Daily Nudge Blog

Living Congruently

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Please listen in for a way to feel better now…

Valentines Day? Let’s not wait a Whole Year.

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Feel more Love in your Life

In order to love we must have emotional intimacy.  Emotional intimacy is a psychological event that happens as trust and communication about our inner selves occurs. Some refer to intimacy as “into-me-you-see.” Emotional intimacy is not the same as sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy can take place with or without emotional intimacy, and emotional intimacy does not have to occur within any kind of sexual context.  Heart

Emotional intimacy in relationships allows us to feel fully accepted, respected, worthy, and admired in the eyes of our mate or our friends. When we have emotional intimacy in a relationship we have a safe and comfortable place to receive compassion and support.

Why is this quality so often missing from our relationships?

When we care about someone, their opinion really matters – so it can be scary to expose our real selves to them.  We can feel afraid of being criticized, laughed at, or feel that we are unacceptable for who we really are, by the people who we care for most. The “cosmic joke” in all of this is, the more vulnerable we try not to be, the more vulnerable we are. When we try not to be vulnerable over time, we lose or don’t develop communication skills for intimate sharing.  If we lack the ability to communicate our emotional wants and needs, then we are not able to get what we want and need!

What can we do about it?

First, get clear about what you really want and need from your relationship.  A “need” is something you cannot do without, and a “want” is something you do not want to do without.

Find or Make Time!

One way emotional intimacy is lost, or is not developed, is by not spending enough time with someone.  We get busy in our lives and are preoccupied with what we have to do, what we must accomplish in the future, or waiting until we “have time.” All of a sudden, time has passed and we find ourselves disconnected from important people in our lives. Find time to spend alone together each day.  If you are apart, spend time on the phone, Facetime, or Skype at the very least.  Look for ways to connect, not for ways you cannot.

One way to do this is by getting clear about your values.  We know we value something when we cherish, protect and sacrifice for it.  Who do you really value? Align your behaviors with your value!

Work though issues when they happen

The key to healthy intimate relationships is working though issues, not denying them, giving the silent treatment or holding grudges. By holding on to issues, resentment builds and creates distance instead of closeness. When there are problems, be emotionally present and prepared to share your true feelings. If you want someone to be present and willing to share, you must be willing to do the same. Try listening with curiosity instead of being defensive.  Try to accept their point of view and understand where they are coming from – see the issue through their lens.

Remember, conflict in and of itself is not bad, it’s how effectively we deal with it that makes the difference. Through conflict resolution we can have increased emotional intimacy.
Express your appreciation and adoration with simple, kind gestures

Small acts of affection and thoughtfulness can be the easiest way to increase emotional intimacy.  Pay attention to what acts of affection, thoughtfulness and gesture they respond to, and do it more often. If you are not sure what they like, ask.

Practice Communication

Sharing builds trust and emotional intimacy. Over time, as our true-selves become more visible and accepted, a strong emotional bond will be formed.  Just like building any other habit, it takes time and repetition to create a new way of communicating.

A New Year, a New Resolution?

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Why do we make New Years Resolutions when so many people are not able to achieve them?  Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and author who conducts mass participation experiments, discovered that 52 percent of people making New Year’s resolutions were confident they’d stick it out -yet only about 12 percent actually followed-through to fruition.

People wait all year for that one special time of the year where we are all prompted by friends, family and co-workers to quantify what we wish we would do or achieve.  Making a New Year’s Resolution is one way to start thinking about what we are dissatisfied with in our lives, and to maybe even make us feel like we are magically erasing our procrastination:  we made a resolution, and so now we have wiped the slate clean, even though we avoided this desired change all last year.

Every 365 days the calendar turns another page and we set goals that somehow we are “magically” going to muster the motivation to pursue.  Imagine that, by some mystical alignment of the stars in the heavens we will now have the motivation to do what we have not done the previous year (or maybe even for many years).  All this with just the flip of a page?

