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Oprah’s Meditation Coach Shares Her Secrets for Surviving Coronavirus Stress – Episode 83

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In this week's episode...

Navigating the Coronavirus stress is a challenge, but we were lucky enough to chat with Valerie Gangas for an episode this week. Not only has she changed her own life, but she coaches countless others to make those same powerful shifts in their own lives. Valerie was kind enough to share with you today her top 5 ways of managing stress and anxiety during the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Empowering you Organically – Season 10 – Episode 83

Title: Oprah’s Meditation Coach Shares Her Secrets for Surviving Coronavirus Stress

Hosts: Jonathan Hunsaker, TeriAnn Trevenen

Guest: Valerie Gangas, transformational speaker, life coach and author

Description:  Navigating the Coronavirus stress is a challenge, but we were lucky enough to chat with Valerie Gangas for an episode this week. Not only has she changed her own life, but she coaches countless others to make those same powerful shifts in their own lives. Valerie was kind enough to share with you today her top 5 ways of managing stress and anxiety during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

 

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BIO

 

Valerie Gangas is a transformational speaker, life coach and author of Enlightenment Is Sexy: Every Woman’s Guide to a Magical Life. She specializes in helping people make radical shifts in their self-perception to gain a deeper understanding of who they are, so they can genuinely thrive and unleash their magic more fully into the world.

 

Growing up outside Chicago, Illinois, Valerie had an interest in the mysteries of the world and a strong drive to connect with the Universe, which she inherited from her mother who was a poet, former nun and a major influence in Valerie’s life.

 

Valerie received her bachelor’s degree in theology and women’s studies from DePaul University, and earned her master’s degree in transpersonal psychology and certification in leadership and life coaching at Sofia University in Palo Alto.

 

The death of Valerie’s mother was a huge turning point in her life, as it caused her to go into a deep suicidal depression, “a complete annihilation of who I was”. During that period in 2011, Valerie learned Transcendental Meditation and in her first meditation, she says, “my entire life radically changed in 20 minutes.” The spiritual awakening she experienced was a foundational shift and a powerful transformation in both her awareness and her life. (Hence, the name of her upcoming podcast is: “Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong!”)

The David Lynch Foundation hired Valerie to give talks about the benefits of meditation and developing consciousness within corporations (including respected advertising and financial firms), private practices and student groups at top schools around the country, such as Loyola University School of Medicine. She eventually began working directly with Oprah Winfrey and her staff at Harpo Studios, and for two years she talked to groups of Oprah’s staff members about meditation and consciousness.

 

Today, Valerie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is a transformational life coach to clients across the nation. She is also writing her upcoming book about how to create radical transformation in your life, which she plans to launch sometime in 2020.

 

She’s also passionate about philanthropic pursuits; Valerie sponsors a young lady in Nepal through Shanti Children’s Foundation, is a donor to Charity Seeds, and is currently on the advisory board of the David Lynch Foundation in Chicago.

 

Valerie sums up her philosophy for optimal living: “Once you’re regularly tuning in to your soul’s voice, through daily meditation, prayer, nature walks, whatever works for you, follow the signs, embrace the mystery, and trust the Universe.”

 

5 Simple Ways to Calm Your Nervous System

 

Abridged from Valerie’s blog post. You can find the entire article here: https://www.valeriegangas.com/journal/calm-your-anxiety

 

Step One: If you’re regularly having issues with stress (and especially if you’re experiencing panic attacks or an overall feeling of being out-of-control), STOP DRINKING CAFFEINE. We have become junkies in the coffee department, but caffeine is a drug, people… and sometimes, in the words of Nancy Regan, we have to “Just Say No.” Let’s take a step back here. If, indeed, you are feeling freaked out on the regular, how in the hell does it make sense that caffeinated beverages are going to help your cause? That’s like throwing gasoline on a fire. Put the Starbucks (or Diet Cokes) down.

 

Step Two: Breathe. When you start feeling like you’re spinning out of control or stressing out, stop whatever it is you’re doing and breathe. And I’m talking big blue whale-type breaths. Take in as much oxygen as humanly possible, hold your breath for five seconds and then push all the air out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Continue this practice until you feel your anxiety dissipating. Deep breathing will help, I swear! Your parasympathetic nervous system, which supports relaxation (think opposite of “flight-ot-fight” response), is activated by deep breathing… or if you want to go all spiritual, “yogic breathing.” When you’re losing your cool, that’s your sign to boost your oxygen intake and increase your calming endorphins through some deep breathing. (It’ll also decrease your cortisol/stress hormone levels.) Turn that frown upside-down by breathing that stress right out the door.

 

Step Three: Meditate. I don’t think it’s any secret I’m a big fan of Transcendental Meditation (TM). It saved my life and yeah, it totally transformed my nervous system. TM is the meditation practice I chose, but there are many paths one can take in the world of meditation. I always say, “I don’t care what you do, but do something.” When you give your mind time to take a deep-dive rest—in the case of TM, twenty minutes, twice a day—you’re giving yourself a chance to feel cool, calm and collected throughout the day. We have a choice, people, whether or not we’re going to be the person who’s running around, day in and day out, like a nutcase, anxious about 83 different things, or the one who takes time each day to calm their mind and body in order to more regularly have a better sense of well-being. Meditation is a super-easy way to give your nervous system the juice it is looking for: deep and restful silence.

