Our thoughts, our emotions and even our interactions, are all made up of energy.
Emotion (energy) needs to flow, and when we suppress, deny or or even over-express our feelings, our energies (emotions) stay trapped and discomfort deepens. Believe it or not, it takes energy to suppress bad feelings, as well as to forcefully express them. In the long run, non-resolution leaves us feeling depleted, resulting in low moods, anger, depression, anxieties, illnesses.
Healing and resolution rarely occur unless we recognise and address our problems; as the saying goes, “what we resist, persists“.
When we are able to acknowledge, address and resolve, our energy flows dynamically, and we feel better, work better, love better and live better.
In my practice as an Integrative counsellor, I focus on a mind-body-social approach to therapy. I combine EFT tapping and somatic therapies with traditional talk therapy to assist you in resolving your difficulties and concerns.
As children we were wide open and vulnerable, without boundaries and depending completely on adults for survival. It’s inevitable that as children we experienced some degree of trauma. This is unavoidable; part and parcel of being human. Some of us experienced trauma through a form of actual abuse and some of us just by virtue […]
When we feel anxious, panicky, or even unconsciously stressed, we tend to take short breaths (called shallow breathing or chest breathing). As a result, our body doesn’t receive enough oxygen, which limits blood flow to important organs and creates tension in our muscles and joints.
This is a physiological reaction to perceived external danger, so when we continuously take shallow breaths we are actually sending signals to our body that we are under threat.
Anything from being stuck in a traffic jam or standing in a long queue, to feeling claustrophobic in a crowded space or even remembering a past traumatic event, can make us anxious and put us into stress mode. Our minds can perceive these situations as threatening/stressful and our body reacts to our thought patterns.
It is imperative to start becoming aware of when we are putting ourselves into stress mode, as these are usually subconscious reactions.
When we breathe full, deep breaths using the full capacity of our lungs, not only are we nourishing our cells with more oxygen, but we are sending calming signals to our body.
In the same way that stressful thoughts in our subconscious mind can create negative changes in our physical body, initiating conscious changes (breathing) in our body can create a calmer state of mind.
Stressful thoughts = shallow breath & tightness in muscles
Deep, full breaths = calmer mind + calmer body
Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, identified the flip side of the stress response, which he called the “relaxation response.” Benson demonstrated that meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques can bring about physiological changes including a lower heart rate, lower breathing rate, and decreased muscle tension along with positive changes in brain waves. Mind-body techniques that elicit this relaxation response have been successful in treating many stress-related disorders.
Try this exercise: To find out how you are breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. On every inhale, notice your chest rising. Notice your abdomen too – does it move?
If it doesn’t, then your breath is shallow.
If your abdomen moves in on an inhale, your breath is inverted (and still shallow).
If your chest as well as your abdomen rise when you breathe in, you are breathing good, relaxed breaths – well done!
If you find it difficult to breathe into your abdomen, try this:
Try to imagine that your abdomen is like a balloon
As you breathe in slowly, let the air fill up your abdomen as if you are filling a balloon with air, letting your abdomen rise before your chest
As you exhale, let your chest go in then your abdomen, as if deflating the balloon
Do this exercise 3 – 4 times and feel your body become calm.
There are many breathing techniques and exercises that we can use to release stress from our body & mind. The first step, as always, is to be mindful, to become aware. Only then can we pause and step back before we can breathe our way to a sense of calm and to new perspectives.
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Sitting with emotional discomfort is difficult. We all have strategies to cope with/run from emotional pain.
This is not surprising, as usually, this is what we have been taught, albeit unintentionally. Don’t cry, have a sweet; don’t be sad; stop making such a fuss; it’s not so bad; just get on with it… sound familiar? Not only do we not like feeling pain, we don’t like to see loved ones in pain either, which is often the origin of these sentiments. And having learned this as children, it becomes how we act from our subconscious space as adults.
However, true freedom ultimately comes from embracing our emotional pain, from sitting with the discomfort. This requires awareness, and patience with ourselves, as we reprogram our reflexes – to hurt, pain, anger, stress – into mindful reactions.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown (Ph.D., LMSW), research professor & author says: “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy… Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as ‘tapping’) effectively releases negative feelings and emotions that have been impacting people for years, and helps to instil new beliefs which lead to more conducive ways of living. We open up to enhanced states of well being, and feel better, work better, live better. Watch a video or read more about EFT here.
The title of this article does not refer to craving intellectual pursuits, but to that intense desire to keep eating a specific food after our hunger pangs have been satisfied.
There’s a real distinction – cravings are not the same as hunger:
Hunger is regulated by the body, while cravings are dictated by the mind.
Hunger is usually a general need for food while cravings can be for very specific foods
Hunger is about surviving physically. Cravings are often about surviving emotionally
Seen in this light, cravings are not the actual problem,
they are merely symptoms of underlying issues.
