Finding Space for Self

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“Press ‘pause’ and reflect if you are living your best life” – Sommer Seitz, MA, LMHC

Each day it’s important to press “pause” and reflect if you are living your best life.  Most of us are living from a place of fear or auto-pilot that simply reacts to life from the information and patterns we gathered from past-experience, especially the painful ones as fear is 5x more likely to record in our brain for survival purposes. So how can you break this cycle of fearful, reactionary living? This is where mindful connection to self becomes essential.  Self as I am defining it here is that part of you that is curious, calm, confident, compassionate, courageous, creative, connected, and filled with clarity.  You can also identify with self by taking an inventory of to what degree you are living in a pain-free body.  Our bodies do indeed keep score with the painful experiences and mindsets we get stuck in, and my goal today is to give you a starting place to gather needed information to unlock this pain-body and move further into self.

There are more pathways to healing than I can count.  Honestly, healing is a personal journey for each of us, but there are some over-arching principles that I see applying to all in the healing process. Today I will address just two: acceptance and safety.

Acceptance is the first step in the healing process of finding and living in “self.” We cannot leave a place until we arrive at it. The pause I mentioned above allows you to simply gather information, or arrive at where you are in this moment. I challenge you to go inside and be internally focused in this practice, removing external distraction, and just notice with nonjudgmental compassion what sensations, feelings, and thoughts are coming up. This is a great time to just breathe and this allows the body to move into safety which we will discuss more in a moment. You will notice that there are common themes to your thoughts, maybe even like they take on a personality. I like to call these “parts” from the Internal Family Systems trauma model I use in therapy. These parts have a role to protect the wounds you hold from further injury, your body from further pain, and are usually operating out of fear and sense of overwhelm. Notice how tight you get in your body and the nature of the fears your mind is presenting. It’s like you are currently in danger, even if you look around and there is no immediate threat. These parts do things like shame us into always checking and performing, shut us down when feeling overwhelmed, and even help us avoid seeing and acknowledging what is going on inside us. They have great intentions, but this only keeps the wound they are protecting stuck and online, and most importantly these parts keep self from doing its most important job, to heal brokenness from past experience and connect us to our sources of strength.

That bring us to Safety. Once we have accepted where we are and what is going on in our mind and bodies you are ready to establish safety. You better believe that your protective parts will not take a step back from their roles unless they feel heard, understood, that you, self, will take the reins of meeting the need to feel safe.  This can be done in a variety of ways, but some of my favorites are journaling, art expression, maybe finding a song that speaks this your truth, and prayer/mediation. The important thing is that the medium you choose feels safe and nonjudgmental. When you are ready for unpacking this new understanding with an attachment-safe validating person who can stay neutral such as therapist or good friend can lead to even further healing. Some of your partners have this capacity and others get their own parts triggered when you explore with them so be aware of their current capacity. Some questions to ask your parts using the above mediums include: How are your trying to protect me (usually from overwhelm and further wounding), What are your protecting? (Can be a past hurtful experience or negative belief), What are you afraid of? As you create a safe space to explore these answers with compassion, you open the door for self to step forward and offer solutions to your mind, heart, and even directly to these parts that can unlock new ways of addressing your painful experience.

Believe it or not, you live in a self-healing body, and when you can accept and fully witness your painful story, desire to let it go, and then seek the necessary safety and healing source to unpack and unburden yourself, the miracle of healing occurs. I add my witness that this process works, and I have been fortunate enough to be the recipient, instrument, and witness of it many times. I look forward to sharing more ways you can personalize your healing process and tools to do so in coming posts this year!

For “Giving” Thanksgiving

What if we approached for-giveness just as we altruistically do in being for “world peace” or supporting “animal rights”? Can we be for “giving”? It’s not being for “taking” or for “avoiding”, but making it our cause to give

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Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

something good. The initial thought about forgiveness is usually that it’s something we’re doing externally. But the deeper, more healing type of forgiveness starts with giving ourselves some love, understanding, and comfort. Then we have the capacity to share it with those around us.Sometimes during the holidays, we’re overextending ourselves in giving externally. Just like forgiveness must start internally, so does giving. In Whole Women Link, we talk a lot about mindfulness and balance. This season is a special time to exercise some of these habits we’ve already discussed so we can more fully enjoy our celebration with our loved ones.

