[Rerun] Self-care made simple

From Dr. Kathleen Young's blogOne of the most potent things I have found, both in my training and with my clients, is the utmost importance of self-care. For every acute problem, every chronic stress, every relationship explosion, cancer diagnosis, loathed job or existential crisis, self-care comes up again and again as not just the most important, but the very first thing that needs doing.

This is true not just for my clients, but for me, and other practitioners.  As they say, you’ve gotta make sure your own oxygen mask is secure before helping others.  And as the Rubenfeld principle goes, self care is the first step to client care.  And, lest we forget that other principle: each client is ultimately responsible for his or her own healing.

So it’s not all that surprising that when a client tells me something difficult, and I can feel my mirror neurons firing and my shoulders tightening, my breath growing shallow…the first thing I need to do, before I can even respond, is to check my own breath, my own body, return to my center, and respond from there.  If I do anything else, I put myself in it with them.  And, as anyone who has had someone so upset over something that happened to you that you ended up taking care of them knows, nothing good can come of that.

In my own continuing therapeutic journey, I’ve recently been introduced to Oasis in the Overwhelm, a little book by ex-Catholic nun, nightclub singer, type A go-getter, and Rubenfeld Synergist Millie Grenough.  Its essential core is four 60-second strategies for re-centering and calming yourself, basically at any time and place.

I already have a number of strategies that I use for this, and I pass them on to my clients when I feel they are needed. And of course there are more involved self-care pieces: working out more, eating better, getting enough sleep – all those things that your doctor is always telling you to do.

But for people who want solutions that they can learn quickly and use anywhere…I have to say that this is pretty fabulous.  Once I internalize them myself, I will definitely be incorporating them into my practice. Hint: they involve stretching, breathing, checking in with your body, and focusing on an object of comfort.

Go check it out.

 

How our minds can make us young again

Image by Candida Performa on Flickr

Image by Candida Performa on Flickr

This remarkable article, “What if Age is Just a Mindset?”, about the work of psychologist Ellen Langer, ran this week in the New York Times. Its basic idea – that our minds have more power over the youth and health of our bodies than we’ve dared to imagine – is one that is near and dear to me and my work in ways that any readers of this blog already know.

[Langer]’s one of the people at Harvard who really gets it…That health and illness are much more rooted in our minds and in our hearts and how we experience ourselves in the world than our models even begin to understand.

Langer – a plainly dynamic and driven woman from the Bronx who reminds me not a little of Ilana Rubenfeld in this profile – has done experiments throughout her career that show the ways that our mindset can profoundly affect our physical health. Over time, “she came to think that what people needed to heal themselves was a psychological ‘prime’ — something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself.”

Perhaps the most famous of these experiments occurred in 1981, when Langer took a group of people in their 70s, and put them in a temporary time-warp: for five days, they lived, behaved, and were immersed in an environment that mirrored 1959. They were asked not just to reminisce, but to speak and behave as if they were 22 years younger. At the end of the five days, by several biological metrics, “they were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told me, had ‘put their mind in an earlier time,’ and their bodies went along for the ride.”

They had been pulled out of mothballs and made to feel important again, and perhaps, Langer later mused, that rekindling of their egos was central to the reclamation of their bodies.

In the course of many years of work, Langer has continued to find that “mind-set manipulation can counteract presumed physiological limits,” with the ultimate goal being to “return the control of our health back to ourselves.”

Like Rubenfeld Synergists, Langer also places a strong importance on mindfulness, “on noticing moment-to-moment changes around you, from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. When we are ‘actively making new distinctions, rather than relying on habitual‘ categorizations, we’re alive; and when we’re alive, we can improve.”

The implications of her work are profound for those of us who work in the knowledge that when we help shift people’s relationship to their bodies, we can help them change how their bodies move in the world – and therefore, how rich and engaged their lives are.

Read the whole article and marvel at the implications here.

 

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can cause brain damage

Sticks and Stones – Hurtful Words Damage the Brain – from Psychology Today

A column describing how verbal taunting or abuse, whether from parents or other kids, can hinder development of critical structures in the brain, causing greater risks for future depression, anxiety, drug abuse, and other psychological issues.

What you say matters.