 

Step Four: You are what you eat. A big game-changer for me was when I was tested for food allergies. Once I found out I was allergic to gluten, dairy and peanuts, I knew they were causing inflammation in my body. And inflammation causes stress in the body’s interconnected systems. The fact is, stress causes your levels of cortisol to rise, and a high level of cortisol causes your immune system to break down. Not what we’re looking for, people. Sugar is also a big no-no for anxiety. Kick it out of your diet (or taper it off gradually, if need be) and see how quickly your mind and body smooth out. Bottom line? Eating whole fresh foods is a good idea, if you’re looking for a calm nervous system. This is the best book (see below) I’ve ever found on the topic – it’s by Trudy Scott. She really knows her stuff.

 

Step Five: Booze. Ya’ gotta’ give it up (or at least cut it back to virtually never), if you have an unhappy nervous system. Not only is it filled with sugar (see Step Four), but it’s a depressant. Sure, you feel good while you’re drinking, but we all know what comes next. A hangover. And holy shit! If you thought you were anxious before you started boozing any given night, you know you’re about to experience a whole new level of hell the next morning. It’s simply not worth it. I’m not telling you to never have a glass of vino again or become a full-out teetotaler. But if you are stressed, have a trash-can kinda’ vibe going on or experience panic attacks, hooch is the last thing you want to be messing with. Tell your drunko friends you need to take a pass while you get your nervous system back on track. And if they don’t have your back, get new friends.

 

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Jonathan Hunsaker:

Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Empowering You Organically. I’m your host, Jonathan Hunsaker. Joined my by my co-host, TeriAnn Trevenen. And we also have a very special guest today, Valerie Gangas. Valerie’s going to share with us five tips for surviving the stress of COVID-19, being stuck at home. She is a meditative coach to Oprah and her entire team. So you’re definitely going to want to pay attention to this episode. Teri, why don’t you go ahead and read us Valerie’s bio real quick?

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Valerie Gangas is transformational speaker, life coach, and author of Enlightenment is Sexy, Every Woman’s Guide To A Magical Life. She specialized in helping people make radical shifts in their self-perception to gain a deeper understanding of who they are. So they can genuinely thrive and unleash their magic more fully into the world. Growing up outside Chicago, Illinois, Valerie had an interest in the mysteries of the world and a strong drive to connect with the universe. Which she inherited from her mother who was a poet, former nun, and a major influence in Valerie’s life.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Valerie received her Bachelor’s degree in theology and women’s studies from DePaul University, and earned her Master’s degree in transpersonal psychology, and certification in leadership and life coaching at Sophia University in Palo Alto. Due to a lot of different turning points in her life, she learned about transcendental meditation. And in her first meditation, she says, “My entire life radically changed in 20 minutes.” The spiritual awakening she experienced was a foundational shift and a powerful transformation in both her awareness and her life. Hence the name of her upcoming podcast which is, Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong. Which by the way, I love that title.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

The David Lynch foundation hired Valerie to give talks about the benefits of meditation in developing consciousness within corporations, including respected advertising and financial firms, private practices and student groups at top schools around the country, such as Loyola University and School of Medicine. She eventually began working directly with Oprah Winfrey and her staff at Harpo Studios. And for two years, she talked to groups of Oprah’s staff members about meditation and consciousness. So Valerie knows her stuff. And she’s respected in the industry.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is a transformational life coach to clients across the nation. She is also writing her upcoming book about how to create radical transformation in your life, which she plans to launch some time this year. She’s also passionate about philanthropic pursuits. Valerie sponsors a young lady in Nepal through Shanti Children’s Foundation, is a donor to charity seeds, and is currently on the advisory board of the David Lynch Foundation in Chicago. So Valerie, we are super thrilled to have you here today. Obviously a wealth of experience and background, and information. My first question for you today is, how did you really come to be at this point in your life? Clearly from a young age, some of this was a seed that was planted. But it’s not just planting that seed, things happen in our lives to really drive us to where we want to go and what we’re passionate about, where we want to be. What did that look like for you? What really pushed you into this aspect of your life in helping people in this way?

Valerie Gangas:

The big turning point in my life was when I lost my mom. I had such a close relationship with her. And I always did have a real interest in spirituality and religions of the world, and all of that. And she was kind of my confidant in this secret world that I had, because I didn’t have a lot of people to talk about these types of mysteries in the world. So she was my person. And when she died, I lost it. It was my breaking point. Which I believe all of us have a break/turning point in our lives. And for me, it was losing my mom.

Valerie Gangas:

So when she passed away, I just, I couldn’t see any point in living without her. That’s how connected we were. And I became suicidal, I wasn’t working, I wasn’t functioning. And someone suggested that I learned to meditate. I had a really bad sleeping disorder, probably from all the anxiety I was feeling. And he suggested that I learned to meditate, and that would help me get some sleep, which then everything would get a little bit better. Well, it did way more than just help me get some sleep. With TM, with transcendental meditation, you’re taught by an instructor. It takes four days, it’s about an hour and a half each day.

