Stress

Stress Awareness

Stress affects everyone and April is Stress Awareness month.  At times stress can be energising, positive and motivating but when demands upon ourselves exceed our perceived ability to cope then stress can become a problem.  The effects of stress are different for each person, for example it may affect our sleep, eating habits, relationships or concentration to do our job.

It is is rarely contributed to just one thing but to many factors over a period of time.

When stress becomes prolonged or excessive and we perceive that we cannot cope with demands then the impact upon our lives can be detrimental.

At times it is others that first recognise that we are stressed rather than ourselves.  It can be easy to keep our head down, keep going and ignore warning signs.  Sometimes we only recognise how stressed we are after the situation has gone!

The starting point is to increase our awareness of how we are feeling, what our body is telling us, notice changes in our behaviour and hear what others are saying. Only when we are aware can we do anything to help ourselves.

What are those warning signs?  This will obviously differ for each person but here are a few that may be familiar to you:

Physical – increased muscular tension, headaches, feeling nauseous, sweating

Emotional – feeling anxious, increased irritation, frustration

Behaviour – decreased or increased sleeping, lack or increase in appetite, withdrawing, increased alcohol/coffee/smoking, lack of tolerance

Cognitions (thoughts) – blaming others, everything appears negative, increased worry about everything, not being able to switch off thoughts

So what can we do?

Identify what is causing the stress and determine whether:-

a) it is under your control and you are able to do something to change it

b) it is something that you cannot change and therefore find a way to accept the situation

c) you can just let it go, as in the long run or in a few weeks time, it really won’t matter or it isn’t that important

Share your concerns and seek out the right people that will be able to support you or be able to make changes with you.

Look after yourself physically by having a healthy diet, get enough sleep, take exercise, engage socially with others and actively do relaxation eg have a bath, listen to a mediation tape, have ring-fenced quiet time.

Talk to yourself as if you are your best friend; be kind, compassionate and caring to yourself.  Praise and compliment yourself on how you are doing and how you are coping.

End the day by giving gratitude for what you have in your life – family, friends, home, health, faith, work etc.

Keep in mind that the stress will pass and spend each day focusing in the here and now.  Turn worries into problems and look at how to solve them.

So how can I help?

Book yourself a Reiki session which promotes relaxation, re-balancing and restoring of energy levels.

Book an appointment to learn Emotional Freedom Technique (or Tapping) as a self-help tool that decreases intensity of emotions and promotes a different way of looking at situations.

Book a day on a retreat especially designed for healthcare workers – 11 May 2019.

There is nothing to be ashamed of feeling stressed and the more we understand our early warning signs and do something to help ourselves the more in control we feel thus decreasing our levels of stress.

meditation

Meditation – the Benefits

Meditation can still conjure up images of sitting in the lotus position and chanting “omm”! Meditation in the Western world has moved on a lot from the original Eastern practice and it is more accessibly and “easier” to do now for many people.

There are many fantastic meditation groups that provide the space and stillness to meditate alongside others and if you are a beginner can learn the process and discipline of meditation.

For some people to sit still and to attempt to empty the mind can be extremely challenging.  Sitting still can evoke beliefs of “being lazy, not doing anything” and there can also be the fear of what can come into the mind if we are not controlling it.

However meditation can be done in many ways and they all have immense health benefits.  If you have time in the morning, especially at the weekend, why not sit quietly in bed and just focus on your breathing.  Notice when thoughts come into your mind and then just return to being aware of the rise and fall of your chest.  If you can do that for 5 minutes that’s brilliant, if you can do it for longer even better.

If you prefer to be led into a meditation there are lots of apps and CDs that are available such as Headspace , there are many more listed here.  To immerse yourself into meditation you can go on a retreat, silent or otherwise, which can help kick start your awareness of how to meditate.

For more informal ways of meditation just be in nature, walk quietly, preferably alone and use all your senses to tune in to what is around you.  You may have a favourite spot where you can just sit and be still and allow your thoughts to drift in and out without any focus upon them.  Or you may give yourself time to have a bath rather than a shower.  Set the intention to be still in mind and body, ensure that everyone else in the household knows not to disturb you and create a warming and relaxing environment.  If you still find your mind wandering always go back to noticing your breath.

