Healthy Living Thanksgiving! Thank Your Body This Thanksgiving.

On this day of Thanksgiving … Remember your body! Give it the thanks it deserves by eating well, sleeping well, and moving today. Practice care and acceptance for yourself and for others. Most of all enjoy your family, friends, neighbors, or the dude sitting next to you at the bar (could be coffee or beauty 🙂 – with love and grace.

Today let go and relax. Allow yourself to find ease in your doing and be present in the work that surrounds today. You deserve the balance and joy that comes with being present to your experience and fully engaged – this is living life on fire – vibrant and alive.

I am so grateful for all of you. Those of you out there focused on your health, your wellness, and building healthy relationships are what make my work so enjoyable. Those of you brave enough to reach deep inside and find those parts of you that are wounded – then work hard to heal those wounds are what make my work so rewarding. Life isn’t always easy and I know many of you work hard to balance your life. It takes work to make your life work, and I am grateful to be on that journey with you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being part of your story.

Make today one of reverence and gratitude for all the hard work you do to maintain all the things you’ve got going on in your life. Balance takes effort and ease. Make today’s efforts easy.

Read more on healthy living thanksgiving: Thanksgiving Day Plan – to stay on track for your health goals, that is. Or try: How will you give thanks this season?

 

Thank You UWS Students! 

Thank you to UWS Counseling Students for a great evening of exploration regarding the mental health field. In this post I also outline and more in-depth explanation of treating and healing from early trauma. A list of somatic psychology resources is also included.

Thank you for letting me come speak about our profession! I enjoyed the exploration and interest areas. There are some many possibilities and avenues for careers in behavioral health. I am grateful to be able to share my experience and hope for the next generation of LPCs. I wish you well, and please feel free to contact me if more questions/thoughts arise.

As I reflected on the questions I believe I didn’t answer the question about early trauma fully – to heal from psychological trauma we do not need the story/details of the event. Trauma happens in the body, even when it is verbal in nature, the physiology of the fear disrupts the endocrine system and dysregulates the brain processes. As a result we see dysfunctional behaviors and coping skills. To treat this we can use a number of therapies that target body sensations, as early trauma is stored in brain centers as sensations – not as words/symbols. We can then use the body sensations to track and allow neuropathways to develop while using the present moment therapist to client regulation. This allows the person to process through the trauma in the brain via the body with safety, then make meaning of the event(s) using words, art, music, etc. I tend to use somatic therapies most of the time along with cognitive work to help make meaning and keep the process moving – help clients understand what’s happening when that’s what’s needed for safety. And Dialectical Behavior Therapy to teach regulations skills prior to trauma protocols. Many somatic modalities teach them along the way, however some struggle with the mindfulness and/or aren’t used to being in the body, tracking sensation for long periods of time. Cognitive work can help balance the fears and safety while building endurance. 
Some resources for the somatic work:

  • USABP – United States Association for Body Psychotherapies
  • SE – Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levin has a good book on trauma in the body
  • Hakomi – Hakomi Institute 
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – check out Pat Ogden’s book on trauma and the body 
  • EMDRIA – Eye movement densitization and reprocessing therapy main association website.

Getting over the Plateau

How’s everyone doing on your goals? Hopefully, you are still progressing. Sometimes (approx 6wks) things get a little boring and may feel a bit stagnant. If you’re in that camp it may be time to change it up. You can do this in a variety of ways. What we want is to become inefficient again. Our bodies are smart and adapt to overload (i.e. exercise) fairly quick. So challenge yourself to do something different this week. Here’s a list of ideas to challenge you.

You can …

1)      Increase your intensity – make the movements bigger, faster, stronger by adding power (speed and strength together).

2)      Decrease your intensity – you might need a recovery week. To do this spend the majority of your workouts in the bottom range of your THRZ – don’t do this if you have been working at the lower intensity thus far – see #1 instead.

3)      Add new movement patterns – try a more complicated step or trail. You can also begin to add in more arm movements – this keeps your body more confused, not to mention your brain, and you’ll work harder because you have to think more. You can also re-arrange the way you do your movements so the muscles have to recruit in a different order.

