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The COVID-19 Situation Challenges Our Beliefs, Emotions and Relationships. How PSYCH-K® and Other Tools Can Help.

The COVID-19 situation has disrupted our daily routines, affected our finances and is challenging our relationships. The crisis has changed everything we used to consider “normal”. We are grieving losses, experiencing anxiety, navigating often tumultuous emotions and bumping up against limiting beliefs. As we experience the uncertainty of unemployment and potential illness, we might be reaching for our partner, hoping for comfort and support. Yet, most couples have never learned how to communicate vulnerable emotions and hold each other in fear. To have a stress-reducing conversation, rather than taking on our partner’s fear and stress, has become a more valuable skill than ever before.

This exceptional situation is an opportunity to work on our fears, learn how to release our emotions and improve our relationships, especially our closest partnerships or marriages. Our old ways of being are currently being torn down and it is time to ask, what do we want to believe and feel as we are going through this period? What do we want our life and our relationships to look like? And which habits, beliefs and repeating patterns do we want to change?

We get to make that decision and work towards our relationship dreams and life goals. Instead of waiting for the crisis to be over, we can choose kindness, patience, compassion and successful communication now. At a time when many couples are home together working in close quarters, it is important to create a routine, maintain boundaries, design compromises, learn how to respect each other’s needs, respond lovingly to bids of attention and most importantly, have supportive conversations. Dr. John Gottman has designed the “stress reducing conversation”, in which both partners take turns speaking about a conflict outside of their relationship and listening to their partner. I find that it makes a huge difference when we can centre ourselves and speak and listen from the heart. When one of us is emotionally activated, it is up to our partner to hold that space of compassionately listening. While one partner shares what has happened and how they feel about it, the rules for the listener are as follows:

  1. to suspend any judgment
  2. to validate and empathize with our partner’s experience
  3. to side with our partner (or at least, to not side with the other person in the conflict)
  4. to remember that our partner is whole, complete and resourceful and to refrain from “fixing” their problem for them

Image by Anna_Sunny from Pixabay 

In order to successfully hold these conversations, we need to be aware of our own fears, triggers and limiting beliefs. We need to know how to self-regulate and how to not let our own emotions spill over into the moment when our partner needs us to support them.

Here are some examples for the most common subconscious beliefs that both my clients and myself have had to balance lately by using PSYCH-K® or the belief change process from Shadow Energetics.

 

REGARDING THE (FINANCIAL) SITUATION:

  1. Even though (financial) uncertainty is a part of my life right now, I know and trust that I am safe / taken care of / financially resourceful etc. at all times.
  2. I relax and accept when things are temporarily on hold, being grateful that I now have the time to take care of myself.
  3. It is okay for me to slow down and enjoy my time with my family.
  4. I embrace the current situation as a gift to slow down / to focus on my relationships / to find new financial avenues etc.
  5. I let go and trust that all my needs are abundantly met in this current situation.
  6. I do my best and my best is always good enough.

 

REGARDING HEALTH:

  1. I take good care of myself by giving my body enough sleep, physical movement and healthy nutrition.
  2. I keep my immune system strong through rest and exercise.
  3. I do everything in my power to stay healthy and beyond that, I let go and trust.
  4. I enjoy the slowing down and I relax into a different rhythm.

 

Image by Anrita1705 from Pixabay

REGARDING RELATIONSHIPS:

  1. I easily and effortlessly communicate my needs to my partner.
  2. Both of us working from home is smooth and easy for us.
  3. We naturally switch between being connected and focusing on work.
  4. Each time my partner is distracted, I remember that he/she is simply focused on work.
  5. We make time for each other (and the children) at the end of the day to connect and talk.
  6. It is safe for me to be vulnerable and share my fears with my partner.
  7. I am good at self-soothing when I feel emotionally activated.
  8. It comes naturally to me to be present for my partner.
  9. I listen non-judgmentally and acknowledge my partner’s feelings and fears.
  10. We creatively bring some novelty into our relationship by trying out new activities we can do at home.

 

REGARDING FAMILY:

  1. Having time with my kids and my spouse is a gift for all of us.
  2. We are adaptable and creative as we adjust to the new situation.
  3. I embrace the new situation and enjoy every moment with my partner / my family.
  4. I am patient with myself and all family members as we go through this time of uncertainty.

