In part two of this conversation, Amanda Huggins offers listeners somatic tools for addressing anxiety, including meditation, box breathing, and heart-focused breathing. She discusses how to work with clients with anxiety (space holding, not advice; supportive affirmations, not comparisons) and advocates for all of us to “triple down on self-care.”
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0:01:17.9 Darren Buford: Welcome to the ABMP podcast. My name is Darren Buford, I'm Editor-in-Chief of massage and bodywork magazine and Senior Director of Communications for ABMP.
0:01:26.4 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly, licensed massage therapist and ABMP's Director of Professional Education.
0:01:31.7 DB: This is part two of our podcast on anxiety with Amanda Huggins. Amanda is a respected anxiety and mindfulness coach, certified yoga instructor, brand ambassador, writer and keynote speaker. For more information, visit amandahugginscoaching.com. Okay, let's dive right back in. Amanda, what are some examples of somatic tools someone can use to support anxiety relief?
0:01:56.1 Amanda Huggins: In our first part or our first conversation, I had mentioned meditation. Meditation can be a pretty broad practice. I'd love to offer for listeners two potential options that I call eyes open meditation or at least one of them is eyes open, the other one is often served best, eyes closed, but... Are you familiar with box breathing?
0:02:20.0 KC: No, and I was gonna ask you about that when you mentioned it in part one. I was so curious, but I figured it was coming in this somatic section.
0:02:28.0 AH: Oh, it is my absolute favorite, because all you have to know is the shape of a box, and you have to remember how to breathe, and that's about it. So the way that box breathing works is we inhale for four seconds, almost like you're drawing one side of the box. We hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and then hold empty for four seconds. So box is really just to give you a visual for what the breath is doing, and I suggest you repeat that between 15 to 20 times. What we're doing is triggering the vagus nerve, and the holes at the top and the bottom of the breath are really important because there are many types of meditation where we're doing like circular breathing and breathing in and out. We're oxygenating our system. This is not that. We are trying to calm ourselves down. I always say this is the one you do at your desk while you're at work, if you don't want your boss to know that you're stressed or you're maybe feeling into some energy from a client, and you wanna just rid that away without them really seeing it, that is an excellent opportunity. And then there's something called heart-focused breathing, which is a really cool experience because it basically presents the opportunity for you to create a new feeling in your body. So hunger right? What... Kristin, what is your favorite food?
0:03:56.3 KC: Ooh, depends what we're talking about. Right now, if we're talking like a sweet snack treat, it's a dark chocolate caramel with a little sea salt on it.
0:04:06.6 AH: Ooh, and I love that you are descriptive, and that is also one of my favorites, like chocolate and caramel, my favorite. So as you're talking, I'm getting a slight, slight Pavlovian response, right? I can feel my mouth starting to water. There's no chocolate. I smell nothing I'm in my apartment, by hearing something, my body is starting to elicit a response, so when we take that ideology and we bring it into heart-focused breathing, from a physical perspective, we are just breathing energy into the heart space, exhaling out of the heart space, so we're moving energy through, but as we're doing that, we can choose to activate a positive feeling based on memory. So if I was in a state of anxiety and in a deep state of doubt, impostor syndrome was coming up big time, as I'm practicing heart-focused breathing, I might call to mind a moment in the past where I felt really sure of myself, I was very confident I just felt good, and I would allow just by memory, those feelings to enter my body again, I would let that memory fade, but I would keep the feelings, and as you continue to play with heart-focused breathing, you can circulate a little bit of that energy through your system, that's one of my favorites because it trains yourself to remember that your emotions are not permanent, you can select a different feeling, it just takes a bit of practice.
0:05:30.5 KC: And what I'm so intrigued about with that technique, the heart-centered breathing, there's so much about it that I really love, one of them is even the simple practice of people looking back through the files of their lives, the snapshots of their lives, and remembering times that are positive, so that they have those on hand when needed, I think that's even that piece is a powerful practice right?
