Increase in Divorce Rates Due to COVID-19. How Can We Pull Together?

A client of mine, challenged with her marriage right now, said to me a couple of days ago, that when the Coronavirus threat is over, there will be an increase of divorces. Her comment was based on an article from “the New Yorker”. The newspaper reports, “In Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, more than ten million people were placed under lockdown. When restrictions were eased, earlier this month, the city’s divorce rate spiked.” Psychologist and attorneys speak up and predict that the divorce rate will also rise in the rest of the world due to this stressful situation COVID-19 has brought us.

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

As a relationship coach, I want to challenge that statement. Undoubtedly, like any crisis, this challenging time also brings issues to the surface that we can easier ignore at other times. But instead of resigning ourselves to the fate of getting a divorce, we have the choice to examine how we can use this time period to improve our relationships and especially our partnerships or marriages. Naturally, we are going through a period of adjustment as our work situation changes and most of our favourite free-time activities are cancelled. We need to be creative to meet our needs while staying at home. The issues in a relationship might resurface right now and force us to notice and address them. But we also now have more time together to do our couples work, due to the lack of outside distractions and activities.

The strength of our relationships depends on if we can successfully hold each other in the fear we feel. There are fewer outside influences to argue about right now, but a new kind of anxiety has come up. One upset client of mine shared that while she is home with the children, her husband still goes out to have a cup of coffee with clients. She is afraid to question this and “restrict” him, meanwhile she lives in unnecessary anxiety. Their situation requires agreements on what precautions to take and how contacts can be shifted temporarily to virtual contacts.

Another couple told me that they are arguing about how to disinfect the surfaces, wash the food, and how often and thoroughly to wash their hands. Our fear brings up our vulnerable parts and our protective parts. Our fearful parts are triggered more than ever right now and our protectors (protective parts) can look like a “Scolding Parent” or an “Attacker”, accusing our spouse of not caring enough to take more precautions. If you want to read more about our protective parts in our relationships, please got to my article “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”.

Operating from our protective parts engages us in conflicts with each other. How can we instead have empathy and compassion with our partner’s fears and show the willingness to negotiate acceptable compromises to reassure each other?

Being home together also requires boundaries and the balance between alone time and time together. It is now, more than ever, important to communicate well. One of the things that seems to work well for my family, is to create a routine and structure, even if it is an artificial one. Have a set time to get up and to go to bed, a time to eat, a time to work if you have work right now, a time to do yoga, or go for a walk and so on.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

As human beings, we need to feel productive and useful. Some of my clients have told me that they are doing some de-cluttering and extra cleaning right now. Or they are engaged in creative activities that they have not had time for in a long while.

Part of establishing a daily routine is to determine how much time we are going to spend listening to the news or reading information on social networks. It is possible that you and your spouse, or family members you live with, are affected differently by the news and announcements. It requires figuring out what your individual needs are and respecting the differences. If you can go to different rooms or use headphones if you need to separate, do so regularly.

If you have small children, the routine and giving each other breaks from entertaining the children is even more important. Clear communication on when and how each of you is going to work and when you are spending time separately with the kids or as a family is imperative. Children need a structure even more than we do as adults. Decide what your daily routine is going to be and stick to it, so your kids have some predictability.

And don’t forget to enjoy this forced upon slowing down that is happening right now. Cherish each moment with each other. There is a lot of cooking, baking and playing games going on in our house. I don’t think I have played as much Cribbage in years as I have played during the last two weeks! My niece and her partner in Germany sent me photos of doing puzzles together while waiting for their test results. I’ve been hearing a lot of “finally we have time together” comments from extended family members and clients.

Puzzles, Cribbage, being together without rush… Without wanting to downplay COVID-19 being a real threat, it almost sounds a bit like a trip to the cottage in the summer, doesn’t it? I can’t help but wonder what we can learn and gain from this experience. When you contemplate the short-term and long-term benefits and advantages of what is unfolding right now, a lot of promising developments stand out.

Whole neighbourhoods are pulling together, offering each other help with the supplies individual families have—yes, the much laughed about toilet paper, for one. We are reaching out and phoning or texting family and friends we might not have talked to in a long time. It brings out kindness, compassion and taking care of each other. Despite or because of the fear we all feel, we continue to come together like never before.

What is happening right now is a general refocus on what is important: partnerships, family and relationships with others. The situation we find ourselves in due to COVID-19 is unprecedented, not only on an economic and societal level, but also for our family relationships. Self-isolation and extended time together are sometimes welcome and harmonious, other times they bring great challenges. But that is a good thing! When problems come to our attention, we can do something about them. The couple can work on it alone, or they can reach out to a coach or therapist.

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

Most of us coaches and counsellors are working remotely right now. A session through Zoom or Skype is as beneficial as a session in person. If the technology aspect makes you nervous, I understand, and I promise, that I will walk you through the steps to connect virtually.

As many of you are faced with uncertainty right now, I am offering an online session discount:

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Immune System Support

Two days ago, I posted the article Self-Care Tips to Ease the COVID-19 Anxiety and shared a Meditation recording to help ease the anxiety while we are moving through the events of the COVID-19. I mentioned boosting our immune system through life enhancing emotions rather than getting caught up in anxiety.

Today, I want to share the article of my colleague Naturopathic Dr. Felicia Assenza from the Awakening Health Clinic in Burlington in regard to supporting our immune system. Felicia herself is in the in the high-risk group due to a pre-existing health condition, and I very much appreciate her levelheaded approach to the situation that we are currently faced with.

We are both here to support you through these challenging times.

You can reach Dr. Assenza through her website https://www.drfeliciaassenzand.com/ and book a virtual or phone appointment with her.

You can reach me to book a Zoom/Skype/phone appointment at 905-286-9466 or greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca.

 

 

Empowered Immune System Support

The news of the latest Coronavirus or COVID-19 seems to be spreading even faster than the virus itself, understandably bringing lots of fear and panic along with it. In times like these, it can be very easy to feel disempowered and helpless against this virus which seems to be popping up in every corner. My goal with this post is to help bring some calm to the situation, clear up some misinformation, and to provide you with some empowering tools to help support your immune system.

What is COVID-19?

You’ve likely heard lots of information and misinformation about the virus so far from various sources. Here’s a reliable source and helpful information sheet from the Ontario Ministry of Health that will hopefully clear up any misinformation.

How can I prevent COVID-19?

There are the standard ways of preventing the spread of infection that you may have seen in the news:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid touching face and mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes, ears)

The above are definitely important ways of preventing the spread of infection. There are also some other things you can do that might not be as widely known. Below is a list of some simple things you can do right now to support your immune system so that if you do come in contact with the virus, your immune system will be armed and ready!

