Written By Elaine Chan-Scherer, LCSW
I had the opportunity this week to feel really stressed out. I call it an opportunity because it gives me something of current interest to share with you. Fortunately, I’ve been in enough therapy, done enough therapy, taken enough courses, read enough books...to have some idea of what to do about it. Of course, every body and every psyche responds differently, but I will share my tips with you.
If you feel panicked,
The reason this works is that when you are panicked, your brain is sending signals that you are in danger. Your adrenaline is running and your flight/fight/freeze response is kicked into gear. The blood leaves your limbs to get your heart pumping so you can run. That is why you may perspire, feel your heart pounding, and not be able to think clearly. You want to do things to let your brain know that you are not in immediate danger. Chances are some past trauma is being triggered in you. Trauma memories are different from regular memories – the mind thinks that you are in the midst of real danger again and responds appropriately for the past danger but not for the current situation. You can thank your body for trying to protect you and then give it signals that the danger was in the past and you are actually safe right now. The tapping helps with stimulating both sides of the brain. The hugging and swaddling help to calm down the nervous system. When our bodies are forming, the skin is formed at the same time as the nervous system, so the skin is very sensitive.
If you are feeling anxious,
This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope some of these tips may help you. The reason that psychotherapy is more helpful in reducing stress and anxiety than reading an article is because we are all different and have different things that may be causing the stress. When trying to identify the stressors and while working on specific solutions to address the stressors, it is often nurturing and helpful to have an objective guide.
Written By Elaine Chan-Scherer, LCSW
I am writing this article close to Lunar New Year, Year of the Water Snake. It is supposed to be a year filled with connections, transformation, and discerning what choices need to be made. To me, it sounds like a recipe for a lot of emotional turmoil. So I thought I would share with you my thoughts on dealing with emotions.
Many of you know of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroscientist who had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She gave a very popular TED talk, and wrote the book, My Stroke of Insight. In her book, she talks about how any emotion needs 90 seconds to be triggered, to cause a response, and then to be flushed out of our bloodstream. This means that when you are angry the physiological response occurs, and after 90 seconds the automatic response is over. After 90 seconds you CHOOSE to let that emotion continue. Some of us allow the emotion to continue for decades, for a lifetime. But the automatic response is actually physiologically over in 90 seconds. According to Dr. Taylor, we choose to hang on to our feelings of misery!
I found this information to be fascinating. I first learned about it when a friend shared about her father who had had a stroke. He told his friends that if he cried, they should just let him cry and it would be over in 90 seconds. And sure enough, it worked. I know so many people, myself included, who hold back feelings, instead of allowing them to flow for 90 seconds. If you allow those feelings to be fully felt, it is easier to release them. After the 90 seconds, if you choose to hang onto the feeling, then you are in the past instead of in the present.
Okay, so here is my recipe for dealing with those unwelcome, difficult feelings:
When we grasp onto a feeling and try to keep it there (such as joy or outrage), or wrestle with it to try to get rid of it (such as sadness or embarrassment), we are stuck. We are most alive when we can experience our feelings and then allow them to dissipate. So fully feel your joy, or fully feel your sadness, or fully feel your embarrassment for 90 seconds. Then notice how it dissipates. Notice how after 90 seconds, you are feeling something new. Clinging to one feeling is static; it dampens our ability to fully experience the present.
Birdwings, by 13th century Persian poet Rumi gives us beautiful imagery and lovely guidance for the flexibility we can cultivate in processing feelings:
Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror up to where you're bravely
working. Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, here's the joyful
face you've been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small
contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and
coordinated as birdwings.
Written By Terry Potente, LCSW
Recently my husband and I took our grand kids aged 9 and 4 to the Academy of Sciences for a lovely day in the rain forest As we were about to leave, grandfather and granddaughter left to get the car and the 4 year old took off to see the penguins He is in a wonderful stage of adventure, going off and coming back to check in to his secure base. He is always in sight after hiding a second or two. But this time, the check in was interrupted. I had no idea where the penguins resided, having never been to that part of the museum. And by the time I found the penguins, the 4 yer old had slipped away to some other exhibit. For the first time, we had lost each other! Round and round I searched. No 4 year old in an orange shirt. I was hoping he was just around the corner, but not this time.
Now, I am not prone to drama and wild thoughts about abduction. He would make too much noise for sure if anyone tried to hijack him in the crowd . However it was a challenge to not panic and to stay focused. Finally I decided it was time to enlist aid and headed toward the security guard that magically appeared, in an orange vest. Just as I headed toward her, there was a flash of an orange shirt. There he was coming toward me. We saw each other at the same moment. What a deep breath of relief! We hugged and his words tumbled out: "I'm so glad I found you, I was just about ready to cry." Many hugs and soothing followed, really for each of us. It was a moment of very secure connection. And of course we talked about it and what to do to be safe.
This was a little trauma. A kind of upset that happens to everyone. Responses to little traumas vary with age and culture. As a child I may have heard much criticism and blame for getting lost, inconveniencing the grownups, being thoughtless or selfish. Or maybe even a: "don't be such a big baby." It took a long time to find the caring in that approach. Often the adults felt shame and self blame when things went wrong and projected it outward on kids. This is a microcosm of what can happen in big Trauma too. Shock, panic, insecure connection, shame and blame.
Therapy is really the process of reestablishing a secure connection. If there are unresolved little traumas or big Traumas, the connection can be restored in the healing of the therapeutic relationship, without shame or blame. When the secure connection is strong, we can explore and discover anew.