Valerie Gangas:

And the first day in, you’re given a mantra. And so it’s a sound that you follow. And that’s what allows you to be able to meditate easily. And so she gave me my mantra. I closed my eyes. And it’s like I dove into this deep, deep area inside of myself that I didn’t even know existed. And it was so peaceful and so silent. And it felt like I was just in a warm ocean. And when I came out of it, and I opened my eye, I felt like I had woken up in a new reality.

Valerie Gangas:

I did not feel suicidal or depressed. I felt immense joy and mental clarity. And from that day forward, everything changed for me. So that’s really where the whole story began. And I always like to say, my experience I think is a little bit unusual. I don’t think just because you learn how to meditate, or you do yoga or something like that, you’re going to have an experience that one hour your whole life changes. But it can happen, and it did happen to me.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Awesome.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

And I actually think that … I actually think for a lot of people, a big turning point does impact them dramatically. And they realize, “There’s a lot of things in my life that matter more than I thought they did. There’s a lot within myself that I can do for myself that I didn’t realize I could do.” And sometimes I don’t think it’s just this massive thing for everyone. But I think we all go through hard things that push us to realize like, “I can do more. I can be more. There’s things that I can do.” And so I think a lot of people can resonate with your story. Nobody is exempt from really hard things happening in their lives. No one is exempt from that.

Valerie Gangas:

It’s part of the gig. It’s how we learn, it’s how we grow, it’s we expand. And I think I kind of knew that before. But it wasn’t until I completely was broken that I realized like, “This is a path to God,” or a path to awakening, that much pain. Because it really pushes you to change everything. Even if you’re not realizing it in the moment. It changes you, no doubt, to be that broken. And again, that doesn’t have to be the route. But usually, I can see now from all the studying I’ve done, and people I’ve talked to. It’s usually a divorce or a bankruptcy, or something major that happens in a person’s life that really catapults them into a new beginning.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Yeah. It definitely happened with me. And I know when I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant with our oldest daughter at the time. That was the wake up call that I needed to quit smoking and start exercising. And then found running. And so for me, this running was this magical thing. And I since evolved to other things, right? And that’s weightlifting or eating, or all kinds of stuff. But I think often people find a turning point. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that find a turning point right now while we’re-

TeriAnn Trevenen:

[crosstalk 00:08:14].

Jonathan Hunsaker:

… stuck here in quarantine, we’ve got the COVID-19 scares. And people are realizing, “Wait, I’ve just been neglecting myself thinking everything would be fine and dandy.” Because a month and a half ago, we weren’t ending our emails saying, “Stay healthy. Stay safe.”

Valerie Gangas:

Right.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

People would’ve thought you’re insane if that’s how you’re ending all of your emails to your friends and loved ones. But I don’t know that I’ve sent an email lately that didn’t say that at the end.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Right.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And this is why it’s a very timely conversation with you. Because I think this is going to be a turning point for a lot of people. But I think it’s also a very stressful time for a lot of people. And I know that you released a blog post that talked about five ways for staying calm during the pandemic. And that’s what I really want to talk to you about today, because I think there’s a lot of people listening that could use this information and use the knowledge that you have to share.

Valerie Gangas:

Okay. And before we get into the five ways, I think what you just said is so important. Never again are we probably going to have this amount of time that we’re able to stay home, really think about our lives, think about what we want, who we are, what we want to do next. This is such an opportunity. And if you can turn it around in your mind, and look at it as an opportunity and a chance to go inward, I think you can really have a new perspective on what’s happening. Because it’s being forced upon us to bring in the silence and stay home, and be quiet. And that’s the best time to make big changes and get perspective on your life.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Let me ask you a question too, because I think for me, and I’ve had some big turning points in my life that shifted my entire life similar to you. And do you feel like in all the work that you’ve done in really connecting with yourself more, which I think is really key to success in future struggles that you might face, or turning points that you might face. Do you feel like it’s become easier for you going through what you went through with losing your mom, which is such a horrific thing to have to go through. And then everything that’s come after that in your life, do you feel like the work you’ve done has prepared you now when other things happen, now when things come up in your life that you’re more able to handle them, and more equipped to handle them. How would you say you feel on that aspect of your life in moving forward now after that experience?

Valerie Gangas:

That’s a great question. Because that is one of the major changes I saw in my life. I could handle unbelievably stressful situations. I mean, I’ve buried eight family members, including my brother since my mom died. And how I’ve handled their deaths, and helping care for them, and being there for them has been completely different than how I handled my mom’s death. Of course I was there for her, but I was destroyed when she died.