Vegetable Soups and Bone Broth

These are great ways to get lots of nutrients in that will help support your immune system and keep your vitality up. The more veggies you can get in the better. You can also add lots of garlic, onions, and oregano to these soups. As we’ll talk about later, these have some helpful anti-viral properties.

How to incorporate:

Check out my bone broth recipe. You can also use pre-made soup stock if you’re short on time or vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian. Always be mindful of ingredients though! Once you have the broth, just add veggies. Check out one of the many soup recipes on Yummly if you need some inspiration and guidance.

Mindful Time in Nature

Nature and mindfulness both play an important role in immune heath. We know that the stress hormone cortisol suppresses our immune system and there are innumerable studies showing that mindfulness and time in nature both reduce stress.

Getting out in nature also gives you a chance to get some fresh air, a change in scenery, and a shift in perspective which can be quite powerful when it is so easy to get caught up in the anxiety surrounding current events.

How to implement:

Go outside. It’s that simple. Maybe to the park down the street. Maybe your backyard. Maybe as much as your balcony or front porch. Just take a minute to be in the present moment and really connect with something bigger than yourself. This would also be a good time for any prayer or meditation practices you may have.

Socializing

This one is important and can easily be forgotten with all the self-isolation that is happening. Socialization, sense of community, and feeling connected is important for our immune system and overall health in general.

How to implement:

There are so many ways to implement this one. Call a friend, spend time with your pets, reach out to the neighbour you haven’t heard from in a while.

This one is incredibly powerful because by reaching out to someone, not only are you supporting your immune system but you’re giving them a little boost too…two for one!

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin and probably needed by most Canadians at this time of year. It not only helps boost mood and support the immune system but has actually been investigated for its role in preventing upper respiratory infections (1).

How to implement:

Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about the appropriate dose for you.

What happens if I do get sick?

It happens, no need to panic. You’ve likely overcome a viral infection or two in the past, there’s a good chance you can do it again. Take this as an opportunity to relax, recharge, catch up on Netflix, catch up with friends, family, pets etc.

If you, like me, are one of the lucky ones in the high risk group (e.g. elderly or have pre-existing health concerns), know that we’ve also overcome viruses in the past and there is lots we can do to help support the immune and respiratory systems if we do get sick. We may just need to act a little quicker and be a little extra diligent in taking care of ourselves.

Below are a couple of my favourite ways to tackle an upper respiratory tract infection (like the cold or flu) as soon as it starts.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic contain anti-viral organosulfur compounds such as quercitin and allicin that can help fight off a virus and are not only generally safe for consumption but also have lots of nutrients and other health benefits as well. They have both been shown to help shorten the duration of colds and flus caused by other viruses in the past (2).

How to implement:

Add them to dishes, make sure your chopping them up fresh

Garlic infused olive oil

Adding raw garlic and onions to salads

Oregano

Oregano contains carvacarol which has been investigated for its antiviral properties (2). I’ve seen it work well in helping to shorten the duration of a cold or flu and to help clear coughs.

How to implement:

While adding oregano to meals is a great idea, this one is most potent in its essential oil form

I generally recommend taking oil of oregano at first signs of cold or flu

Respiratory Herbs

There are many herbs that have been traditionally used to clear colds, flus, and especially coughs. St. Francis Herb Farm makes a wonderful blend called Respirafect that I have found to be very effective when taken right at the first signs of illness, especially for those who are at higher risk of pneumonia or bronchitis.

How to implement:

Take at first signs of cold or flu. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about dosing and safety.

I hope that brings some calm and clarity to the current situation and I’m always here to answer questions or address concerns.

We always take precautions at the clinic to prevent the spread of infection but if you have concerns and would prefer to have your appointment virtually or over the phone please let me know. Please also let me know if you are experiencing signs of the cold or flu before coming in for an appointment.

Warmest wishes,

Felicia

References

  1. Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CAJ. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb;169(4):384–90.

  2. Naithani R, Huma LC, Holland LE, Shukla D, McCormick DL, Mehta RG, et al. Antiviral activity of phytochemicals: a comprehensive review. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2008 Oct;8(11):1106–33.

A Meditation and Other Self-Care Tips to Ease the COVID-19 Anxiety

In each given moment in time, we have choices to make. Then we have concrete actions steps to take. The last and very significant step—after we have done everything that is in our control—is to surrender and keep centred within ourselves.

Times of crisis like this can bring the worst out in people, but it can also bring out the very best in all of us. It is an opportunity to ask, “what I can I contribute, and how?” It can bring out compassion, kindness and emotionally taking care of each other. It forces us to slow down and reminds us to focus not just on our family, but on all the people who are dear to our hearts. It is a powerful connector.

It is also a reminder that all of us are an important part of a bigger community; not just of our neighbourhood, but our country and our entire world. Our well-being is interconnected. This is a time to come together, to realize that we are all like the fingers of one hand, that we are integral parts of something bigger. It is easy to hold a unity consciousness when we are strong and healthy. Now it is more urgent than ever to remember that we are all part of a bigger unit. We are all in this together and we are the strongest when we remember that each of us is making a substantial difference.

The reasonable and community supporting choice right now is to practice social distancing and self-isolate if possible. To separate yourself physically, there are action steps to take, for example to ensure you have the necessary food supplies and medications in the house so you can keep yourself healthy for the next three weeks.

Other action steps are to remember to make use of the lifestyle strategies we all have learned about. At the top of the list is getting 7-8 hours of good sleep.  To keep our immune system healthy and strong, we also need healthy food and plenty of fluids. Stay rested and hydrated.

Stress and anxiety have a negative impact on our immune system. The spread of COVID-19 is, of course, a serious situation that needs to be addressed, but our fear is an even greater enemy. Fear and panic decrease the healthy functioning of our immune system. A chronic state of stress increases the cortisol and adrenaline levels and the inflammatory markers in our blood. Instead we want to enhance our immunity and cut down on the inflammation. There are certain supplements that are anti-inflammatory, for example turmeric, ginger, and aloe vera.

Just as important, or perhaps even more so, is to focus on life enhancing emotions. Joy, gratitude, peace, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and love are all renewing emotions. That means listening to each other, caring for each other, giving others (and yourself!) attention, affection and appreciation. These emotions connect us and positively affect our heart rate, lower our cortisol level and increase the hormone DHEA, which results in less inflammation in our body.

Breathing techniques, yoga, meditation and self-hypnosis are all ways to focus on peace, calm, joy and gratitude. They are well proven ways to bring our body into homeostasis to ensure self-regulation and healing. While fear is the enemy of immunity, meditation and mindfulness can be our best friends.

