Natural Balance Therapy has a team of therapists that has been providing therapeutic treatments to residents, in all stages of life, in southeast Wisconsin for the past ten years, helping them return to a pain-free, active lifestyle. We seek to help people understand their bodies and what is causing their pain and discomfort, as well as teach them what they can do to help themselves heal. Natural Balance Therapy is known for giving people in chronic pain hope and long-lasting results.
Are you feeling frazzled? Or are you a little over-scheduled, especially with the holidays approaching? When taking a week off in the Caribbean isn’t an option, here are some ways to work some stress-relieving activities into your everyday routine. While some of these might need a little bit of planning, many of them take only a few minutes, no special equipment, and can be added into your day at any time and just about anywhere.
- Take a little time to just ‘goof off’ – even if it’s just a half an hour, that can have a significant effect on your stress levels. Regular relaxation time is vital for physical and emotional health. Read a humorous book, watch a funny movie, go to a park and play on the swings like a six-year-old (or go sledding and make snow angels). Remember, 'getting physical' has the added benefit of producing mood-lifting endorphins.
- Schedule time for a new hobby – or revisit an old favorite. Getting in touch with your creative side, and getting away from whatever causes you stress, can often help you solve your stressful problems. While one part of your brain is creating, other parts of your brain are working in the background, coming up with solutions. You may have noticed the recent craze of coloring books for grown-ups – the meditative aspects and visual appeal of coloring provide both relaxation and creative stimulus.
- Try out a new stress-management ‘routine’ to turn to when you get overwhelmed – whether that be a few minutes of deep breathing, a five-minute self-massage for the face and scalp, or practicing guided imagery to daydream yourself into another location (like that beach in the Caribbean). Even eating a piece of fruit with mindful attention can interrupt the stress cycle.
- Go on a ‘tech’ fast for a day, a morning, an hour. With television, computers, tablets, and smartphones, we’re bombarded with news and images that are often threatening or downright depressing. Taking a little time to shut off the technology reenergizes us and helps us focus on those things we can actually affect.
Part of having a healthy body is having a healthy mind. In previous posts, we've talked about mindfulness, meditation, and 'tuning in' to our bodies and our feelings. But how do we get there? One often-forgotten element of this process is the importance of silence. Thanks to modern technology, we find ourselves able to enjoy almost instant access to a world of information and communication everywhere we go. We can gather the sights, sounds, and people of our lives into a host of portable devices, connecting us in moments. We are enriched by the ability to find answers to questions, contact friends and family, and relive favorite experiences - or are we pressured by that same connectedness? Is what we really need to ‘unplug’ in order to rest, regain energy, and be involved in creative endeavor? In an increasingly noisy world, the idea of intended ‘silence’ is one that has gained new appeal for many people. The idea of a meditative silence has a long history - Greek philosophers, Christian monks, and Hindu and Buddhist traditions all emphasize silence as a path to wisdom, peace, and enlightenment.
Over the last six months or so, much of this blog has been dedicated to the physical body. It only makes sense – we are, after all, therapists, so much of our attention is naturally given to all things structural.
Are you in your body? What does the phrase 'being in your body' mean to you?
What do you think of when you experience pain in your body?
We are put into many situations and are given opportunities within our lifetime that allow us the opportunity to grow and learn. When we are in the middle of the situation we may be angry or experiencing another emotion that doesn't allow us to see what we are meant to learn or take away. After the situation has subsided, that is our chance to take a step back, quiet the mind, and open up to the information that we are meant to take away or learn. This may be challenging at first, but the more that you allow yourself to quiet down and listen the more information you may take away from situations. The following is some food for thought as you reflect on your life experiences.
If you say the word `Meditation' to someone, they will often think of a single type of practice – sitting cross-legged and chanting ‘om’. In fact, the word 'meditation' is much like the word 'sports' in that there are countless techniques with completely different intended goals.
One form I often suggest to my clients is the use of a body scan meditation. Our goal is to get in touch with what we are feeling in our bodies at that moment, regardless of whether the sensation is pleasant or not. Unpleasant sensations often have a lot of information about whatever dis-ease we are struggling with. However, we have been conditioned to avoid these unpleasant sensations at all cost: Take a pill! Distract yourself with television! We start to do whatever we can to avoid feeling what we need to feel.
Another form of meditation is the mantra meditation (including the ‘om’ mantra). In mantra meditation, you focus your mind on the repetition of a word or phase, often a holy name. I know of mantras which are supposed to open your heart, increase success or reduce anger. I have a friend who, within a short period of time, went from being alone and sad to meeting her soul mate, getting married for the first time and then having her first child. It was amazing to witness and she claimed it had everything to do with repeating a mantra that suited her needs.
In a recent study in the Journal of Military Medicine, Iraqi war veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) utilized transcendental meditation (TM). TM utilizes a mantra to focus the mind away from whatever repetitive thoughts or feelings we have. The participants in the study reported a dramatic decrease in the symptoms of PTSD with a much better result than the pharmaceutical interventions which are the conventional treatment for PTSD. (It is interesting to note that the military is increasingly utilizing `alternative' approaches to PTSD and other complex issues.)
When we meditate, though, it should not become just another way not to feel, another form of avoidance or ‘checking out’. Rather, it should help us tune in to our bodies more deeply. I primarily teach body scan meditation as I believe that it is the only way to heal on a fundamental level. I also believe mantra repetition has its place. We can't spend our whole day doing body scans, but we can utilize a mantra when standing in a long line at the grocery store instead of allowing ourselves to get angry or frustrated. Also, from a spiritual perspective, holy name repetition can be a powerful tool. Once again, it has much to do with your intention for the particular mediation technique you're using.
Finally, regardless of what form of meditation you chose to use, practice makes perfect. If you do it once and tell me it doesn't work for you, I'll just shake my head in disbelief. This takes a daily commitment for months, years, a lifetime.