Treatment during COVID

Treatment during COVID

by Michele Minehart, Community Educator

As we’ve shared with our clients already, it’s important to continue with mental health treatment when possible during our current pandemic to provide stability to more tumultuous times. But many people who aren’t already under the care of a mental health practitioner may notice that with continued uncertainty, they also be feeling a bit unsteady. 

Based on our operating definition of trauma, the COVID-19 experience meets a few hallmarks:

  1. The event is unexpected and unplanned. That sense of, “life isn’t supposed to go this way” can lead to traumatic outcomes. 
  2. The event is life changing. Our day-to-day structure and and contents have shifted considerably.   
  3. The event threatens our safety. Especially for those who are more immune-compromised, the statistics on our pandemic make us fearful for our health. 
  4. There is nothing we can do about the outcomes; a person feels powerless to effect change in the situation. 

It’s important to acknowledge that everybody experiences challenging times differently. While there might be ways of coping that are more or less healthy, there’s no “wrong” way to deal with trauma. For many people, survival is enough – at least to begin. 

For those who have not experienced mental health treatment, there’s likely a few things happening under the surface that you should be aware of:

  • We’re being asked to become careful about things like hygiene; these behaviors might melt into other areas and become more hyper-vigilance or cause anxiety around cleanliness. This can become a heavy burden and a slippery-slope. 
  • This may be bringing up unresolved events and experiences from the past, even things you thought were done and over. The emotions you feel may be triggering the emotions you felt in past events, and you may find yourself responding to today’s crisis in a way that feels “off” from what you would anticipate your response would be. This is quite normal with forms of trauma and is something to explore. 
  • This is normal. Handling traumatic events isn’t easy and no one does it the same way. 
  • It’s okay to ask for help. We see the best outcomes with trauma when people find support from others. Especially if your friends or family aren’t available to give you their ear with compassion and empathy, then please seek out the help of a professional. 
  • We are currently taking new clients, even during this strange time of social distancing. Mind Body Health Associates have had great success with our HIPPA-compliant Zoom platform and our clients have remarked about it’s ease of use and the comfort of being from home. 
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Non-judgment in EMDR

Non-judgment in EMDR

Non-Judgment in EMDR

At MBHA, one of the cornerstones to treatment is an EMDR-infused philosophy that honors the body and the emotions of one’s past experiences while simultaneously keeping one foot in the present moment. 

When trauma occurs, the brain responds by becoming hyper-vigilant or “stuck” in accessing (read: judging) if a threat is present, and to make up for the extra awareness the observing part of the brain becomes underdeveloped. In EMDR treatment, we spend time in a resourcing stage so that the person can feel grounded in a sense of safety. The process involves looking in on the past from the present – not recreating the past. 

One of the challenges of EMDR is when the judging brain wants to take over, often experienced as a client asks “am I doing this right?” The process necessitates witnessing instead of judging. The brain moves from labeling a moment to witnessing the moment and examining the feelings and emotions that arise. 

Treatments like EMDR work to develop the underdeveloped observing brain by safely noticing what’s happening in the moment. They can feel safe, aware they’re sitting in a space with a person they trust, while still tuning into the sensations of the body, and the emotions that arise while a person calls up the memory. As we enhance the brain’s ability to do that – to observe the reactions of our body and emotions, it’s possible to get more practiced at removing the element of judgment from our day-to-day experience.

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“Marie Kondo” your behaviors, not just your closet

“Marie Kondo” your behaviors, not just your closet

“Marie Kondo” your behaviors, not just your closet

If you caught the Netflix miniseries Tidying Up, you’ve watched the ways in which she’s instructed families to sift through their belongings and release them back to the world when they no longer “spark joy.” In our office, we’ve discussed Marie’s wisdom and what it can offer to our clients and our own sense of well-being.

Her first step is to bring out into the open everything you own in a particular category. We often don’t know what all we have hidden away until we’ve taken it from hiding places. When faced with our large quantities, we can fully grasp the extent of what we have, what we’ve been hanging onto and put it into perspective.

