Come on humanity, we got this.

After witnessing the social media exchange between two members of Toronto’s movement community over the weekend, I was really disheartened. Full disclosure, one of them is my business partner, movement teacher and a dear friend. The other is someone who I’ve interacted with at a studio we both go to and I really respect the work she’s doing.

And yet, I haven’t said anything…I’ve felt paralyzed from fear because I felt if I did comment, I would be dismissed and silenced. This fear comes from my own lived experience. But then there’s the deeper fear: who am I as a white female to be upset that I feel dismissed and silenced? Because here’s the thing, I get the deeper message that was being shared in the post. And let me be clear, my beef isn’t with the message, but rather with what seemed like bullying and calling out. From both sides. I imagine this was really hurtful to many people.

So, I’m saying something now because I actually want to dig deeper into the heart of what is my understanding of the exchange. I just learned this idea of “calling-in”, which is simply a call-out done with love. In that, I think there is an opportunity here for all of us to do better. And I think it starts with educating our communities and also supporting each other as leaders and humans. I might be a bit naive but I think humanity is a team sport, not an individual competition. I’m further convinced of this after hearing someone on the radio say “We are not here to compete against one another. We are here to complete each other.”

So yeah, needless to say, I’m going back to school on some of these topics. I realized that part of that paralysis was blind spots in my own understanding of the issues.

Oh, and please call me ‘in’ here...I want to learn from you. And I actually want to discuss it together in person, in real life. I would like to come together as friends, have some challenging, messy and potentially awkward conversations, and still be friends on the other side. I understand that we don’t have to always agree but I would like to create space for each other that is empathetic and can hold multiple perspectives.

So in the spirit of humanity, I’m gonna try on a few new ideas. Are you willing to join me in a calling in for our community?

doing less, to allow for more…woolly bear caterpillar sightings

I’ve been very busy, doing less.

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In a post I wrote back in July, Rocking and rolling to the beat of my own (nervous system) rhythm, I was going on about taking things at a slower pace. Being more present and aware. Embodying more fully my experience. One mindful step at a time. Well, surprise surprise (I’m actually quite surprised) I’m still enjoying and embracing this slower gear.

I thought for sure I’d be bored to tears with all this present moment stuff. Feeling stuck in pause, feeling sensations, and wanting to jump out of my skin. Lured back to a faster pace by all the bright and shiny distractions that surround me. A faster pace that has defined who I am. I’m a get shit done kinda gal, and always have been. It’s the only way I’ve known how to feel worthwhile and valuable to the people around me. It’s also been my way of escaping from dealing with my own stuff, and yes feeling the feels.

As Kate Northrup says:

Our busyness is a way that we numb. It’s a way that we avoid being with the space of who we are.

This move towards less involved putting some strategies in place to support and challenge myself and commit to a timeline that was longer than just a week. And so my summer experiment began. I prioritized my rhythm and schedule first, spending more time outdoors, meditating, reading, learning to fix things, and either walking or riding my bike to commute (sorry Uber drivers, I did enjoy our convos). This meant I needed to edit out the things that didn’t really support that, including having to say no to a few requests to do things that I enjoy. Unless I had a real fuck ya response, it wasn’t happening. I do sense some guilt arising in that last statement, especially if I said no to you. I promise that no didn’t come easily.

A more recent strategy I’ve been playing in August is spending little to no time on social media (outside of work needs). Both wonderfully freeing and so much anxiety-induced FOMO…I’ll leave that for another day :).

And this really focused and committed doing less thing, has allowed for more. So much more.

More time with my husband and family. More time to finally get my house in order after 3 years of DIY - totally stalled - renos. More time to do things that have nothing to do with anything like listening to a true-crime podcast. Or learning about comedy. More time to make a meal. Enjoy a cup of coffee. Pretend to garden.

By doing less I also had more time to write this blog post for Yoga Detour. I share some ideas about how we can experience savasana in different ways. If you’re like me and lying in stillness, with your eyes closed, releasing into the darkness, gives you the heebie jeebies, you might want to give it a read. I’m really proud of it. And if you decide to read it I’d love to hear what you think!

And the biggest take away? More time to notice the bazillion woolly bear caterpillars crawling about this summer here in Toronto. Kooper (my dog) is fascinated by them and ever so gentle with them too. We do our best to rescue as many as we can from the busy bike paths.

Well, back to less and finding more. As always, thanks for your time.

What is Self-Regulation and Why Do You Want to Develop this Skill?

Originally posted on the Healing Collective Blog October 7, 2018

Many moons ago back when there was no Google, WiFi or cell phones (WHAT?!) our ancestors needed to avoid two kinds of errors in thinking: 1) that there was a tiger in the bush when there wasn’t and 2) that there was no tiger...and then pounce! The cost of the first error was a lot of anxiety and hypervigilance; while the cost of the second could be serious bodily harm or even death.

During this time our nervous system evolved to make the first error in judgement a gazillion times over, to avoid making the second, even just once.

GOAL = FEELING SAFE.

Pure and simple.

Even though times and environments have changed dramatically, our nervous system and programming towards the defensive have stayed relatively the same. In modern day we’re constantly scanning the environment for threats, underestimating opportunities, many of us are not not even aware of the inner resources we already possess to manage these innate human tendencies.

Said another way - we’re wired to react to situations when we could instead be responding. You might be asking yourself well how in the heck do we modify this behviour? Self-regulation my friends - AKA self-soothing - a skill you definitely want to grow.

Self-regulation is  about developing our capacity to be calm, aware, and present, even in stressful situations. Over time and with practice you can learn how to be less reactive and more responsive in the moment at home, at work, and everywhere else in your life!

A regulated nervous system can mean many things to different people. Generally speaking, when you are regulated you might connect with a sense of feeling calm, balance, even a settledness in your body. Your ability to be and remain present and focus on the task at hand is easy. Some refer to this nervous system state as neutral or in equilibrium. A dysregulated state, quite frankly, feels uncomfortable for some - involuntary muscular tensions, unpleasant pangs and fluttering sensations, an inability to focus - and everything in between. You might identify with being a little more jazzed up, or a bit less so, from this equilibrium state, but ideally everyone should have the ability to maintain a regulated nervous system and be able to return to equilibrium fairly quickly after a stressful or upsetting situation, traumatic event, or a trigger from the past.