Valerie Gangas:

Now it feels like I’m stronger, I have more perspective on what’s happening. I feel like I understand death, which is huge. And I feel like I’m balanced. My nervous system, my mind, everything stays pretty steady-Eddie. And I’m able to ride the waves that come at me in life. Because I understand now, that’s never going to end. We’re going to have good times, we’re going to have bad times. And I’m kind of able to just stand back, watch what’s happening, decide what I need to do in the moment, and just keep going. It doesn’t take me down like it used to. So yeah, I’m much stronger. And that has been a beautiful gift that has been given to me.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. I think this concept that you talk about with meditation and connecting to your power within, really expanding the universe for yourself, and allowing things to teach you and move you forward, and propel you. I think where people miss the mark sometime, and even as we’re about to talk about COVID-19 and how it’s impacted everyone, I think something so unique about what you shared in learning more about you is that you have to use those moments to change you, and change your perspective in order for them to really be fulfilling and meant to be what they’re supposed to be for you in your life, right? And so it’s, I love hearing you say that, because here you’ve gone through this incredibly hard thing. It’s changed your life. And it’s like now every situation you hit, everything you look at, you step back and you’re like, “I’ve been here before.” Every time something bad happens, it’s the same, “How am I going to tackle this?”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

And the very thing you talk about, teach people connecting with yourself has allowed you to see your world in such a different way. And I think it’s such an important concept for people. So let’s talk about COVID-19, and in a time when there’s so much chaos, what are you seeing from people? Because obviously you’ve practiced this, you work with people, you’re coaching people. What are you seeing from people in the world right now that you’re experiencing?

Valerie Gangas:

I think a lot of people have already personally had a big scare in their life, and now they’re seeing it like it’s not on the micro level, it’s on the macro level. So it’s the whole world is experiencing it at once. But there’s something familiar about it. And people that have gone through trials and tribulations in their life, I think they’re recognizing that. Like, “Wait, I’ve had this feeling already where I’ve been terrified and confused, and everything seems messed up.” So they have a little bit of an understanding of how to handle it.

Valerie Gangas:

Now if you have never had an experience like this, it’s very shocking. So I’ve talked to people that are completely freaking out. They’re not handling it that well. And then there’s people on the other side of the spectrum that will tell me, “I was built for this. I can do this. This is happening and I’m going to deal with it.” So I think it all depends on your history, how much work you’ve done on yourself, knowing who you are and what you can handle. All those things come into play when something major like this happens.

Valerie Gangas:

And you can see in how people are taking care of themselves. As soon as this started unfolding, I thought, “I have to stop drinking coffee. I really need to eat right, take all my supplements.” Really be on track. And then you have the other side of the spectrum where people are drinking a ton of booze at night, or smoking pot, or whatever they’re doing. And really that doesn’t help you.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:14:41]-

Valerie Gangas:

It just creates more [crosstalk 00:14:42]-

TeriAnn Trevenen:

… bad habits. You think it’s comfort, but really it’s just creating more of an issue while you’re trying to handle the world that’s around you right now.

Valerie Gangas:

Right.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

I think there’s different stresses that people are experiencing too. I think there’s some people that are stressed around actually getting coronavirus and COVID-19, and maybe they’re older or they’re less healthy. And so that’s their fear.

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

There’s other people who are stressed about, they don’t have a job right now. Because everything’s closed down. They’re not as worried about the virus. But they’re worried about the money situation. Then you have other people that maybe are able to work, but they’re at home and their kids are with them all day. And they’re stressed having to become teachers all of a sudden. As well as staying parents, and still working. And so I think this is hitting so many people from several different angles. And there’s likely stress being experienced on some level. Whether it’s the health scare, whether it’s a financial scare, whether it’s just being stuck at home and you can’t go outside and the fresh air that you’re used to getting. You can’t go to the gym and get the release you’re used to getting. Or all of those many things.

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah. I mean, we’re definitely in a pressure cooker, and we’re all facing pretty big challenges. And I just think that’s the way. I mean, the way the universe or God, or whatever you want to say, God to me, was to take the one thing away from me. Which was my mom that I was super attached to. So for the next person, it might be their career. And that’s their identity. You know, “I am a lawyer. I am a surgeon.” And if that gets ripped away from you, well you’re in for a carnival ride of change.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Absolutely.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with Jonathan more. I think that this is such an uncertain time. And everybody’s like, “This could happen. And this could happen.” And it’s different for everybody, and it’s new curve balls for everyone. Whether your kids are at home all the time now, and you’re trying to work and do kids. Or whatever, you’re afraid to go out, because you may have a really big risk of getting sick and having it impact you in a more significant way. So I think there’s all these things. You mentioned caffeine. And you talk about … I love what you said, put the Starbucks or Diet Cokes down, people. [crosstalk 00:16:44].

Valerie Gangas:

That was the first decision I made. I was like, “Wait a second. I’m feeling a little bit anxious. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not going to drink coffee all day and make it worse.” It felt obvious to me, like, “Cut out the stimulants.”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Valerie Gangas:

If you’re already feeling anxious, don’t add fuel to the fire.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. There’s so much stimulation around us right now, news, social media, fear, kids talking to you if you have kids at home, all the time.

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

You’re with your family all the time. You don’t think about these things as stimulation to your body in that sense. But it totally is. And I think anything you’re adding to that intentionally can be really hard. I think it’s a really good time to start new habits, right? Too.