As Deepak Chopra mentioned in a Facebook video post just two days ago, it is “better to have a quiet mind than a positive mind”. Positive thinking can be hard to achieve when we are not feeling safe. In fact, it tends to only cover up the fear underneath. It is better to release all life depleting emotions like fear, anxiety, despair, grief, depression, sadness and loneliness and to move into the peaceful place inside. A peaceful calm mind helps us to relax into the moment with consciousness. It enables us to ask, how am I going to show up in this time of crisis?

In the free meditation recording below, I am guiding you through releasing fear and to quiet the mind, so that you can stay strong and healthy as we all navigate through this time together.

MEDITATION Releasing Fears and Quieting Your Mind

 

I have worked with long distance clients remotely for years. For the time being, I have shifted all my sessions to Skype and the platform Zoom to continue supporting you in this time of emotional upheaval and uncertainty. Even if you usually prefer in person sessions, do not hesitate to contact me for an online session. You will be surprised how well we can connect and work together.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Unfortunately, due to issues with the embedded player on my website all my meditations are only available right now by going to my podcast channel

Discover the Hidden Potential of Your Mind

The AWARE Approach to Anxiety

Have you ever experienced anxiety, and have friends and family tried to help you out by telling you to “calm down” or to “stop thinking about it”? Have they tried to reason with you, pointing out that your fears seem exaggerated or unrealistic? Has either of that helped? I’m sure it hasn’t. There is no arguing with the anxious part in us and no just trying to ignore it. Anxiety persists and gets even stronger when we do that.

We live in a time where depression and anxiety are both on the rise. Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental disorders in Canada and have a major impact on the daily lives of those suffering from it and on their loved ones, who often are support people. According to Statistics Canada, three million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older suffered with a mood and/or anxiety disorder in 2013. It is important that we learn to understand what can be done to address anxiety.

A person with an anxiety disorder comes to treat their anxious feelings not just as a symptom of nervousness, but behaves as if there is a threat. The mark of a chronic anxiety disorder is that a person feels afraid and defensive when they are not presently in danger. A part of us takes over that wants to protect us. We are left with our instinctive three responses to enemies: fight, flight or freeze. All these are very useful when there is real danger. These instinctive reactions allow us to act without conscious thought and to either fight, run away, or play dead when confronted with a dangerous enemy. These responses, however, are extremely unhelpful when we are caught up in “What if…” thoughts or worries about a future that hasn’t yet happened, and is most likely not even going to happen the way we fear.

What we have to keep in mind is that anxiety is not about being in a dangerous situation. Therefore, the first two questions to ask according to anxiety expert David A. Carbonell are:

  1. Does the problem I am afraid of exist right now in the present moment?
  2. If so, what can I do to address the situation? If not, I am dealing with severe discomfort, but not acute danger.

 

When a bus is driving towards us, we are busy jumping out of the way instead of distracting ourselves. Or if a dog is attacking us, we are busy fighting the dog off rather than distracting ourselves. So, when you feel the urge to distract yourself from the fear, that is a powerful reminder that you are not in present danger.

For some people, the fear of fainting during a panic attack is an issue. If that is one of your worries, let’s examine what happens in the body for us to faint. What causes a person to faint is a sudden and significant drop in blood pressure. Because the brain is at the top of our body it has difficulty getting an adequate supply of blood. Fainting brings the brain down to the floor to guarantee the blood supply. However, during an anxiety episode or panic attack, the blood pressure is doing the opposite, it is going up, not down. Carbonell mentions in his book “Outsmart Your Anxious Brain” that in thirty years of seeing anxiety clients, exactly five clients have fainted and that was due to a rare condition called POTS, which less than 1% off the population has. If you had that condition, you would know because you would have a history of fainting frequently.

Once having determined that there is no acute and present danger, rather than trying to argue with the fear, or trying to distract ourselves from it, or going into fight, flight or freeze, what is most useful is to relax, be with the fear and give it time to pass.

In my article “Hello, Old Pal Anxiety!” I mentioned greeting the anxiety like an old friend, “Hello, my friend. I know you. You are my old pal fear. Welcome back.” While we are simply watching the physical sensations, we use deep belly breathing.

Taking a deep breath can be tricky when we are tensed, so start with a deep sigh or two, exhaling with an open mouth before you take your first deep belly breath. You can place one hand on your belly (to feel it filling up with air) and the other one on your upper chest (for comfort). As you inhale through your nose, let your belly come out and fill up with air. Take a short pause, and then exhale through your mouth and let your belly become smaller again. Continue this way of breathing while you remind yourself that every anxiety episode has an end.

In his book “Outsmart Your Anxious Brain”, David A. Carbonell outlines five simple steps to address anxiety.

Accept

Resistance to the part in us which is coming up with warnings is futile. The fearful part will only make itself heard more loudly. In the end, we feel worse when we resist or argue with the anxious part. The opposite of resistance is acceptance. Simply decide to accept that it is there. Welcome it. It is there for a reason. There is some deep wisdom behind this part showing up, even though it seems like it is trying to make life harder for you.

Watch

Watch the sensations and observe your symptoms without judgement. Carbonell suggests keeping a symptom journal, because it keeps our mind in the present moment. Watch how this part makes you feel physically and listen to what is has to say with open curiosity.

Act

This does not mean trying to stop the anxiety. That is not your job when you are experiencing fear! The anxiety will last as long as it lasts, no matter what we do to stop it. Acting means to see if you can feel a little more comfortable while you wait for it to end. One main way of acting is the deep belly breathing I described above.

You could also communicate with the part in you that is trying to protect you with “What If…” thoughts. Do not argue with it. What we resist persists.  Instead remember that there is a part in you that has the best intentions. This part is separate from you. It is trying to protect you. Humour it. Listen to it. Let it know you understand what it is trying to do for you. Let it know that it makes sense to you that it would feel it has to give you anxiety symptoms to warn you. Let it know how very grateful you are for what it is trying to do for you.

Carbonell suggests using the “Yes, and…” rule of improvisational theatre. Agree with what this part has to say and add to it in a humorous way. He gives the example of a man who is anxious about his next job evaluation: “Chris might respond to his frequent thought, ‘What if the boss gives me a poor evaluation?’ By replying, ‘Yes, and he’ll probably hit on my wife too and steal her from me once I’ve been fired!’”

Repeat

The “R” in the AWARE method stands for “repeat”. You simply continue to repeat the accepting, watching and breathing or talking to the “What-If” part. Practice is key for addressing anxiety.

End

Have you ever had an anxiety episode that did not end? They all end, no matter what you do or don’t do. Remind yourself of the fact that it ends as you accept, watch and breathe.

The AWARE method outlines clear steps to respond to anxiety rearing its head. Carbonell also suggests making daily ten-minute appointments to worry out loud in front of a mirror, just letting one what-if thought after the next flow. People find that by giving the anxious part room in that way, that the rest of the time they feel less anxious.