Because your nervous system is the connection between your brain and body, it can give you good information about how you most often show up in life - whether that’s regulated or dysregulated - if you are paying attention. It is an essential skill for you to be able to listen or tune into to your body-system in this way. You can receive information from your body about how you are feeling and then act on that information in your best interests. This is good self-care in action. Noticing that you are dysregulated and being able to choose to return to feeling settled is a necessary life skill for us all, but especially if you have lived your life riding the roller coaster of dysregulation (hello!).

Self-regulation is something we learn in the womb from our mothers. If their nervous system was settled and regulated, and responsive to return to neutral, then you will most likely have that positive imprinting in your nervous system. All is not lost though if you haven’t had the benefits of a mother with a well-regulated nervous system. You can learn to achieve this at any time in your life. It just takes some curiosity, experimentation and somatic awareness practices - a lot of what I share in the work I do with my clients and students. If this is a new concept for you somatics is simply a field within bodywork and movement studies which emphasizes internal physical perception and experience.

And it doesn’t need to be big movements and a regime of scheduled group classes and activities either - self-regulation can happen in smaller manageable chunks at any time and in any place (that’s what washrooms are for!). It’s not just about the movement or activity, but more importantly the practice of mindfulness about yourself, that brings you back to a neutral place, in the present moment. I found yoga and movement to be a major resource in my own healing journey - but only once I slowed things down and prioritized mindfulness over physical exertion and sweat. I had far more success in the beginning by engaging with simple body based tools to help me tap into my body and keep track of myself in the present moment. I started to notice over time that my ability to be present and more grounded was showing up for me when navigating “real life” situations were I felt triggered or activated in deep and vulnerable places. A lot more responding to life started to happen. A lot more choice open up for me. And maybe most importantly, I started to naturally navigate towards a more compassionate relationship with myself.

So, to recap for you skimmers (I get it, time is precious), self-regulation is a skill, practice and ability that supports:

  • Grounding and centering yourself

  • Being aware of your needs

  • Taking good, consistent care of yourself

  • Connecting with the strength and resilience you already possess

  • Knowing when you are reacting to a situation versus responding to it and take action from a place of knowing

  • Being able to self soothe and return your nervous system to homeostasis when dysregulatng experiences happen

  • Cultivating more self-compassion

To be able to do this practice you need be able to listen to your body, and this is why somatic work is so important for all of us. In discovering where and how you are holding old patterning within your body-system you can use that information to make better choices for yourself now, and to choose kinder self-regulation strategies over other less beneficial options. Somatic awareness is necessary to build these kinds of resources effectively. As you build up your resource tool kit, and learn to have a really good connection to yourself, you might also notice the positive effect this has on others around you, and to your greater community. Speaking from almost four decades of living in a dysregulated state this connection to yourself is possible. A lot of my own healing came from learning from a lot of really smart people (yoga teachers, movement coaches, head docs and neuroscientists) and then experimenting on myself. I want to share the benefits of what I’ve discovered with the following body based self-regulation tools. They are my ‘go to’s’ when I feel activated, dysregulated and overwhelmed.

Massage the soles of my feet to ground: There are like 8000+ sensory receptors on the soles of your feet. When triggered with gentle self-massage they can help you reconnect with your body and come back into the present moment quickly. Using a massage ball (something that has some give) or even a tennis ball, gently roll out the underside of one foot. You can do this in sitting or standing, just notice how hard you are pressing your sensitive sole (and soul too) into the ball. I connect to a pressure that doesn’t interrupt my natural breathing and feels a bit pleasurable, soothing and anchoring. See if you can spend just a minute on one side, pause and notice how the foot feels (sensations, temperatures, etc) and then switch to the other foot. Ball rolling is a great way to bring awareness back into your body while finding a neutral sensation that isn't associated with a traumatic memory, physical pain or story on repeat in your head. Even if the act of rolling doesn’t discharge the activation entirely what it does do is bring me back to a place where I’m better able to access the executive rational capabilities of my brain. A tip would be to keep a ball in your purse, bag or even at your workstation, so you always have it available. The next time you’re reviewing emails consider getting some ball rolling going and notice if you are able to be more responsive and less reactive to your inbox.

Orient myself with my surroundings when I’m feeling anxious and distracted: Here’s a freebie. You can bring your awareness back to the present moment through your senses – seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. In my work I generally focus on the first three. I really find orienting helpful when in a meeting or called into the boss’s office – both of which I have anxiety about even when the experiences are positive. I will notice the texture of the objects around me (from ceiling to floor), the colours in the room, the sounds, the sensation of air on my skin, temperature, light, etc. I will also work at being intentional in what I’m orienting to. Instead of just sweeping my gaze fleetingly around a space, I slow it down by registering what I’m seeing, naming it in my head, before moving my attention to something else. By taking stock of your surroundings you can orient yourself away from inner sensations of discomfort and speak to that ancient part of your nervous system - continually scanning for threat - that you are generally safe in the present moment. It does wonders for my confidence when I’m able to acknowledge that the perceived anxiety provoking experience is actually going to be sometime positive (like a raise!).

Shake out my stuff to let go of tension built up in my body: My top tool to self regulate is to shake my body. This is how I’m able to let go of stress and tension in little bits throughout my day or specifically after stressful interactions. Let’s look at our canine friends for a moment. According to Jae Allen who published Why Do Dogs Shake Themselves? (link to full article below) “Dogs may shake as a way of relieving tension. If a dog is feeling nervous or uncomfortable in a situation, it might shake the whole body as a way of shaking out tension.” So, human friends, shall we give this one a try? Standing with both feet grounded like suction cups to the floor begin to shake from your knees. After a few moments see if you can make that less mechanical and allow for a rippling effect to travel up your body. See if you can imagine shaking the soft tissues of your body around your bones. You can also achieve the same effect with small bounces originating from the feet. Can you bring the shaking/bouncing into the whole body including the cheeks (just like dogs!). After about 60 seconds or so notice your breath and how your body is responding. Do things feel a little looser and more relaxed? I also learned that dogs might shake for attention, and if this isn’t what you're looking for you can find a bathroom stall or other private space to shake your s**t out. Also a great opportunity here to regulate with your kids in a fun and silly way. Give this one a try and let me know how it goes!

