Photo: Florence Charvin

The irony was not lost on me.The much-adored lifestyle editor for BayBuzz, Michal McKay, contacted me to see if I was on track for meeting the looming copy deadline for my latest column. An article around ‘clearing your head’. I had a little giggle. Or in retrospect it may have been a semi-desperate chuckle. My diary was full with back to back retreats and commitments – at that exact moment my head was in need of a jolly good water blast. 

I took a moment to pause, breathe and smile. To adopt a posture of confidence. To immerse myself in the essence of a smile. To appreciate the irony. I took a good long stretch. Then I stopped to contemplate the self-beliefs and tools that would help me offer helpful words. 

And BINGO. They emerged like uni students heading off to catch a party bus. Quite quickly. Seemingly dusting off the remnants of an all-nighter on the way. Not quite sure where they were going. 

The self-belief that says I have an enormous capacity for work came first. Closely followed by the one that believes I always deliver on my word. Next off the blocks was the one that says that I love a challenge and the flow state that comes with a tight deadline. Last but definitely not least was that my angels on unicorns would deliver the inspiration and support I needed in divine timing. I love a bit of magic fairy dust. Unicorns too. It’s my preferred icing on the cake of life. 

So, my first top tip in clearing your head is to take as much time as you need to pause, breathe and smile. Then to know and value your strengths and also your own tools for calm and clarity. They can seem so inherent inside that they can be easy to take for granted. 

We are all unique miracles. Life in ecstatic flow. Your mission if you choose to accept it is to diligently notice the miracle that is you and what helps your flow. From now on. For the rest of your life. Wrap your strengths and helpful tools for life around you like a cloak. To know them is to love them and they will become even more super charged with your noticing and appreciation. 

Yes, knowing your own unique strong points is gold. But so is being real yet kind to yourself focusing on that improvement part of the vision board. Mine right now? Learning to say no. Not overcomplicating things. Working smarter not harder. To practise what I preach. To learn to ask for help more often. 

They say you teach what you most need to learn. I know that to be true for me. I’m ever so grateful to be swimming in this vast pool of learning exploring how to live my best life. There is much solace in this space. 

When I made space for inspiration to come, the iconic Beatles song ‘You get by with a little help from your friends’ came into my head. So I ran the idea past Michal about turning to my personal trusted sources of wisdom. Yoga crew … and Pilates treasures too. She loved the idea. Here is what came back when I asked for these legends to share their top tips in clearing their heads.

Minnie Barendsen, Exhale Yoga and Workshop Space in Napier 
“I enjoy spending time with loved ones, being in nature and moving my body. From a psychologist point of view, I encourage clients to sit with the emotion or challenges rather than clear them away. When we sit with whatever sensation we are experiencing, we give ourselves the grace to feel and heal.”

Amanda Hogg, Watea Yoga Studio in Wairoa 
“Getting out in nature, shoes off and just being … letting go of all the noise and business of life. It may not seem like rocket science but just give yourself the opportunity. One of my favourites is reconnecting with what brought me joy as a child; those moments of awe and wonder definitely help me to clear my head and bring perspective to my ‘why’ and what’s really important.”

Suse Grieve, Rejuvenate Yoga in Havelock North 
“My favourite way to clear my head is to go through the ritual of making a fresh, hot cacao and sitting outside with my body in contact with the earth. Using my ears and eyes to drink nature in while letting any thoughts or emotions ripple past without judgement or commentary.”

Ash Burt, Ashes Pilates in Haumoana 
“It’s so individual. I go to movement. Something super focused where I have to concentrate so hard it clears everything else or speed walking and loud music. Earthing bare feet on the ground is something most people can go months without doing these days. Then the fastest way to calm is to use a double nasal inhale with one long nasal exhale for a few still minutes.

Angeline Ramsay Dru, Yoga Teacher from Hastings 
“I go to ground. My awareness draws down to my feet, to the Earth. I mobilise, move, dance, Earth breathe. I walk up mountains. I ask the winds to blow through me permeating skin, bones and tissues, freeing the breath. Freeing me! My mind is drawn to a whakatauki I was gifted from a friend. “Hoki ki tōu maunga kia purea ai koe ki ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea”. Return to your mountain to be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirimātea. Grounded. Breath expansive. Home in my heart. My mind is clear.”