 

If you have taken part in one of my workshops or perhaps learned how to release emotions in an individual session, remember to use the EMOTIONAL RELEASE PROCESS on a regular basis. Here is a list of especially common emotions that the current situation might have triggered for us. You can of course also work with other lists of emotions, for example the one you would have received during the Shadow Energetics Workshop. If you want to learn what to do with your emotions, change limiting beliefs and clear out fears, please reach out for a free phone consultation.

 

TRIGGERED EMOTIONS:

Feeling…

 

1.    afraid

2.    angry

3.    anxious

4.    bitter

5.    confused

6.    defeated

7.    defenseless

8.    depressed

9.    deprived

10. desperate

11. destitute

12. diminished

13. disadvantaged

14. discouraged

15. distressed

16. fearful

 

 

17. forgotten

18. frustrated

19. grief

20. helpless

21. homesick

22. inadequate

23. insecure

24. isolated

25. lacking

26. like a failure

27. lonely

28. lost

29. out of control

30. overwhelmed

31. panicked

32. pessimistic

 

33. powerless

34. regretful

35. sad

36. shameful

37. shocked

38. sorrow

39. suffocated

40. terrified

41. uncertain

42. unprotected

43. unsafe

44. unsupported

45. victimized

46. vulnerable

47. worried

48. worthless

 

Online Sessions

for Individuals and Couples

If you have lost your job or you are financially struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me about a discount, especially if you are a previous client. I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are a health care worker or first responder, your session is complimentary right now, out of admiration and deep gratitude for what you are going through right now.

 

You can start with a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

What Is This COVID-19 Induced Activity Frenzy Really About?

Over the last ten days, I’ve noticed how my e-mail inbox is literally flooded with double the number of e-mails than it used to be. Every single company is not just letting us know how they are handling the COVID-19 situation, which is good, but also offering discounts on clothing and products that we really do not need more of right now.

My inbox is also overflowing with e-mail offers for online get-togethers of all sorts: online games, movie nights, network meetings, community meetings, social gatherings and there seems no end to this. How can a social zoom gathering of my pickleball group—who without a doubt is a lovely group that I very much enjoy exercising with on the court twice a week—possibly be a substitution? I play pickleball because it is a fun way to move, so mostly for my health. It seems it would make much more sense to set the time aside for myself to get on my stationary bike, do some Yoga or go for a walk to stay fit and healthy.

Are we so afraid of our own company and the company of our loved ones that we need to flee to online games with strangers and online zoom chats with our sports groups?

While it’s important not to underestimate the immense value that we can find in connecting with people online to maintain a social life and keep from going stir-crazy, especially if we live alone, it’s more important than ever that we take the time for the opposite as well. What would it be like to take more time to slow down, feel the stillness, meditate and reflect on what is going on for us, rather than losing ourselves in meaningless distractions?

In some way, we are, of course, all fighting for a sense of normality. We all still need to make an income and, I am grateful that we can work through Zoom. There are great possibilities and gifts in this experience of having to adapt to the current situation. At the same time, I see among my colleagues a productivity frenzy as they are moving lectures, groups and workshops online as fast as they can. And, I freely admit this, I felt myself being pulled into this for a bit. Above the uncertainty about the future, that we all naturally feel in these times of a worldwide crisis, I also felt the pressure to be that coach who has it all together and just moves everything online right away.

Do we really need to convert our entire overly busy life to a virtual life right now, or have we missed out on an important hidden opportunity, when we do that? What is really behind this reluctance to take some time off? Is it the companies, organizations and sports clubs who fear they will cease to exist if they don’t go with the times and stay in touch with people?

I feel that it is important to give ourselves and our children time to emotionally and mentally adjust to the new circumstances, to ensure we don’t overload ourselves with online activities in an attempt to simulate normalcy. Let’s not forget that the world has for most of us only changed this dramatically in the last four weeks.

Six weeks ago, I was still on vacation with one of my daughters and now she is out of a job, and so is my other daughter. In February, I had clients come in daily, walking through the kitchen and living room area and downstairs to my home office. Now the kitchen and family room areas are in need of tidying up because we have become too comfortable with just letting things be. Or have we? Is this perhaps a time to enjoy that we do not need to go anywhere or have the house presentable for someone coming to us? And how can we cherish taking some time off when we are so busy recreating our lives online?

