Written By Julie Terraciano, MFT
What are the signs that we are arriving at burnout stage? Why might we allow ourselves to get there before we are truly conscious that we have over-extended ourselves? What little “vacations” or breathers might be helpful throughout the year to refresh us?
Since this is vacation season, I have been contemplating these questions as I work with clients and listen to conversations outside the office. It is human nature to seek renewal. Current brain research supports this as well.
Apparently, the brain thrives with: proper hydration, good diet, rest, love (including friendship), exercise, creativity and novelty. Taking ourselves out of our element, out of town, out of state, wherever we might find different activities and different perspectives can be good for our bodies and our souls.
If we are fortunate enough to visit a different culture and lucky enough to immerse ourselves in different ways of being and thinking, these experiences can leave us feeling enlightened. If we can manage to have healthy visits with family or friends, we can return refreshed. If we go away to take part in workshops to pursue our passions, we can restore our energy.
When we don’t have the luxury to take the big trip, little road trips can be helpful. Visiting a friend in a nearby town or another part of the state can give us the change of venue that can support new ways of thinking about old problems.
In therapy, clients sometimes talk about being stuck…in their work, in a relationship, in the way they see themselves, the way they relate to their families, the way they communicate. As their therapist, part of my role is to help them look at these challenges differently, based on what they are telling me and what I sense from their words and their presence in the room.
There are times in all of our experiences when we need a break from our usual way of doing things, our customary way of thinking. I often suggest that clients breathe when faced with a dilemma. Pursuing our own forms of meditation….drawing, writing, music, dance, yoga…all help us breathe differently. Conscious breathing can provide little vacations from habitual ways of being, relief from the annoying and the sometimes terrible challenges that we all come across in our lives.
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.