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Mental Health

How Does Stress Affect Your Body? 

Your body is designed to handle small amounts of stress. You are a well-constructed machine with the capability to overcome most anything that happens to you on a regular day. But what happens when you’re not having a regular day or, as this pandemic marches on, you can’t even remember a regular day? 

Let’s take a look at how stress affects your body and what that means for you. 

The Anatomy of Stress 

A stressed body feels like a body under pressure. When you’re feeling stressed, you aren’t at your most effective. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, each part of your holistic being responds to the chain reaction of stress. Every system of your body is affected. 

What Does a Stressed Body Feel Like?

Like many things, stress is, unfortunately, a holistic experience. You feel it in your core and every vital system to your survival. Let’s look at each of our primary systems, how stress impacts their function, and the way you experience its effect. 

Muscles and Bones

When stress begins to rise in your body, your muscles coil and prepare for the impact ahead. Carrying around the tension of that preparation can lead to cramping and extraneous pressure on your skeletal system. The way you carry yourself changes to accommodate the tight muscles caused by stress. 

Breathing 

Stress destabilizes the pace you bring air into your lungs. When your breathing is rapid, your body struggles to keep up with supplying those important tissues with oxygen. This may feel like shortness of breath, tightness in your chest, or even trigger asthma attacks in vulnerable people. 

Heart

Much like your breathing, your pulse picks up when you’re feeling the pressure of the world around you. Stress causes a hiccup in the coordination between the flow of nutrient-rich blood from your heart to your body. Over time, it can cause chronic inflammation in your arteries.

Hormones 

Your body recognizes stress by its hormone signature. Most famously, cortisol levels are associated with both your stress response as well as your kidney function and energy levels. There are other hormones that interact with your stress levels though. Adrenaline, glucose, and even testosterone levels are all responsive to the stress you experience. 

Sleep

Stress can keep you awake at night, pondering the worries and woes you didn’t have time to worry about in your waking hours. Stress-induced insomnia affects your circadian rhythm and can make it feel impossible to let your body relax enough to find rest. 

Skin and Hair 

Stress can make skin and hair feel dull and temperamental. From flaring existing skin conditions to causing hair loss, there’s no shortage of the way stress can impact some of your most visible body systems. 

Digestive

Also called the gut-brain connection, your digestive system is undeniably linked to the things you think and feel. It’s no wonder that stress can cause all manner of gut discomfort. Gas, constipation, and heartburn are some of the most commonly reported impacts of stress on the stomach.

Reproductive

With stress playing havoc on hormonal systems, it’s no surprise to find that it also may impact your reproductive system. From desire to menstruation, there may be a change in the familiar patterns of your body when you’re stressed. 

Immune

When your body is battling your stress levels, it’s a whole lot harder to fight off intruding germs and bugs. Your immune system feels the strain and it exhibits a weakened response to the outside world that can make you sick. 

Can stress cause long-term damage? 

Stress shouldn’t be left unmanaged or without holistic care, it needs to alleviate the fight-or-flight intensity of it.  Over time, the reactions your body experiences due to stress can wear on you. Long-term stress can lead to serious diseases of important bodily systems. 

Chronic stress can cause or contribute to a number of disorders. From direct correlation to a waterfall effect, there is evidence that it can also contribute to the development of substance use disorders.

It’s possible to be addicted to stress too 

For some, stress is something that drives the desire to numb that often precedes substance use. For others though, stress can be an addiction all its own. If all you know is adrenaline-laced intensity, relaxation may feel unsafe to your body. Stress addiction stands apart from substance use recovery but many of the treatments can overlap in how they engage your body to begin rewriting your healing. 

Identifying the cause of your stress and the effects you feel from it in your daily life can be a powerful tool to stop it in its tracks. Through a sustainable and consistent routine, you can develop the tools to reduce your stress alongside your road to recovery today. At Villa Kali Ma, we offer programs to help our clients combat the effects of stress on a holistic level. Connect with us today to learn more about how we help our clients heal and manage stress. 

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Mental Health

How to Start Journaling for Mental Health

Journaling is one of the easiest, most accessible, and low-cost ways to nurture mental health. 

There are many ways to journal. It’s ok to experiment and play around until you find a practice that fits you. If you’re doing journaling at all, then you’re learning and you’re on your way.

Free writing

As the name suggests, the practice of free writing involves writing freely and without stopping for a predetermined amount of time, such as for 15 minutes. 

Important to understand is that you are not writing anything specific, you are more like dumping out the contents of your mind, a bit like you might overturn a messy drawer to see what is in there. 

Like meditation, the practice is to simply notice what is there without engaging with it particularly, letting it appear & disappear according to its own flows.