So why should we meditate?  Research has shown that meditation will decrease blood pressure, decrease heart rate, decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, it can re-alkalize your body, slow the ageing process down and promote deeper sleep.

Apparently our normal waking brain waves, Beta, are at 14-28 cycles per second.  In meditation they go to Alpha waves at 7-14 cycles per second and in deep meditation can drop into Theta waves at 4-7 waves per second.

We also know that through meditation we can clear and balance our chakras and in turn balance our energy field which can decrease the risk of illness and in time be more in tune with nature thus once again promoting good health.

If you are not sure how to start having a Reiki session is a good way of giving yourself permission to stop , be still and to receive.

So however you do your meditation, whether it be for 10 minutes a week or an hour a day it is part of valuing your own health and wellbeing which enhances health benefits to ourselves and others.

compassion and empathy

Compassion and Empathy

Compassion and empathy are two words which have found their way more and more into our everyday language.  Do we really understand what they mean and are we practicing these values?

I am still learning and integrating these two words and certainly at times I have to work really hard to bring in these emotions.

Certainly there are specific therapies that now focus on compassion such as Compassion Focused Therapy but we don’t need to go to a workshop or class to achieve compassion.

If we want to bring these aspects into our lives we need understand what they are first.  Recently I read a description that highlights the subtle difference between empathy and compassion.  In his book  “Same Soul – Many Lives” Dr B Weiss states that empathy is an intellectual approach in trying to understand another person’s feelings.  Compassion is more instinctual and comes from the heart so you can be compassionate without being empathic.

Trying to understand another person’s feeling can increase our awareness of others situations which we may have no prior knowledge or understanding of.  It can often be suggested to “walk in another’s shoes” – to understand and appreciate how the other person is feeling.

Compassion is often a spontaneous feeling and comes from the heart with actions that are based in kindness.  Both empathy and compassion take us on the eventual path of unconditional love.

It can be incredibly hard to put these into practice at times especially when you have been hurt by others but we always have choices in how we react and we choose our attitude.  It can take a lot of mental strength, awareness and inner calm to show compassion but by doing so can drastically change the whole situation.  Often it is not about changing the other person but it is about changing ourselves.  If you come from a place of compassion then you are less likely to feel anger or frustration, stress will be reduced and you can let go of grudges and bring in forgiveness.   This in turn may have a positive effect on the other person and thus changing the energy between you both.

It may mean taking time out to think and reflect quietly about a situation and then going back with a compassionate and/or empathic response.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:-

  • How would I feel if I were in their shoes?
  • What is contributing to them acting/behaving as they do?
  • If I was at my most compassionate self how would I see the situation and how would I want to respond?

Compassion and empathy are not just for others but are equally important for ourselves.  The starting point is always with ourselves and by being compassionate i.e. being kind and understanding, these two emotions and values can greatly enhance our lives and lead to the ultimate goal of unconditional love.

Tapping Tree

Tapping Tree

What is a Tapping Tree? Tapping can be used for almost everything that is causing you a problem.  That may be physical pain, an intrusive memory or past trauma, current anxiety, weight loss the list goes on!

We can also tap on the different levels of the issue and the Tapping Tree as explained by Nick Ortner  in The Tapping Solution demonstrates  the different aspects of an issue.

The Tapping Tree or any other kind of tree is made up of four parts – the leaves, branches, trunk and roots and each of these can correspond to what we can tap upon and I have put together a video to explain each part.

The Leaves

These represent the symptoms that we feel from our issue or problem.  It may be physical pain that we are experiencing or symptoms of anxiety such as tension in shoulders, busy thoughts, upset stomach.  By tapping on these symptoms we can alleviate them or eliminate them.

The Branches

The branches are our emotions or feelings.  Every issue or problem will bring with it an emotion about the situation whether it is sadness, grief, anger, stress, frustration or fear.  This is where tapping can really help to reduce the intensity of these emotions thus making us feel more in control or a sense that we can cope with the situation better.