New Years Resolutions can provide hope for an improved quality of life, which is a wonderful thing, but it can also set us up to feel like a “failure.”   What should we do?  What if we focus on what we already have, or are currently doing in our lives that makes us feel good about ourselves?  Thinking about what we are doing currently, that if we continue to do will make us feel good,  can actually jumpstart our confidence that we can try something new and help us to be successful.  The reason for this is:  it draws from the strength that we already have – the very strength that has helped us to be successful.

I like to think of this strategy as a “Reverse New Years Resolution.”

Try this:

Reflect on the previous year and think about what has made you most proud.  When did you begin this practice or way of thinking? How did you do it?  Be your own researcher: think about or discover what is your own particular way of changing?  Honor the way you change: if  it is slow, fast or stepwise, give yourself permission to change in the way that “works for you.”

Give yourself credit for your ability to begin andsustain what you are already doing.  Continue practicing what you are already doing and give yourself credit and feel gratitude for your ability to do this for yourself.

Try something new in a “gentle way.”  If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up – just try again in a different way.  This might mean with the help of a family member, a friend or a colleague.  It might mean changing the pace or frequency of your actions.  And remember to always allow yourself to change your mind, as sometimes we think we want something we don’t really want, or are not ready to have.

Mindfulness- A Meaningful Approach to Life

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Understanding and Using Mindfulness Daily 

Mindfulness is the active state of being awake and conscious.  Simply put, it is having open attention on the present.  Being mindful means you are able to observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without jmjudging what is good or bad, but rather simply digesting it as “information.” Practicing Mindfulness allows you to be involved in your reality instead of letting your life pass you by. Mindfulness allows us to “live the moment” and awaken to the experience.

Sometimes people have the belief that they must be “masters” at emptying their minds, and thus try to keep from thinking anything negative when they are trying to be “mindful.”  But mindfulness is about letting EVERYTHING in without resisting… just noticing it.  Every time we try to resist something, there is a force or energy created, and it becomes stagnant –  remember “what we resist, persists.”  When you catch yourself judging a thought, action or idea, try viewing it as “information.”

  • An example of this is:  “I can’t believe how stupid I am… every time I am faced with this, I do the same damn thing.”  Try reframing it this way:  “When I am faced with this repeating situation, I have been reacting in the same way.”
  • Another kind of example: When you are eating food and doing something else at the same time, you can’t enjoy what you are eating.   Try this:  Stop whatever else you are doing and notice the shape, size, texture and taste of what you are eating.  Think about how it feels in your mouth, the flavor distinctions, and what you notice as you swallow.

Try this Mindfulness exercise: all you need to do is notice five things in your day that usually go unnoticed.  These could be things you hear, smell, feel or see. For example, you might see the color of a house, walls or furniture, hear the cars passing, people talking or birds chirping, feel the clothes on your skin or the weight of your body on the chair you are sitting in, or smell the air, of flowers, food, trees, wet dirt or other scents.  If you already do these things, try to be even more aware of them and the connections they have with you and your world.

So, What Do We Get from Mindfulness

Here are a few of the proven benefits of mindfulness meditation from the bookMindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Penman, Williams & Burch.

Practicing mindfulness helps :

  • Anxiety, stress, depression, exhaustion and irritability all decrease with regular sessions of meditation.  Memory improves, reaction times become faster and mental and physical stamina increase.  In short, regular meditators are happier and more contented, while being far less likely to suffer from psychological distress.
  • Mindfulness can dramatically reduce pain and the emotional reaction to it. Recent trials suggest that average pain ‘unpleasantness’ levels can be reduced by 57 percent, while accomplished meditators report reductions of up to 93 percent.
  • Clinical trials show that mindfulness improves mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and lower-back pain, in chronic functional disorders such as IBS, and in challenging medical illnesses, including multiple sclerosis and cancer.
  • Mindfulness improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds.  It also enhances mental and physical stamina and resilience.
  • Mindfulness reduces addictive and self-destructive behavior. These include the abuse of illegal and prescription drugs and excessive alcohol intake.

Integrating just a little more mindfulness each day in your life can bring dramatic rewards.  Practice a few times today and see what it can do for you.