You are not writing for the outcome, as you might if you were composing a poem or an essay. It’s more like mental jogging. 

The biggest challenge of free writing is our tendency to interrupt ourselves with judgments. We may find it’s hard to let go; we may want to control, shape, or manage what we are writing. 

With repetition you get the hang of simply turning on the tap of words and letting them flow. 

Benefits of free writing:

Free writing builds trust in the unknown, and strengthens powers of discipline, concentration, and focus. 

Journaling About Feelings

Journaling about feelings is a more targeted technique, and the time to use it is when you notice you’re upset.  

When triggered to use, or feeling hurt, anxious or angry, we don’t want to act on those feelings or share those raw emotions and thoughts just yet.

Rather, we can transmute the feelings into something easier to share and safer to act on by first spending time journaling on the question: “What’s going on with me right now?”

Very important with this journaling method: Don’t try to be good. Don’t should on yourself, by judging, suppressing or trying to improve the feelings. Feelings hate that. 

Rather, just let the feelings out. Let the thoughts, especially the ugly, selfish, angry, babyish ones, be just as they are. Personally, I’m a big believer in cussing in my journal. 

Benefits of Journaling About Feelings:

After releasing the full emotion and all it has to say into the journal, you feel better and you know more about what’s really going on. Then you can make calm decisions about what, if anything, you want to say and do from here. 

Lists

Lists are exactly what they sound like. You identify a category and list all the things you can think of that go in that category. 

Suggested lists to journal on:  

What am I grateful for? 

What do I surrender to my Higher Power? 

What am I holding as a burden today? 

What do I need help with today? 

What do I long for?

The options are infinite, so certainly make up your own categories. You can get very creative. 

However there are two key lists which are helpful for anyone in recovery: a List of Fears and a List of Resentments. That’s because fears and resentments are the biggest triggers to use. So definitely include the following two lists in your practice from time to time:

What am I mad about? 

What am I scared of?

After completing a list, the suggestion is that you take a moment to form the intention in your mind and heart, to surrender all of the items on the list to God, your higher power, or to your own inner Observer (whatever loving presence is the most trustworthy to you.) 

Benefits of Lists:

In addition to helping you get back to surrender, lists create space in the psyche, giving you room to breathe again. 

Dialogue

My personal favorite journaling tool is dialogue. 

The way to dialogue is write out a conversation, in the same format as you would a script for a play or a film. The dialogue is between yourself and some portion of yourself that you’re curious about or struggling with. 

Me: Hi, again, Fear. 

My Fear: Hi Holly Mae.

Me: How are you doing? 

Fear: Not great… 

Me: Ah. Want to tell me about it?

Go back and forth between the sides of you and witness their interaction. 

Benefits of Dialogue: 

Dialogue allows you to get to know the many different sides of your own nature. This helps you to dis-identify from all of them, while you gradually grow to care more for each side of you. Ultimately, dialogue leads you to harmonize all the forces moving and shaping you from within. 

~~

Have fun journaling!

Categories
Mental Health

Sleep Deprivation and Mental Health: How to heal the relationship between them

Sleep is closely connected to mental health in every way. Being deprived of rest can amplify your mental health struggles. Anxiety, addiction, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder are all exacerbated by lack of sleep. 

From the way it makes you feel to the physiological processes that happen on a holistic scale, your sleep is a critical part of you.  Without adequate rest, you may struggle to hold on to new information or recall familiar information. When we feel out of touch with the memories and moments that connect us to our sense of identity, it can perpetuate feelings of frustration and anxiety that may have been present prior to the sleeplessness.  

Before you can act on improving your sleep, let’s take a look at how sleep deprivation may be showing up in our mental (and physical) health. 

Feeling the Fog & Other Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

During the waking hours when you’ve gotten less than ideal sleep, you may feel fuzzy or a step behind the rest of the world. You’ll be wasting precious energy reserves wading through the roadblocks of exhaustion when you’re not getting enough rest and it may lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, or broken concentration. Those foggy frustrations are just the beginning of the relationship sleep has with mental and physical health symptoms. 

If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, you may be impacted by 
  • Exacerbated depression
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Inhibited cognitive function 
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Depressed immune system
  • Muscle fatigue 
  • Feelings of lethargy 

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be. 

Sleep deprivation impacts the lives and minds of each of us in different but indelible ways. We want to help you understand what’s happening in your mind when the sandman won’t bestow you with quality sleep, and how you can be your own bedtime hero. 

Let’s take a look together at how sleep deprivation and mental health are related so you can improve both. 