Valerie Gangas:

A 100%. If you have the time, you’re at home, you’re super aware of your body and your mind, and your nervous system. You can pay attention to, “Hey, I just ate that sandwich. I don’t know, I don’t feel that good after eating it.” And take a little note. I’ve changed my eating habits a lot just from paying attention. Because it became more painful to … If the pleasure was there to let’s say, eat a croissant, I’m gluten intolerant. But I didn’t know it. It’s like the pain that came after just didn’t make it worth it anymore. But it was only until I started paying attention to the supplements I was taking, to the food I was eating, to my alcohol and caffeine intake. All those things I had to figure out what was right for me. And this is a good time for people to do that.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, it goes along with one of the other things that you talk to people about. You are what you eat. You’re talking about the supplements that you take, your routines, your regimens, cutting certain things out. And talk about that a little in your perspective. Because we shared plenty of times on this podcast how important it is to eat healthy. But you work with people every day. You’re coaching people every day. What are you seeing, and what are some of your tips you’d give to people around making some of those changes when it comes to what you’re putting in your body?

Valerie Gangas:

I mean, I think first of all, the person has to realize like, “I’m not feeling good. Something is wrong. Something is off.” And they have to make the decision like, “I want to change. I want to do it a different way.” So that’s step one. And then again, paying attention to what you’re putting in your body and how you feel afterwards. And the third thing I’ve noticed, I’ve been cooking at home every day now. And I feel so much better. And I realized how much I was eating out all the time. So not only have I been saving money, but my health is better. So there’s been something really beautiful about taking the time to plan out a meal, cooking it yourself. And I kind of turned my cooking time into a meditation. So that’s been very helpful to me.

Valerie Gangas:

And I believe that there’s energy in your food. And the energy that you’re putting into it while you’re cooking, that you’re taking it in. Your body feels it. It’s real. So if you’re happy while you’re cooking, you throw on some music, and it’s something to look forward to. I think that could be nothing but a good thing for you.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Sure. Absolutely. I love that you say that too. Because I couldn’t agree more. I think that food is such a critical component of our overall wellbeing. We’re eating food constantly. It fuels our body. So our relationship with it, our attitude towards it, the way we prepare it, cook it. The type of nutrition plan that we’re on to support out body. I think it’s such an important point of what we’re putting into our body.

Valerie Gangas:

And supporting your mind.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely.

Valerie Gangas:

Food can make you feel … Give you anxiety, or it can make you feel calm. You can use it as a tool.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely.

Valerie Gangas:

So these are all really cool things to know about yourself.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Valerie Gangas:

And how to keep yourself balanced and healthy. And I do think when you start experiencing these changes, in your life you automatically lean on the healthy side, or lean towards making good decisions for yourself. Because you have a lot of self-respect. And you care about how you feel. You want it all to be working right. So I think that really starts that chain of events when you start having major shifts in your life.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Just like what we’re putting into our body, and you talk about preparing your food and the energy around your food. I think a lot of us right now could be feeding ourselves stress too. Like we’re going to the emotional side of what we feed ourselves. And another concept that you talk a lot about is breathing. And what I love about what you share when it comes to breathing is not just, “Well, just do the breathing and you’ll feel better.” But how it really impacts our body. So talk a little bit more about that. We know that we’re supposed to breathe. Everybody talks about breathing, “Breathe in and you’ll feel better.” And it does make you feel better. But what are the why’s behind it, and why you recommend it to people?

Valerie Gangas:

Well, I’m no stranger to panic attacks. And I realized at some point down the road that when I’d have an anxiety attack, I wasn’t breathing at all. You just, you’re holding your breath, you’re holding everything in, because you’re freaking out. And just the reminder to just breathe, which is so easy. Deep breaths. You will be shocked how fast you can squash that anxiety. And it’s something easy and natural. But it’s something you need to remind yourself. Because in the moment, if you’re feeling really stressed out, you just stop breathing. You’re not taking oxygen in properly. So just the idea of reminding yourself over and over again to breathe, breathe. And you will see that you will start feeling better when you start taking deep breaths in. And it’s easy.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

I think it’s a big thing that most people don’t really recognize. And it’s interesting. I smoked for 20 years. And I think one of the calming actions from smoking is the deep breathing that comes from smoking. Now, given you’re also ingesting poisons and all kinds of other stuff. So I don’t advocate for it. But I definitely can relate to the relaxing sensation. So by eliminating the cigarettes and just doing the deep breathing, you still get that same feeling. You still get that same relaxation that comes from it.

Valerie Gangas:

You do. And it’s kind of cool when you think about it, because you’re just breathing. But it works. And it’s easy, and it’s just a great reminder. When you start spinning out of control, the first thing you do is start taking deep breaths. And I think it’s a good way to pull yourself out of a tailspin.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

When I think [inaudible 00:23:07] with our kids around all the time, and all of that. I think all of our fuses are probably a little shorter than they’re usually, our tensions are higher, the stress is high. And we’ve always heard since a kid like, “Stop and count to 10 before you respond, or before you freak out.” But really, that count to 10 is taking time to breathe. And that’s really … And I know for myself, i can tell if I’m too short with my daughters, or I pop off, or it’s been a long day and I haven’t had much sleep. It’s because I’m holding so much tension. And just breathing alone will instantly release it.

