What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

By Terry Richardson MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

Of the most important things we need to know about life, having healthy relationships is foremost. So where do we learn this vital information? It’s easy to identify relationships that aren’t working, a short read of the newspaper, fifteen minutes of the evening news broadcast or just standing in line at the grocery store reveals the difficult and sometimes tragic results of a relationship gone wrong. So what does a healthy relationship have? From my perspective, each of us, in our mind/body existence, are given a natural example of the potentially perfect relationship.

The essential elements of all healthy relationships are balance, contrast and complementarity. Effective application of these elements give us tools to interact with family, friends and coworkers, and how we treat ourselves.

In order to illustrate the mind/body relationship think for a moment about your body as a vehicle and your mind as the driver. The next time you get into your car, consider the relationship you have established with it because of the cooperative and collaborative agreement you have with it, you accomplish your purpose of being transported from point “A” to point “B”, and whether it’s in a Lamborghini or a Ford, the results are the same. The mind/body relationship your “self” is the journey you are on and the people in your life are passengers for the trip. Are you having fun yet?

Balance

What is balance? One physical definition is “the equalization of forces.” In other works, neither the body or mind dominates or assumes complete control. If you’ve ever experienced a stuck gas pedal wildly accelerating, had to push a car you’ve failed to fuel, or the frustration of an exhaustingly long trip, and in spite of “cruise control” your hands on the wheel – literally in “co-operation.” In a healthy relationship sharing responsibility is more productive than dominance or control.

Contrast

Night and day, sweet and sour, sharp and dull, old and young. Contrast is what helps us examine and experience one thing by knowing its counterpart. Though not always an opposite, contrast is an inescapable acknowledge of the other side of the coin, the “flip side” of what is known versus the unknown. Contrast helps us get clarity about our own identity by providing a framework of reference that makes us distinct from our surroundings. A healthy relationship creates a backdrop in our experience of life so that we might more clearly define and know who we are.

Complementarity

I would be ludicrous to get behind the driver’s seat and just sit there, waiting for the trip to start. Why? It is the interaction of all of the components involved that makes the difference. Complementarity is the harmonic blending of balance and contrast into action. It is the reason that apparently impossible things can happen – the reason you can” drive” to St. Louis in 5 hours. When we focus on complementarity in our relationships, conflicts created by power struggles and insecurities created by differences, dissolve. In a healthy relationship strengths and differences are assets that make the sum greater than its parts.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I often remind couples or individuals I am working with, that most people know more about maintaining a car that a relationship. That is primarily because we too often accept relationships as a “given” part of life, whereas a car is something we work for, and need to know how to take care of. Our learning about relationships “just happens’ through observation and experience (primarily trial and error) and when we do ask for advice we generally don’t consult the experts.

The next time you find yourself unhappily stuck by the side of the road, the mind/body owner’s manual of relationships might be the first place to look.

Can Stress Be Fatal?

 

Audrey A. Adams LCSW

We’ve all heard the saying, “stress can kill you.” Is that true? Well, as a matter of fact, YES it is! The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds. A Health and Safety Executive states around 9.9 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression, or anxiety. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed; we often don’t know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point.

Common symptoms of stress are headache, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, excessive worry, and sleep problems. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Besides these very serious health problems, stress that’s left unchecked can manifest itself in anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. Stress can interfere with your judgment and cause you to make bad decisions, make you see difficult situations as threatening reducing your enjoyment and making you feel bad, making you feel rejected, unable to laugh, afraid of free time, unable to work, and not willing to process your problems with others. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol for immediate relief, but drugs and alcohol quickly turn into more stressors, problems, addictions, and health problems of their own.

In the world we live in today, we not only are concerned with our own personal issues, family problems, employment situations, finances, etc. But, we are bombarded with daily news about extremely scary and violent behavior from thousands of miles away to right in our own backyards. One thing that is in our control is making sure we make time for self-care. Your first thought to hearing that was probably, “I don’t have time,” or “I wish!” But think of this, if you don’t find time to do things for yourself, then who will? No one. As adults it is our job to take care of ourselves the best we can or we may not be around as long as we had hoped.

While most of us would likely prefer to take a cruise, rent a cabin in the woods, or go the beach, it is important to remember when it comes to stress, a little bit really does go a long way. The 10 minutes it takes to drive through Starbucks to buy your $6.00 morning coffee, the 30 minutes spent wandering around the grocery store because you’re not sure what you want, or the extra 15 minutes on the phone talking to someone you don’t even really want to speak with can produce stress. Those precious few minutes add up. Taking small chunks of time for yourself can make a profound difference. You deserve to be as stress free as possible. You have to pick your battles. Is what you are stressing about today going to matter this time next year? Is what you are stressing about today something you can control? Putting yourself first is not selfish. Take a walk, talk to someone you trust, take a bubble bath, go fishing, read a book, get a massage, color, dance, watch a comedy that made you laugh 20 years ago, have a picnic by the creek, fly a kite, leave your phone in the other room, look at old pictures, go barefoot in the back yard, try wood carving… The point is just do something…..but do it for YOU!

 

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

Dealing with Change

Changes occur all day long.  An appointment gets cancelled, you encounter a detour on the way home, you were anticipating roast beef for dinner and you got chicken.  It’s what life is and while you might get a bit frustrated, you learn to roll with it.  But what about the big changes?  Job transfers, marriage, divorce, children, medical changes and the death of someone you love.  How do you learn to adapt with the changes that will affect the rest of your life?

