This time of year can be quite stressful for many of us: we stretch our budgets for holiday gifts, students take finals and family members get on each others nerves at the dinner table. Most of the time we are simply trying to get through these events unscathed, but there is often a piece many of us are don’t consider….
SELF-CARE: maintenance of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health intended to improve or restore.
Now of course, self-care is not something to do during only the holidays, it’s something we should engage in at all times,regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background. Before you get too hard on yourself for notpracticing enough self-care, consider this major obstacle:
Overstimulation—we are constantly consumed by work, family, TV, text messaging, Facebooking, Pinning and whatever else you do! Our society’s message is not “care for yourself” but rather “stimulate yourself!” It is so easy to get caught up in doing that we get out of touch with simply being.
For many, we are constantly on the go balancing work and personal life and leave little time to ourselves. Note that time TO ourselves is different than time FOR ourselves. Time to ourselves is time alone; time we can sit with ourselves, our thoughts, our bodies and our emotions. It is often not until we have that time to ourselves that we can truly unwind and get in touch with the toll our daily stressors have taken on us physically, mentally and emotionally. And yes extroverts, you too need alone time!
When we don’t carve out time alone to get in touch with those things, we don’t even realize they are there and sometimes we won’t realize they exist until they hit us in a big way—like panic attacks, burnout, physical ailments, meltdowns, substance use and crying fits.
Our bodies tell us what we need, but we just need to take the time to listen. And when we take that time to listen, we not only can discover what we need for restoration and recovery, but also what we can do to prevent physical, mental and emotional wear and tear.
So what should you do in that alone time?
1. Find a quiet space
2. Turn off or put away your electronics
3. Find a comfortable seated or laying position and take a moment to notice and feel your body settle… this is where your mindfulness and deep breathing skills come in handy!
4. Sit still and observe!
Observe your body’s physical sensations—use a formal body scan or simply check in with your body for tension, tightness, heat, cold, spasms and whatever else you feel.
Observe your thoughts—Again you can use a formal mindfulness practice or just begin by checking in with your mind.
What is the quality of your mind? Racing thoughts, slow, chaotic, foggy?
What is the quality of your thoughts? Replaying one over and over, jumping from one to the other, repeating a theme?
What is the quality of your emotions? Disconnected, aroused, anxious, stressed, sad, angry?
*** If you feel unable to sit/lay still, notice what is going on for you and what your obstacles are.
5. Use what you’ve observed to make a plan!
My mind and body need….
For a healthy mind and body, we need to know what we need to repair, restore and prevent and we can only know this by taking the time to listen.
It is no coincidence that National Stress Awareness Month happens to be during tax month. Nevertheless, stress is not necessarily all bad; it is the thing that often motivates us, helps us meet deadlines, sharpens our attention and keeps us out of danger. Many of us face stress in our daily routine and are accustomed to functioning with a high level of stress. While we may be managing and functioning in this state, I’d like to take this month of awareness as an opportunity to help you learn more about stress, it’s effects and ways to combat against it.
Basic Physiology of Stress
In order to understand the effects of stress, we must first understand the role of the Autonomic Nervous System, which has two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in a stressful or threatening situation, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, meaning our brain goes into fight, flight or freeze response. This stress response initiates a series of actions, such as increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure and a flooding of hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.
However, our bodies are built to adapt and re-balance with the help of the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases our heart rate and relaxes the blood vessels.
While these two branches of the nervous system are built to maintain balance, many of us are living with chronic stress, meaning our sympathetic nervous system remains activated and on guard. Living in a heightened state of stress, whether it’s due to work, school, relationships or other circumstances, can have detrimental and long-term effects on the body’s health and immune system. Read the rest of this entry
There are many reasons people come to therapy: relationship troubles, traumatic experiences, depression or even self-improvement. Though the presenting reason may vary person to person, the underlying goal is to heal. There are many ideas on how to heal people that range from medical models to holistic approaches. My personal interest is healing that tends to the whole person: mind, body and soul.
An important piece of healing involves exploration. The majority of us have a neatly pre-packaged story of our lives: what our childhood was like, how we decided on our major, and the problems we have endured and overcome. Our story often becomes so airtight that no other possible perspectives or meanings can seep in. This story becomes so routine that when people ask us about our lives we simply reach into our pockets and recite it from memory without batting and eye. We generally believe that with age, cultivated experience and wisdom, we develop expanded perspectives and ideas on life. However, when these stories of our lives go unexamined for so long, we can cut off the opportunity to make new meaning, re-story our plotline and ultimately deepen the understanding of our experience. CONTINUE READING!
Having been recently diagnosed with my second ever herniated disc while recovering from a footy surgery, I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between the mind and body. Growing up dancing and playing sports, I was so accustomed to a number of aches and pains in my body that I became very in tune with it and what it was telling me. However, after having to cut out my weekly routine of going to the gym, dance classes and yoga for the past 7 months, something changed. Not only did I lose my source of exercise, but also I lost my routine that was my release and kept me centered and sane! Needless to say, the effects of various thoughts and events had been lingering the last 7th months. Not only is this a lesson in self-care for therapists, but also a reminder to everyone that allowing such things to linger in the mind eventually affects the body. As goes the Buddhist saying, “holding onto anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
These back to back injuries have been a jolting reminder for me to practice what I preach to my clients and others around me about reducing stress and being aware and connected with your body. So many of us eat healthy or exercise to tend to our body’s health and do things like listen to music or watch TV to relax our minds. But what kind of routine do we have that tends to our overall well-being? CONTINUE READING!