Hello again. It's that time of year when we aspire to stay calm, sane and steady - and maybe even have a little fun - in the face of demands piling on as the holidays draw nigh. You've probably seen most of these tips before, but just as a timely reminder, here's my updated take on how to minimize the inevitable stress, short of getting under the covers and sucking your thumb....
Take Care of Your Body
Try to do all the things you know are good for your physical well being: get some exercise; take it easy on the caffeine, sugar and alcohol; get enough sleep; eat healthy food - you know this stuff. This is the baseline of stress reduction.
Track Your Physical Comfort
Take time to check in and see how your body is feeling. Once you notice, you can make small corrections to relieve discomfort before it takes over. Breathe into tight places; stretch and move when your back or neck feels stiff; look out the window when your eyes are straining at the computer screen; massage your neck and press the acupoints when a headache is lurking. But you have to notice what's amiss first.
Holy cow, is it that time again? This year has just whizzed by, I swear! But here we are, in December, and Team HJ is expecting me to tell you about the terrific gift sets they've put together for the holidays.
I love giving this stuff to friends and family myself, because it's such an inherently caring and useful thing to give somebody you're nuts about - or worried about - or both.
Let's start with the brilliantly named Spoil Me Spa Bath. If this set doesn't send stress and tension out the door, we don't know what does. It combines the purest of sea salts for the tub, loaded with restorative, detoxing minerals and yummily luxurious essential oils.
Okay, so then, we added some tried and true audio favorites to relax the body, clear the mind and restore the spirit (my Relaxation & Wellness imagery and Steve Kohn's exquisitely soothing Meditative Reflections).
Hey, so we're initiating a whole, new phase of putting guided imagery out there to persuade people who've never heard of this stuff - nor used it - nor have the first clue about it – to give it a try and learn what it can do for them.
Yep, time to take it to a new level!
We like to think we've done our part in moving the ball forward over the years, starting in 1990 with our first audiotape for chemotherapy patients. Back then, we were considered pretty weird and got a lot of resistance – even, shall we say, derision? - from all sorts of people.
It's Thanksgiving week, and I'm thinking about a colleague I met at a conference a while ago, who told me about the challenges she was facing from dealing with her traumatized husband while he was in the first stages of posttraumatic stress and probably TBI (traumatic brain injury) after a terrible accident that left him with broken bones, chronic pain and a state of constant fury.
They'd been married for 45 years and were totally devoted to each other, but his constant rages were hard for her to endure. She told me, "You know, I never for a minute considered divorce, but MURDER?? Definitely!"
We have many military families dealing with similar scenarios, taxed to the limit physically, emotionally and financially. It can be a heavy, exasperating, nonstop burden, infused with grief for all that's been lost.
Depression in family caregivers is rife. Some feel so trapped, they think about suicide.
Listen up, good people!
On Wednesday, November 19th, one of my all time favorite trauma experts – none other than the brilliant treatment innovator Peter Levine, creator of Somatic Experiencing - will be offering this week's free webinar for NICABM, as part of their new series, Rethinking Trauma: The Third Wave of Trauma Treatment.
Whenever I'm asked by a therapist which of the many new trauma therapies they should train in if they only have time for one, I answer that if they've got the time and money, Somatic Experiencing is the one. It's just such an elegantly effective protocol that makes the most sense, because it's body-based, just like trauma is, and because it's the least likely to create distress, activate symptoms or get clients stuck in ugly experiences of the past. (And by the way, it's superb for treating many conditions, not just PTS).
Again, it's free at the time of broadcast and you can sign up here.
The past two decades have seen an explosion of research linking simple stress reduction practices with improved outcomes for people with diabetes.
Guided imagery, hypnosis, mindfulness meditation, breath work, acupuncture, yoga, reiki, qigong, biofeedback, mindful walking – there's quite a list. All seem to improve blood chemistry and promote greater well being. And guided imagery is particularly user friendly, practical and effective for people managing the everyday challenges of diabetes.
The reasons are pretty obvious. Stress increases the flow of cortisol and other stress hormones in the bloodstream, and they in turn increase insulin resistance, the production of bad cholesterol, hypertension and a host of other unattractive health outcomes.
Well, it's that time of year again, when people start feeling blue, depressed, sapped of energy and filled with "what's the point of it all" ennui.
Therapists notice it right away, because the phone starts ringing off the hook – new clients looking for help, and people who terminated their therapy years ago, coming back for a tune-up.
And yes, it's connected with the difficult issues in their lives, but chances are, these issues were operating over the summer too, but just didn't hit them as hard as when the sun started getting stingier with its light.
Well, it's that time of year again – Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And once again we're offering our Pink Ribbon Survive & Thrive Pack, created for all those breast cancer survivors who want to maintain a wellness regimen once treatment is over.
What we found was that people can get pretty anxious when treatment ends, because, even though that's generally a good thing, there's still this feeling of "Well, at least I knew I was doing something – even if the chemo produced nasty side effects, and the radiation therapy was no day at the beach either...".
And this loss of having something to do can be felt especially strongly by people who used guided imagery during that time of treatment, to boost the action of their medical protocols or help with pain or nausea or fatigue, or just to allay anxiety or provide uplift and a sense of mastery. That imagery served a real need.
Well, this month we recognize Domestic Violence Awareness, and a good thing, too. Emotional and physical abuse is far more prevalent and ubiquitous than most of us believe. It's not just beefy, steroidal, misogynistic football players punching out their wives in elevators and then hauling off their unconscious bodies like a cheap sack of potatoes.
And no way is it limited to the underprivileged, or women, or the young, or the non-white, either.
If you want to do a quick breaking of stereotype, think old, wealthy, white guy in wheelchair, who's a little annoying because he's pretty deaf and quasi-paralyzed and hard to move around, who's receiving home health care from a private provider, and you'll have another profile of who gets screamed at, beaten, sadistically teased, over- controlled, pushed around, robbed, derided, mortified and terrified. The guy's kids either haven't a clue what's going on, don't care, or behave just as badly as the caregiver.
Well, so I feel like I turned my attention away for a minute, diapered a grandkid, made myself a cup of coffee.. and while I was gone, trauma treatment turned on its head and transformed – again!
I kid you not, this is the fastest growing psych field I know.
If you're a busy clinician or a concerned family member, there's no way you can keep up with these new discoveries. I mean, NO WAY.
This is very exciting and wonderful, but a tad daunting, I gotta say.