Fortify Yourself. Self-Regulate.

This is one example of the kind of guided meditations I lead my patients in during clinical sessions. It is a simple way to begin the settling and embodiment process for those not used to relating to their body. It’s also the place to start when learning to self-regulate.

Self-regulation is a term used by the field of affective neuroscience to describe an individual’s ability to consciously and unconsciously manage and modify arousal states. It describes an the ongoing process of finding an equilibrium of the whole in the face of change. Learning how to self-regulate is fundamental to the manifestation and maintenance of health over time. The foundation of self-regulation is embodiment. The only way to begin learning how to be embodied is by developing a relationship with the body. This is done through finding the body in space and being present with the changes happening on a physiological level without expectation or judgment, but rather with an ever expanding sense of curiosity. Another word for this is mindfulness.

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Cyclical Thoughts and Feelings: Throw Them Out

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Thank you to David Hatfield for introducing me to this exercise. 

We often get stuck in cyclical thoughts and feelings, which take us away from living our lives.

This is a simple exercise to help manage cyclical thoughts and/or feelings: 

Exercise:

  1. Consciously become aware of a cyclical thought/feeling you are having or have been having recently.
  2. Name it. Get a good sense of the puzzle you are trying to solve in your head and how it makes you feel overall.
  3. Figure out what part of your body this thought/feeling affects the most. It may be your head or it may be something like a tension, constriction, or heaviness somewhere else in your body.
  4. When you know where it’s located, give it a shape, a texture, and a color. Don’t think too hard about this, just the first thing that comes to mind. Continue reading

Pain: Find What Doesn’t Hurt

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Pain is all too often a part of our daily life, whether physical, mental, or emotional.

This is a simple exercise to help manage the pain you are experiencing in this moment:

1. Locate the pain you are feeling right now in your body, finding and naming the specific location.
2. Spend a moment analyzing what it feels like (sharp, dull, radiating, hot, cold, excruciating, numbing, specific, nonspecific, big, small, insidious, etc.)
3. Now find a part of your body that doesn’t hurt. Examples might be your elbow, ear or pinky toe.
4. Spend a moment analyzing what it feels like (…likely it doesn’t feel like much at all because it’s a healthy part of your body and doesn’t need to send any signal of needing attention through pain or discomfort).
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Get In Your Body

Our existence is rooted in the body. We know we are here because we have input from our senses that go directly to our brain and orient us to ourselves, to our surroundings, and to other people. Without these inputs we would be unable to function. Something we do every day, like walking, would become impossible. We wouldn’t feel our foot touch the ground as we take a step. We wouldn’t know to bend our knee and shift weight to the other foot while in stride. And we would promptly fall to the ground.

We obviously take all of this for granted, the continuous loop of information going back and forth between our senses and our brain. And for a good reason. Our attention needs to be elsewhere.

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Focus on the Health

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In a single day the body is asked to perform all the physiological functions that keep it alive, manage the stresses coming from its external environment, and navigate the emotional ups and downs of human life. Each one of these things is challenging for the body. All three are often taxing. The body is built to manage stress under the assumption and condition that the stress it is subject to is temporary and there will be a time during the day when the stress will end and the body will be able to rest and recover.

The body is a magnificently intelligent vessel that we have the honor of living in. It will manage whatever we put it through for days, months, years, even decades. I’ve now been working with human bodies long enough to see that the body will always put 100% of the energy and effort it has available into sustaining life and subjective life style at any given moment. It will do this until it just can’t anymore, until the resources are so low that it has to stop.

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