Mindfulness with 5 Senses

One of the aims of my Mindfulness Matters group is to provide people with accessible, fool proof tools to help them ground in the present moment so that they can eradicate the inner critic, paralyzing self judgments, and gain the sense of empowerment they need to make the best choices about how to react to what pops up in their lives. Today, I wanted to share one of these tools with you. This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring us into a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two or, for whatever reason, you don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan, this five senses exercise can help you bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.

Use this exercise to quickly ground yourself in the present when you only have a moment. The goal is to notice something that you are currently experiencing through each of your senses. Begin by making sure you are seated or lying comfortably enough that you can relax, yet still upright enough that you can focus on the following questions. As you go through this set of questions, allow yourself to become immersed in each experience before moving on to the next question.

What are 5 things you can see?

What are 4 things you can feel?

What are 3 things you can hear?

What are 2 things you can smell?

What is 1 thing you can taste?

The numbers for each sense are only a guideline. Feel free to do more or less of each – remember to make modifications with Mindful awareness. You can also listen to a guided audio version of this exercise with my “Beyond the Couch” podcast episode easily. 

I would love to hear how this went for you! Be sure to share with us in our social media communities listed below so we can celebrate with you!

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A Closer Look at PTSD

One of the areas of work I feel particularly passionate about in my practice is facilitating recovery after a traumatic incident. Last week, I began a discussion of trauma and PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, one of my areas of specialty.

We often think of veterans when we think of PTSD. In large part, much of what we do know about trauma and PTSD is a result of the experiences of Vietnam veterans. Prior to that, while trauma responses existed, there had not been a whole lot of focus on understanding traumatic reactions. Although PTSD tends to be the issue that most often comes to mind when we consider trauma, there are a number of other responses to trauma, including things such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and difficulties in relationships. We will address some of these elements but, in our multi-episode Looking at Trauma series, we will mostly focus on PTSD. Most of these other issues are embedded within the constellation of PTSD and will make more sense as we understand PTSD.

To begin with, it’s important to understand what exactly a trauma is…

If we think about the definition of a trauma, it’s generally defined by dictionaries as a deeply distressing or disturbing occurrence. Often, in medical contexts, it’s described as a disruption. Different experts and different fields describe trauma in different ways, which can be confusing and even intimidate if we are looking to do our research.

However, there are some common elements in thinking about what a trauma specifically is. From the lens of mental health or psychology, trauma, as described by the American Psychological Association, is typically an emotional and somatic response to a terrible, overwhelming, situation.

According to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, traumatic events are shocking and emotionally overwhelming situations that may involve actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to physical integrity. While the World Health Organization describes trauma as more of an emergent/disaster based situation.

There are a number of different events that can be traumatic. Some examples of these situations that may immediately come to mind include a serious and potentially life-threatening accident, assault, natural disaster, or combat. Other types of experiences can be traumatic as well such as surviving or witnessing a crime or physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as bullying or even a big move. Sometimes, trauma responses can follow any major change or disruption in a person’s life.

Many people are exposed to traumatic events. In the time immediately following a trauma, most people will have the experiences of PTSD that we will talk about. However, over time, for many people, those experiences naturally decrease, and they are not diagnosed with PTSD. In other words, they naturally recover from the traumatic event. There are some people who do not recover and are later diagnosed with PTSD. Based on that, it is helpful to think of PTSD as a problem in recovery. Something got in the way of you having that natural process of recovery, and the work of therapy is to determine what got in the way and to change it so that you can recover from what happened. You and your therapist will be working to get you ̳unstuck.

Let’s look at this in more depth…

Because we know that PTSD experiences are nearly universal immediately following very serious traumatic stressors and that recovery takes a few months under normal circumstances, it may be best to think about diagnosable PTSD as a disruption or stalling out of a normal recovery process, rather than the development of a unique psychopathology. A therapist needs to determine what has interfered with normal recovery. In one case, it may be that someone believes that they will be overwhelmed by the amount of emotional reactivity that will emerge if he stops avoiding and numbing himself. Perhaps s/he was taught as a child that emotions are bad, that s/he should just get over it.‖ In another case, someone may have refused to talk about what happened with anyone because s/he blames herself for ―letting‖ the event happen and she is so shamed and humiliated that s/he is convinced that others will blame her, too. In a third case, a person may have seen something so horrifying that every time s/he falls asleep and dreams about it, s/he wakes up in a cold sweat. So, in order to sleep, s/he drinks heavily. Yet another person may be so convinced that s/he will be victimized again that s/he refuses to go out anymore and has greatly restricted his/her activities and relationships. In still another case, in which other people were killed, a person may have survivor guilt and obsesses over why s/he was spared when others were killed. S/he feels unworthy and experiences guilt whenever s/he laughs or finds himself enjoying something. In all these instances, thoughts or avoidance behaviors are interfering with emotional processing and reshaping our beliefs. There are as many individual examples of things that can block a smooth recovery as there are individuals with PTSD.