Next, she suggests we hold an item in our hands to feel its weight. We let ourselves not just think about it, but have a physical experience of its presence in our life. And then we ask a crucial question: does it spark joy? Or perhaps, is it a conduit for joy? If it does “spark joy”, then it can find a proper home. But if not? Then we take a moment to thank the item for its service in our life, and we pass it along to be given away or discarded completely.

This process, which often leads to much purging through the home, can be helpful in our mental and emotional lives as well. Our EMDR-based philosophy recognizes that particular behaviors have been adapted because they served a purpose: to keep an individual alive and functioning during or after a point of trauma. It’s an old solution that no longer works.

We can actually be grateful to our survival mechanisms because they served a purpose, for a period of time. But just like that tattered college-years hoodie, it doesn’t serve the same purpose anymore. With the help of your treatment provider, you can acknowledge these behaviors, thank them for their service, and then be done with them. With the new spaciousness, you’ll find freedom to adapt lifestyles more congruent with your present instead of your past.

But what about sentimentality? How can we get rid of the mementos and reminders of our history? Holly Schweitzer-Dunn, LISW, reminds us that we can respect and honor our past without keeping it right in front of us. Letting go doesn’t diminish its history, but hanging on may diminish the future.

Surfing Why you should Marie Kondo Your Relationships

Reading Real Love: The art of mindful connection by Sharon Salzburg; The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr; Mothers, Daughters and Body Image by Hilary McBride; Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Listening The Robcast: Kristen Bell on Anxiety, Part 1 and Part 2; Another Name For Every Thing

Watching One Strange Rock on Netflix

Visiting Sunny Florida! Nicole, Michele and the Schweitzer-Dunn family made recent trips.

Eating Holly recently dug out the greens for a fresh pesto!

Moving NeuroMovement- Learn more from Jill Bolte Taylor and Anat Baniel

Hancock County Park District is sponsoring a free Take a Walk in the Park day on March 30. And Aqua Zumba meets Holly’s need for a little bit of silliness and fun in a workout.

Registering The 3rd Annual Jenelle Hohman Color Me Happy 5k Run/Walk to support Hancock County NAMI is coming up May 18

Leading Andrea led a workshop on the Enneagram at the Findlay MOPS group and our office will be conducting a breakout session at the University of Findlay’s upcoming conference on Trauma and Addiction.

Creating Planning an herb and vegetable garden to be planted soon!

Resting A trip to Miami for family R&R

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July 2018 Newsletter

July 2018 Newsletter

July 2018 Newsletter

The Mind-Body Connection: Explained

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of mental health treatment that has primarily been used to address the effects of trauma.  At Mind Body Health Associates, all of our clinicians are trained in EMDR and use it in their office as a form of therapy. While this treatment modality has been effective for a subgroup of our clients, it’s important to know that at MBHA, EMDR is more than a form of treatment – it’s a philosophy that informs our treatment approach with all clients.  Every session is held with the understanding that the body and the mind work together to restore health, which affirms the starting point of EMDR.

EMDR

The brain, all day, every day, takes in sensory information. As it takes in our surroundings and daily events, the mind establishes a narrative around it. Essentially, we each tell ourselves a story about our life and this forms or supports the pieces that make up our identity.

While sleeping, those events and that narrative is processed; essentially they are broken down, made sense of, and either stored as longer term memories or flushed through our system. The important pieces of information find a home within our mind, forming memories. The unessential flow outward. (Research is still new in this area of how these moments get removed from our system, but we have some indication that it’s through the lymphatic system of our bodies.)

People who have survived trauma have experienced moments so terrifying that the mind does not know how to process or make sense of them. By definition, a trauma is something life threatening that does not make sense, is unpredictable, and is out of our control.  Instead of getting processed and “flushed out” during our nightly REM stage mental clean up, these moments essentially get stuck and processing is left unfinished.   The presence of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline contribute to the “sticking” of these experiences.  The brain continues to take in new information about each day, but all of these new moments pass by the the traumatic reference on their way to finding their home as memories. Some new memories can accumulate around the stuck experience, slowing the process of brain function.