Factors Related to Sleep Deprivation & Mental Health

Quality and quantity

It’s not just the amount of sleep you get that’s tied to your mental health. The quality matters too. When you sleep poorly, you’ll feel every struggle more deeply, amplifying anxiety and deepening depression on the days those snoozing minutes just don’t add up. 

Less sleep means more mental health distress, and more mental health distress is likely to keep you awake at night. The compounding nature of the relationship between sleep and mental health is an ouroboros that’s consuming your energy in so many ways. 

Environment 

Consider the way you’re sleeping and how much you’re allowing yourself the space to get quality rest. Turn down the tone of the world in the hours before you go to sleep. Give yourself a barrier of relaxation and choose an activity that promotes feelings of calm for you. Reduce your exposure to noise and lower the lights but don’t move toward the bedroom until you’re ready to commit to sleep. 

If you can’t sleep, it’s important to get out of bed and choose another activity until you feel tired again before returning to bed. Laying in bed awake restarts your circadian rhythm and you may struggle to fully relax, creating a playground for awake thoughts during sleeping hours. 

Routine 

When it comes to healthy sleep, routine reigns supreme. Develop a plan and schedule you can commit to then stick to it. Think about what makes you feel sleepy, or prepared for sleep. Maybe it’s yoga or a breathing routine to calm your body, or a playlist that soothes the busy thoughts in your mind. From there, consider how you can incorporate the self-care and daily preparation you need to do. Think of it as a route that you take to sleep- your calm commute if you will. This routine will signal your body that it’s time for sleep, and as time goes on, it will be easier to shift into rest once it begins. 

Napping for better sleep 

Limiting naps or long lie-ins can be helpful in filling your sleep deficit. That doesn’t mean Naps of 15-20 minutes are great for a refresh that doesn’t leave you feeling tired after, and naps of around 90 minutes give you enough time to complete an entire sleep cycle. The struggle comes when you nap in that interim period- naps of 30-80 minutes can be disruptive to your sleep patterns and establish broken cycles that you struggle to regulate in nightly sleep. Those kinds of naps should be avoided for a more blissful bedtime. 

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Mental Health

5 Myths About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that alters your brain chemistry, resulting in extreme and unstable moods. These extreme fluctuations, and the slow cycling between them are that set bipolar disorder apart from mood swings make it difficult for the body to adjust to what you’re feeling, resulting in an inability to live holistically with unmanaged bipolar disorder. Taking charge of your health and cultivating a healing relationship with your mind is empowering, but it may feel scary or confusing to do so with so much misinformation littering the helpful finds. 

Whether you are looking to destigmatize your own experience with bipolar, understand a loved one’s diagnosis or make sense of the impact bipolar disorder has had on your life, let’s begin by separating the fact from the myth with us below. 

1.) Myth: There’s one kind of bipolar disorder.

Fact: There are currently four specific types of bipolar disorder. 

According to the DSM-5, the symptoms of bipolar most commonly occur in four ways. 

Bipolar I is a manic-dominant episodic mood disorder, while bipolar II is marked by experiences of both hypomanic and depressive episodes. Cyclothymia is characterized by symptoms similar to bipolar disorder and is classified as a milder subtype of erratic cyclical periods of mania and depression. Lastly, bipolar not otherwise specified (NOS) has the hallmark bipolar symptoms of unpredictable and extreme mood shifts but doesn’t quite fit any typing. 

2.) Myth: Bipolar is just a fancy term for mood swings. 

Fact: Bipolar Disorder is a chronic disorder of mood episodes. 

Mood swings are a cycle of human experience. People move through the world responding to the things they see and feel. Those responses create moods, and those moods may change quickly but typically last minutes or hours. When you live with bipolar disorder, mood episodes that last for days or more often weeks are a draining part of your lived experience. It is not something that happens to you occasionally or cycles past quickly, but something that you live alongside constantly. 

3.) Myth: Treating your bipolar disorder will kill your creativity. 

Fact: Your art is not a product of your struggle. 

While mania may make you feel like you’ve had a stroke of genius, there is no sustainability to manic episodes. Receiving treatment that makes you feel empowered can hone your artistic instincts, but it doesn’t change who you are or what you’re capable of. You can strip back the unparalleled ferocity of disordered moods to cultivate controlled chaos that allows you to use your creativity in ways that feel best for you.

4.) Myth: Bipolar disorder is curable. 

Fact: Bipolar disorder is treatable. 

There is no cure for a disordered brain response to the hormones that influence your mood. Diagnosis is a phenomenal first step to controlling the power your mood episodes have over your daily life, however. Alongside possible treatments from a physician for symptoms of bipolar affecting your health, treatments for mind, body and spirit can help to align and balance your response to mood episodes. Even still, you may still experience symptoms of bipolar and there is nothing wrong with you if that’s the case. 