These three practices have been really effective in helping me ground and reconnect to the present moment no matter the situation. It is from this place of neutrality where I’m able to think more clearly, pause before reacting and to make better decisions about what my body needs - which might include take bigger resource steps like going to that yoga class, talking a walk with my dog, or calling a friend. I have many more options in my own tool kit know than I recall being aware of even just 3 years ago. Back then self-soothing was more about coping strategies that were more harmful than beneficial. Today, most of those old habits don’t even come to mind even in the most stressful of situations - and I let myself off the hook when they do. Practice, practice, practice.

Key Takeaway:  By finding ways to be grounded in your body everyday, as often as possible, you can train your brain to be less reactive overtime. This will help you feel better in your body and able to respond from a place that is strong and calm!!

Reference:

Why Do Dogs Shake Themselves? By Jae Allen - https://pets.thenest.com/dogs-shake-themselves-3960.html

Rocking and rolling to the beat of my own (nervous system) rhythm

No pain, no gain?

Has anyone ever told you that you needed to slow down? A few years ago my amazing Naturopathic Doc said exactly this. At the time I was burning the candle at both ends working more hours than sleeping, eating and connecting with family and friends combined. I prided myself on waking up before the rest of the world (at least in my time zone). I’d work my body hard in the gym before starting my workday by 7am. I barely had time to suck back an energy drink and one of those artificial protein bars (filled with ingredients I could barely pronounce).

The rest of my day was typically spent tied to a computer or racing from one client meeting to the next. Usually, there was an event or two crammed in there that I would be on-site for, taking me into the evening hours. Even after my workday ended I was still obsessively checking my phone for client emails and responding even when I knew there wasn’t going to be anyone on the receiving end, at least until the next morning. I was praised for my on demand correspondence and truthfully I loved it. Side note. Being constantly available got me more event jobs which, brought in more revenue for the company I was working for at the time. This landed me in the role of Director of Catering and Events (fancy) and the big wigs knew my name. Ha! I was living the dream. Or was I?

Well, not exactly. My body was a hot mess (from inflammation) drowning in a stew of stress hormones. My nervous system was fried and very rigid (we weren’t friends) which led me to react defensively to just about every stimuli around me. Congratulatory emails, innocent questions from colleagues, the two-minute wait for my coffee at Starbucks, you get it. All led to a tightness in my chest and angry butterflies in my gut. I was angry, fearful and paranoid, all the time.

Cues of danger at every turn.

The guilt and shame I felt was smothering. How could I be here? I was “healthy” and exercised all the time and always been a getter down kinda gal...and now I could barely walk from one exercise machine to the next without feeling pain somewhere in my body. My gut was in bad shape from the fake foods I was consuming too keep to my allotment of calories for the day (that bulky poo we all desire was replaced with the runs, for months, sorry for the overshare but it’s true). I obsessively ruminated on stuff, was irritable all the time, restless, jittery and my thoughts constantly racing. These symptoms I was experiencing were a result of chronic sympathetic activation or a hyperaroused state. I was essentially in fight, flight or freeze mode a lot of the time. Even when there was no tiger to be seen.

And, then there were those times when I just felt numbed out and disconnected. I struggled to focus, my memory was impaired, and sometimes I was totally spacey. And when I felt like this I would withdraw, yield to confrontation and dissociate to avoid feeling anything. This was my nervous system shifting to a dorsal vagal state (hypoactivation) to protect me from what I perceived as a life threat (ex. your boss coming down on you for a slip-up).

To be clear, still no tigers.

So there you go. A little snapshot of where I was at the time. Now back to that ND appointment. I’m sure I smiled at her (because that’s what I do when I’m uncomfortable) but in my mind, I was imaging punching her in the face. I engage with ‘slow down’ in this way as lazy, unproductive and a let down to all humanity. The perfectionist in me would never be able to integrate this concept into my life. It put me a great risk of not being loved, respected and accepted (DANGER!!). I got that I needed to make some changes (it was, after all, interfering with my workouts) but my idea about the way through at the time was NO PAIN, NO GAIN.

Fast forward to today. Question. Can there be gain without the pain? Is it possible to navigate through life with grace and ease and arrive at the same outcome or goal? One fueled by happiness and joy instead of hardship and suffering? I almost choked on my coffee when I considered this. How the fuck do I do that? In addition to my own rigid ideas about slowing down, I’ve got a pretty fierce battle with all the social constructs and societal norms that reward those gains that come about with pain.

Full discloser. I don’t have an answer to my question just yet. But I’m contemplating it. My recently diagnosed post-concussion syndrome seems to be the straw that broke the proverbial camels back. In order to treat and heal my injured brain, I have to slow down and really moderate my energy exertion (no running, jumping or other Fighting Monkey high intensity stuff for the moment).

Bummer and necessary.

The good news (not that the other stuff is bad) is that I met this totally rad physio who specializes in this stuff. He’s really helping me resolve and manage some ongoing issues connected to a bike accident I had back in 2016. What that has started to look like is fully embodying what a resilient and regulated nervous system feels like...which I truthfully haven’t done before. (full full disclosure, I’ve avoided embodying anything, ever, because my interal experience has often felt like the scariest horror movie. I don’t like how they make me feel and often numb out when watching them. Same goes for connecting to the feels of my body.)