I am not saying that some of these online events aren’t helpful. The ones which feed your soul will be different from the ones that resonate with me. But more than ever, we need to be aware of not getting caught up in an activity and productivity frenzy. A lot of us have been too busy running around from event to event, as it was. My schedule was always full, and I am sure so was yours. And this applies even more so to families with younger kids. This is an opportunity to slow down and to be in the present moment. It is a chance to feel and to be aware. It is a time to find calm, peace and our inner centre. It is a time to stay fit, laugh and play games—not only online, but especially with the people closest to us who are in quarantine or self-isolation next to us: the family members who we are all seeing far more frequently now than we normally can.

One of my online German students in Switzerland, who I have always connected with once a week via Zoom even before COVID-19, said to me a couple of days ago that she didn’t have the time to do her homework because she chose to meditate every day and focus on staying calm and centred in the midst of everybody’s anxiety. My reply was, “Good for you!” How important is her German progress compared to the importance of understanding the messages we are getting through this crisis?

This period right now is a grief experience. We are experiencing different losses, concrete ones like the loss of a job and less concrete ones like a loss of safety and security. In reality, life was never predictable, but it felt more so before the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no right or wrong way to grieve! Grief means that we need to allow our individual grieving to proceed in its own way and time.

It is okay if you wake up in the middle of the night, not able to go back to sleep. It is okay if you are struggling to establish a daily fitness routine at home or move your classes or business online instantly. Given time and some grief work, not just our brains, but also our hearts will adapt. We will find completion of what we have lost, and peace in the new situation and with the new opportunities.

But what is most of all needed right now is some self-compassion. Ignore those colleagues or friends who are posting on social media about how well they are adapting or who are flooding your e-mail inbox with distractions. Remember that there is Facebook, and then there is real life, in which we don’t have to hide behind happy pictures or success stories. It is okay to take as long as it takes to adjust to the new normal! In fact, we will adjust faster, when we do not get lost in unnecessary distractions.

So which additional online invitations have I said yes to this week and will continue saying yes to? I have said yes to a Facetime with a young friend who had a daughter last year and who I usually visit once a month. It feeds my soul to see how the little one, who just learned to walk six weeks ago, has changed. I have said yes to regularly meeting online with a former student, who has become a brilliant fellow belief change coach himself, to do exchanges. We as coaches also need coaches or colleagues, as much for our own sanity as our clients do.

I will, of course, continue to connect with my dad, my uncle and my aunt, who are all in their eighties. Their love, wisdom and perspectives after having experienced other crises in their lives are nurturing and enlightening. Letting them know that I love and treasure them is one of the most important things I can do right now. I will continue to connect with other family members and close friends, but I will do it in a way that meets my needs. Rather than spending yet more time at the computer, I can speak to them on the phone while I go for a walk or sit in the backyard, which hopefully will soon be possible.

How different have even our walks become! It won’t be long, and we will all be wearing masks to protect others when we go out for walks or grocery trips, and I am all for that. As the world changes, we will need to relearn how to interact with others under these new circumstances. A nod, a smile and a friendly greeting are still possible with social distancing and more necessary than ever. Knowing how we want to be with each other, all begins with learning how to be with ourselves, our own feelings and fears. We cannot do that if we get swept up in a frenzy of online activity.

This is the time to wrap our mind around the fact that this experience will change us and our world forever. It is not going to be completely forgotten after a few weeks, and things won’t immediately, if ever, jump back to the way they were. Let’s rather acknowledge that we will be changed forever. It is the time to decide how we want to be changed for the better, when it comes to our relationships and our everyday life.

 

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

who are financially struggling

20% off

If you have lost your job or you are struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me, especially if you are a previous client. I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are a health care worker or first responder, your session is complimentary right now, out of admiration and deep gratitude for what you are going through right now.

 

 

You can start with a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

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.

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

The Mind Body Connection

I am exited to introduce you to my new affiliate Andy Schmalz at Awakening Heath in Burlington. Andy Schmalz is an osteopathic manual practitioner and certified athletic therapist with 15 years of clinical experience. He is extremely skilled and heart-centred. He treats each client with compassion, wisdom and respect. He synthesizes concepts in energy medicine, nutrition, and environmental influences with traditional therapeutic concepts to provide a thorough rehabilitation to fit each person’s unique needs. I would like to present him to you by sharing one of his articles.

