February Resolutions

I can't believe we're already three months into 2014. I spent a few Saturdays in February working on achieving my peaceful resolution. You can read more about my January peaceful act here. The University of Texas here in Austin offers a variety of informal classes to the community and I've been interested in taking one for a few years. When I spotted the February class called "Decrease Anxiety, Indulge Inner Peace!" I knew it would be perfect for my year of peace. The course was the first three Saturday mornings in February and we met for two hours in a classroom on campus. The instructor is a trained nurse that grew tired of clients coming in sick, getting antibiotics and then being back a month later for the same thing because they weren't being taught what it truly means to be "healthy". She started learning about aromatherapy, yoga, stress relief practices, probiotics, and supplements as alternatives to modern-day medications and has been teaching and practicing with all these tools ever since.

Each of the three Saturdays we focused on a different aspect of stress relief and reaching inner peace. The first week we talked about what causes stress, where it comes from and how it affects us physically. Then she shared tips on deep breathing for stress relief, vitamins and supplements she recommended for healthier bodies (and minds). Our homework assignment after the first week was to focus on our breathing during stressful situations and then share at class the following week if practicing deeper breathing, helped relieve some of our anxiety. I focused on my breathing when Keith and I had a disagreement, when I had a tough talk with a friend and when stressful discussions arose at work. I really did notice a difference in my anxiety levels and had fewer headaches that first week.

The second week we focused on physical tools to help decrease stress, like aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage and realignments. The instructor brought in a guest at the beginning of class who sells aromatherapy and crystals locally and she taught us about how different scents can help relieve stress, anxiety, headaches, nausea, etc. I still haven't tried my aromatherapy sample she passed out during class, but I'm looking forward to seeing if it's helpful. Our homework assignment for the second week was to remove some form of media from our lives for a few hours, day(s) or the entire week - news, search engines, social platforms, etc. I decided to cut out Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the entire week and found myself less preoccupied, less anxious, and more present when out with Keith for a date night near the end of the week. It's only been two weeks since that exercise and I'm already noticing myself getting back into the habit of being overly engaged in it all, so I'm considering doing a social media cleanse every few months (or maybe altogether ... eek).

The third and final week, we discussed how anxiety and stress affect the brain. We did a recap of all the tools we had learned to help relieve stress and achieve a peaceful state. Everyone in the class shared how each of the homework assignments had helped us, any tools we had started using and how we were going to continue to use them in the future. I especially liked when the presenter recommended that we try not to refer to ourselves in ways like "I am a stressed person" or "I am an anxious person". Instead I am trying to re-frame those thoughts as "this situation is stressful or causing anxiety", so that I don't allow those emotions to define me. I've found myself continuing to focus on the breathing, and last week when my old migraine symptoms started to flare up, I put some of those tools into action and never wound up with a full blown migraine. I've made a few minor health adjustments that were recommended in the course - adding flax seed to our breakfast smoothies and taking my multivitamin on a regular basis. I still haven't gotten into probiotics or some of the other supplements, but that might be incorporated in my March peaceful act.

The other advice I have been putting into action were the teacher's suggestions of using tools like a "brain dump" and "gratitude journal". The brain dump can be used when faced with a stressful situation. In those times, our minds sometimes race to all kinds of crazy conclusions so instead of stressing and getting sick with worry, you should tell yourself to stop (yell it aloud if it helps). Write all your thoughts down, practice the deep breathing and then look back over the list and encourage yourself to laugh over some of the ridiculous thoughts our minds come up with, or accept that stressing over each possible scenario won't make it any less likely to occur. Stress just makes us sick. I've only used the brain dump once so far, but found it pretty helpful in stopping myself from going into full-blown panic mode. The gratitude journal can serve as a daily reminder of all we have to be grateful for. I try to write at least 5 - 10 things down every single night and it seems to be helping me put things in perspective. Also, my journal entries are a lot less whiny these days.

So far, I'm really enjoying the year of peace and am looking forward to the next 10 months of other peaceful acts I'm considering trying for this resolution: meditation, aromatherapy, acupuncture, spa treatments, cleanses, etc. Unfortunately, even with the deep breathing and brain dumps, this week I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping so I'm hoping that over time, these peaceful acts help relieve some of the stress that keeps me awake at night. I'll keep you updated over the coming months.

Keith, my guest blogger, had a very busy February so he won't be posting on his resolution today, but I'm sure he'll be back for the March recap.