Sunday, November 15, 2020

Color Visualization Exercise to Release Tension

by Kathleen Krol, MSS, LCSW, RPT-S

 

Scan your body beginning with your head down to your feet and notice if there is any tension anywhere. If there is, bring your open-hearted curiosity to it. Allow yourself think of the area of tension as a color. Invite yourself to notice if the tension has a shape, texture, and temperature to it as well. Next think of a color you like that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Does this color have a shape, texture, and temperature? Imagine this color coming in through the top of your head like rays of light or mist and going to the spot of tension. Imagine this color permeating around the area of tension and bringing in calm, softening the spot of tension, perhaps maker it smaller. You may want to breathe gently as you continue to allow the calming color to soften the tension.

 

Another variation of this exercise is to imagine the tension is a color you don’t like. As you take a breath in, then breathe out, imagine you are releasing the color along with the tension. With each exhale, you are blowing out the tension and this color. Now imagine a color that you do like, that makes you feel relaxed and calm. As you breath in, imagine that color coming in with your breath and think “calm”. Continue to exhale, saying “letting go of tension” silently in your mind each time you breath out. Imagine more of the calm color entering your body as you slowly breathe in and relax.

 

Letting Go and Embracing Hope

by Kathleen Krol, MSS, LCSW, RPT-S

 

Traditionally, December is a time of looking back at the highlights of the past year, joining in varied holiday and spiritual celebrations and waiting in anticipation of what the new year will bring. This December, like most of 2020, will be different. For many, the lows may have overshadowed the highs, holiday and spiritual gatherings may be smaller with the absence of significant others, and individuals may be cautious and apprehensive about what the new year brings, rather than hopeful. So how does one let go of the negativity of 2020, shift energy to embrace the potential for positive, and move forward into 2021 with hope?

 

Letting go does not necessarily mean forgetting. Instead, it is about releasing the negative energy that can cling to us. Letting go is acceptance of the things we did not have control of this past year: circumstances, the world, others. Letting go is more about choosing how we respond and whether we choose to hold tight to negative energy or release it and make space for new energy. Letting go is a process and can have many paths.

 

The process of letting go and shifting your energy might start with a check-in (both physically and mentally) when there are situations or personal interactions which trigger a “hot spot.” A “hot spot” can be a negative or uncomfortable emotion, thought or body sensation. If you have been in survival mode this past year, you may not have had time to process your frustration, anger, sadness, and other feelings. What would enable you to experience your feelings?

 

Possibilities may include talking it out, journaling, movement, music, art, expressing through writing poetry or a song. Once you have allowed yourself to experience and express the emotion, then you are more open to letting go of any remaining negative energy. Ritual can be another symbolic way of letting go and moving forward. Writing down what you want to let go of and then releasing it through burning it or ripping it up are two ways. Another idea is to write words or situations on stones and toss them into a creek or river. Name the situation, take a deep breath and as you blow out, toss the stone saying, “I release this” or “I let go of this”.

 

Letting go and transforming the energy from negative to more positive can be through shifting your focus from one of defeat to one of empowerment. Look back at the past year and notice your personal strengths, supports and resources and the strategies that helped you to cope. Acknowledge you made it through your own perseverance and endurance and that you may be stronger than you think. Invite yourself to recognize that this inner strength – and those external resources – will be there for future challenges as well.

 

Moving forward into the new year, you may invite yourself to take each day as it comes. First, be kind to yourself. This past year has taken a lot of emotional and mental energy. Give yourself time for personal reflection and self-care this last month of the year and as we go forward into 2021. Allow time for yourself to replenish your energy, nurturing and caring for yourself first.  Rather than create New Year resolutions in which you may try to compensate for unfinished tasks of the past year, consider aiming for smaller, more doable goals. You might try a daily challenge – such as substituting one healthy snack (like fruit) for a “pandemic comfort food” (like cookies) – rather than setting a loftier goal of losing all the weight you gained during 2020. Maybe you can aim to walk 15 minutes every other day or schedule a long walk weekly, rather than criticizing yourself when you don’t exercise daily. Starting with smaller, more easily achievable goals will give you a boost of confidence, and these small successes are likely to build on themselves.

