Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Acknowledge ALL Your Feelings

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster the past two weeks. Much of the time I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the tools and skills that help me navigate the intensity of this global crisis. Frequently I am overwhelmed by grief for the suffering that so many people are enduring. And in between there’s an entire of array of confusing, yet equally potent, feelings.

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I experience a lot of joy due to the freedom of a blank schedule. I feel frustration sometimes at being stuck in the house or not having access to the places I want to go. I feel anger when another effing jogger sneaks up from behind me and violates my personal 6′ radius. (Seriously joggers, you are not moving fast enough to escape rival contamination!) I can easily sink into a pit of despair thinking of the debt I will incur if I’m unable to work for months.

This second tier of emotions is easy to explain away by comparing my situation to others. My relentless inner critic wonders how I can be happy, sometimes even thriving, at a time when so many are sick and dying? How can I be so insensitive when others don’t have a house to be stuck in or a credit card with which to buy the food necessary to fill their bellies? What of the hospital employees who willing go to work, the epicenter of contamination without proper protection?

I’ve come to realize that yes, it is absolutely true that millions of others are suffering much, much more than I am. Yet this does not invalidate my emotional response to a very difficult situation. By denying or suppressing my own feelings, I block the flow of life-force energy in my body, putting myself at greater risk for illness and most definitely inhibiting my ability to help those in my community whom I am able to help.

So I’m allowing the full range of emotional expression to work its way through my system. Pretending not to be joyous when I am joyous doesn’t help anyone who is sick and prevents me from receiving the heart healthy rewards of exuding joy. Pretending not to be worried about my bills wreaks havoc in my digestive system when simply acknowledging that I’m worried and that I’ve already done everything in my power supports greater assimilation of nutrients and elimination of waste.

Somewhere there is a balance of accepting and experiencing my emotions and allowing them to move through me without distracting, numbing, avoiding or wallowing. I aim for that balance. Even if I never master this art, every step in the right direction is beneficial to my health and well-being. And that’s good enough for me to continue my efforts.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Get Grounded

I’m spending a lot of time lately doing remote Reiki treatments for immune system support. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Reiki healing energy is that it’s not limited by time or space, so even during this period of isolation and quarantine, people are still able to benefit from a treatment without the risk of leaving home. Clients tell me they feel less anxious and more relaxed, which translates into healthier immune systems. It’s a win-win-win situation.

What I’ve been noticing over the past two weeks is a sharp decline in clients’ groundedness. When I’m not grounded I feel spacey and out-of-sorts, flitting about constantly but getting nothing done. It’s when my energy is rooted in the earth that I’m most effective at creating positive change.

The simplest way to get grounded is to put bare feet on the earth. Given that it’s still quite cold here most days, that is not an appealing option. I’ve found that making friends with a tree can help. By leaning my spine against the trunk and touching it with bare hands, I can feel my energy patterns begin to normalize and clear thinking return. My natural connection to the earth is reestablished and I become much more productive.

Grounding is also said to reduce inflammation thereby promoting a decrease in pain and an increase in immune system functioning. It’s not my area of expertise, but here’s an article if you’re interested in learning more. There are even techno-gadgets on the market said to enhance grounding through a building’s electrical system.

I prefer the old-fashioned way. Hug a tree. Or if that feels too weird, just lean against it, make contact with your skin, and breathe deeply. Let Nature do the work and allow yourself to receive the benefits.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Move Your Body!

I’m finding that all the meditation in the world doesn’t touch the edgy feeling of adrenaline in my system. It’s impossible to connect with the outside world without having a stress response. While I’m over here having a mostly wonderful stay-cation, many people are suffering. I don’t wish to ignore that, and at the same time I recognize that empathetic suffering won’t help them; in fact it diminishes my capacity to support anyone.

Movement, particularly movement that elevates the heart rate, helps the body to process stress hormones. If you are safely able to get your blood pumping, I believe you’ll find it very helpful. My rebounder, this mini trampoline pictured below, is my saving grace these days. There’s not much a vigorous 30 minute bounce can’t cure.