Getting to your Peak Performance

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Athletic Performance Enhancement – A Word from our own Laurie ChapmanLaurie4

As a former All-American athlete, I have experienced the joys and pitfalls of athletic performance and have endured rigorous training sessions that prepared me for national and international competition.  I have learned from my personal and professional experience that success in sport is dependent on both the athlete and the external variables involved in athletic performance.  An athlete who possesses the Physical and Mental Competencies aligned with their specific sport will be able to manage the external variables with ease.  This enables athletes to:

  • Possess the physical skills needed to perform in the sport

  • Have confidence in their own “athletic self”

  • Have confidence in their coaching staff

  • Recover well after a defeat

  • Maintain mental focus (staying in the “zone”) during practice and competition regardless of physical pain or spectator/other athlete input

  • Be willing to take athletic risks

The more an athlete aligns oneself with these competencies in practice and competition, the more the athlete develops neural pathways in the brain that reinforce athletic success aligned with these competencies.  This is one reason why visualization is a common tool used to enhance sports performance.The visualization serves the same purpose as the actual performance in terms of its ability to reinforce neural pathways in the brain related to success and confidence.  The same is true for athletic difficulties.  An athlete can inadvertently establish neural pathways around failure if they continue to “re-live” a loss, replay an injury, or focus on the difficulties of the sport, the coaching staff or the athletic equipment.  An athletic visualization can also reinforce a neural pathway in the brain around loss or failure if the visualization includes doubt of the self, the coaching staff, or the equipment.  Athletes whose performances plummet are often caught in this viscous negative cycle and have difficulty getting out of it on their own.  In some cases, other life issues can be a contributor to athletic difficulties if the life issue connects to the same circuitry in the brain as the sports trauma.  For example: The athlete was taught the need to be “perfect” by the father – so a bad performance means the athlete is a failure as a person.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Strategic Therapy for athletes are two powerful therapeutic strategies that I use to help the athlete regain their competitive edge and self-confidence.  These strategies serve to heal the athletic or personal trauma and rewire the brain towards athletic success.  After the trauma is cleared, the athlete will develop a positive sports performance visualization that incorporates all of the body’s senses and physical and mental competencies related to the sport.  A positive thought about the self  (e.g., I am strong and flexible, I am focused and strong, I have got this goal, etc.) and the feelings of confidence needed for that particular sport are also brought to mind so that the body is activated at the level necessary to get into the “zone” of peak performance.

An example of something that you can do to experience the power of visualization is the following.

  1. With eyes open, stand with both feet on the ground about shoulder width apart, lift your arm up straight in front of you and then move it to the right as far is it will go while leaving both feet on the ground should width apart.  Locate a spot on the wall behind you where your right hand is pointed.  Bring your arm back to center and down.

  2. Now, close your eyes and remain standing with your feet shoulder length apart.  Without moving, imagine yourself lifting your arm up in front of you and moving it to the right as far as possible, even farther than you were able to move it when you were standing up with your eyes open.  Imagine where your hand would be pointing now.

  3. Open your eyes and repeat Step 1. If you were able to move your hand further than you initially did in Step 1, you have just experienced the power of visualization at work.

Moving Toward a Richer, More Rewarding Life through EMDR

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EMDR Therapy is a powerful therapy model that has helped over two million people of all ages with many types of psychological distress and emotional blocks that hinder optimal functioning.  Think about a fear, traumatic event or “automatic” response you have to a particular memory from your past.  Do you sometimes experience similar situations and have the same response every time?

Neurons that “fire together, wire together.”photo

So when we react to something that reminds us of an old memory, our brains are simply responding based upon how we have “wired” ourselves to that event or topic.  Have your hands ever become clammy when you unexpectedly found a photo of an old friend or lover?  What about breaking into a sweat when you know you have to get on a train or an airplane?   Just as a mountain stream gradually builds a deeper and more structured path for itself, our brains reinforce how we respond to things.  In these cases, we build electrochemical responses that become fixed (a neuropathway), and when past situations present themselves our brains take us down that path to the same place every time.  If that place is anger, then we get angry. If that place is emotional pain, then we can feel a whole range of negative feelings. When we arrive in these places just on “autopilot,” we often don’t recognize it is the result of being “stuck.” That is, our brains have learned to respond in a particular way – and it can seem that we have no choice about it: We are simply riding along the “neuropathway.”

