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Resets, Resiliency Pauses, and Brain Breaks--Oh My!

A question I am often asked by clients is, “How do I bring more balance and calm into my daily life?” A common complaint is that tools like meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness feel removed from our day-to-day experience. We learn a lovely new practice, use it once in class or on the mat, and then neglect to embed it into our daily life. 


A helpful remedy for this divide is what I will refer to as “Resiliency Pauses.” Introduced to me by Elaine Miller-Karas (founder of The Community Resiliency Model--or ‘CRM’), the Resiliency Pause invites us to rethink our entire concept of self-care. Rather than a practice we engage in at specially reserved, extended blocks of time (e.g., yoga every Wednesday at 9AM), the Resiliency Pause is woven into the fabric of our days--to prevent us from reaching a point of burnout or depletion in the first place.


I like to think of the Resiliency Pause as a way to fill my “well of resilience” as I go through my day. When I remember to do this, I find that I have a deeper pool of calm and composure to draw on when things get challenging. Resiliency Pauses can be short, simple, and tremendously powerful when used consistently and with intention. 


The Community Resiliency Model (CRM) teaches six skills that are perfect to use for a Resiliency Pause. You can check out my article on CRM here or visit the i-chill app (https://www.ichillapp.com/) to learn more about CRM and resiliency. (I hope you do!) 


I’d also like to share some additional practices that I’ve found to be immensely helpful in the journey of finding balance. To distinguish these tools from CRM, I’ll refer to them as “Energy Resets” (a term I learned from one of my clients!) Note: for the sake of brevity, I am only including a handful of Resets in this article, but please know that there are many more (I have a whole library of them!), and that I plan to create a workshop on this topic as well. Without further ado, let’s explore!

Resets for Beginnings

  • Opening/Offering: As you breathe in, take a moment to sense-in and notice what kind of energy is within you and around you. (Maybe you sense ‘anxiety’ or ‘excitement’, for example). As you breathe out, imagine sending out whatever is needed to yourself and your space (perhaps ‘calm’ or ‘gratitude.’) Continue these breaths for several counts. 

  • Call in/Release: On the in-breath, imagine that you are breathing in the energy/essence of whatever you intend to call in (peace, focus, connection, etc.) On the out-breath imagine that you are sending away anything that you are ready to release (worry, distraction, distress, etc.) To add in an element of visualization, imagine that you are breathing in the energy of your intention word through the crown of the head and blowing away anything that no longer serves out through the soles of the feet with the exhale. 


Resets for Focus

  • Tapping/EFT: Based on ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology, EFT invites us to tap endpoints of meridians on our body while focusing on a stressful thought. This sends a calming signal to the amygdala (fight or flight center of the body). We are desensitizing the brain to stress/turning off the stress signal/rewiring the way our brain responds to stress. For a demo, check out this video from The Tapping Solution

  • Essential Oil: Our sense of smell can offer a powerful reset. If you need a bit of invigoration or focus, consider putting a drop of peppermint oil, ylang ylang, or sweet orange oil on your wrists and temples. You can also buy aromatherapy jewelry that is infused with your essential oil of choice. Inhaling one of these aromas can give you just the gentle reset that you need to return your focus to the task at hand. 


Resets for Anger/Emotional Release

  • Feel It, Release It, Let it Go: Imagine the unwanted feeling/energy as a rock of crystallized brown sugar in your belly. Close your eyes so you can really see and feel this rock in your stomach. Start to imagine that you are pouring warm water onto the rock of hardened brown sugar, which causes it to melt and dissolve. As you see/feel the brown sugar dissolving in your mind’s eye, feel your negative emotion melting away, too. You might visualize it exiting out through the soles of your feet and into the earth below you. Take a deep breath in and out, and feel lighter and freer after letting this energy go! 

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: With this exercise, we gently tighten and release various parts of our body to get rid of excess tension. I like to start at the feet, tightening my toes for 2 to 3 seconds and then releasing them with an exhale. Next, I move up to my calves, following the same pattern of tightening and relaxing. Continue working upward through the various muscle groups of the body, part by part, in the same manner (thighs, glutes, belly, shoulders, face). By the time you reach the top, you’ll feel noticeably calmer!


Resets for Calm/Grounding:

  • Root/Branch Breath: On the inhale, imagine that you can breathe in the grounding energy of the earth up through the soles of your feet (your “roots”). On the exhale, envision breathing that calming energy outward into your entire body (your “branches.”) Continue breathing in and out in this way for several counts, visualizing your body (“branches”) expanding with greater calm each time. 

  • Honey: Imagine that you are pouring warm, liquid honey down from the top of your head, allowing it to slowly coat your brain and nervous system, part by part. So begin by feeling the warm, golden light of honey coating the skull. Take your time, and allow the slow speed to be the gift of the practice. Then feel the honey pour into the space between the brain and skull, really taking your time to let it flow and fill. Next invite the honey to pour down the frontal cortex, behind your forehead. This is your “thinking brain”, and you may want to linger here. After that, follow the same practice with the midbrain (the emotional center) and then the brain stem. Slowness is the name of the game here. You can end the practice by envisioning the honey pouring slowly down the spinal column, vertebrae by vertebrae, until it goes back down into the ground at your feet. 


So now that you’ve got some basic “Resets” to experiment with, the trick is finding a way to embed them into your day. I personally set a timer to prompt me to do a Reset at least once every hour when I’m doing sedentary work. Others have found it helpful to schedule their Resets into a “Google Calendar”, or to make a cue card/tool card to keep out as a visual reminder. 


I have come to see these Resiliency Pauses as being just as important as my water and meal breaks. When I prioritize them, I notice that my days flow and my bandwidth is much wider. When I skip them (which definitely happens!), my well of resilience is shallow--and I can get thrown off more often and more easily. Here’s to rethinking the process of self-care--to filling our wells early and often so that we can rise to the challenges (and joys!) of life. 


~Namaste,

Dr. Abby Ampuja



Credits/Resources: 

  • Thanks to Cristal Mortensen for sharing Honey, Root/Branch Breath, and the lovely Opening/Offering practices with me! https://awarealignedawake.com/

  • Thanks to Christy Whitman for teaching me to call in the energy/essence of my intention and to “Feel It, Release It, Let It Go!https://www.christywhitman.com/





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