 

Last, you may want to try replacing apprehension about the future with a sense of curiosity to what the day and year will bring. Aim to be curious as you go about your day, using your senses to bring you into a more full appreciation of things you might normally take for granted. This may include noticing, smelling, feeling, tasting, or touching something new and really experiencing it in the here-and-now. Simple pleasures like the taste of a crisp apple, the warmth of the sun through the window, and the sound of birds chirping can bring delight when we bring our full attention and curiosity. Try to find one new thing each day to truly savor.

 

In little ways, you can be conscious and intentional in letting go, shifting your energy, deepening your focus, and discovering hope as you finish out this year and prepare for the next. Depending on the intensity of your individual circumstances, you may find you are still holding unto something that is challenging to let go of by yourself. If that is the case, be kind to yourself and seek support with friends, family, or a professional. Some burdens are too heavy to carry alone, and you may not be able to let go until you are fully witnessed by someone else. We are here to help.

 

Kathleen Krol is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist who works with individuals, children, teens, and families using a family focused and integrative approach to treatment. Areas of expertise include trauma, anxiety, depression, grief/loss, life transitions and adoption and attachment issues. She specializes in EMDR with all ages, Play Therapy, Family Therapy, Sand Tray and Sand Focusing Therapy and Parent Coaching. If you would like to learn more, go to www.kathleenkrol.com or contact her at kasiakrol17@verizon.net or 215-289-3101#1.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Thriving

by Elizabeth Campbell, MS, LPC, RPT-S

 

During a time of crisis, we often feel as if we are just surviving from one day to the next, sometimes one minute to the next.  We are in a time of unprecedented crisis.  Not only are we experiencing a global pandemic that has lasted 7 months, we are also experiencing a shift of the systemic racism that has plagued our country for centuries being brought to light.  And there is an extremely contentious presidential election that is omnipresent.  The combination of long lasting and intense stress as well as multiple additional factors is enough to put everyone in a place where our stress is outweighing our resources.  In order to not just survive, but thrive during a crisis, I remember the four C’s:  Compassion, Care, Caution, and Comedy.

 

Self-compassion is the foundation and perhaps the most important ingredient in thriving.  We all need some grace right now.  We are mourning, we may be under financial stress, and we certainly have more to digest and worry about right now.  All of these emotions take up a lot of space and leave less room for all of our other life tasks and roles.  I urge you to show yourself some care and compassion for not getting the last load of laundry done or forgetting that thing on your to do list.  It is very, very understandable right now.  Show yourself the love and understanding that you would give you in your most treasured relationships. 

 

Self-care is another essential ingredient in thriving.  It is important to note that yes, self-care includes bubble baths and manicures.  It also includes saying no to things when there is too much on our plate, taking care of our basic needs, and filling up our tank with whatever works the best for us.  It is important to note that often in times of crisis, we return to the comfortable coping skills that most likely were a survival skill in a difficult time in our life.   Examples of these are shutting down, overworking as avoidance, or disconnection from others.  It is completely normal that you may have shifted into some of these old patterns.  But it is also important that we evaluate when negative consequences of a survival skill outweigh the positive.

 

And that leads us to caution.  Remember self-compassion?  It is okay if we are eating a bowl of ice cream every night, have a glass of wine, or are bickering more with our loved ones.  But if that turns into bingeing, substance abuse, or constant conflict, it is important to hold ourselves accountable and seek support in order to get back on track.  A measuring stick for if our means of coping are doing more harm than good is if the negative outcomes outweigh the positive and most importantly, if it is impacting your functioning. 

 

Comedy is my very favorite component of crisis thriving.  This includes seeking levity via tv shows, movies, books, limericks, or whatever get you giggling.  It also encompasses finding joy in your day to day in whatever way you can.   For instance, a gratitude practice, recognizing whatever small thing we are thankful for in the day, can shine joy in the darkest days. 

