Posts tagged ‘healing’

February 5, 2019

Preparation for Healing: Managing Expectations Begins With Setting Clear Intentions

It’s important to manage expectations in preparation for healing and that begins with setting clear intentions. Aaaaand, we’re back. I promised you a post about preparation as we begin to draw a map of the healing process. The Super Bowl is over. Most of us have either given up on our resolutions for the year or are quickly forming new habits. It’s a great time to settle down and set some intentions for healing.
quick guide
Some of us are healing from physical injury. Some of us are healing from an acute episode of a chronic disease. Some of us are healing from loss. Some of us are healing from social injustice. Some of us are healing from acute or prolonged trauma.

Others are stuck but want to heal. We can be stuck waiting for someone to rescue us. We can be stuck frozen in fear, fighting the world, running from reality, or brown-nosing for approval. We can be stuck believing we cannot move forward. Many of us believe this because we have tried to move forward before only to end up in the same spot over and over again.

I’m familiar with ending up in the same spot. I am good at setting and achieving goals. In spite of this, I spent many years choosing partners who were different on the surface, but the same underneath. I could see, evaluate, and change visible parameters, but my subconscious kept me stuck choosing the same sort of man.

The first time I managed to get it together enough to choose differently, I got dumped after two years. That was 10 years ago. It took years after that for me to hear the inner voice that had been telling me all along I didn’t deserve this kind, dependable man. That deep-seated subconscious belief crept into my behavior.

That rejection, painful as it was, happened to be the impetus for real change – the kind of change that comes from healing very old, very deep wounds. Healing I had searched for through church, therapy, and marriage without making any real progress.

Like many people, I could successfully meet the benchmarks required by those institutions while feeling defective, unloved, terrified, and depressed. I started and managed a successful business, created lasting friendships, raised two boys, traveled the world, and became a pilot while I was still part of the walking wounded. If you’re struggling, you are not alone. You are surrounded by other people who are struggling whether you can see it or not.

I am also proof positive that healing can happen and change can be lasting. I suppose it begins with awareness. I can’t tell you that in the beginning I was aware of much that I now know, but I knew I needed to sit still. I began with that intention.

Managing expectations for healing begins by setting clear intentions. If you intend to heal the symptoms of diabetes with the least medical intervention possible, you will walk one path. If you choose to follow whatever regimen is recommended by your doctor, you may follow another. Improving your life by getting a more meaningful job will lead you one direction while healing the effects of childhood abuse and neglect may lead you another.
intentions
In order to set clear intentions, I ask myself:

What do I hope to accomplish?
I try to find a goal that’s doable and specific. When I stated my intention to sit still in a room with no stimuli for 30 minutes per day, it seemed to fit the criteria. Then I found out I was wrong. For me at that time, it wasn’t immediately doable.

As it turned out, I had to break that intention into hundreds of smaller pieces over a significant period of time in order to be successful. I was willing to do that, and now I have the ability to comfortably sit still.

That experience taught me that no intention is too small. Sometimes my only intent for a conversation is to stay present, feel my feelings, and end the conversation when I reach the point I feel too much discomfort.

How do I want to treat other people?
You don’t have to ask yourself this, but one of the reasons I choose a healing path is to become my best self. I can’t be that if I am not treating people well.

I’m a pretty nice person generally, but if a conversation triggers an emotional flashback, I can find myself feeling terror or rage so quickly it’s hard to get ahead of the situation. What I need in that moment is to process through the flashback. I do not have the emotional strength to do that while having a civil conversation. I do everyone a favor by ending the conversation at that point and coming back to it later.

How long am I willing to commit to these intentions?
When I decided to go gluten-free, I committed for a year. My agreement with myself was that if I did not see improvement in a year, I’d go back to a regular diet. I saw improvement within weeks and major improvement in months. Long before the year was over, I amended this intention to remain gluten-free forever.

How will I measure success?
When I was preparing to start my first business, my attorney told me most businesses fail because those in charge don’t know where they are. For example, they may know they have money in the bank today, but they may not be aware that they have not sold enough to have money in the bank for the rent next month if they pay their other invoices on time. This piece of common sense for business translates to life in general.

In order for you to remain on course, it is important to have a general, realistic idea of where you are. It’s also important not to become attached to a specific result as a measure of success. If you plan to improve your life by buying a larger house but use the money you saved for a downpayment to pay unexpected medical bills, it isn’t helpful to view yourself as unsuccessful because you’re still in a small house. You adapted to changing life circumstances and made a responsible choice. I view that as a disappointment and a change in timeline, but also a successful adaptation.

