raised above your head. This helps stretch the tight muscles. If this is uncomfortable, and you have a safe spot to rest for a moment, try lying down on your back with your hips elevated. This can help ease stress on the area and reduce pain within minutes.

How to Prevent Side Stitches

Sometimes a side stitch will just happen, and it’s nothing to worry about. Still, it can be annoying to stop an activity due to pain and discomfort. If you want to prevent side stitches from occurring in the first place, try the following tips:

  • Plan your meals around your physical activity to give yourself enough time to digest the food. It’s recommended people avoid eating within two hours before physical activity. 
  • Warm up before increasing intensity. For example, try stretching first for about five or 10 minutes.
  • Remember to breathe. Sometimes we can hold our breath during physical activity. This creates stress on the diaphragm. Keep breathing. 
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day rather than trying to compensate during physical activities. Too much water while working out can cause pressure on your diaphragm.
  • While working out, try wearing a lightweight, wide belt that can be tightened as necessary.
  • Practice belly breathing to strengthen the diaphragm muscle. 

Summary

Side stitches are rarely anything to worry about. Diaphragm cramping happens during physical activity. Treatment involves slowing down, locating the pain and pressing on it, and focusing on breathing. Preventing side stitches requires meal planning around physical activity, warming up properly, remembering to breathe, and staying hydrated. Wearing a specific belt while working out may also help reduce side stitches. 

A Word From Verywell

Getting a side stitch while working out or engaging in physical activity of any kind is a real pain. But it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the benefits of moving your body in the ways you love. If the fear of experiencing a side stitch while exercising is holding you back, you may want to consider talking to your healthcare provider about your concerns and learn how to prevent them before you exercise.


By Michelle Pugle

Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind. 

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People with respiratory problems could benefit from new technology created by a UCL researcher that uses smartphone sensors to recognise and respond to breathing.

A hand holds a smartphone showing the Lungy breathing app developed by UCL researcher Dr Luke Hale

A wellness app – Lungy – created by NHS Doctor Luke Hale (UCL Division of Medicine) has been released today (Wednesday 30 November 2022), helping users to self-manage anxiety, stress, sleep problems and training for sports.

The technology uses nature-inspired graphics that respond to breathing in real-time, creating a supportive and immersive environment for people to learn breathing exercises. Now, Dr Hale plans to apply the technology to develop a breathing management platform, Lungy Health, for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and long Covid.

Lungy, available for iOS download, responds directly to users’ breath and touch, helping them feel more engaged, relaxed and mindful.

The medical device version ‘Lungy Health’, for patients with breathing problems, is under development and due to be released in 2023.

The Lungy and Lungy Health apps are designed to be scalable and accessible platforms for patients to self-manage their symptoms. Teaming up with Professor John Hurst (UCL Division of Medicine), Dr Hale plans to run a clinical study in a group of UCLH patients ahead of the release of Lungy Health.

Respiratory disease and mental illness place a huge burden on NHS services and society. Before Covid, the cost of respiratory illness was estimated at £9.9 billion/year (NHS Long-Term Plan), with hospital admissions due to respiratory disease rising at three times the rate of other admissions and 10,000 new diagnoses of lung disease in the UK every week.

Around one in five UK adults experience respiratory symptoms, such as breathlessness, due to diseases like long Covid (affecting over one million people in the UK), asthma and COPD. When done correctly, breathing exercises can be a simple and effective way to improve physical and psychological health, breathing function, exercise tolerance and reduce chest infections.

Existing treatment to teach breathing exercises involves giving patients a worksheet and often an incentive spirometer: a one-use, plastic device that provides resistance to inhaling and encourages deep breathing. Compliance with breathing exercises is generally poor, and demand for respiratory physiotherapists has greatly increased due to Covid, an ageing population and the rising prevalence of respiratory disease.

With further development, Lungy Health could potentially replace plastic incentive spirometers (which are disposable and cost £15-20) by accurately measuring breathing flow and volume. The app will be a remote health platform providing tips on how to improve breathing and patients can easily track their progress and show improvement to their doctor.

Dr Hale started working on Lungy during the first lockdown in 2020. He said: “I started working on Lungy just as the first wave of Covid patients were coming into hospital. It was a very stressful time for everyone – I thought it would be great if people could use their smartphones in a more productive and relaxing way. The way we breathe is linked to both physical and psychological health, so hopefully lots of people can benefit from the technology.”

Luke learned to code and developed a working prototype in the first year and, with support from the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur programme, eventually won funding from Innovate UK and NIHR to further develop the project.

Professor John Hurst (UCL Division of Medicine) said: “I’m really excited by the potential for innovative apps to support self-management for people living with lung disease – I’m impressed by the technology and think patients will love it.”

Lungy and Lungy Health are developed by Pi-A, a startup founded by Dr Hale, and received funding from two competitive Innovate UK grants (Smart Grant & Audience of the Future).

A prototype of Lungy Health has been positively received by consultants, physios and patients.

Joshelyn Torres, aged 30, who tested an early prototype of the Lungy Health app, said: “I started feeling breathless whilst talking to my boyfriend on the phone. I find breathing exercises usually help, so I chose Lungy [Health]. Using the relaxation mode, the visuals allowed me to be distracted from feeling breathless, yet still able to focus on my breathing. After 3-4 breaths, I was relieved.”

In 2020, a 3D printed neck collar designed by Dr Hale and helping transform the lives of people with serious neurological disorders was shortlisted for the prestigious ‘Beazley Designs of the Year’. It is now in the permanent collection of the Design Museum in London.

  • Credit: Matthew Town.
  • /Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.

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    On Thursday, Dec. 1, the World Languages & Digital Humanities Studio will host a Dance Release event to help graduate students and faculty manage and relieve stress through movement. Organized and led by Chy'Na Nellon, a doctoral candidate in comparative literatures and cultures, this 45-minute movement session will focus on stress release and self-expression through movement. Participants will engage in stretching, breathing techniques, balance and independent, freeform movement with music.

    Please note this is not a dance instruction class and will be held in a relaxing, casual atmosphere. This event is for graduate students and faculty only. 

    Dance Release: Stress Release Through Movement will begin at 5:15 p.m. in J.B. Hunt Center 207 and is free to attend. For more information, contact Chy'Na Nellon

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