We are surely in it

A sense of connection.

The opportunity to be seen, heard, acknowledged. Understood.

Having some agency, a sense of control over what is happening in your life.

The ability to move around in the world. To get up and down, tend to daily tasks at hand.

Do what brings you joy, pleasure.

Nourishes you.

Touch.

To experience community.

Reliability.

Freedom.

Independence.

I can imagine that many of these bring up some kind of sensation in your body as you read through the list. So many we take for granted.

I have a sense you may be missing a few, maybe a lot of these. Feeling loss or grief.

I know I am.

It’s not gone unnoticed by me that many of these are already experienced by the people I see, those I help to support through my work. It is not uncommon for people who have lived with chronic pain, often for years, to feel this sense of isolation, the loss of freedoms, work, connection with others. Well, there is a lot.

This came up up front and center when the hardest hit in our communities were those living in senior or extended care centers. They were already living in such a manner. Already in it.

Many others living with health concerns, disability, low socioeconomic status, new immigrants to our country have this as a part of their ‘normal life’. Not COVID life.

I don’t have the answers but my hope is that we bring some awareness to these issues, some path forward for the long term. Not just now.

Everyone waiting for things to get back to normal. Talk today of vaccines and yes, one can hardly wait. There is so much on hold at the moment. Much fear, uncertainty. I can feel that. Sense that.

But might we also learn from and change in some way, what is often normal for many.

Think back to when this first began and the heightened state of everyone around you. I can surely remember what it felt like walking through the grocery store as everyone was scrambling for Lysol wipes and toilet tissuse. Nervous systems all on high alert, seeking some sense of security and groundedness.

Perhaps we can begin to imagine what that feels like for so many when these big life events or ‘transitions’ happen. Injury, illness, aging, loss, grief. Can we learn ways to help with that, to sit with that, bring some care and ease to the person in need.

We’re all going to be there at some point.

Something will happen. If not before, we will grow old. We will struggle. Lose independence. Freedom. Ability to do things.

Might we provide for, care for, those who are already ‘in it’.

Life is hard, stressful. No doubt about it.

I can recall in an instant what it felt like when I was in a car accident just about this time two years ago. As I think about it my breath becomes short, my heart rate increases a little, I get emotional, my body tenses up almost like I’m experiencing the impact all over again. In fact just seeing a ‘deer crossing’ sign still brings about this response in my body.

I can also imagine another experience. At the same time two summers ago, I was with a group of friends… enjoying days in the sunshine, swimming in the river after a most nourishing lunch. What I notice in my body when I think about this experience is the opposite to what’s described above. Ease of breath, smiling, relaxed, heart slow and feeling all warm and fuzzy.

This happens even as I IMAGINE these two contrasting events. Interesting how my body responds and my actual physiology changes. My breath, heart rate, blood pressure, emotions, etc.

Consider how your physiology might change through the day due to various experiences, thoughts, emotions, conversations, demands that make up your daily routine.

Our body, brain, nervous system is so wise. It helps us to navigate the world around us, keeps us safe and alive, regulates all the systems within our selves. Takes in information external to us through our senses, responds to all the internal information received in our body at the same time. A rather smart organism. I am most grateful that it does all of this automatically that I don’t even have to think about it. Nope. I don’t have to remember to breathe, or make my heart pump somehow, or organize the digestion of my food.

But this not thinking about it, not noticing, or paying attention might not always be helpful.

For instance, if I ignore the fact that I’m really thirsty on these hot summer days we’ve been having where I live, I might become dehydrated. Or if I don’t pay attention to the sensations that tell me it’s time to rest, I may become over tired and become careless, not able to learn, deplete my body’s innate need to rest and replenish all these wondrous systems.

I may not notice a stress response I seem to be ‘in’ all the time. I might not easily move into a different one (parasympathetic response) one where I can rest, sleep, where my heart rate and blood pressure lower, digest my food. I might have elevated stress hormones constantly floating around in my system, thinking it needs to help ‘fight and protect’ me from something. Inflammation might occur. And on, it goes.

Life is hard. Life is stressful. No doubt about it.

What might help is to learn to recognize the signals this wise body is giving us and responding some way. How we might move into action when needed, like if I am in a car accident or if I need to change my business model due to this pandemic we’re experiencing. Or how we might move into deep rest when needed. So we can sleep. Digest our food. Help influence or decrease inflammation. Navigate with some fluidity, between the two responses.

And how might a stress response, impact our experience of pain?  Can we respond in some way when noticing this? Our response might be to change something. It may be to just notice. It might be to extend ourselves some compassion, knowing these are challenging times. The first step though, is the awareness that it’s happening at all. The listening in, paying attention.

Curious to explore this a little more? Might it be helpful to learn how you might have some influence over these systems?

Creating New Pathways: change your pain, change your life begins tomorrow. I would love to have you to join us.

It might feel good to move it!

Anxiety. Worry. Stress. Fear.

These are uncertain times and so many are feeling vulnerable, whether it’s about health, financial security or so many other concerns.

And yes, there are times when it’s helpful to quiet the mind, tame the thoughts, seek some silence, stillness and perhaps peace in all the chaos.

However, that isn’t always helpful. Doesn’t always work.