The EMDR Treatment Plan

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a very powerful tool the Center for Healthy Change uses to “rewire the brain.”  You probably remember from your days in school how our brains have two sides that actually talk to each other? Well, EMDR uses the communication between left-side (intellectual information) and right-side (emotional information) to reprocess memories and release stuck neuropathways so that new ones can be built, offering more adaptive responses to past trauma and memories.  When our brain is no longer in a traumatized state – when it is not responding with an old autopilot – intellectual and emotional information can be “processed” into functional feedback that helps us make sense of emotionally charged experiences.  EMDR therapy is not traditional “talk therapy” focused on intellectually uncovering associations through dialogue. Instead, the process allows for the client and therapist “to get out of the way,” and let the client’s brain naturally and organically unpack negative associations and old body memories. This leads to breakthroughs where we find emotional relief. Clients report rather strong awakenings and realizations that increase their sense of well-being.

How does EMDR Work?

It’s science, not magic. The Center’s EMDR therapists use a variety of techniques to “bilaterally stimulate” the right (emotional) and left (intellectual) lobes of the brain.  We use electronic devices such as the Audio Tac®, or Lapscan®, which include headphones and tactile tapping-pads (held by the client).  Clients watch light patterns, listen to different sound patterns, and/or feel light vibrations that are synchronized from right to left.  This bilateral stimulation is used to “rewire or re-pattern” the neuropathway blockages in our brain. Comfort and safety are attended to carefully because our certified therapists conduct a thorough assessment, develop rapport and establish safety protocols prior to using EMDR with a client.  We also use EMDR to help clients achieve Peak Performance. EMDR can diminish and remove performance blocks and anxieties the same way it desensitizes traumatic stress reactions, because all these reactions occur in the same part of the brain.  Once clients can move past certain “situation triggers,” they begin functioning well in areas previously “blocked.”

Learn more about EMDR! Please visit the EMDR International Association website, EMDRIA.org.   If you are interested in scheduling an assessment to see if EMDR therapy can help you, please contact our New Client line at (760)-634-1704, ext. 1.

Adult Children of Addicts: The Traumatic Mind-Body Connection

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Many people who were raised by parents or other caregivers that struggled with addiction grow up as a “broken child” in an adult body.  Trauma from living with an addicted caregiver in childhood can seriously affect the development of a healthy self.  Infants come into the world hardwired by genetics, but the environment and our relationships with primary caregivers finalizes that “wiring.”  Every single interaction between caregiver and child sets the neural wiring that becomes part of our brain and body network, and these interchanges are how we learn to “make sense of the world.”  If learned expectations of how to function are chaotic or disrupted, then the broader world does not make sense.

Early childhood experiences in relationships become a powerful part of what is most “core” to us, and to our sense of self.  The relational environment shapes our beliefs about ourselves, and of the world around us.  These beliefs and interpretations get stored in our limbic system (the feeling part of the brain), and if not consciously challenged, they provide a road map for our day to day interaction.  If children do not have a rational, safe, and secure caregiver who is able to provide, model and teach the skills of emotional regulation and appropriate self-soothing, the child may not develop the capacity to assess and understand what is happening in traumatic situations.  This leads to inaccurate navigation of life-events and relationships – like using a compass that doesn’t point north.

Our nervous systems are not self-contained; they link with people with whom we are closest.  It is this connection that creates a silent “rhythm” that helps regulate our physiology.  Children require ongoing, balanced neural synchrony from caregivers to develop the capacity for self-directedness.   When the family environment is chaotic, irrational, rigid and scary, a child learns life is unbalanced and dis-regulated.  We internalize what surrounds us, mentally and emotionally, and it becomes fused into our neurological wiring (Schore, 2004).

