how to reduce stress, anxiety, and fear with breathing

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(Disclaimer – read Thich Nhat Hanh, I’ve learned a lot about what I’m going to say through his teachings this past year.)

What’s something we do all day that if we did consciously would relieve stress, anxiety, anger and fear? It’s breathing. How often do we not pay attention to our breath? I can go days without taking note that my stomach is rising and falling with each breathe. Isn’t that a bit strange? Something we do all the time but pay zero attention too.

We’ve probably all heard about taking ten breaths when you start to feel angry as it will help you calm down and manage the situation better. When we calm down and listen to our breath and be in our breath, we begin to live in the present moment. We can begin to let our anxieties of the future and past fade away.

Your sleeping can improve!

Sleeping for me has always been tough, it’s been hard to shut off the mind each day. If we take time throughout the day to breath (AKA meditate), focus on the breath and the present moment we can let our mind relax and stop the thought cycle. Practicing this during the day makes falling asleep much easier because we’ve worked through thoughts and feelings throughout the day instead of only letting these thoughts consume us as we lay our heads down.

Where do our anxieties reside?

My anxieties reside mostly in the future and the past. I beat myself up for things that happened in the past or I dread certain things in the future. If I allow myself to relax, breath, and participate fully in the present moment, these anxieties are diminished. I realize everything is OK right now.

It’s hard to only focus on breath, what are some exercises I can use to help me?

Here are some sayings that I took from Thich Nhat Hanh that have helped me. Time your breathing for each sentence, it helps to slowly think the sentences but not say them out loud. Slowly, you can drop thinking about the sentences and totally dive into your breath. It’s like anything, the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Don’t beat yourself up for thinking other thoughts, just slowly come back to the breath.

1.
Breathing in,
I am aware of my in-breath.Breathing out,
I am aware of my out-breath.

2.
Breathing in, I follow my in-breath all the way through.Breathing out, I follow my out-breath all the way through.

3.
Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body.Breathing out, I follow my out-breath all the way through.

4.
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I calm my body.

There are many more breathing exercises that I can share but these are a few good ones to start. Thanks for reading the blog and I hope these exercises help you like they’ve helped me.

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this helps me every morning

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Thich Nhat Hanh has been a real positive influence in my life. I was in the library searching for a book on fear and I randomly stumbled upon his book and his teachings. I’ve now read 3-4 books of his and they’ve all taught me something valuable that I can apply directly to my life. I feel like his teachings have something for everybody and I can’t imagine someone picking up one of his books and not being able to improve their life in some way.

“Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty four brand new hours before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment and
to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

This little mantra to say in the morning helps me bring attention to the present moment and to acknowledge that we are blessed to live another day. The last sentence brings attention to treat others with compassion, even if their views are different. It may seem simple but if I say it everyday, it does help me bring attention the present, to appreciate the day before me and to treat others with compassion.

spicy hot cocoa with kava and cayenne

here’s an antianxiety, stress reducing, aphrodisiac, cancer reducing, antioxidant, digestion improving drink that will help you relax when you need it!

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what’s in the cup?

  • water
  • whole organic milk or cream (can also use another liquid that contains fat i.e. soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, butter)
  • the fat soluble constituents will bind to the fat in the liquid
  • kava powder
    aphrodisiac, antianxiety, sedative, expectorant, antibacterial, helps with sleep and stress
  • raw cocoa powder
    aphrodisiac, antioxidant, diuretic (eliminate fluid buildup while retaining minerals).
  • vanilla extract
    anticancer, carminative (helps with gas and bloating)
  • cinnamon powder
    warming, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant, astringent (drying, constricts tissue, helps with healing, creates barrier against infection), improves digestion.
  • cayenne powder
    warming, antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, antispasmodic, carminative, improves digestion and metabolism and increases blood circulation.

Directions

1) 3 cups of water, 2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup kava, 1/4 cup cocoa,  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cinnamon and cayenne powder. (4 servings)
2) add everything together and bring to a simmer…continue simmering for at least 15 minutes…
3) strain and pour…although i don’t strain, i let the contents settle to the bottom of cup then enjoy!

the vanilla extract, cinnamon, cayenne powder should all be done to taste. cayenne powder will add a considerable amount of heat so if you don’t like a lot of heat, use sparingly. of course, you can leave it out all together but you will missing out on some of the great healing properties of cayenne.

warning: don’t drink kava if you have liver problems or are consuming multiple alcoholic drinks.

Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.

how to sprout seeds for eating (simple and easy)

Sprouts, so healthy, so good. That sprout needs a lot of energy to start growing, so, mother nature packed seeds full of nutrients. When you sprout a seed, you increase the bioavailability of those nutrients. That’s where you come in. You get to chow down on these delicious little buggers. They are tasty on their own, but they also make a great addition to many meals. Here’s a quick, simple, easy to follow guide to sprouting your own seeds. Today, I will be using alfalfa seeds as an example but this method can be applied to all seeds that are edible such as broccoli, sunflower, mung, and adsuki beans.

alfalfa sprouts diy

Step 1…Cut a hole in the box! Just kidding, I regress.

You can get started with any glass jar but I choose to use canning jars. The wide mouth version of canning jars are able to fit a variety of sprouting lids. The lids can be purchased online, or at local hardware stores and some groovy garden centers such as Harmony Farm Supply. If you don’t want to use a lid, start with a rubber band and some mesh or cheesecloth.

Step 2….Obtain the seeds, preferably organic (you don’t know what yucky chemicals the conventional ones have been sprayed with). Some conventionally grown seeds are treated with fungicides, definitely avoid those! Put a couple tablespoons at the bottom of the jar.

Step 3…Fill with water and let sit overnight.

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Step 4… Empty jar of water then rinse seeds and leave jar upside down at angle to drain.

Step..5 Repeat step 4 every morning and night until the seeds have sprouted and are a good size. Overtime, you’ll get better at determining when the best time is to stop rinsing and eat.

Step 6 (optional)… Put sprouts in a bowl of water and scrape the hulls of the seeds off the top of the water. This is easy to do with bigger seeds like mung beans.

Step 7 (not optional)… Eat those sprouts and store the leftovers in an airtight jar in the fridge. The canning jars are great because you can throw a canning lid on and be done with it.

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P.S. I will soon be starting a youtube channel and will be posting a video of this process! Thanks for reading.

letting go of a possession everyday for 30 days

Along with my 30 day challenge of not buying anything new, I will attempt to donate one item a day for the next month. Over the past couple years I’ve read books such as “the Joy of Less”, “Clutterbust”, and “How I Bought Happiness and it’s Cheap”. All great books that I highly recommend. They’ve taught me how clutter can remove people from being in the present moment. From my own experience, I feel weighed down by my belongings, like they hold me back from sometimes doing what I want (i.e. travel, pursue hobbies, think clearly, etc.). At this point, I already feel I’ve given away a lot of my belongings that felt like clutter but this time around, I’m going to be extra hard on myself.

Each day I will include: A quote or tip about rethinking the clutter in your life and the item I’m donating that day. Start small, think big.

Day 1, February 6th, 2014
Tip: Take a look at that box of stuff you haven’t opened in a year under the house or in your closet. Do you really need what’s in there?
You haven’t used it in a year so it must not be that important to your daily life.

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Although, I work a lot with plants, I don’t need three pairs of pruners. Today I’ll be donating a pair of pruners.

Day 2, February 7th, 2014
“the things which we choose to surround ourselves tell our story.”
Francine Jay-author of the Joy of Less

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Ever since a kid, I loved different knives. It’s what every boy enjoys, I think? Dreaming of one day fighting through jungle and foraging your own meal. All, with your trusty pocket knife. Well, I think quality is better over quantity and half the time I can’t even find my knife. So, I’m donating one of my two pocket knives today.

Day 3 February 8th, 2014
Sell some of your things on Amazon, Craigslist, or Ebay. Sometimes it makes it easier getting rid of stuff when your getting money for it. But, don’t let money make your decisions for you. You may have spent a good amount of money on something but never use it, and you’ll never get that money back. So, instead of letting that item own you, let it go, it feels good. I know from experience.

soil blocker 2"
This is a soil blocker. A very useful tool that can make blocks of soil eliminating the need for plastic pots. I love the concept and I may own one again but I just haven’t used it as much as I liked. So, I put it on Amazon and it sold today. I know it’s not donating but it goes with the theme!

Day 4 February 9th, 2014.
I love books and that’s not a good thing when trying to limit possessions and clear space. I went through all my books and made a decision whether to keep it or not by determining when the last time I opened it was. I kept some of the books that meant something to me even though I hadn’t opened them in over a year. One helpful tip I found was to download the book if available digitally, then I could sell or donate the book without hesitation. My collection of books is now 1/8th what it used to be.

cacti book cactus succulents

Day 5-6, February 10th and 11th, 2014
I donated a cordless saw because I recently upgraded. I’m finding it’s important to have good quality tools. High quality, time-saving tools is what makes me money in the long run. I also donated a rubber hammer and a shaker (musical instrument).