Valerie Gangas:

I’m with you. Yeah.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

[crosstalk 00:23:38] how many people right now, if you’re listening, and you stop and ask yourself the question, how long have you been holding your breath without breathing? Yeah, subconsciously we all breathe. It just happens. Our brain just automatically does that. It’s an automatic response that our body does as a living, breathing human being. But how many people right now are holding their breath for what’s next? “When’s the next news conference, and the press conference? And when’s the next time we’re going to have an update? When’s the next time my kids’ going to leave me alone and quit talking to me? When’s the next time my significant other’s going to go out of the house so that I can be alone?” We’re all holding our breath for this next thing that’s so unknown. “What’s going to happen with my job tomorrow?” I’m sure as an entire collective world right now, we’re all holding our breath for what’s going to happen. And it sounds like just a figurative thing. But literally, if people are listening right now, and you stop and you’re like, “When’s the last time I took a deep breath?”

Valerie Gangas:

Right.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

And then let everything go. Just let it out. And I catch myself constantly right now like, “I’m really tense and I didn’t realize until now. And I’ve been holding this tensions all day.”

Valerie Gangas:

Listen, everyone is nervous. There’s so much stress in the air in the collective, there’s no way we couldn’t feel each other. It’s affecting you, especially if you’re a little bit sensitive. And it’s that much stress in the air, that much stress in the news. And it’s just everywhere. You can’t get away from it. So also recognizing like, “Is this my stress, or is it their stress?”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Valerie Gangas:

Because we share the same energy. And if everyone is freaking out, you’re going to be affected but it. So it’s good to just keep that in mind. And give yourself a break, because it’s difficult.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. I think you’re so right. I think there’s a collective energy of stress. And I agree with you. I think energy is a very, very real thing. And I think even when you have to make your trip to the grocery store, go out and your with all these people, being there this week. You feel that tension from [crosstalk 00:25:44]-

Valerie Gangas:

People are diving away from you.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Yes. And it’s not [crosstalk 00:25:49]-

Valerie Gangas:

[crosstalk 00:25:48].

TeriAnn Trevenen:

… can literally feel people’s worry.

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

You can feel their concern. I understand it’s legitimate. I’m not advocating for getting close to your neighbor in the grocery store, and whatever. Do what you need to do to be safe and healthy. But you can feel that collective energy. It’s a different feeling when you walk into a store. It’s a different feeling even when you’re driving and you see someone in their car. It’s almost like you can just feel that tensions. And it’s like what would it be like if the entire world just took a deep breath? Because-

Valerie Gangas:

I know. I’m always like, “God, if everyone just meditated, ate well and got some exercise, we’d be living in a new world.”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yes, we would.

Valerie Gangas:

I like to keep it simple. Because to me, it’s not that complicated. Do what makes you feel good, and keep doing it. Recognize, “Hey, this isn’t good for me.” Or, “This is really good for me.” And just do that thing. I know it’s easier said than done. But I do think you get to the point where you can’t take it anymore. And you do take your health seriously. I mean, we all want to feel good and calm.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

[crosstalk 00:26:48]. For sure.

Valerie Gangas:

You got to make provisions.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And I know you’ve mentioned meditation. And I want to get to that in a second. I want to spend a little bit of time on that. Before we do, let’s talk about the fourth thing in your five steps. And that’s just kind of eliminating the booze, probably even the pot, some of the other stuff. So can you talk on that for just a second?

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah. I mean, listen, I love having a glass of wine with dinner. I’m Greek, that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. But I noticed immediately when this whole thing started. It was like, on social media and everywhere I was turning, people making jokes, or drinking all the time. And I kept thinking to myself, “That’s not going to work out for you.” Because it’s such a … It’s so hard on your nervous system and your body to drink that much alcohol. That just adds more stress and confusion to the situation. And even-

Jonathan Hunsaker:

[crosstalk 00:27:35].

Valerie Gangas:

… I mean, doing anything in excess, it’s not healthy and it’s not going to help you get through this easily.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Well I mean, it’s an escape, right? So everybody wants to escape the reality of what’s going on, “Let me escape from being stuck at home. Let me escape from not having my job right now.” And so the drinking allows you to escape that. Smoking weed allows you to escape that. [crosstalk 00:27:55]-

Valerie Gangas:

But there really is no escape.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

There is no escape. [inaudible 00:27:57] really-

Valerie Gangas:

The only way out is through.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Exactly.

Valerie Gangas:

[crosstalk 00:28:00].

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And that’s exactly what I was going to say is, the only way to deal with this is to face it. And then have techniques to actually face it like deep breathing, like eating healthy, like doing all of that. And that’s the only way. Because drinking’s not going to make it go away. It’s just going to send you further and further down into the hole that you’ll still have to climb out of eventually anyway.