I have to tell you though, this slower gear feels pretty damn good, especially when I have restorative experiences that connect me to my nervous system rhythm (my go-to right now is walking with my dog and husband in the woods). I didn’t know that moving to my own rhythm instead of editing to everyone else's could be so damn nourishing and enriching. This means moving at the pace I need to in the moment, as much as possible, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Sounds really terrific right?!?

Well there is this thing called my reality. As much as it would be marvellous to hang out in the great outdoors all day long I still need to pay my bills, clean the house, be there for my family, and accomplish all the other stuff on the to-do list. So, when I’m staring down the barrel of an overwhelming day I’ve been turning to gentle rhythmic movements (like rocking when you were an infant) that can soothe the nervous system, especially when they involve the spine. Quadruped hip rockers followed by cat camel (cow) are a good example of this. In addition to the rhythmic qualities of these activities, I’m also grooving the hinges and articulating the joints (this is good movement hygiene). I do this solo or before, during, and even after other movement practices.

It’s magical how these simple exercises can be so regulating for me. My body also feels pretty kick as too. Not exactly a nature walk but definitely a similar end result of connecting to my rhythm, feeling more grounded, resourced and capable of meeting the challenges that come my way. Gain, without pain, maybe!?

When you’re in a state of fight or flight or freeze, the muscles along your vertebrae tense for protection. Rocking stimulates the relaxation response, while gently releasing the muscles along the spine sends additional signals to the brain that you are safe and able to relax. Add nostril breathing to the mix and you have a complete formula for re-balancing your nervous system.

Here’s another rocking activity for you to try: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, wider than your hips. Open your arms to a t-shape across your body with both palms up. Bring attention to your breath if that feels okay to do, and if not the movement of the body may help you get there. So you can start there and then maybe layer in the breath with movement. (Not essential though to reap the benefits.)

On an exhale, slowly lower both of your knees to the right; inhale and bring them back up. On your next exhale, slowly lower both knees the left; inhale and bring them back up. Gently go from side to side. Notice if there’s the tendency to speed up, slow the movements down to match the length of your inhales and exhales.

What do you do to soothe your nervous system?

(if you wish to share of course!)

So, how do I make my nervous system my ally?

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The first step is to notice what your autonomic nervous system is telling you right now. What state are you in?

Pause and try this quick body awareness meditation (one of my personal goto's):

In this moment take a few mindful breaths...As best you can, turn your awareness toward your body...See if you can bring some curiousity to how your body and mind are right now...As best you can, try feeling with your awareness how your belly is...Is it tight or relaxed? How about your facial expression? Is there any tension or gripping or contraction in the body? Notice the types of thoughts or stories passing through your head before you stopped to do this check in.

Now, as best you can, simply sense the state of your body and mind in this moment...without judgement (I know that's tough sometimes)...

Is it relaxed and at ease? Is it tense or irritated or anxious?

Are you able to feel? Are you numb or feeling empty?

How is your energy? Are you feeling over-activated, hyperaroused?

Are you feeling under-activated, hypoaroused?

Are you feeling balanced, calm and present?

When you can get a sense of how your autonomic nervous system is feeling you will be more capable of choosing how to take care of yourself. In order to tend we need to befriend. There are many many ways to do this of course and I find starting with self-regulation practices the quickest way to convince my nervous system that we’re in this together.

Here are some ideas:

For hyperarousal:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing: Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. You can place your hands on your side waist (make a c shape with fingers and thumb) to help you connect to the three dimension expansion of your waist on the in breath and contraction on the out breath. You can also imagine a balloon in your belly that gentle inflates when you breath in and gentle deflates when you breath out. Try this practice for a minute if this is new to you and work up to longer periods as you see fit. If at any point focusing on the breath actually makes you feel more anxious or uneasy, let it go. Focused breathing isn’t for everyone all of the time.

  2. Dancing: Moving your body to your favourite tunes can be a quick and fun way to shift states and to reconnect with your body, rhythm and self-expression. This is an activity that you can do with the whole family to regulate together, or solo in the dark, if that’s more your style.

  3. Blowing bubbles (good for kids too!): A fun and natural way to elongate the breath without thinking about it. The parasympathetic branch of our nervous system is stimulated (connected to that rest and digest state) when we exhale.

For hypoarousal:

  1. Splash cold water on your face: Super simple. This can help energize you and gently break cycles of numbing out.

  2. Mindful walking: Across the board this is the best practice and amped up further if you can be outdoors. You can start with mindful awareness of your breath (see Diaphragmatic breathing above) and expand that to include your standing body. Feel your feet on the ground, your weight being supported by your hips and legs. See if you can relax any unnecessary tension in the body. When you’re ready start walking really slowly, similar in speed to how you might walk if you were under water. Yes, that slowly. The goal is not to get somewhere, but rather to arrive fully in each step. Use your breath as an anchor and feel the awareness of the motion of lifting the foot, transfering your weight to the other leg, as you move your foot forward, placing your foot, and then rolling on your foot from heel to toes as the other begins its journey forward. If you get distracted (totally normal, especiall when we try something new), notice that and return your attention to the flow of sensations of walking.

  3. Holding a textured object in your hand and noticing how it feels: This physical activity can help bring awareness to sensations of your body and the object, helping to shift you from the inner-absorbed, flat and absent shutdown state to a more active and present non-defensive state.

Spoiler alert. You might feel frustrated or challenged at first. Or confused as to know what you need. This would make sense as it's new! Experimentation is my best advice here. With time and practice and a dose of loving kindness, you will reap the rewards of your efforts. And, make an ally, rather than an enemy, of your nervous system. 💜

Practicing what I preach.

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I was teaching a self-regulation workshop this past weekend to a group of health and wellness practitioners.

I was a bit nervous and definitely not feeling regulated in my body. My heart was racing, my breathing was tight, I was sweating up a storm (the stinky kind) and I noticed a lot of tension in my jaw, shoulders and hands. I felt anxious, irritable and uneasy. My gaze seemed to be pulled toward every bright shiny spot in the room, making my ability to focus on anything almost impossible. My body was reacting to the situation like I was waiting for a tiger to attack. Full on survival response. Which of course didn't make any sense as I was standing in a space that I’d been in many times before. If you haven’t been to the Healing Collective before I can promise you that it's lovely, peaceful and calm - and totally free of roaming wild cats. :)

I often have the same experience when in savasana and wrote a blog post for Yoga Detour about it. Click here to take a reading detour.