However, it’s not just Traumatic experiences (commonly involving loss of person or power, such as grief or abuse) that can clog up the nightly flushing process. Holly Schweitzer Dunn refers to these as “big T Trauma” and explains that most people experience “little t trauma” at different moments in life. Jayne Williams chimes in: “we all have moments in our lives that are hard, and it depends on how we are able to process them that determines how they affect us.” Some “little t trauma” moments that aren’t able to be vocalized with close friends or family members in a supportive environment can also get lodged into our minds in a similar manner. This creates negative beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Usually, there comes a point where the brain becomes so overwhelmed that daily experiences cannot be processed appropriately. A person in this state cannot sleep, sees changes in appetite, experiences difficulty functioning in daily life, sometimes with symptoms of depression or anxiety. This is often when someone will call the office for help.

But as humans, we have amazing capacity for healing, and our bodies and our minds constantly work towards health. Our cut skin will grow back together and heal – unless it’s blocked, like when we experience a splinter. Even that small shard will prevent healing until it’s put in its appropriate place.

Similarly, our experiences and the way they are processed into our bodies are programmed for healing. Until the problematic experience is fully processed, our body and our subconscious mind will keep returning to it in an attempt to process it. It could be through the rumination symptom of depression, when our minds keep playing it over and over. Or, at a level less obvious to our awareness, we could simply be attempting to process an experience as we take on negative beliefs about ourselves and our world. For example, perhaps you were told at a young age that yellow was an ugly color. You might not have outward feelings toward the color yellow, but you might regularly have moments where you avoid the color yellow when given a choice, because the color yellow is that unprocessed memory coming to the surface, asking to be stored or discarded.

As a therapy tool, EMDR re-processes the memory with a different emotion or belief about the self. In a safe and supportive setting, we use the calming effect that movement has on the nervous system, such as moving the eyes, to begin to move the experience through channels of the mind. Much like a car stuck in the ruts of mud, we use movements to get the neural networks of the brain moving.

By keeping one proverbial foot in the present moment and recalling the past, we are able to attach new meaning to our experiences that draw up different emotions and beliefs about ourselves and the world. Working with a therapist to notice the sensations of the body when thinking about the color yellow, for example, we can notice the way these sensations also show up in other ways. Perhaps our belly clenches and our jaw gets tight when we think about the color yellow, but we also feel those sensations when we hear loved ones argue. Through the act of noticing, we can begin to tell ourselves a new story – not just about the color yellow, but about what is true when we feel these sensations. A clenched belly and a tight jaw can be translated, and we begin to say, “oh, I feel that thing again. What is happening around me that I might not realize is causing me to react?”

Whether or not your therapist and you agree to get out a light board or utilize sound tones in a formal EMDR session, much of your work with any clinical issue in our office centers on the function of past experiences and present sensations. We bring awareness of our body into treatment because it helps us to understand the story we’ve been telling ourselves about who we are and the world around us. And once we understand that story, we can address the negative and positive elements of it.

For further understanding

A household favorite is the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett. In this episode she interviews Bessel van der Kolk, Medical Director of the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts. He’s also a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School, and the author of The Body Keeps the Score.

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Pairing Treatment with Yoga

Yoga can help you manage symptoms of a taxed nervous system and give you tools for relaxation. Our EMDR-based approach leads us to recommend individuals to take up a yoga practice, either at home, in a local studio, or privately for several reasons:

1. It’s bi-lateral movement, which calms the nervous system and preps the body to be able to better process our experiences, past and present. Mindful movement helps us dislodge our belief patterns in a way that sit-and-talk therapy doesn’t do by itself.

2. It teaches us to notice sensations in the body. Thanks to a well-developed nervous system, our bodies are always able to tell us something about how we feel at the current moment. Sometimes the simplicity of a yoga practice helps us to tune into how we’re feeling in a way that a more complex activity, such as playing sports, does not.

3. It’s breath-centered. Nothing brings you into the present moment and reaffirms your safety like a deep breath. Just 60-90 seconds of deep belly breathing can calm the hyper-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system “fight or flight” response. An hour or 30 minutes of mindful, breath-based movement brings your body and your mind into a calmed state to more easily process events.

