Why 2019 Is The Year Of Conscious Responsibility
For many people around the globe, 2018 was a year of deep uncertainty and despair. This has been reflected in a deepening crisis in mental health that was brought to our attention in the wake of the suicides of prominent individuals in our societies. We cannot deny that mental health is the most urgent health crisis of our times. On one level, society has become more conscious of health and wellbeing, but the rising statistics for burnout, anxiety, depression and chronic disease are reflecting a different picture.
Superficial attempts and quick-fix coping strategies are not sustainable, as they merely keep us functioning at a base level. To shift our habitual patterns of behaviour, we need to begin by recognising these patterns as they arise. Only then can we start applying the methodologies and tools for healing.
The breath is a universal language and belongs to us all
Our greatest health challenge in the coming year is to find ways of creating a sustainable change of thinking, feeling and behaviour, rooted in conscious awareness, community and connection to ourselves, one another, and nature.
A deeper look into the inner working of our neurobiological system will help us to understand why it is so difficult to make these changes last. Our digitally based lives, fragmented society, fragile economy and failed government cause a constant low-grade activation of the stress response, which is often under the radar of our conscious awareness.
A chronically activated stress response shuts down the body’s self-healing capability, leading to chronic inflammation and, eventually, chronic disease. But more than that, constant stress signals from our external environment, and signals from our body, activate our instinctive survival brain and dampen our prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is more rational and keeps us in check. In other words, the more locked we are in the survival mode, the more likely we are to default to certain behaviours, which, in turn, just feeds the vicious cycle.
To sustain optimum health and authentic energy in a world that is breaking requires us to practise the art of conscious responsibility.
This is essentially about self-awareness, self-regulation and compassion.
It begins by practising the art of attention – taking our head out of the sand, and paying attention to the needs of the body, mind and heart. When we find ourselves defaulting to our reactive patterns, we should get into the habit of doing an energy inventory, checking in to see what requires attention. Is your body asking for rest? Is your gut health compromised? What needs attending to on a physical level?
It requires a skill of robust vulnerability and open-hearted resilience. It is the courage to face our feelings and to keep an open heart when everything in us wants to shut down and protect it from hurt.
We cannot do any of this work if we do not have the courage to practise radical rest, and retrain relaxation into the system through healing practices that work for us, whether that is massage, yoga nidra, a mindfulness practice, breathwork, or deep, restorative sleep.
Conscious breathing is the first step to taking conscious responsibility.
Most of us take our breath for granted, and yet when we breathe consciously, we are able to build resilience into our system. It is the easiest self-care ritual. Named as the next frontier of wellness, medical doctors are now beginning to prescribe specific breathing techniques as the first-line treatment for depression, anxiety, insomnia and burnout.
In a country that is so deeply traumatised and is attempting to heal, each one of us has the responsibility to ourselves and one another to participate in the process of healing and growth.
Some simple breathing practices:
1. Coherent breathing:
Inhale slowly for five seconds through the nose, and exhale slowly for five seconds through the nose or mouth, with no pauses between the breaths. Do this for five minutes at a time every morning.
2. Breathing for calm and anxiety:
Breathe in full for a count of five. Hold the breath for a count of five; exhale slowly for a count of 10. Do this before going to bed at night or when you’re feeling anxious.
Who is the author?
Dr Ela Manga is a integrative medical practitioner, executive coach and facilitator. Click on the link to find out how floating calmly on water can decrease your stress levels and address your anxiety concerns.