Sunday, July 9, 2017

From my Heart: A Story about Dealing with Emotional and Physical Pain

by Karen Steinbrecher

I recently returned from a 10-day vacation to Norway and Sweden.  Yes, all was beautiful and fantastic, and the Scandinavian people were delightful. However, as with all things, there were challenges. We were constantly on the "go" on this cruise, walking, traveling, and mingling with many people in various activities. I did also experience pain, chronic neck and leg pain, while interacting with mean passengers from France.  I used the "inner smile" practice suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Tibetan monk, and was able to shift my feelings and state of being.

Qigong is my tool to weave through these situations.  Using my knowledge of the "tool" of QiGong, I was able to reduce and perhaps heal the pain I experienced. Emotional pain can lead to physical pain, and physical pain can lead to emotional pain. Research studies show evidence of the links between emotional, physical, and spiritual pain.

Listening to my body and my feelings during my trip, I knew I needed some alone time.  Qi Gong provides an opportunity to go inward and create a sacred space within, even in the company of others. Whether it was in my hotel/stateroom or outside touring the gorgeous landscapes, I flowed through QiGong movements. It is said that QiGong is even more powerful when practiced outside in Nature and with others. I felt the healing energy and the relief it brought. When others asked about my movements, I was so happy to share the gift of QiGong.  When we practice, we move the energy, Qi, that animates all life.  Gong means the moving, the work of cultivating that energy. The movements flow to harmonize Heaven and Earth/Sea:  Yang [Heaven] and Yin [ Earth].  The Norwegian words are Hima La Harv  [Himmel OgHav] for Sky and Sea.

When we flow with QiGong movements in my classes at the Resiliency Center, we begin with the Joy Practice and say..." I am the Universe, You are the Universe, and We connect for Peace and Love with Healing".  I remembered that Universe was presenting a challenge for me to do just that.  It was a challenge, and I hope that perhaps as I worked [Gong] to heal myself, somehow I did connect with others, kind and unkind alike, to promote Peace, Love and Healing.  As we heal ourselves, we heal one another.

QiGong is easy to do and easy to practice; in a group, the energy is even more empowering.  Moving and flowing through QiGong helps to balance the autonomic nervous system which is a key to healing.  Rather than sitting still, with QiGong movements your pain, emotional or physical, will be less.  Join me, Karen Steinbrecher on Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. at The Resiliency Center. Learn more and RSVP at  or 215-836-7184.

Meaningful Movement with Others through Self-Awareness

by Brittiney George

“Taking responsibility for your physiological state is not only about learning how to down-regulate your system, but it is about communicating your state to those around you…mammals evolved to co-regulate – meaning that we help each other regulate our states through care-giving and reciprocity.”* So how does Self-Awareness impact regulation and relationships? 
A strong sense of self allows you to be in RELATION with others instead of REACTION to others.
Your body knows safety and danger and is constantly reacting to the cues received regarding it.  “Your body can sense something and react to it without it necessarily entering your conscious awareness.  In fact, your vagus nerve has two branches- an older branch that can be recruited for defense by going to the organs below the diaphragm and eliciting immobilization behaviors… and also another newer more evolved branch that, when functioning, keeps “fight/flight/freeze” in check, and supports your health, growth, and restoration.  This branch is the part of your autonomic nervous system that is responsible for allowing you to connect, self-soothe, be playful, and be in relationship.”*
When you tune in to the physical and emotional responses in your body you get to know how you can move with them and learn from them, instead of merely reacting to them.  When you acknowledge, give voice to, and share these experiences in relationship with another, it helps to regulate your system, and create more meaningful movement with your partner or friend.

What are some tools to help with regulation?

Change Your Breathing Pattern:  “Have you noticed when you are upset with your partner, you begin to huff and puff? This is your body physically preparing to mobilize for a fight or to run…in an effort to slow down, you need long exhalations. Try extending your exhalations through intentional breathing or through singing. Singing is wonderful because it uses muscles of the social engagement system.”*

Honor Your Story by Choosing Who and What you Share:  Honor when your gut is telling you, this isn’t someone I want to share my story with.  If you find that difficult, try out some of the empowering statements below:
·      Being authentic does not mean that everyone has the rights to all of me.
·      I can choose who knows the details of my life.
·      I can choose what I share and who I share it with.
·      I choose to honor all of my emotions, even the ones that are hard for me.
·      When I feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, or scared, I can choose to share my experience with someone that will receive my story with respect…..not agreement, not to hold the weight for me, not to take the pain away from me, but to respect the impact that what I’m sharing has on me.