Valerie Gangas:

Exactly. I mean, that is perfect what you said. There is no escaping this. And again, what’s happening in the collective now happens to all of us in our personal lives at some point or another. And I know from history, drinking a couple bottles of wine is not going to make things better or go away. Maybe for the moment. But God, it’s so much worse then the next day. You got to face it. And if that means going to therapy, keeping a journal, picking up a mediation practice or yoga, or whatever you want to do. Anything to keep yourself sane, to be able to get through theses hard times, then do it.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Absolutely.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Well, you talked about in your life, this goes back to something we were talking about earlier. It’s really hard in times of stress and chaos to face yourself. To really open up and be like, “All right. Why am I behaving this way when I know I could take the power and control back if I wanted to?” But it’s just easier to go to the booze, to the escape. It makes it feel better. But this is a really good time. People who are listening in are like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear what you’re saying. But this makes me feel better.”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

This would be a really good time as we talked about changing those habits, what are things that you really connect with? What are things that you really love? And having time to actually do those things, and reconnecting with those, replace those habits that aren’t serving you with things that will serve you. And connect with yourself in ways that you haven’t before. You talked about that in going through the experience with your mom, and really having to dig deep and open yourself up. This is a time to not go within, but open up exactly like you talk about. And I think this speaks to meditation, which I’m really excited to talk to you about today, because this is something that you specialize in. Tell us a little bit about meditation and how that can really help you to connect with yourself again, connect with your own power, connect with being able to open yourself up and ways maybe that you haven’t before that can help people actually get through this?

Valerie Gangas:

I mean, there’s a whole world inside of us that I think not everyone is familiar with. Because we were not … I mean, I was not taught to meditate every day when I was younger. Sit in silence, bring that silence into your life. Everything that I was taught was external. You know, “Do well in school. Work had at your job. Push yourself. Be the best.” But really when you turn your attention inward, and meditation is an easy and perfect way to do it. There’s a whole world inside of you.

Valerie Gangas:

All of a sudden you begin to have gifts you didn’t know you had. I mean, I was never a writer. I was never a speaker. This all happened after I learned to meditate. Doors started opening for me. And all I had done was go inward, every day, 20 minutes twice a day. I made it a habit. I never missed. I just did it, because I could see that my outside world was starting to match that was happening inside of me. And things became easier, I was able to handle things better, more opportunities came my way. And that’s when I started making the connection like, “Wow, this gives you an edge in life to have a practice like this.” And so that’s all I needed to see. I mean, I just kept following my destiny after that. And it was all from bringing some silence into my life. It was such a game changer. And that’s why I talk about it all the time, because it’s something that’s easy that we can all do.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

So where would you … Like somebody that wants to get into meditation, or maybe they tried meditation and haven’t been as successful at it. I know I’ve tried meditation many times, and it seems like the noise just gets louder sometimes. Guided meditation is what ends up working well for me. Where would you direct people? What advice would you give somebody who wants to try meditation or has not been as successful in the past?

Valerie Gangas:

So I practice transcendental meditation. And all the people that I’ve worked with, and talked to, I watch them all learn TM. And most people would say to me, “I don’t think I can’t meditate.” Like, “I’ve tried before and I can’t do it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, okay. You just wait.” And so every person that I’ve come contact with, after they’ve learned TM, they’re able to meditate. Because it’s really … It’s very simple. And I like that you’re taught.

Valerie Gangas:

So you have really clear directions on who to do this. And so the best place to learn about TM is tm.org. You can find a teacher on the website near you. And like I said, it’s about 90 minutes for four days in a row. And then for the rest of your life, you can go to any TM center, have your meditation checked, do group meditations. You’re in the organization. It’s kind of like a lifetime membership once you learn. So it’s great to meditate with other people. It’s really powerful. And I just think it’s a super easy practice.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Excellent. So now Valerie, help me understand. Do you work with people directly now? Or do you not do as much one-on-one? How can people find you and find more information about you?

Valerie Gangas:

I do one-on-one. I do it all through Zoom actually, it’s online. Because there’s people that I work with all over the country. They can find me at my website. It’s just valeriegangas.com.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Excellent.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Let me ask you a question.

Valerie Gangas:

Sure.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

I want to take the meditation one or two steps further. When it comes to people meditating for the first time, I mean obviously Jonathan touched on some of the things that really hard for him. But what are the top one or two things that people usually use when you’re working with people’s excuse like, “I can’t do this. I’m never going to be successful at this.” We can always talk about, “Start meditation this way, and it can look like this.” And I think it’s all great. But what are some of the one to three top hangups that people have when they’re sitting here and listening today, and they’re like, “Well, I like to do meditation. I’ve tried it. I can do the basics.” But what are some of those things that people just really get caught up and that keep them from being able to get into that meditative practice?

Valerie Gangas:

I mean, I think the number one thing I’ve heard is, “I don’t have time.” And I’m like, “You do.” So TM, they suggest that you meditate twice a day, 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes, five, six o’clock at night. Late afternoon, early evening. And I’m always like, “You have … ” We all definitely have 40 minutes in the day to meditate. And what I have found is since I started meditating, which it’s been nine and a half years now, I feel like I have more time, because I’m way more efficient. So if I have to get stuff done, it’s like my mind is just like, “Boom, boom, boom, boom.”

Valerie Gangas:

I just get it done now. There’s not a lot of stress connected to it. So it’s like I’ve expanded time in my life through slowing down. And I know that’s not intuitive. But it really does work that way. So I always tell people, just start meditating and watch what happens. You become more resilient, you become more effective. You learn easier, you seem to retain more information. And it’s all because everything is more calm within. So saying like, “I don’t have the time.” I believe it’s just because they haven’t had the experience yet of actually stretching time.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Sure.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And not even just stretching time. I mean, we find time for things that are important to us.