There are several categories of experiences that tend to follow a traumatic event. Last week, we more closely examined each of the categories.

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Showing Up Powerfully in Your Life

If you have ever said…
-I can’t focus or think straight
-I can’t seem to figure out what I want
-Everyone judges me
-I’m not good enough
HELP GET CLARITY AND SHOW UP POWERFULLY IN YOUR LIFE!

The Mindfulness Matters 12-week group will provide you with support + give you the skills to…
+ Notice the here and now experiences even when you are overwhelmed and unsettled so that you can participate in the parts of your life that are meaningful

+ Engage in activities even when you’re feeling scared or insecure so that you can lead a fulfilling life and feel happy

+ Stop comparing yourself to others and learn to feel fully comfortable in your own skin

+ Quiet your self-critical voice and learn to love yourself for exactly who you are

Groups are an amazing way for us to lean how to express ourselves and understand that we are not alone. The Mindfulness Matters Group will run on Tuesdays from 5:30pm to 6:30pm  beginning on July 11th and running through September 26th.

Space is limited to 6 participants to ensure that everyone in the group feels heard and has a meaningful experience.
**only 3 spaces remain**

New Mindfulness Matters Flyer PNG
If this group looks like a good fit for you, contact me for more details.

 

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The Vicious Cycle of Trauma and PTSD

As a Good Therapy Topic Expert, it is important to me to share information about the impact PTSD. In particular, with June the month of PTSD awareness, it is crucial to help provide accurate information about the struggles with this challenging experience.

Posttraumatic stress is characterized by intrusion, arousal, avoidance, and cognitive shifts—a cyclical experience that impedes the natural recovery process. You can read more about these experiences in my Good Therapy article here.

What did you learn in reading this? I’d love to hear your reactions and realizations – hit reply and let me know!

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A Closer Look at Reiki, Part 2

Last week, we looked a bit more thoroughly at understanding Reiki on the heels of my recent interview regarding how Reiki can impact our healing from compassion fatigue. Today, I wanted to further explore some questions about the impact of Reiki on our mental health.

Let’s begin with looking a bit at navigating overwhelming, stressful, and traumatic situations. An experience of trauma really takes a toll on us, particularly when there might be a greater sense of powerlessness and horror. In addition to the ways that Reiki can help to contribute to a greater sense of relief from the sadness and pain in secondary trauma and the stress and anxiety that accompany it, Reiki can help us stay more resilient when we are met with difficult situations and to also bounce back from them more readily and quickly. Another way that Reiki can help is that it can help us remain focused and think clearly which can help to navigate a difficult situation with more ease and set into motion factors that can bring on a better outcome. That on its own helps to cultivate a sense of empowerment and control which can really aid in combatting trauma.

We can also explore the ways that Reiki impacts depression. According to a study published in Alternate Therapies in Health and Medicine, patients who received regular Reiki treatments showed a significant reduction in the symptoms of psychological distress and depression. This symptom reduction continued for one year after the treatment regimen was complete.

The way that this works is that Reiki helps restore a person’s overall sense of balance, both in the mind and the body. This may help to improve the person’s mood and help him or her to overcome feelings of guilt and/or sadness that typically accompany depression.

We mentioned a few minutes ago that Reiki helped to slow down a person’s sympathetic autonomic system. This is the system that is activated when we experience anxiety and stress. It’s the primary mechanism in the fight or flight response. While the fight or flight response is valuable for us in the instant of a major stressor, over time, it begins to weaken us emotionally and physically. This then makes us more vulnerable to the negative impact of stress and anxiety. With this mechanism slowed down, our physiological responses to stress and anxiety begin to subside as well and provide us relief. In the Reiki mindset, there is a mind-body component to any kind of ailment whether it is physical or emotional and, in this case, there is an element of both present. Reiki works to restore the balance and harmony in both the emotional and physical body which can help us get back on track. Sessions provide a relaxing, soothing healing environment that ensures comfort and peace during the healing process. It’s this relaxed, peaceful state that helps to contribute to our emotional, physical, and mental well being.