Day 7-9, February 12th-14th, 2014.
I’m donating a coffee mug, a house plant with pot, and a pair of pants. I think it’s time to reexamine my dresser. I would like to think I don’t have a lot of clothes but I still find that I only wear maybe half my clothes. I’ve done this before, each time I find myself getting harder and harder on myself with deciding which clothes go and which clothes stay. This time around I will be even tougher. I found out about a project online called Project 333. “Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.” So, here goes nothing!

Day 10-12, February 15th-17th.
Moving forward with this Project 333 challenge, I’ve donated over the past few days two more pairs of pants, four t shirts, a pair of gym shorts, and a sweater. This is fun and it’s nice not having to smash my clothes to get the drawers to close on my dresser.

Day 13-Day 17, February 18th-22nd.
Day 13- Glass containers that weren’t being utilized. -Donated
Day 14- Sweater that was nice but I never wore. -Donated
Day 15- Tea Kettle I didn’t use anymore (now use electric). -Sold on Ebay
Day 16-Gold dental crown I had sitting around (I know, weird.). -Sent it to gold refiner.
Day 17-Went through food, I do not use. -Gave to my friend.
Tip:Simply your food choices, find out what you really like and use often. Store in large airtight glass containers. Donate or find a friend to give unused food too.

Day 18-19, February 23rd-24th.
Day 18-Sold, hose end timer for watering plants on EBAY. It was not getting used.
Day 19, Sold, my second hose end timer on EBAY. Also, was not getting used.
Both of these were items I held onto because I thought I was going to use them sometime in the future. What I’ve found out is that it maybe easier to let go of these items and free up space. If you end up needing to buy it again in the distant future, that’s ok, it’s not the end of the world. I run into a lot of people who hold onto a lot of stuff because they see some use for it in the future. It may start as one item but then it has a snowball effect, which in turn causes the person to use it as an excuse to hold onto way too many things. I’m guilty of it myself. Let go! It’s self rewarding and will help you in the immediate future and in the long run. Tip: Don’t let your items own you.

Day 20-27, February 25th-March 3rd.
Day 20-old pair of birkenstocks (actually, i drove off and left these at the beach, that counts right?
Day 21-converse shoes, haven’t worn in a year
Day 22-overalls that are awesome but I can never find a time to wear them (selling on ebay)
Day 23-big glass storage jar that holding day number 24’s donation
Day 24-all my seeds, that I never have planted. I work at a nursery so my need for seeds isn’t huge. I get a lot of starts for free. I do think there is something special about growing from seed that is missed when buying starts. I just haven’t had a place to really put them to use as I’ve been moving around place to place. So, I will brought them into work for coworkers.
Day 25-a rusted cast iron, haven’t needed to use it int he past two years. one, because the place i’m at has them or two, because the place I live has an electric stove.
Day 26-extra canning jars and lids that i’m not using
Day 27-pairs of socks that are my oldest and ones that are torn.

Day 28-30, March 4th-March 6th
Day 28-
Two metal dog bowls.
Day 29-
Clipboard
Day 30-
Two more shirts

Final sum up-

As the month went on, it got harder and harder to let go of stuff. But I still feel I can let go of more. For me, this is something I have to think about everyday. I have to reexamine certain items and ask myself multiple questions. When was the last time it was used? Will I use it again in the next six months? Can I borrow it when I need it? Can I buy it again in the future if I really need it? Sometimes my answers to these questions are different when I revisit an item a week or month later. So, it’s important to revisit items and not let them sit in the back of the closet collecting dust. Rotate your items, this helps me make more room in my space.

what the heck is kombucha? (an overly simplified version on how to make it)

Kombucha is a slightly alcoholic (>1%) fermented probiotic drink that is said to increase good gut bacteria and flora. Many sites online, go more in-depth about the benefits of kombucha. Some people say that kombucha is not what it’s worked up to be.  At the very least, it’s not harmful to your body and it taste damn good.

How to make it:

First, make some tea
Second, add a few tablespoons of sugar
Third, pour raw kombucha (preferably unflavored) into the sweetened tea.
I use a mason jar to hold it all.
Then, put a coffee filter on the top and screw on the metal ring.
Store in a warm dark place for a couple weeks.
The scoby (thin film-like blob) will start to form over the couple weeks.
When about a 1/4″ thick, transfer 3/4 of the liquid into an airtight jar.
Add your favorite fruit juice to the transferred liquid if desired.
If adding fruit juice, allow it to sit in a dark place with a coffee filter over the lid for a week. If not adding juice, put in refrigerator and drink when chilled.
Transfer the rest of the liquid and the scoby into a new batch of sweetened tea.
Repeat.

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