What you can, when you can

What you can, when you can

For some folks, creating a gym routine is a natural and enjoyable part of their lifestyle. It’s helpful for maintaining and even expanding fitness levels through cardio work or lifting weights. Our own Andrea Clements, Office Manager, loves her habit of visiting Anytime Fitness for sessions on the elliptical and utilizing a lifting regimen. 

However, therapist Holly Schweitzer Dunn finds this form of exercise less than exciting. “Anyone who knows me knows that I strongly dislike working out. Seeing people run nowhere on treadmills seems like the personification of depression and hopelessness. Hearing grunts and groans as men and women max out their muscles to the point of damage seems counterintuitive. I believe fitness should be a regular part of a person’s life, done with ease and joy rather than suffering.”

It seems there are others who agree with her. 

Olga Khazan writes for The Atlantic: “In the approach’s slow simplicity, it could be a more sustainable way to exercise…doing whatever physical activity you can whenever it’s convenient is still a decent way to burn a few calories and feel less sedentary. An exercise strategy intended for Navy SEALs is actually perfect for everyday cubicle dwellers.

“But in a way, it fits with a broader cultural trend of embracing imperfection and simply trying one’s best. Americans’ stressed-out lives have given rise to a new philosophy in which we are, essentially, encouraged to admit defeat on certain things (spotless kitchens, impeccable pecs, and so forth). Our schedules won’t ease up on us, the thinking goes, so maybe we should ease up on ourselves.”

For those who are trying to integrate movement into their everyday lifestyle, perhaps this more natural approach – what you can, when you can – will indeed “grease the groove” for your brain and your body to adapt to newer ranges of motion or added strength. Exercise then becomes not “one more thing to do” but a way of living mindfully with your body.  

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Can I get a witness?

Can I get a witness?

“When you’re anxious and you need encouragement not direction.” 

This was the realization of one of Holly’s clients, whom we’ll call Linda, one day while retelling a story of a panic attack. She shared how her boyfriend had been supportive, recognizing her distress. “I know what to do: I need to calm down, I need to breathe…. What I need him to do is witness and walk through it with me.” 

So, how do we become witnesses for those around us in the midst of anxiety, fear, or simply a bad day? All you have to do is listen and tell them why it makes sense. Try adding these to your routine vocabulary: 

  • That sounds hard.
  • It makes sense you would feel that way.
  • I hear what you’re saying.
  • That was a tough position, you were in a tough place.
  • There sure is a lot of emotion connected to this.
  • This is complicated.
  • No wonder you feel this way. 
  • I’m listening.
Perhaps a friend or loved one is experiencing something irrational, but rationality doesn’t need to take the lead in your attempts to be supportive. Begin by simply validating and acknowledging the emotion they’re experiencing. You don’t have to agree to show empathy. 

 

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You’re Shoulding All Over the Place

You’re Shoulding All Over the Place

For all of our therapists, a red flag of overusing the judgment faculty part of the brain is using the word “should.” A judge is someone who divides, decides, casts an opinion or makes a decision about a situation. It renders a Should: this person Should not have done this. It divides an experience into camps of right and wrong, and a judge sits above that situation.

It’s human nature to give thought to past situations that didn’t go as desired. What could we have done differently? How should we have thought about this before? These are human questions. And they can be useful if considered in a way that says, “now, I have a choice” and move from a place of intention rather than reaction. An element of discernment is healthy and normal.

However, discernment turns to judgment when you attach shame to it. When someone tells about an experience and inserts multiple Shoulds, we hear the brain trying to find power when it was powerless. The Should, a core negative belief, is evidence of some self-blame. If the Shoulds keep you up at night about either past or potential future situations, it becomes a potential source of anxiety or depression, or a myriad of other mental health concerns. It can feed a habit of the brain constantly seeking danger, as blame is often evidence of the brain’s way of labeling a threat.

