Acceptance of What is vs. Changing What You Don’t Like.

Ever learned how to surf? Surfers will tell you it’s about being patient and accepting the ocean just as she is. You have to be present to the moment if you are to be ready. To ride the next wave as it changes energy and crashes to the shore you have to be open to accept what it is, as it is. Today we are looking at how to use self regulation to bring acceptance to the moment you are in, not the one you wish was happening.

Many people I see in my office are able to regulate themselves when things are going good. When things get challenging however … many struggle to maintain practices that keep them focused on what is working. 

Many ask me how they are supposed to maintain hope when things are hard. It is a tricky dance between acceptance of what is and awareness of what is not wanted. Holding this paradigm in balance can help make sure you are focused on what is working and what needs to be changed. This can be a tough balance to find and relies on maintaining enough self regulation to help yourself be present to what is, just as it is.  

An easy way to remember how to care for yourself is the acronym HALT. Are you:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

If you are any of these things you will be more irritable and struggle more relationships and completing daily activities. As you work on taking care of yourself, making sure these areas are covered goes a long way toward helping you handle difficult situations with grace. 

Let’s break down each of the letters into actionable steps. It is here that you have power and control. You may not be able to change the situation you are in, however you can change how you are orienting to it and how you show up. Thus helping yourself accept what is, just as it is.

H – Are you hungry? Then eat. A nice balance of good fats, protein, and carbohydrate goes a long way to help you regulate your emotional experience. In its basic form, this is about taking care of physical needs, however, it can be about much more. If you have enough to eat but still feel hungry, what are you hungry for? What are you feeding yourself? Is it nutritious? Does it fill you? Think about not only the food you eat but the media, music, social experiences, physical spaces you find yourself in. Are they nourishing or do they feel depleted and bland? Take care to feed all of your senses well. Without nourishing intake you will feel empty and life will lose its sweetness. When those things happen we begin eating for reasons other than physical hunger. 

A – How are you with your anger? Many of us were taught that anger is bad or violent. That is not true. Anger is only violent when you act out violently to discharge it. It is only “bad” when the results of your actions have created further complications (guilt and shame) to deal with. When we are suppressing anger it leads to all sorts of issues. 

Anger revs up our inflammation system, thus we feel more body aches, joint pain, have concentration issues, memory problems, and heart stress. It wrecks havoc on many of our tissues because all that extra inflammation has no where to go. It cycles through the body looking for an outlet only to circle through the system again and again. 

Emotionally suppressed anger often leads the despair that underlies depression. When you feel so trapped to influence anything well, the world looks pretty hopeless. I often coach people to feel their anger in little bits. This keeps it manageable,. As noted above may of us have seen and experienced negative outbursts of anger. Anger doesn’t have to be explosive, but it does need to move out. Anger’s job is to help you notice something unjust or when a boundary has been crossed. It is a catalystic emotion, one that makes change happen. It wants something done and feels better once expressed. It is in the expression mistakes of acting out are made in ways we are not proud of.  

Learning how to gather the information and then make decisions based on the most effective expression of those emotions is called emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is something we all learn. Emotions are just here to give us information. Once we get the information and respond to them, rather than impulsively react, they dissipate. 

L – Feeling lonely, even in a crowd. There is a great quote on the poster “How to Build a Community” it says, “no one is silent, though many are not heard”.  Often we feel like no one is listening to us even when they ask for our thoughts. Many of us do not have someone in our lives who can deeply hear us, beyond our words and actions, but really hear what underlies our experiences. Sometimes we can’t even hear ourselves at this level. 

Again on a basic level, if you are feeling lonely reach out to your support system. Get around people where you can smile and feel at least a little connected. Notice how you keep yourself disconnected when you are in a crowd. Do you go to the coffee shop and make no eye contact, wear your headphones, and make sure you are nowhere near another body? You might want to take off your headphones and try to make some eye contact, you can decide how close to stand in line, but paying attention to natural connections in our surroundings is a way to begin to reconnect the world. If you are feeling lonely in a crowd it may be time to start doing therapy to experience the sensations of being deeply heard or to learn skills to be more effective in your communication patterns

T – Tired. This could be truly physical, you didn’t sleep well last night or it could be deeper and more extreme like I am tired in my being. If you are feeling physically tired, work to get better quality sleep by practicing sleep hygiene. If you are feeling tired in your being you might want to look at the emotional load you are carrying. Many of us are unaware of our deep sadness, anger, or fear, it has always been there. It may be something that was handed to us by our families and so we know it well. 