0:05:53.8 AH: Gosh, this is probably about 10 in a little last... Years ago, at this point, I was sitting across from a mentor and she asked me Amanda what makes you happy? And I, of course, started crying because I had no idea, and I went back to my journal and I just made a list of things that I thought could maybe make me happy, and from that list I started building, well, when have I been happy in the past, what did that feel like? That is an incredibly important practice, whether we're looking at happiness or confidence or anything that's on the lighter vibrational scale of emotions, because to your point, Kristin, it's so easy to forget that we are worthy enough that we are capable, and when our mind wants to default to the negative, we have to be armed with the proof of our history that is positive so that we can fight that negative in our dialogue.
0:06:44.2 KC: And it's so easy to forget, I think... What is it a line from Pretty Woman where she says, The bad stuff's easier to believe, and I think that's so true. It's hard to remember the good stuff sometimes.
0:06:55.0 AH: Absolutely.
0:06:56.2 KC: So Amanda, let's shift just a little bit. We've been talking in part one, in the beginning of part two, about how we can look at and address our own anxiety, but so many of our listeners are massage therapists and body workers, and we also work with clients who may be very open with us about the anxiety that they're experiencing. What are some ways that practitioners can best support clients who are in this anxiety experience?
0:07:22.4 AH: Support is the keyword, and I'll call myself out here before I became a coach, and I was still as a teacher, yoga and meditation teacher, I was in a position to hold space for clients or for groups, but it is space holding and not advice. And that was one of the things that I know I had to be very mindful of because after class students might come up and say, I was crying and Pigeon posing and this is what happened, and I might have some good advice within me. It is not my role to share in that particular moment, unless that's asked for, because those who are struggling with anxiety, they have enough upstairs, neighbors, they have enough thoughts in their head already, unless it is explicitly asked for, it is support, not advice that is being offered and that support can look like very simple affirmations. I understand. You are heard. I am here for you.
0:08:21.5 KC: Yes, even that can be so powerful.
0:08:23.5 DB: Amanda, I'm such a fix it person though, right? And I'm gonna immediately move to like, how do I figure this out, how do I help, and that's gonna be my... I'm gonna have to be reserved in a situation like that, I know there's probably no answer there, that's just the... But I know there's a lot of people probably like me who have that kind of fix it kind of vibe.
0:08:43.4 AH: I identify with that even now as a coach, when I'm hanging out with friends and we're just having a friend-to-friend conversation, I have to be really mindful of, Amanda, don't go into coaching mode, if I can share something from having to live and practice that very frequently for practitioners to be mindful of what it feels like to offer love and support energetically, because it really does start in the body. So if you are listening to someone share something with you, you can still be listening, but maybe take a beep to, take a deep breath, ground down in the question of what is my role right now and get clear on that within yourself and then communicate from that energy, to your point, Darren, about really wanting to fix it, what you can offer is, let me know how I can support you. You have to be prepared though, that those who struggle with anxiety, most of the time that answer is not really clear. We don't know, we don't know until we know.
0:09:46.3 DB: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors, Anatomy Trains is excited to invite you to another exciting two day dissection live stream specialty class, deep dive into joints, April 24th and 25th. This advanced dissection live stream education experience is presented by Tom Myers and master Dissector Todd Garcia. In this two-day event, we will examine the blended nature of support for each of the joint areas, the Special dissection live stream format allows us to explore more deeply subjects and areas of interest. Visit anatomytrains.com for details. Now, let's get back to the podcast. So Amanda, when a client expresses that they're struggling with an anxiety or other mental health issues, what are things to say, or maybe even more importantly, not to say.
0:10:35.1 AH: As we just discussed, do your best to stay away from the unsolicited advice. I would also suggest being mindful of not getting into the comparison game, often we wanna do that to level set and make someone else comfortable... Oh, I did that too. I had that experience too. And if someone is not in the right space to receive that, it can come across as you're trying to one up them, or it can turn into a misery loves company thing, and then both of you are balancing this anxious energy, we absorb energy so much so you might have gone into that conversation trying to support and walked away, oh my gosh, they just mirrored my own anxiety, I totally forgot I was even freaking out about this, it is a delicate game to be mindful of your communication, but it is so important, not just for the person that you're working with, but for yourself too.
0:11:26.2 DB: I was saying, we actually call that the topper, when somebody brings a certain example and somebody all of a sudden tops that example and you're like, Wait, I didn't want you to do that.
