Weighty Matters

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4-7-8 Breathing

Weeks, or maybe even a couple of months ago, I first heard about 4-7-8 breathing.  An author I’m friends with talked about using the technique to help her with stress-induced insomnia.  I saw her post about it on Facebook a few times and that motivated me to investigate on the internet.

I’m not prone to insomnia when I first go to bed.  Truth be told, I’m so brain tired by 10-10:30 most nights, I fall asleep on the couch.  There are some nights when I look at the clock and wonder if 9 p.m. is too early to go to bed.

The sleep interruption affects me when I’m dealing with stressful stuff during the day, or have something bothering me and happen to wake up in the middle of the night.  Even if I just wake up for a quick trip to the restroom, if the stressful situation comes to mind, I can’t get rid of it.  I will think about it and think about it non-stop.  Sometimes the same phrase, sentence or conversation just repeats like a thought-hamster on a wheel.  I believe this might be something called “inefficient worrying”.  Honestly, when it happens, it does not accomplish anything positive.  I’m not working through the issue or resolving anything.  I’m just repeating thoughts, creating more stress, and depriving myself of much needed recuperation and sleep.

When I looked into 4-7-8 breathing, I found articles that described it as being helpful for reducing stress and anxiety.  I found a video of Dr. Andrew Weil talking about and demonstrating the technique which, if I correctly remember, originated in yoga practice.  It seemed easy enough so the very next time I experienced that middle-of-the-night hamster-thinking, I tried it for myself.  It worked!  I remember doing it three times and that’s all.

After that first night, I tried it again the next time I couldn’t fall back asleep and achieved the same result.  As I’ve whined about discussed several times, I’ve been experiencing a fair amount of extra stress in recent weeks, so I’ve had ample opportunity to demonstrate that, for me, the 4-7-8 technique isn’t a fluke.

I’ve done some additional investigation into it and have seen some suggest that it might be able to help me with some of my compulsive eating disorder.  For example, if I can be aware enough to do some 4-7-8 breathing when the urge to eat compulsively hits, or even if I’m still wound up when I sit down to a meal, the technique might help me settle before I reach for food.

Every day, I practice the technique at least twice a day, as Dr. Weil suggests. I’d like to develop it as a great and consistent tool.  It would be great if I could train myself to engage in this as a natural reflex.  Actually, I believe that with practice, I can do just that.  Any tool is a good one in this journey.

Do any of you do any kind of meditation or breathing technique?  Have you heard of 4-7-8 breathing and, if so, does it work for you?  I’d love to hear what things you’ve tried and found useful.

In the meantime, if you’d like to read more about it, this link will take you to the place on Dr. Weil’s site where it’s described.  From there you can also click a link to watch the video of his demonstration.

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Restorative Weekend

I took full advantage of my two days off to do only what I wanted. After the stress and busy packed schedule of last week, and knowing I have another busy week ahead, I needed the time to relax.

Yesterday’s Tai Chi open house went very well. Even though we were demonstrating for people who might be interested in joining the next Beginner’s Class, doing the moves and engaging in the practice at any level definitely relaxes me. A group of us later had lunch together, prepared and served by one of the instructors. He’s a darned good cook. I compensated for having such a full lunch by eating very lightly for the rest of the day — a few snacks of fruit, here and there.

After lunch, I went over to the animal shelter. Have I mentioned previously that I’m on the Board of Directors for the organization that operates the shelter? I can’t remember. Anyway, we all want what’s best for all of the dogs and cats in the shelter’s care, but there is one dog in particular that has stolen my heart. If I didn’t already have two smaller dogs, that big guy would be living here at home with me. He’s a two-year-old mastiff mix that tops 100 pounds. He was surrendered by his owners for questionable reasons. I personally think that as he grew, his size and energy became too much for them to handle. Instead of investing the time and effort in training him, they gave him up.

Staff and volunteers are on a mission to teach him good manners, on and off leash, so that he can be managed by anyone. Honestly, right now he’s so strong that until his leash manners improve, only a few people can walk him, but we’ll get him there. He responds well to training and loves to learn. He still has that two-year-old youngster attitude, but it’s a little more difficult to deal with in a dog his size. Anyway, I am confident that we will eventually find him a great forever home. In the meantime, several of us go in and work with him. I enjoyed seeing him yesterday afternoon and working on some of his manners and training.

After that, I came home and spent time with my own furballs, Nat and Pyxi. Lots of brushing and petting took up a good part of the late afternoon. It is incredibly soothing to pet and cuddle a dog. The stress of last week never ran through my mind.

Today, I enjoyed a relaxing morning, sitting out on the porch with the newspaper and my cup of tea and completing a set of Tai Chi. I then went up to work to swim with some of the dolphins. Today, I got to hang out with Santini and her 9 month old son, Reese. She and I have been friends since I first volunteered there in 2000 but I haven’t done a swim with her in a while. This was the first time I’ve really played with the little guy. I don’t care how many years I’ve been there or how many chances I get to swim, it never ever gets old and it’s always fun! Today was particularly special because little Reese kept coming over to get backrubs or rest his little rostrum in my hand. He’s also learning a behavior we call dance. He’d swim over to me and shake his head back and forth. If I danced too, he’d keep up with the behavior. Too, too cute!

On the way home, I accomplished a couple of simple errands, but that was about it for the afternoon. I took it easy, watched football and tennis on television, went for a walk with Nat and Pyxi shortly before sunset and just, in general, let the peacefulness continue to restore my spirit.

Just like it’s important to balance my food intake and my physical activity, it matters that I balance my emotions and spirit. Everything adds up to a healthier me.

Here are a couple of photos from today’s dolphin swim. Enjoy!

Reese Backrub-3

Reese and Santini

Tina Smooch 1

Flippershake

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