I find this very ironic. The very systems and tendencies that evolved specifically to help us humans survive are now part of what causes us to feel overwhelmed, anxious, worried, irritable, reactive or shut down. And chances are that our survival responses are getting triggered not by actual life-threatening events like running from a tiger. Instead, our survival responses are likely being triggered by everyday situations such as running late for a meeting, being stuck in traffic, a looming deadline, having an argument, feeling ashamed or anxious or overwhelmed, or like me, giving a presentation.

Whenever your nervous system detects danger (whether real or imagined) and the automatic survival responses kick in, no amount of insight or understanding alone will be able to turn the survival response off. As long as your nervous system is in survival mode, that response is driving your perceptions, your psychology, your behaviour and your physiology. When you find yourself in an automatic defensive response, you are primed to survive and not primed to be happy, relationally connected, or at ease.

So time to practice what I preach. I immediately went to three self-regulation practices that always help me when my body has gone into survival mode:

1) Orienting with my surroundings

2) Rolling the sole of my foot

3) Shaking

Learn these three super easy self-reg practices here.

After just a few minutes I noticed a shift in my physiological state - more relaxed, slower heart rate and my breath returned to something that was easy and natural. Still nervous, yes. That anxious energy was active and remained present in my body but it was more contained and channelling down to the ground through my feet (instead of swirling up and out of me chaotically). I could feel the edges of my body in full dimension. My mind was less cluttered and more organized. Rational thought had returned, yay!

Engaging with these simple nervous system regulation practices helps me feel better in my body and improve my mental clarity and attention because I had brought my “flipped lid” (prefrontal cortex) back on-line (check out Dr. Dan Seigel’s Hand Model of the Brain). This allowed me to take in the faces of the people who had started to fill the space and tune into their conversations without being distracted by the world outside. My social engagement system was also activated. This is that desirable state of regulation that is optimal for rest and restoration and promotes a calming and soothing effect on the body. When it is activated, the survival system is deactivated.

This is what fascinates me about our nervous system. It is the connection between your brain and body and can give you good information about how you most often show up in life - whether that’s regulated or dysregulated. It is an essential skill for you to be able to listen or tune into your body-system in this way. You can receive information from your body about how you are feeling and then act on that information in your best interests. This is good self-care in action. Noticing that you are dysregulated and being able to choose to return to feeling settled is a necessary life skill for us all, but especially if you have lived your life riding the roller coaster of dysregulation (hello!).

Many of us grow up and have no idea how to regulate ourselves. In fact, it was my own dysregulated nervous system that brought me to doing this work. After all, self-regulation is built on co-regulation which we first learn in utero and from our earliest caregivers. You can think of co-regulation like one regulated nervous system supporting to help calm and regulate another nervous system that might be stuck in a survival response. It can take many forms and typically involves warmth, a soothing tone of voice, communication that acknowledges the other person’s distress, supportive silence, and an invitation to reflective problem-solving.

As with a mother tending to her child, the defining characteristic of effective co-regulation is that it is calming and designed to help manage overwhelming emotional arousal. Rather then "fight or flight or freeze" think “tend and befriend”. So a goal of mine as a practitioner/friend/family member (human really) is to be a regulating anchor whenever possible.

And there are many reasons why we might not have learned to self-regulate, but the great news is our nervous system is constantly learning based on our experiences. So if we can engage with practices and methods for shifting nervous system states now, as adults, during the good, bad and ugly times, we can enhance our ability to savour life.

Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering, the presentation was a hit. Phew!

Keep on practicing the practice and feel free to leave a comment below.

Be mindful of golden frogs

A practice to practice when you’re too busy to practice.

gold frog.jpg

What does mindfulness and golden frogs have in common? Well after doing some research, it seems like not a whole lot. Though, put them together and they do make for an eye catching picture like the one I found above.

Even more fascinating, in the course of my “I’m too busy right now” morning I observed myself taking an unplanned mindful pause when I first came across this beauty online. So here’s something for you to try. Can you take this moment to pause and really take in this picture and note what you see. If you’re not able to see this picture could you take this moment and imagine what a gold frog statue sitting cross legged on a rough surface might look like to you?

(If you think you’re too busy, consider that this practice can be beneficial even for just 30 seconds.)

Notice different colours.

Notice dfferent textures.

Notice different patterns.

Notice different geometry.

Now let the practice go. It might feel nice to take a few easy breaths through your nose, or shake out your body, to reset before returning to your day.

See if you can find another object for you to set your gaze or imagination on later today. And then maybe another, and perhaps another. Each time you return to this practice can you approach it from a beginners mind?

This act of pausing and noticing what you see can be a wonderful way to pepper in micro mindfulness practices throughout your day. Orieting to what we see around us can reduce external vigilance and be a helpful way to regulate or balance our nervous system by evoking a sense of safety and security in the body which gets communicated to the brain.

Here are 12 more micro practices that will take you less than 30 seconds.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201703/12-quick-mini-meditations-calm-your-mind-and-body


Oxytocin, butterflies + pet toys for self-regulation

The window of tolerance (Dan Seigel, 2010) became such an important concept for me when working with dysregulation and trauma. It refers to the zone of optimal arousal (not too much, not too little) where you are able to manage and even thrive in your daily life. For people who have experienced trauma or chronic stress, that window often becomes quite narrow. Take that one thought further and I wonder just how many of us are experiencing life through the smallest of windows?

Anyhow, I think it's helpful to visualize and understand that the range within which we function best is a balance between hyperarousal and hyperarousal. Let’s face it, life is never going to be free of stressful or even traumatic experiences I’m sorry to say. And as a result, you might shift from your window, or optimal arousal zone, into a state of hyperarousal (fight or flight) or hypoarousal (shutdown and immobilization) yielding a host of symptoms from anxiety, anger, depression, confusion and dissociation. Some of us might even fluctuate between the two states.