Learn to Listen to the Cues of Your Body:  not sure how to even start listening to your body?  Or maybe you hear your body all the time (pain, anxiety, fatigue), but don’t know what to do with the information.  Somatic Therapy is a wonderful tool to help.  For a complimentary 55 min. Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney George, at 610-389-7866 or

*The quotes in this article are from Dr. Stephen W. Porges, creator of The Polyvagal Theory, and a distinguished university scientist at the Kinsey Institute and a Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina.  Information from this article is available at:

Brittiney George, BS, CRS, CST-L3, ICI, CEIM, is a Somatic Therapist specializing in Transformative Touch.  She offers Somatic Therapy sessions, Infant Massage and Baby Sign Language workshops, and exploratory movement classes at The Resiliency Center.  She also co-leads Connection, Expression and Movement (CEM), a monthly workshop series focusing on body-mind integration.  For a complimentary 55 min. Somatic Therapy session contact Brittiney at 610-389-7866 or

Regulating One’s Emotional Thermostat (Keeping Emotionally Cool)

by Kathleen Krol, LCSW, RPT-S

Summer has arrived with its warmer days and longer nights. At this time of the year, patience can wane – and internal thermostats can rise – as family members spend more time together. Awareness of our own emotional stress threshold in relation to others can be overlooked in the day-to-day hectic shuffle of life. Good communication skills tend to slide with the people whom we are closest; family and significant personal relationships. Many people push through stress with minimal awareness of heightened emotional tension and physical discomfort. Or if there is awareness of these sensations, they may be suppressed, after all schedules still need to be kept and the job still needs to get done. How often do we pause to check in on how we are affected by our daily tasks and personal interactions? Are we checking our emotional temperature throughout the day? 
The amygdala is the frontal lobe part of the brain that “fires up” when we are experiencing strong emotion like anger or emotional upset. The rational or logic part of the brain can shut down once the amygdala is “lit up” by emotion. So when we can self-regulate and become aware of our rising emotions, before it heats up too much, it can help us to consciously make choices about how we want to react in situations or with others. 
One way to emotionally self-regulate throughout the day is by picking a relaxation cue. Your cue can be anything from your watch or phone, a picture at the office or that armchair at home. Every time you look at or pass that object, take a deep breath and think “relax” as you exhale slowly, repeat this 2-3 times. Momentary pauses throughout the day, can help keep us in a more relaxed mode and alleviate tension before it builds up further. 
Body scanning for areas of tension can be effective by itself or as a supplement to the above technique. If your emotional thermostat starts to rise, that vague feeling of anxiety or being overwhelmed, your body is most likely tightening as well. Start at your head and quickly scan down to your feet for areas of tension. While taking a deep breath, focus on tightening the area, holding about 3-5 sec, then exhale and release the tension at the same time. Repeat 2-3 times.
At the end of the day, check in with yourself on the drive home, before walking in or out the front door. Are you still carrying something left over from earlier in the day? If so, take a deep breath, hold and then exhale by blowing out, saying “release tension” and imagining the tension being pushed out of your body. Follow by inhaling deeply and saying breathe in relaxation. You also might imagine a soothing color gently washing over your body with the feeling of relaxation. Being aware can reduce the chance of redirecting your frustration unto your significant other, children or pets. Conscious use of simple techniques throughout the day, can help one better regulate one’s emotional state and thus have a “cooling” effect in stress build-up.
How does one incorporate these suggestions on a day-to-day basis? By starting with one idea that resonates with you and consciously making it a part of your routine through phone reminders, a color sticky placed on your relaxation cue, a note on the mirror or refrigerator. Sometimes mutual friends can send a text of encouragement and reminder. Remember change is a process, give yourself time and expect lapses. But do give yourself credit for your effort at being more self-aware in your own emotional regulation!  
Are you interested in learning more about emotional regulation for yourself or your children and teens? Contact Kathleen Krol at or 215-289-3101 #1. 
Kathleen also runs regular children’s groups for ages 4-9 on expressing and coping with feelings. Contact her for more information and to be notified when the next group will be starting again.  
Kathleen Krol is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Family-Play Therapist who works with children, adolescents and families combining family therapy, play and sand tray therapy along with parenting strategies to help the whole family system. Her specialties include emotional regulation, trauma, life transitions, anxiety, depression, and attachment issues. Contact her for a free 30 min phone consultation.