Yes, I know the gyms are closed. Your preferred form of exercise may not currently be available. You may have a tragic relationship with exercise due to 4th grade gym class. I get it. You don’t actually have to enjoy it to benefit. But once you get started, I suspect you just might! Please note that I’m not talking about enduring pain or physical discomfort! That’s not at all what I mean. I am talking about perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone for the sake of your mental, emotional, and physical health during this crisis.

There are all kinds of activities available for free right now online. Vinyasa yoga and fitness classes are more readily available than ever. If you have stairs in your home, a dozen trips up and down should do the trick. My personal favorite is dancing. All you need is your go-to foot tapping music and a little bit of space.

Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and no one is judging your moves or lack thereof. Just choose a safe and sensible activity and give it a try for 10 minutes. Notice how you feel. Check in with your body. Does it want more? Need a rest? Tone it down? Ramp it up? It will guide you if you listen. You have all the information you need within yourself.

Just like any other journey, take that first step and let your inner wisdom lead.

Shelter at Home, Tip for Sanity: Support Someone in Need

Well, it’s official. The mayor of Philadelphia has essentially sent me to my room. As an introverted homebody, I’m actually looking forward to an even slower pace and the challenges of occupying myself without any outside influence. It’s a brilliant time to get creative in the kitchen since it’s clear that popping out for snack food can literally kill me. Strange times!

Many other people have had a less cheerful reaction to the shelter at home restriction. If you’re healthy and confined, I have some ideas to help ease the tension. Stress is incredibly damaging to the immune system, and minimizing it is probably the most important thing you can do for your health aside from social distancing and hand washing.

Given that I have some time on my very clean hands, I recognize this as a brilliant opportunity to devote more time to my blog. I keep saying I want to do that, but life interferes. With much of life on hold for the moment, I have no excuses. I’ve cancelled all my appointments except the long-distance Reiki healing sessions, and since I have no commute for those, I’m blessed with the gift of free time. So here we go.

Once you’ve done all the things you need to do for your own wellness, consider how you can help someone else. Is there one small step you can take to make someone’s life easier? Can you help a local business stay afloat? Can you reach out to someone who might need to hear a friendly voice?

Photo by lalesh aldarwish on Pexels.com

The clients, students and friends I speak with who are actively engaged in being supportive to others seem to be faring much better than those who are obsessed with their own microcosms. Don’t get me wrong, first we need to attend to our own stuff, emotions included, but shifting the focus to someone who might be needing a hand can work wonders. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or heroic act either.

Today I reached out to the farmers I usually buy my produce from at the farmers market. I figure they have vegetables, I want vegetables, there must be a way to connect. I’d much rather spend my money with local merchants who must be struggling than support the richest man on earth by ordering online. I was delighted (perhaps overly so!) to hear that I can get my veggies at the end of the week and even more delighted to have shared a brief connection with the farmer.

It was a small act, but really the high point of my day. I suspect we have a lot of days ahead sheltering at home, and I’m eager to make the most of them. Lending a helping hand where I can is definitely going on my to-do list. I’d love to hear about ways others are being supportive. You never know what might inspire another person to take action.

Immune System Boost

I’m typing this on my phone while sitting by the creek. I needed some fresh air and sunshine and craved the sounds of nature. And I know in my gut the most important thing I can do for my immune system is to minimize stress and maximize life-force energy.

Ki factory 🙂

By now everyone has learned the importance of washing hands and social isolation. What has been missing from the inundation of warnings in my inbox is the importance of supporting the immune system in addition to avoiding viral contamination.

Stress has a physiological effect which dampens immune system function. This is not some wu-wu new age fiddle faddle. It’s science. When the fight, flight or freeze mechanism kicks in, the body’s energy is diverted away from the immune system to the heart, lungs and major muscle groups.

My approach to remaining healthy so I can continue to serve my community is to both manage stress (limiting contact with fear promoting agents, meditation, yoga, music, aromatherapy, Reiki) and cultivating life-force energy (Reiki, yoga, nature, laughter, music, creativity, gratitude). And of course, all the CDC recommendations.

I’m still seeing healthy clients in-person. But I’m shifting community events and classes online. We still need connection. Even more so with this lockdown situation. I’ll be posting more about online events soon.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m eager to remind people that Reiki is just as powerful, often more so, when shared remotely. You can stay at home and receive a healing session. This is great news for those who are sick or at risk! Stress reduction and life-force boosting all from the comfort and safety of your own house.