To practice the AWARE method and to learn other techniques to embrace yourself with your anxiety, reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Steps to a Happy Healthy Heart

How do we keep our heart healthy? In this latest episode of my podcast “Discover the Hidden Potential of Your Mind”, I am interviewing my colleague naturopathic doctor Felicia Assenza about this topic.

Join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about heart health.

Or you can also read her article below.

Steps to a Happy Healthy Heart

BY FELICIA ASSENZA, ND

February is heart month and with heart disease being the leading cause of death worldwide, it makes sense that we would dedicate a whole month to bringing awareness around the heart. What can you do for your beautiful, hard-working heart? It’s not easy pumping all that blood around day-in and day-out! Here are just a few things you can do that your heart will thank you for.

 

Say thank you!

What Felicia!? You want me to thank my heart? You may be thinking this sounds a little hokey but before you stop reading, hear me out! If you’re a well practiced yogi or someone who’s familiar with chakras or mind-body medicine, then you probably don’t think this sounds strange at all. Gratitude is good for the heart! For those of you who may be a little more skeptical, I have evidence. Not only has having an attitude of gratitude shown to be an amazing motivator for making positive lifestyle changes but being grateful actually lowers your heart rate, results in fewer deaths from heart failure, lowers inflammation, and helps balance emotions1, 2. All that just for saying thank you! So thank your heart for working so hard, thank the people in your life, thank God or whoever who believe in, just be grateful and at the end of the day, your heart will thank YOU for it.

Exercise

Most people already know that exercise is good for the heart so I won’t spend too much time on this one. One thing I will say though is find a way to get moving that is fun. If you hate running, don’t plan to run every day because you heard that it’s good for you. Find an activity you love and can get excited about and work that into your action plan to get moving.

Make healthy food choices

This is a hard one. There is always so much propaganda around diets, each one making amazing claims until the next one comes along. I think this is an area where it helps to have someone (like your local Naturopathic Doctor) who has a solid understanding of nutrition to work with you to figure out the best food choices for you and your body. I will, however, dare to make a generalization for three heart healthy food choices: 1) Eat lots of vegetables, 2) Eat healthy fats (mono- and polyunsaturated), and 3) Avoid processed foods.

Connect

Did you know that social isolation or loneliness has the same risk as smoking for heart disease. Connection is good for the heart! Find events in your community that you’re interested in. Call that friend or family member you’ve been meaning to catch up with. Head to a public library or cafe to catch up on work or reading. Don’t like connecting with humans? Get a pet. Go for a forest walk. Do whatever you have to do to connect with the people and world around you.

Want to work together on your health journey? Send us an email, give us a call, or book a free 15 minute consult.

Dr. Felicia Assenza can be reached by e-mail:

felicia.assenza@gmail.com

or through the

Awakening Health Clinic in Burlington

Sources

  1. Kyeong, Sunghyon, et al. “Effects of Gratitude Meditation on Neural Network Functional Connectivity and Brain-Heart Coupling.” Scientific Reports, vol. 7, no. 1, Nov. 2017, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05520-9.

  2. Redwine, Laura S., et al. “Pilot Randomized Study of a Gratitude Journaling Intervention on Heart Rate Variability and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Patients With Stage B Heart Failure.” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 78, no. 6, 2016, pp. 667–676., doi:10.1097/psy.0000000000000316.

  3. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Loneliness Has Same Risk as Smoking for Heart Disease.”Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/loneliness-has-same-risk-as-smoking-for-heart-disease.

The Placebo and Nocebo Effect

One of my favourite topics is the placebo effect and, on the down side, the nocebo effect. I feel very strongly that we should be leveraging the placebo effect more for our benefit, and be acutely aware not to be affected negatively by the nocebo effect. Today, I want to share a conversation I had with my colleague naturopathic doctor Felicia Assenza on this topic. You can also read her article below.

Join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about

the placebo and the nocebo effect.

 

The Placebo Effect

BY FELICIA ASSENZA, ND

What if it’s just placebo?’ Many of us have heard or asked this question before, especially in the healthcare field, but what if there’s something powerful and healing about the placebo effect that we might be missing by simply brushing it off?

WHAT EXACTLY IS A PLACEBO EFFECT?

A placebo effect can be defined as a beneficial effect from a substance or procedure that cannot be attributed to the specific properties of the substance or procedure itself. In other words, someone gets better from taking something that doesn’t, on its own, have any medicinal properties. For example, someone is given a new cutting edge pill for migraines (actually a plain old sugar pill) and the migraine disappears.

sharon-mccutcheon-530237-unsplash.jpg

HOW POWERFUL IS THE PLACEBO EFFECT?

Since its discovery in the 1700’s, the placebo effect has unfortunately been looked at as more of an annoyance or something that needed to be controlled for in studies of ‘real medicines’ or drugs or therapies being tested for their efficacy. For example, looking at whether or not Drug X is more effective than a placebo sugar pill. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the placebo effect itself began to be investigated in more depth and we’re now realizing the incredible role it can have in very real healing1.

The placebo effect has been shown to play an important role in many ailments that our modern healthcare system has much difficulty with treating, such as pain, depression, anxiety, osteoarthritis, immune health, and ADHD. It has even been shown to be effective in the context of surgery! A fascinating 2002 study by Mosely and colleagues demonstrated that placebo knee surgery (where an incision was made but no actual surgery was performed) was just as effective at relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis as the commonly used arthroscopic debridement surgery2.

DO I HAVE TO BE TRICKED FOR IT TO WORK? 

No! It seems the most important part for a placebo to work is believing that it will work, believing that things will improve or that the outcome you are hoping for is possible. A 2010 study by Ted Kaptchuck and colleagues found that when patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) were given a placebo, told they were given a placebo, and given up to date information on the placebo effect, their IBS symptoms still improved3.

THE NOCEBO EFFECT

By this point, it shouldn’t surprise you that when it comes to health (and I’d argue other areas of life as well, but that’s a discussion for another day) if you think something will help, chances are it will! Turns out the opposite seems to be true as well. If you think something will be harmful, chances are it will be. This has become known as the nocebo effect. In other words, the expectation that a harmful effect will happen actually leads to that harmful effect happening. For example, a couple of studies have shown that nebulized saline, which is just airborne salt water droplets, actually triggered asthma attacks in individuals who were told they were being exposed to something they were allergic to5,6. An earlier study even showed that people who thought they were being exposed to trees that they were allergic to triggered the same visible, itchy rash that actually being exposed to the trees caused7.

