A Peaceful Meditation Day to All!

The physical and health benefits of meditation have been noted for years and repeatedly validated by science. You don’t have to switch to an entirely new lifestyle in order to practice meditation! There are many ways to begin practicing, a little at a time.

Many people with anxiety do very well with the structured approach taken by Headspace (Andy Puddicombe). With simple graphics that clearly explain physical, cognitive, and emotional aspects of meditation, you will find the process easy to understand and implement. Even if you do not get a subscription and only use the first sessions that are free, it is well worth a look:

Another meditation tool that many clients report being highly satisfied with is Insight Timer:

And if you’re ready to go a little deeper into the emotional aspects of meditation, I highly recommend anything at all by Tara Brach!

 

Yoga Through the Lens of Western Science

Our physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects are interconnected and interdependent. This is the case whether we use a psychodynamic approach or a cognitive-behavioral psychological approach. If we are experiencing (noticing) dysfunction in one area, the whole system is actually affected. The good news about this is that by changing things in one aspect, we can affect other aspects as well.

This does not mean that we can simply “think away illness” or that if we can exercise “perfectly” (whatever that would be!) then our thoughts and feelings will just “snap out of it” into rationality and/or bliss. What it does mean, however, is that when we gradually move our habits towards health and balance in one aspect, the other aspects will also move more towards health and balance.

That means when behaviors become healthier, thoughts and feelings become healthier. When thoughts become healthier, feelings and behaviors become healthier. When feelings become healthier, behaviors and thoughts become healthier. A change in any one of them changes all of them!

When we consider the interconnected areas of behavior, cognition, and emotion, the most easily and directly influenced aspect is behavior. We can change what we do, which can help to change what we think and how we feel.

Remember, with any behavior change, the idea is not instant change, but rather successive approximation: doing things a bit more like the goal behavior, and then when that sticks, we do it a bit more like the goal behavior. Attempting drastic changes is less likely to create long-term change than creating and conditioning gradual habit change.

This really interesting clip discusses some ways in which developing–for example–a yoga practice can influence not only thoughts and feelings but also our bodies down to the cellular and chemical level:

 

Mental Health: Accepting Healing Over Time

 

Valarie Ward has written a good breakdown of how pop mental health writing is often not only unhelpful, but perpetuates stigma and judgment. Treatment–whether chemical, cognitive, or situational–can support and help to heal mental health, but it’s not a magical instant “cure.”

It’s useful to find the type of treatment or intervention that is most helpful and supportive to YOU. It doesn’t mean you’re “doing it wrong” if you still have symptoms or flare-ups. It means that humans are biological, not mechanical objects that can have new parts swapped in for an instant fix. [See: PTSD as chronic illness]

There is nothing wrong with trying to find things that help you feel better and function better. We encourage you to explore treatment modalities!

But the danger in chasing a “cure” can be the idea that if it’s not “cured,” then we just aren’t trying hard enough. Plenty of people with mental illness and injury hear this message from well-meaning friends, family, and loved ones, though sometimes in different words.

“You’ve been in therapy for weeks/months/years, why isn’t it helping?”: If it’s truly not helping, then of course try something else, or something additional!

But often this really means “I’m upset that you’re not ‘cured’ yet.” Unfortunately, we may also internalize these messages ourselves, which just means that we have found another “should” with which to beat ourselves up; another way to use perfectionistic standards against ourselves.

Instead, notice how far you’ve come since you started working on your healing. Even if it has only been a few days, I bet you already learned some things that help you to comfort yourself or to reframe your thoughts in a healthy way that hurts less!

And if you’ve been working on healing for a while, I bet you are experiencing more days during which you can get out of bed. Or get out of the house. Or days you can do some meaningful work or play. Or days you can spend time with your children. Or fewer days spent in the hospital. Or a better ability to see yourself having a future. Or a few more relationships that are going a little better than they used to. I bet you’ve already done a lot more healing than you think!

So instead of beating up on yourself for not suddenly being “cured” or “fixed,” take stock of how your healing really is progressing, and be proud of yourself. ❤

 

Healing, Not Fixing, PTSD

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often best approached as a chronic condition that may have “flare-ups.” This is true of many other mental illnesses and mental injuries as well.

It can certainly be the case that someone experiences some symptoms of PTSD one time and never again in their life, but for most of us, what it means is that we are vulnerable to experiencing symptoms again during periods of stress (or in the case of activating events).

We are experiencing healing, which means we are able to improve certain things with support and as we learn to attend to ourselves, but we don’t know how much everything will heal nor how long it may take. This is different than “fixing,” which is when we remove a “broken” part and replace it, and then everything is as though nothing ever happened. You are an organism, not a bicycle.

This does not mean “I have PTSD, so now everything is hopeless forever,” it means that we need to learn how to manage our environments, life situations, and our selves in order to reduce the severity of symptoms and the likelihood of recurrence, rather than to assume “I haven’t had any symptoms in a year, this must mean it’s okay to stop attending to myself!”

It means not subjecting ourselves to unreasonable stressors and life-sucking situations, personally and in our work. It means taking our physical and emotional discomfort seriously instead of blowing it off until it blows up. It means not listening to internalized minimizing messages that say “suck it up” when distressed. It means learning to re-parent ourselves where necessary.

It means treating ourselves with support, care, and dignity, and developing boundaries to ensure that others do, too. It means practicing self-care as a habit, not only when unduly stressed. It means recognizing symptoms as symptoms, rather than as some kind of weakness that deserves self-punishment.

It means learning what events, people, and circumstances make your symptoms worse, and modifying those as best you can. It means learning what activities, people, and circumstances help you feel better, and including those more. It means taking yourself to the doctor or the therapist when you need to go. Sounds simple, but it’s not always easy!

