If you are aware of your breathing, you quickly notice when you enter stress mode - Breathing & creative therapist Greet Oostvogels

February 7th, 2022,

6 min read

If you are aware of your breathing, you quickly notice when you enter stress mode - Breathing & creative therapist Greet Oostvogelsfeatured image
Your breathing immediately reacts to every thought, emotion and sign of tension in your body.
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In our busy and often hectic world, consciously seeking ways to relax is essential to stay well-balanced. The question is: how do you do that? We ask experts to share their tips & tricks with us.

Meet Greet Oostvogels, breathing-, creative and Bach flower therapist. From her own practice named ‘Levens-Kracht’, she guides children, adolescents and adults in individual sessions and workshops, with the aim of relaxation, self-confidence and discovering what you really want in life.

How does Greet make sure she sufficiently relaxes in her life? Here she shares her insights and tips.

Greet, what is the motivation in your work?

“We live in a society in which we are given many opportunities and possibilities. At the same time, it asks a lot from us. Demands and expectations are high, often from an early age on. As a result, children, adolescents and adults regularly get stuck in life. I like to guide them in a creative way so they can regain their strength and (re)discover who they really are and what they really want.

About eight years ago, when I got stuck myself, I experienced the strong effect of working with my breathing. It was a true eye opener. If you are aware of your breathing, you will quickly notice when you go into stress mode. Your breathing reacts immediately to every thought, emotion and sign of tension in your body. Thanks to awareness of your breathing, you can intervene on time when necessary.

Since your breath can be used as an indicator and you always have it with you, I also use breathwork in my therapies and workshops next to offering normal breathing therapy.

Bach flowers are very useful as emotional support. I was able to discover this about twenty years ago. Bach flowers still accompany me in my life: both privately and in my practice. I like to compare it with riding an electric bike: of course you have to do the emotional work yourself, but Bach flowers give you that extra push, so that it goes just a little bit easier and smoother. Children, adolescents as well as adults can come to me for individual guidance and workshops.”

I hate the idea of not getting everything done. And thus tensions arise.

How do you notice you’re in need of relaxation?

“I have a whole list of signals, haha. In recent years I have learned to very quickly notice tension in my body. This ranges from more superficial or faster breathing - sometimes accompanied with a stuffy nose - to tension in the neck and shoulder area and more often clenching my molars.

But also a craving for unhealthy snacks, a lower tolerance towards my housemates and headaches or migraines. And last but not least: a troubled mind. When I notice that I can't focus my attention anymore and my mind is spinning in circles, I have to hit the brake.

I experience this every start of the school year: realigning different agendas, getting your own work done and attending extra informative evenings. I sometimes fail to pay attention to the household and the garden. I hate the idea of ​​not getting everything done. And thus tensions arise. Also if something happens that I find to be unrighteous, the thoughts in my head can start spinning. Until recently I also worked part-time as a night nurse, and I noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain good sleep-wake hygiene. Even in between night work. That eventually made me decide to quit this job. I couldn't relax at all.

And if I suffer from a denervated tooth, I know that a flu or strep throat is around the corner. Such a signaller is useful, because then I can take extra rest and use supportive remedies at an early stage, so that it doesn't break through all the way."

When I make myself really tired, I can't think anymore. It works like mindfulness: you empty your head and are completely in the here and now.

How do you find peace and relaxation in yourself?

“Taking the time to exercise has always helped me. Although I really have to commit myself, because 'I don't really have the time for it'. I try to do sports two or three times a week. Sometimes I manage well, sometimes not so much… I try to turn it into a routine, but usually lots of things come up. Ultimately, it works best for me to just look at it week by week when I’m able to exercise.

I prefer sports that I can do from home such as walking, jogging and skating. On the one hand I like those sports the most, on the other hand it requires the least planning. When I make myself really tired, I can't think anymore. Then I am fully occupied by the sport itself, and nothing else. It works like mindfulness: it empties my head and I’m completely in the here and now.

In addition, exercise in itself helps to physically de-stress. Walking is less tiring of course, but if necessary, I take a really brisk walk until I notice that my pace decreases by itself and my mind has calmed down. I always exercise in nature. I'm lucky enough to live in the 'farmer's countryside' and close to the Kalmthoutse Heide, so I have meadows, forests and heathland enough to recharge."

By meditating I became much more effective in my work and the feeling of 'I can never get it all done' melted away.

What does meditation mean to you?

“Meditation… I always thought it wasn't for me. Too spacey. And I was convinced that sitting still was not for me! I am more of a ‘doing’ person. However, three years ago I was introduced to meditation, it had an incredible effect on me and I was instantly hooked.