 

Self-care made simple

From Dr. Kathleen Young's blogOne of the most potent things I have found, both in my training and with my clients, is the utmost importance of self-care. For every acute problem, every chronic stress, every relationship explosion, cancer diagnosis, loathed job or existential crisis, self-care comes up again and again as not just the most important, but the very first thing that needs doing.

This is true not just for my clients, but for me, and other practitioners.  As they say, you’ve gotta make sure your own oxygen mask is secure before helping others.  And as the Rubenfeld principle goes, self care is the first step to client care.  And, lest we forget that other principle: each client is ultimately responsible for his or her own healing.

So it’s not all that surprising that when a client tells me something difficult, and I can feel my mirror neurons firing and my shoulders tightening, my breath growing shallow…the first thing I need to do, before I can even respond, is to check my own breath, my own body, return to my center, and respond from there.  If I do anything else, I put myself in it with them.  And, as anyone who has had someone so upset over something that happened to you that you ended up taking care of them knows, nothing good can come of that.

In my own continuing therapeutic journey, I’ve recently been introduced to Oasis in the Overwhelm, a little book by ex-Catholic nun, nightclub singer, type A go-getter, and Rubenfeld Synergist Millie Grenough.  Its essential core is four 60-second strategies for re-centering and calming yourself, basically at any time and place.

I already have a number of strategies that I use for this, and I pass them on to my clients when I feel they are needed. And of course there are more involved self-care pieces: working out more, eating better, getting enough sleep – all those things that your doctor is always telling you to do.

But for people who want solutions that they can learn quickly and use anywhere…I have to say that this is pretty fabulous.  Once I internalize them myself, I will definitely be incorporating them into my practice. Hint: they involve stretching, breathing, checking in with your body, and focusing on an object of comfort.

Go check it out.

 

Thanksgiving week: How gratitude can change your life

thanksgivingIt’s Thanksgiving this week. The holiday has always been a favorite for me, and not just because I love to eat. I also love the thoroughly secular opportunity that it gives Americans to express gratitude.

Gratitude is an emotion that we’re not in contact with a lot of the time. Life is hard, and even though it’s also beautiful, we’re far more likely to notice the hard bits. After all, when you feel well, you don’t tend to think about it all that much. When you fall ill is when you notice: my head hurts, my nose is running, I’m so tired, and so on. It’s only human to notice the bad more acutely than the good, especially when the good is not Peak Good. Not every day can be college graduation, your wedding day, Christmas, or winning the lottery. But when you stop to notice is, most days are pretty okay. Some of them are even deeply beautiful.

I’m not even talking about noticing the sunset, or hearing the joy in a child’s laughter, though those cliched things are important. I’m talking about simple stuff. Notice the way a fork fits in your hand, and is the perfect tool for the job. Smell how truly great coffee is when you’re stumbling down the stairs in the morning. Take a moment when you turn the key in the ignition of your car to recognize that you have a car, and can drive it anyplace you want. If you’re about to drive it to your job, take a breath of thanks that you have a job.

These little pieces of gratitude can have a dramatic effect. The science is mounting: gratitude, besides just feeling good, is wonderful for our health. It improves optimism, increases exercise, moves us toward our goals, and enhances our connection with others.

But more even than that: it connects us to ourselves, and our deepest truths. After all, what says more about what you value, about who you are, than what you are truly thankful for?

Try this, starting on Thanksgiving and going through Christmas – classically, one of the most stressful times of the year. Get a journal, if you don’t already keep one, and take two minutes each day to record something that you’re grateful for. When it is especially hard to find something, pay special attention. Give thanks for your breath. Or your feet. Or your warm bed. Or even your pain. Your sorrow. Your many-times broken heart.

Starting this Thanksgiving, see what happens to you when you open yourself to gratitude. And if you’re ready to come home to yourself, find your true desire, and transform your life, contact me for a free phone consult.

Have a wonderful holiday.

Working with Sexuality: Decoupling touch and sex

In a previous post, I mentioned how often, especially for men, touch can be linked up in their bodies with sex.  In our current society, unfortunately, we have a disordered relationship to touch.  When we are tiny children, if we are lucky, our parents and other caregivers touch us all the time.  We are carried, cuddled, rocked and patted.  But as we get older, we are touched less and less.  I remember very well when my father stopped carrying me in to bed when I would fall asleep in the car on the way home.  It felt like a terrible loss.  And in many of today’s schools, children aren’t allowed to hug each other, and teachers mustn’t touch the children at all if they can help it.