As we consider being for “giving”, we want to apply this practically, so let’s talk about applying it this season with food. I can’t think of a more self-giving practice we do daily than eating. Let’s remember to give ourselves good things. We can go in with a plan before our get-togethers, remembering the healing and freedom we’re wanting to give ourselves. When going to a party, I always bring a bag of pumpkin or sunflower seeds with a piece of fruit because I know what I want to give: health to myself and happy bonding experiences with my friends and family. By doing this, I know I won’t go hungry and I can still enjoy the foods others have brought. If there are sweets I’m craving, I remember I’ve got my apple and I’m there to savor my time with friends. If it’s one of those times where your mother or grandma is saying, “Won’t you please try a piece?” I can accept a bite-sized portion, truly savor it, authentically thank her, and go back to my seeds or fruit after.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I share this with my patients and help them remember their big vision of enjoying vitality of health. When we focus on giving food to ourselves to reach our full measure, there’s no guilt or shame. Instead, we’re creating habits of true nourishment. We can also give ourselves some grace when things don’t go as planned, and try again.

Holiday Invitation:

  1. Each get together, let’s remember what we really want to enjoy in the moment and long-term, like happy bonding and vibrant health.
  2. Then check in with ourselves after and see how we were able to balance those goals, cherishing those happy moments and memories.
  3. If tweaks need to be made, then we can be for “giving” that to ourselves during our next party with a more well-defined plan.
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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Let’s celebrate the holidays together, so share with us your ideas of how you’ve balanced this for “giving” pattern in the past or what your plans are this year. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to reply to this post. Have a happy, for “giving” Thanksgiving!

Morning Rituals: The Sunscreen of Boundaries

Do you have a story that ever began with, “and then I realized I forgot the sunscreen”? As a swimmer growing up, I remember this feeling when I saw myself in the mirror after swim meets. I think the best descriptor would be a cotton-candy colored raccoon, with pink covering my face except for the stark white rings around my eyes and white band across my forehead.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

A morning routine can have a similar impact on our day as remembering or forgetting to pack the sunscreen. Imagine planning a sunny beach day trip, arriving, automatically applying your sunscreen, and then being able to fulfill all the fun activities you’d hoped to. On the other hand, a day with forgotten sunscreen may seem just fine, but when you get home to shower and finally feel the burn, it sinks in how impactful that one early choice could have been. Just like we can remember to pack the sunscreen next time, we can remember to make early morning choices that will impact our day for the better.

 

When we start our day off with choosing healthy routines, it tends to set the tone for the rest of the day. Below are 4 morning rituals to set a boundary for and enjoy a more fulfilled day. I’ve also included a great takeaway tool to help you feel more organized and enabled to apply these routines daily.

  1. Start with being inspired. Read or listen to something that enlightens you. This can be as easy as a positive quote or a 30-minute-study from a spiritual text like the Scriptures or a moving author like Wayne Dyer. It’s vital to start with wise reminders and truths to anchor yourself in through the ups and downs of the day.
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    Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

    Harmonize your thoughts. It’s best to start with an inspiring read, then delve into meditation or prayer because you can now consciously internalize those lessons. You can ponder a question you’ve been considering, seek for inspired support, express gratitude, or just work on creating mental boundaries for your thoughts to be intentional. It can be time used to apply some of this month’s mindfulness suggestions. Begin to gently let go of negativity and embrace strengthening beliefs.

