As I write this, I am sitting by the water's edge at our cabin. The sun is casting its warm glow and the lake sparkles with its brilliance against a cloudless sky. Tiny ripples gently lap against the granite that meanders along the shoreline. Beneath my feet is a soft cushion of moss already brimming with life. The earthy smell of wet leaves surrounds me and across the lake, by the uninhabited island, a loon calls out to it's mate. A haunting, lonely call.
Time passes without a care of what I should, would or could be doing if I wasn't here. This is my time and I plan to soak up all the energy that surrounds me.
I take in the sights, sounds and smell. I notice the pine seedlings that survived the winter, poking their heads above the undergrowth and can't help but feel gratitude. For the pines, for this moment, for the understanding of how important moments like this are in life.
Self care at its finest.
In the interest of exploring a variety of methods of self care, I came across the field of energy psychology.
Energy psychology utilizes various approaches that focus on the mind-body connections to improve overall well being. Some of the reported benefits include a decrease in chronic pain, improvement in anxiety, a decrease in distressing symptoms, to name a few.
Dr. Daniel Benor, a pioneer in the field of energy psychology, teaches a technique called Transformative Wholistic Reintegration (TWR). Combining tapping with some basic principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, Dr. Benor claims his method is effective, easy to learn and does not require lengthy sessions. He considers TWR a means of self healing.
TWR involves a technique that uses tapping on alternate sides of the body while focusing on what is bothering you. Physical symptoms are identified, followed by possible emotional reasons. This is verbalized and followed with a positive statement. The theory behind adding the positive statement is based on the common psychological belief that when you take a negative issue and combine it with a positive statement, the positive will counteract the negative. The use of tapping on alternate sides of the body has similar effects to EMDR (discussed in the last blog entry). Combined, the approach is quick, and can help with the clearing of emotions on a deep level. Dr. Benor provides a demonstration on You Tube if you would like to see the technique and learn more about the approach.
It is easy to be sceptical about techniques that seem so simple yet claim to offer so much. The beauty of this one is there is no harm in trying it, and can be done in the comfort of your own home. It’s definitely worth a try.
Since this self care blog began as a result of looking for ways to increase resilience, primarily against Secondary Traumatic Stress, it’s important to mention beneficial treatments such as EMDR.
What is EMDR?
Eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy used in the treatment of trauma. When someone experiences a traumatic event, certain memories can become ‘frozen in time’. Normal memory processing is altered and can become locked in a circuit like pattern. Images, sounds, smells and/or sensations trigger memory recall – and the trauma is relived.
EMDR has a direct effect on how the brain processes information. It can reprocess the disturbing memories so that they no longer contain so much emotional volatility. The event is easily recalled, but the feelings surrounding the memory is no longer so all consuming. It is as if someone has turned down the volume.
EMDR combines a dual focus of attention to enable the brain to re-circuit itself. This allows for normal memory processing and integration. Participants often experience less negative emotions, improved understanding and less emotional stress surrounding the event.
Scientific research shows EMDR is also effective on panic attacks, stress reduction, addictions and complicated grief, to name a few.
Simple, safe and effective.
Crucial to self-care is a really good understanding of yourself and your emotions.
The old axiom ‘healer know thyself’ holds true for anyone. By gaining clarity of who
you are and how you react to various people and situations, you can improve the quality of your life significantly. Living in ignorance is not bliss and only compounds the confusion, the frustration and the stress experienced.
In a mind set of self-compassion and refraining from any judgements, ask yourself key questions such as:
Answering yes to any of the above could indicate you are an empath: someone with an intuitive ability to sense the mental or emotional state of others. While this quality is truly a gift, it needs to be managed with care. The first step is recognizing this quality in yourself. The second step is in managing it.
Dr. Judith Orloff, author of ‘Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life offers suggestions for empaths. She suggests employing centering techniques such as mini-meditations, taking time to decompress emotionally and understanding your limitations in socializing, among other ideas. Finding ways to feel grounded, recognizing when you are absorbing other people’s emotions and even eating a high protein meal can be helpful.
So many of us chose our career paths without a really good understanding of who we are intrinsically. I know I didn’t when I went into Nursing. And yet having that understanding would have been invaluable during my career, as would have been the knowledge about how to manage it.
And unless you are a hermit, it is a crucial skill in navigating life itself.
Massage therapy has been around for thousands of years and makes an excellent addition to anyone’s list of self care activities. They say that one hour of massage is about the same as getting 7–8 hours of sleep. Relaxation is one of the most common reasons people get massages, but benefits go well beyond that.
Massage therapy helps stimulate lymphatic flow, which improves immunity. It increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to areas being worked on, which promotes tissue regeneration and a reduction in scar tissue. Tight muscles are loosened, joint mobility increases and spasms and cramping are reduced. All that with the knowledgeable touch of a trained massage therapist.
Choosing a specific type of massage is highly individual. With over 80 different kinds, there is no shortage of styles to pick from. Some of the most popular types include Swedish or Thai, Hot Stone or Aromatherapy, Shiatsu or Deep Tissue.
My personal favourite is deep tissue massage, which as the name suggests, involves manipulating the deeper layers of muscle and soft tissue.
In today’s technological society, so many of us sit slumped at computers or stoop to read our smart phones. This can result in a variety of musculoskeletal issues that can cause significant aches and pains. (Doctors have even pegged it as the “Smart Phone Slump) Deep tissue massage and practicing better ergonomics can minimize these injuries so they don’t become chronic conditions.
The late actor/comedian Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old. He remained independent, living in good health with his wife in their own home in California until a few weeks before he died.