Or it might be that life has been hard and you are weary of the burdens related to living or losing. In this case, relieving the fatigue is about taking a life inventory and beginning to get rid of that which no longer serves you, grieve what you have lost, and work to build positive experiences into your day no matter how small. Again, this may require the help of a professional and someone who can really support you through your process. 

As you work to help yourself navigate changes in your life with grace, remember it is acceptance of what is that makes all the difference. It does not mean you have to like it, want it, or agree with it … but you do have to accept it is what you are dealing with if you want to shift. 

By taking care of these 4 areas you are already moving toward being able to move through change with less disruption and strife. 

Want to feel more regulated and in control of yourself? Remember: HALT

  • Hungry – feed yourself well. This included nutritious foods as well as everything you consume – media, social experiences, music, art, nature, anything you let into your body.
  • Angry – feel your feelings, notice what boundary needs to be set and take action in a productive way. Work to let it out a little at a time if it feels too big to do at once. Be patient with yourself. This can be difficult. 
  • Lonely – reach out to a member of your support crew. Notice how you keep yourself separate and defend against connecting. Work to engage with your environment and others with more ease. 
  • Tired – get some rest. Even a small break, short walk, or simple breathing exercise will help shift your mood. Get some sunshine. Sunshine is known to help raise energy levels. If you are feeling the heavy burdens of living life, get some support and help to determine what you can let go of and what to keep. Then learn new skills to cope with in more healthy ways that leave you feeling energetic not depleted.  

Upcoming Programs:

Creating A Boundary Bubble

Many people feel like they do not have control over what impacts them from the environment. They feel overtaken by the sounds, smells, other people around them. This mediation offers an opportunity to create a personal space bubble and take back your individuality in relation to all that is around you.

Ready to Make a Change?

And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself. 

Upcoming Programs:

Social Distancing While Parenting and Being a Social Worker

How many of us are feeling the effects of trying to balance our lives while social distancing? In this post a good friend of mine outlines her experience parenting, while working from home, while worrying about the effects of the global pandemic on her children. I think many of us can relate on all sorts of levels – parents or not.

Guest Post By: Megan Murphy, LCSW

I begin writing some scattered thoughts after the third night of tossing and turning and waking up with a sore jaw and neck, from all of the things my brain must be trying to work out at night.  I notice that mornings, I tend to feel strong and hopeful.  I am noticing that afternoons are really hard, and my mind truly wishes it could download or shut down, sleep or reset.

I am familiar with anxiety and depression.  I have dealt with these emotions at many different times in my life, and overall, I have been able to overcome them, or at least survive, cope with, and accept them in my life. 

This has been a very confusing time for my mind, like it is, for so many others.  My career as a Social Worker, who works with many vulnerable populations, including the severely and persistently mentally ill, has given me more strength and hope than I could ever explain in words.  I have seen people survive and thrive in circumstances, I am quite sure I would never survive.  I’ve seen the communities of the homeless, helping one another, and caring for one another.  I’ve seen families doing their best to support their own, with limited resources, sometimes limited intellectual capacities, and very often, with judgment from the outside world.  My career has taught me so much about resilience.  I am so grateful for these clients and to so many people I have worked with along the way, who put their hearts, souls, and brains into this work.  I have no doubt that the clients I work with, have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I THANK them to no end!

It has been heartbreaking not to be able to support these people face to face, to help get them the resources that they need now more than ever.  However, I am grateful for a job that knows that keeping all of us (clients included) healthy in the short term, will only help, not hurt our mission, to help them in the long term.  Or, as a wise man (thanks Dad) told me, “sometimes you have to stay in the fight, to win the fight”. 

Parenting has been a whole different level of anxiety, acceptance, and resilience during this time.  I have two sons, ages 14 and 9.  We are beginning to work on schooling from home.  I have so many worries about this time in life for them.  For my 14-year-old, I worry about this time in his life.  He is supposed to be working on independence, separating himself from his parents and working on finding himself.  Peers are also such a huge part of learning and growing at his age.  It’s so hard to tell him that we don’t have answers about when life may be “normal” again.  It is so hard to say “no” to so many requests.  I am so proud of him.  I can tell he is frustrated and worried.  It always seems that right when it’s needed, he invites his brother into his room to play games with him.  He is an amazing human being.  I worry about my skills to work and teach him from home, while also paying attention to emotional needs.  