When we’re too far outside the window, it makes it difficult to learn, be in the present moment, navigate relationships, and for some of us almost impossible to feel at ease in our own skin.

So if you are feeling anxious, upset, irritated or just simply out of whack, you are likely in more of a hyperaroused state. That said, you might try supercharging your hug with a 🦋.

The Butterfly Hug is a great technique created by Lucina Artigas during her time working with survivors of Hurricane Pauline (Mexico 1998).

It was designed to be self-administered, which I'm demo'ing here, and based on EMDR Therapy and the idea that bilateral stimulation helps soothe and ground the nervous system, reducing the fight or flight activation. Combined with some calm breathing through the nose and your on your way to self-regulating through those crummy feelings attached to anxiety. (Noticing the breath is optional and may not be a place to go if this is the first time you are trying either activity shared here).

When this technique was first shared with me I rolled my eyes. How is hugging myself gonna change anything?! Well, we humans respond to touch with the release of oxytocin (attachment hormone). The body doesn't differentiate between when someone we love touches us and when we're touching or holding ourselves. Oxytocin is released either way.

Give it a try, even just for a minute, and notice what you experience. Has anything shifted? Sensations, feelings, your energy, including your thoughts and emotions? See if you can do this with loads of curiousity and compassion and reframe from harsh judgements (damn hard sometimes, so give yourself permssion to give yourself a break).

Here’s a second self-regulation activity that may help if you find yourself in more of a hypoaroused state - what one of my clients describes as: “that spacey, no energy, foggy brain state, all weighted down by a thick wet blanket.”

All you need is something you can squeeze/press and/or articulate your fingers with (like a tennis ball, bubble wrap, fidget toys like spinners).

Before you start, see if you can connect to your inner curious puppy/kitten (or scientist) and really take in the experience of touching your object - how does it feel? Firm, soft, gooshy? Tacky, rough, smooth? Does it change shape easily? Is there a sound that it makes when you engage with it? Spend a few moments with this.

Now, if its available to you, you could also bring your awareness to track sensations inside your body while you continue to play with the object. Notice your heart beat or the path or movement of your breath. This extra hit of dual awareness (thank you to Trauma Specialist Babette Rothschild for this concept) calls on the sensory nervous system and toggling or balancing awareness between our exteroceptors (5 senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste) with the interoceptive sensations we’re experiencing (internal sensations).

In my demo, I’m toggling between the sensations in my fingers (touch), the sound the object is making (hearing), and where I’m sensing the movement of breath in my body. And, I’m trying to do all of this without judgement (tricky!). If you find that dual awareness becomes overwhelming, let it go, and return to your object and how it feels in your hands.

Side note about observing the breath: You don’t have to practice the dual awareness (or breath awareness at all) to reap the benefits of either activity. In this case, quite simply just holding a textured object and noticing how it feels in your hand, or sounds, (without going inside) may help to shift you from a low energy, flat, even numbed out state to a more active and present, non-defensive, state.

And, if after giving either of these activities a try you’re like “nope” or “WTF?”, that's cool. Your experience is your experience and that is true. This may not be the self-reg tool for you. And so we try and try again. The options are quite limitless.

Follow up note: My dear friend and colleague Jennifer Snowdon did not find the Butterfly Hug activity soothing or helpful. In fact she had an entirely opposite experience which she shares in her recent blog Feeling Dysregulated. She offers some very wise words that I will echo here:

If you are taught something amazing by someone and you hate it, that's okay. You are normal. You are just different than the other person.

A polyvagal primer.

The body’s rapid-response survival system is orchestrated by our autonomic nervous system (ANS). To briefly review, the ANS operates two branches: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic branch mobilizes us to defend against danger via the fight or flight or cry/attach for help response. The somewhat less understood parasympathetic branch is typically viewed as having the opposite effect on the body, helping us dampen our defences and regain a state of balance and calm.

But, as they say, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The parasympathetic system is made up of the vagus nerve which runs from the brain through the face and thorax to the abdomen. It branches into two major pathways, each responsible for a distinct neurophysiological state. One pathway, known as the ventral vagal, responds to cues of safety and supports restoration, procreation and readiness for social engagement. By contrast, the dorsal vagal pathway responds to cues of life-threat, causing us to shut down, become numb, and disconnect from others. A person who dissociates has found refuge in a dorsal vagal state.

While simplistic, it can be helpful to understand that the ANS is more than just the oscillation between the state of “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. In fact, as we go about our day the ANS is constantly shifting between these states (+ hybrids!) continually working to bring about regulation and homeostasis to the body.

How self-compassion helped me meditate

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. After many years of struggling with meditation, I realized much of what was holding me back was self-criticism to be perfect at it. And because I couldn’t pull it off in the way I labelled "the right way" I dismissed the practice entirely. This would never be a practice for me.

In the last month, as I’ve been working through some personal sticky spots, I realized that as much as my movement practice has helped me be resilient through a lot of shit, there was still something missing. Resilience for me is a mind-body practice. Except I’ve been kinda cutting myself off at the shoulders and only focusing on my body. Again, this idea of doing it in a perfectly perfect way was paralyzing me from simply trying.

The turning point was when a wise friend suggested that if I approach my meditation practice (life really 🤔) with a sense of kindness to myself - rather than criticism - for whatever pain, obstacles or shortcomings arise then there really is no right way. Just MY way and indeed something I CAN do and even be good at. Add to that a healthy dose of curiousity and jeez that first sit (just a few mins) wasn’t so bad.

Now, I've worked up to sitting for 10 mins, 4-5 days a week. This is a huge leap for me given that most of the time I'm going going going on autopilot, fueled by the ants in my pants.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • I feel calmer, even in more chaotic situations

  • My concentration is better, and when distracted I'm able to get back to the task at hand quicker (and not left standing to stare into the fridge wondering why I was there)

  • I'm a little nicer to myself - the peanut gallery in my head (the critics) that can hijack my good sense have a lot less to say

  • I'm digging, if not craving the peacefulness that sitting offers me (I never thought this would be a thing!)