IT’S NOT QUITE THE SAME FOR EVERYONE

Like everything in medicine and healing, the placebo effect does not look the same for everyone. If you’ve been to one of my workshops or read any previous blog posts, you have probably heard me emphasize the importance of individualized medicine or, as I sometimes like to call it, personalized medicine. Everyone is different and I have yet to come across any therapeutic approach to healing that has exactly the same effect in everyone. The placebo effect is no exception. There has, however, been some interesting study into more specific individual variations in genetics, neurobiology, past experiences, and how they relate to the placebo effect and a person’s susceptibility to the placebo effect1,4.

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN WHEN IT COMES TO MY HEALTH?

I think one of the most important things that the placebo effect shows us is our own healing abilities. One of the most powerful medicines is you! Realizing that your state of health ultimately falls on you is such an empowering way to approach your health but also quite a large responsibility. However, while you are the most important person on your healthcare team, you definitely don’t have to be the only person on your team. That’s where healthcare professionals come in to offer help and guidance to move you forward on your health journey, which brings me to my next point…

It is so so so IMPORTANT that you trust your healthcare professionals and have a positive therapeutic relationship with them. As we already talked about, the placebo effect can be a great asset to your healing but the nocebo effect can be quite the opposite. It is important that you feel comfortable enough with your healthcare providers to voice your thoughts or experiences with certain treatments and can collaborate on a treatment plan that you both believe is in your best interest.

What’s your experience with the placebo effect?

Do you have any experience with the nocebo effect?

We’d love to hear from you.

 

Want to work together on your health journey? Have more questions about the placebo effect? Let’s chat. Send us an email, give us a call, or book a free 15 minute consult.

Dr. Felicia Assenza can be reached by e-mail:

felicia.assenza@gmail.com

or through the

Awakening Health Clinic in Burlington

Invested in Your Relationship

As a relationship coach, I hear different people’s theories about love and relationships. I hear what I know to be myths. However, sometimes they are rather explanations which we have adopted to make sense of the fact that a marriage or long-term relationship ended, or as we tend to look at it, “failed”.

One of my clients in his late fifties said the other day, ”I was married for 13 years in my twenties and early thirties, I have had three other long-term relationships since then, which all lasted between 4-8 years, but I don’t see how I could have continued any of these relationships beyond that time. Do you believe a relationship has a shelf life?”

What he experienced is quite typical. Statistics Canada describes in their 2008 report that an average marriage last 13.7 years. Second and third marriages end even earlier. And that statistic does not include long-term relationships.

But to answer my client’s question, I do not believe that a relationship has an expiration date, per se. I do believe that relationships change and go through different stages. I also know for a fact, that we are very ill-equipped to make the transition to the next phase and to handle relationship challenges in general.

Nobody ever teaches us how to “do relationships”. My wish for future generations is to have the school subject “Living Successful Relationships”. That subject would need to include how to connect to our own feelings and protective responses, how to self-soothe, how to truly listen and communicate from a vulnerable place, how to solve conflicts, make compromises and create win-win situations. This school subject could help us in our intimate love relationships and in all our professional relationships. It would allow us to create a different society in which everybody is capable of connecting. I even believe that by teaching non-violent communication and other relationship skills, we could prevent wars and save the future of this planet.

So why do relationships end? A friend sent me this quote by relationship coach Mark Groves the other day which summarizes it perfectly:

What does it mean to outgrow a relationship? It often means that two people have grown away from each other, instead of having been able to stay connected. I used to say that this is what happened with the father of my daughters. However, it is just as true that in my thirties, I did not have the skills necessary to navigate this relationship and steer it back on course.

Another aspect of relationships deteriorating which the quote highlights is our level of investment. The moment one or even both partners are not invested in the relationship anymore, or maybe never were all that invested in the first place, the relationship has received its death sentence. One person alone cannot keep a relationship going. When it feels like you are dragging a partner along who is not willing to devote the necessary time and work into the relationship anymore, you have no other choice but to accept that. Both people need to be invested in the relationship.

One important investment you can make into your long-term relationship or marriage is to see a counselor or coach. You can learn the skills you need to navigate the changes every relationship undergoes. If you are longing to connect with your partner and steer your relationship boat through a tough time, reach out for a free phone consultation.

Also check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

10 Relationship Myths We Are Conditioned to Believe

I just re-read the book “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley because my niece in Germany had an English exam on that topic and I had volunteered to help her prepare for it. This novel, published in 1932, is a dystopia in which a world government completely controls all citizens from the moment of their conception in a test tube to the moment they die alone and drugged up. There are no mothers, fathers or spouses, and emotional ties of all kinds are frowned upon. The methods used to control the population are “genetic engineering”, “sleep conditioning” and the happiness drug “soma”, which turns the workers of different casts into willing laborers for a consume oriented society.

One of the questions which came up in the discussion with my 17-year-old niece was what signs of social conditioning she sees in our society today, especially regarding our relationships. We spoke about different ways of conditioning through our society, parents, peer groups, the education system, the media, popular culture, religion and so on.  Once I named a few examples, she realized that no social group, no matter how liberal, democratic or tolerant, exists without training individuals to think and respond in a manner generally approved by the respective society.

In contrast to Huxley’s dystopia, we have the freedom to examine and question our conditioning, and we have the freedom to change those learned beliefs, and conditioned emotional responses and desires, if we so choose. However, analyzing and changing our conditioning is not always easy. We have been programmed to believe and hence feel that we are a failure if we don’t look a certain way, make X amount of money, have what is called a “successful career”, and are not in the societally expected relationships at a certain age. That idea of being a failure can literally paralyze us and keep us stuck in the social conditioning that is to blame for the feeling of not being “good enough” to begin with.

Anne is depressed because she has been struggling with her weight all her life. Martin is beating himself up because he has been out of a job for the past year and he wishes he had made other professional choices when he was younger. Laura is 30 and feels like a failure because all her friends are married. Peter is angry because he works long hours but still cannot afford the lifestyle his brothers have. Marie is a 38-year-old midwife who has been struggling to conceive for the past six years. Frank is a 68-year-old widower and is convinced he won’t be able to find a new partner. Lisa is 59 and ashamed to be alone since her husband of 25 years has left her for a younger woman. And this list goes on and on. There is an incredible amount of suffering in our society when we don’t manage to meet the norms we have been conditioned to meet.

In fact, our Inner Critic voice can always find something to criticize because it is literally impossible to meet the societal standards for success in every single way. The conditioning of how we should think, feel, act and what goals or relationship markers we should have reached at arbitrary points in our life has a strong hold on us. As a belief-change and relationship coach, I come across limiting beliefs every day. Today I want to highlight a few about love and committed relationships.

