Rest and Breath

rest-and-breatheThis year has been one where I have dealt with a number of health challenges. The biggest lesson I have learned out of this is I need a different way of caring for myself, to help prevent what I can, and to help me heal from what I cannot prevent.

Last spring I had cataract surgery on both eyes and a tooth extracted within a month. The tooth extraction followed two infections and a failed re-do root canal…and THREE rounds of antibiotics. And in the midst of all that, I was diagnosed with hypertension.

I finally realized the best thing I could do was lay down and rest each afternoon. I started by lying down and closing my eyes. Sometimes I’d listen to a podcast; sometimes I’d rest for about 30 minutes then read. Sometimes I’d read first, then take a short nap.

And one day while reading, I came across this quote:

“To rest is to heal.”
Lilias Folan
Lilias! Yoga: Your Guide to Enhancing Body, Mind, and Spirit in Midlife and Beyond

And that confirmed what I already suspected: I needed to rest to allow my body a chanced to heal. And not just from the surgeries, but from the antibiotics, from hypertension, from trying to find a medication that would work for me, and from the stresses of life.

So I’ve continued the practice of lying down in the afternoons and resting. I’d like to do it ever day, but reality steps in and my goal is for more days than not. I thought that meditating might be a good thing for me, but wasn’t sure how to do it. With time, I’m begun a practice of lying down, closing my eyes, and simply focusing on my breathing.

I’ll inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of 5 (which, as I relax, often becomes 6 or 7). I may do a few a first where I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, but switch to doing all through my nose.

After a few minutes, when I can feel my body relaxing, I will go back to breathing naturally, and just count my inhales and exhales. Inhale – one; exhale – two; inhale – three; exhale – four, etc. until I get to 10. Then I begin again.

If I lose count, I simply start over. No judgement if my mind wanders, I just go back to counting. I’m not trying to think about anything or solve a problem; in fact I’m trying to do the opposite: get my brain to shut down, so I can truly relax and rest. And heal.

Most interesting thing I’ve found is that after about 20-25 minutes, I “wake up”. While I sometimes do drift off for a few minutes, I am usually not asleep, although I am not fully awake either. Once I can feel I am “waking up”, my brain kicks back in, and it is time for me to get up.

This works quite well for me. A few weeks ago I was at my desk trying to get work completed so I could be finished for the day, but kept running into problems and distractions. I finally realized the best thing I could do was to lay down and breathe. Thirty minutes later, I’m back at my desk, refreshed, and able to focus and get things completed.

A great reminder of the importance to rest and breathe.

Proper breathing technique is important to, and easy to add into your day. You can read more at Every Breath You Take.

You may also want to try Balancing Breath to help you both calm down and re-energize.

Pass It On

Hair productsA few years ago, a friend decluttered her bathroom. When finished, she gifted me with a variety of hair gels, creams and mousses. Since we have a similar type of hair, it meant I didn’t have to buy hair products for months. As an added bonus, I got to sample brands and products new to me and learn what worked with my hair and what didn’t. My friend gave herself the gift of space in her home.

Think about this when you are decluttering. It is often easier to let go of something if you know it will go to someone who will use it. Who do you know that would enjoy and use the items you no longer need? It may be a friend or family member. It may be a co-worker. It may be a charity that collects items to give to people setting up a household.

AND….do not let the desire to find someone to pass things on to prevent you from releasing them from your life and home. This was a mistake I made. I had household items I no longer needed, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. I would keep boxes of things for weeks trying to figure out who would want them. I finally realized that if I didn’t know someone to ask while sorting, it was better to load into my car and take to a local charity drop off as soon as I had finished.

If you know someone to give it to, great! Call them and set a day and time to drop them off. Mark on your calendar the day you will leave items at a charity collection location. If possible store items you are donating in your vehicle so they are out of your living space.

CAUTION: Be sure to check items for an expiration date and throw away anything past that date. Some personal care items may not have an expiration date, but for health and safety reasons the trash is a safer place for them. Do some research and use your best judgment and remember….if in doubt, throw it out!

If someone offers you some of their decluttered items, choose wisely what you take. Carefully consider if this is something you would use. It is fine to take some things to try them out, but if they don’t work, pass them on or trash them. Don’t let them become clutter in your space!

Decluttering For Others

Air diffusersAfter I moved in with my boyfriend, I helped him declutter several spaces in the house. The pantry was relieved of boxed and canned goods, some of which had expired 3 years before. The hall closet was cleared of expired medicines, and organized to make it easier to find things.

Eight months later, the hall closet needed another going over. I wanted to check for medicines that had expired since the previous clean out, and I wanted to further declutter and organize things better.

One thing, however, challenged me. Air diffusers. For some reason I had trouble releasing them, even though we use a different brand around the house. I was stumped as to why I had so much trouble with these. We don’t use them, I hadn’t even looked for one of them to use, they would require a different brand refill if we wanted to use them AND if I threw them out, they would be easy and inexpensive to replace.

So what was my block?

They weren’t mine.

I hadn’t made the choice to purchase them, and I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend wanted to use them again.

This is important to remember. It is hard to declutter another person’s things because you don’t know how they feel. Even if they say “get rid of all my old t-shirts” there may be one in there that they want to keep.

This is why I work WITH my clients, and don’t just go in and throw things out. The criteria they may have for choosing what to keep and what to release is not mine. I can guide and encourage, and point out reasons why it would be good to let something go, but ultimately they have to decide if an item, even an unused item, is important for them to keep.

This is also why I rarely help someone declutter their spouse/partner’s belongings. The person the items belong to need to be involved in the process if they are able and willing. This may mean that half of a closet is decluttered and organized while the other half isn’t, but it is better than getting rid of items someone else treasured. (And chances are, once the other person sees how the other half looks, they want the same results for their things!)

Declutter. Decluttter everything that belongs to you, and encourage others to join your efforts. And allow them the opportunity to declutter for themselves.