Often, insomnia and fatigue come about as a result of something else going on – for some it’s stress, others anxiety, and we also often see it with depression and PTSD for example. In most cases, fatigue and insomnia tend to have an underpinning that indicates some kind of disharmony. Because Reiki works to restore balance by clearing away energetic or electrical blockages that get in the way of this harmony, it works to address the root cause of insomnia and fatigue.

I hope the last two weeks have given you a greater understanding of how Reiki can contribute to enhancing your life. You may still have questions or just be curious what it can offer you – just hit reply and let me know what you’re wondering!

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A Closer Look at Reiki, Part 1

Recently, I shared some thoughts on how Reiki can impact our healing from compassion fatigueReiki can impact our healing from compassion fatigue. I wanted to spend some time exploring some of the questions that were raised during that interview. Let’s look at some of the important points regarding Reiki healing:

Reiki therapy is a holistic, gentle energy work process that assists in physical, mental and emotional healing. It’s a simple and safe energy balancing technique that benefits everyone who receives it because when your energy is balanced and flowing, self-healing and positive transformation happens naturally. It works at the physical, emotional, and mental levels to release the energy blockages that create dis-ease. A Reiki session can help ease tension and stress and can help support the body to facilitate an environment for healing on all levels – physical, mental, and emotional.

I often describe Reiki treatment as analogous to radio or wifi waves. Our bodies are created by many things and each of those things has an electrical frequency, much like radio and wifi waves. The waves are always around us yet we need to be tuned in to the right station or network in order for the radio station or internet work. Reiki is much the same – the energy is always around but accessing it requires the specific training attunements of a practitioner.

While the Reiki energy that is crucial in Reiki session is one and the same, there are different branches or lineages of Reiki practice for treatment sessions. To put it simply, because Reiki teachings were disseminated then spread throughout the world, a variety of methods for delivery were cultivated. Much like the game of telephone, certain details and elements were modified or omitted as it was handed down. One reason for this is that teaching Reiki in different ways within different cultures made sense. Because of that, there are now about 10 different styles of mainstream Reiki, generally referred to as Western Reiki, and other smaller offshoots as well. The most common one of these is the Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho.

With that said, there is also a lineage of Reiki that kept the original teachings intact called Jikiden Reiki. Jikiden Reiki is less commonly known and is often thought of as more true to the original style of practice for Reiki. I offer both styles in my practice as I work with a variety of clients with different preferences.

In general, this balancing technique is a wonderful addition to any health program and can be used alongside other complementary therapies and conventional medicine, including psychotherapy. It’s important to note that Reiki is not a replacement for appropriate medical care. Instead, it supports medical care by accelerating self-healing, reducing pain or discomfort, and stimulating your body’s healing process.

That said, if all we are looking for is stress reduction, relaxation, and preventative wellness, Reiki can be a beautiful self-care practice on its own.

The International Association for Reiki Practitioners, or IARP, offers a directory for practitioners and has a code of ethics that all practitioners listed in the directory must abide by. People can check the directory for local Reiki practitioners and masters in their area or, since Reiki can be provided remotely, someone they feel most comfortable with. In selecting a practitioner, it’s important to make sure that he or she has adequate credentials. Make sure that the practitioner you select is certified at Level 2 or Okuden levels or higher which means they have been trained to provide Reiki treatment sessions to the public. Another thing for people to look for is someone who is willing to answer their questions, explain the format and structure of a session, and who takes the time to speak with them about their specific goals in seeking Reiki treatment.

In our second segment exploring a more in-depth perspective on Reiki, I will more thoroughly look at the mental health benefits of Reiki.

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Feeling Fatigued??

For many of us, there is often a feeling of giving and sharing so much of ourselves that there may be a chronic sense of fatigue, depression, or even anxiety. In particular, there are those of us that are giving so much of our empathy and compassion on a constant basis that we may be experiencing compassion fatigue.

While it can be so meaningful for us to share and give of ourselves in this way, it can leave us feeling too depleted, drained, and out of sorts to continue to do so – or even to continue on in our regular activities as before. This is what can make compassion fatigue so difficult.

Jennifer Blough’s The Compassion Fatigue Podcast addresses this same issue. When she reached out to me to discuss the ways that Reiki can help us through this dilemma, I was excited to share information. Reiki can be such a powerful tool in helping us to rebalance our physical, emotional, and psychological needs – which are the things that compassion fatigue depletes.

You can access more information about compassion fatigue here. If you find the show valuable, please feel free to share it with others, rate, review, and subscribe. That way, more people who need it can benefit from it. You can also read more about Reiki here and listen to my overview of it here as well.

What was your top takeaway from the show? Share your thoughts and reactions in our Facebook and Twitter communities!

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