7 Simple ways for healthy coping

Whenever you feel stressed out/off center, it is always better to address it quickly rather than to prolong it. Train yourself to be more in tune with yourself  to recognize any signs of stress. Why accumulate anything that doesn’t help. Right? Am sure we all know these ways of coping but a reminder never hurts and there’s some value in seeing it all in one place.

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Find your way out of stress. (Winter storm Niko-Feb 2017)

  1. Exercise – Any form of exercise for 20-30 minutes will help you kick in those endorphins!
  2. Spend time in nature – Walk in the woods or sit by a lake/ocean. Use an app for sounds of nature ONLY IF there is no option for you to go outside.
  3. Talk to a friend who won’t judge you- I am sure you have at least one such person in your life. Please remember that texting cannot be the same as picking up the phone and talking or meeting someone in person. You can also talk to your furry friend.
  4. Prayer/Meditation- Connect with something higher than you and release your worries
  5. Watching videos which make you laugh/smile. Ex: Cute pups/kittens/comedy shows
  6. Art- Don’t worry if you aren’t a painter, just splash some colors or dance freestyle connecting to the music
  7. Journaling- This can be a notebook or even a video/audio journal. Two things I did as a kid and at times even now – Speaking to the trees around me and having a dialogue with myself as if someone was interviewing me.It works for me!

Find out what works for you and USE IT!

 

Stress, stress..go away.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a close friend. She and I were first roommates and then turned into friends sharing the same wavelength on philosophy, humor etc. Life took us to different cities and we both became occupied with our lives. In the past few months her work and studies demanded a lot of her time which led to us not being in touch daily. Now that you have the background, let me get to the core.

She mentioned that there was a lot of stress at work, school and personal life too (sounds familiar?). For someone who believed in planning everything in life and being calculative about each decision, she gave into the stress and booked herself an ‘escape’ trip all by herself to a city she had never been to. She told me that she had fun for two full days where she cared for nothing and splurged with abandon. While she was giving me descriptive details of all the fun she had, it also took me back to times where I had indulged in some kind of escape. It struck me that often times when we feel like breaking free and escaping from any stress we tend to choose activities like drinking, smoking, drugs, casual sex, and extreme sports. Any mood altering activity that lets us numb ourselves and the vehicle we choose is our body.

I wondered why is that in an attempt to numb the pain and to create momentary pleasure, we end up abusing our bodies. While we are engaging in these band-aid/feel good solutions, I don’t think it even occurs to us that we could perhaps be abusing ourselves.

The other question being, does this approach really work? Perhaps for a short time (if that’s the goal) and then it resurfaces the next time our emotional immunity is at a low. If only we could learn to be kinder towards ourselves, then we would think of learning different ways of coping with stress. Having said this, I know that we are not meant to be perfect and can take a fall every once in a while.

Some of my favorite coping mechanisms include talking to a friend, writing, exercising and being in nature. What are yours?

My best to you,

Pooja

Hit the DELETE button

You may wonder where? I am referring to our minds and the thoughts we create:)

Similar to the manner in which we delete posts, sentences and words on facebook/twitter or word documents, we can also choose to delete the thoughts we create and do not like! This perhaps never occurs to us but it is a possibility available to us. As we assume ownership and the right to manipulate the content that we want to post, we can do the same with the thoughts in our mind.

Lets take a situation: You are driving and look at a fellow driver stranded with a flat tire. You find yourself worrying if something of this sort would happen to you. We all know when we worry and right at this point, you can choose to delete this worrisome thought and replace it with a new desirable thought. It can either be connected to the event/situation you just witnessed or a random pleasant thought that you would like to have in your headspace. Mentally visualize the thought deleted as you would on a computer screen and see it replaced with the new thought. The new thought could be a visual of you always riding smooth or you enjoying your favorite vacation.

The intention here is to not avoid unpleasant thoughts all the time but simply become aware and also know that you can change the thought because even the earlier ‘worry’ thought was created in your own mind. You are the owner and you can change it:)

Dancing your way into personal growth!

