Archive for: Mindfulness

Live Better, Feel Better: Extending the Boundaries

A price will be exacted from us for everything we do or leave undone. We should find the courage to win, to win back our finer kinder and healthier selves. It is possible to find within ourselves the capacity to be thankful even while we grieve. Loss is a part of life. Although being thankful and feeling emotional pain do not coexist very often, it can be done. Only gratitude will allow your heart to be truly happy. Just counting the losses keeps the score very uneven. Even in times of loss you can find many things or memories to carry you forward. Grief only exists where love once lived. Having loved is something to be thankful for.

We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios whenever they are needed. Life seems to love the person living it. Life is pure adventure. The sooner that is realized, the sooner you can treat life as art. Bringing all your energy to each encounter remaining flexible. And if the outcome is not as you planned understanding that it doesn’t mean the outcome itself was wrong.

Extending the boundaries of your thinking, being open to new ways of thinking about situations, accepting losses throughout the year still leaves so many things to be grateful for, and even being thankful for the pain that accompanies grief will help you heal and find more happiness. Because without that pain you would have never known the love and joy that person or time brought to you. Just as people, places, things, events, etc. affect your life each day. You, your actions, your expressions, your choice of words affect others around you each day. Be an example of who you want to be, who you hope to become. Extend the boundaries of your hurt tired self and count your blessings, even if some of them are from the past.

~Audrey A. Adams LCSW

 

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!

It's a beautiful morning somewhere

Running on my lunch break yesterday, I passed a young man walking in the opposite direction. His reply to my smile of greeting was sincere. A statement of fact. An honest wish. “Good morning,” he said. Did he misspeak? It was nearly 1:00 PM. Is my early afternoon his morning? Late shift worker or late night lurker?

My thoughts drifted as I ran.

He was right. He is right.

It is a good morning. Somewhere. In fact, somewhere the sun is rising over misty mountains, filling the valley below with light and warmth and promise. Somewhere the sun is rising. For someone the sun rises today to bring the most important day of his life. Someone today is going to make a decision. A life changing decision. Big or small, things are going to happen today. Somebody somewhere is going to stop hurting someone they love. For good. Someone somewhere else is going to finally clean out that closet. Maybe keep it clean. Someone is going to decide to go back to school. Someone is going to pay off a loan.

Somewhere the sun is rising. That means that life is happening.

Good morning.

Steps to a Depression-free Mind

Can you imagine living in a society that was virtually free of depression? Certain societies such as the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea and the American Amish populations both essentially have zero depression rates. Depression has become a byproduct of our modernized, industrialized, and urbanized lives. While we have become accustomed to a highly technologically evolved society with the gadgets, gizmos, and comforts we love, we are also seemingly on a never-ending treadmill of overworking, under-sleeping, and hyper-stressing in order to live the “American Dream”.

By incorporating several simple lifestyle changes into your everyday living can help you minimize the effects of stress and depression. Common variables practiced by the Kaluli and Amish people include: eating an omega-3 rich diet, getting ample sleep every night, regular daily exercise, getting plenty of natural sunlight, being involved in some type of social activity with social connections, and practicing meaningful tasks all help these populations divert attention from your own negative thought processes that can lead to depression.

Gratitude in HD

This gorgeous film, by Louie Schwartzberg, expresses an important sentiment, both simple and profound: gratitude is one of the most potent forces in the human universe.

 

Releasing Fear

There are challenges, conflicts and crisis that are an inevitable part of being human. In these times of difficulty we can become overwhelmed by our emotions, fear, shame, anger, disappointment, and sorrow as a result of living through these experiences. The emotional responses can be as painful as any physical injury or illness. They may cause us to feel that life is dangerous and out-of-control.  The psychological pain experienced during periods of loss or trauma can be so uncomfortable that we may become numb. Our emotions shutdown and the results are often described as a feeling of detachment from oneself or others.

 

During periods of difficulty like the loss of a loved one, financial loss, physical injury or decline, breakup of relationships, or job loss, we often find ourselves beginning to feel that the world is an unsafe place. A common response to this anxiety and fear is to become more and more controlling or passive within our own lives, feeling like we have less power and control. Most people have some sort of major loss by the time they’re in their early thirty’s. Given the commonality of these events, the majority of the population is reporting some level of stress or anxiety. Anxiety symptoms include irritability, feelings of being on edge, excessive worry, fatigue, and physical distress in the chest or stomach. These symptoms can be slight or become debilitating.

 

The brain protects the body from what is considered to be more pain than can be processed effectively by denial and shock. The shutting down process allows us time to process. These coping mechanisms are intended to be temporary, survival strategies. At times the body does not reset itself after a traumatic event and therefore the fear last for years. The brilliant human beings that we are sometimes get stuck. The system that manages and regulates a body’s response to danger sends messages to the body to prepare for run, or fight in defense. Getting stuck often feels like we are unable to relax, adrenaline pumps, the heart pounds, and awareness of the environment is heightened.  Feelings of anxiety or nervousness become common during situations that are not dangerous but feel dangerous as a result of the body not resetting after difficult events.  The discomfort in experiencing the event is usually very short lived in comparison to the duration of the pain experienced by anxiety and fear we carry on for years after these events have passed.

 

 

Humans are resilient beings who are built for surviving and recovery. So what is it that goes wrong? We don’t bounce back or we are unable to move on after tragedy in our lives.  As Franklin Roosevelt said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” What he meant by this is that it is actually the fear that does the most damage, not the events themselves. The challenge in releasing or facing these fears is that humans are often under the impression that being afraid of things is helpful to them, protecting them from future harm. However, fear results in anxiety, worry, and potential increased depression as we try to control the circumstances or the responses of others. The result of becoming guarded, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, is that feelings of anxiety and fear increase and people begin to feel worse not better.

 

So what could we do to feel better? The simple answer is to start releasing the fear. Letting go of fear and the feeling of guardedness is usually great relief if one can give permission to do so. How do we release the fear? First, it’s important to remember that the concept of fear is designed to keep us safe from dangerous situations. It is in the generalizing of feeling afraid that we get ourselves into trouble. Therefore, to begin getting out of fear is crucial to understanding that there is more to be gained by feeling good than being guarded.  As we learn to release our fear by letting go a piece at a time, we are free to love and to find more joy in life. The key is recognizing that when we are afraid of the unknown we are practicing the state of worry instead of the state of hopefulness.  In reaching for a feeling of hope and releasing the feeling of dread, we become open and available to opportunities we may not see while being fearful. Developing the spirit of curiosity about what’s next helps reduce the worry that it is going to be something bad.  There are many wonderful new experiences ahead for each person who is willing to leave behind feelings of fear and face the future.

 

 

Torie Sullivan, LPC

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse who specializes in care are counsel for the dying, identified the following five regrets as those most commonly expressed by the terminally ill in their last twelve weeks of life. Her findings, based on interviews, were published in a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. The top five regrets expressed by her patients are a little surprising:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Each of the above statements is worthy of exploration and reflection. I’ll address each one in a future post. As the posts are published, the hyperlinks below will become active. I’ll reframe the statements, though, to state them positively. The top five joys of the living:

1. Courage to be True

2. Work

3. Courage to Feel

4. Friends

5. Happiness

 

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