4)      Add intervals or tabbata to your workout – intervals are something like 30sec on, 45 sec recovery (you can play with the times). The “on” set is all out. Tabata is 8 rounds of 20sec on 10 sec off (total of 4mins). Both are very effective at increasing metabolic rate and training the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Tabata a bit more so – if you try them both you’ll see why.

5)      Take a new class or learn a new exercise. You can check out strength training options at SuperiorWorkout.com on my video blog or YouTube. I go over a variety of options for major muscle groups. Or YouTube, ask a friend, look up Synergy Fitness, Inc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXD69lc1OTY (this is one YouTube Video) or Alien Training http://www.alientraining.com/  – I like this dude (I get no profit from my recommendation. He’s got good stuff). Go to http://tabatatraining.org/ Great workouts, free, and more explanation on the method.

Body Mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard of mindfulness, and I would bet a number of you practice, but what about body mindfulness? Sure, in flexibility training, yoga class, or pilates you notice when you are asked to check in. What about when you run, bike, climb, shoot the ball, or skate? Do you focus your attention on where you are in space, how your body feels, and the sensations you experience? Here’s three steps to creating more body mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows us to focus our attention as a “Witness”. This allows space to observe what is going on around us and within us without attachment to the activity, thought, emotion, etc. From this point we have more access to our internal wisdom and therefore are better able to effectively meet the challenges in the given moment.

First, begin by setting an alarm on your phone, watch, oven timer, computer, or another way you can remember to do a “moment to pause”. Set it to random times throughout the day. This way you are training your mind to reflect despite your activity levels.

Next, pause when you hear your alarm. Notice how much you feel connected to your body. Stop whatever you are doing, take a deep breath and feel it all the way to your feet. Notice your feet on the support they are touching, then move to the legs – notice the front vs the back. Then your torso in space. Is is tilted to one side, twisted? Then pay attention to your arms, your hands, your shoulders. How do they feel? Finally, notice your neck, your head, your face. It may help you to close your eyes or choose a gazing point. Soften your gaze so you aren’t distracted by visual stimuli.

When you have finished the above it may be helpful to notice how in your body now. Is it different? How so?

Then return to your task and your day. Next bell check again. Notice any differences throughout the day. Over time this exercise allows you to gain more wisdom about your personal process, adds space in your day, and helps refocus your attention. See how you feel after a few weeks.

Making Sense of Physical Sensations

How much thought have you given to how much you judge physical sensations, label them, and then operate as though they are truth? How often have you used anxiety, excitement, or guilt to create a physical sensation to motivate you? Continuing from May’s concept of emotional and physical health connections, this month lets look at those most primitive and un-regulated body pieces to our intelligence – sensation.

Many of us feel a physical sensation and immediately jump to a conclusion about what it is, why it’s there, and react as though it must be true. Really, these items – like hot, cold, tight, loose, rough, soft, sharp, empty – are just information about what is going on in this moment, not the next one, not the one before it, this moment. Using mindfulness and curiosity it is possible to gather more information about what these physical sensations mean. We can then use them to inform our responses from an empowered place rather than react without considering the possibilities.

Begin to get comfortable with your body. How comfortable are you with the feelings (sensations) of your physical body? Are there areas you love? hate? ignore? that take more attention and focus than others? Are there places you feel strongly? Do these concepts even make sense?! If not you may want to slow down and consider how do you feel right now in your body? The trick to this exercise is to remember there is nothing to do, nothing to fix. It’s just about noticing what is going on in your body right now? Where is your attention drawn? Do not judge. Then use curiosity to “hang out” with this area and notice. What can you learn about this part of you? Where are it’s edges? Does it have a color? If it had one word what would it be telling you? Is it familiar? How is it different from similar past experiences?

As you begin this practice you begin to notice more and more of the body’s wisdom and you become better able to listen to it. Once you are able to hear what it has to say, listen to it. Follow it’s guidance and use this information to help you live a more embodied life. Living in your body isn’t just about shaping it. It’s also about enjoying it and living from within it. Embrace it’s wisdom and it will lead you toward a fuller and more engaged life.