Dance has always been one of my passions. It is something that liberates me and celebrates me. Often when I am dancing I wait for the moment when I just feel my heartbeat in sync with the beat of the music playing and I am totally tuned inward. My movements are minimal and my spirit dances. It took me some time to be comfortable with how I want to dance and move in a crowd. I have learned a few dances and each one taught me something about myself. I think you must also know that writing this blog was inspired by watching Dancing with the Stars which I never miss!

The act of dance for me is akin to finding your flow in life, your own creative expression. Dance involves learning technique, surrendering to the flow, tuning into the rhythm. Every one’s body responds to a certain kind of music and beat. Personally, I love dancing to the beat of drums, cymbals and latin dances bring me joy. It takes a while to figure out what you like and what you do not. It is a great way for anyone to build confidence and begin the journey of figuring out who you are. Several movies like Step up, Footloose, Dirty Dancing etc show us how dancing helps channelize our emotions. There is dance for every emotion we feel. Perhaps this is what inspired an entire branch of therapy known an dance/movement therapy which helps reconnect with the language of the body.

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Lincoln Financial Group, Fort Wayne

Questions you can ask yourself:
1) Have I ever been ridiculed for dancing? If so, can I let it go today and try again?

2) What do I enjoy more- dancing by myself, with a partner or in a group?

3) What type of instrument or music feels good to me?

4) What kind of dance helps you relieve stress and which one exhilarates you?

Each one of us has a dance in us which is beyond any form of dance that one can be trained in. Yes, you can master the techniques of a form and achieve excellence in it however dancing to me is beyond what someone can teach you. It is what flows from your heart. It is the courage you find in yourself to move the way you want to. It is the sheer joy and love out of which you move.

Some dances that I love are bollywood dancing, kathak, salsa, samba, contemporary, bachata, tango and belly dance. Having listed these here, I would also mention that I tend to pick movements from several of these at any given point and make it my own. I have danced alone in a crowd several times only to find others join me a little later. There are always some people who wait for someone else to begin. For me, all of this also tells about how you like to live your life. Not right or wrong..just is.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your dancing shoes or just dance barefoot!

Relaxation using Five Senses and Elements

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Relax

One of the best ways to reconnect with yourself is to bring your attention back to your body. This will help you ground and center yourself. Lets explore the different ways we can relax using our five senses:

1) Touch- Feel better when you are hugged or someone moves their fingers through your hair? Skin is the longest organ in our body J no wonder then that as human beings we respond best to touch. Get a massage, pedicure, hugs, playful touch with an intimate partner. You can also try and identify fabrics that feel good to you and try to wear them or incorporate them in your linens. Examples of some fabrics could be velvet, satin, silk etc. You can also use stones/ crystals and rub it between your palms. Use of hot and cold sensations is also a good idea.

2) Sight- Soothe your vision with colors and images. There is a lot of research done around color therapy. My favorite colors to calm me are shades of purple and green. Reds/yellows and oranges are ‘activators’ or ‘energizers’. Shades of blue, white can also be calming. Neutrals when used with other colors can create a desired ‘uplifting’ or ‘cooling’ effect. Fill your phone/ laptop and surround yourself with images that bring your joy and happiness. These could be images of times that were happy for you or places/ scenery that creates that same effect for you. Personally I love images of waterfalls/beaches/meadows.

3) Sound- We are all familiar with what kind of music helps us unwind. For some it could be instrumental, nature based, trance-techno, world music or old classical melodies. Thanks to technology, we have apps that bring us our favorite instruments to our phones. I love using Pandora radio and have Jazz, Buddhist Monks music, ancient hymns/ chants,  bollywood music, enya etc on there. A lot of these are freeJ Sounds of nature seem to work for a lot of people. Singing along with a song or just humming a sound that comes naturally to you. Don’t worry about how it sounds to someone else, its for YOU!