 

It is important to note that the nature of crisis is that our stress outweighs our resources.  It is a daunting task to try and shift the balance.  If you need support in this, please connect with your network or reach out to us at The Resiliency Center for whatever support can assist you in thriving.

. 

Elizabeth Campbell is a Licensed Profession Counselor who provides empowerment and strength-based support to individuals in personal growth and change.  She specializes in play therapy with children, family therapy, creative counseling for adolescents, and trauma-informed treatment for all ages using an integrative, mindful approach to address the whole individual and promote healing.  .If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, reach out at elizabeth@elizabethcampbellcounseling.com or 610-757-8163 or learn more at www.elizabethcampbellcounseling.com

 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Inner Ocean #6

by Dean Solon               

the quiet 
of the ocean’s thunder roar
is a stillpoint, 
a silent space amidst the turbulence
insisted upon to drown out the peace
we can feel and be living with.
the urgency of the waves
pounding upon the shore
is a cascading call to be merciful
in a world intent on
distraction and disturbance.

the quiet 
of the Big Sky
is a blue miracle
with its attendant wispy white companions
a reminder 
of what we fitfully and fortunately remember:
the sacred majesty of creation
and all that is included,
riches too many to be named and numbered,
riches yet to be discovered,
a mystery not to be solved
but a mystery to be savored and shared.    

we like to think we know what we are doing,
we like to believe we have a handle on all of this,
when what we know is life is short,
                                         love is possible,
                                         awe and wonder are exquisite.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Finding Meaning

The following are suggestions to explore ways of finding meaning during this difficult—but temporary —experience of the pandemic:

Focus on the present moment. At this moment, everything is fine; nothing bad is happening to you.  You’re not going hungry.  You have shelter. You’re healthy. List the things around you.  Notice what you see, hear, smell, and taste at this moment.

Express gratitude.  Each day, notice three things you are grateful for.  Pay attention to the little things:  seeing a hummingbird, the taste of a piece of chocolate, a sunny day.

Try to learn something new. Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, an instrument you’d like to play, or a language you’d like to speak?

Help others.  You can make financial donations, deliver food to the needy, send cards to health care workers, or make calls to lonely friends and neighbors.

Are there new activities you could try to give your life meaning?

Choose three activities from the list above that you will do over the next week to create meaning in your life.

You may also want to consider what you would like to continue doing once the pandemic is over. Why does that feel important?

Consider the following:

·      Volunteering one’s time;

·      Giving money to someone in need;

·      Writing out one’s future goals;

·      Expressing gratitude for another’s actions, either written or verbal;

·      Carefully listening to another’s point of view;

·      Confiding in someone about something that is of personal importance; and

·      Persevering valued goals in spite of obstacles.

Redefining Meaning through Challenging Times

by Barbra Danin

Eudaemonia  - eu" ("good") and "daim┼Źn" ("spirit"),a life of activity governed by reason

Ancient Greek philosophers had the leisure to contemplate life’s meaning and engaged in many debates over what determines a good life. According to Aristotle, striving for happiness should not be man’s highest priority; rather, he wrote that one should strive for Eudaimonia, or fulfillment through the process of doing what is purposeful and worthwhile to each individual. This involves well intended action through knowledge that is acquired throughout life experience.

Since the quarantine, many of us find ourselves thinking about our lives in ways we may not have previously had the time or interest in doing. Trends are shifting rapidly as we reevaluate our values and focus more on what holds meaning and priority – Be that quality time with friends and family, healthy living and home cooked meals, discovering nature, creative ventures, or pursuing professional aspirations.

For some, living in small spaces in dense urban areas is no longer attractive, and home sales are spiking in suburban areas with larger properties. Fashion trends are shifting dramatically, with sales of jeans plummeting and leisure wear and Birkenstocks purchases soaring. Walmart’s biggest sellers are self-grooming devices, while lipstick sales have flattened and Amazon’s stock of bread and pasta makers is low. At the same time, fear and anxiety is rising as we struggle with the negative impact of social isolation and uncertainty over what the future holds.