The Trunk

The trunk is an actual event or situation.  It may be a situation that has yet to happen or a current event that we are involved with but by tapping on what is or has happened will help clear the impact that it may be having on us.

The Roots

The roots hold the tree together and they represent our underlying beliefs about ourselves.  We know that beliefs can both be empowering and limiting and can be formed from a very early age and are taken into our adulthood.  Beliefs are the fixed rules that we live our lives by and very rarely question whether they are still helpful to us.  We have beliefs about ourselves who we are, what we do, what we don’t do and are an integral part of our identity.  However these beliefs can keep us stuck and hold us back in our lives.  Tapping on these can produce the biggest shift in our progress to change.

We can tap on any of these parts but we know that the tree will continue to grow and live if the leaves are taken away, or the branches are cut off or if it is felled at the trunk.  It is only when we take the roots away do we totally clear out the issue for it not to return.

To get right to the underlying cause of the issue we need to tap on the beliefs and you can do this for yourself or have 1:1 sessions with an EFT practitioner.

Dramas and energy

Managing Dramas!

Dramas!  I expect we all have enough of them in our lives but it is the insidious, perpetual ones that can exhaust us and alter our own behaviour.  I recently re-read The Celestine Prophecy by James Refield , the sixth insight struck home about the control dramas that each of us have developed since childhood.

According to the book there are four types of control dramas and they all have a way of taking away energy from others.

Intimidator – aggressive behaviour, threatening physically or verbally, and the other person is forced to pay attention to them and so give energy.

Interrogator – asking questions and probing into the other person’s world in order to find fault or criticize.  The other person can then feel more wary or self-conscious thus giving their energy away to the “interrogator”.

Aloof – this is when the person creates a mystery or silence around them in order to get others to guess or search out how they are feeling.  The more they remain vague or non-communicative the more others are drawn into their energy to seek out what is going on.

Poor Me – when that person constantly focuses on everything that is horrible  happening to them, when nothing right happens for them.  This can have the effect of others somehow feeling responsible for this, feeling guilty thus once again giving away energy to them.

These behaviours have been described in many different ways such as assertive/aggressive/ passive or in parent/adult/child terms.

How we develop our own control dramas is often a result of our parents control dramas so an “Intimidator” can result in a “Poor Me” and an “Interrogator” in someone being aloof.

Equally aloof dramas can create an interrogator behaviour and a poor me approach can also result in an explosion into intimidator.

So how do we deal with these control dramas? As with most things, first of all be aware that it is happening and then, if appropriate reflect back to them what is happening.   For example:  “Rather than me guessing about X why don’t you tell me?” (Aloof)  “I realise that X has happened to you but I’m not responsible for it” (Poor Me).

The key approach after this is to send or treat the person, from your own place of energy and strength, with kindness and compassion, understand where they are coming from.  I realise that is not necessarily an easy thing to do but by changing the energy between the two parties you manage to retain your own energy and sense of self-worth whilst, hopefully, affecting the others person’s energy state into one of calmness, peace and compassion.

“We humans have always sought to increase our personal energy in the only manner we have known, by seeking to psychologically steal it from the others–an unconscious competition that underlies all human conflict in the world.” ― James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

Storytelling

Storytelling – do we still need it?

Listen with Mother and Jackanory are just two examples of storytelling from childhood memories.  Snuggling down alongside my Mum to listen to the radio or that quiet time listening and watching  the latest story on Jackanory before tea time still resonates today.  Both forms of storytelling held me enraptured and captivated by the words being spoken and the images created in my young mind.  The story allowed me as a young child to go into another world, to come away from the present and lose myself in the narrative of the theme.  For a child, storytelling whether through books, television or radio brought comfort, soothing, excitement and a tinge of fear and unknowingly an understanding of our world and a part within it.

Storytelling is an art form that has been in existence since mankind first inhabited this earth.  It was a way to share learning, to pass on crucial information and to evoke a sense of belonging.   Whilst in Namibia and visiting the oldest desert in the world, storytelling was in evidence in the form of rock art which were over 5000 year old, telling the story to the next reader of the type of game that could be found, where water was located and how to reach it.