In “Brave New World”, committed relationships or marriages do not exist, instead “everyone belongs to everyone else”. Family, monogamy, and romantic notions are highly discouraged and regarded as a crime against the state. Promiscuity is in this future world the only way to interact with the members of your own caste. Citizens are given the happiness drug soma to relieve their depression about being lonely or insecure.

It is so obvious how the citizens of Huxley’s dystopia are manipulated and conditioned about love and relationships. Yet, what beliefs have we learned about love and relationships?

Here are ten of the top myths:

  1. Love is all you need to make a relationship last

Long-term relationships go through different stages. What is essential at every stage is to adapt and work with what life brings us. We start out with the honeymoon phase, but that is not supposed to last. It is just supposed to bring us together. Instead, love ideally matures more and more with each new phase. A book that describes this with beautiful metaphors is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”.

  1. Good relationships don’t require work

Absolutely all relationships require ongoing attention, successful communication and the willingness to work through issues together. Or as Carroll Bryant says: “Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.”

  1. If my partner really loved me…

Those beliefs that start with “If my partner really loved me…” are another trap we fall into, e.g. If they really loved me, they would know what I feel/want/need. Our partner is not a mind reader. For a successful relationship, we need to learn to express our feelings and needs.

  1. He/she will change if I just keep trying to change them

It is completely impossible to change your partner! You only end up in a tug of war. In fact, focusing on how the other person should change keeps you stuck in your problems. Instead, a successful relationship is all about the question “How can I change? What is going to be required of ME to create a better relationship?”

  1. Couples in good relationships don’t argue

Many people still believe that conflicts in a relationship are a bad sign. Relationship scientist and expert John Gottman has proven that arguments are not the problem, but that how couples argue can destabilize a relationship. We want to practice how to deliver and receive criticism successfully and learn how to argue with less defensiveness and without stonewalling or showing contempt for our partner.

  1. Couples should have sex x-number of times per week/month

You should not compare yourself to other couples. Whatever amount of sex you both are comfortable having is exactly the right amount. Getting too stuck on average numbers when it comes to having sex, distracts from the actual problems which might be behind changes in the sexual desire. The desire to be intimate is about making time to connect and be vulnerable with each other. If a couple has a huge discrepancy between how often each partner wants sex, that is an issue to work through with a coach or therapist.

  1. True love is all about passion

I have seen people leave a perfectly good marriage because they felt it was lacking the passion. Often that meant that they have exchanged one stale relationship with one that is exciting but filled with drama and jealousy. Love can be both, passionate and safe. A solid relationship has achieved the right balance for a couple and their individual needs for passion.

  1. If we are struggling in our relationship it means we made a wrong choice and are just not destined to be together

Every couple goes through ups and downs. Every relationship is a constant dance between closeness and distance that we need to navigate. A belief like “every relationship has a shelf-life and ours must be over” gets in the way of putting in the work which every relationship requires.

  1. Talking about my past wounds will only make them worse

You cannot change your past, but you can change how you feel about it and heal your childhood wounds in your grown-up relationship. Speaking about your vulnerabilities and wounds with your partner is one answer to healing them. Ideally, the purpose of a relationship is to provide a safe space to be vulnerable and feel loved.

  1. Couples don’t need coaching or counselling unless their relationship is in serious trouble

Seeing a professional is beneficial at any stage of our relationship to help us navigate the transitions. In fact, a fabulous time to come in for coaching sessions is before you get married to lay a solid foundation for this next step of your relationship.

 

Do any of these myths sound familiar? Are you feeling stuck in your communication or struggling to navigate the current phase of your relationship? Perhaps it is time for you and your partner to come in for relationship coaching to work through a tough time or to get ready for a bigger commitment.

Check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work – And How to Ensure You Are Reaching Your Goals for 2020

Another year has passed and if you are like most people, you might be looking back right now, reflecting on your toughest challenges but also your happiest moments. Perhaps you can feel gratitude for what unfolded in 2019 and how it has served you. You might also be looking ahead, wondering what dreams and goals are still waiting to be fulfilled.

https://pixabay.com/photos/new-year-s-day-target-resolutions-4705447/

I had a client a couple of days ago who, when we spoke about goals for the new year, insisted that she doesn’t know what she wants. Yet, we had already determined a hierarchy of her values and she had great clarity on what her top six values are. Ultimately, our values determine our dreams and goals. If family and friends are one of my top values, I will need to spend time with them in the new year. If adventure and new experiences are important, I might plan an exciting trip. If health is high on my list of values, I might want to make healthy lifestyle changes. Or if financial security is an important value, being out of debt or owning a house might be one of my goals. If companionship and love are high values, I might want to put myself out there to find a partner.

When we feel a resistance to planning ahead or figuring out our goals, we might hold an underlying belief that our wishes and dreams never come true anyways. Or perhaps we had a traumatic experience in the past where we made important plans which have not come true, and we are still grieving the loss of those dreams and plans.

We also need to have supportive subconscious beliefs in place to reach specific goals. Popular new year’s resolutions tend to be losing weight, exercising more, living healthier (e.g. quitting smoking, drinking less, changing your diet), financial abundance, travelling, or attracting a romantic partner.

But new year’s resolutions alone simply don’t work very well. They only work if we get our powerful subconscious mind on board with our conscious goals. Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples.

https://pixabay.com/illustrations/weight-loss-weight-nutrition-scale-2036969/

In order to successfully lose weight, we for example need to believe at a subconscious level that

  • we can lose weight easily and effortlessly
  • exercising and moving our body is fun and enjoyable
  • we have a normal or fast metabolism
  • it is safe to be slim and attractive
  • it is easy to keep the weight down

and much more.

Or in order to get our finances in order and create abundance and financial security, we need to for example believe that

  • we can support ourselves
  • we deserve to make and keep money
  • we are good with money and finances
  • we can be a “good person” and make lots of money
  • we can do what we love and make the money we want

to just name a few beliefs.

No matter what dreams or goals we have, no matter what we want to create in our lives, whether that is better health, more abundance or loving relationships, we ultimately want happiness. So, it all begins with the decision to start loving what is and what we are creating right now. It literally begins with the decisions to live a joyous life in the present moment, instead of putting happiness on hold until we have reached a particular goal. From that joy we can more easily create what we want to see in our lives.

We also really need to focus all our attention on making the change. Another reason why new year’s resolutions don’t work is that we often do not consistently set and follow concrete action steps to reach our goals. Choose one goal that you want to reach and make it your first priority by figuring out reachable and reasonable action steps. Where attention goes, energy flows. And where energy goes, shifts and changes occur.

Making changes and keeping your new year’s resolutions starts with changing your subconscious beliefs and your thoughts. As you think differently, you are able to create better health and experience more abundance in every area of your life. PSYCH-K® and the belief change technique from Shadow Energetics allow us to reprogram your limiting beliefs into those beliefs which support your conscious goals for 2020.