I'm sharing this as I never thought I'd have anything to share about meditation, ever. Except maybe that it wasn’t for me. If that rings true for you and your wrestle with the idea that meditation needs to look/be/feel a certain way, see if you can let that go. Get an app, find a teacher or meditation group and just explore the possibilities, with as much compassion and curiousity as you can rally.

Last point here. If you give it a try and decide the practice isn’t for you, just remember, never say never :).

Here are some resources that have supported my recent journey:

  1. Spirit Loft Movement Centre has a group sit on Thursday nights (located here in Toronto)

  2. Waking Up meditation app with Sam Harris (also reco Andy from @headspace)

  3. Rick Hanson’s Growing the Good (live meditation program if you like guided study)

#movement4resilience #meditation4resilence #resilientme

I dropped an F-bomb in movement class the other day.

Failure.

Yep, I said this word out loud in my class the other day. The group of humans standing in front of me appeared a bit confused. Some even uncomfortable. For a moment it felt like the room got really small and quiet. My body stiffened, breath quickened and heart started to race. Within a millisecond my mind had labelled this class as a failure (even before it began) and my body responded like it was under threat.

And rightly so. I mean who wants to think or talk about failure (especially so early on a Sunday morning)? The word is often attached to something negative. Lack of success. Lack of accomplishment. Lack of goal attainment.

I failed as a teacher.

I failed to lose weight.

I failed to get an A.

I failed to get up and go to the gym this morning.

I failed to be a good friend, partner, mom, [INSERT THAT FAILURE HERE].

And that ‘I failed’ statement often takes on a more overarching theme for how we might view ourselves as a whole. There have been points in my life where I, Jenn, felt like a great big failure. Was I though? Well, that’s something I continue to unpack with my therapist :).

Most of us have a felt sense for what failure means in our body, and speaking from my own body, it ain’t a pretty sensation. Initially, it feels really hard to keep my breathing calm. My shoulders and neck get super tense and I clench my jaw. I also notice that my gaze gets really focused yet my attention starts to broaden. To give you the graphic representation, it feels like I want to gag (kinda like I’m preparing to cough up my diaphragm like a hairball), get the hell out of my burning skin and run for the hills.

Seriously though, I’ve failed A LOT, more times than I’d like to admit. And I’m not talking about small failures either. I’m talking about the kind of failures that have destabilized me. Shook me to the core and completely altered the landscape of my relationships, finances, mental and physical wellbeing.

And, if you’re anything like me (human), then you’ve also most likely failed, a lot too. I can’t say that I particularly love failing, but I’ve learned through its life-altering lessons that it’s made me into a better person (and continues to) even four decades in :).

Failure is life’s great teacher, and maybe offers more than the successful outcome. Think of all the value in learning and information gained from those experiences. Failure, as much as it hurts, is an important part of life. In fact, I kinda think failure is necessary. Without failure, we’d be less capable of compassion, empathy, kindness, and great achievement; we would be less likely to dream big and reach for the stars. And how about the joy that comes from accomplishment, overcoming the odds, succeeding?

So why don’t we all want to jump up and voluntarily fail at something? Social pressures for one. I think many of us can relate to hearing “I told you so,” and, “you should have listened to me.” when failure is on the table. (I say f-uck these people.) We excessively punish those who fail.

How about growing up? Were you ever taught to fail? Did you have parents that shielded you from experiencing failure? Did you feel like you could share failures with others? Maybe you relate to the shame that often comes with failure. Who wants to share that? Side thought here: I happen to believe that sharing failures with others can make us stronger and more resilient. Definitely not weaker.

On a neurological level, our nervous system has evolved to keep us safe. This is what really fascinates me as for how it interplays when I teach and shows up with students. Failing isn’t safe. Our ancestors knew this very well as failure to avoid the lion in the bush may have meant death. If not a harmful outcome, a shit tonne of anxiety and hypervigilance was experienced to remain successful at staying alive. Fast forward to the modern day. When we exercise, our body throws up lots of stress signals (whether we hear them or not) when we go into positions or ranges, or pick up more weight, that might cause injury to the tissues. Our inner critic might talk us out of doing something if even just the slightest whiff of failure is in the air. Our autonomic response might be to avoid, run away or give up when faced with failure. Some of us might get frustrated, overwhelmed and even numb out when we get too close to it. How ever we may confront failure its likely not from a connected, balanced and regulated state. So what to do about this? I think that like everything that we practice we can become more self-aware and comfortable with the task. Failure is no different.

So back to the F-bomb. I think we need to practice failing more. Bringing in as much curiousity, compassion and enthusiasm that we can muster - for ourselves and each other. I like to share the idea of playing in the failure sandbox at the start of a class. This helps to disarm some of the attitudes folks might have about failing. I’ve seen this shift first hand with my students and its remarkable.

We’ll begin with a fairly simple task like bouncing a tennis ball on the floor between hands. Once everyone looks to have the hang of it I ask them to lift their gaze to the horizon and even close their eyes. As it is our tendency to avoid failure the sounds of the bouncing balls becomes less at this point as folks begin to work out their strategies at not failing in their head. You can feel the tension increase in the room as the wheels spin. I see some folks closing just one eye. Others keeping the smallest slit between the lids so they can still see what’s happening. While others lifting their chins just enough, gazing intensely down their cheeks, to maintain a site line with the ball. Some will stop bouncing the ball altogether looking around the room a bit flustered, maybe confused. (Sometimes glaring at me with that WTF stare.)

