Advice

5 Philadelphia Mindfulness Experts on How They Deal With Stress

And where they go to de-stress around Philly.

The Fairmount Park Horticulture Center is one of Kilkenny Tremblay’s favorite places to go to de-stress. Photograph courtesy Fairmount Park Conservancy.

If you’ve ever been significantly stressed — haven’t we all? — you know it can feel like it’s eating you up from the inside. Stress doesn’t always follow the rules of rational thinking, either — I’ve been stressed before with out even knowing what I’m stressed about. But just because stress can feel all-consuming, that doesn’t mean we have to let it have all the power.

Here, we asked some of Philly’s mindfulness experts how they deal with stress when it hits — plus, the places they head to around the city for from anxiety-reducing quiet time.

Jennifer Schelter

Life Coach, Yogi, and Meditation Guide at JenniferSchelter.com

HOW SHE DEALS: “When I’m stressed, I cry. Or I get super anxious. My first step: To recognize that this [feeling] is my conditioning, my childhood-fear-based, shame triggers, and not the truth. Second step: I tend to my shame, anger, and stress by being with the feelings. Most of the time, I’ll notice that I’ve created unrealistic expectations of myself. I’m learning to be kinder and gentler with taking care of my self during the workday. Third step: I breathe, notice the turbulence of my mind and heart and keep breathing. I allow my emotions to pass through me: tears, laughter, whatever is there, I imagine the emotion releasing.

“I use a mantra that helps me: I now acknowledge my thoughts and feelings but let them go. I am not my thoughts or feelings. I let go what ever doesn’t serve my wellbeing. I unconditionally love and approve of myself. Sometimes, all the mindfulness in the world and being curious about how I feel doesn’t work, and the best thing for me to do is be vulnerable and ask for help — call a friend — who is loving and wise who can help me reframe and refocus my mind in a constructive way.”

WHERE SHE DE-STRESSES: “I swim in the community Plymouth Whitemarsh heated, divine pool and pretend I’m in Florida. I spend time at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and sit and be quiet and take in the beauty of art. I hike in the Wissahickon round the ‘Fields of Gold’ (as I like to call them) with friends or alone. I go to Morris Arboretum and sit by a sequoia and listen to the world pass by and airplanes over head. I go to Woodmere Art Museum and look at Elizabeth Osborne’s paintings. I stand at the top of the Art Museum steps, arms open and breathe, do a little gentle yoga. I’m grateful to live is such a beautiful city.”

Anna Greenwald

Founder, CEO, and mindfulness instructor at On the Goga

HOW SHE DEALS: “Mindfulness is a great tool not for fighting stress, but for releasing stress. That might seem like a strange distinction, but in practice it makes all the difference. Stress the physical and mental sensations of fight-or-flight response being activated. Consequently, the more we try to fight or get away from stress, the more intense it can feel. We all know that feeling of worrying, and then then worrying about worrying.

“So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try this simple mindfulness practice: Notice your five senses. What do you see? Try to describe colors, textures, shapes, and shadows. What do you hear? Consider that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ sounds, just sensations. What do you feel? What sensations can you feel inside your skin? This can be enough to break the spiral of stress, and train our brains to come back to calm.”

WHERE SHE DE-STRESSES: “It might sound counterintuitive, but best place to be when you’re feeling stressed is actually right where you are. Many of us imagine ‘tranquility’ as sitting beside a calm and babbling brook, but the skill of acknowledging where we are is crucial to understanding and managing our own stress.

“Yoga was my first mindfulness practice, and continues to be a powerful tool for me when I need to calm my mind and body. The city is full of amazing yoga studios that make the practice accessible to people of all physical levels, interests, and personalities. A few of my favorite teachers are: Marty Harrison, Karli Rosen, and Caitlyn Williams.”

Wes Tudor

Yoga and guided meditation instructor at Raja Yoga & Meditation Center

HOW HE DEALS: “Meditation is the best way to destress. Diaphragmatic breathing is an important foundation for meditation, and a very effective stand-alone method as well. The combination of exercise and meditation is very effective. And as far as the exercise goes, yoga in particular.”

WHERE HE DE-STRESSES: “On a personal note, I find city living stressful, and in addition to meditation, [I] need regular access to nature. My destination of preference is the John Heinz wildlife refuge, an underutilized Philadelphia-area treasure. I particularly enjoy the bird walks. It is one of the premier locations in the country for birding, which is super relaxing. I also like to get away to the Himalayan Institute, a beautiful and profoundly peaceful yoga retreat center. In addition the four retreats I lead there a year, I try to go myself a few times just to recharge. In the summer, I like to drive to one of the quieter beaches on a more rural route avoiding the AC expressway.  I get relaxed even in the car, and then can spend the whole day at the beach.”

Kilkenny Tremblay

Owner of Sanctuary Yoga & Mindfulness

HOW SHE DEALS: “Practice Sanctuary’s ‘Mindful ABC’s’ in any stressful moments or when preparing for one: ‘A’ for Arrest, meaning simply and completely stop doing whatever you are doing in the moment and any movements. ‘B’ for Breathe — take three deep breaths. ‘C’ for Connect, connect to your ‘roots’ meaning whatever is supporting your lower body. If you are standing, feel into your legs all the way down to your feet and the feeling of your feet meeting the floor. If you are seated, sense into your hips, and simply notice the sensations of the furniture that is holding you up. This simple but profound technique is a great one to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress.”

WHERE SHE DE-STRESSES: “My favorite places outdoors in Philly where I find my urban zen are: walking and meditating at Penn’s Landing; walking over the Ben Franklin Bridge; walking and meditating in the greenhouse of Fairmount Park’s Horticulture Center.”

Jasmine Bailey

Co-founder of Vitality Meditation

HOW SHE DEALS: “I find that when I close my eyes and take three deep breaths, using a diaphragm breathing technique, encourages me to concentrate on my breathing and, for the moment, take my mind off of my stress. Diaphragm breathing is a breathing technique that starts with inhaling first through your stomach and then through your chest and ends with exhaling from your chest through to your stomach. I am a dancer as well and find it very relaxing to allow my body the freedom to move in sync with all kinds of music. Music can be a powerful connection to one’s emotions, and when I allow my dance to partner with music, it allows me to let go and to be in a relaxed sate of mind. For those who do not consider themselves a dancer, any kind of movement of the body, along with music of your choice can still achieve the same stress-relieving benefits.”

WHERE SHE DE-STRESSES: “There is a beautiful park  behind Lincoln Drive called Valley [Park]. It’s a very beautiful, quiet place with amazing fresh air provided by the nature surrounding the park. Vitality provides instructor-led meditation classes that helps manage stress on various levels. In addition to mediation, I find yoga to be a great way to relieve stress. The Philadelphia Museum of Art offers free yoga classes every Wednesday night. These yoga classes not only concentrate on breath, stretching, and balance, but they also  invites its participants to focus on an identified piece of art work which helps relax the mind.”

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