I noticed that when I meditated, I was much more effective in my work, the feeling of 'I can never get everything done' was gone and the craving for sweets also disappeared for a while.

With periods I meditate in the morning after I wake up or in the evening when the children are in bed. Preferably in the morning, because then I notice that I start my day better and more effectively. I have to admit though, I don't always succeed. And as usual, I'm less successful at times when I need it the most. You know the saying: "If you don't have time to meditate for fifteen minutes, then meditate for an hour"? Even then I have to mentally commit myself: set an alarm to remind myself, so that I actually do it every morning.

Sometimes I sit down somewhere during a walk and then take a moment to meditate. Creating a relaxation or meditation spot at home also helps. Mine has been given up a little while ago, but I'll set up a new one soon ;-).”

Thanks to relaxing breathing exercises combined with yoga exercises, I manage to turn off my thinking for a while.

What role does breathing play in this?

“Since I became acquainted with the power of breathing, I regularly do breathing exercises whether or not combined with relaxing yoga exercises. This enables me to feel consciously: how am I breathing, where are the tensions? Can I calm down my breathing, breathe towards the tension and let go? By doing this consciously, I also turn off my thinking for a while. It recharges me physically and mentally. I like to call this ‘mindful breathing’.”

How did you first discover the power of breathing?

“During a burn-out/bore-out I started a training on breathing. I saw a fellow student gaining a lot of energy from it, and I only seemed to feel even more tired. That felt frustrating at the time, yet completely logical in hindsight. I had kept going so strongly in the years before, while my body was indicating in all sorts of ways that it needed rest.

By becoming aware of my breathing and inviting the breath to flow through my whole body, I became aware of my fatigue and tension. The exercises I learned during this training made this possible. I managed to get out of my head and back into my body. This was very rewarding!

Breathing has become a guiding principle in my life. It flawlessly indicates when I experience too much stress or tension.

By delving into breathing in all its aspects and different techniques, I realized that I was also chronically hyperventilating. I had no idea I was doing that. Since I got rid of this - thanks to regularly doing breathing exercises - I have much more energy, I rarely catch a cold and I also suffer less from cold feet (which also pleases my husband, haha).

Ever since, I have been very aware of my breathing and it has become a guideline in my life. It flawlessly indicates when I experience too much stress or tension, even before I can notice it myself. The influence of your thinking and doing on your breathing is enormous. Doing breathing exercises is therefore always accompanied by conscious thinking, or consciously not thinking ;-)

In the meantime I have a series of breathing exercises that I apply when and where it suits me: even in the queue of the supermarket. Sometimes without any aid, and since a few months I also breathe regularly with moonbird.”

The fact that you can also easily use it without the app, I find that to be one of the great strengths of moonbird.

At which moments do you use moonbird?

“Originally I planned to use it regularly, but I soon lost my moonbird to my 10-year-old daughter. For several months she used it intensively to find rest in bed at night. She regularly had to look for him in bed in the morning because she had fallen asleep with it.

I prefer to use moonbird on the sofa: sometimes in front of the TV, sometimes I notice that the TV is bothering me at that moment and I then turn it off for a while. Or I use it in bed at night. I prefer the program that determines your personal breathing rhythm.

Every now and then I also give it to my clients for a few weeks. Together we look at their breathing rhythm and what is most appropriate for them to start with. I always recommend setting and saving a certain rhythm and time, so that they can easily use moonbird without the app. Because I think that is one of the great strengths of moonbird.”

What makes breathing with moonbird pleasant?

“It feels very intuitive. I experienced that myself, my daughter really enjoys holding it in her hands does, and so do my clients. They love to fall asleep with moonbird or for example to take it for a walk when their stress becomes too much for them.

I think it's great that you don't have to open the app every time to use moonbird. And that you can determine your personal breathing rhythm and always return to it, simply by holding your moonbird!”

Final question, what is your motto in life?

“I don't have one particular life motto... A few years ago I got a card for Mother's Day that said: 'Be yourself, no one else can do it so well as you do'. The card still hangs on my wall, because it’s absolutely right.

You can find another phrase on the homepage of my website. It's not a quote, but a short story someone once told me and has always stayed with me:

“Once upon a time there was a man who was on a journey. Arriving at a wide river, he built a raft to cross the river. Once on the other side, he tied the raft on his back and continued his journey. ... If you know how to build a raft, then why carry the used raft on your back?"

Let's get rid of all unnecessary ballast and travel 'light'. Let's be light.”

More info

For more information about Greet, have a look at levens-kracht.com. Are you curious about what breathing with moonbird can do for you? Click here for all ins and outs.

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