This short video gives a brief introduction to my work as a Certified Holistic Practitioner and my approach to working with clients.
(Article first published on The Candidly.)
Being cooped up in the house with few outlets for our stress and anxiety has us all on edge. We’re constantly learning how to balance productively working from home with educating our children with maintaining our relationships. It’s a lot. And with gyms and yoga studios closed because of the quarantine, our fitness routines have been totally thrown off schedule.
Add in our constantly terrifying news cycle, and you’ve got a recipe for frazzled nerves, stiff necks and shoulders, and tension headaches. Now, more than ever, managing stress is necessary to keep our immune systems functioning properly.
And while exercise, taking a walk, and limiting your news intake are just a few things you can do to stay sane right now, here’s another: stretch.
Stretching might seem like a simple, semi-useless task we only ever seriously consider before or after working out. But stretching can do more than just prevent an exercise-induced muscle pull. It can actually be soothing. Think of that breath you take when coming out of a deep stretch—doesn’t it kind of feel like the first good breath you’ve taken in years (or months? weeks? How long has this thing been going on for now? Is time just an endless abyss?).
So here are four super easy stretches you can do right now, no equipment needed. You don’t even have to change out of your pajamas.
1. Seated, Forward Extension
This stretch can be done seated with legs crossed or kneeling while sitting on your heels (if sitting cross-legged is uncomfortable). Once seated comfortably, take a deep breath in as you place your hands on the floor in front of you and slowly “walk” your fingertips away from your body as far as you can.
Not everyone can go all the way down to the floor, as in the photo, and that’s fine. Find your limit and stop there, taking long deep breaths. Let your head drop, relaxing your neck. After a few breaths, see if you can walk your fingertips a little further. Grip the floor with your fingers and feel the stretch down the sides of arms and the length of your back down to your hips.
Now, remaining low to the ground, walk your fingers to the left, leaning your torso to your left side. Go as far as you can to the left, then stop and breathe long and deep. Repeat on the other side.
Finally, with your torso still low, walk your hands back to the center and then slowly walk them back towards your body until you are again sitting upright. Take a deep breath. Exhale.
2. Seated, Spinal Twist
To transition from sitting cross-legged or kneeling, stretch your legs out in front of you then bend your right leg in a sort of half-butterfly stretch, so that the outside of your leg rests on the ground, your knee is pointed outwards, and your foot is near the left inner thigh. Then bend your left leg so that the knee is pointing up at the ceiling and the bottom of the foot is flat on the floor. Scoot your right leg inwards, so that your right foot (still resting on the floor) is underneath the left knee, and then lift your left foot off the floor, take hold of the ankle, and bring your left foot to rest just outside of your right thigh. I know—that sounded incredibly complicated, but just try to mimic the leg placement in the photo above, if that’s easier.
Take a deep breath in and extend both arms up overhead. Exhale as you turn your torso to the left, bringing your right arm to rest in the space between your left knee and chest. You can bend the elbow (as pictured) or keep the arm straight.
Twist your torso completely and bring your left hand to the floor behind you. Look over your shoulder as far as is comfortable for your eyes and hold the posture. With each exhale, see if you can twist just a bit further.
To come out of the twist, slowly bring your head around first, then unwind the rest of your body. Shake out your legs and transition to the other side.
3. Seated, 1 Leg-Extended, Side Stretch
Sit with your legs extended in front of you then open them as wide as is comfortable. When you feel a stretch in the groin, stop. Take a bend in your right knee and bring your foot to the inside of your left thigh.
Stretch both arms up overhead as you inhale, then exhale and bend at your hip toward your left leg. Stretch the left arm as far as it can go. If you can grab your toes, great. If not, no problem. Just let your hand rest on your shin. Stretch your right arm up and over your head as far as you can, extending your fingers toward your left foot until you feel the stretch along the side of your body down to your hip.
If you want to deepen the stretch, extend all the way over until you can grab your toes with your right hand. Believe me, it can be done. And if it doesn’t happen today, know that in time, with practice, your flexibility can increase and it can happen.
This has to be the most beautiful and unsung hero of stretches. Simply stand up with your feet parallel to each other, hip-width apart, or with big toes touching, heels slightly apart, extend the arms overhead, take a deep breath in, and exhale as you bend forward at the hips, letting your torso come down and allowing your head to hang toward the floor. Breathe long deep breaths and hang out like a rag-doll. Alternatively, you can bend your arms and grab hold of opposite elbows and gently sway from side-to-side.
To experience different intensities of the stretch, gently shift your weight from your heels to the balls of your feet and back again. What I love about this stretch is how gravity helps you and the longer you stay in it the further down you can bend with the eventuality being that your forehead can touch your knees.
For those of you that just muttered ‘Yeah right,’ under your breath, I understand. Some of us have incredibly tight hamstrings that will forbid us from ever reaching the floor. Not a problem. You still get the benefit of the stretch just by allowing your body to hang and extending your fingers towards your toes. If you’d like to feel greater support during the stretch, do it while standing with your back to a wall and let the wall support you.
When you’re ready to come out of the stretch, do it slowly, slowly, slowly, rising up one vertebra at a time, with your head coming up last. If you rise too quickly, you’re likely to get a headrush and feel dizzy. Take a deep breath and feel the difference in your body.
Really savor each stretch. Take as much time as you can; I recommend staying in each stretch for a minimum of three breaths, which is what really works wonders on your stress and anxiety levels. You’ll feel renewed and refreshed afterward. And maybe you’ll even feel motivated enough to change out of your pajamas.
But, no pressure.
Tamara Jefferies MA, is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.
Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.
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Every now and then I get what I call “phantom anxiety”. It’s anxiety that seems to come out of nowhere for no reason.
Last night I had that happen as I was preparing dinner. I love to cook and preparing new dishes thrills me. So there was no reason for me to start feeling what I started to feel.
But at some point I noticed this creeping feeling of impending doom and the racing heart that goes with it. And I asked myself, ‘Why are you feeling anxious?’
It took only a minute for me to realize that as I was standing there chopping vegetables, I had constricted my breathing to a short shallow breath that I felt primarily in my chest.
That’s my first clue and generally the main reason that phantom anxiety strikes—my breathing.
If you only remember one thing this entire day, remember this: Breath Precedes Mood.
Breath Precedes Mood
How you’re breathing will affect how you’re feeling. Short shallow breaths create heightened feelings of excitement and/or agitation and can lead to feeling anxious.
While long, slow, deep breaths lead to calm, peaceful feelings.
In the meantime, the next time you feel phantom anxiety strike you, take a minute to notice how you’re breathing.
Then take a slow deep breath. Breathe deep enough to feel your belly expand. Then hold your breath in for a second.
Then exhale completely. You should feel your belly pull back toward your spine to know that you’ve emptied out all the air. Take twice as long to exhale as you did to inhale.
If it helps, inhale to a count of 2 and exhale to a count of 4.
Then hold your breath out for two seconds. Keep breathing in this way three to five more times or however long you need to until you feel your anxiety subside.
It worked for me last night so that I could get back to enjoying preparing my new recipes.
I hope it works for you as well.
Fans of CBD have been making their rounds on the web with claims that it’s the next big thing in natural remedies – able to treat everything from anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, and pain just to name a few.
But being so new to the market, there is still much research that needs to be done to support all the claims.
Before you visit your local dispensary for some CBD gummy bears or purchase a bottle of CBD oil off the internet (which is illegal – read more below) here are some facts you should know about CBD.
- CBD stands for cannabidiol and comes from the hemp plant.
- It is not the same as THC, the component in marijuana that gets you high. CBD is non-psychoactive.
- CBD comes in various forms: pills, powders, tinctures, balms, and chewables like gummy bears.
- CBD is legal within the 30 states that have legalized marijuana.
- According to DEA spokesperson, Barbara Carreno, “Online sales of CBD products are “illegal in the entire U.S.” It is illegal to sell and purchase CBD over the internet because the Federal Government has classified CBD as a Schedule 1 substance, which means it is not seen as something that has a proven benefit and is in high risk of being misused.
- Because of the Schedule 1 designation of CBD, legitimate medical research is hindered. Researchers must purchase a license to use CBD in clinical research.
- The FDA has approved CBD in the form of Epidiolex, a pharmacy-level drug used in the treatment of two severe forms of epilepsy in children.
- CBD is marketed as a supplement and as such, it is not held to the same rigorous standards and checks that pharmaceuticals are, which means dosages can vary, as well as the purity of the product, which brings us to the next fact…
- Some CBD products on the market have been mixed with THC
- It is illegal to treat animals with CBD although there are accounts of veterinarians giving CBD to their pets at home they cannot administer CBD to their client’s pets.
The research on the effects of CBD has been scant and limited to small batches of participants. However, for what research has been done, it has been suggested that CBD may be able to relieve anxiety. This was found after people diagnosed with social anxiety where assigned the task of public speaking. Those who took CBD before the talk had lower anxiety levels after the talk than those who did not take it or who were given the placebo.
Because so little is still known about CBD, if you are considering trying it, speak with your healthcare provider first. A known side effect of the substance is that it thins the blood. So if you are taking blood-thinning medication, the use of CBD could be harmful.
Regardless of how little proof there is out there, CBD is gaining in popularity. It will soon start popping up in the food and beverage industry as more chefs and mixologists are finding ways to incorporate CBD into cutting edge recipes. You’ll start seeing more people adding CBD to things like coffee, smoothies, and pastries.
When considering taking any new substance into your body, it’s always wise to get as much information about it as possible and use your best judgment. CBD may turn out to be a far-reaching remedy. But there is also the likelihood that it’s just the latest cool thing and has about as much benefit as a placebo.
© 2019 Tamara Jefferies
“My interested was piqued when I stumbled across signage for a new yoga and wellness facility located in my community. On the first phone call and subsequential meeting, it was decided immediately that Tamara could possibly be the right person to guide me through critical life issues. Many professional therapists were unsuccessful and I was in desperate need of a gentle guiding hand.
Tamara and I met frequently for a few months. In that time we meditated, talked through the issues, I was given tasks or homework to continue the process between appointments. Tamara completely focuses on you, your emotions surrounding the issue and helps you see the other side, helps you to realize you can work through the negative thoughts and move around the drama that has you stuck.
Due to recent family members passing, I reached out to Tamara for the second time. Knowing our previous sessions were so successful, she was my first choice for guidance and support. The progress made in such a short time is astounding. I am so very comfortable working with Tamara. It is such a pleasure to talk to her, she immediately calms my fears and gets me back on track to navigate through the anxiety and fears to a better, more joyful place.
Tamara can see the best person you are meant to be. I was completely depressed and had so much negative talk about myself. I call it the vortex, where you continue on a downward spiral and isolate from the world. Your fears have you avoiding any social interaction, just going to the grocery store is difficult. Tamara helped me see past the internal conflict, helped me see I am a good, worthy person and deserve a life of joy and happiness.
It is my pleasure and honor to recommend her to help you with life’s issues. You will become a better rounded, calmer person.” – Martha A., Small business owner