Stress Management

5 Simple Steps for Staying Calm Under Extreme Pressure

Gaza Mortars
Many offer flowery advice for staying calm under pressure, but unfortunately, much doesn't hold up under combat conditions, as they say in the military.

In the last 16 hours, over 200 rockets have fallen in the south of Israel. Families are back and forth between the bomb shelters and living quarters, having to cope with overflows of adrenaline every time the Red Alert siren wails and the rockets or rocket interceptors explode. It's not pleasant, to say the least.

Over the years, I've put together a few simple guidelines to coping and staying calm in the scenarios of rocket attacks, which have proved effective. If these ploys work under rocket attacks, they certainly won't let you down in coping with day-to-day stress.

  1. Remember Hashem! Say over and over, ein od milvado - "There is no one but Him," and remind yourself that a hair cannot fall from your head against his will. Remind your family that Hashem is right here with you.
  2. Thank Hashem for whatever blessings you can immediately think of, such as, "Thank You, Hashem, for this bomb shelter" or "Thank You, Hashem, for the IDF and the missile interception systems." Ask your children to say what they're grateful for and to thank Hashem too.
  3. Sing or hum a melody of faith, encouragement and inspiration - I love this one or this one, for example. If you're with your family, get everyone to sing along. There will be no more fear.
  4. Say, "Hashem loves me," over and over.
  5. Be optimistic - positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes.

By now, the coast is probably clear. Every time you implement the above steps, in part or in whole, under fire, you develop more inner strength. They won't let you down.

Keep on Walkin'

Walking 13.5
My favorite sport happens to be the worlds #1 fitness exercise, which does just as much for soul as it does for body. This is the only fitness activity that the whole family can participate in together, from 2-year-old toddler Mikey to 102-year-old great grandfather Morris. This is an activity that's joint-and-muscle friendly as well as fantastic for your heart and lungs. It's walking. If we add the technique of brisker strides and more vigorous hand and arm motion, we move up to the power walking category and burn all the more calories, just like we do in any other cardio exercise.

If you want to maximize the benefits of walking and prevent injuries, then your form and posture must be proper. Like in any other exercise, the better the form, the more beneficial the exercise. Use this form & posture checklist to evaluate yourself:

Proper Walking Form

1. Keep your head upright and eyes forward. Texting or looking at your smartphone destroys this important element of good walking form.

2. Engage your core by pulling your navel in as if you're trying to make it touch your spine.

3. Imagine that a string from heaven is linked to the crown of your skull pulling your head up and extending your neck. This method is a strong remedy to the kyphosis that people develop from sitting at a desk all day long.

4. Drop your shoulders and enable the back of your neck to touch the collar of your shirt. Your neck muscles should be relaxed.

5. Don't slump forward; if you feel like you are slumping, readjust your body position so that you conform to the above four points.

6. Swing your arms gently; the more you add arm motion, the faster you'll walk and the more calories you'll burn in a particular time period. Don't go crazy though - your hands shouldn't rise higher than your collarbone.

7. Walk with feet aligned in a straight manner rather than waddling from side to side. To do this, make sure your hips are moving forward rather than side to side.

8. Don't tiptoe; with every step, land on your heel and roll your foot forward. Comfortable shoes are a must!

Benefits of Walking

1. Great for burning belly fat.

2. Anyone can do it!

3. Lowers risk of hip fracture, especially with women.

4. Great for heart and lung health.

5. Wonderful for those who cannot or may not engage in more strenuous activities.

6. Fantastic for mental functioning, especially concentration, decision-making, self-composure and memory.

7. Wards off anxiety and depression while improving self-esteem.

8. Retards aging and increases longevity.

If we add personal prayer to our walking routine, and speak to the Almighty while sharing everything that's on our heart with Him, we have the greatest body-mind-soul health enhancer on earth. Try it; although we recommend 60-minutes a day, there are huge benefits for 30 minutes daily on up. KEEP ON WALKING - you'll love it. Every blessing, LB

Pilates-Breathing: Bomb-Shelter Tested Stress Reliever

Breathe Bro 6.5
From here in the south of Ashdod, from the moment the Red Alert siren starts to wail, one has 32 seconds to get to a shelter or sheltered area. That's pretty luxurious, for our neighbors to the south in Ashkelon have only 22 seconds, while our brothers and sisters in the Sderot area have barely 14 seconds. It's no joke...