So find yourself some online meditations, art or yoga classes, and a Reiki practitioner. I’m here to help, and so are many others. Contact me to discuss booking a session. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Is There Enough?(Hint: Yes! If We Change the Way We Look at Life)

I probably sound like a groupie, but I am utterly enchanted by Dr. Rick Hanson’s work. I just read his newsletter, Just One Thing, Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, Ph.D. , and immediately wanted to shout from the rooftop.

Resilient happiness. Who doesn’t want that?

The newsletter is free, informative and totally relatable. I enjoy reading it every week. Today’s message was about feeling already full. I’m simply going to copy and paste the entire thing here as he says it all.

No, I am not financially affiliated or rewarded in any way for promoting his (or anybody’s) work. This is just too helpful not to share!

Is There Enough?

The Practice:

Feel already full.
Why?

One slice of the pie of life feels relaxed and contented. And then there is that other slice, in which we feel driven and stressed. Trying to get pleasures, avoid pains, pile up accomplishments and recognitions, be loved by more people. Lose more weight, try to fill the hole in the heart. Slake the thirst, satisfy the hunger. Strive, strain, press.

This other slice is the conventional strategy for happiness. We pursue it for four reasons.

1. The brain evolved through its reptilian, mammalian, and primate/human stages to meet three needs: avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others. In terms of these three needs, animals that were nervous, driven, and clinging were more likely to survive and pass on their genes – which are woven into our DNA today. Try to feel not one bit uneasy, discontented, or disconnected for more than a few seconds, let alone a few minutes.

2. You’re bombarded by thousands of messages each day that tell you to want more stuff. Even if you turn off the TV, worth in our culture is based greatly on accomplishments, wealth, and appearance; you have to keep improving, and the bar keeps rising.

3. Past experiences, especially young ones, leave traces that are negatively biased due to the Velcro-for-pain but Teflon-for-pleasure default setting of the brain. So there’s a background sense of anxiety, resentment, loss, hurt, or inadequacy, guilt, or shame that makes us over-react today.

4. To have any particular perception, emotion, memory, or desire, the brain must impose order on chaos, signals on noise. In a mouthful of a term, this is “cognitive essentializing.” The brain must turn verbs – dynamic streams of neural activity – into nouns: momentarily stable sights, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts. Naturally, we try to hold onto the ones we like. But since neural processing continually changes, all experiences are fleeting. They slip through your fingers as you reach for them, an unreliable basis for deep and lasting happiness. Yet so close, so tantalizing . . . and so we keep reaching.

For these reasons, deep down there is a sense of disturbance, not-enoughness, unease. Feeling threatened and unsafe, disappointed and thwarted, insufficiently valued and loved. Driven to get ahead, to fix oneself, to capture an experience before it evaporates. So, we crave and cling, suffer and harm. As if life were a cup – with a hole in the bottom – that we keep trying to fill. A strategy that is both fruitless and stressful.

All the world’s wisdom traditions point out this truth: that the conventional strategy for happiness is both doomed and actually makes us unhappier. The theistic traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity) describe this truth as the inherently unsatisfying nature of a life that is separated from an underlying Divine reality. The agnostic traditions (e.g., Buddhism) describe it as the inherent suffering in grasping or aversion toward innately ephemeral experiences.

Call this the truth of futility. Recognizing it has been both uncomfortable and enormously helpful for me, since you gradually realize that it is pointless to “crave” – to stress and strain over fleeting experiences. But there is another truth, also taught in the wisdom traditions, though perhaps not as forthrightly. This is the truth that there is always already an underlying fullness.

When this truth sinks in emotionally, into your belly and bones, you feel already peaceful, happy, and loved. There is no need for craving, broadly defined, no need to engage an unhappy strategy for happiness. And you have more to offer others now that your cup is truly full.
How?

Recognize the lies built into the conventional strategy for happiness to wake up from their spells. Mother Nature whispers: You should feel threatened, frustrated, lonely. Culture and commerce say: You need more clothes, thinner thighs, better beer; consume more and be like the pretty people on TV. The residues of past experiences, especially young ones, mutter in the background: You’re not that smart, attractive, worthy; you need to do more and be more; if you just have X, you’ll get the life you want. The essentializing nature of cognition implies: Crave more, cling more, it will work the next time, really.