Jen Mackie, Pilates Central Hawke’s Bay 
“Dual task exercises increase neuroplasticity. Going for a walk whilst talking to a friend or listening to a podcast not only relaxes you in terms of nature, cardiovascular exercise, connection to a companion, or learning if you are listening to a podcast. All cause neuroplasticity to occur which is basically building your brain by flexing your brain muscle.

Helle Thompson, Joyworks in Havelock North 
“Clearing your head starts with grounding and being present in your body. I see that again and again. Embodiment is paramount. Of course the head will never be free of thought. But it can be spacious and free from attachment. Acceptance, embodiment and going with the flow is also a big part of a clear head, I believe. And pausing every now and then to feel gratitude; for life, for what we have around us and are.”

Radha Iveta, Heart Awakening out of The Yoga Space in Hastings 
“Reduce screen time, device time, phone time and external energy and information input – this way the mind will have less to process and will be more prone to relax. Spend time in silence – where there is no need for conversation or for any role playing. Just be and know it is enough. The mind naturally goes clearer and quieter itself. And of course, meditation and mindfulness – well known tools to clear the mind and tune us into the still core of our being. Redirect the energy of the mind into the heart, fall in love and stay there.”

Megan Dyer, Yoga teacher, Bayview (Koha classes at King George Hall)
“My first go to for clearing the head would be three conscious breaths. With a fuller inhalation and a slower longer exhalation. The simplicity of those breaths as you know is powerful, and it’s a pause. Then I love this recommendation from Judith Hanson-Lasater. Close your eyes and imagine going to the geographical centre of the brain. Front to back, top to bottom, side to side. Right in the centre. Stepping in and back from any thought and thinking, for just one minute. To dis-identify from the over-activity of thought. And lastly it would be to move. Move my body, with a walk outside, a bike ride, some gentle asana (yoga poses), all at a pace that is needed at the time. And the blessing of a dear friend who will listen to you without judgment and have the ability to make you laugh. We all need a darling friend like this to shift us when we get stuck.”

Karyn Mills, The Pilates Practice in Hastings 
“Often too many thoughts can feel like they are overwhelming and taking up too much space. I actively tune into each of my 5 senses. What can I hear? What can I feel? What can I smell? What can I see? And lastly what can I taste? This works well for me, especially when practiced often, while out walking or before sleep. Also allows me to realise how much pressure I’ve placed on myself when there is a bigger picture out there and most people are in a similar situation.”

Madeline Knight, Ashtanga Yoga Hawke’s Bay 
“Cold water plunging has been a total game changer for me and the ultimate in clearing my head. Sitting with the breath in cold water for 2-5 minutes clears the daily mental turmoil and seems to be filtered out in the cold, and the beauty and simplicity in things is what remains. I feel connected to the vital energy of life in a practice that takes 15 minutes out of my day. Find a friend, jump in your local river, lake, ocean or ice bath, sit with your breath and see what happens, it’s that simple.”

My final observation from a place of a clear head? 

There are many paths to a clear head. Things you already know. Many simple tools and techniques that don’t cost anything but your time. That pay back exponentially. That hearing what others are doing is motivating. 

From my place of a clear head. I am grateful. Share your top tips for a clear head and make my day on the BayBuzz website, where this article will also appear. We get by with a little help from our friends. 

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Royston Hospital is pleased to sponsor robust examination of health issues in Hawkes Bay This reporting is prepared by BayBuzz Any editorial views expressed are those of the BayBuzz team

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  1. It’s simple. A walk with the dog on the beach in the way to see the grandchildren who are nearby.

  2. Movement is my most effective way of calming the hamster sprinting in her wheel (in my mind). Twenty minutes into a bike ride and it dawns on me that I have stopped the rapid speedy repetitions of thoughts and worries and I haven’t ‘thought’ of a single thing for a while. The hamster must have nodded off.

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