5.) Myth: Bipolar disorder is rare. 

Fact: Bipolar affects millions of people. 

Over 2.5% of the world’s population are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and there are undoubtedly many who remain undiagnosed. There are a number of factors that increase the likelihood of developing it, notably having a family history of mood disorders. You are not alone in experiencing the difficult and often confusing symptoms of bipolar disorder, and connecting with others who can relate to your experiences may be a cathartic part of your healing.  

Living with any mood disorder can be fraught with confusion and frustration. Particularly when you are living (or learning to live) with bipolar disorder, fighting the uphill battle against myths and misunderstanding feels like a lot. It is a lot, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

Community is key for feeling supported as you navigate the struggles (and strengths) of your unique bipolar experience. Whether you are struggling with co-occuring conditions like substance use or just looking to be understood, developing supportive relationships is key to flourishing with bipolar. 

Your experience is unique, tailored to who you are and what you need as a holistic person.  The treatment you seek for your bipolar disorder should be too. Being honest about the experiences you have with bipolar, the struggles you face and the healing you’re hoping for are all within reach when you begin to untangle the myth from fact. Your bipolar disorder is not your identity. There is hope, and Villa Kali Ma is here to help you heal. 

 

 

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Mental Health

How to Improve Mental Clarity (5 Tips to a clearer mind)

You’re sitting at your keyboard preparing for that meeting in 10 minutes and you know exactly what you need to accomplish before it starts, but every time you return to your task you find yourself refreshing your email. You don’t need your email. Indeed, you don’t even need your computer for this task but you’re caught in the loop of brain fog and struggling to accomplish anything beyond the immediate. 

Feel familiar? Us too.  

The daily mix of routine and upheaval can be a battle of wills between body and mind. If you’re struggling to find the clarity you need to win that battle today, we’ve got you covered. With five tips to find your way through the fog and a variety of programs to support you, let’s clear the haze together. 

1. Get the rest you need

Everyone has differing opinions on how much sleep we need to be successful and well rested. Both sleep deprivation and sleep cycle disruption can contribute to the feeling of brain fog that invades your waking hours.

If getting 8 hours doesn’t feel attainable or isn’t doing the trick, try focusing on the quality of sleep as well as finding ways to rest your body and reset. By reducing pre-bedtime screen exposure to focus on relaxation and lowering the temperature, you can create a more ambient resting space to make the most of your sleep. 

2. Connect with nature 

That sweet, sweet vitamin D does us all a little good but even if the sun isn’t shining, getting outside can be a powerful way to sweep away the dust in your mind. Increase clarity by going for a walk to get your blood pumping and take in the world around you as you go. 

Plan a hike to that summit you’ve always wanted to see or go explore a forgotten corner of your local beach. Spending time in less structured spaces and engaging with the beauty of the world around you is a powerful way to create a clearer consciousness. 

3. Focus with mindfulness 

Our mindfulness practices give a boost to body, mind and spirit. Both mindfulness and meditation can help you to  increase your focus, productivity and blood oxygenation levels- all a part of a clear mind. 

If you’ve never practiced mindfulness before, it may seem quite simple. Focusing inward on the breath and acceptance of whatever comes can be trickier than meets the eye. If you find yourself struggling, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying a group practice may help hone your mindfulness skills. 

4. Eat more brain fuel 

You already have to eat, so you may as well make that food work for you.  What we eat becomes a part of who we are and how we think. Balancing your diet to include the things that help superpower our brain function will maximize clarity without an active task to add to your schedule. 

Your brain is made primarily of fats, so a healthy dose of omega-3s will replenish and support your busy brain cells every day. Add a bit of caffeine for a supercharged boost to energy – make it green tea to double up on beneficial brain food. Last, focus on antioxidant intake from a variety of foods like blueberries, oranges, turmeric, or even broccoli for a colorful edge. 

5. Anchor yourself with awareness

Whether it’s awareness of the task you’re creating or awareness of your limitations, being aware of what may crowd your mind helps to lessen the burden. Distractions that creep in gives them the element of surprise, which can add to the stress, so give them breathing room for 5 or 10 minutes a day.

“Every day, stand guard at the door of your mind, and you alone decide what thoughts and beliefs you let into your life. For they will shape whether you feel rich or poor, cursed or blessed.”

– John Rhone

 

Stay aware of the shape of your task. Providing some structure to your headspace (and your schedule) by putting a hard limit on how long those distractions can take a front seat can help you to navigate them with more control. 