Talk to your therapist about the benefits of pairing your treatment with yoga. Michele, our in-house yoga instructor, has worked with individuals dealing with issues of trauma, grief, addiction, and disordered eating. A season of private sessions might give you the confidence and the tools to take your practice into a studio setting, or set you up for a simple home practice. If you’re already wanting a studio-based practice, Peggy at Hot Yoga Findlay uses EMBER, a trauma-sensitive approach to yoga.

What Now?

Perhaps this new understanding has you wondering if you could benefit from EMDR, and this might be the case. Another option is to explore ways your body can help you navigate stress.

  1. Sleep more. A minimum of 8 hours, and more when necessary. Sleep is when the brain flushes most effectively, so give it ample opportunity to release unhelpful memories.
  2. Move more. Engage your whole body through walking, running, hiking, yoga, biking, swimming, or even simply bi-lateral movements or stretches. Let your body give your brain the nudge to process the days’ sensations and memories.
  3. Sit more. A practice of sitting comfortably and noticing your breath and the sensations of your body quiets the bodily systems. Here you can shift away from the problem-solving side of your brain. You’ll decrease the amount of stress hormones washing through the body and find a sense of relaxation needed to help your overall processing of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Contact Us

Pairing Treatment with Yoga

Pairing Treatment with Yoga

Pairing Treatment with Yoga

Yoga can help you manage symptoms of a taxed nervous system and give you tools for relaxation. Our EMDR-based approach leads us to recommend individuals to take up a yoga practice, either at home, in a local studio, or privately for several reasons:

  1. It’s bi-lateral movement, which calms the nervous system and preps the body to be able to better process our experiences, past and present. Mindful movement helps us dislodge our belief patterns in a way that sit-and-talk therapy doesn’t do by itself.
  2. It teaches us to notice sensations in the body. Thanks to a well-developed nervous system, our bodies are always able to tell us something about how we feel at the current moment. Sometimes the simplicity of a yoga practice helps us to tune into how we’re feeling in a way that a more complex activity, such as playing sports, does not.
  3. It’s breath-centered. Nothing brings you into the present moment and reaffirms your safety like a deep breath. Just 60-90 seconds of deep belly breathing can calm the hyper-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system “fight or flight” response. An hour or 30 minutes of mindful, breath-based movement brings your body and your mind into a calmed state to more easily process events.

Talk to your therapist about the benefits of pairing your treatment with yoga. Michele, our in-house yoga instructor, has worked with individuals dealing with issues of trauma, grief, addiction, and disordered eating. A season of private sessions might give you the confidence and the tools to take your practice into a studio setting, or set you up for a simple home practice. If you’re already wanting a studio-based practice, Peggy at Hot Yoga Findlay uses EMBER, a trauma-sensitive approach to yoga.


What Now?

Perhaps this new understanding has you wondering if you could benefit from EMDR, and this might be the case. Another option is to explore ways your body can help you navigate stress.

  1. Sleep more. A minimum of 8 hours, and more when necessary. Sleep is when the brain flushes most effectively, so give it ample opportunity to release unhelpful memories.
  2. Move more. Engage your whole body through walking, running, hiking, yoga, biking, swimming, or even simply bi-lateral movements or stretches. Let your body give your brain the nudge to process the days’ sensations and memories.
  3. Sit more. A practice of sitting comfortably and noticing your breath and the sensations of your body quiets the bodily systems. Here you can shift away from the problem-solving side of your brain. You’ll decrease the amount of stress hormones washing through the body and find a sense of relaxation needed to help your overall processing of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Contact Us

The Mind Body Connection: Explained

The Mind Body Connection: Explained

The Mind Body Connection: Explained

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of mental health treatment that has primarily been used to address the effects of trauma.  At Mind Body Health Associates, all of our clinicians are trained in EMDR and use it in their office as a form of therapy. While this treatment modality has been effective for a subgroup of our clients, it’s important to know that at MBHA, EMDR is more than a form of treatment – it’s a philosophy that undergirds our treatment approach with all.  Every session is held with the understanding that the body and the mind work together to restore health, which affirms the starting point of EMDR.