0:11:36.6 KC: But I think Amanda is right, half the time they're trying to relate, I think they're trying to be supportive and relatable and say, Yes, you're not in it alone, and it comes across in just the wrong way.
0:11:47.7 AH: It's a natural human response. I am hyper-conscious of it, so when I'm in client work and we're in a one-on-one setting, one of the first things I let them know when it's a close client relationship, I call myself out and I say, when we're working together in this supportive capacity I'm gonna use myself as an example. It's never to talk about myself, it's because I can provide context and answer deeper questions, but if you ever feel uncomfortable, let me know and we'll start using some different examples, so practitioners could potentially play off of something like that by saying, Would you mind if I shared something? And that way, the person who's in a state of anxiety, they have the opportunity to say yes or no, they may say yes, and that's amazing, but at least you have that clarity.
0:12:36.3 KC: Right and the context is clear. I like that word clarity, it's like I am only sharing this with you to be supportive and that everybody understands that there's not that miscommunication or misrepresentation. Amanda what can practitioners do to support their own mental health in general.
0:12:54.3 AH: Big question, and listeners will not be able to see this, but I just took a big inhale because I am constantly having to come back to practice what you preach, Amanda, and I think most practitioners could also use that advice depending on the day, when you're in a service-based position, which is what any body worker or teacher is offering, it's a service, it's a gift, it is in you to want to give, you have got to remember to give back to yourself, and one of my earlier mentors really drilled this into me, she said Amanda, your self-care is a part of your job, you are on payroll for self-care, so when I'm looking at my day as best as possible, I include not before "working hours" but when I start my day, that has to include, is it a meditation? Is it a walk outside? And obviously, there will be days where that's not possible for whatever reason, triple down when you have the space, not double down, because often we're like, Yeah, I'm taking care of myself enough, we're not... We need more. That would be my biggest line of advice, although I have a couple of other thoughts too.
0:14:10.3 DB: Amanda, what are some simple energetic cleansing exercises for empathic practitioners who tend to take emotions of work home with them, we know that body workers, massage therapists, definitely prone to do this.
0:14:25.1 AH: Oh yeah. Energy absorption is very real. There are a couple of different ways that you can look at that. I like to sort of back of the napkin journal after I get off of a call or I'm teaching an in-person class, especially, I'll just journal what do I believe I might have picked up from them energetically, emotionally? Or is there anything that I'm still thinking about? And you just write it down. Sometimes the kinetic action of writing is enough to start moving some energy, I often find that writing it down is enough of a visual to say, Okay, I am very clear that is not mine. Meditation with intention is also very important, and you can kind of use that same question of What have I picked up from this particular client and take that questionings into the body, do I feel them in any of my spaces, and can I consciously use my breath to release or shed some of that. And if someone has a really clear understanding of energy separation, and this would really kind of move more into the clear of wind space, but being very clear on what your oriel books like, seeing who has kind of popped in, and then just lovingly moving them out, sending them out with a lot of gratitude, but I don't think it matters what you choose, as long as you are choosing it and doing it diligently.
0:15:53.3 KC: And do you think now taking that and that might be to do that full practice at the end of the day, would be incredibly beneficial. I wonder, what do you think about oftentimes massage and body workers, we really only have a short amount of time between sessions as we're saying goodbye and thank you to one client, and then quickly behind the scenes getting ready for the next, what are some tips people can do sort of in that quick time period where they can't sit and journal, but maybe they can do a mental version of that, or what would you recommend.
0:16:21.6 AH: One of my favorite things to do, and I identify with that one, I used to do a lot of back-to-back yoga then meditation, and this was obviously pre-COVID, so you're doing a lot of physical adjustments, which I don't know if that's even allowed anymore. So naturally, you have to wash your hands in between classes, you can make that a moment of presence though, in the same way that cooking or listening to music can become meditative, even the minute or whatever appropriate time it is now for you to wash your hands with COVID regulations, to actually be in that and notice the water, how it feels on your hands, notice what you're releasing, notice what it is washing away and taking two to three deep breaths, like long, deep breaths in that process, that is enough of a starter to cleanse grounds and then shift the energetic space. I also like to say out loud, okay, I am no longer with Jess client A, I am now with Samantha client B like confirm that out loud change that energy.