Some of these could be:
This is when we link certain foods with certain activities. For example, you could be perfectly happy reading a book for hours on end but as soon as you turn on the television your mind goes to the kitchen. Or as soon as you come home from work you reach for a glass of wine. As soon as you have the kids in bed you feel the need for cake. Etc.
Write this report, or get a snack?
Do the laundry? Hmmm I feel hungry, I’ll just have a bag of chips first.
This is a popular time for cravings to surface. God forbid we have to sit with ourselves for a few minutes.
Emotional States – Comfort/Distraction
Food often gives us comfort, and when we experience intense negative feelings, we can reach for food to feel soothed. This is especially true if, as children, we were given food to calm and quiet us by well meaning caregivers.
Loneliness, Anger, Sadness, Guilt, Depression, etc., these are all states that can feel very uncomfortable. Not many of us have been taught to sit with discomfort and see ourselves through, so food becomes an instant comforter. As well as a distraction from the discomfort.
Certain foods, like sugar, can trigger an increase in our endorphin levels, serving to boost our moods and make us feel happier. So though sugary foods may result in instant happiness, it is short lived, and fails to address the real cause of the negative feeling that we are experiencing.
Then the guilt/criticism etc. that we may feel as a result of having eaten the desired food ends up making us feel worse in the long run.
The reasons why we intensely crave certain foods at certain times are different for everyone.
What’s your reason? Here’s one way to find out:
The next time your mind prompts you to reach for the food you crave, do this : just pause. Go ahead and eat it, but just pause for a few moments before you reach for it.
In that pause, ask yourself what you’re feeling. Become aware of the reason behind the craving in that particular moment.
You may be surprised to discover every time you stop to do this that the reasons are not always the same! One time it may be sheer boredom, another time may be anxiety, and the next time you may be trying to avoid feeling sad.
See for yourself. What’s under your craving?
That’s the issue that needs addressing, should you wish to do so.
If cravings come upon us in times of stress, when we are not feeling our best, when we are tired, how on earth are we going to summon reserves of willpower to stave off eating the very foods we think are going to bring us comfort in those times?
How sustainable is it?
How guilty/bad/ashamed/weak/etc. do we feel if we “give in”?
A study conducted by Hertfordshire University (2007) found that women who tried to stop thinking about eating chocolate ended up eating 50% more than those who actually talked about their cravings*
Trying to cut out all thoughts of your favourite, fattening food may actually make you eat more!
Often Heard and Seldom Practiced:
GRATITUDE IS THE KEY TO ABUNDANCE
We have so many things to be grateful for and so many ways in which to be grateful. This Gratitude Meditation for me is like starting at home, with the basics, with our body. I like to do this in Śavāsana after a yoga class, but you can do it at any time. It’s a great meditation to get you into a relaxed state just before you sleep. It’s very powerful to end your day with gratitude instead of the usual stressful thoughts.
You can sit or lay down to meditate. Either way, get comfortable. If you choose to sit, make sure your back is straight.
Close your eyes, and start by taking a few deep, relaxing belly breaths. Focusing on your breath will help to stay present.
After you start to feel a little more relaxed, just feel into your body. As you progress through the meditation, let your mind slowly feel it’s way to each body part.
As you scan your body, be grateful to each part. You can actually say whatever comes to your mind, naturally – the following meditation is for you to use as a guideline. Start by sending your mind towards your feet, and feel each toe. :
Thank you, my toes and my feet, for carrying my body around all day
Thank you, my ankles, for being flexible so I can walk
Thank you, my shins and calves. I send you love and thank you for your support
Thank you, my knees, for being wonderful flexible joints, and for helping me move forward. I send love from my heart to the cartilage, bones and every cell in and around you
Thank you my thighs, for helping my legs move forward
Thank you my pelvis, for protecting my organs, for being my foundation
Thank you my hips, for holding my emotions, for helping me to be active
Thank you my torso, my front and my back. Thank you my stomach for helping me to digest, thank you my lungs, for helping me to breathe. Thank you, my spine, for your constant and amazing support
Thank you my shoulders, for helping me carry my responsibilities, thank you my joints, I send loving light to every cell
Thank you my arms, for helping me to embrace my experiences
Thank you my wrists, my hands, my fingers, for helping me with simple tasks every day
Thank you, my neck, for supporting my head
Thank you my lips, mouth, nose eyes, and ears, for helping me to sense
Thank you my head, my mind, my brain, for being a part of me
Pause here, now, and take a few deep belly breaths…
Take your mind’s focus to your heart, and feel into all the loving energy that resides there. Feel the love. Give it a colour, perhaps. Now send the colour (or just the energy if you can’t feel a colour) from your heart all over your body. Important:
If you have any injuries or disabilities, do the body scan as above. Send love to that body part instead of an emotion like anger or frustration.