The brain, all day, every day, takes in sensory information. As it takes in our surroundings and daily events, the mind establishes a narrative around it. Essentially, we each tell ourselves a story about our life and this forms or supports the pieces that make up our identity.

While sleeping, those events and that narrative is processed; essentially they are broken down, made sense of, and either stored as longer term memories or flushed through our system. The important pieces of information find a home within our mind, forming memories. The unessential flow outward. (Research is still new in this area of how these moments get removed from our system, but we have some indication that it’s through the lymphatic system of our bodies.)

People who have survived trauma have experienced moments so terrifying that the mind does not know how to process or make sense of them. By definition, a trauma is something life threatening that does not make sense, is unpredictable, and is out of our control.  Instead of getting processed and “flushed out” during our nightly REM stage mental clean up, these moments essentially get stuck and processing is left unfinished. The presence of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline contribute to the “sticking” of these experiences.  The brain continues to take in new information about each day, but all of these new moments pass by the the traumatic reference on their way to finding their home as memories. Some new memories can accumulate around the stuck experience, slowing the process of brain function.

However, it’s not just Traumatic experiences (commonly involving loss of person or power, such as grief or abuse) that can clog up the nightly flushing process. Holly Schweitzer Dunn refers to these as “big T Trauma” and explains that most people experience “little t trauma” at different moments in life. Jayne Williams chimes in: “we all have moments in our lives that are hard, and it depends on how we are able to process them that determines how they affect us.” Some “little t trauma” moments that aren’t able to be vocalized with close friends or family members in a supportive environment can also get lodged into our minds in a similar manner. This creates negative beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Usually, there comes a point where the brain becomes so overwhelmed that daily experiences cannot be processed appropriately. A person in this state cannot sleep, sees changes in appetite, experiences difficulty functioning in daily life, sometimes with symptoms of depression or anxiety. This is often when someone will call the office for help.

But as humans, we have amazing capacity for healing, and our bodies and our minds constantly work towards health. Our cut skin will grow back together and heal – unless it’s blocked, like when we experience a splinter. Even that small shard will prevent healing until it’s put in its appropriate place.

Similarly, our experiences and the way they are processed into our bodies are programmed for healing. Until the problematic experience is fully processed, our body and our subconscious mind will keep returning to it in an attempt to process it. It could be through the rumination symptom of depression, when our minds keep playing it over and over. Or, at a level less obvious to our awareness, we could simply be attempting to process an experience as we take on negative beliefs about ourselves and our world. For example, perhaps you were told at a young age that yellow was an ugly color. You might not have outward feelings toward the color yellow, but you might regularly have moments where you avoid the color yellow when given a choice, because the color yellow is that unprocessed memory coming to the surface, asking to be stored or discarded.

As a therapy tool, EMDR re-processes the memory with a different emotion or belief about the self. In a safe and supportive setting, we use the calming effect that movement has on the nervous system, such as moving the eyes, to begin to move the experience through channels of the mind. Much like a car stuck in the ruts of mud, we use movements to get the neural networks of the brain moving.

By keeping one proverbial foot in the present moment and recalling the past, we are able to attach new meaning to our experiences that draw up different emotions and beliefs about ourselves and the world. Working with a therapist to notice the sensations of the body when thinking about the color yellow, for example, we can notice the way these sensations also show up in other ways. Perhaps our belly clenches and our jaw gets tight when we think about the color yellow, but we also feel those sensations when we hear loved ones argue. Through the act of noticing, we can begin to tell ourselves a new story – not just about the color yellow, but about what is true when we feel these sensations. A clenched belly and a tight jaw can be translated, and we begin to say, “oh, I feel that thing again. What is happening around me that I might not realize is causing me to react?”

Whether or not your therapist and you agree to get out a light board or utilize sound tones in a formal EMDR session, much of your work with any clinical issue in our office centers on the function of past experiences and present sensations. We bring awareness of our body into treatment because it helps us to understand the story we’ve been telling ourselves about who we are and the world around us. And once we understand that story, we can address the negative and positive elements of it.

Contact Us