Learn to be still.
Many may misunderstand the work Shawn Marie Cichowski does as a life coach and reiki master. Much of it boils down to those four words.
Reiki – a practice of light touch to stir, channel and release energy – can help ease stresses and improve well-being. Life coaching involves teaching clients a variety of techniques to build a healthier framework for daily living.
“You’re expending energy, but you also have to renew energy for optimal performance and full engagement in life,” said Cichowski, owner of WNY Life Coaching Center, in Williamsville and East Aurora. The married mother of three lives in Elma, and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from St. Bonaventure University.
She worked on and off in posts at her family dental services business before she found life coaching and reiki during a journey of deeper self-discovery about seven years ago. She learned that people tend to focus on half of the four pillars of health – nutrition and exercise – while often downplaying the two others: relaxation and sleep.
Without all four in balance, stress can pile high from career, kids, relationships, traffic, politics and more. Persistent flight or fight responses – without restoration – suppress the immune system and raise the prospect for physical and mental illnesses that include headache, back pain, gastrointestinal distress, depression and anxiety.
Many choose comfort food, alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to find balance, Cichowski said, when meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises work much better.
Among her recommendations: The 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Exhale through your mouth. Stop. Then, with the tip of your tongue tucked onto the roof of your mouth, just behind your front teeth, breathe in through your nose for a silent count of four. Then hold your breath for a count of seven. Then blow out forcefully through your mouth for eight seconds.
Pause. Repeat four times, twice a day.
Studies have shown that such exercises – as well as meditation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery and repetitive prayer – can invoke a “relaxation response” to stress.
During corporate coaching, Cichowski always asks career-minded workers how many breaths they take in a day. She tells them about 20,000, then asks, “How many breaths do you pay attention to?”
“When you pay attention to your breath, you’re coming back to center,” she said. “You’re coming back to you.”
Such mindfulness is key, she said, and part of the recipe for good decision-making when we decide what to eat, drink or put into our body, and how to channel our anger, gratitude and love.
“Breath is the building block of meditation,” Cichowski said. “What you practice becomes habit and habit becomes who you are. That’s kind of how mindfulness becomes a way of being.”
Both major branches of her practice work together.
“I have so many CEOs come in here and say, ‘Put me on your reiki table,’” Cichowski, said. “If you’re heightened, reiki can really bring you down. But I tell them, ‘You’re on my table and get this sense of relaxation but let’s bring this into your everyday life.’”
Cichowski will host a workshop on mindfulness, stress and healing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Williamsville coaching center, at 500 Main St., Suite 313. The cost is $25; preregistration is required by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 560-6552. For more information visit wnylifecoaching.com.