Living near the beach should be a perfect gateway for a stress-free lifestyle — except on those days when Route One traffic unleashes your inner monster. Or when you’re worried about making enough money during the go-for-broke summer to survive the cold quiet of winter.
Tara Elizabeth Gush knows all about that stuff because she’s living it. Fortunately, as an Emotional Wellness and Integrated Health Coach, she’s able to share her calming strategies with us.
Beginning With the Way You Breathe
That’s the first message you’ll hear at this month’s “We Shift: Breathwork, Personal Development and Connection Series” workshops at HealTree Center (healtree.co) from 6 to 7:15 p.m, Aug. 9, 16, 23, and 30 at 1632 Savannah Road, Lewes.
The second message is that thoughtful breathing — in this case the “breathwork” you’ll practice at the workshops — can be done anywhere and everywhere to calm you down or rev you up for the inevitable emotional and mental challenges we all deal with everyday.
“One of the first things I share with people is that breathwork isn’t some woo-woo thing,” she says during a brief conversation between one of her three summer jobs. “It’s really about learning how to regulate your nervous system for better self-awareness so you’re better able to handle these stressors.”
Of course that refers to events like that summer traffic, she adds. But it also applies to the racing-heart anxiety you feel approaching a work deadline, or during a difficult conversation, or right before speaking in public about something that’s been keeping you up at night.
Grounding and Activated are the Ying and Yang
As described in a backgrounder on the workshops, conscious breathing techniques can regulate our nervous systems by “refocusing attention and modifying brain circuits.” For example, when we’re feeling happy and calm our breathing tends to naturally slow down and feel deeper. But when we’re anxious our breaths can be shallow and accelerated, which sends negative signals to our brains and heightens the stress we’re feeling.
Breathwork can change that pattern and alter those negative signals by giving us a tangible and calming way to focus our attention beyond the event, person or action that’s causing that stress.
The benefits also go far beyond chilling out, Gush says. While “grounding breathwork calms the nervous system when you’re feeling anxious or unable to concentrate, activated breathwork is the opposite. It’s what you do when you’re feeling lethargic and unable to focus or are confronted by emotional trauma.” With guidance and practice, she adds, thoughtful breathing “can increase your mental clarity and improve your performance on the job or in challenging situations.”
Those benefits can also extend far beyond the moment when they’re needed most. That’s because sound breathwork can release negative energy that’s keeping you from feeling comfortable with, as the backgrounder notes, your “authentic self,” allowing the best parts of your true nature to “flow freely.”
There’s a distinct benefit to attending all of the workshops since they offer participants integrated and sequential breathing practices to relieve stress and release what Healtree refers to as “worry worship.” Yet Gush emphasizes there’s lots of benefit in simply attending one or a few based on the time you have.
“One of my goals is to show these practices can be done in a parking lot or at a traffic light or in your suit right before a big presentation,” she says. And it doesn’t have to be for an extended period because sometimes “60 seconds might be long enough.”