When you find yourself Shoulding, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Personalize it: take it out of what “a good person” would do; there might not be a “right” way to handle your situation.
  2. Ask yourself what you want and/or what you need.
  3. Notice if there is a place that needs the energy of forgiveness – acknowledge any mistakes by yourself or others, and spend a few moments reflecting on the human propensity to mess up.
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Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

Judging Others, Judging Ourselves

by Michele Minehart, RYT & Community Educator

Last fall I drove through a subdivision and noticed a house with Christmas lights in full glory well before the societally-agreed-upon commencement date of Thanksgiving. I heard a voice in my mind say, “Ugh, seriously? Already? Can we not just have one holiday at a time?”

As I drew closer, I remembered that the family in that house had only recently moved in. My inner dialogue began to shift, as it said, “Oh, I bet they’re so excited to celebrate their first holiday season in their new home! I bet the anticipation is making this a fun time of  year for them.”

I recognized my judgmental tendencies, believing that others should act according to my own sense of Shoulds and Shouldn’ts, and then had a much more profound realization. As I drove outside their home, edifying opinions as to their exterior illumination schedules, the owners of the home felt none of it. Their day and their lives didn’t change based upon what I thought of their decisions. But mine had. I could feel the “clenchiness” of my judgment, almost as if my eyes narrowed and chin dropped as the negative energy arose. And then I felt my heart lift and my shoulders soften as I welcomed the warmer feelings of a first Christmas in a new home.

Sometimes the undertone of “do not judge” is a call to leave everyone alone to their decisions, or ways of living, and perhaps there’s room for more “live and let live.” But in my experience, making an effort of releasing judgmental thoughts changes me and allows me to live with a sense of freedom. I’m relieved of needing to carry the weight of the Shoulds of others – and, with practice, I learn to set down my own set of Shoulds. I can reroute the energy of judgment and spend it instead on inhabiting joy.

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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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Letting Go to Grow

Letting Go to Grow

Letting Go to Grow

 

As I looked at my seemingly weed ridden flower bed in front of our home of 3 years now, I snorted and shook my head with a grin at how I once had the thought towards it “you are the bane of my existence”.

My garden, in no way meets any ideal standards for an aesthetically pleasing presentation.

The first two years I did everything I could to keep the overwhelming weeds and grass choked out, and leveled in that garden, to tame the relentless army of thistles and blades of green. I even went overboard with buying potted flowers and putting them to the left of the garden to distract from the eye sore whose soil wouldn’t grow anything but annoying, unwanted weeds and sharp grasses.

This year, I let things go. Every time I would pass that flower bed after a long, fulfilling day, which included anything from the job I love and find joy at, precious time with family and friends, time for yoga, horses, important errands (toilet paper must always be in stock at home!), mowing our huge lawn, or just wanting to save my last bit of best for time with my husband, I would think “ well, the weeds are already taking over, and it’s not that important. Not a life or death situation, I’ve done my best already for today, I’ll leave it be”. And just like that I let it go, one small, grace-filled, self-loving thought at a time.

Besides pulling out some of the tallest weeds on the borders of the garden, and planting some resilient caladiums as recommended by my mom and dad, I did nothing to that garden, and expected nothing, judged nothing, and went on with my full life.

What I got as a result of letting go, was two of my favorite flowers growing, and popping up to say hello, on their own, in my garden. Black Eyed Susans, and Queen Anne’s Lace were growing in MY garden, without any effort from me! And, I realized for the past two years, I had unknowingly ripped those beautiful flowers out of existence in my efforts to control the horrible weeds. I halted good from happening by trying so hard to keep the bad at bay. When I made space to let go of the need for a perfect looking garden that others would view when coming to our home, I opened up room for growing beauty I could not have forced or planned myself. I also unwittingly opened a door for what I am experiencing in life right now; letting go means acknowledging and even making space for the uncomfortable, painful, and ugly parts of life, and by doing so, room is also made for beyond-imaginable beauty, wonder, magic, joy, and love to flourish at the same time.

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