Reach out to Angelika for more information

or to book a session in person

or—if you are not in the area—through Zoom.

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

https://pixabay.com/illustrations/new-year-s-day-new-year-s-eve-2020-4720207/

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How to Get Through the Holidays When We Are Grieving a Loss

It has been imprinted on our psyche from an early age that holidays are the time to spend with our family and loved ones. In an ideal world with complete happy and well-functioning families, that is a wonderful thing. However, what if we are still grieving the loss of a family member who has passed, or we live in a split-up family, or we cannot seem to make the dream of a family come true due to fertility issues or not finding the right partner, or we are experiencing another loss, like the loss of our health, our job, our pet, our home and so on? There are so many situations in which the holidays can deepen our sadness and magnify our pain.

The loss of a family member—whether loved or not so loved—or the break of the original family unit, tends to bring out in families what already existed under the surface but could be ignored until the loss occurred. Those relationships which were struggling prior to the loss now become obvious. Missing bonds, hurt feelings, dysfunctional family patterns are suddenly right out in the open. The loss of one family member or the split of the family into two separate units naturally changes the dynamics between everybody. Coupled with the grief everybody is feeling and expressing differently, the issues which were already part of this family’s interactions are multiplied. Suddenly, family members are triggering each other into emotional responses, and the ideal of the harmonious peaceful holiday time seems to go up in smoke.

  • There is the young woman who has been trying to conceive for eight years now and who is supposed to spend the holidays with her in-laws and with not just one, but two pregnant and much younger sister-in-law’s. The soon to be grandparents, who do not know about her struggles, are ecstatic. Her own pain is equally big and seems unbearable, but worse is her Inner Critic that tells her not to be so selfish and that she should be happy for her sister-in-law’s.
  • There is the son, who always felt that he couldn’t measure up to his brother and compete for the love of his mother. After the death of his father, he feels even more isolated, has a fallout with his mom, and chooses not to spend Christmas with his family.
  • There is the widower whose wife used to be his best friend, his lover, his one and all and who is still trying to come to terms with her dying from an aggressive form of cancer within only a few months. He has no children to help him through this first Christmas alone and will need a friend to reach out to him.
  • There is the daughter, who felt she had to side with her mother against her father in a divorce and did not get another opportunity to have a relationship with him as she was growing up. She learns the limiting belief that men can’t be trusted and that close relationships with men are unavailable to her. She chooses to get back into an unfulfilling relationship just before Christmas when it is the hardest to be alone.
  • There is the granddaughter, who was very close to her grandmother and experiences her being replaced by her grandfather’s new girlfriend soon after. She feels deep sadness and starts to wonder about men and their loyalties. When she invites her grandfather for Christmas Eve as it is their family tradition, he refuses and spends the evening with his new girlfriend; her beliefs are confirmed.
  • There is the widow, who forces herself to do everything as usual to be strong for the kids and she shoulders not just her former workload but also the one of her deceased husband. By the time Christmas Eve arrives, she is taken to the hospital with a lung infection she has ignored.

These are all real people I am referring to and I could go on but I would rather share some strategies of how to get through the holidays when there is a recent or unprocessed loss, whether that is the loss of a person, or a relationship, or a dream.

The first decision to make is, do you even want to go through the regular Christmas routine? You can change the routine to something more normal like ordering in food and watching a movie together. Anything that feels too overwhelming, you are allowed to skip. The big holiday decorations, the festive meal, sending holiday cards, buying gifts for people beyond your immediate family, spending time with family members that trigger your sense of loss… Whatever it might be that makes you feel like you are simply going through the motions, give yourself permission to drop. There is no right or wrong way to do the holidays. In fact, loss has a way of encouraging us to evaluate what parts of the holidays feed our soul and which parts don’t. It is even okay to cancel the holidays altogether and to go away. Often a change of scenery is exactly what you might need.

If you want to spend the holidays in your traditional way with your family, be gentle with yourself and compassionate with others. We all grieve in a different way. What might look like anger or even destruction can hide a lot of pain, what might seem like indifference might be an equally strong protection from feeling the loss. We are literally not ourselves when we are grieving. The first time to make major decisions is right after a big loss when our emotions are flying high.

Nobody asks to experience a loss, or as a client of mine phrased it: “The splitting up of my family was never what I wanted, never what I imagined, never what I dreamed of.” Yet, at the other side of the grief we realize that we are not alone. Everybody experiences losses at some point in their life. We can always reach out to the Greater Power and asked to be carried through a time like the holidays. Remember that we are all connected.

Allow others to help. There is no shame in needing help, on the contrary. Accept their practical help at this time of the year, and share with them what is going on for you internally. Let them know they are not expected to fix anything, but that it helps to simply vocalize your thoughts and feelings. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Love and support?

Remember that crying is okay. You do not need to be strong for others. Acknowledging your own sadness and grief can help others to do the same. Make sure you talk to kids as their grief can be overlooked or forgotten. Explain to them what is happening and why you feel the way you feel. Often children have a healthier attitude towards death than we do as adults, but they still need to process the loss of a loved one who passed or the loss of their family which broke apart.

If you are getting together with your family and you want to remember the family member you have just lost, communicate beforehand how you would like to do that. Allow everybody to partake or also to not partake, keeping in mind that we all grieve differently. If it feels right, you could light a candle or share memories or photos of your family member. Consider what this person’s legacy is and how you as a family want to continue living this legacy. Were they perhaps a charitable person or known for helping others? Were they musical or loved telling jokes? Did they like arts and crafts? Where they a good listener? etc. You might then decide to donate something to charity in their name, bring in the music or jokes, make a holiday ornament in their memory, adopt your loved ones listening stance and so on.

And last but not least, if you have been putting off getting professional help and for example seeing a coach or counsellor, now might be the right time. The holidays are tough to get through. Reach out to get the support you need.

Contact Angelika for grief work or fertility work 

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you want to read more about how grief accumulates you can read the article “Recovering from Our Losses”.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

A Child’s Theory of the World

In this newest podcast episode I am interviewing Sheila Sims, the founder of “All of Me Counts”. Sheila is a certified teacher with 18 years of experience. All of Me Counts provides resources and services for kids, parents, educators, and organizations to help kids access their best self.

Sheila works with an Inside Out Approach. This “inside-out” approach is based on the premise that what all of us—including children—are experiencing on the outside is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. Philosopher Immanuel Kant already wrote almost 200 years ago that we do not see things as they are, but as we are. And that view of the world already affects us as children.