Clarity is more than concentration 

There are so many facets to the things that go on in our mind. From conscious to unconscious, we move through millions of moments and processes every day. Some linger, creating a condensation of complication that can gather into a haze and keep us from feeling our best. That doesn’t feel great, especially when you’re busier than you want to be and still have so much to do. 

You have the power to lift the fog and clear your mind. With the tools we’ve learned together and the many you arrived here with, clarity is already within your grasp. For more support or individual guidance, reach out to us today

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Mental Health

Mindfulness and Addiction

Whatever we were looking for as we journeyed through addiction, it certainly wasn’t mindfulness. You might even say we sought mindlessness.

We wanted to be “comfortably numb”, as the song goes. Fuller, deeper awareness of our own experience was the opposite of what we were after. 

Mindfulness does in fact walk in the other direction. Mindfulness digs towards embodied, grounded, integrated wakefulness. It creates a palpable body, inside of which we discover a spacious dimension. Mindfulness summons presence within us, a part able to tolerate all sensations, feelings, thoughts, and inner conflicts of the human condition.

A curiosity you may have noticed when playing with mindfulness: in an inner ambience of openness, acceptance, and stillness, a painful state of being sooner or later clears itself, dispelling all on its own. 

This is great news for those of us who like the idea of problems taking care of themselves without us having to do anything about it. If we can learn to provide compassionate witness to whatever is in us – that means a kind, loving, patience – we can learn for ourselves to eventually trust this natural process of consciousness taking care of its own needs. 

Simple, but not easy, like most good things!

If you’re like me, in the sense that you are influenced by the addict archetype, the idea of being more aware of what’s going on internally sounds at least a little bit threatening. The suggestion to experience what it’s like to be me more vividly…no thanks. I’m quite aware of what it’s like to be me, and it’s not that fun some days.

Mindfulness leads us towards ourselves, which is why those of us under the spell of addiction fear it, because we do not want to go towards ourselves. Ourselves is where the pain is, so we’re trying to get away from there. 

At the root of the problem of addiction, however, is the fact that avoidance of our inner sensations, no matter how justified, only makes it worse. Yes, our inner worlds are hellish sometimes. Yes, it is a natural reaction to pull our consciousness away from those hell realms to keep from fracturing. And yes, it all still needs to one day be witnessed mindfully. Because mindful loving witness heals. 

By avoidance, we turn the heap of problems that burdens us into a raging fire capable of true destruction. Because all inner soul signals suffer from the state of disconnection from love, when we withdraw our loving attention from our own inner signals, we are guaranteeing their exacerbation. 

And what’s within us is not an accident or an inconvenience. It’s not just the background hum of our life – it actually is our life. It’s us. If we’re in pain, that pain is us. All that we are yearning for is bound up in that pain. 

Mindfulness is what will take that pain and release it into a different kind of energy – aliveness, maybe even joy. Certainly, creativity and purpose. 

Ultimately, mindfulness will do for us what we tried to have happen through substances – help us tolerate what it’s like to be us. Help us transform. Reduce the volume, the intensity, & difficulty of that which we must face. Give us the power to experience our lives from a place of agency.  

Fortunately, there are many ways to be mindful. While we do need to be honest with ourselves about what mindfulness really is and what it is not, there are many paths in. We should walk in the ways that feel comfortable and most accessible to us, especially when first starting out. 

If you are able to access a kind self-witness through running, great. If a gentle flow state comes to you most easily when singing, painting, wandering in nature, great. Celebrate that. If you find peace in yoga or sit on a cushion, wonderful.

Self-validate if it is hard for you. Many of us have to spend years first building basic safety at the physiological level to be able to spend any time witnessing our own signals. 

That means learning to work with the nervous system to create and sustain sensations of safety, just being in your own skin and feeling ok. Experiment with calling upon the soothing powers of the parasympathetic nervous system, using practices like chanting and breath to help our biology work with us rather than against us. 

Above all, honor your own way. You are allowed to have a different experience than the others. Your mindfulness will be yours, as mine is mine. And the gifts you get from your mindfulness practice will be yours, too, truly yours. 

Categories
Mental Health

Willpower and Addiction: the Silver Lining

Of all the things addiction takes from the human spirit, most devastating of all is the loss of free will.

Handing ourselves over to the tyrannical rule of the addict within results in a soul-chilling condition: complete absence of personal power. 

No one has perfect control over themselves, and that’s ok. But in our intact state we normally have what is called “executive functioning”, which means that we can use our heads to decide what is best.  

Addiction takes away the executive function and rules us from the bottom up. Over time, we take on the form of a chaos of instincts rather than a coherent living organism with choice and meaning.  