Once kids hit puberty, it’s true that touch can become complicated.  A whole new dimension is added to what touch might mean.  But prohibiting kids from touching altogether doesn’t allow them to develop the appropriate judgment and boundaries for determining what kind of touch feels safe and right to them, from whom, and at what time.

And once people are adults, the relationship with touch shifts yet again.  Women more often have access to casual, friendly touch with other women, but some do not, and as people get older and separate into isolated, nuclear family units, cuddle piles of friends tend to disappear, if they ever existed.  For men, this tends to be even more true: from puberty onward, or even earlier, boys are taught to tamp down sensitivity, to be tough, to not seek or need affection, and to play sports – the team variants of which are the only allowable outlet for men to touch each other.  (Have you ever watched a football game on TV and seen the incredible amount of butt-patting and hugging that goes on in addition to the tackling?)  As a large proportion of men and women enter exclusive relationships, get married, and have kids, their only source of loving touch comes in one of two ways: through intimate contact with their partner, or through loving contact with their small children – in the most literal way, a natural extension of that sexuality.

Never mind all of the incredible health benefits touch has been shown to have.  Even without the research, it’s fairly obvious: we are tribal monkeys at root, and what we do constantly to feel safe, comfortable, and right with ourselves and each other is to touch.  And the fact that our culture is so disconnected from that says volumes about our current sicknesses, pathologies and screwed-up behaviors as a society.

So it’s not at all surprising that when some people reach the table – whether it’s with a massage therapist, an energy healer, or a Rubenfeld Synergist, the loving, nonjudgmental touch they receive often triggers sexual feelings.  After all, there aren’t a lot of other contexts for receiving gentle, loving touch as an adult.  For women, this can be terrifying: a married woman may feel that she is being unfaithful, or that she is having inappropriate feelings, or that the healer is touching her inappropriately.  For men, it can be terrifying, too, or they – more often – may turn to inappropriate expressions of those feelings toward the healer.  For anyone, it can be confusing, can arouse feelings of shame or guilt or both, or can tap into memories of sexual abuse or incest.  For all of these reasons, touch can be like a match to dynamite, and treating it with the utmost respect is vital to the success of any treatment involving touch.

The truth continues, though, that what has happened to the body remains in the body, and must be healed in the body, as well.  Whatever trauma, abuse, neglect, memory, feeling, or story resides in the person I am touching, that thing must be eventually brought forth, and the trauma decoupled from the experience of receiving loving, non-sexual touch.  Unfortunately or not, the only cure for that is the touch itself: receiving, acclimating, and learning, little by little, that touch can be okay, that touch can be relaxing, that touch can be loving without it being about sex, that touch doesn’t have to demand anything from you, lead to anything else, hurt you, arouse you, wound you.  That you own your body, and that you can decide when and how it is touched, and by whom.

That decoupling may also be called a kind of re-pairing: taking apart allows for another kind of putting together, so that a client can pair up touch and love, touch and solace, touch and peace, instead of touch and pain, touch and sex, touch and demands.  Giving clients more options for how they might experience touch is incredibly healing, and opens up more options in their lives as well.

The fitness industry's war against your body

I have long been suspicious of the fitness industry, and in particular the more recent, particularly self-punishing styles of workout that have become so popular.  For my own part, I believe in eating whole foods, indulging from time to time, and being as active as you can in a way that doesn’t cause injury.  I’ve found new levels of fitness lately, doing an activity I love.  I will never be as ripped as a fitness model.  But I’m getting into reasonably good shape.

I don’t fault those who push themselves to their limits, and discover that their limits aren’t where they thought they were. What I object to are the constant, insidious or sometimes overt messages that say that we should ignore our bodies’ messages, push ourselves past our limits to injury, and collapse, puke, or pass out rather than fail.