For my 9-year-old, I worry about his enthusiastic, open view of the world and an absolute need to connect, move, and be excited about life!  Lately, he has denied every request to go outside on a walk.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed he is anxious about it.  “Is it safe”, “what if I see a friend on a walk”, “Can we talk to each other”, “am I sick”, “are you sick”, “will we all get sick”.  “Are we safe”.  While my husband and I do our best to reassure him, we don’t have the answers.  He seems to feel best when saying, “family first, right mom”?  

While these things worry me, I am reminded of how much gratitude I have.  I do not have to parent without a partner.  We are able to do this as a team and take turns when the other is feeling overwhelmed.  So many do not have this and they are HEROES!  Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own anxieties and worries because I am SO aware of the hard times others have and are experiencing.  My life has been so easy overall.  I have never needed for a thing, and have always had an abundance of love in my life.  I feel guilty and ashamed sometimes that I have so much fear. 

I have parents who give me strength.  My father, a Vietnam marine, has this way of saying just the right things, to keep me focused and strong, during hard times.  My mom, an independent woman, who has been a caretaker of many kinds, keeps me sane with love and constant communication and ideas of ways to keep myself busy.  My brothers are both amazing and show me love and support, and I hope I do the same for them.

I have an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who check-in, send me love, and inspire me.  

I have friends that keep me grounded, strong, and grateful.  Each of them gives me something so special and unique and I cannot imagine life, or this crisis, without them.  We send each other videos, love, and ideas.  Let me tell you, these are amazing women!

The lack of answers is what continues to be the hardest.  I told my friend Jamie the other day, that while I am so aware that I am not alone, I “feel” alone.  She said, “yes, we are trying to accept and process something we have no answers to, and only fear.  We feel alone because we are not allowed to be around others”.  That felt so validating.  

So, for the moment, I plan to give myself grace.  I plan to accept that some moments I will feel strong, and others I may not.  I will do my best to show up for my family, friends, children, husband, and clients, with love, and understanding, that they too, will have good moments and not so good moments.

Upcoming Programs:

Tabata Style Weights

Looking for an intense workout with speed and weights? Try this Tabata Style Weight Workout. Made to do in the gym, at home, or in the park. Workout where you want to be.

Workout Basics and Warm Up

To plan your workouts think about doing something focused 3-6 times a week and taking 1-3 days of what’s called active rest (clean house, walk the golf course, go for a hike, take the dog for a long walk, do squats throughout the day – link it to every time you go to the bathroom for example.

This movement is important for recovery and allows your body to do something active for fun, wellness, blood flow to the sore spots from your focused workout, etc. This keeps the body oriented toward energy flow and movement.

Making sure to get a weekend workout in is a great way to make sure your active rest days are not consecutive. Consecutive days off can make it harder to return to your focused workouts on Monday.

Make sure to warm up. Spend 5-10minutes doing easy movement, stretching, and allow the muscles you are going to work to “wake up”. Work to include all the big joints and major muscle groups. It’s a great time to get your music right, your shoes tightened or loosened, or make sure you hair is out of your way. By fixing these things now, you are more likely to stay focused on the work portion.

When you complete the round, give yourself a pat on the back, a fist pump, something that celebrates your accomplishment. This is a big deal for helping habits stick, and helps you be realistic about all the hard work you are doing.

If you are unclear about a movement, look it up (Check out my YouTube Tutorials Here). There are lots of resources online that allow you to make sure you have good form. Always work up to adding weight or making a movement less stable. Good form comes first.

The Workout

Complete the following like a Tabata style workout. 8 sets of 20seconds on 10 seconds rest. Complete one full set of each exercise before moving onto the next. Tabata is a fast and hard workout technique. Due to this, you must watch your form. If you use weight be careful not to “throw” the weight with your speed work. Only use as much weight as you can while also keeping good form and control. You might start with weight but not use to complete a whole cycle. Perfectly fine. Just make sure you are listening to your body.

  • Lawnmower Rows
  • Run
  • Kettlebell squats with 90-degree arm pull in
  • Run
  • Lunges with weight
  • Run
  • Chest Fly
  • Run
  • Mighty Mikes with High Row
  • Run
  • Mighty Mikes with Chest Press
  • Run
  • Bicycle Situps
  • Run
  • Spider Plank Walks

External Shoulder Rotation while side-lying on Ball – set of 10 to each side. Keep your elbow in to ensure the use of the small rotator cuff muscles.

