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How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion

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Breathing Practices Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Breathing Practices’ Category

How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion


A simple mindfulness practice helps to create create connection for ourselves and others

The practice of self-compassion is becoming a hot topic and with good reason given the timing! Personally I was familiar with it, but didn’t consider it relevant enough to my work to go deeper.  Now as I’m writing “From Stuck to Unstoppable” on the topic of managing the mind-body connection, I’ve learned this work applies to most people during times of change.

Change creates stress, stress often leads to self-doubt. The more I learn, the more I recognize how powerful this practice is and how badly it’s needed for stress management. But as I often say in workshops, knowing what you should do has little to no impact on what you will do when the time comes.

Like today, when I sat through a Compassion in Therapy workshop lead by Tara Brach, a pioneer in self compassion theory. It ended right before I was scheduled for my weekly Toastmaster’s meeting, where I had been asked to participate in a speech contest.

With such short notice, I wasn’t able to commit much time to preparing for the contest. So I told myself I’d show up, do my best and have fun, without getting attached to the results. That was before I came in 3rd out of 3 contestants. Just 90 minutes after the Compassion session, my last-minute contest ranking immediately shot to a place of self-judgement!

“Am I unlikeable? I must be, I’m always coming in last at Toastmaster’s. Why am I putting myself through this anyway?” All flooded in as self-doubt clouded my judgement and I began adding every memory of failures past to a growing mental list.

I was swirling in self-pity for a full 15 minutes before I was able to step back and say to myself, put down the baguette and find a healthier way to feel better. Since I still had the morning self-compassion training queued, I started to open it when I suddenly got a message from a friend that pulled me out of my funk. It was a random, sweet check in that snapped me back into perspective.

And from there I was able to step back and appreciate what just happened! It was a perfect life lesson. I got the opportunity to apply the self-compassion process in real time. So the failed contest became a doorway for insight and even a bit of humor. Which was the best use of an hour I could have asked for.

How to Soften Your Judgement Using Mindful Self-Compassion

I sat down to re-watch the training. As Dr. Brach talked the audience through the process of getting that pain out – recognizing our judgement as masking a more vulnerable feeling, a place of hurt or rejection, I suddenly got it.

I was able to apply the self-compassion process to understand my rush into judgement, which is my go-to stress response. Whether I was critically judging myself or someone else, I realized this auto-reaction was a habit pattern masking something deeper.

When we’re able to be present and notice situations that stress or distress us, we’re able to investigate, what is the pain underneath the our immediate reaction? For me it was jealousy. And as I moved through the process and stayed with the difficult feelings I was able to open up to it. I could accept that I felt something I was embarrassed by, there was shame at the root.

I was able to see that underneath the jealousy was a fear of being invisible, of being irrelevant. As a middle aged woman, I know I’m not alone in this feeling. And I know it’s just a feeling, one that I can choose whether to make true. I also know, it’s human to compare ourselves with others and if we’re not intentional, to feel jealous. It’s not a cause for shame, nor does it make you a bad person.

Now that you’re aware of your thought patterns and what drives them, when those thoughts come up you can recognize them, then let them go.

We’re so often in conditioned mind, where we’ve developed habit patterns that let us avoid doing things that make us feel vulnerable. To see these patterns requires mindful awareness, presence, and intentionality.

Dr. Brach has developed a self-compassion practice around the acronym RAIN, which stands for:

  • Recognize what is happening
  • Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
  • Investigate with interest and care
  • Nurture with self-compassion

Ultimately, as in so many mindfulness practices, self-compassion is about letting go of harmful hidden beliefs. Yet is also requires meeting that painful place with compassion and responding to it in the most nurturing way possible.

When you can let go of past judgement, when you can truly offer yourself and accept compassion, you reach a new state of awareness. You have to be present and self-aware just to do it! When we bring presence and compassion inward we create an embodied presence for ourselves and others. We can extend grace and kindness both inward and out and in the process become that much stronger.

Dr. Brach also acknowledges that when you’re struggling, when you’re been dealing with stress or self-doubt for a long period of time, it’s not easy to be there for yourself. In fact, sometimes even for advanced practitioners, it isn’t possible.

During those times, it’s important to find a bridge to self-compassion. When you’re unable to be there for yourself, find a source outside yourself, whether that’s through a greater energy source, another person, or your religious beliefs. How can you find solace; from who or what, and how would you best be supported?

There is vulnerability in this practice as you allow yourself to ask for help. Some people worry this “let’s them off the hook” or undermines their drive in some way. Yet instead of weakening us, being vulnerable allows us to bring kindness to suffering while building our resolve and resilience in the process. As Dr. Brach puts it “soft front, strong back.”

My personal post-contest nurturing involved reminding myself that my passion for my work is my real driving force, not being popular at Toastmasters. And recognizing that seeing both the lesson and the humor in things, like I did in myself, is another pathway to compassion.

