Friday, January 27, 2012

Black Arm Band

Image: S. Braswell
Over the centuries, grieving customs have changed. It seems that along with the speeding up of everything else, we are expected to also do our grieving at warp speed.

The black armband, once de rigeur as a sign of mourning, is vanishing. It can still be seen on the arms of some Irish, German, Austrian and northern and central European Catholic groups.

As restrictive as some of the rules regarding mourning were, they at least allowed others to have an understanding of how the mourner was feeling and presumably, would cut them a bit of slack.

Have there been times in your life when you have not been at your best? Perhaps someone had recently died, or was critically ill and you were focusing on this rather than what you were doing. As a result, you may have been less than present and done or said something that others may have found heedless or heartless. However, if they had known your circumstances, which you probably wouldn't share with strangers, they may have chosen to show you some compassion.

Life is made of ups and downs. There are times when a series of downs seem to be strung together like so many burnt-out Christmas lights. When these events hit, performance is affected. Perhaps more mistakes are made, you have less patience or your temper is shorter.

When you have good emotional management techniques in your repertoire of daily living skills, they allow you to better handle not only the downs in your life, but the ups, as well. These skills help to keep you afloat in the ocean of life, where sometimes you are in the trough, other times you are on the crest of the wave or somewhere in between.

When you learn these techniques, you not only learn to undress your stress, but you also learn to augment your performance, for those times when you don't have any stress. Think of it as accruing interest - building resilience. That's something you can Bank on!





Friday, January 20, 2012

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Image: Michel Meynsbrughen
Something unpleasant, unfortunate or horrific happens - an accident, a dire diagnosis, job loss or even a death of a friend or family member.

You feel awful, but rather than express it, you say and do nothing. One reason for your silence may be that you feel uncomfortable and just don't know what to say. Perhaps the situation has stressed you so much that it has caused cortical inhibition, freezing up your ability to adequately express how you feel.

How do you get around this?

Here are a few ideas for you to consider:
  • A simple "I'm sorry," or "I'm sorry for your loss/pain/or whatever words fit."
  • A hug.
  • A touch on the arm.
  • A card.
  • Ask some leading questions and be prepared to just listen. The person may need to talk, cry, scream.
  • Offer to do something practical - pick up some groceries, vacuum, share a meal.
  • Balance your nervous system - start from a position of compassion.
  • "Flashlight" the situation. When you turn on a flashlight, you typically look at where you focus the beam of light, not at your hand holding the flashlight. Put the focus on the other person, not on how awkward you may feel. This shift alone will do wonders - for both of you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Your Body Speaks

This week began with a "Pop!" - and not in a good way, either! You can read about my misadventure on Not How I Planned to Spend My Monday.

I've been thinking (and chuckling) about how my arm shot straight up in the air just as the doctor was beginning to put my hip back into the socket with the Captain Morgan Technique (if you're squeamish, you may not want to view this video).

A raised arm, palm-outward hand is the Stop command I use with Holly. A dislocated hip is excruciatingly painful. If I wasn't yet fully sedated, it stands to reason that even though I couldn't speak, my body would go ahead and do it for me. I believe that by raising my hand, I was signalling that I wanted the doctor to stop.

I also think that this action epitomizes what a habit is. The unconscious performance of a behaviour. It's been practised so often that the body remembers what to do - consider it muscle memory. Think about riding a bicycle, swimming, driving a car; even simple activities such as brushing your teeth or tying your shoelaces. You perform all those actions without thought. In fact, you can do them while doing something else.

I also see this habit formation when I work with clients. When under stress, breathing becomes shallow. Repeat this often enough and this becomes the normal way to breathe. Instead of breathing using the diaphragm, they are using the muscles of the neck and chest. If you have tight shoulders and neck muscles, check how you are breathing. More importantly, learn some powerful stress undressing techniques and get back to breathing naturally, not normally. (You may like: Change the Channel; Tree of Life.)

Here are some questions for you to consider:
  1. What is your body saying that you are unable to say? How?
  2. Are there some habits that you wish to develop that you have not yet repeated often enough?
  3. Which unwanted habits need reframing? Do you have strategies in place to fill the void of the unwanted habit?

Friday, January 6, 2012

About Dog Training, Stress and Me

Holly, our high-spirited, rambunctious rescued dog has been with us for a little over two years.

Although nothing can be confirmed, I suspect that she was mistreated. When she moved in, she:
  • didn't know any commands
  • wasn't house-trained
  • was afraid of men
  • didn't look at me
  • lacked muscle definition
  • was likely muzzled a great deal of time, judging by the funny imprints along her nose.
We've come a long way together. However, every so often, I have to go back to basic training with her. After all, she is a highly intelligent and stubborn girl, which is a challenging combination! :)

Call it what you like - back to basics, a refresher, habit reinforcement - it seems it's a vital practise for beings - both canine and human.

It's funny how a series of events can lead you astray and stop you from doing the very things that help you move through the agility course that is life.

What things have you stopped doing that allow you to live your life well? 

I had a pretty rough start to December. I realized that I wasn't doing my stress techniques nearly enough. (They don't take a lot of time, if that is of concern to you.) As a result, my perception of daily events had shifted, much like some out-of-focus image in a kaleidoscope. I've written partially about it on Quicksand of Feelings. Not only was I affected emotionally, but physically, as well, which I blogged about on Somewhat Out of Tune.

Learning to adjust your perspective is vital for emotional, mental and physical health. It increases resilience, enhances creativity, builds immunity, develops intuition and brings your life into focus.

Just like riding a bicycle, it didn't take me long to get back on track. I'm happy to say that the picture has now changed to one that is sharper, brighter and more in focus!

Image: Barbara Bar


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