Basically, it means learning to take care of ourselves “as though” our well-being actually mattered instead of as an afterthought. Let me repeat: treat yourself like your well-being matters, because it does. ❤

 

“Treating yourself with kindness is a life skill. It doesn’t matter whether you are ”good at” this skill It only matters that you keep going💛” — Jeffrey Marsh

 

 

Immigrant Families Managing Depression, Anxiety

Because of the many layers of stresses and even traumas associated with immigration, immigrants and their families may face high levels of mental distress. This includes things such as traumatic events that were severe enough to make them leave their home country in the first place, as well as the great difficulties in adjusting to a new and sometimes hostile environment.

In some cases, cultural conflict and cultural differences may make dealing with mental health issues even more difficult.  But some members of immigrant groups are working to alleviate this and support mental health of fellow members, such as  Ryan Tanep, in this piece by Malaka Gharibh:

 

Someone Said I Did A Racism; Now What? A Guide

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It’s the final day of Black History Month!
The past month has seen a number of high-profile figures being criticized for saying or doing racist things. In most cases that I saw, those in the spotlight made matters even worse by their responses. Have you wondered how you would respond in the same circumstance?
Nobody wants to think of themselves as racist. But the fact is, being raised in a racist society means that some of the time, we will all do or say some racist things, despite meaning well and often without even realizing it.
So what do you do if someone points out that what you have said or done is racist? Here is a guide.
1. First of all, hold that initial impulse to argue. Before you say anything, take a breath and pause for several seconds. If you must speak, say something like, “Okay. I need to think about this.”
2. On the emotional side, contain your defensiveness: Doing or saying a racist thing doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a bigot or a terrible person. Most people doing racist things are not bigots. It does mean that a piece of (very common!) racist conditioning has come up and it’s an opportunity to work on that and heal. If you are a person with a conscience and a heart, it will probably hurt to hear. That means your conscience and your heart are working! But try not to take this criticism as an attack. (This is hard!)
3. Recognize that your intention doesn’t excuse the outcome: If I run over your foot with my truck, it doesn’t matter whether I mean to or not. Your foot is going to be hurt–possibly broken. The same is true of racist acts and words. The vast majority of racism is unintentional, and it is injurious to others just the same.
So it’s okay if you find yourself saying “I didn’t mean to…” But recognize that is only the beginning, and only a tiny piece of the issue. It’s not an apology.
4. Try simply apologizing unconditionally and without a long explanation. It’s okay to say something like “I’m sorry. I see that was ugly.”  If this sounds hard (it is, emotionally speaking), try preparing by reviewing and practicing before this ever comes up, so you won’t be frozen or outraged if it happens. You may also want to review what not to do!
5. Manage your own feelings: This is really the hardest part.
Most of us, if not all, will feel defensive, hurt, attacked, misunderstood, guilty, sad, scared, angry, or some combination of the above. But those feelings are yours to manage, and you are strong enough to hold them.
Remember, the other person is not responsible for making you feel better for having hurt them, or to give you absolution. It’s especially important to let them have their feelings of upsetness without trying to talk them out of it or to burden them with the emotional work of reassuring you about it. That places additional work on them when they are already burdened with the hurt of racism, and it is unfair.
If you need to vent your feelings about this (which is healthy!) find someone else to talk with, preferably a racially conscious White friend or even a counselor. You may also want to journal, cry privately, read, pray, or meditate, just as you would with any other painful or uncomfortable feelings that you are processing.
6. What if they are wrong? Short answer: they’re not. Even though you didn’t mean it that way.
Think about it: if you are a White woman, haven’t you seen men doing sexism even when they didn’t realize it? Or they dismissed it? If you are a White person who is LGBT: haven’t you seen hetero people being homophobic or transphobic and then saying how much they love LGBT folks? Low-income people, haven’t you heard rich people talk about poor people like they really don’t matter at all in the ultimate equation? Yet if you asked them, they would probably say they like people generally, and had nothing against any particular poor person.
The worst judge of an -ism is the person committing it, and racism is no exception.
7. Don’t be discouraged from working on race issues: Pick it back up when you have healed. Think about your motives. Are you working on unlearning racism because it’s the right thing to do, or to get approval and recognition from people in a marginalized group? Work on race issues because you want to improve society, whether or not any specific BIPoC likes you (or you them). Unlearning is a lifelong process.
8. Develop authentic friendships: It is always more emotionally risky for a BIPoC to have a White friend than the other way around. So make yourself available, be friendly and helpful insofar as you are able, but remember that no one owes you friendship, no matter how nice you are to them. To borrow an analogy, friendship is not a vending machine.
For additional thoughts about interracial friendship, visit this thread:

PS: Whatever you do, resist the urge to do a “not all White People,” –no really, do not do a “not all White People.”

 

Our First “From You”: “Belonging to Yourself”

 

 

From time to time, our clients bring in articles, books, essays, or other materials that they have found especially helpful in work we are doing. Since one of the most valuable reviews is from someone who has been there, we’d like to share the helpfulness with others who may need it!

Today’s link is an article by Celeste Scott. It features an aspect of self-parenting: learning to belong to yourself instead of waiting for permission or approval from others.

To learn about other aspects of self-parenting (or self-re-parenting) in adulthood, read more on our blog here.

 

Depression and Mood Screening Clinic 2/28-3/1

 

Wondering if you have depression or a mood disorder?

Give us a call or email to set up an appointment with one of our caring mental health professionals for a brief screening during our depression and mood disorders screening clinic.

Depression can be treated–it’s not “laziness” or a character flaw!

Give yourself a chance to be involved in your own life (and enjoy it more)!  ❤

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