I recently completed a two-day training in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). I thought I'd share a bit of what I learned that might help those of you with difficulty sleeping.
So first off, probably all of us have a sleepless night every now and again, right? We toss and turn, can't get comfortable, throw the blankets off and put them back on... If this only happens occasionally and not night after night, you don't have insomnia. Additionally, you may think you're sleeping soundly, but never feel rested. There are other sleep disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy that require medical diagnosis and treatment. Those aren't insomnia either.
So what exactly is insomnia, you ask....
I have a beautiful, sparkly greeting card above my work desk. It has a purple background with a stylized full moon, and in front of the moon is a drawing of a dragonfly with shiny, iridescent wings. The quote is from Rumi, a Sufi mystic and poet who lived in the 13th century. It says:
"Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love."
I had a moment this week when I realized that in the midst of coronavirus and about a month and a half into working from home, my office work is piling up and I haven't posted anything to my blog in awhile. I have a list of things I want to accomplish and haven't taken tangible steps to do any of them. And, I was feeling guilty and beating myself up about that. (And yes, even therapists go through this...)
Then I took some time to journal my thoughts and emotions, to sort out what is really going on in my head. Guess what? I discovered that indeed, I am easily pulled by the things I truly love.
Thankfulness, gratefulness, positivity, positive psychology, stress relief, meditation, nature
As I begin my day and prepare to see clients (online - is anyone going into a physical office these days?), I'm thinking about how grateful I am for this new day. Where I live, it's pouring rain and my weather app says it's going to rain all day. It's only about 55 degrees, but I've got a wool sweater on so I can leave the door open to listen to the rain and breathe in its fresh scent. I've already finished my morning ritual - a fresh pot of coffee, writing in my journal, seeking Spirit's guidance for today. And reading the New York Times headlines. And watching the BBC News. One of the stories today was about how coronavirus could impact developing countries, whose health care systems are terribly underfunded and overloaded under normal circumstances. And then I started thinking about friends and former work colleagues in Ghana, West Africa where I spent a few years of my life doing humanitarian work. Thinking about their fear as they face this potentially devastating illness....
And then I thought about how fortunate I am to be living in a part of the world where I can social distance, continue working, have access to food and fresh water.... And that brings me to what I wanted to write about today - survivor guilt.
Resources, Mental Health
We're about a month into "stay-home" orders around the US, and I'm sure most of us are getting a bit antsy. We want things to return to normal, meanwhile we know that it will likely be a "new normal" that is yet to be determined. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can be stressful and upsetting. We also have to juggle new responsibilities - remembering to wear a face mask when we go grocery shopping, staying six feet away from others, keeping our kids occupied and learning. And in the midst of all that, we want to keep our lives as pleasant as possible.
Here's a video resource you might find helpful. It's from the Brain Injury Association - but anyone can benefit from these ideas. Go to their media page and strategies to manage during C-19 will pop up. Here's the link:
4/19/2020 0 Comments
PTSD, Trauma, Survivor, Healing, Substance Abuse, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse
Sometimes it comes as a surprise to me when I realize that for the past 18 years, I've been working with survivors of trauma in some capacity or other. My first job was as a substance abuse counselor and case manager at a homeless women's residential recovery program. Over the three years I worked in that position, I interviewed at least a thousand women who wanted to become part of our program. We were the only recovery program in the city serving homeless women that allowed residents to have their children and pets on-site. We had around 10-12 adult residents at a time. Part of my job was to gauge how well the applicant would fit in with the community, and how serious they were about their recovery. We were also a harm reduction facility, meaning that if a resident used drugs or alcohol, we used that as a learning opportunity rather than automatically kicking her out. However, we always had to balance the benefit to the relapsed resident of staying in the program, versus the harm to the community if she stayed. Sometimes the resident had to leave if it was in the community's best interest. Over my three years there, I saw hundreds of women come and go. Some returned to life on the streets. Some passed away. Sometimes my work was heartbreaking.
But then there were the few shining success stories.
It seems lots of folks are baking bread these days! I was reflecting on baking and eating bread and how these actions can become a beautiful mindfulness meditation. So for you bread bakers out there, or really any preparer or consumer of food (that's all of us, hopefully) here is a mindfulness practice you can incorporate into your daily life.
As you gather the ingredients for your bread (substitute whatever you're cooking if you wish), take just a second to acknowledge where each ingredient came from. The flour you're using started as grain growing in a field. See it golden and ripe and waving in the breeze. Sense the blue sky and sun above it, the fertile earth beneath it, and the fresh air all around it. Take a moment to acknowledge the farmer who grew and harvested it, the worker who ground it and packaged it, the grocery store employee who stocked the shelves. As you add the yeast to warm water to proof, take a second to realize it's a living organism that's helping you put bread on your table. The milk you're using came from cows feeding on grass and grain and cared for by farmers. Likewise the eggs and other ingredients. Making the bread dough is a slow process in which one has to pay attention to what one is doing - rather than letting your mind wander to concerns and worries, spend that time mindfully acknowledging each ingredient, the beauty of how they combine together, the feeling of the dough on your fingers, the strength you use to knead the dough.... There's no right or wrong way to be mindful - the objective is to cultivate awareness in the present moment.
Now your lovely loaf of bread is ready to be eaten! Who can resist a slice of bread fresh out of the oven? You can extend your mindfulness practice by using your senses to fully appreciate the aroma, the texture, the taste. Chew slowly and savor it. Extend your gratefulness to all the beings that came together to make it possible for you to be eating this delicious bread right now. Mmmmmmm.....
As often as possible in the week ahead, practice mindful food preparation and eating.
I'll be back next Monday with another mindfulness practice you can incorporate into daily life.
On Sunday, I'll be posting inspirational quotes, poems, and other thoughts I've run across that may offer you a focus for the coming week.
"And the people stayed home. And
they read books, and listened, and
rested, and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new
ways of being, and were still. And
they listened more deeply. Some
meditated, some prayed, some
danced. Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think
And the people healed. And, in the
absence of people living in ignorant,
dangerous, mindless, and heartless
ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the
people joined together again, they
grieved their losses, and made new
choices, and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live, and
they healed the earth fully, as they
had been healed."
by Kitty O'Meara
I recently watched a half-hour video related to trauma, and taking care of oneself during the COVID-19 pandemic and the related challenges we all face - isolation, economic uncertainty, loss of control over our lives. Here in Indiana, we are about a month into the stay-home order. I had a small scare a couple of weeks ago when someone I had brief contact with came down with coronavirus. Although it was unlikely I could have been exposed, I self-isolated for the recommended 14 days. I live out in the country and it's normally pretty quiet out here, but something about not having the option of going out was a strange feeling. For clients who are healing from trauma, forced isolation can have an even more challenging aspect.