Whether you’re leaving the community that you’ve built strong relations with or having to bury a loved one, you will feel anger because it wasn’t your choice for this to happen to you.  Healthy coping skills result in better emotional stability.  Poor coping skills result in anger and resentment.

First, it is helpful to recognize that you are in the midst of change and that change is part of you.  Instead of thinking about all the negative issues, try making a list of all the positive benefits of this change.  Visualize all the possibilities and write them down.  Make up a “to do” list if there are things you need to accomplish before the change happens.  Call a friend and discuss your fears and ask for their advice.  If you feel that you can’t get past your fear, anger and resentment you may need to talk to a professional.  In talking with a therapist you will get an unbiased opinion and they will be able to give you some insight and the coping tools so that you can move on and embrace your changes.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn

Psychotherapy

The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.

These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.

If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.

 

Erika McCaghren

The Habit of People Pleasing

Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last?  Well, you are not alone!  That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression.  There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short.  But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted.  Who is there to meet your needs?

We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known.  A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”.  Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships.  Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important?  If not, why?  Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing.  We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter.  We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while.  CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script.  The technique of assertive communication is important here, too.  The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.  Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”.  Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.

To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind.  How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…?  You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others.  You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health.  Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul.  The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU.  It is ok to be nice to yourself!

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Anatomy of Grief

Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and it is forced to multiply its strength. ~~ Ovid

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  But what is happening inside the body after a significant loss?  Whether it is the loss of a job you loved, a home, a beloved pet, a good friend, a child, or your partner in life you will go through the grieving process and you will feel the changes in your body.

The grief process is similar to the aging process:

  • Slowing of the metabolism
  • Shrinking of tissues
  • More contraction, less flexibility
  • Less clarity and awareness
  • Less vitality and energy
  • More stiffness, weakness and atrophy
  • Less muscle tone
  • Less appetite, difficulty with digestion
  • Dull, confused and foggy thinking
  • Slower response time in any given situation, including physical healing
  • Less deep and full breathing
  • Slower blood circulation
  • Slower lymphatic circulation

Love really does hurt according to evidence from new brain scanning technologies.  Researchers have found that the same area of the brain processes both physical and emotional pain and like physical pain, emotional pain can become chronic and move into what is known as “complex grief” causing debilitating depression.  To combat the physical changes you need to get up and move!  Join a gym, try yoga, water aerobics, or take up golf.  You’re working your body and you’re being with other people, both of which you need at this time.

Humans are survivors and we’re social, so the single most important factor in healing is having the support of other people.  Even if you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you are grieving because sharing your loss makes the burden easier to carry.  There are bereavement support groups in your community that you can be part of.  Find the one that addresses your type of loss.  Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help.  Also, seeking professional counseling is a healthy choice.

Grief can be a roller coaster.  Your emotions can be up and down, a mix of good days and bad days.  Even in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness.  With complex grief and depression, on the other hand, the feeling of emptiness and despair are constant and you need to seek professional help.

Grieving is a necessary passage and a difficult transition to finally letting go of sorrow~~it is not a permanent rest stop.  ~~ Dodinsky

The Impact of Bullying

Bullying is not only in the school system. It lives on long past the days of homeroom classes and lunch with friends. It lives on in the memory and creates an impact on your self-esteem, self-worth, and how you interact with those around you. Undoubtedly, bullying in some shape or form affects everyone on a variety of levels, whether the victim, perpetrator, or bystander. Employees at Disneyland, known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, shared a video titled “It Gets Better”, about personal stories of bullying and feelings of being alone that were caused by bullying. The video is a tribute to the Trevor project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/), a national anti-bullying campaign for LGBTQ youth, going strong since its founding in 1998. The strong message of hope after there seemed to be nothing but darkness and depression shines through in the people who bring joy on the job every single day. Each and every person carries their story and truth and no matter the struggle…

 

“No life is a one person show. You need to surround yourself with the people who love you for who you are and encourage you to share with the world the unique gifts that you have to offer.”

 

Next time you are feeling alone, reach out and always remember that it gets better.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCSUfFStTQE

 

Erika McCaghren

Sports Psychology in Everyday Life (part 1)

As a former student-athlete, I have always considered there to be a huge difference between athletes and all “normal people”. We watch their highs and lows on Friday nights during the big game, root for them to get scholarships to play for good schools, and hope that one day, they can take their passion to the next level in professional sports. We eat, sleep, and breathe for the moment when we get to see our child light up after a tough game or when our alma mater beats our hometown rival. Athletes spend countless hours in the gym, practicing the perfect jump shot, strategizing over a playbook, and conditioning to prepare for a game. They obsess over their skill set, teammates, coaches’ opinion, and preparation level each moment of the day. At the end of the season, athletes assimilate back into the lull of offseason athletics and train for the next year. While athletes are just one example, we are all hyphenated people: student-athletes, working mothers, stay at home fathers, best friends, supportive spouses; but overall, we are not that much different than our favorite star players. This means that “sports psychology” is not only for athletes. It is for the rest of us who live our lives as complex people, hyphenated people. In this three part series, we will explore how everyone can benefit from sports psychology tricks and tips for your everyday life.

Why sports psychology does not apply only to athletes:

Reason #1: Sports psychology involves the connection between your mind and body while performing an activity. The interaction between your thoughts, body movements, sensations, and total involvement in a task creates a unique experience that is not only for athletes. This connection can happen when you do anything you are passionate about. All you have to do is realize what your passion is—reading, lifting weights, playing with your children, running, walking your dog, or writing—and do that. The “zone” and “flow” will come faster than you realize if you allow yourself the freedom and pleasure to do what it is that you love.

 

By Erika McCaghren