The shame and guilt of having no self-control – being too gluttonous, too self-indulgent, going too far, wanting too much, not being able to say no – is a signature experience of the addict.

It is very debilitating not to be able to rely on one’s own will to make good choices. It’s embarrassing, at times humiliating, and it erodes self-respect. Not liking ourselves, we have even more of a reason to avoid ourselves through addiction.

But we can be released from excessive self-reproach through understanding that it’s not personal; addiction just is what it is. It’s an illness that targets willpower.

Treatment programs and recovery programs typically emphasize that to get anywhere in recovery, we must begin with recognizing the impairment of our will that has taken place without our realizing it. The addict within hides the facts of addiction from us, so that we did not see ourselves clearly. Even though no one likes to realize such a thing, there is a curious freedom on the other side of it. 

The silver lining of the loss of willpower is that we realize it no longer makes sense to blame and condemn ourselves. During the addiction we have to constantly struggle with ourselves – we fight, shame and blame ourselves, make up excuses, set intentions only to break them again. This is so dispiriting!

In recovery, we can set aside this whole dehumanizing pattern and recognize that like it or not, we have lost the executive ability of the brain to override our thoughts and impulses. 

In the state of surrender which recovery requires, we are arguably better off than if we had managed to keep our willpower intact. Recovery demands that something else other than the ego, something besides the “the little me” personality (Eckhart Tolle’s way of putting it) has to take charge here. 

The beauty of this is that the ego is really no fun, so in the end it’s a blessing to have it cracked away by recovery. The ego isn’t good or bad per se – what it is is an answer to pain, a collection of defenses and ways of separating ourselves from others psychologically so that we don’t have to constantly experience overwhelming feelings. It’s a patch, a band aid, a hack. It keeps us together for a while, but life under the ego is not the same thing as a fulfilling, joyful, meaningful, creative, or connected life.

The choice that addiction really takes from us is the option of living egoically only. What recovery shows us is that there is an alternative to living in the solitary confinement of ego – we can learn to rely on benevolent presence, higher forces, unity consciousness to help us navigate.  

Within an overall surrender to higher intelligence (which I believe is our own, and is found deep within us at the collective, unified level, as well as out there all around us), we can have preferences. We can collaborate. We can say “I vote we do this”. 

But it remains wise to say, “If that is in alignment with the best good of all” or to add on a quick “Your will, not mine”. 

There is still a part within me that does not want to yield control, nor admit she’s not really the best one to decide. That’s my ego, and just because I fired her from the executive role, it doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion. Of course she wants to be in charge. We all would like to have potency, agency and influence. I acknowledge it’s ok that she wants it. 

But I still choose to say, “I hear you, but let’s just run this up the flagpole first & see what Unity says.” I do that because I have found out the long, hard, un-fun way, what happens if I don’t. And I have found out the long, hard, un-fun way, the kind of pleasure, fulfillment, and lovely creative surprise that can happen if I do

Categories
Mental Health

How to Improve Your Mindset: 5 Tips for People with Trauma 

It’s helpful on this rather demanding human journey to have a positive attitude, right? If you have a great outlook on life, you are more likely to have good experiences. 

To change our mindsets, it is recommended to try on the idea that what takes place around us as seemingly independent events, as well as our feelings about those events, are inseparably connected to our beliefs about ourselves and the world. 

The trouble is that most people with trauma are imprinted with the mindset that they do not have any power, not even the power to change their own mindsets. So this can be a tricky space for us.

I want to be very clear that I am not saying that bad things that happen to you are your fault. There is genuine victimization and abuse in this world. Harm and trespass is not our fault. 

Especially important is to recognize that terrible things happened to us when we were too young or otherwise disempowered to defend ourselves, and that these experiences left us with “bad mindsets”.

We can’t change what happened in the past. The area where we do have influence over our lives is when and where we may be re-creating our victimization now, through the ways that our deep beliefs shape our experiences.  

The most problematic mindsets tend to be variations on the following themes: 

-It’s all my fault (self-scapegoating)

-I deserve bad stuff to happen to me (turning on the self)

-Nothing I do makes any difference so it’s useless to try (helplessness)

-I have no value/I am bad (self-devaluation)

-I am abandoned/unloved/alone (isolation)

-the world is all bad/unsafe/scary (splitting)

-my experience is controlled by you/someone other than me (agency is located outside the self)

That is by no means a comprehensive list but if you recognize any of those themes, please understand that there is trauma at play, which is largely the case with those of us who have a harder time changing our mindsets, and consequently our experiences in the world, than others may seem to. 