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Because of what has been learned from their parents or caregivers, children raised by Adult Children of Addicts (commonly referred to as ACOAs) often do not have the developmental capability of assessing frightening stimuli as to its appropriate level of threat, nor do they always have the cognitive capability to fully understand what may be happening in a particular interaction.  They need an external modulator, namely a parent, to help them to regulate themselves and calm down.  Even a sibling, caretaker or pet can help an anxious child to regulate their emotions.  Without this help, the content of the memory has a significant unconscious power – because reason has not elevated it to the thinking level.  It is stored within the body as a sensory memory without reason, insight, and understanding integrated into it.

Some of The Characteristics of Adult Children of Addicts

1.   Depression: Unexpressed and unfelt emotion can lead to a hypoactive internal world.
2.   Anxiety: Unregulated or unidentified pain can cause hyperactive, agitated or anxious defense against feeling internal pain.
3.   Emotional Constriction: Numbness and signs of shutting down as a defense against overwhelming pain; restricted range of “affect” or lack of authentic expression of emotion.
4.   Hypervigilance: Anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop – constantly scanning environment and relationships for signs of potential danger or repeated rupture.
5.   Easily Triggered and hyper-reactive: Associations of trauma, e.g., yelling, loud noises, criticism, or gunfire, trigger a person into shutting down, acting out or intense emotional states.  This may be accompanied by changes in eye expression, physical posture or feeling humiliated.
6.   Development of Rigid Psychological Defenses: Dissociation, denial, splitting, repression, minimization, intellectualization, projection, or developing a rather impenetrable “character armor”.
7.   Problems with Self Regulation: The deregulated limbic system can manifest in problems with regulating many areas of the “self-system,” such as thinking, feeling and behavior.  The tendency to emotionally go from 0 to 10 or 10 to 0 without intermediate stages, black and white thinking, feeling and behavior, or no recognition of shades of gray as a result of trauma’s “numbing” or “hi-affect” influences.
8.   Learned Helplessness: The feeling that they can’t affect or change what’s happening to them. They give up and become “helpless”.
9.   Distorted Reasoning: Convoluted attempts to make sense and meaning out of chaotic, confusing, frightening or painful experiences. Interpreting an event with a “magical” childhood meaning due to the developmental level a child is at when painful or confusing circumstances occur.
10.  Loss of Trust and Faith: Due to deep ruptures in primary, dependency relationships and breakdown of an orderly world.
11.  Loss of Ability to Take in Caring and Support: Due to trauma’s inherent numbness and shutdown along with fears of trusting and being let down all over again.
12.  High Risk Behaviors: Speeding, sexual acting out, spending, fighting or other behaviors done in a way that puts one at risk.  Misguided attempts to jump start a “numb” inner world or act out pain from an intense pain filled inner world.
13.       Desire to Self-Medicate: Attempts to quiet and control a turbulent, troubled inner world through the use of drugs and alcohol or behavioral addictions (Dayton, 2000; van der Kolk, 1987; Krystal 1968).
14.       Survival Guilt: From witnessing abuse and trauma and surviving, or from “getting out” of an unhealthy family system while others remain mired within it.
15.       Cycles of Reenactment: Unconscious repetition of pain-filled dynamics, the continual recreation of dysfunctional dynamics from the past.
16.       Relationship Issues: Difficulty in being present in a balanced manner; a tendency to over or under engage, explode or withdraw or be emotionally hot and cold.  Problems with trusting, staying engaged, or taking in love and caring from others.

Emotional and Relationship Repair In Therapy

Emotional and Relationship Repair is essential in the treatment of ACOA’s,  but repair in addictive systems does not generally happen without therapeutic intervention.  Many times such an intervention does not occur until there is great crisis or consequences profound enough to bring attention to the problems.

Emotional and Relationship Repair through effective therapy allows our shame and pain response to become part of our personal growth.  We finally see that something went wrong, and we learn ways to create new, healthier thinking and behavior patterns.  Through the therapeutic process that occurs within the context of a solid relationship, there is new learning – and it is this new “neural wiring” in the “broken child” that takes hold for healthier functioning.  Through this repair, our feelings of shame, pain, fear, and confusion are no longer underground and automatic, so functioning in our intimate relationships improves.  We learn that pain is inevitable but that we can tolerate discomfort.  There is no longer a need to feel like we must escape perceived or real dangers, because in our healthier adult body and mind we “can handle it.”