As you see through these lies, recognize the truth of fullness. In terms of your core needs to avoid harms, approach rewards, and attach to others, observe: that you are basically alright right now; that this moment of experience has an almost overwhelming abundance of stimulation, and you probably live better than the kings and queens of old; and that you are always intimately connected with all life, and almost certainly loved. Regarding our consumerist and status-seeking culture, consider what really matters to you – for example, if you were told you had one year to live – and notice that you already have most if not all of what matters most. In terms of the messages from previous experiences, look inside to see the facts of your own natural goodness, talents, and spirit. And about the impermanent nature of experience, notice what happens when you let go of this moment: another one emerges, the vanishing Now is endlessly renewed.

Abiding in fullness doesn’t mean you sit on your thumbs. It’s normal and fine to wish for more pleasure and less pain, to aspire and create, to lean into life with passion and purpose, to pursue justice and peace. But we don’t have to want for more, fight with more, drive for more, clutch at more. While the truth of futility is that it is hopeless to crave, the truth of fullness is that it’s unnecessary.

Finding this fullness, let it sink in. For survival purposes, the brain is good at learning from the bad, but bad at learning from the good. So, help it by enriching an experience through making it last a 10-20 seconds or longer, fill your body and mind, and become more intense. Also absorb it by intending and sensing that it is sinking into you as you sink into it. Do this half a dozen times a day, maybe half a minute at a time. It’s less than five minutes a day. But you’ll be gradually weaving a profound sense of being already fundamentally peaceful, happy, loved, and loving into the fabric of your brain and your life.

Needless to say I highly recommend signing up to receive this gem in your inbox every week. He also links his podcast, classes, and other news in the world of resilient happiness. And I want that for all of us.

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Why Wait Till You’re Sick to Rest?

Recently a client told me that maybe it would be better if she just got sick so she could spend a few days in bed resting. For the past week her entire family had been fighting off one bug after another, and she was exhausted. I shared my strategy of taking time off when I feel the first hints of less-than-wellness, preferring to spend my time in bed resting without being miserable.

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It really got me thinking how we’re programmed in our culture to keep going, going, going no matter the cost to our health. We’re taught to push through discomfort and to force ourselves to carry on at any cost. In order to receive permission to take time off, from an authority figure or even ourselves, we often need to be seriously ill, oozing bodily fluids, devoid of all energy, and utterly wrung out.

Then it takes a week or more to recover when a day or two of rest might have been enough to avoid the entire episode. From a productivity point of view, it’s completely inefficient. From a wellness point of view, it’s completely bonkers!

Choosing to prioritize my health has shifted my thinking completely. I recognize the value in protecting my life-force energy and making choices that maximize my well-being. When I don’t work, I don’t get paid, which only reinforces my desire to defend my health. Taking two days off is rarely easy, yet it’s always easier than loosing a week or more of work.

My most recent bout of almost-sickness led to some serious soul-searching. What could I change to prevent a future incident? What is it that I give myself permission to do when I’m sick that I don’t have permission to do when I’m well? Is it possible to provide that without needing the threat of illness? Spending two days in bed creates its own problems in the form of stiffness and backache and isn’t the most ideal solution.

For many people it is about rest. But I fiercely guard my precious sleep, so that’s not it. For me, the answer was obvious. I’m “allowed” to do nothing and watch movies when I don’t feel well. It’s about downtime and entertainment. Pieces of the puzzle that are often missing in my daily life.

I’ve decided to upgrade my plan from resting when illness threatens to making time in my schedule every week for play and fun. Finding blocks of time that aren’t about being productive or learning or even creating (as much as I enjoy these things) is the prescription.

If I willingly give my psyche the time it needs to thrive, it won’t need to demand it through illness. Which isn’t to say that I’ll never be sick again. I wish! I’m still living in a human body, with all its frailties and imperfections. Yet I can give myself the best chance possible to prevent all preventable illness by making pro-active decisions.

And that’s really the best I can do.