  3. Create your day. I love how the creation story shows how God started each day with a plan. One day was light day. He said it and dedicated Himself to it until He completed His vision for that day. If we go forward with a clear vision in mind, writing down what we want to accomplish in doable actions, we’re much more likely to achieve it and feel “it is good” at the close of the day. If you write your day’s plan the night before, it’s even better. Researcher, Brian Tracy, explains that your energies focus on accomplishing those actions through the night, and you’re better prepared to achieve them the next day.
  4. Break fast. Start with drinking water that isn’t cold. This stimulates bowel motility so you can eliminate and feel lighter starting off. Then eat real, hearty foods. We’ll cover this more in detail another time, but examples include green smoothies, turkey bacon, (unprocessed) oatmeal with added seeds and fruit, or a variety of egg combinations. The more the food resembles the form it came out of the earth rather than sugary cereals with look-alike four-leaf clovers, the more sustained you’ll feel through the day.

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 7.53.22 PMYour takeaway tool!

Here’s a wonderful app to help you set goals and organize your day. I’ve been amazed that I can jot down my to-do lists, and it’s automatically populated into my iCalendar. It’s really helping my husband and I to enjoy life more just because we have more defined order and vision. The bonus is that it’s free!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/goal-setting-brian-tracy-life/id901800555?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Weekly Challenge:

If you want to look back on your day with joy rather than feeling burned, pack your sunscreen by trying these out:

  1. Create a time boundary to implement 1 new item to your morning rituals: be inspired, harmonize your thoughts, create your day, or break fast.
  2. Set a goal to make the 1 new item a habit this week, and work towards having each become part of your morning routine. You’ll likely need at least 30 minutes to effectively implement all of them. I believe you can do it as you grow in setting healthy boundaries for yourself.
  3. Share! You are a whole woman and the world needs you to link your wholeness to those around you. You can either share with us a great routine you enjoy each morning, or share with others what you’ve learned so they can pack their sunscreen and enjoy their days more too.

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    Photo by Leo Rivas-Micoud on Unsplash

Internal Boundaries: Key to Balance & Freedom

This year I turn 40. Like many hitting midlife, I have been reflecting on what l have learned so far and have yet to learn. I’d like to share with you one truth I have learned, “I am not a victim!”.  Although I cannot control the things that I face on a day-to-day basis, and you can bet at times I’ve tried, I can control how I respond and that is where my true power lies.

The late Dr. Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust Survivor, suffering some of the most inhuman treatment in history, and yet he rose to teach others a powerful process to find deep purpose and meaning in life and a simple truth that we all have the ability to choose our internal response to difficult circumstances. He wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” While nearly all boundaries can be broken by forces outside of us, there is one boundary that is uniquely ours, our internal boundary! I would like to begin my discussion here as all other boundaries flow from it.

Having an internal boundary is essential to personal balance and a joyful life. We often feel shame and anger when this boundary is being violated.  This is the first clue to us that an internal boundary needs our attention.

Some choose to return the darkness with more darkness both toward themselves and others. This violates our internal boundary and increases suffering. Imagine a space within you where your personal light is held. This space needs an inlet for light and an outlet to expel darkness that is foreign to our true nature. Sadly, when we have been injured we often flip this process in reverse and take in negative influence (darkness) and block the light that is trying to get in.

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When discussing internal boundaries, I often picture a balance like the attached picture with love for self and love for others on either side. When feelings of anger and shame start to well up inside of us, it is important to mindfully look inside and see if our balance, which is personal to each of us, has been disrupted.  Two opposites, love for others and love for oneself, are meant to serve as guideposts.  We should not live at either of these extremes, but find a balance between them.  We have the power to restore balance by choosing to add weight to the side of that internal balance that is lacking attention.

For example, although serving others is a worthwhile practice, we must use that sense of internal balance to notice when serving others has gained too much weight in our lives, and attention to our own self is lacking. We will need to use that internal power that Frankl discussed to choose to set a boundary for how we respond to our emotions, thoughts, and circumstances in a way that balances honor for both ourselves and those around us. The mindful practice of stillness discussed in a previous post is key to owning our emotions, learning from them and then choosing to act in a way that restores balance. We can stop, breathe, reflect, and then choose healthy internal boundaries that honor our highest values and restore a joyful balance to our lives.