Every culture has it ways to recount stories from one generation to another.  Storytelling is a link to our ancestors and their past knowledge but each story, retold over generations, fits its own modern paradigm.  Fairy stories illustrated this beautifully as they are redesigned each time with its own unique meaning to connect with contemporary culture.  Little Red Riding Hood was recreated by the Brothers Grimm to highlight the dangers of straying away from the path, the norm or the conventional.  It was thought that this story originated in 17th Century and known as Red Cap, often ended with the wolf and girl ending up in bed together!

Telling stories needn’t just be verbal, they can be drawn, written, sung and danced.  They can be in the form of riddles, fables, ballads and sayings.  Whatever the form, the key to the power of stories is the connection between speaker and listener – a connection from soul to soul with the receiver being an equal part of the process.  Each individual listener will perceive their own unique understanding of the underlining message within the folds of the story.  The listener needs to be ready to receive with open ears and heart and allow meaning to resonate within themselves.  How they absorb and embrace the meaning will be relevant to them at that current moment in time.  Great story tellers have that connection to their audience that engenders a curiosity to seek further understanding.

Maybe the art of storytelling has become diluted in the Western World, we have lost the respect of our elders and are so bombarded with constant information that the power of a single saying, theme  or sentence gets lost before it can be heard and assimilated.  However, within Shamanic practice storytelling is crucial for the connection with our ancestors, our understanding of the past, present and future and integral to personal growth.  So let us revere the Shaman’s skills at imparting knowledge and understanding through the ancient art of storytelling.

Tapping or EFT

Tapping as a Self-Help Tool

Tapping or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a gentle, non-invasive and effective way to bring down intensity of emotions.  It has been used since the 1970s and more research is being done on this intervention indicating the effect it has on the brain and body.  As it is easy to learn and apply it can be an incredibly powerful technique that once learnt can be applied to almost anything and anywhere.

The basic theory behind EFT or Tapping is that all negative emotions are a result of disruption to the body’s energy system.  So by tapping on these energy systems, Meridians, the energy is re-adjusted and restored to bring about a different emotional state, reduced pain and a change of perspective on beliefs and thoughts.

EFT works on the emotional cause of such issues as:-

Pain, depression, anxiety, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, panic, confidence issues, weight loss and cravings, stress, headaches, self-esteem to name just a few!

A part of the brain, the amygdala, is our alarm detector and any stressful, distressing emotion or thought triggers this alarm off to release such hormones as adrenaline and cortisol, keeping the body on fight/flight alert even with low grade persistent stress.  This can also link back into long term memories which continue to raise the intensity of emotion.

So by tapping on certain points the brain starts to relearn that although the thought/memory/emotion is distressing the alarm system starts to switch off as it is no longer feeling threatened.

A good example is post traumatic stress disorder where after Tapping is applied, the memory of the event remains but the emotion that was attached to it is no longer intense – it has reduced or completely disappeared.

Once you learn where and how to tap you can tap on symptoms such as pain, headaches, muscular tension.  You can tap on emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, grief.  You can tap on an actually event such as going to the dentist, speaking to new people, public speaking and you can also tap on the limiting beliefs that underlie perceptions about ourselves and memories from childhood that have formed those beliefs.

There are many good examples of using Tapping on the internet such as The Tapping Solution and EFT Universe.

If you would like more information about how to use Tapping please feel free to contact me.

tuning into our bodies

Tuning in to our Bodies

Our bodies are truly amazing and by tuning into our bodies it can help us in so many ways.  Our bodies are energy, parts of which regenerate continually so our body is not the same one we had a year ago.

According to Deepak Chopra how we live and relate to our bodies is based on our underlying beliefs about it.  Your body has unlimited potential and when you choose to consciously change your assumptions about it then change is manifested through our physical being.  Every day we can be exposed to a range of energy from others and the environment we inhabit.  Everything within our environment has an unseen energy that impacts upon our wellbeing and health.

By tuning into our bodies we are given a range of information that can support balance and harmony within.

An exercise that I have used many times with students both within Reiki and Neuro-lingusitic programming (NLP), is to stand still and ask your body to show you what “yes” is.  Notice how your body moves and in which direction.  Then do the same and ask your body to show” no” and again notice how it moves.