This timely a reminder may not happen when you’re in the thick of your regular response pattern, the one you’re ready to change. When you’re too triggered to reframe or recognize the humor, the best approach is through a breathing practice. Numerous studies confirm the effect of systematic deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing on the nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing lets you downregulate your stress level and slow down your thoughts, making way for new perspectives.

Learning new thought patterns is a process. The more you practice, the more you’ll begin to change outdated, negative patterns. So start where you’re at. Learning to bring mindfulness and compassion inward lets us create an embodied presence for ourselves and the world.

Make 2021 your year for change! Talk with me today to learn more about my new midlife transformation coaching programs and how to change your life at any age!

A Morning Routine for Reaching Your Goals


7 simple steps to the energy and focus you need to sustain change

Whether you’re changing habits, changing jobs or changing your life for the better, research supports taking an integrated approach to change

Let’s say that for 2021, after months of feeling isolated your goal is finding community by expanding your network to meet other people who are also interested in getting in shape. You think about your goal every time you feel lonely and isolated, but when you’re in that place, the last thing you have the energy to do is reach out to someone new.

Building new habits means trying on new behaviors, which requires mental and emotional energy. You need all systems on board to sustain you when the going gets rough.

Your Morning Routine
How do you start your day?  Do you roll out of bed to find yourself immediately swept into a sea of distractions?  With barely time to down a cup of coffee, you forge forward, dealing with the day as best you can before you run out of steam or the hangries set in.

We tell ourselves we don’t have time for a morning routine. Really we don’t.

Yet starting your morning right, as in positive, organized and energizing, doesn’t need to be time-consuming and will ultimately make you more productive.  Make it a short and sweet must-do to reduce stress,  maximize happiness levels and keep you track with your goals.

A mindful morning routine helps to manage your emotions and get ahead of the reaction curb, which can derail your attempts to prioritize your goals.

Start your day with a proven, 7-step morning routine for reaching your goals;

1. First hour device-free
If your typical routine is to roll out of bed and head straight to your cell phone, try a pattern interrupt. This simple shift puts you in the driver’s seat, as you intentionally decide what and when to address your to-do list, instead of being sucked into reactionary mode by your cell phone.

2. Grab some gratitude
According to Harvard Health, gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Wow!
In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Just on small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day”. So ask yourself first thing, what are you grateful for?

3. Reach for the light
There’s a fundamental relationship between light and energy. As you wake, the light you see signals you visual system to provide the most fundamental level of instruction about when you should be alert.
Adding natural daylight to your routine can be an important signal to your brain to wake up, but most indoor lighting is much dimmer than natural lighting, so as soon as you have the opportunity, take in some daylight, even on overcast days.

4. Just Breathe!
A morning deep breathing routine helps to waken your body by boosting the sympathetic nervous system. Try a seated breathing practice, or try Breath of Joy; a quick energy boosting standing exercise.

Breath of Joy

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, knees slightly bent.

• Inhale one-third of your lung capacity and swing your arms up in front of your body, bringing them parallel to each other at shoulder level, with palms facing the ceiling.

• Continue inhaling to two-thirds capacity and stretch your arms out to the side like wings to shoulder level.

• Inhale to full capacity and swing your arms parallel and over your head, palms facing each other.

• Open your mouth and exhale completely with an audible ha, bending the knees more deeply as you sink into a standing squat and swing your arms down and back behind you like a diver.

Repeat up to nine times: Don’t force or strain the body or breath; simply be absorbed by the peacefully stimulating rhythm. Return to standing. Close your eyes and experience the effects. Notice how quickly your heart beats; feel the sensations in your face and arms, and the tingling in the palms of your hands.

5. Find your focus
Take a moment to think about your day and what you plan to prioritize. Studies suggest that people who have mentally prepared for and thought about the upcoming day—or “reattached” to their goals—are more productive throughout the day.

6. Rethink your drink
So simple! Start with a large glass of water to stabilize blood sugar and energy levels all morning long. Skip the juice, coffee drinks and smoothies. All contain surprisingly high levels of sugar, so whole fruit is a much better energy balancing choice.

And if you wait an hour for your healthy cortisol levels to peak before your first cup of coffee, you’ll get the most of that caffeine boost and maintain your energy levels on through to the afternoon.

7. Pump up the jam!
My favorite! If you use a music streaming service or subscribe to music channels, find a happy station. Or take the time to create your own playlist. It’s an instant energy boost and those favorite tunes will keep playing in your brain long after the music ends.

Try some or all of these quick morning happiness hacks to start on an upswing and carry it through all day long.

Wondering if these tips really work for you? Track your progress! For the next 10 days, schedule a mid-morning check in at the same time each day. Assess your mood and energy levels on a scale of 1-5 and write it down. Compare and contrast to see what works for you. Send me an email, I would love to hear how it goes!

Make 2021 your year for change! Talk with me today to learn more about my new midlife transformation coaching programs and how to change your life at any age!