 

Facing Anxiety and Finding Freedom

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At about six years old I almost drowned at the bottom of a swimming pool with my Mom just a few feet away, distracted by an animated conversation with a friend.  When she realized what was happening, she jumped in the pool and grabbed me.  Obviously, I survived, but from that time forward I have always had a fear of  being under water.  However,  I went on to swim, take diving lessons and not be “that” affected by my earlier experience.Squiddly1 At the age of twenty, I decided that I wanted to learn to scuba dive.  On my first open water dive the class all swam out from the beach and grouped together to begin our first descent underwater.  As we began to deflate our BCD’s,  I noticed my partner went down a lot faster than me.  I saw the rest of the class grouped together under the water and beginning to swim away.  I had only descended about 10 feet and all of the sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe!  My heart rate began to race and I felt like I might die as I scrambled to the surface flailing, anxious to get a breath of fresh air.  I was “rescued” by some really cute Laguna Beach lifeguards and pulled to shore.  That was the beginning of my random panic attacks when diving.Why would a person continue to do something that causes such a sense of anxiety and despair?  Because – once I was able to descend and realize I could still breathe, I LOVED underwater nature as experienced through scuba!  That was over 25 years ago! Since that time I have dived near and far, obtained my advanced certification and logged several hundred dives.  Most surprising yet is I continue to have panic attacks intermittently and I still do not know when I will have one.

How do I do it?

First, EMDR Therapy really helped me process the memory and integrate my emotional information (Limbic System) with my intellectual information (Prefrontal Cortex).  EMDR helps “rewire our brain” so that we are not paralyzed by old trauma.Then…

I “accept” the possibility of having a panic attack.

I “know what to do” if it happens and,

I “choose” to not let fear stop me.

I share this with you because I understand professionally and PERSONALLY that the cure to anxiety is knowing that it could happen at any time, but I can handle it, particularly with advance preparation.

Try this when you feel anxious:

1. SLOW DOWN, Breathe!
2. If you have experienced anxiety before, remind yourself how you got through it last time.
3. Ask yourself if the situation is truly life or death (you’ll likely find it is almost never life threatening)
4. Ask yourself if there is anything that is in your control you can do to reduce your stress -this is where coming up with ideas ahead of time is really helpful – like asking for comfort from a loved one, counting, paying attention to details that you can see, hear and feel through your skin in the present moment.
Sometimes even physical movement can help, like walking, running, yoga or stretching. Try different things and see what works for you!
5. Remind yourself that the physiological sensations will pass and your body can only produce adrenalin for 10-20 minutes, it is temporary and it will pass. The key is to let your body and mind settle down by not thinking things that increase the anxiety.

Try these thoughts:

I’ll be okay, I have been through worse.
This is just a feeling, it will pass.
I am not crazy or dying, this is just anxiety.

Guided Meditation with Julieann Myers

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Julieann Myers- Center for Healthy Change is now on YouTube! Our first video is a guided meditation. If you need a break in your day, or just want to take a moment to relax, follow along with me through this short meditation by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. If this impacts you the way it does me, you will feel calm and collected! 
 
Please click the YouTube icon in the bottom corner for the video to head over to our new YouTube channel and subscribe to get updates on all our videos to come!

Exercise: More Benefits than Just Physical

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MW16964According to a new study, there’s another benefit of exercise to add to the list. It has been known for quite some time that physical activity can reduce anxiety, but in this new study conducted by researchers at Princeton, anxiety and stress levels were both tested.

In the study, groups responded better when exposed to stressful stimulus after a physical activity was completed. Changes to the ventral hippocampus, the part of the brain known to help regulate anxiety, were measured when the stressful stimulus occurred. The group that exercised showed no changes to the area, while the group that did not exercise showed drastic structural changes. The study suggests that running may reduce activity in the part of the brain that produces anxiety. That is, running has a ‘calming’ effect. Read more about the study here.
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