As we continue to face the changing circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic, how can we assign meaning to these times and respond to the challenges of the moment?  Can we draw from the wisdom of those who experienced adversity in the past? Victor Frankl offers both practical actions and philosophical insight in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.  During his interment at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, Frankl, a psychiatrist, keenly observed his and fellow prisoners’ psychological and behavioral evolution as they lived through the horrors of their imprisonment. He was curious as to how they were coping during that challenging time and what seemed useful to them in efforts to survive.  He noted that those who found resilience appeared to assign their own personal meaning to their experience:

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us…….our answers must consist……………in right action and in right conduct…taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and fulfill the tasks it constantly sets for each individual. 

He published the book Man’s Search for Meaning after his liberation. The book presents his theory of Logo therapy (logos=moving), a treatment approach with focus on the future, rather than the past.  Echoing the theory of Eudaimonia, he contends that a search for meaning is the primary motivator of life, and that each of us must continually redefine our meaning for the moment in which we are living, with an emphasis on work and correct action, connecting with others, and accepting circumstances over which we have no control.

For Frankel, what energized him were thoughts of his wife, plans to publish his book, fantasies of a favorite meal…… He observed that those inmates who tried to assign meaning to the experience at the time were able to better tolerate the suffering they underwent than those who became hopeless.

As summer ends and we enter the fall season, we may consider this time as an opportunity to look inward and explore and challenge long held values and beliefs, and to revisit our personal hopes and aspirations towards a life of meaning and purpose for now and for the future.

Barbra Danin, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Art Therapist, and Certified EMDR Therapist.  She provides individual, couples, and family therapy.  Her specialties include treating children with anxiety, trauma, and behavioral issues – and empowering parents with concrete tools for lasting change. Contact her at (314) 477-8585 or barbradanin@barbradanin.com. Learn more at her website at www.barbradanin.com.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Learning to Say "No!"

by Rachel Kobin

 

There are times when we have to let people down. Maybe your name has been on the volunteer list for years, but which is worse, feeling resentful as you do the job, or letting someone else step up to the plate? Perhaps the task would be skipped or reinvented for the month. Who would judge us harshly for our human frailty?

 

It seems I am the one who judges myself harshly for my human frailty. I have a hard time saying "No." I want to help everyone improve their writing, publish their book, get into the MFA program of their choice, deal with their recent bipolar disorder diagnosis, or figure out how to spell "trivial." Inevitably my desire to help so many people at the same time leaves me overextended. Recently I said I didn't have the energy or time to do something I'd promised I would do, but when no one could take my place, I caved in and did it after all. Don't be like me. Stick to your guns. Say, "No!" Preserve your mental and physical health. You are worthy of such basic kindness.

 

I am worthy of this, too, which is why from this very moment, "No," will flow from my mouth like saliva while I sleep. I said "No" to drugs in the eighties, and endlessly to my parents when I was two, so I'm just going to say no to everything. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Oh, even typing that is fun. And then, I'll do the work I can and make some people happy. But not everyone, because as I should know by now, it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. 

 

Okay, given how much I love what I do, I'm probably not going to say "No" to much that has anything to do with writing or friends who need help spelling a word. But next time I'm exhausted and say I can't do something, I'm not going to back down. I'm going to remember that my refusal is a courageous act of self-care. I invite you to follow my lead.

 

To further bolster your newfound confidence saying "No," I leave you with the words of the infinitely wise band, "They Might be Giants," and their song, "No!" from their album titled, "No!"

 

No is no
No is always no
If they say no, it means a thousand times no

No plus no equals no
All nos lead to no no no

Finger pointing, eyebrows low
Mouth in the shape of the letter O

Pardon me, no!
Excuse me, no!
May I stay?
Can I go?
No, no, no

Do this, no!
Don't do that, no!
Sit, stay,…

 

Rachel Kobin has over twenty years of experience writing in a variety of professional settings. She founded The Philadelphia Writers Workshop in 2011. Though normally found leading creative writing workshops at The Resiliency Center, she currently provides them via video conferencing. She works with writers privately as a coach and editor to help them make their final drafts as brilliant as their original ideas.