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly written about the mind body connection and how a physical issue has messages for us in regards to our emotional and mental well-being. Some typical examples are headaches, indigestion or physical pain in different areas of our body, or even a simple cold. Andy’s article is filled with excellent examples of how treatment has to address the whole human being.

Read Andy Schmalz’ article below

and/or join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about

the interconnection of physical issues with emotional and mental ones.

 

The Mind Body Connection

BY ANDY SCHMALZ, DO(MP), CAT(C)

We are often taught that the different issues in our body are the result of physical, emotional, or mental stresses. For physical injuries we look to some sort of therapist that focuses on stretching and strengthening to bring the physical structure back into a balance. Mental and emotional issues are treated with a therapist that has been trained in talk therapy and various rehabilitation techniques to help heal the initial trauma. The compartmentalization of these conditions has created a roadblock to healing for many individuals.

Instead of thinking of physical, emotional and mental health as being separate, they should be viewed as interrelated aspects along the same continuum. This can be thought of as similar to colours on the spectrum. Red, blue, yellow, or any other colour are not individual spectrums on their own colour palate, they are part of the same spectrum that transitions through all colours. In the same way that the inclusion of all colours combined produces white light, the total combination of physical, emotional, and mental spheres is required to produce holistic health.

To introduce this concept, let’s look at a simple injury like a sprained ankle. Imagine you’re a high school athlete competing for your school’s basketball team in the playoffs. You accidentally land on someone’s foot when descending from a jump and roll your ankle. You feel a couple of pops, a lot of pain right away and know it’s not good. You later discover that you will have to miss 4-6 weeks in rehabilitation if everything goes according to plan.

This is a very mechanical issue, right? There was no emotional stress that caused you to hurt your ankle so it should be a straight forward rehabilitation – manage the inflammation, begin range of motion exercise, slowly re-build the strength and continue from there. 4-6 weeks, right on schedule. But let’s take a look a little more closely at the whole scenario.

No injury is ever purely physical or purely emotional. They are opposite ends of the same spectrum. When you rolled your ankle, what were your feeling before and after the injury? You’re one of the better players on the team and there’s likely a feeling of letting your friends down, or possibly frustration because you had prepared hard for this year and now you’re going to miss the end of a short season. Maybe your coach isn’t supportive of the situation. Instead of reacting with empathy he/she responds with frustration that they have now lost one of their starters and the team’s chances of winning the championship have taken a hit. You will be able to feel that pressure during your healing process. And these thoughts don’t even include what might be happening at home – maybe your parents have been fighting lately and it has begun to create a lot of stress in your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe there’s a loved one like a grandparent whose health is deteriorating.

The point is that ALL of these different stresses and emotions come into play during your healing process. Once again, the physical and emotional domains are opposite ends of the spectrum, and it’s important to have a rough idea where this injury falls within the spectrum to determine what type of treatment is required. This is not to say that every injury you experience needs to be assessed by a trained psychotherapist. Having a rough idea where an individual is in the spectrum helps to identify any barriers to healing as well as guide treatment. In this simple example of an ankle sprain it’s likely that the injury is much closer to the physical end of the spectrum with a small emotional component:

PHYSICAL___X_________________________EMOTIONAL

But if there are significant stressors at home or school, the spectrum would adjust:

PHYSICAL______________X______________EMOTIONAL

The difference between the two spectrums dictates what needs to be addressed in treatment. The physical rehabilitation of the injury does not change – control inflammation, then increase strength and range of motion as appropriate. But it’s possible the athlete in this scenario is carrying some stress that can slow the healing of the ankle. It may still heal on its own but the process will be more complete – and the care for the injured individual much more comprehensive – if the emotional stresses are identified and addressed. While this example is hypothetical, it’s well within the realm of possibility. Let’s look at a couple examples from clinic.

Example 1

A pre-teen girl (age 11) comes into clinic complaining of neck pain and headaches. Upon assessment the typical issues leading to neck pain are present – tension in the deep muscles of the neck, a change in breathing pattern (chest breathing), increased tension in the connective tissues of the abdomen, and weakness in the muscles of the mid back. The simple formula is to reverse these findings and the headaches should alleviate. However, in conversation during treatment the patient reveals that she has been experiencing difficulty all year long with a bully on the school bus that has been progressively getting worse. Her parents are aware of the issue but have not been fully informed about the severity and the young girl has not been forthcoming about the impact it is having on her. This simple disclosure has a significant impact on the healing process. The stress of worrying about a bully on a daily basis will create the tension in the abdomen (see effects of inflammation), change breathing patterns, and likely create the tension in the muscles of the neck as well. The approach to treatment at this point needs to change. The physical symptoms will resolve with the treatment of physical restrictions, but will return if the initial root issue is not addressed. The impact of the stress on the patient needs to be brought to his parent’s attention so they can address the issue appropriately – or the time and energy spent on neck rehabilitation will likely be redundant.