I know myself when I am stressed what helps me most is to move. Yes, I start cleaning my house when wound up, upset, feeling anxious, or stressed. There is something about burning off energy that might help to bring some space for quiet, relaxation, peace when you’re done. It might help you sleep. Maybe calm your nervous system. After all, when we are in crisis or feel threatened the nervous system is all about getting your attention, mobilization, preparing for action that might be required.

What might be helpful for you? Below are a few ideas, you might like to try:

  • Put on some loud, upbeat music and move in some way.
  • Dance.
  • Clean. Get at those windows and at the same time get some fresh air when you’re opening them or stepping outside.
  • Practice yoga, tai chi, whatever floats your boat.
  • Lift some weights.
  • Get on that ‘dust collector’ piece of exercise equipment sitting in your house and expend some of that nervous energy.
  • If you’ve got a few extra pantry items that you seemingly stocked up with, bake.
  • Cook.

Let me know how it goes. I know after working at my desk today, I am feeling the need to get up and move it!

Take good care of yourself (and others).

**If you’re feeling distressed, please be sure to reach out to a local resource. For those in Ottawa, call the Ottawa Distress Line

613-238-3311

Yoga Tools – Rest Easy

Life is not easy. For any of us.  There is more than enough to do, day in and day out. Stressors at work, at home or elsewhere.

So cut yourself some slack. Give yourself permission to rest. 

restStart with just 5 minutes.  Do this at least once a day. Do it twice if you like. But do it consistently.

You might want to set a particular time for this. Perhaps at mid-day, or early evening. It’s not often you need to rest first thing in the day and this 5 minutes isn’t meant for sleeping, so not too close to bedtime either.

  1. Either lie down or sit in a comfortable position (*see below for IMG_9231.JPGspecifics). It’s preferable to lay on the floor but if you’re unable to do so, a bed or sofa is fine.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Close your eyes or soften your gaze.
  4. Begin to breathe in and out through your nose (close your mouth).
  5. Be here for 5 minutes, just breathing naturally. Don’t try to change anything about your breath.
    • Notice where you feel your breath. It might be most noticeable in your nostrils, maybe in your chest or perhaps your abdomen.
    • Notice how your breath is moving. If there’s any particular quality to it such as smooth, interrupted, easy, strained.
    • Then just breathe. And just notice.
    • If your mind wanders, as it’s likely to do, just bring your attention back to your breath. Feel where it’s moving through your body, where you notice it. Try not to judge the wandering of your mind as anything either good or bad.
    • And just breathe. And just notice.
  6. When the timer goes off, slowly open your eyes. Roll over and stand up.

Notice what you feel. Mentally or physically make a note of what you experienced or noticed.

Keep practising for a week.

Check in with me next Tuesday and we’ll expand on this practise.

If… you can’t find 5 minutes in your day? You might want to look at that.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.

* Positioning if seated

  • Sit forward on a chair so your back is not touching the back upright portion of the chair.
  • See if you can feel your ‘sitting’ bones (ischial tuberosities) and let your weight be supported there.
  • Have your feet planted on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Hands comfortably on your lap.

* Positioning if lying down

  • Lie on the ground, perhaps on a carpet or mat if available. If you have back pain, you may want to use a rolled up towel, yoga mat, etc. to slip under your bent knees for support.
  • Hands can be by your side or placed on your belly.
  • Notice the parts of your body supported by the hard surface of the floor (heels, hips, shoulder area, head).

Change the brain, the nervous system, the body

neuroplasticity-and-technology-4-728The changing of our brain …

One of the most important changes in the last 14 years or so is the field of neuroplasticity.

Scientists once thought that the brain stopped developing after the first few years of life.  Since then, we’ve come to understand this isn’t true of the brain. Research shows our brain is capable of learning, adapting and changing throughout our life.

The changing of our body …

Our white blood cells die after 3-4 days, red blood cells after about 120 days, the dermis of our skin renews every 2-4 weeks. Research shows that changes in the relative level of physical stress cause a predictable adaptive response in all biological tissue.  In other words, changes take place and what’s exciting to me is how we can take measures to influence what happens in our body.

stretchingI’ve also learned it seems we may have been ‘wrong about stretching‘ insofar as we’re not really stretching or lengthening muscles. At least not as much as we once believed. Rather, we’re changing our response to a stimulus via the nervous system.

“your ability to stretch at any range is determined by your nervous system’s tolerance to that range.” – Jules Mitchell

The changing of our nervous system …

Our brain is naturally going to respond in a protective manner to anything it perceives as dangerous.  If we are trying to re-train flexibility or just movement in the body and do so with strong, forceful pressure or stimulus … the brain/body will react by saying … stop! No! Don’t go there. It will send a (pain) signal to safeguard our movement.

stretchHowever, if we move in small incremental ways within a safe and pain-free range of motion, the nervous system will react by saying … this feels okay. Safe. I’m happy to explore this.

This is a somewhat simplified way to explain all that’s going on, but it’s a starting point we can work from. We can even begin by just imagining movement and still create changes in the brain and our nervous system. So we can, really, start anywhere.

By learning to pay attention, moving in a way that allows your nervous system to adapt and create new patterns while it feels safe, you will make progress. 

Change. Big Change. Lasting Change.