Once you have established how your body reacts to these responses you can then ask it many things.  If you want to know whether a certain food is good for you, hold the food or a picture of it in your hand and ask your body “do I need this food today?” and be aware of the yes or no response.  This is your body’s answer to go with or ignore! I use it to ask which crystals I would benefit from that day.  You may notice that the body stays still and that can relate to a maybe or it doesn’t matter response.

For placing items, ornaments, pictures around the home hold the item and ask if it is best placed in the south, west, east or north direction.

Ideally ask the body a question that has a yes or no answer and then be guided by the response.

Our gut instinct, the energy within, the communication of our bodies is a wonderfully gift that we all have the ability to pay attention to and appreciate.

So why not make the most of our truly wonderfully physical being and engage in subtle communication to bring harmony and wellbeing into our lives.

Fresh energy

Bringing In Fresh Energy

Energy is constantly around us – from our environment, from others and from ourselves.  We may be good at looking after ourselves through exercise, healthy food but how often we do think about the energy within our homes?  As the months get warmer we may do a bit of Spring cleaning which means cleaning and hovering, dusting and de-cluttering.  However, how often do we continue to “clean” our homes by cleansing the energy within them throughout the year?

Energy within rooms of the house can become stagnant and stale.  Have you ever had the experience  of walking into a house or room and it just feel uncomfortable although you may not know why? It can be because the air and atmosphere has become stuck, it is unable to circulate freely, so every now and then, in your own home, set the intention to bring in new, fresh healing energy.  We can do this in a variety of ways and here are some suggestions:-

  • Start with the intention in your mind of clearing away stale negative energy and replace with new, fresh healing energy
  • Clap your hands within each corner of a room
  • Use a singing bowl or chimes to create vibration
  • Positions crystals in strategies places, remembering to clean your crystals first
  • Smudge each room using Sage or Palo Santo
  • Hum or sing to increase vibration into the room
  • De-mist using water and a few drops of aromatherapy oils
  • Bring light into dark corners with lamps or candles
  • Rearrange your furniture so the energy can move freely
  • Create a through draught by opening windows and doors
  • Add flowers and houseplant
  • Play loud music and dance
  • Clean windows inside and out to attract light through them

Each season can be a great reminder to freshen up each room.  Do you have any other suggestions?

Inner self

Working with our Inner Self

Working on our inner self can be difficult, uncomfortable and yet ultimately life changing.  As I do more and more holistic work on myself I am shedding past ways of doing and thinking and turning my focus to my inner self.  Over 30 years in the NHS led me to be more external in my approach in working with people.  My role was to listen and support them in making sometimes very practical changes that could enhance their life.  As an Occupational Therapist I was always aware of the many facets of our physical environment, interaction with others, self awareness and psychological health that made up our holistic wellbeing.  What I wasn’t so aware of was our spiritual health and the inner wisdom that we have to deeply heal ourselves.  This has come later into my life and I am still very much on this path.

What I have learnt recently is that answers to our problems and dilemmas, lie within us and we need to really explore these areas of loss, grief, anger and avoidance. There is a need to “go within” and converse with our bodies and our higher self to explore our missing parts and to discover what we need to do to replenish and fill it.

Amy B Scher has written bestsellers on how she helped herself heal from chronic illness and suggests that we ask of ourselves the following questions:-

“What are my symptoms keeping me from doing?” In other words what is your fear/avoidance.

“What am I feeling about my illness?” eg guilt, sadness, anger etc

“Therefore just before my illness what was I feel (sad, angry guilty) about?”

These powerful questions can uncover the true cause of illness and why it is manifesting itself physically.

Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tap on the feelings that arise from these questions to help bring down any intensity and allow forgiveness and acceptance to come in.  The best place to tap for this is on the Thymus gland, just a couple of inches down from the notch on your sternum, below your throat.  Tap here saying “I now let go of these (feelings) as I start to accept and forgive myself”.

This is just one way of exploring your inner self and addressing the often unknown causes of what holds us back.

If you have any experience or thoughts about this blog please feel free to contact me.