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Weekly Challenge: Setting Healthy Internal Boundarievs

Use the following process to assist in setting at least one healthy internal boundary this week:

  1. Identify when you are feeling either anger or shame
  2. Use the mindfulness skill: Stop, Breathe, reflect and choose.
  3. Visualize the picture of a balance in your mind
  4. Mindfully place a “Yes” in the area of the balance in your thoughts that is of greatest value and lacking on the scale
  5. Set an Internal Boundary so you can rebalance

 

Remember the following:

  • When I say “yes” to one thing I am in turn saying “No” to something else”
  • Balance is personal and the power to choose it lies in each of us
  • We are not victims and we can choose to love, serve, and live in ways that increase joy and freedom no matter our circumstance

Mindful Eating: A Restorative Boundary

Let’s talk about some food basics. My understanding in nutrition didn’t start in academia learning about magnesium’s effect on sleep and cramps, or enzymatic malfunctions when we eat trans fats.  It was much more of an elementary beginning (well, technically high school). It all started with a cookie.

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Photo by Jade Wulfraat on  Unsplash

My immune system had tanked when I was 14. As I was working to regain my health, I began to detect suppressive patterns. One eureka moment I had was during a church youth night where they had my favorite treats—cookies. After finishing one cookie and biting into a second, I noticed my nose started to run. Soon enough I was sneezing, had a sore throat, and my eyes were swelling and watering from the ensuing congestion. The next day I had yet another cold. I remember thinking how strange it was to come on so strongly and with such immediacy. I then began to notice every time I had a sweet treat, the same downward spiral would occur.

 

No matter our age, we can each begin to detect the positive and negative effects food has on us. Learning to recognize how foods make us feel can have a powerful impact on our health, emotions, and longevity. In fact, there is a poignant adage from ancient Eastern medicine that depicts the beautiful freedoms the foods can allow us:

If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.

If diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” 

One simple way to know what diet is wrong or right for you is by paying attention to how it makes you feel. By learning how cookies made me feel back in my youth, I began to recognize that pastas made me feel bloated and drinking from plastic water bottles made my throat itch. I also perceived what foods were “correct” for me. Sunflower seeds became a snack that kept me satiated longer and fresh fruit curbed my sweet tooth and strengthened my immune system, thus letting “food be [my] medicine” (Hippocrates).

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Photo by Brooke Lark on  Unsplash

At our most recent seminar, I shared that the way we feel affects how we fill, and vice versa. This is putting that principle to action. So for example, if we’re feeling frail either emotionally or physically, instead of further depleting ourselves with sugar spikes or caffeine, we can savor a hearty soup, like vegetable quinoa. If we’re feeling heavy, a nice avocado and berry smoothie or salad can help us feel lighter. The other side of the coin is noticing that how we fill affects how we feel. You can check in with yourself after eating and see, “Did this make me feel sick, bloated, jittery, or did it make me feel comforted, revitalized, and healthier in some way?” This is practicing mindfulness in eating.

 

Our challenge this month is the same that I start with every patient who sees me, whether for hormonal balance, emotional stability, or digestive support: add foods that are healing. We aren’t going to focus on cutting foods right now. As Sommer mentioned in the recent seminar, we want to build off our strengths. When we start being our own barometer, we don’t have to follow fad diets, but instead be self-regulating. We can then continue on the track of keeping healthy boundaries that nurture our well-being rather than feeling pulled or torn by other’s opinions.

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Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

Weekly Challenge

As we discuss boundaries this month in order to create more healing environments, the same end goal can be applied as we set boundaries for eating. Consider applying these goals for the next week, and work them into a new habit:

 

  • Have the end goal of being healthy so I can fulfill the measure of my creation
  • Perceive how foods make me feel—well or unwell. (Be honest with yourself)
  • Create a boundary to add and eat more foods that make me feel good

-Dr. Crystal Nix Dayton, DC, CAc