Now, once inside the shelter, there's a bigger challenge - staying calm, and calming the children. Words of emuna and encouragement, together with a nice chunk of Israeli chocolate, work wonders. 

Our children have just as effective radar as the Iron Dome missile defense does. They can immediately detect in adults' faces if there's reason to worry or not. That behooves all of us to stay extra calm.

How does one maintain inner calm and composure when missiles are exploding outside?

Earlier this evening, between 7:20 - 7:45 PM, was the heaviest series of missile barrages in Ashdod that I ever remember. It wasn't easy to stay calm, for the explosions we could hear outside were thunderous. But, I gave a breathing lesson to the parents and children of our building - it worked, and everyone maintained smiles. I taught them Pilatres breathing...

Pilates breathing is in itself a relaxing warmup that soothes body and soul. You take ten deep inhales through your nose, then slowly exhale ten times through your mouth until your lungs are totally emptied. Now repeat, and do this six times. Even better, put a rug or a Yoga mat on the floor, and as you inhale, arch your spine. As you exhale, do a "Pilates imprint" until there's no daylight between your spine and the floor. This way, you get a wonderful spine-massage benefit that's great for your posture and general good feeling. This type of breathing also promotes abdominal engagement, which the Pilates method is famous for.

This form of breathing is not only conducive to relaxation, but it's a stress-buster as well. If it works under rocket barrages in Ashdod, it will certainly help you neutralize your stress and anxiety anywhere else. So there you have it, bomb-shelter-tried and tested. Try it! May we all hear good news from each other, and blessings for a wonderful new month of Iyar. Every blessing, LB

Daily Centering

Centering 29.4
Here's something I picked up from a health-and-fitness coach's manual from one of the recent health-coach refresher courses I took (the bold-letter emphases are mine):

"The very first way to combat stress is to have your clients begin the exercise of taking 10 minutes each day - to simply sit and center themselves with their thoughts. They can find a quiet room somewhere and as they do, they should simply clear their mind or let their thoughts take place and then release them. This is a form of meditation and it can do wonders for helping to restore central nervous system balance, reducing ongoing stress and helping them feel that much better on a day to day basis. If they can’t do this for 10 minutes, wonderful! At any rate, 5 minutes will suffice. Any amount of time done daily or as close to daily a possible will have a very positive influence on their stress levels."

I don't know how many other health-and-fitness coaches follow the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, but the author of the above manual is right on the money. If 10 minutes daily ("5 minutes will suffice") do so much good for a person's nervous system, stress levels and overall good feeling, then imagine what 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day of secluded, intimate conversing and connecting with the Creator accomplish! This is quality time, alone with the Almighty, where you collect your thoughts, clarify issues and simply recharge body and soul. I like to do my daily sessions while walking, especially somewhere secluded and beautiful where heart and soul open wide up. It's the key to self-composure, happiness and sanity. Try it - you'll love it.

Disconnect and Connect

Disconnect and Connect 29.3
No one knows better how to maintain your new car than the manufacturer - he's the one who wrote the owner's manual.

In like manner, no one knows better how to care for body and soul than their Creator. He too wrote an owner's manual, which tells us to observe the Sabbath.

Many perceive the Sabbath as limiting - mandatory disconnection from all types of weekday activities, especially digital connection to social media and email. How many people expect you to be digitally connected 24/7 and to respond to them instantaneously, too — especially with email and social media read receipts. This is a formula for burnout. The mind and soul never get a break, resulting in massive secretions of cortisol, the stress hormone. An excess of cortisol obstructs weight loss and promotes fat-storing and weight gain. It also ruins a good-night's sleep and triggers irritability, lack of patience, depression and mood swings.

Sabbath - Shabbat, as we say in Hebrew - is a day of rest from cortisol and stress. We turn our smartphones off and disconnect from social media. Instead of listening to the beeps and buzzes of media alerts, we listen to our loved ones and to the chirping of the birds. As we disconnect from the external world, we connect to the internal world - our Creator, our loved ones and our own souls. It's a time of physical and emotional relaxation and reset that replenishes and rejuvenates body and soul.

If you don't already, try a day of disconnecting every week. Pick Shabbat. Don't just disconnect; connect too - to your spouse, your children, your Creator and yourself. Take a walk in the park or to somewhere beautiful, where you can meditate and commune with your Creator. You'll feel great. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat and a beautiful weekend. Yours always, Lazer