Words of Caution …

Please make sure to follow your body. Do not push through pain. Discomfort/Challenge are different than pain. We want to challenge ourselves we do not want to hurt ourselves. Find the level that is right for you and move at that level. Make sure to choose weight and stances that support your body style – if you have to use the wall to do your push ups do that, if you need a chair or a bench use those. Make sure you are doing what you need to do for your body type and current personal level of fitness.

As always have fun living in your body today!

Finish Strong

YOU DID IT!! Now that you have finished the “work” portion, it is time for flexibility training. Spend some time stretching all the muscles you worked – in this workout, it’s full body so give all your major muscles a good stretch. Then grab a good post workout snack. Together these get your muscles ready for tomorrow’s movement and make sure you are ready to meet your goals.

Ready to Make a Change?

And as always, if you are struggling you can schedule a 15 min Q&A appointment to see if it’s time to give yourself the gift of therapy. When else can you talk about yourself for an hour with someone trained to deeply listen to your core, not just the story you tell yourself. 

Upcoming Programs:

Here’s How You Can Sleep Well Even if You Have Back Pain

Getting to sleep is hard for many of us. Let alone trying to get to sleep with pain. Here are some ideas to help you get to sleep and stay asleep if you suffer with back pain.

Guest Post by: Cheryl Conklin of WellnessCentral.info

Back pain is one of the leading causes of sleep issues. You can’t get comfortable, don’t get restful sleep, and have problems that carry over into the morning. It can make you fatigued and lead to other health issues. Whether you wake up with back pain or you’re heading to bed in pain from a long day of working your muscles, there are many things that can help you manage your back pain. These include medicine, physical therapy, and surgery. However, there’s also one surprising way that’s been proven in a study to be of potential benefit.

Apps May Be the Answer

The study was conducted in early 2019 and showed that participants with back pain that used a management app for 12 weeks found more relief than those that didn’t. Does this mean apps are the answer? It couldn’t hurt. With that in mind, here are a few apps to start with to see if they can help with your back pain and related issues. 

Stretching Before Bed

Stretching before bed is one of the best things you can do to release any pent up tension or aches and pains you’re feeling in your back. It will help relax the muscles so you’ll sleep better. With apps like 6 Minute Back Pain Relief, which is a gentle workout program that helps to reduce your back pain or Yoga for Back Pain, which uses yoga poses made specifically to reduce back pain, improve flexibility, and stretch your muscles. 

Relaxation Apps 

One way to reduce your pain is to reduce your tension. That can be achieved by relaxing your mind and body before falling asleep. Just like stretching and yoga are meant to help, so is meditation. With Headspace, you can learn to meditate, live mindfully, get expert advice from a former monk, and enjoy themed sessions, including stress reduction, sleep-enhancing, focus improvement, and anxiety relief.

Diary Apps

Recording how you’re feeling will help you better track your back pain so that you can determine any patterns and share results with your doctor. With CatchMyPain, an intelligent pain diary app that helps you track your pain, you can even connect to similar patients and trade tips. The app also provides a body model that lets you draw where your pain is and label the intensity of your pain. You can also track your happiness, stress, and fatigue, record your medication intake, and much more. It’s the perfect way to help you track what’s happening with your pain. 

iTens Device

TENS devices are made to provide pain relief stimulation to areas that are experiencing pain. TENS devices work by sending tiny electrical signals through your skin, which intercept pain signals and keep them from reaching your brain. They’re used by athletes for pain relief and faster recovery. iTENS is an app-controlled version of this device that can help you get over your back pain. With customizable settings, you can use it on various body parts and pain levels. With the app, you can control these settings and even be able to track your results after each session. iTENS can be used on your ankle, knee, wrist, back, and shoulders. 

One Last Thing

Using apps on your phone overnight (or even your smartwatch) can run the battery down. In addition, some apps require the use of your plan’s data. Running them overnight could eat up your data and lead to overage charges. You can avoid this by looking into unlimited phone service plans, which will give you more data to explore apps that will bring you a better night’s sleep. Either way, giving yourself the tools you need to overcome sleep issues is a good start. 

Although back pain can disrupt your life, there are steps you can take to help alleviate some of that pain. And while you might not be able to eliminate it altogether, you can find ways to give yourself some reprieve to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Image provided by guest author, Cherly Conklin via Pixabay