Once you’ve identified what might be the core mindset, think about if you’re willing to change it, and if you are, go ahead and replace it. If you’re not really willing, work on becoming willing. (This is more often the case than we might think, because our core beliefs feel like they protect us.) 

Once you’re willing, the changing of the mindset is literally what it sounds like. Identify the mindset you want to have instead, and replace it, like a car battery. 

“Instead of believing that I am inherently bad, I will now uphold and empower the belief that I am inherently good.” 

Repeat it enough times, say it and write it and think it and act as if it’s true, and eventually it will become your own. Like breaking in a new pair of shoes.

Here are a few mindset changes I have found helpful, which you might like to adopt, too: 

1. The mother of all mindset changes: Mindsets can be changed.

Mindsets are changeable. Neuroplasticity is a thing. Trauma is healable. Humans can learn. We are resilient. It’s amazing what can change in a short time of doing things in a new way. 

2. The Me-to-us mindset change: This is a shared human experience.

Whatever I face is a universal human experience. I may feel alone, but I am actually one among many. I experience this along with many others. Together we will improve this. 

3. The Silver lining mindset change: Every experience has a positive aspect.

If I am finding it hard to change a mindset, perhaps I am not yet done with this mindset’s positive side. What is the hidden positive side of this mindset? Having this mindset allows me to feel…to do…to experience…OK, I accept why I am still holding onto this one.

4. The Fake it until You Make it Mindset change: Acting “as if” really works

It works to practice and try and fake it. All baby mammals learn this way, by pretending to do what their parents do. One day, you can do it for real. 

5. The Make-it-A-Habit Mindset: Easy Does Do It.

It is repetition, not strain, that turns a new behavior into second nature. To make something feel easy, turn it into a habit, by doing a little bit in an easy, almost effortless way, every day at the same time for at least 21 days. For example: you might write your new belief down 12 times, every day for 21 days, and see what happens.

Remember: you can do it, it can be done, and the whole world benefits from every tiny bit of progress you make. Thank you for your courage to change!

Categories
Mental Health

Why Depression should be taken Seriously

The most tragic thing about not taking depression seriously is when we don’t get to receive its gift. 

What depression presents us with is deep and beautiful – the great boon of being redirected away from all that’s wrong for us, back towards our Selves. 

I’m talking about our truest, biggest, deepest, most satisfying Selves. What’s real within us is a treasure; depression is what it feels like when we’re out of touch with that. 

Harm happens to us gradually or quickly when we don’t listen to depression. In extreme cases, we hurt ourselves. Sometimes we succeed at finally destroying ourselves once and for all. 

So if we’re feeling down, it’s important not to brush it off. If we brush it off too long, it will do damage to our core.

If you are depressed, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with you. Depression is feedback from your true nature. Something in you is saying no to something about your life. Depression is a big, huge, sacred no. 

The gift comes when you ask yourself, if this is my psyche saying no, what would I say yes to? 

Depression will say nope to everything but your true life. Depression says: “I want to live my real life, and I recognize that this is not it. Let me go find my true purpose and live it.”

Here are three ways of thinking about depression which may feel helpful for opening up the gift, if it’s knocking at your door these days.

1. Depression is about death – and rebirth!

Depression is death energy. This can mean a lot of things, but definitely something within you is dying to make way for the new. If we are not behaving supportively for this transformation, if we are resisting or clinging to old ways of being, depression can get quite fierce as it tries to get our acknowledgement of its truth.

Remembering that depression is a sacred nope, ask yourself: What am I saying no to? What needs to die within me? What is coming to an end? Is there a part within me who doesn’t want to live the way I live now? Why doesn’t she? Is there anything I could do, some change I could make, that would make her feel excited to live? 

The answer might surprise you, and give you valuable clues about what you’re really here to do. Your depression is a part within you who knows you are in your nature, as well as what your real mission and purpose is here. 

2. Depression is about anger

As the adage goes, depression is anger turned inwards. If you are depressed, you are angry about something, but that anger has collapsed inwards, and does not have the sense of possibility and power normally connected to anger. 

Anger goes inwards when we do not approve of our own anger. If we cannot side with ourselves, and we tell ourselves we are wrong for being mad, it can easily turn into a black depression. 

From the starting place of depression, conscious, vivid, lively anger on our own behalf is a healthy destination. This anger is not for acting out towards others, but for our own learning about who and what we are in our deepest nature.

So see if you can find out what you may be mad about & validate your right to be angry about it. 

The information you want to get from yourself is: which of my vitally important boundaries have been crossed? Which of my universal human needs are not being met?

The information you get in this way helps you to see who you are and what you need to be yourself more fully in this world.