Every child has as Sheila calls it their own unique “Theory of the World” that determines how they perceive and respond to their experiences. It powerfully impacts their behavior, motivation, relationships, and learning potential. When we can uncover a child’s theory of the world, we can more easily resolve behavior and learning challenges at the root for lasting success. We can help the child to live life with joy and confidence.

Sheila Sims

In Sheila’s own words:

“We all have our own unique theory of the world that powerfully affects how we perceive and respond to every experience. It consists of the subconscious beliefs we have about who we are and how the world works. These beliefs are developed when we are very young at a time when we are personalizing every experience, when we do not yet have the cognitive ability to question and think critically and when our subconscious mind is very open to outside influence.

When a child develops a healthy theory of the world, they will naturally act in the best interest of themselves and others, have positive perceptions of their experience, and will make choices that reflect their highest potential. I have yet to meet a child or adult that does not have some beliefs that are not serving them, but those that are really struggling likely have a theory of the world that is working against them in some way.

When a child has an unhealthy theory of the world, this sets them up for low self esteem, dissatisfaction, challenging relationships, and reduced potential regardless of the opportunities available to them and the strategies used by parents and teachers.

We’ve been led to believe that better opportunities, better parenting strategies and better teaching methods will lead to success, but if kids are taking the world in through the filter of their beliefs than these things can easily be distorted. What a child really needs is better beliefs!

Unless we work to shift the unhealthy beliefs that are leading to surface challenges, then whatever patterns or “themes” that are perpetuating in childhood will follow the child throughout their life. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t other factors at play that affect a child’s behavior, but in my opinion, these unhealthy beliefs are at the core of most imbalances and are most often overlooked because they are not obvious on the surface.”

To find out more about how we uncover a child’s theory of the world join us for our 30 minute podcast, or read Sheila’s articleMy Teaching Fail that Revealed the Answer to “Difficult” Behaviors in Kids”.

Embracing the 50+ Years

I just finished watching the new episodes of the Netflix series “The Crown”. While season one and two had actually endeared “The Queen” to me and allowed me to shift my perspective of this powerful and dignified figure, so I could see her humanity, the third season had—and not just due to a change in actors—a bit of a different effect on me. It had me reflect on how we as women manage to combine our power, wisdom and kindness in the second half of our lives. How does becoming older affect our self-image and our relationships?

Olivia Colman stars as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown.

Some of us stay stuck in fear, in being inauthentic and not speaking up because that is what was role modeled to us as “politeness” and the only way to be as females. Others, newly aware of their power and position, might be tempted to set their boundaries by ripping into others under the pretense of speaking their truth. The women that I admire speak their truth, but with consciousness, kindness and warmth, always aware that others do their best and are not out to get them. We all might react too strongly when we feel overwhelmed. The key is to readjust back onto a path of heart-centredness. Compassion and understanding does not only show up in what we say, but also in how we deliver it. We can speak and express what we are guided to say from a place of clarity, with compassion and understanding.

Christiane Northrup coined the term “Alpha Goddess” for the perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman who has come into her own. When we have entered that “second spring of our life”, self-care and self-development become priorities, as wellness expos show—they are primarily visited by women of that age group. We feel it is our time to accept ourselves fully the way we are with all our strengths and weaknesses.

“They know their strength because they have experienced significant loss and come through it.” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age) We have learned to ask for help when we need it and that overall we are smart and capable. We have learned to put matters into perspective and trust that everything will pass. As mature woman we are very much aware of the fact that “no” is a complete sentence, which is liberating. We are free from the need to prove ourselves. “We look back and see that we didn’t do so badly after all. Maybe we have some regrets and maybe we disappointed some people, but that’s part of being human” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). Sometimes we simply need a fellow Goddess to remind us that we are doing well.

We know that we do not need to let ourselves be pulled into other people’s drama, summarized so beautifully by the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys”. We also recognize when a friend needs us to hold a loving space or when it is time to reach out to a professional.

Being a coach and supporting others, I have strong wise women supporting me not only as friends, but also in the role of a therapist or a coach. Depending on what is going on in my life, I reach out to either one of the latter. I admire and trust them, yet they are also human. They might not always be able to give me what I need. In fact, my therapist, despite having known me for several years, missed the mark the other day. When that happens, we can slink away quietly and not reach out to that person anymore, or we can speak up. A good practitioner will listen and be grateful when you speak up. In fact, when I let her know that in the particular situation I did not need her to go into problem solving mode for me, but I simply needed to be heard and held in my vulnerability, she replied with a simple heartfelt “I am sorry” and the acknowledgment that she sometimes misses the mark when we do a phone session rather than an in-person session. I admire and value her for that response and unless she repeatedly misses the mark despite me speaking up, I see no need to end this relationship.

The same applies to our friendships. “Alpha Goddesses know how to make new friends but keep the old—but they only hang on to those longstanding friendships if they’re vitalizing instead of draining” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). There are friends and family members who drain our energy with drama or other toxic interactions, but as we refuse to be pulled into their turmoil, they naturally fall away. We can release them and let them go with understanding and forgiveness.

I have recently become newly aware of who some of my true friends are. They are not our social media connections that we are sometimes so busily feeding, but those friends who you can be vulnerable with because you know they feel confident in themselves and are far beyond competition between women, status, gossip or pettiness.

Some of them are my age, but that is not even the main requirement for a supportive nurturing relationship. One of my dearest friends is 84 and she will be reading this blog as she follows with interest what is going on in my life. She is curious and young at heart, while being wise and kind. She is one of the women I admire most. If I only have half of her spunk and joy for life when I am her age, I will be fortunate. Another one is in her early 30’s, who also is wise beyond her earthly years, and I am grateful to have a friend who is like a third daughter. And then there are a handful of amazing women my age who I consider to be part of my tribe. Our relationships are equal. One day they need me, another day I need them to remind me of who I am and can be. I know I can reach out to them at any time and that I will be received without judgment.

They have boundaries where necessary, are aware of their feelings and of their own baggage. They are able to be kind and honest with themselves. We all are triggered or judgmental at times. The question is what do we do with those emotions and judgments? Do we choose to rip into others and kick them to the curb when they do not fall in line, or do we acknowledge our flaws and work on stepping into our true self?

To get back to the Queen in the Netflix series, she mostly stands alone and she hardens over time. She is unable to connect with vulnerability or love to her children or most other people. She finds peace with her dogs and especially her horses, but in my mind she misses out on what it truly means to be this amazing age of 50+.

What the women I love and admire have in common is, in my opinion, the most important quality in any man or woman: they see with their hearts. They are smart yet have the most loving view of others. They have managed to step into their power and being authentically themselves while treating others with kindness. They all are true Goddesses in my mind, when most of them wouldn’t even think of themselves in that way. I am proud and grateful to have each of them in my life.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Don’t forget to check out my January Special.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!