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!

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

Boundaries: Holding space for things you value most

As we round out our summer vacations and think about gearing up for the fall, boundaries feels like the right topic for the month.  At our recent Whole Women Link conference in July, boundaries seemed to be on many of your minds as well. After all, “How does one hold space for personal growth and healing in the face of overwhelming new school schedules, activities, holidays, and the demands of loved ones?”

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It seems ironic and out of balance that when nature is starting to wind down and slow down in a methodical preparation for a winter rest, we defy the laws of nature and embrace a fast-paced society that too often speeds up for an end of the year push. Yep, I can feel my own anxiety stirring just thinking about it!

The late Dr. Stephen R. Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize what is on your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” I feel very blessed to have the privilege to sit in a sacred space with women as they examine their lives and seek to create new behaviors to change their current direction. I can honestly say I have never found even one of these now hundreds of women to be lazy, careless, or lacking in their ability to exert the changes they want in their lives.  Yet, so often these same women feel paralyzing shame as they catalogue how they are not achieving their goals which keeps them stuck.

 

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Although we need to schedule time for the things that we value, we need to go even deeper to look at the beliefs and emotions that are holding us hostage to old behaviors and that do not serve us or the loved ones we nourish. Throughout this month we will look at ways all of us can cut ties with shame based beliefs that are inhibiting our freedom to establish healthy boundaries, and in turn, hold space for the things we value most.  I agree with Covey that we need to schedule time for our priorities, but what I have discovered in my work is that the most effective time of my day is actually scheduled time to be still and reflective.

Mindfulness is the ability to step back and reflect on one’s emotions, experiences, and interactions.  Through this process one increases the power to direct one’s life. It is all about being still and learning from ourselves.

  • How can I know my priorities for this upcoming fall season unless I allow myself some time to reflect on what I value most?
  • How can I schedule time for my priorities if I don’t give myself permission to hold space for my own selfcare and believe that in so doing I will be a better person in all areas of my life?

Ladies, we are all in this together.  Personally, I often slide back into less than powerful thinking patterns, but never is this more likely to occur then when I neglect my daily mindful practice of stillness. I know that each of us has the ability to create the life that we want no matter our current circumstances. It will start with small and simple changes, such as creating a little space each day to be still and reflect. Of course, I hear all you action-oriented ladies (and I truly love you) saying, “Yes, but what will that change?”

Keep reading this month and I promise to show you how mindfulness can be a powerhouse for change. You can find the personal power to hold space for what you most value by creating boundaries that are right for you.  I am excited to be part of this conversation.

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Weekly Challenge

Your challenge this week, if you choose to accept it? (yes, I love Mission Impossible)

  1. Take 2 min each day to sit in a peaceful undisturbed place and breathe
  2. Reflect on what truly gives you joy and life meaning
  3. Visualize your fall schedule with no limitations and where joyful and meaningful things are included (your imagination has only the limitations you place on it, so feel your creative power as a tool)

-Sommer A. Seitz, MA, LMHC