If I had been married to the goal of sitting still on the couch without distraction for 30 minutes per day, I would have ruled myself an unmitigated failure at the end of a month. I didn’t even manage to sit down and stay there more than once in that month and not more than three times in the first year!

Instead, I recognized that I was gaining insight each and every time I failed. To me, that meant I was on the right path. I was failing, but I was failing up. That didn’t feel like failure. It felt like success even though I was not close to the particular goal I set. I let that goal morph into an intention to feel whatever feelings bubbled up when I sat still that I believed I needed to do something, anything, to avoid.

For me, there is a natural flow to assessing and reassessing. It’s something I do without much effort like an app constantly running in the background. That’s not true for everyone. If you need scheduled reviews, timing will be a consideration. Setting a scheduled meeting with yourself or with someone else you trust can help you feel accountable to review your progress.

Do I need feedback? If so, how much?
Feedback can be useless, helpful, or detrimental. Choosing the right type from the right sources is important. Sometimes we gravitate toward feedback that reinforces what we already believe. If we are hoping to change, that’s probably not helpful.

Some people will feel like giving feedback that’s not positive is a form of confrontation. Many people avoid confrontation like the plague. These people are not a good source for feedback because they will withhold the information you most need. As you grow, this will create an atmosphere of distrust.

Feedback can be used by others as a tool to retain or regain the status quo. When you change, everyone around you will be forced to adjust to the differences. This can feel threatening and produce resistance. Such resistance can take the form of feedback that is intended to make you stop changing.

The healing process often involves letting some relationships go in favor of others that are more in line with the direction you’re going. It may be that you opt for no feedback for the first few months while you get your sea legs.

Any feedback that causes you to doubt yourself is not productive. It’s okay to question whether your approach is the most efficient, maximizes health, or is consistent with the results you’re hoping for, but anyone whose input undermines your sense of self or trust in your body will be detrimental to the process.

If that is a therapist, feel free to change. If that is a family member, feel free to set different boundaries. If that is a colleague, limit conversations to work topics. If that is your minister, find someone else to confide in. If that is your physician, get a second opinion and/or find one who will work with you instead of against you. This is your process and it is always okay to make choices that best support you whether anyone else agrees with those choices or not. You, whether you like it or not, can be your own best advocate!

How will I celebrate success?
We expect physical healing to tax our bodies. We don’t often anticipate that emotional and spiritual healing will also tax our bodies. I prefer to celebrate success with activities that energize or inspire me, but sometimes I celebrate by taking a nap or mindlessly binge watching.

Am I willing to improve my boundaries?
Most of us will answer yes without a second thought, but the first time we are faced with telling our mother we’ll be missing an implied mandatory family gathering, we may reexamine that answer. Thinking this through in advance while setting intentions will help solidify your determination to improve boundaries that support your intentions.

Will I practice gratitude even when the process is painful?
This could be considered a separate intention, but I incorporate it as part of the primary thought process because committing to a gratitude practice enhances my chances of feeling positive during difficult times. From experience, I know practicing gratitude will automatically shift my focus in a positive direction.

Can I be kind to myself and still make progress?
Healing requires a delicate balance of self-kindness, accountability, patience, gumption, truth-telling, and bravery. Without kindness, you’ll wear yourself out and give up. You can’t white-knuckle yourself through anything forever. None of us are that strong. Factoring in kindness from the beginning will leave you less tempted to chuck accountability in favor of relief.

I am highly motivated and rarely have to push myself even during difficult, painful times. The Universe brought the lesson of self-kindness to me by bombarding me with so much over such an extended period of time that I got worn out from the sheer relentlessness of every day. I literally hit the wall and had to go to bed for a few days.

This kind of exhaustion was new to me. If I meditated, I had to lie down and let the floor hold me. Sitting up was not an option. I could not muster the energy to plan a getaway. I slept 10 – 12 hours per night. I completed every task as it came to me because I knew if I didn’t it would never get done. I was in no position to be strategic. Now I pay attention to a feeling of tiredness long before I reach the point of exhaustion.

If you think of healing as a marathon rather than a sprint, it will be easier to be kind to yourself along the way. Self-kindness includes eating well, sleeping enough, and making time for vigorous activity on a regular basis. It also includes speaking to yourself in a kind manner, pausing to receive and absorb compliments, leaning into hugs, adding beauty to your environment, allowing your feelings to flow, and making time for moments of simple pleasure.

I realize I may have just made setting intentions sound like an arduous task. Once you’ve done it a time or two, you’ll realize it’s not that hard and I believe taking the time to be clear on where you’re going and how you want to get there will give you the best chance of arriving. It certainly works for me!

https://fearlessliving.org/are-you-setting-the-wrong-goal/

https://www.made-magazine.com/made-exclusive-w-iyanla-vanzant-setting-clear-intentions-in-2019/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/3351-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/many-paths-healing/

January 21, 2019

Finally, Sunshine! Let’s Enjoy It!

Finally, Sunshine! Last year was the 4th rainiest year on record where I live and the cloudy, drizzly days have continued into this year. Finally, this morning there’s sun. It’s amazing how waking to a bright sky can lift your mood and boost your energy! This is a great time to prepare for healing by creating a cache of pleasure and joy.
sun
If you’re ill, in pain, exhausted, busy caring for someone else, in danger of losing your job, grieving, or reeling from emotional flashbacks, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine anything that makes you feel good. It’s like there’s just no room in your entire being for a visualization of pleasure. When I am in this spot and a tiny bit of warmth, thoughtfulness, or kindness manages to register, it triggers a feeling of sadness and loss.

While I consciously know this is counterproductive, I also know there’s no point in fighting the process. I have learned that the best way to limit the duration of such sadness is to allow it to flow. It’s hard to measure whether the well in my solar plexus from which it pours gets shallower over time. I hope so, but I just don’t have enough perspective to judge.

Embracing this reality means I recognize I must actively engage in noticing the small gifts life brings each day. Having a system for recording positive feelings is a tool I can use to stockpile feelings of calm, peace, silliness, delight, gratitude, glee, lightness, and mirth. It also gives me a pathway to access positive feelings quickly. But before I create a system, I must open myself to positive experience even if it brings a moment of sadness too.

I was immediately aware of the brightness this morning as I sat in my recliner coffee in hand. I stopped reading and took a moment to breathe while looking at the sky. There are 9 windows in my small sunroom. It gets both morning light and beautiful sunsets.

sunroomA couple of years ago when I removed the cafe curtains from these windows to wash and iron them (I learned my lesson on sending them out to be laundered the year it took $350 to retrieve them from the laundry service. It would have been much cheaper to buy new curtains.), I decided not to rehang the top tier. Not only did that mean less ironing then, it means more light all of the time.

This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. I debated about it, took photos with and without, texted them to a designer friend, and ultimately chose the light. I don’t know that I improved the design of the room, but I improved the quality of my life.

Today, it’s sunny but it’s cold and the ground is frozen. It’s not a good day to dig up those bulbs in the yard or to sit on the porch and write. It’s a great day to do something not on my to-do list: go to brunch, run to the grocery store and get the ingredients for a new salad I want to try, take a drive with my grandson, walk through an open house or two, take a brisk walk, or book a trip somewhere sunny. The key is to enjoy the sun, to bank the positive feelings it brings, and to make a deliberate plan to enjoy the sun in the future.

And so, I’ll leave you here. I’m going to bundle up and get out of the house into the sun.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=coffee

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/my-five-feel-good-things-for-the-week/

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July 24, 2018

Speed Kills

Remember the ad campaign, Speed Kills? I can’t remember if I first heard the term in an anti-drug campaign or an attempt to reduce speed limits. The phrase has been used for both. This week, I’m thinking of Speed Kills in totally different terms.

Last weekend I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This movie chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, the creator of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. There was nothing speedy about Mister Rogers. His slow pace stands in stark contrast to other children’s entertainers. This was deliberate. It was also significant.

Mister Rogers understood that very important things happen when we’re still and quiet. He included long pauses and silence in his television program. This is considered a no-no in the TV world, but as someone observed in the movie, there were many times when nothing much was going on, but none of the time was wasted.

On some level, parents and children must have sensed the significance of this. They certainly responded. Mister Rogers became hugely successful in spite of doing everything “wrong” for a television audience.

In my home, I observed that when my boys watched MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD their behavior was markedly different than when they watched He-Man. He-Man led to an afternoon of hitting each other, breaking toys, and generally violent behavior.

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, on the other hand, had a calming effect. After watching, the boys were kinder, gentler, and quieter. They played together instead of fighting. My house was infinitely more peaceful.

At the time, I didn’t take time to analyze why this was true, I just did the practical thing and banned He-Man. If I needed the kids to have screen time so that I could clean up the kitchen or do the laundry, we opted for MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD or the video disc Free to be You and Me.

Now, with much more experience under my belt including many years of working long hours, never missing an event, frequent travel, work-work-work-play-play-play and rarely saying no, I understand the importance of being still. Being present requires taking pauses to notice what has happened and how it makes us feel.

I know you may read that and say, “duh,” but look at how we live. We rarely pause between activities, much less during them. We fill our waking hours with movement, noise, and electronic distraction.

One of my grandchildren has 4 structured activity classes per week – he’s 9 months old! Will he be able to lie on his back, stare at the clouds smelling fresh-cut grass and feeling the solidness of the ground supporting him when he’s three or will he be lost without constant activity?

It seems we have some level of awareness that we need to increase our sense of well-being. Ways to increase wellness are often featured on morning TV. The number of people practicing yoga in the US has doubled since 2008. The mindfulness movement touts the health benefits of meditation.

In contrast, we see our friends, neighbors, and family members numb themselves with work, gaming, social media, TV, sex, food, alcohol, and drugs on a regular basis. Sometimes we see ourselves doing the same. If we know we need to feel better, and we know that slowing down to reflect and be present in the moment will help, why do we keep speeding forward?
speed
What’s difficult to admit, much less discuss, is what lies underneath a need to speed through life at a level of maximum distraction. If you have lived in an environment of chaos and/or danger to your physical or emotional well-being that you could not escape, it is excruciatingly hard to sit still and be present. It is also necessary if you are to heal the wounds your spirit has suffered.

It is in this context that I now view the phrase – speed kills. Speed kills our connection to our spirit. This removes us from knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves. It removes us from the very best parts of ourselves. At its worst, this disconnect allows us to act out our anger, hurt, and frustration in vindictive, destructive ways.

In the face of a tragic, hostile act, we often wonder – what kind of person would do that? Often the answer is simple: someone who has suffered in ways you cannot see and may not be able to imagine.

Remaining present and emotionally open in the face of violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning, is intolerable for most everyone. It is absolutely healthy in those situations to engage in fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning in order to protect yourself.

The problem is many, not just some, MANY of us have lived in an environment in which violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning were the norm. Living in persistent, unrelenting physical and/or emotional danger creates wounds that are both physical and emotional and result in disconnection from ourselves. Constantly being in a state of fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning creates long-term barriers to calm, peace, connection and joy.

When we have the strength and courage to sit still and be present, it opens the door for all the emotions we have been avoiding to come rushing in. This is a great opportunity to release those emotions and the hold they have over us. That’s easy to say, but terrifying and hard for many of us to do even if it is worth it in the long run.

I’ve spent years unraveling the knots in my stomach and my spirit. I know that I did not choose the environment that created them. I was born into it. Accepting this hasn’t eliminated the seemingly bottomless well of sadness I feel in my solar plexus. It hasn’t removed every trigger that can send me into an emotional flashback that I simply can’t outthink. (I know this isn’t some particular defect in me. Signals from the amygdala can override executive function, but it still feels terrifying and out of control.)

Mindfulness has helped me rewire my brain away from anxiety toward noticing small ways in which I feel good. I feel less braced for the (as I learned to view the world) next inevitable attack. My new level of awareness lets me deliberately shift my focus in order to feel better in a given moment.

I am painfully aware how difficult it can be to find support for a healing path. Even places we expect to provide a cushion for processing trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms – the therapist’s office, doctor’s office, church, or support groups, may not provide the type of support we need. Feeling unseen, unheard, dismissed, targeted, or misunderstood can leave us feeling even more alone and, sometimes, revictimized.

Healing can bring immediate improvement, but I do not know of a straight or swift path to wholeness. That journey is a process unique to each of us. The best support along the way is to be seen and accepted just as we are at any given moment.

Perhaps this is why I so appreciate Mister Rogers simple affirmation that he likes us just as we are. But I cannot fully receive that message unless I am sitting still.

http://www.doitnow.org/pages/psas.html

http://focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

https://www.fredrogers.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_to_Be…_You_and_Me

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/untold-story-america-mindfulness-movement/

http://childhood-developmental-disorders.imedpub.com/systematic-review-of-mindfulness-induced-neuroplasticity-in-adults-potential-areas-of-interest-for-the-maturing-adolescent-brain.php?aid=8553

https://seattleyoganews.com/yoga-in-america-2016-statistics/

https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/domestic_violence2.pdf

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518443/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/sometimes-stop-order-start/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-17-stay-home/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 18, 2017

Healthy is Beautiful

Why can’t we see that healthy is beautiful? This week there were radishes in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I immediately thought of my grandmother. As the host of all of our Sunday family dinners, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas lunch, she never molded, garnished, piped or styled anything. She didn’t take the time to weave a lattice top over her apple pie, she just rolled a second crust and put a few slits in the top. Her one nod to beautifying her food was the radish rose. Even those she kept simple, using a few rudimentary cuts. Then she placed them on a china plate – sometimes her pattern and sometimes her mother’s.
radishes
If this leaves you thinking the table was bland or ugly, think again. A simple white on white table cloth held pristine china, real silverware, cloth napkins, and a row of serving bowls down the center brimming with food from the garden — bright yellow corn, red tomato slices, green okra or string beans with new potatoes. Even the stuffed peppers were home grown, and the dark red Bing cherries were picked fresh from a tree in her yard. Gran may not have used the silver service that sat in her china cabinet next to the dining table or made room for flowers and candles on the table, but her table was elegant, inviting and filled with colorful, fragrant, delicious, fresh food.
peppers
What would Gran think of styling or plating food? I don’t know if she’d object. She wasn’t particularly rough around the edges. Her grammar was impeccable, her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted bright red, and she never gave up her high heels. She just had her own sense of priorities and a limited amount of time. That led to practical decisions. Gran was able to discern that fresh ingredients and skilled preparation would trump appearance in the long run so that’s how she allotted her time.

She also shopped and delivered groceries to a disabled man on a regular basis, made regular nursing home rounds to visit old friends, was church clerk and worked 40 hours a week. If you had suggested she style her food rather than perform these tasks, I’m pretty sure she would have stomped her foot and sent you out of the room. That sort of prioritizing just made her mad.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s influence, or perhaps I’ve just hit that age when lots of things don’t make sense, but our current priorities leave me frequently feeling out of sync. We spend lots of time, energy, and money making things look good on the surface when doing so means sacrificing quality, health, resilience, accomplishment, character, learning, and deep connection. You can see this in play in many areas:
Relationships – Dump this imperfect person for the next imperfect person instead of examining our contribution to the problem
Parenting – Help the child with his homework so he gets a good grade rather than allowing him to learn from failure
Education – Teach to the test instead of teaching how to learn and process knowledge, i.e. think critically
Finances – Spend and borrow so we appear affluent now rather than plan and save for later
Beauty – Starve, cover, augment, inject, fill, and color instead of appreciating the beauty of our natural attributes
Psychological & Emotional Health – Numb with drugs, alcohol, video games, excessive spending, and overworking rather than feeling and healing
Politics – Say what appeals to constituents right now no matter how a policy will affect the country in the future
Nutrition – Substitute packaged, processed, fortified and convenient for fresh, whole, nutrient-rich, minimally processed and variety
Medicine – Treat symptoms with meds in instances when lifestyle changes can be equally effective

The shift in priorities from Gran’s era to now is rarely questioned, but it doesn’t seem to be serving us well. In my city, the homicide total to date is more than double last year’s rate as of this date. The number of nonfatal gunfire injuries has increased 92 percent. Opioid addiction is at an all-time high. Chronic disease is increasing across all age groups. Political divisiveness and hostility now frequently erupt into contentious confrontations. Rudeness abounds. Bad behavior is presented as the norm of the reality TV star. The US barely makes it into the top 20 list of countries with the highest standard of living as measured by the Social Progress Imperative.
flatbread
How many of these problems could we reverse simply by prioritizing basic healthy practices-
Getting enough sleep
Eating fresh, minimally processed food
Finding a way to be active 5-6 days per week
Making time for stillness
Forgiving ourselves
Owning our decisions
Setting boundaries
Showing appreciation
Practicing gratitude
Listening to each other
Showing compassion

Of course, there’s no way to know, but I believe we have the ability to improve anything on which we focus our energy. If we simply viewed healthy as beautiful, it’s clear we’d throw lots of time, money, and energy into achieving a healthy state. Perhaps we can start by pausing a moment to see the beauty in colorful fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and listening to each other over a bowl of homemade soup.

With her energy focused on growing and preparing vegetables, making pickles and tomato juice, and keeping the cookie jar full, Gran may not have had time for frilly or fancy, but she certainly provided a beautiful spread. She’s been gone for more than 20 years and we still talk about those meals. We miss them. On Gran’s table, healthy food had lasting beauty.

The lasting beauty of healthy food that contributes to healing – that’s a priority I can get behind!

References:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/ADHD-Nation/Alan-Schwarz/9781501105913
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/apr/29/meeting-to-address-lr-crime-20170429/
http://www.arkansasnews.com/news/arkansas/doctor-warns-epidemic-opioid-addiction-arkansas
http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf
http://www.businessinsider.com/19-countries-with-the-highest-standard-of-life-according-to-the-social-progress-report-2016-6

Resources:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69402.The_Essential_55
https://traumahealing.org/
https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/
https://fearlessliving.org/