A Three-Year-Old’s Wisdom

tea-381235_1280February 2015—Several weeks ago, I gave a talk to parents of obese children on how to live a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 25 minutes into the talk a sweet 3-year-old girl with medium-brown hair in pigtails quietly walked into the room and took a seat next to her mother. Moments prior to her entrance, I had presented the following question to the parents: “What kinds of things do you do to relax when you feel stressed?” The audience avoided eye contact with me, looked around the room and pretended that they needed to check their Blackberrys at that exact moment all in effort to avoid answering my question.

I decided to ask the question again…silence.

As I continued to survey the room, my eyes slowly met with those of the 3-year-old girl. I looked at this little girl in pigtails and asked for her name…“Lyla,” she answered shyly. I proceeded to ask Lyla if she ever feels stressed? She looked directly at me with bright brown eyes and answered my question with ease… “Definitely!” she proclaimed. It took me a moment to grasp my head around the fact that someone so young could even begin to understand what it meant to feel stressed.

I then asked Lyla the same question that I asked the parents moments prior to Lyla’s seemingly inconspicuous entrance…“What kind of things to you like to do when you feel stressed,” I asked. Without hesitation, Lyla quickly, with a matter-of-fact tone answered, “I just put on my pink dress.” So simple. Just to clarify, I asked “So all you need to do when you feel stress is put on your pink dress and all of your stress melts away?” She answered softly, yet with genuine confidence, “Yeah, I just put on my pink dress.”

This innocent exchange got me thinking…where is my pink dress? Perhaps, finding a reliable way to relax is easier than we think. Maybe we are trying too hard to relax. When Lyla talked about her pink dress, she breathed diaphragmatically without intention. It appeared that even thinking about this dress served to naturally induce a relaxation response for this little girl.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that you (regardless of gender) go out and buy a pink dress. What I do suggest is to take about 10 minutes to sit down and think about an item or activity that you find relaxing. Think about your senses: whether it’s wrapping yourself up in a warm fuzzy blanket, spritzing on your favorite perfume or cologne so you can smell it throughout the day, listening to a song that you find soothing, taking a sip of hot or iced tea, petting your dog or cat, holding a memento (i.e., a favorite photo, a sentimental object), notice how both your mind and body feel as you engage in any of the above-noted activities.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, the more our society increases its desired, unrealistically fast pace, the more important it becomes for you to take a moment and breathe. The items and activities mentioned above oftentimes serve as “triggers.” Implementing a simple, yet meaningful object or activity into your daily routine may serve to naturally induce a relaxation response with little to no effort.

Have a great month & as always don’t forget to breathe!

The Mind Body Minute with Dr. Ellyn L. Turer

Psychologist DC-Mind Body Minute with Dr Ellyn TurerJanuary, 2015 — STRESS. A word in which we are all too familiar. It seems as if the pace of our society becomes quicker with each passing moment, ultimately causing each of us to experience unnaturally high levels of stress on a regular basis. Routine exposure to such high levels of stress produces physiological and psychological reactions. The development of a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and depression are just a few examples of the mental and physical effects of stress on the human body.

Further, the society in which we live is saturated with stress. It is also one enamored with the “quick fix.” Living in a quick-fix society ultimately serves to prevent one from learning how to solve issues long-term. Thus, we get further drawn into a vicious cycle where we experience stress, look for a quick fix, and find short-term relief, only to find ourselves inundated with stress once again. Stress is like driving your car in the driveway, placing the car in park and pressing on the accelerator. After a while, the car will overheat. Our bodies work in a similar manner because we too have breakdown due to stress.

Few people have truly effective ways to handle stress. Some people do things to alleviate the symptoms of stress, yet never actually work on the problem itself. Somewhere along the line we stopped trusting ourselves and our natural ability to decrease feelings of stress. There is no better time than the present to start rebuilding that trust.

As each new life begins with a single breath, so too will this journey aimed to help each of us live more satisfying, stress-reducing lifestyles. Two words…just breathe. It seems too simple. However, learning how to breathe properly actually serves to induce a relaxation response in our bodies. Diaphragmatic breathing occurs when you inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Imagine that you are blowing out a candle as you exhale through your mouth. Close your eyes and continue to breath in this fashion for three to five minutes. Practice this relaxation technique at least one to two times daily. The more you practice, the easier it will become for you to relax your mind and body. Once you have taken your first diaphragmatic breath, you have officially embarked on this stress-reducing journey.

Have a wonderful month and please don’t forget to breathe!