Example 2

Many of us carry low-level stress on a constant basis. We have simply been doing it for so long that we do not realize that it is actually affecting us. But the physiological effects of inflammation and the blood flow changes associated with stress can take a significant toll on us that we do not realize until there is a breakdown in the physical body. In this example you are a parent working full time with a couple of kids. You try to take care of your body but your responsibilities to your children take up much of your time. You are so tired at the end of each day that you can barely make it up to bed. Instead, you pass out on the couch most nights. You do get out for walks with the kids and eat the best you can, but the busy-ness of young children consumes most of your life…soccer practices, music lessons, birthdays, family commitments, etc. Sound familiar?

Life flies by, work gets busier and responsibilities increase. The kids are older but there are some minor troubles at school that worry you. Your parents have started to experience some health difficulties and need some help at home. Each of these commitments has also placed a strain on your marriage that simply wasn’t there 10 years ago.

Then one day you pick up your daughter after a particularly bad day at work – the same way you do every day when you get home from work. She’s only 45 pounds and you have lifted her many times before. But this time your back spasms and you experience extreme pain that brings you to your knees. You immediately know you’ve “blown out your back” and are able to see your doctor the next day. You’re told it’s a muscle strain and that you didn’t lift properly and that’s why you’ve hurt your back. NO WAY!!

Let’s take a close look at what has actually happened. Years of wear and tear and progressive increase in stress have decreased the mobility of your body. The lack of flexibility has finally reached a point where your spine cannot accommodate the things you’ve always been able to do, like pick up your daughter. The bad day at work is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Your system was at a point where it could no longer accommodate any more change. The small change in blood flow to the muscles due to the cumulative stresses combined with one more stress lead to the muscle spasms.

What does this mean for your treatment? The back will likely heal no matter where you do your rehabilitation. If it’s really bad you might need to try a couple different practitioners before you feel back to normal. Stretch the muscles of the low back, release the tight connective tissues on the abdomen, strengthen the core, and things should resolve in a typical fashion. But here’s the problem – you have done nothing to address the root causes of the back injury. You have approached your rehabilitation as a purely physical phenomenon and therefore you have not completed your rehabilitation. Unfortunately, you will likely injure your back again in time.

What else could you do to completely heal your injured back? You can’t necessarily control the events in life that cause your stress, but you can manage how you react to stress using appropriate techniques. Managing stress is a multifactorial approach (view Andy Schmalz’ article “Managing Your Stress”) that should be part of our everyday lives. If there is a significant strain on you personally because of your parent’s health or relationship you may benefit from talking to a trained psychotherapist that would compliment the physical side of your rehabilitation. Meditation, breathing techniques, regular physical exercise, yoga/flexibility work and potential modifications to your diet all come into play when trying to heal something fully instead of simply managing symptoms for another couple of years.

Example 3

It is important to remember that the physical and emotional connection is a two-way street. The first two examples showed how emotional stresses can either create an injury or slow it’s healing. But issues that seem to be purely emotional can also create a physical imprint. Anxiety is a perfect example. Anxiety is like a little breeze that can quickly turn into a tornado that takes over your brain and body. The emotion is often created by a perception based on a root fear that leads to worry and distress. And like many things in the brain, the more it is experienced the easier it seems to become to trigger an anxiety attack. But what we forget is that there is a physical imprint left in the body that seems to form a physical pattern – and once that pattern is established it feeds into the continued development of anxiety. In essence the physical imprint helps to perpetuate and lower the body’s threshold for anxiety.