0:17:25.0 KC: That's great, those are great tips that people can do and get really comfortable with and make it part of their routine each time, doing that on a regular basis enhances its ability to be effective. What do you think?
0:17:41.1 AH: Absolutely, absolutely, and it also becomes something to look forward to, often when we're introducing even the most simple new grounding or energetic clearing ritual, it can feel like this is working as a ceinture, I don't get it. This has increasing returns. It's a nice or welcomed break.
0:18:01.2 DB: Kristin, in your own practice, have you had short transitions between clients and had possibly an energy draining scenario with one and you had to keep yourself from bringing that into the next client?
0:18:15.0 KC: Absolutely, yeah, in my private practice, I have the ability to leave more time between clients and I do because I really like to re-ground, re-center in addition to everything else I have to do to get everything physically ready, but one of the jobs, as you most massage therapists and body workers, we have many, many jobs. When we first graduate, we're doing a lot of different things to sort of piece it all together, one of those jobs was at a massage clinic where I did table clients, I had table clients back to back, but I also did chair massage regularly. I love chair massage. It's one of my specialties. I did it every week at the hospital and around town at different businesses, so that is maybe two-minute turnaround between chair massage clients I mean, that's so quick and, yeah, absolutely, it was a... You have to be conscious of doing it, everyone has their own tips and tricks, I'm really visual, so I would visually just think and see myself just what you were saying, Amanda, saying goodbye to the client that was leaving. Cutting any ties and opening the space for the next. And it was really quick, it was just in my mind, but I think everyone needs to kinda get their own little routine based on how much time they have and what works for them, I love the tips you shared.
0:19:28.3 KC: So those are some great ideas about when we've got a little bit of time, now let's expand a bit when we have more time to maybe even incorporate some yoga poses into our self-care and into our wellness. So, what yoga posses would you recommend to support anxiety relief or problems with adrenal fatigue.
0:19:48.3 AH: To our point earlier about, we've gotta give back to ourselves, that giving back may not be a high intensity Vinyasa, so much as it's, I need to lay down and just be in a pose, maybe for five minutes. Unintentionally, I was doing Viparita Karani before this interview, which is just a fancy way of saying, legs up the wall, and I really love that one, so you can feel the blood rushing from your toes to bottom of your body, and it's just... It's nice and relaxing. I really enjoy Child's pose, and I know that that almost sounds like a cop-out answer, but it is my absolute favorite because it is so internal, your chest is either on or in between your knees, so you can quite literally feel or sometimes hear your heart beat, you are turned so inward and that's a beautiful reflective space to do that check in. How am I feeling? What do I need? What do I need to let go of? And you can let go, especially because depending on how you choose Child's pose, it's a hip opener, you can let go really nicely because we store so much emotion in our hips, it's a really supportive pose for that.
0:21:00.9 KC: Amanda, as we wrap up Part Two of this incredible two-part podcast with you, thank you again, what message would you like to send to our listeners as we finish this conversation, what would you like them to take away?
0:21:14.2 AH: That anxiety or really any mental health struggle that's present right now that it is not permanent, all of our emotions are so mutable and we have complete power to create changes when you feel that call that something does not feel right, whether it's in your own space or you're maybe picking up on something from someone else, clear it, look at it, go in. It is absolutely possible to shift it, and when you come from this place of, I am a deep defender of my worth and I wanna connect with more and more self-love rather than run away from it because of my anxiety, you connect on that place of love the process becomes a lot easier.
0:21:58.3 DB: I wanna thank our guest, Amanda Huggins, for joining us this week. To find out more information about Amanda, visit amandahugginscoaching.com. Listeners, like what you're hearing on the ABMP podcast? Leave us a review on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen, you'll help us reach more people in the massage and body work community. Thanks, Amanda, and thanks, Kristin.
0:22:20.3 KC: Thank you so much for joining us. That's beautiful, beautiful messages. Thank you.
0:22:25.9 AH: Thank you guys so much, I had such a great time.
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