4) Taste- Comfort foods! This is probably what comes to mind first and there is nothing wrong with using them in moderation. When I think of taste and what could be soothing/comforting I think of a dark chocolate square, spiced tea or green tea, hot chocolate, mashed potatoes etc. Eating fries/chips/pork chops etc can be added here however if you find yourself needing a lot of this, you may need to seek consultation with a health service provider. There is a lot of correlation between how we feel and what/how much we eat. Be mindful.

5) Smell- I love the smell of coffee brewing, fresh cilantro, first rain on earth.. I hate the smells of strong deodorants and perfumes. That’s just me. We associate a lot of memories through our sense of smell. Aromas from food can also be a part of this. I also know people who love the smell of clean linen and get a sense of ‘everything is ok’ by just smelling it. Oils of lavender, vanilla, jasmine etc are popular. Aromatherapy oils are easily available and not very expensive either. Apart from oils you can also use incense sticks and get the same desired effect. Using coconut jasmine oil for a hair massage will be two benefits in one activity.

The five elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether can be incorporated with the five senses to create a relaxing experience. For example – sitting by a fireplace utilizes soothing via sight and touch due to warm feeling. Hugging a tree may provide soothing via touch, sight and smell of the earth.

Get creative, experiment and find ways to soothe yourself. These can also be used to distract yourself when needed. I cannot help but mention sex in here too. Sex seems to encompass all the five senses and definitely helps connect with the body. The key lies in knowing your intentionality and your sense of balance.

This is not an exhaustive list and will need work at your end to identify your tools for relaxation. While you are experimenting, you can also maintain a journal and record your experiences.

Have fun:)

What we hide does find a way out!

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My desk mirror

Don’t ask me why but today while reading the DSM IV-TR (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) I came across a whole spectrum of disorders that originate from not wanting to acknowledge the negative that exists in and around us. This could be negative emotions i.e. fear, jealousy, anger, insecurity, feeling blue etc. or undesired life circumstances i.e. loss of a loved one, loss of a job, physical illnesses etc. When we look around we are taught to always keep smiling, push things under the carpet, ‘sleep it over’ or ‘drink it over’. The sad part of it is that sometimes the people we love cannot see us in pain longer than what they would expect. This subtle expectation stems from a place of love but leads to us choosing unhealthy coping so as to pose perfectly in front of our loved ones.

Using computer parlance, all of this data does not get deleted on its own or leave the system. It exists in there, somewhere. If we continuously keep storing files in the system and never delete cookies or unwanted files, what does it do to our system? Well, we know it, it slows down. Being a human being and not a machine adds several other complexities and in addition to slowing down, we tend to find ‘releases’ or compensate our pain with temporary pleasures like drugs, meaningless sex and series of addictions.

Our culture today does not teach us ‘Emotions 101’ and we find ourselves battling with them day in and out. Emotions have been portrayed as something that needs to be controlled just as man has attempted to conquer Mother Nature. It is not a war unless we make it one. Akin to our physical ailments where we know the ‘symptoms’ and treat them, emotional symptoms are ignored or the person with the symptoms is looked down upon as ‘the problem’. This is where the individual goes to a doctor and gets prescribed some pills to alleviate the symptoms. The negative emotions continue to stay inside and we just don’t realize they exist, similar to pain killers where pain is numbed not cured.

Emotions need to flow just as water flows. When we try to block the flow of water, it only forces itself out through some opening. How do we maintain this flow? Being open to experiencing emotions, acknowledging them and not to judging will help. Expecting not to feel a certain way is counterproductive. Journaling on a regular basis will help increase awareness. Once we have an increased awareness, the shadows of blocked waves from the past cannot take us by surprise. Seeking professional help to manage emotions also works. I personally love using Dialectical Behavior therapy which draws from Buddhist philosophy of acknowledgment and acceptance.

On a side note, more often than not, our emotional symptoms point to greater unresolved issues i.e. unhealthy interactions in family, societal disparities, cultural incongruities etc. Our individual systems are constantly interacting with the environmental influences..let me save that for another blogJ

Let it flow!