When we experience anxiety, breathing patterns change – the breath becomes shorter and we no longer activate the thoracic diaphragm to breathe properly. Instead we use the upper chest muscles and neck muscles attaching to the upper ribs to lift the ribcage and create the breath. This results in increased tension in the thoracic diaphragm, neck and upper back that may affect nerve and blood supply to the head potentially creating headaches. There also seems to be a consistent pattern of tension in the centre of the upper abdomen just below the ribs that can lead to abdominal discomfort. It may be the inflammation in the body from the anxiety or some sort of other pathway but some of the stress from anxiety collects in this solar plexus area that seems to make the emotion of anxiety easier to experience.

As these physical changes culminate, they restrict proper breathing and seem to feed into the development of subsequent attacks. Releasing the physical imprints of the anxiety attacks seems to help the body manage anxiety. It is important to note that this is in no way a substitution for counseling. Instead it is approaching the body from a holistic point of view. Treating only the brain for anxiety will help to decrease the anxiety attacks one may experience, but it will not reverse the physical effects the attacks have.

As you can see in these examples, a physical injury is never just a physical injury. Conversely, an emotional issue will always have a physical imprint. To heal the body, mind and spirit a multi-faceted approach is required. It is up to you to determine the right formula for your healing, as you are the one responsible for your own health. At Awakening Health, our goal is provide you with the information and tools available to achieve the balance in life that we are all seeking.

 

For an Osteopathic appointment go to Awakening Health.

To work on the Emotional and Mental side of a physical issue contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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How Relationships Can Help With Anxiety and Depression

I remember how I looked with complete lack of compassion at my mother when I was a young adult in my twenties. I couldn’t understand why she felt to hopeless, helpless and unhappy because I was young and had my entire life still in front of me. In her generation, there wasn’t much to accomplish anymore once your children were grown up. All a woman without a career had to look forward to was the arrival of her grandchildren. And when her first grandchild came, her oldest daughter (me) even lived far away in a different country on a different continent. Looking back now, I realize how once she was over 60, she desperately tried to find meaning as a homemaker with grown-up kids, even though she didn’t take any pride in any of the housewifely activities. She was the happiest when she could go out, connect with people and exercise.

When interacting with her, she usually seemed needy and clingy to me because I wasn’t in touch with my own neediness. I judged her for self-medicating with alcohol and over-exercising because I didn’t understand how we all use STERBS (Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviours) to distract ourselves from our pain. She had depression and anxiety, even though it wasn’t called anxiety back then. I just perceived her as ridiculously worried about things and unnecessarily afraid. My dad, a typical male of his generation, was overidentified with the rational mind and ridiculed her emotions and fears. And my sister and I kept her at arms length when she started getting too anxious. She had nobody to turn to who made her feel a bit safer, a bit more loved. Not until many years later when I was an adult myself with two daughters did that understanding and compassion for how hard it must have been to be her slowly set in.

Today depression and anxiety have become an epidemic. Some experts, for example the Cognitive Behaviour Therapists, suggest depression and anxiety need to be managed by interventions at the level of thought; other experts suggest there is a problem with our emotions. I believe we need to address both, our thoughts and the underlying beliefs as well as our emotions. The changes we make and the techniques we can learn need to consider both. But how do our relationships play into our thoughts and emotions?

From an attachment standpoint, part of the reason for anxiety and depression is a lack of connection. We are mammals who need to bond and connect with others in their lives. My mom was reaching out to a husband who did not know what to do with emotions and to two daughters who didn’t know that she was mirroring certain traits for us that we had disowned inside ourselves. The relationships in our life either help us to manage the depression and anxiety or they trigger it even further.

Partners who are not securely attached to one another, are typically highly anxious and/or depressed. We relive our childhood fears and experiences with our partner. Our partner is a proxy for all the other relationships we have ever had, going all the way back to our first attachment figures, our mother and father.

When we want to address depression and anxiety, we need to grow resources within ourselves, but relationships themselves can also become a resource and a safe heaven to find release. According to attachment theorist John Bowlby, people who feel depressed are experiencing an inner narrative about feeling lonely and not seeing themselves as important to other people. Sue Johnson points out that in our primary relationship, this plays out as the experience of not being seen, not mattering and not being needed. The emotions triggered are those of feeling unlovable and unworthy, of not being good enough in relation to other people.

So from the view of an attachment theory based clinician like Sue Johnson or Stan Tatkin, the cure for depression and anxiety lies in healing the loss of connection that was experienced in earlier relationships, which is being mirrored in our present relationships. Tatkin points out the effectiveness of face-to-face and eye-to-eye contact between partners. That connection through the eyes is stimulating and can upregulate the partner who feels depressed or anxious. It also focuses the depressed person outwards, instead of in their own head. It is like an outside meditation, keeping the focus on the present moment instead of the painful past or the worries about the future that are playing out in a depressed or anxious mind.

