Stop, Breathe, then Reframe to get through stressful times

Stop Breathe Reframe

Dealing with stressful times

Here’s an important skill to practice when you are going through a stressful time.  Whether the stress is dealing with an undesirable situation, or you just feel anxiety even when things are going well, this simple practice can lower your stress level significantly.

#1: Stop yourself and become self-aware.  To become self-aware, ask yourself questions about how you are feeling in that exact moment. Questions like:  “How am I feeling right now?”  “What am I thinking right now?”  “Do I need to be thinking about this right now?”  “Are my thoughts factual or am I creating stories or scenarios in my head?” Our thoughts can cause the stress.  This important practice pauses your busy ‘monkey mind’ and lets you objectively see what your thoughts are doing.

#2:  Breathe Although this may sound a little silly, it is quite amazing how taking some mindful, deeper breaths can settle you down pretty quickly.  Even if you are dealing with a stressful situation for days or weeks, take as many opportunities as you can remember to just breathe.  Breathe deeply, rhythmically, and let your torso and abdomen relax so you can really feel the expansion and contraction of your lungs and muscles fully – try to do this for a few minutes, but even if you can only manage a few breaths here and there, do it. This important practice invokes the relaxation response in your body.

#3:  Reframe.  Now here’s the more challenging part, but it’s worth doing.  Can you see the situation with a different perspective?  Don’t dismiss this challenge flippantly.  For example, if you are spending hours driving your parent around to doctor’s appointments, instead of being irritated by this, can you reframe this and realize that what you are doing is honorable and you can be glad that you are able to do this for your parent?  Most people are naturally wired to see the negative, so this practice takes effort to see things in a different light.  This important practice lets you change how you see and experience a situation.

I was inspired to write this post because I am faced with something in my life that’s unexpected and disruptive, and when I called upon this practice, it reminded me how powerful it is. I hope that this post has come to you at a time that is most helpful.  If you need it, please take the time to cultivate this and really make it work for you.


~Wendy Quan, of The Calm Monkey.



Getting through tough times – Breathe & Flow

flowSomething awful happens in your life, and you are just trying to get through it. You need to continue your everyday responsibilities – work, taking care of your kids, going through with commitments you’ve made, getting your taxes done, ensuring there’s food in your fridge, etc.

The degree of ‘awfulness’ of your situation is a matter of perception.  In helping people all my life, such awfulness can range from ‘my sister-in-law did something hurtful’ to ‘my mom just passed away’.  Indeed, whatever situation someone is hurting about is very real to them, and what they are feeling is not for anyone else to judge.

I want to share with you one piece of advice that someone I treasure shared with me when I was going through one of my life’s tough times.  It is simple, and here it is:

“Breathe and flow”

During a tough time, you can feel deep fear, helplessness, despair, a numbness to everyday life …  you know what I’m talking about if you have been through it.

Here is a personal real-life example to put this into context: 

Since my cancer diagnosis almost 5 years ago, I’ve devoted a lot of my life to educating myself and taking action for healthier living to avoid cancer recurrence. The effort has been significant, costly, and time spent paying it forward in helping others who are also interested.  Through self-initiated surveillance of my health, suddenly I get a shocking blood test result that puts me and my doctors on high alert – indication that cancer may have returned.

For the next 9 days, while getting more investigative tests done, my life feels like it has been overturned. How could this be happening with all the work I’ve been doing to stay healthy?  Just dealing with everyday life was excruciating, trying to function with a cloud of uncertainty about my life hanging over my head, not to mention how it may affect those I love if cancer has returned.

My very wise and special health advisor said “Breathe and flow”. These 3 simple words are what primarily carried me through my 9 days of health scare hell, along with employing all the life tools that I’ve learned over the years.  Here is what these words meant to me:

  • Breathe – paying attention to my breath to be mindful and present
  • Flow – feel and accept the flow of life, of what is happening. Know that things will change, and this situation will continue flowing and will move on.

Every time I couldn’t focus on something I needed to, like writing a document at work, I would breathe & flow.  It carried me through the 9 days.

This story ends positively, I’m happy to say. Further medical testing revealed that the alarming test results were likely not caused by a cancer recurrence. The breathe & flow tip will stay with me forever.

If you are going through something difficult, I hope this helps you.  If this doesn’t resonate with you at all, perhaps you may need this at some time point your life, and I hope it’s something you will remember.

Sending you all the best,




2 ways to get a break in your busy day


How to find a break in today’s busy life

When your life is so busy that you are in a state of tension all the time, there is something wrong with that. Especially if you don’t even realize you are tense, that’s an even bigger problem.  Most of us have so many obligations – a lot going on at work, family issues, maybe health issues, and to top it all off, trying to maintain healthy friendships or get exercise into our lives!

At work, I talk to so many people who say “I’m too busy to ever take a break. I know I should, but there’s so much to do.”  I feel saddened when I hear this is someone’s general state of being, because we all logically know that such behaviour isn’t healthy for our minds or bodies.

I’ve been there, and done that. And I think inevitably this behavior contributed to my cancer in 2010. Even if it didn’t, I sure wasn’t dealing with my busy life very well.  And yes, some days are still like that for me. But I’ve found ways to deal with that, and I share these through my blog.