Valerie Gangas:

Oh, well yeah. I mean, you got to start there. You have to make a commitment to yourself. Like, “I’m going to really give this a chance.” And then I think what begins to just unfold in your life is enough proof to you that like, “Yes, this is working. This is working.” So that’s the number one thing I hear.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And I know it’s different for a lot of people. But I mean, help others understand that they’re not going to find enlightenment on their very first-

Valerie Gangas:

No.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

… session of meditating. What’s a good commitment to make? Is it a good commitment to say, “You know what? I’m going to do this for 30 days. 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes in the evening.” Do they only need to do it for seven days? I mean, what would be your minimum commitment for them to really start feeling something. And I know it’s different for everybody. But I think [crosstalk 00:36:26]-

Valerie Gangas:

I can’t imagine you wouldn’t feel something in 30 days. I mean, if you meditated every day, twice a day for 30 days, I feel like you would be looking at a new life.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

And for a lot of this, we’re going to be stuck at home for at least 30 more days. So you definitely have the time to start meditating now.

Valerie Gangas:

This is a great time to learn. And I think, I want to say that TM teachers might be doing it online. I’m not a 100% sure about that. But any type of meditation practice. That’s just what I do. But dabbling in it from now while you have the time. And that’s what we were talking about. This is a great time to make big changes, and really look at your life. And bringing in a spiritual practice like that, that’s a game changer.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, because in that concept of people not making time. One of the things that people ask me all the time is, “How do you schedule your life?” Because I like to get a lot of things done. And one of the things I tell them is, it’s okay for the first thing to schedule in your life to be you, and the things that you [crosstalk 00:37:29]-

Valerie Gangas:

Yeah.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

… do. And a lot of people are like, “I can’t make time for that.” Yeah, you really can. Just like you schedule meetings on your calendar, just like you schedule all these things in your life, schedule time for what you need to do. I have a lot of people who are like, “You always get up so early, don’t you want to sleep more?” I’m like, no. Because in the early morning hours, no one’s talking to me, no one’s texting me, no one’s calling me. I meditate in the morning. I love to meditate in the morning and just close my eyes and let go of everything. And find the time that works for you. I agree with you. I think that people make excuses of like, “I don’t have time for this.” But you do have time for it if you schedule time for it. We live in a society where we’ve been taught like, “It’s all about other people, and being busy, and don’t be about you. And you don’t be selfish.” And it’s like, “No, be selfish. Be [crosstalk 00:38:17]-“

Valerie Gangas:

Be selfish, because you will end up helping way more people than you could ever imagine.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Absolutely.

Valerie Gangas:

You become … You have more empathy when you’re softer inside. You have a desire to help others. It’s like everything just becomes more calm, and you become more yourself. And I believe all of us are built to help one and other, and to be loving and to be giving. I think the anger and the violence, and all that. That’s coming from stress. So if you can really calm down your system, I think you naturally are just a kinder, more giving person. You will just evolve into that, without you doing anything.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah. Yep. Disconnecting from all those stressors. I couldn’t agree with you more. Yeah. I love this. I think it’s just such an important time in the world right now to really connect with yourself. And I think meditation is a beautiful way to do that. I love that this is your message and this is what you’re sharing. And could certainly look at the experience of life right now as a negative and say, “Well, this is the worst thing that could ever happen to us.” But we could also look at it and say, “This is the best thing that could ever happen to us.” Because [crosstalk 00:39:27]-

Valerie Gangas:

Exactly.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

… to improve.

Valerie Gangas:

Exactly. And it feels really good to feel that way and think that way. Because I’m just looking at it as another opportunity. Because that’s how I look at all the messed up things that happened in my life. “It’s just another opportunity. Here we go again.”

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yeah.

Valerie Gangas:

And you know what? In a couple months, everything will be okay again. That’s how life is, bad things happen. It doesn’t stay bad forever. And then really good things happen. And we appreciate those good things because of the crap we already went through. So it’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

TeriAnn, do you want to wrap it up with your final question that you love asking every guest?

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Yes. I’d love to ask my final question to everyone. Valerie, if there’s one message, like you have one opportunity to share something with the entire world, what would your message to the world be?

Valerie Gangas:

Bring silence into your life.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Cool. That’s rad. I love that answer. Such a good answer. Beautiful.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Love it. Valerie, thank you so much for taking time with us today, and sharing all your knowledge and experience. For those of you listening, you can find out more about Valerie at valeriegangas.com. We also have links to her website, to her book at empoweringyouorganically.com. We have all the show notes, we have the transcripts. If you loved this episode, make sure to subscribe on iTunes, give us a big thumbs up on YouTube. And thank you for joining us. Valerie, thank you so much for taking the time.

Valerie Gangas:

Thanks for having me. And everyone stay healthy. Remember you said you end your emails that way. So I’m ending the podcast that way.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

Love it. Thanks-

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Thank you.

Jonathan Hunsaker:

… everybody for listening. We’ll see you on the next show.

Valerie Gangas:

Bye.

TeriAnn Trevenen:

Bye, everyone.

 

***

 

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