The importance of the eye-to-eye connection has been studied on mothers and infants. The more the mother makes contact face to face, giving the baby reassuring facial cues and being attentive, the more secure and happy the baby feels. The still face experiments with babies (for example conducted by Dr. Edward Tronick) on the other hand have shown that a still face in the mother and a lack of connection through visual and auditory responses create a response of fear and anxiety in the child.

The same still applies to adults. We are social mammals. There is a tremendous power when two people allow themselves to be truly present in and dedicated to a relationship. All our past relationships come out through the present-day love relationship to be completed and healed. Initially, the anxiety and depression might be intensified in the interactions, but partners can learn how to help co-regulate each other’s emotional states. According to Tatkin, the partner can become the best antidepressant and anxiolytic.

Tatkin points out the importance of “landing together at night and launching together in the morning”. Ideally, we start the day with our partner and we end it again in the evening by sharing about the day and connecting. He states that co-sleeping creates an important connection, even though that requires that issues like intense snoring, sleep apnea and restless-leg syndrome are being treated successfully.

In order to hold each other and down-regulate together, it is useful to have a tool to rate and communicate the emotion(s) that come up. Jayson Gaddis’ NESTR ritual would be one such tool. The N stands for the Number of activation. 1 is not triggered at all and 10 would be extremely activated, for example feeling high anxiety. The E is to pinpoint the Emotion that we are experiencing. The S calls to find the sensation in the body which comes with this emotion. And T is for becoming aware of the Thoughts or the inner narrative that goes hand in hand with the emotion. R is a reminder for Resources that the individual can connect with to either regulate themselves or regulate together with the partner.

There is a lot of advice out there on the internet on how to love someone with depression and how to love someone with anxiety. There are of course many different degrees of depression and anxiety disorder, and differing responses are required. Often both issues come hand in hand. The numbness of depression can be a protective mechanism so that we do not need to feel more frightening emotions.

A few things you can do for your partner or another person close to you to deal with mild anxiety or mild depression are to truly listen, acknowledge, empathize and normalize. Your partner needs to know that you care and that what they are experiencing is understandable and normal. Do your best to be patient. Fears may be illogical but they are still very real to the person. Encourage your partner and lift them up. Tell them why they matter to you. Whatever you say or do, keep in mind that your only goal is to make them feel safer and more loved. Arguing about right or wrong makes no sense when fears are involved.

When your partner finds the courage to express an emotion, validate it with your words, your tone of voice and with simple actions. You can ask if they want a hug or if they want to be held. If something you do makes them feel anxious, adapt. If you are, for example, triggering an anxious response in your partner because you drive faster than they do, respond by saying, “I am sorry, honey” and slow down. This is not about you and if you are a good driver, this is about an irrational fear that your partner is experiencing. You can either choose to get defensive and be right or you can be a partner they feel safe with.

Or if your partner has a hard time getting out of bed and finding meaning in life, don’t judge or ridicule, don’t preach about how good their life is or become a fixer or pusher. Gently encourage. Small steps of doing something different are huge leaps forward when dealing with depression. Imagine your partner just had surgery. You wouldn’t push them to leave the hospital and be fully recovered the day after. Just slowly walking down the hallway on your arm would be a huge accomplishment for them. It is the same when recovering from depression. Small changes every day are progress. Provide companionship as your partner establishes healthy habits and rituals of movement.

For both anxiety as well as depression, be present and be in your heart. If you feel judgment like I used to feel for my mother, it’s because your own shadows are triggered and that is where the work needs to be done.

Contact me for more information on either couple’s coaching or individual sessions. We can work on your own triggers and patterns in individual sessions or on your interactions with each other, so you can be a relief to each other when anxiety or depression show up.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Hello, Old Pal Anxiety!

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Ingrid has colitis and other health challenges; the unpredictability of her physical issues gives her anxiety. Margaret has a fear of flying which has gotten progressively worse; due to her anxiety she has not stepped foot on a plane in years. Peter is a widower and single dad with three daughters; the oldest one has anorexia and he is experiencing great anxiety regarding her well-being, as well as her sister’s. The two teenagers are both plagued by anxiety as well.