There are very simple ways to find mini-escapes from this busy life that are free and easy.  Mindfulness practices can be built into your busy life and used as often as you can remember throughout your day.  These sweet moments let you momentarily step away from your busy state of being.

Here are a 2 mindfulness practices I share with my meditation students.  With intention and 100% attention, give yourself these mini-breaks:

  • Breathe.  This is the absolute easiest and quickest way to find a moment of calm and be ‘on your own’ even if you are amongst other people. Simply turn your attention inwards and pay attention to your breathing.  Feel your body breathe, feel your chest and abdomen move. Notice how your breath gives you life. You can do this even during a meeting; you don’t have to carve out time to do this.
  • Mindful walking.  Even if you’re anxious or stressed, simply pay attention to your body as you walk through the hallways of your office, walk to the busstop, or scurry into a grocery store. Feel how your weight shifts from foot to foot, and your mucles do their jobs to keep you moving. Read how to do a walking meditation.

Please give these a try, a real try.  If you like doing these, perhaps place an object on your desk or somewhere in your home that helps remind you to do this.

Using these extremely simple techniques can help you get grounded and centred, and give you a mini-escape from a busy day.

I wish you find more calm and peace, no matter what’s going on in your life.




4 ways to relax in your busy world

butterfly blue

Find relaxation, peace and space in your life.

You are so busy. You are always running around. You don’t feel a sense of having ‘space’ in your life. In fact, what does having ‘space’ feel like when you are too busy to even think sometimes?

Some people choose to be busy, and some people have a myriad of obligations that they cannot control. Whatever the case may be, here are some easy ways to find that serene sense of space within your busy life. It’s about taking mini ‘time outs’ from your busy day and creating a sense of being centered and grounded.  It’s about noticing the present moment so life doesn’t just pass you by, so one day doesn’t just blend into the next.

4 easy ways to create space in your day:

  1. Just breathe. This is probably the #1 easiest and quickest way to get centered.  Simply bring your mind’s focus to your breath, to your breathing.  Even if this is for 4 breaths, this can instantly relax you. Feel your breathing, feel how your body moves when it breathes. Take slower, deeper breaths.
  2. Disconnect from technology. You know how you can be on your computer or your cell phone, and before you know it, hours have passed by. Take an intentional break from technology – turn off your cell phone and stay away from your computer, even for a partial day, or create a daily ‘black-out’ period to help you help yourself. When you first do this, observe if you have any uncomfortable feelings – if you do, simply observe that and seek a feeling of being released from your attachment to technology.
  3. Stop over-thinking.  Our ‘monkey mind’ never stops. That’s the human way, and thank goodness for that! But when you observe your thinking, you will see how much you might be over-thinking things, which usually isn’t very functional and just increases your stress.  So catch yourself when you are over-thinking a subject, and simply change your thoughts to something else.  Saying silently to yourself “Stop” or “Change” can be very helpful.
  4. Meditate.  And yes, of course I am going to put meditation on this list.  Taking the time to meditate is a beautiful lifestyle practice. Those of you who already do it, know what I’m talking about. Those of you who have not yet tried meditation are in for a wonderful and curious ride, and I encourage you to take classes to learn meditation.

Please give some or all of these a try.  Creating more relaxation in your life will cultivate more joy in your life.




Deep breathing relaxes the mind and body

meditator breathing

Your breath gives you life

If you haven’t heard of the great benefits of deep breathing, it’s worth learning about this.

The practice of deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), responsible for activities that occur when our body is at rest. It functions in opposite to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the flight-or-fight response.

By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of your breathing, you can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain. In this way, breathing techniques provide a portal to the autonomic communication network through which you can, by changing your breathing patterns, send specific messages to the brain using the language of the body, a language the brain understands and to which it responds. Messages from the respiratory system have rapid, powerful effects on major brain centers involved in thought, emotion, and behavior.

In this Huffington Post article Get a Hold of Yourself: 3 Kinds of Breathing, it teaches 3 kinds of deep breathing techniques.

  1. Coherent breathing – breathing slowly at a rate of five breaths per minute.  Simply count silently to yourself from one to five while inhaling, and the same count while exhaling. Changing the rate of your breath in this way maximizes the heart rate variability (HRV) and causes a shift in our nervous system.
  2. Resistance breathing – creating a resistance in the flow of air by pursing the lips, placing the tip of the tongue against the inside of the upper teeth, hissing through the clenched teeth, tightening the throat muscles, partly closing the glottis, narrowing the space between the vocal cords or using an external object such as breathing through a straw.
  3. Breath Moving – using your imagination to move your breath through your body.

There are so many types of breathing techniques, and for different purposes.  I do the coherent breathing because it simply feels good, it immediately relaxes me, and is easy to fit into my day.

Paying attention to your breath is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness as well.

In many traditions, the word ‘breath’ means the same a ‘spirit’.

Most of us hardly breathe at all. We hold our tension in the body and breathe shallowly.  Breathe!

Breathe, stay present, and enjoy life,