3. Depression is a call to go inwards: let yourself do that.

Finally, give yourself the darkness you need. Depression asks you to stop focusing energy towards the bright, noisy externals of your life, and to pull inwards.

You may like to treat a depressed period like a psychological flu: something that needs stillness, rest, quiet time and solitude. 

Turn and face the darkness that is already within you, see what treasures are there when your eyes adjust. Don’t push yourself to be on the surface of life when you are being called to go underground.

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The gift in the end is this: if you are living your life “wrong”, you will feel it as depression. If you are living your life “right” (according to you and you only!) you will feel it as joy, energy, purpose and alignment. 

It’s that simple. Depression, as awful as it feels, is the best friend ever. A friend that tells us the truth, about how small we are living compared to our true, magnificent size. May we all learn to respect depression’s voice.

Categories
Mental Health

How To Get The Most Out Of Therapy

Therapy is the multitool of healing. With various shapes and applications, there’s a suitable fit for everyone, but finding the right fit for you and figuring out how to get the most out of therapy can be entirely different processes. 

Maybe it’s your first time, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you’re just starting back, and the thought of establishing such a relationship again feels overwhelming to you. Or maybe the expanse of possibility- and your role in it- is the very thing holding you back from beginning at all. 

There are many things you can do to contribute to the benefit of your therapeutic experiences. The most crucial part is that you’re here and you’re willing, but we want to help you build on the knowledge you can bring into the therapeutic relationship to ensure you leave feeling as empowered as possible. From session to session to the overarching tone of your healing journey, you deserve to feel prepared. 

So, how can you get the most out of therapy? 

Be accountable 

Taking responsibility for your actions as well as your attitudes and emotions is a valuable part of the therapeutic process. Accountability is the process of recognizing the gravity of your consciousness in the way you exist in the world, even when that gravity feels uncomfortable. This may mean accepting fault for wrongdoing or bearing the knowledge that the way you engage with those around you altered the situation you encountered in a way that wasn’t ideal. 

It’s not all hard revelations, though. Accountability also means accepting the positive consequences of your presence or actions. Being accountable for the knowledge you bring or the value of your impact on situations that grew or expanded because you were a part of them can help you identify strengths and develop those skills to be a more comprehensive part of your worldview. 

Embracing accountability as a required part of your healing will help you to help yourself by seeing the places you could respond to old feelings or experiences in new ways. In turn, this will create the space for your therapist to help you build your skillset at recognizing those opportunities for growth and the tools to unlock new potential for your compassionate accountability to serve you positively. 

Embrace curiosity 

An element of the curious lingers in the unfamiliar. Often, we grow to recognize this with resistance or suspicion. Some of us may experience new things with an edge of defensiveness. Embracing the unfamiliar in all its formats can help you expand your holistic perspective beyond your most hopeful daydreams by embracing the possibility hidden in the mundane. 

 

What if I am bad at this?  What if this is a hidden strength?
What if my plans go wrong? What if my plans go right?
What if it’s painful?  What if it’s liberating?
What if no one likes me? What if I find space to belong?

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you’re familiar with the power of the “what if?’. By inviting curiosity into your therapeutic spaces, you can re-shape the impact of “what if?” by offering it a connotation of wonder. Curiosity can be a powerful way to engage your imagination as an active part of reshaping your reality when you allow yourself to flourish in the safety of therapy, guided by an expert who is there to support you through the experiences you have. 

Speak up 

You are your most powerful ally. Using your voice to communicate clearly and concisely about what you need and how you feel is an important tool you can use to guide your therapeutic experience. If you know what you want from therapy or have specific goals, share them. Suppose there’s something that’s not working or you think could be going better. In that case, it’s okay to initiate a conversation about re-evaluating those elements to ensure they’re an ideal fit for where you are today. Maybe the space you occupy on your recovery journey has changed, or the emotions you’re experiencing have been impacted by something you couldn’t have anticipated. 

No matter what it is that’s weighing on you, good or bad, you are a powerful advocate for your needs. Through therapy, you’ll learn how to use it, and here is the best place to exercise its power to ensure you are getting the most beneficial support possible. 

Show Up, Authentically 

The most valuable tip we can offer you is to be authentic. Show up as your whole self for the whole time. From the very start, it’s key to ensure your therapist sees all sides of your personality. Resist the urge to downplay your strengths and gloss over your flaws. You are here to grow, and judgment of your character has no place in a holistic healing relationship. When you bring your authentic self to therapy, you invite the therapist into the vulnerable spaces where healing begins so it can take place most holistically. 

You have the power to shape your healing journey, and we’re here to help along the way.