Anxiety is a more and more prevailing challenge for many people. One in five Canadians has a mild to severe mood or anxiety disorder. Anxiety is especially on the rise among children and teens. It is a continuously growing concern at any age. What is happening in our brains and how can we address this issue?

To understand how our brains function, we need to remember that for our ancestors, negative experiences had more impact for their survival than positive ones. They needed to remember their painful or dangerous experiences so they would not repeat them, in order to survive. Our brain is still wired that way. Our brains evolved with a “negativity bias” (Rick Hansen). In general, we remember negative experiences more easily, unless we really focus on the positive ones and take them in deeply. That is like a “learning disability” and traps us in conflict. So, it does not help at all to tell somebody who is worrying or has anxiety to think positively.

Anxiety - time

The experience of uncertainty which creates anxiety comes from the fact that we can make representations of time. We structure our experiences into past, present and future. The ability to analyze the past and think ahead to the future is part of the human survival kit. We are supposed to learn from the past, be very awake and alert in the present and make sure we are safe in the future. Unfortunately, our ability to evaluate future risks is only based on a few facts and our left brain fills the gaps between those facts in with a story. Depending on which subconscious beliefs we have about ourselves and the world, this story our left brain makes up is either a supportive one or a limiting and fear-inducing one. In the case of anxiety, our left brain has created a fear narrative.

Mark Twain says it humorously:Anxiety - Mark Twain

Most thoughts that makes us anxious are thoughts about the future, a future that generally never happens like we imagine. That is why mindfulness and staying in the present moment helps to train the brain to stay focused on the here and now. The present is all that is real. Therefore, mindfulness alone can already help with anxiety.

We have also been trained to avoid unpleasant emotions, to push them down and not feel them. So naturally, we don’t want to feel anxiety. However, our attempt to push unpleasant feelings down, keeps the anxiety going. The attempt to make anxiety go away is what traps us in it, not the anxiety itself. Instead of putting all our energy towards avoiding the anxiety and trying to get rid of it, we can learn to be with it and ride it out.

It is an ancient Buddhist practice to stay with the feeling that arises. So when fear or dread arises, we can welcome it into our heart and stay with it until it has moved through us. Greet the anxiety like an old friend, “Hello, my friend. I know you. You are my old pal fear. Welcome back.” Then keep breathing all the way into your belly, long deep and complete breaths, letting your belly expand on the inhale, and become smaller on the exhale. Simply being with the fear allows it to come and go like all other mental content.

meditation-monk

Of course, mindfulness and being with the feeling requires practice, like everything else in life. When we say, “I have tried that mindfulness thing, it doesn’t work” it’s like saying “I have tried playing the piano, it does not work”.

Often we believe uncertainty is the problem to be solved. “If I could just control my physical body”, or “If I could just have the guarantee that there will be no turbulence”, or “If I just knew whether I will pass my exam or not”, or “If I just knew that my child will be alright in the future”.

Uncertainty is not a problem to solve. A much more useful approach is to rest in the uncertainty and experience it as a sanctuary of possibilities. When we are emotionally in a place to create a positive influence or make choices, we end up being more comfortable with the uncertainty of a situation and, in the end, are more in control.

A situation of suffering and uncertainty can challenge our whole identity. Being sick might challenge my identity to be a productive and capable human. A fear or phobia might challenge my identity as a rational adult or spiritual person. A crisis with my child might challenge my identity as a good parent.

We first of all need to remember that we still are who we always were. In fact, we are everything. We are capable and rational and spiritual and a good parent. We are just having the experience of a hugely challenging situation. Because it is unpleasant to feel the pain, disappointment, shame, anger, fear or other emotion, we seek control. If we instead acknowledge the painful feelings, we can shift into a place of self-compassion. We can then move from attempting to gain control to choice.

We can always ask “What can I choose? What can I bring to this situation? Courage? Trust? Love? Who do I want to be in this situation? And how do I want to feel?” The answer might be “I want to feel less alone and therefore I reach out for support to address this health crisis” or “I want to be present and calm on the airplane and trust that I am safe in the Universe” or “I want to be compassionate and loving with my struggling child”.

Anxiety - choices

 

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Angelika, Belief Change Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

You can also join me on this meditation to ask ourselves

what we can choose in a current anxiety provoking situation: