Friday, December 4, 2015

You're the Mama (of You)!

Only you can birth this baby. You decide what to do when she's sick or fussy once she's here. You're the mama! These words were as scary to me as a new mom as they were empowering; I share them here with you in case you need some inspiration to step up and take care of yourself- after all, you're the mama of you! 

As adults, we can't go back and be re-parented but we can parent our inner child. You decide how you respond to yourself when you're sick and tired, how you take yourself out to play, put yourself to bed, who you spend time with, etc. It's all up to you! Likewise, only you can resist the urge to do harmful things and cope safely with your worst symptoms and situations. It's all you, baby! 

I read an email newsletter about loving your inner child that did a great job explaining this concept in concrete terms. The author, Rick Hanson, writes the following...

Because of experience-dependent neuroplasticity, the things you felt, wanted, or believed as a child have been woven into your nervous system. For example, crying as an infant until someone came, joy at beginning to walk, fun with friends, feeling bad about yourself when scolded about schoolwork, power struggles with parents, wanting your body to be bigger/smaller/different in high school, wondering if anyone will like the real you, the bittersweet excitement of leaving home - whatever your own childhood was, experiences like these have sunk in to you and travel with you every day wherever you go.

Taken as a whole, these residues make up your inner child - which is not a silly cliché, but actually a large-scale system embedded in your brain that continually and powerfully influences your mood, sense of worth, expectations, and reactions. This child inside is at the core of who you are.

The holidays are a great time to practice being the loving parent we all want- someone who is safe, nurturing, and unconditionally loving. I propose you do this in simple ways, like compassionate self-talk, treating yourself to a special gift, making something by hand, weaving a connection with an old or new friend... The list is infinite and it's entirely up to you to discover what soothes your inner little being. You might start by asking how your inner child is feeling and go from there.

I want to leave you with this sweet project, Your Holiday Mom, created to help LGBTQ youth through letters of support, love, and validation but applies to anyone who may not have a safe and welcome spot in their families of origin this season. Be your own holiday mom! 

You deserve only good things and I wish them all to you...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Getting Out of Trauma Mind

Did you know that trauma and anxiety impact the body and mind in similar ways? Feeling helpless and overwhelmed shifts us into what I call the trauma mind, where we see red- or black-and-white. People and events are all good or all bad. We're stuck in the short-term with less than stellar impulse control. Our bodies are primed to fight, flight, or flee. Rest and relaxation are all but impossible.

With practice, we can notice when we're in trauma mind and shift out of it and back into our naturally more restful and restorative state, where we are better able to respond to whatever is going on without those stress hormones washing across the brain. But, how? We can't think our way out of trauma mind. We get out by actively coping- focusing hard on what's not wrong within and around us in the present moment.

Active coping looks different for each of us and can look like...
  • Self talk
  • Changing environments
  • Calling a friend
  • Deep breathing
  • Focusing on a grounding object
  • Moving your body
  • Medication
The key is to use whatever helps you get out of the inner distress of your head and into the safety of the present moment, where most likely your survival is not being threatened (as the mind would have you believe). You'll know it when you find it and it gets easier with time. A counselor, coach, or trusted ally can be a great resource when the going gets tough. Hang in there and have faith. You can get out of trauma mind.

Some clues that you're getting out of trauma mind and into wise mind instead...
  • Breathing slows and deepens
  • Stress related aches and pains lessen
  • You can think long-term, delaying instant gratification
  • You can see the shades of gray (versus only in black-and-white)
  • Self-acceptance comes easier
  • Acceptance of others for who they are
  • Less need to control, easier to let go
A key ingredient in this process of learning to get out of trauma mind is patience and compassion for yourself when you slip up- and you will! As you learn to respond kindly to yourself, the going gets  a lot easier and more do-able. It may feel like an up-hill battle at first and this is only natural. It's a whole new way of doing things for many people who have been living with chronic high stress.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Affirmations for Birth and Beyond

There are times when we must step into the unknown. Healing from abuse is one of those times. Facing the loss of a loved one is one of those times. Becoming a parent is one of those times. 

A few short weeks ago, when I was preparing to step into the unknown of giving birth, I turned to positive birth affirmations to guide me- and guided imagery to help, too! I want to share some affirmations with you in the spirit of healing that I think also apply to birthing a new life after trauma into being. Both journeys ask us to do something new and it becomes important to befriend our natural human fear of uncertainty to some degree.

Take full advantage of this tool if it works for you! Discard it if it doesn't. 

Affirmations for birth and beyond...

Everything is alright.
Everything is going as it should.
I am a strong and capable woman.
I am safe and sound.
My job is to simply relax and allow the birth to happen.
This is not pass or fail.
The wisdom of all women throughout time supports me.
300,000 other women will give birth with me today.
My mind and body rest easy.
My intuition guides me in the right direction.
I am deserving of a painless, easy, uncomplicated birth.
I am deserving of a peaceful, joyous, pleasurable birth!
I make the right decisions for myself.
I am beautiful in my ability to do this work.
My body and mind know what to do.
I am open to all of the love and support around me.
How I feel matters and I choose to feel safe.
I lovingly release the past.
Only I can give birth to this baby and I accept full responsibility for that challenge.
I am attuned to my wants and needs and voice them freely.
I embrace my inner wisdom.
I give thanks for what is going right.
I accept myself completely, here and now.
I ride the waves of my experience nice and easy.
My courage and patience get me through difficult moments.
I am ready and prepared for the journey.
I have exactly what I need.
My body and mind work exactly as nature intended.
My body is intelligent and will handle all.
In this moment, I let myself be at peace.
I relax my mind and muscles.
I trust my open heart to guide me in the right direction.
I trust my knowing of what is true for me.
I am aware of my balanced calm center.
I put all fears aside and lovingly welcome my experience.
Each step is wise and purposeful.
I can handle whatever comes up.
I deserve and receive all the love and support I need.

What do you think? Of course, we need concrete outer tools for our healing, as well- food, shelter, and medical attention, to name a few- but affirmations can be a powerful support for the inner work. May the spirit of healing be with you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

When Self-Love is Elusive

For folks who've been through traumatic experiences or tend towards anxiety and depression, learning to love ourselves can be tricky business. We get the importance of being kind to ourselves, which makes it more frustrating that self-love eludes us. If the person you want to become, a person who loves herself, feels painfully far away, this post is for you. It's for me because I've been there, too. It's for all who would benefit from direct coaching when cheesy platitudes aren't enough.

What is self-love? Well, it's the opposite of self hate, a common symptom in trauma survivors and folks with anxiety and depression alike. After a difficult experience, you might find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, others, and the world. This makes sense after your basic sense of trust has been shaken as it is with trauma but hyper-focusing on what's wrong keeps us unable to relax and feel safe- the very thing our mind is trying to accomplish by remaining on the lookout for danger.

For many of us, the first step to self-love is establishing a sense of inner and outer safety. It's hard to be happy until the fear response is turned off more of the time than not. This doesn't mean you'll never experience another nightmare, panic attack, or other unwanted reaction but it means you'll have less and less bad days as you learn to cope well with your most challenging symptoms. I hope you weren't looking for a quick fix or magic pill. In my experience, most of us prefer the truth.

As we begin to feel safer, we can more readily pursue a path of self-love- and there is no destination. Again, sorry to disappoint you if you hoped there was but isn't it a relief to know that you'll always have another chance to do things differently as you continually grow and change? I find comfort in knowing that no one single event defines us. I am not the words I offer you today, although they're part of me. You are much more than just the thoughts going through your mind, right now.

Self love requires safety, patience, and willingness to practice looking for what's right, letting ourselves enjoy things, and letting ourselves off the hook when things don't go according to plan. Your very desire to love yourself more fully puts you on the path. Now, it's just a matter of how you respond to yourself, especially when you're stressed, again and again... Want more specific feedback? A trusted friend, relative, or counselor such as myself can help you discover and use your best coping strategies. Wherever you are, I wish you blessings on your path...

Further questions for your consideration:
  • What are your worst symptoms?
  • How do you remind yourself that you're safe, now?
  • What grounds you when you're feeling overwhelmed?
  • Name a few ways you can distract yourself from inner distress.
  • Who can you call for coaching or support when you need it?
  • Where can you go if you need a break from your current surroundings?
  • List people, places, and things, that calm, motivate, and inspire you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Glimpse of Trauma Treatment

Trauma is a part of life. And, so is recovery. The aftermath of having gone through deeply distressing events, whether or not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been diagnosed, doesn't have to last forever. I will repeat, it gets better. The nightmares, flashbacks, unwanted thoughts, hyper vigilance, and other symptoms characteristic of a post traumatic condition are treatable.

Many so-called evidence-based strategies exist that have been proven to be effective in helping us heal from trauma. One such approach, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) has an effectiveness rate of eighty percent. Additional approaches with equally promising track records are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Seeking Safety. A trauma treatment counselor such s myself can tailor these and other approaches to meet your specific needs.

You are always in the driver's seat of your treatment. Restoring a sense of power and trust is key. So, your counselor will be careful work along with you, helping you to go at your own pace, like an an ally or a trusted guide.

Let's take a glimpse at what a trauma treatment session can look like...
  • Examining the harmful thoughts commonly associated with trauma and replacing them with more beneficial ones.
  • Learning to ground and center yourself so you can calm down in times of stress.
  • Retelling what you've been through in a way that feels safe to you so it loses its charge.
  • Identifying when it would be helpful to reach out to others and how.
  • Exploring what feels good to you and how you want to rebuild your life after trauma.
  • Getting guidance on additional medical and/or holistic support you might want or need.
  • Using EMDR to desensitize traumatic memories.
  • Creating art or utilizing other forms of self-expression to process disturbing events.
  • Understanding your worst symptoms and how you can best cope with each.
The ways in which we can find relief from psychological trauma are endless. Together, we can rebuild a sense of trust and safety, make sense of what you've been through, and create a life that you desire. Post traumatic growth and resilience are real and yours to be claimed. The support of a skilled counselor can help. 

I hope this post provided some inspiration and welcome requests for other topics folks would like to see more of on here. No topic need be taboo or mysterious. Let's clear it up with down-to-earth practical information sharing. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Building A New Dream: Healing from Trauma

Life after trauma calls us to build a new dream on the foundations of the old, which have crumbled around us. This is where the going gets tough. The first steps are the hardest and require our willingness to put ourselves first; but new growth will sprout from the devastation and calm will follow the storm if we stay focused on our work. It takes ample encouragement to help in this rebuilding and it's encouragement I hope to offer. 

The following list is not exhaustive, nor do I claim that these ideas are new, scientifically validated, or right for everyone. Rather, these insights have been gleaned from my own and others' personal and professional healing work. Decide what you're willing to try. Reject the rest. Only you will know what's right for you.

Know that setbacks are to be expected. Be patient and find support for yourself when this happens. I enjoy offering my clients faith in their progress when they can't see it and together we take stock of how far they've come and assess the work left to be done. In time, you will be able to do this on your own. New dreams aren't built over night. 

Tools for Building a New Dream 

Share yourself with only people you can depend upon to help build you up. 

Know that loving yourself can be learned but takes time.

Understand that healing is a journey and not a destination. 

Have compassion and understanding for yourself.

Accept that lasting balance is never achieved but revisited.

Trust that you deserve the best, right now.

Let yourself off the hook for pleasing others.

Know in your heart that guilt serves no good purpose.

Believe that it's never too late to try new things.

Have faith that your body and mind know what to do.

Welcome every part of you, as it's here for a reason.

Begin to look for your heaven here on earth.

Find a creative outlet that speaks to you.

Heed your call to activism.

Listen to your needs (no more neglect).

Know that your healing is part of all of our collective healing.

Understand that changing your norm doesn't happen overnight.

Do what affirms and validates you.

Find and make your own family.

Learn to love the people you don't like and let go of their expectations.

Take it one situation at a time.

Your healing work may well be the hardest and most rewarding work of your life. Let your legacy be one you will look back on and smile. You may be standing on shambles, now, but your story is not over. Perhaps it's just beginning. All blessings to you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Coping with Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse, also called verbal or psychological abuse, is when a person uses a specific set of tactics- words and/or behaviors- to provoke fear and sadness in someone else in order to gain power and control over them. Experiencing this type of behavior can be just as overwhelming as physical abuse and cause lasting damage to your wellbeing. These mental and emotional scars include chronic anxiety, depression, and post traumatic conditions.

Is it emotional abuse? Have you been close with someone who has...
  • Called you names or put you down?
  • Denied your perspective, truth, or reality?
  • Kept changing up the script/story, keeping you guessing?
  • Behaved nicely with you in public but became someone else in private?
  • Conversely, was intentionally humiliating towards you in front of others?
  • Demanded you beg, plead, or otherwise ask for forgiveness- or else?
  • Given you the silent treatment, refusing to resolve an issue?
  • Refused to apologize, insisted they're always right?
  • Resented/refused to acknowledge/meet your needs (as a child)?
  • Projected their fears/insecurities onto you?
  • Didn't give you a chance to succeed, sabotaged your efforts?
  • Disrespected your requests for space or time from them?
  • Played the victim, attributing negative motives to your actions?
Emotional abuse stays with us longer than physical abuse because it gets in our head, affecting our view of ourselves. It can cause us to feel as if we somehow deserve it (it's not your fault!). Sometimes we have to interact with someone who is emotionally abusive, whether they are a colleague, boss, parent, or other family member. In these situations, the goal is protect your wellbeing by staying in control of how much you choose to share. There will be another chance to say what you're really thinking and feeling with someone who is able and willing to communicate openly and nonviolently.

The next time you recognize that you are on the receiving end of emotional abuse, try these effective strategies to stay in control by detaching, deflecting, de-escalating, and leaving the situation with your wellbeing intact...
  1. Detach. This is the hardest but most important part, do not engage. Do whatever you need to do to avoid stooping to their level. It may seem like the perfect time to give this person a piece of your mind- and you would be justified in doing so! But, the person who is emotionally abusive and out to manipulate your feelings will simply feed off of an emotional reaction.
  2. De-flect. Change the subject. If someone is telling you something that you can't agree with or abide, deflect by doing a little script switching of your own. Nothing puts a fire out like refusing to add fuel to it! Throw on a bucket of water on it by changing the subject. Anything will do. For example, "Hey, have you noticed... (insert random rid bit here), lately?"
  3. De-escalate. Keep it neutral- or even compassionate (if you feel so inspired). The idea here is to be short and simple. Neutral in tone. "Yes," "no," "I understand" (even if you don't), and "okay" are all great responses that keep your involvement/encouragement of the conversation to a minimum. If you feel up to it, you can even offer an apology or well wishes, such as "I'm sorry it's been difficult" or "I hope that you feel better." 
  4. Leave. Set limits on the interaction. It takes energy to respond skillfully to emotional abuse. If you can't keep your cool, get out of the situation. Meeting heightened emotion with heightened emotion just doesn't work. Don't worry about what they'll think (talk about an exercise in futility!). Just make up an excuse to walk away with your sanity in tact.
You might be thinking, but they're the one with the problem! Why is it up to me to keep my shit together? In truth, you can react however you want. But, with someone who is emotionally abusive, getting into a battle of wills gives them what they want (attention). Why not rise above it and find people you can be open with to give the gift of your authentic presence instead? You deserve it!

People can change if they want to- but it's not up to you to change them, especially if you're being victimized! When a personality disorder or other behavioral health condition is at play, it is unlikely that a person will be able to change. So, many people have found it helpful not to be open with someone who has shown themselves to be emotionally abusive over time. This begs the question, do you want to be in a relationship with someone who you can't be yourself around? 

Check back for a full blog post on how to heal from emotional abuse, soon. Stay safe, happy, and healthy out there until then! Wishing you only good things! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

May We Be Adventurous

Empowermake (someone) stronger and more confident

How to raise an empowering daughter?  Six months pregnant with my first child- a girl- this matter has been on my mind a lot, lately. I opened the question up to my Facebook friends and they offered their insights. Trust her. Allow her to struggle. Teach her how to own her feelings, make requests, set boundaries, and ask questions. Start by trusting and empowering yourself...

Trusting and empowering ourselves is a tall order but one that invites us to grow in wellbeing, satisfaction, and contentment in the process! It goes hand-in-hand with letting go of external expectations. Worrying less about pleasing others and more about what it means to truly care for ourselves.

It's funny how the news of a daughter on the way awakens the inner feminist. One Huffpost headline caught my attention, "The Secret to Raising a Kind Daughter." Certainly, we all want our children to be kind but I'm more concerned with raising an adventurous daughter. Challenging the status quo is a key ingredient to a healthy life. So, I have to be an adventurous parent. 

Adventurous- willing to take risks or to try out new methods, ideas, or experiences

How can I step into my new role of being an adventurous and empowering mom? It seems that first and foremost I'll have to get more comfortable with not having it all together all of the time. We all know that no one ever really achieves super woman status in real life. But, still. It sure has been addicting to try! But, seriously. Let's talk specifics...

  • Take risks.
  • Try new things.
  • Demonstrate that it's okay to make mistakes.
  • Share healthy ways to self-sooth in times of stress.
  • Embody the importance of taking good care of ourselves.
  • Expose her to difference. Show that it's not to be feared.
  • Ask questions to draw out her inner knowledge.
  • Let her be her own person- whoever that is.
  • Remember she is the expert of her own life.
  • Challenge oppressive language, policies, and actions.
  • Above all, have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously.

What would you add to the list? How have you found that doing your own thing has increased your quality of life? What has offered inspiration along the way? When do you feel most authentic? How do you find this impacts your experience with others? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Turning Toward a Happier Life

Am I approaching, attacking, or avoiding? Am I uniting or untying things, right now? Use these questions to help you turn a difficult moment into an opportunity to create a happier life. Whereas fighting against things tends to only make them worse, skillfully turning toward an uncomfortable emotion, interaction, or sensation not only helps dissipate the uneasiness but brings us closer to ourselves and others, as well. This might sound counterintuitive but watch how it works!

Think of a time you felt frustrated with someone else. Did you approach the person with curiosity, compassion, and openness toward their experience- an honest desire to understand them Or, did you go on the defensive, turning a cold shoulder (avoiding) or offering only criticism in return (attacking)- ether way, shutting down? The type of self-defense illustrated in the latter examples is understandable yet how often does it really result in getting what we truly want from each other? 

Getting clear on what you really need and want the outcome to be and what the other person needs, as well, by turning towards them in your words and actions is much more likely to get your needs met.

Say, I've upset you by asking you to do something that you don't want to do. In response, you do what a lot of us do and go along with the request despite resenting it (and me) or protest by avoiding it or going on the defensive. Neither option feels great in the long run. I may keep asking you to do thing you don't want to do. We may keep quarreling about it. But, what if you got curious with me, asking more about my desire for you to do this thing and sharing more of how you really feel about it? Then, we might get to the heart of the matter and grow closer as a result.

We all want to be really heard and seen. We all want our needs met. We're all only human. It can be scary for all of us to do this- to let down our guard a little more- but how else can we expect others to know who we really are? 

We can start by taking accountability for ourselves. What am I feeling? What do I need, right now? Maybe I'm feeling unappreciated and need some acknowledgement. Maybe you're feeling overworked and need a break. We'll never know until we get curious about it. If I can tell where you're coming from, I'm more able to respond compassionately. If you show understanding, it tends to de-escalte a tense situation. You're the best possible person to attend to yourself.

When you're hurting, feeling angry, or uncomfortable, it's a great time to get curious. This is when you really need your wise mind. Stop. Turn toward your experience. Open to what's happening within you in this moment. What do you notice in your body and mind? Perhaps, tension or self-doubt? Observe how the intensity of whatever uneasiness you were feeling fades when you turn towards it in this way. And, notice your ability to create a happier life each time you give yourself your own wonderfully accepting, curious, and compassionate attention... 

This is how we truly get to know each other. Below the avoidance, attacking, and other reactions, we're all only human- as eager to be understood as anybody else.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” ~Author Unknown~

Monday, February 9, 2015

Asking for What You Really Want

Why is it so hard to share how we really feel- and to ask for what we really need? Part of it, but not all of it, is surely our socialization (traditional gender roles, anyone?). People of all gender identities have difficulty with expressing themselves authentically and deeply, though. So, what's really going on here? What do we really want? And, how can we go about getting it more effectively?

Let's face it. We live in a world where we're often harshly judged or criticized for expressing our needs or being vulnerable. On the one hand, many of us- especially women- have been taught to be more attuned to others' needs than our own while, on the other hand, many people- historically men- have been taught to be tough, stoic, suck it up, and otherwise have no emotional needs. I know men who simply can't cry. Are we to believe this is the way it's supposed to be? That's not realistic! It's only human to want to be touched, comforted, respected, and accepted- to name a few basic needs.

It's frightening to express ourselves honestly because to do so means to open oneself up to rejection- a perceived threat to our survival. Being kicked out of the clan in the olden days, after all, generally didn't end well for us. Luckily, our new minds have evolved to think complexly and compassionately, allowing us to work through these old often irrational fears. Here's a tip from Nonviolent Communication's founder Marshall Rosenberg, "Over and over again, it has been my experience that, from the moment people begin talking about what they need rather than what's wrong with one another, the possibility of finding ways to meet everybody's needs is greatly increased."

Rosenberg provides a formula for asking about what we truly want that boils down to sharing observations, feelings, and needs... before making a request. Here's an example: When you said you'd come over and then you didn't (observation), I felt disappointed (feeling) because I want to be able to count on your words (need). The final step to nonviolent communication is making a request. What specific actions might fulfill your needs? The speaker in the previous example might request: Would you be willing to give me a call or text a few hours in advance if your plans change in the future?

There is a whole book on the subject of nonviolent communication. This is just a taste. Does it take a little practice? Yes- but it's practicing doing what's proven to be more effective, if we need motivation. It makes us more likely to hear each other when we come from a place of understanding rather than shaming or blaming. This isn't to say you should keep engaging with someone who's behaviors are repeatedly unsafe. That's exactly what boundaries were made for. But, with the right words and intention, you might find that unworkable situation to be more workable than you thought.

So, remember, the next time you're hurting or fuming mad and want to scream, you have a right to your feelings but that doesn't mean that sharing them right there and then will benefit you in the long run. When we're extremely upset we shift into our old mind- a place of not thinking clearly, seeing things in black-and-white, and otherwise being in fight, flight, or freeze mode. Not a helpful place to be for decision making or fostering the relationships we desire. Instead, take a break until you can have the conversation that will help you gets your needs met. You'd deserve it! And, you can do it!

Hint: If you're thinking about how the other person always or never does (insert hurtful behavior here), this is a signal that you're in old mind. Just thinking about a tough situation can put you there. But, you won't find useful information here. If nonviolent communication is new to you, it will feel foreign at first. Expect to make mistakes along the way- but, remember, you are only responsible for your 50% of any interaction. Let yourself off the hook for hurting other people's feelings beyond that!

Here's to asking for what you really want- and finding people who are able to offer it to you!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pregnancy for Trauma Survivors

Pregnancy is a unique experience for every woman and one that is commonly emotionally charged. For trauma survivors, pregnancy can be especially trying as it can bring up painful old stuff- but it can also be a time of increased self-discovery, growth, and healing...

In your pregnancy, do you experience:
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling out of control 
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Judgement of yourself and others
  • Tendency to isolate
  • Resurgence of past patterns
  • Resentment of changes
  • Increased tearfulness
  • Feeling helpless
  • Increased physical pain
If you experienced any or all of the above symptoms, you're 100% normal. Pregnancy is not a completely beautiful, positive, magical, mystical, or otherwise spiritual experience. It is, at times, demanding, scary, uncertain, and otherwise uncomfortable. For women who have been impacted by trauma, these naturally difficult symptoms can be exacerbated by triggering old ways of coping, such as ruminating about painful experiences, over-reacting, and shutting down. Trauma takes away our ability to self-sooth in times of stress- but we can rebuild it. 

With practice, you can identify when you're suffering and offer yourself what you need to feel better. We therapists often call this safe coping. Safe coping paves the road to recovery.

Next time you feel those dark thoughts or feelings coming on, try changing the channel and being kind to yourself. Here's a list of ideas to get you started:
  • Remind yourself that you are in charge of this pregnancy. You can do this. Your body and mind know what to do. 
  • Distract from upsetting thoughts with enjoyable television, music, or reading.
  • Go for a walk or plan a time to go for a walk with a friend.
  • Physical and emotional pain cause tension. Take a warm shower or bath to sooth tight muscles.
  • Feeling agitated? Experiment with a heating pad, eye pillow, cozy blanket. Find what you need to be more comfortable.
  • Purchase or prepare yourself a delightful meal. Now is your time to treat yourself.
  • What would it look like to put yourself first, right now? Removing something from your life? Adding something? Take care of yourself.
  • If it appeals to you, explore prenatal massage and yoga options near you.
  •  If you desire it, find a friend or professional to do a maternity photo shoot.
  • Explore the pregnancy books at your local library, Goodwill, bookstore, or online. Knowledge is empowering. You'll feel better to know the facts.
  • Reach out to someone who is able to offer support. Many pregnant women find connecting with other mothers to be invaluable. There may be groups in your community to fill this important need.
When we restore feelings of connectedness to ourself and others, we heal trauma. Pregnancy offers us an opportunity to connect with our bodies and each other and uncover new strengths and abilities. With a little effort, you may find that you're stronger than you think. And, if all else fails, remember that you're growing a human! You're entitled to complain every once in awhile! 

Much love to all of the mothers out there. Society doesn't do enough to support us- but that's another blog post! As for today, just remember that you're good enough. You can do this. And, that's all that matters.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Centering Prayer for Relaxation

Centering prayer is a contemplative prayer, in which a strong emphasis is placed on calming the mind and body by focusing the attention on a single word or phrase. Many of us find it hard to focus on just one word, so I am including how we can expand the focus of our attention while still practicing relaxing. Many of us have also experienced trauma at the hands of organized religion. Centering prayer, for our purposes, transcends the limits of any one organized religion or way of thinking. 

The centering prayer I will offer today is inspired by my work with myself and countless other women who are seeking to reduce stress and increase gratitude, relaxation, contentment, and calm in life... It is also inspired by this magnet, many of which were gifted to a shelter for survivors of intimate partner violence where I worked as  a women's advocate.

Let's try it! First, decide why you are sitting, what you are wanting to focus on, to draw more of into your life. Then, find a quiet place to take a seat. Let's say you want to feel more gratitude... 

Let your back be straight and your feet on the ground. Take three deep relaxing breathes. Invite the feeling of gratitude in to be the focus of your sitting by either focusing on the word gratitude or fleshing it out by listing all of the things that you are grateful for- people who love you, a roof over your head, food in the cabinet- whatever these things are for you. Take your time. Let yourself feel into- or, better yet, savor- the experience. When you notice competing thoughts, feelings, or sensations, gently return your awareness to your intention- here, to spend a few moments focusing on what you are grateful for in life. Let it be your anchor... 

Each moment you practice you are cultivating your mind and body's capacity to unwind and relax as well as your ability to experience the focus of your meditation- in this case, gratitude. Research suggests that centering prayer helps us experience greater emotional well-being. What we practice becomes permanent- no matter how foreign it may feel, initially (and it will feel foreign if you are not accustomed to sitting quietly or practicing relaxing- that's only natural). In addition o providing an antidote to stress, centering prayer may help counter the effects of the harmful and contradictory messages we receive as women.

Remember, thoughts are things. Plant the seed of what you would like to grow in your life with centering prayer! Just a few minutes here and there can be enough.