Today’s beautiful if rageful response to this culture is from a father of a young girl, who doesn’t want her growing up in a world where heroin-chic has been replaced by hypergymnasia, a newfangled approach to anorexia that involves obsessive exercise instead of not eating.  The article is a response to six images from Fitspiration, most of which show fitness models posing sexily and text like “Your body isn’t telling you ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘I need to stop.’ ‘It hurts.’ ‘It burns.’ Your mind is.  Shut it up with more.”

And that’s the message: your body is a weak vessel whose voice should be ignored, your mind is lying to you, and when you think you should stop because it hurts, you shouldn’t listen to yourself.  What part of you is left, exactly, to push back at the meatsack you are apparently inhabiting at this point is unclear.  It only knows that you need to look like a fitness model or you’ll never be happy or sexy.

Health is a wonderful thing.  Fitness is glorious.  And exercise is good for you.  But this kind of thing is really, really screwed up, and it makes me sad that our culture has gone so far afield from the idea of befriending our bodies that we’re actually making them our enemies, to be dominated and overcome (for their own good, of course).

Read it here.

The fitness industry’s war against your body

I have long been suspicious of the fitness industry, and in particular the more recent, particularly self-punishing styles of workout that have become so popular.  For my own part, I believe in eating whole foods, indulging from time to time, and being as active as you can in a way that doesn’t cause injury.  I’ve found new levels of fitness lately, doing an activity I love.  I will never be as ripped as a fitness model.  But I’m getting into reasonably good shape.

I don’t fault those who push themselves to their limits, and discover that their limits aren’t where they thought they were. What I object to are the constant, insidious or sometimes overt messages that say that we should ignore our bodies’ messages, push ourselves past our limits to injury, and collapse, puke, or pass out rather than fail.

Today’s beautiful if rageful response to this culture is from a father of a young girl, who doesn’t want her growing up in a world where heroin-chic has been replaced by hypergymnasia, a newfangled approach to anorexia that involves obsessive exercise instead of not eating.  The article is a response to six images from Fitspiration, most of which show fitness models posing sexily and text like “Your body isn’t telling you ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘I need to stop.’ ‘It hurts.’ ‘It burns.’ Your mind is.  Shut it up with more.”

And that’s the message: your body is a weak vessel whose voice should be ignored, your mind is lying to you, and when you think you should stop because it hurts, you shouldn’t listen to yourself.  What part of you is left, exactly, to push back at the meatsack you are apparently inhabiting at this point is unclear.  It only knows that you need to look like a fitness model or you’ll never be happy or sexy.

Health is a wonderful thing.  Fitness is glorious.  And exercise is good for you.  But this kind of thing is really, really screwed up, and it makes me sad that our culture has gone so far afield from the idea of befriending our bodies that we’re actually making them our enemies, to be dominated and overcome (for their own good, of course).

Read it here.

A blessing for your body

One of my brilliant teachers and the current president of the International Association of Rubenfeld Synergists (INARS), Theresa Pettersen-Chu, posted this blessing yesterday on the Rubenfeld Synergy Method Facebook page. I was pleased enough with it to want to share it here. I hope you enjoy, and take it to heart – and to all of your parts. 🙂

blessingforyourbody

A medical doctor writes an unconventional prescription for optimal health

What do you do when you’ve exhausted the possibilities of Western medicine, and you still feel exhausted, depressed, weakened, and in pain?  Listen to the messages of your body, says Dr. Lissa Rankin.

In this article, she describes how she designed a radical new intake form for her patients, where the biggest question was, What does your body need in order to heal?  The answers her patients gave were often surprising, direct, and exactly the thing which, as Rankin says, “no amount of kale” can heal.  “I need to leave my toxic relationship,” or “I need to forgive my father,” or “I need to write that novel” were among them, and they’re the types of messages we get when we listen to the messages our bodies have for us.

Many clients I’ve seen take good care of themselves.  They exercise, they eat right, they try to get enough sleep.  But many of them aren’t doing what fulfills them.  Or they’re working much too hard.  Or they’re in a relationship that makes them miserable.  These are the kinds of changes that can only come when a person really listens to his own stress responses, her own heart and gut and sometimes, shoulders or knees or feet – and hears what all of that fatigue and pain and cortisol is really telling him.

Of course, awareness is only the first key to change.  But it is critical, and lays the foundation for action.

Are you ready? Go here to make an appointment.