No matter how they engage with the task, inevitably at some point, a ball goes flying across the room. And then another...and another. As you might imagine the situation turns into a bit of a hot mess with tennis balls flying in all directions. It is at this point that I remind everyone that we’re all in the failure sandbox together. And the shift begins. Students start to test their edges. Close their eyes a little tighter (both of them!) or lift their gaze for a little longer. They lose their ball and return to the task quickly and excitedly. That frown muscle softens. Giggles and laughter are more present. Frustration and judgement morph into empathy and curiousity. This short warm-up becomes the foundation for the rest of the class allowing us to explore bigger failures in our body like coordination, balance, getting up and off the ground, strength, mobility, etc. etc. etc.

I’m not suggesting that all people will respond to this type of training in the same way this group does. But it is a good way to prime them (and you too!) for the experience of pushing their own boundaries in the face of failure.

And here’s the bonus. Get a bunch of us humans in that sandbox together and now we’re connecting to the social functioning of our nervous system. I think this co-regulation with others allows us to engage with the experience of failure in a different way. We’re more receptive to it, inspired by it and can even laugh at it. I wonder if failing together in the pack just makes it all the more fun?

When I step into my own sandbox and open to vulnerability this has helped me connect with other humans in a deeper and more meaningful way. I’m better able to embrace life lessons I wouldn’t have learned previously. I even feel some joy in what typically might have sucked hard and felt painful emotionally. It still surprises me (and deeply warms my heart) to observe this with my students. The more we practice at failing in movement the more enthusiastic we get and a deeper connection to our own resilience is achieved. It’s no longer just about a moment of shame or embarrassment or frustration.

Looking at this through a wider lens I think that failing in our movement practice helps to build resilience in many other aspects of life. The more we fail, the more resilient we become, and the more we can let go of that shame and embarrassment. And maybe, just maybe, connect to a little bit of joy too. Win-win.

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

- Winston Churchill

Looking forward to embracing my next failure with enthusiasm Winston.


Cranial Nerve X - Your Socializer (video added May 23)

God damn, this shit is so f**king cool (thanks for sharing in my enthusiasm Jay Fields, Somatic Coach extraordinaire ). So, I recently came across the work of Stanley Rosenberg. It’s kinda mind-blowing. His research over the past few decades is proposing how we might heal from common psychological and physical symptoms - anxiety, depression, migraines and back pain to name a few - by tapping into the healing power of the vagus nerve, AKA cranial nerve X.

We know that our health and well-being are dependent on an optimally functioning and resilient nervous system. At the root of this adaptability, especially to stress, is the vagus nerve. It plays a mega role in determining our psychological and emotional states...thereby affecting how we function socially. If this makes you go hmmm, check out Polyvagal Theory.

From my own experiences, and from what clients have shared with me, chronic stress and trauma can seriously impede our ability to engage socially (among other things). According to Rosenberg, this is indicative of an improperly functioning vagus nerve (ventral branch to be specific). A dysregulated vagus nerve as it were - which points to greater autonomic nervous system dysregulation.

I’ve known for a while that I’m not a fan of partner work, of any kind, especially in movement classes. Do you ever find it hard to work in partners? My tendency is to shut down, making it hard for me to attune to myself, let alone my partner. Sometimes I feel a lot of anxiety, unease and agitation. Other times I struggle with confusion and even tunnel vision. It’s kinda like I’m driving in a heavy fog with my high beams on. Ekkk. That doesn’t sound safe and really a metaphor for what I’m feeling in my body.

Last year I decided to take a deep dive and try to figure out why I was so affected when working in relation to other humans. Even humans I know well can ignite these feels (teachers and friends). I genuinely enjoy moving with other people - it's the mammal DNA in me. I’m fascinated by what can come out of these interactions - goosebump fascinated. I also love where my personal movement practice is taking me - which has included the challenge of more partnered work. Time to get down to brass tacks.

I’ve learned there are some pretty simple body based exercises that you can do to regulate the vagus nerve to restore/enhance social engagement. What?!

Here are the steps for Rosenbergs Basic Exercise, which takes about 5 mins to complete (pics below for reference):

  1. I begin by assesses how much I can comfortably rotate my head to the right and left without moving the rest of my body. I’m interested in my range of motion and if I experience any pain, discomfort or stiffness. I’ll spend a few moments/breaths with my head in one direction, take a mental note of what I feel/experience, and then do the same on the opposite side. I will repeat this assessment again at the end to compare.

  2. I interweave my fingers and place them behind my head. FYI, it's totally fine to use just one hand with the fingers and palm contacting both sides of the back of your head.

  3. Now on my back (can be done in a seated position as well) I attune to the weight of my head on my fingers and try to feel the bones of my fingers on the back of my head. Gaze is straight up in this position (obviously, and to the horizon if you’re seated).

  4. Keeping my head still, I move just my eyes to the right, as far as I can go comfortably. I keep looking right (just eyes!) for about 30-60 secs - or until I swallow, yawn or sigh (more on this magical experience below). Note - if you haven’t moved your eyes like this in a while it may feel challenging to keep them looking one direction (even nauseating). Just do you’re best. It will get easier with practice.

  5. I then bring my eyes back through the centre position and then move them in the opposite direction. Again, just the eyes move, keep the head and neck still. Hold the eyes in that direction until you notice a sigh, yawn or swallow.

  6. I finish by uprighting myself slowly (to avoid dizziness) and assess my neck rotations. Any changes? I compare my notes about how I was feeling before and after. Does my body feel different? After several days of practice, what else is changing?

    PERSONAL OBSERVATION - In my experimentation sometimes the shift can feel pretty subtle. I didn’t always experience a sigh, swallow or bigger yawn. Sometimes it was just a deeper exhale. In any case, I suggest you don’t hang out longer than a minute waiting for the sigh or swallow. That may not be the thing your body wants to do.

    NOTE - Like anything new take things slow and be gentle. I’d suggest connecting with a trusted health care practioner before engaging with this exercise, especially if you’ve experienced trauma or a concussion.

I was working though some neck pain and shot this video of the Basic Practice if you need to engage with it in a dfferent way.

So, more about this magical experience of yawning, sighing or swallowing (generally speaking):

  • This is a sign of improved regulation of my vagus nerve

  • Also a sign of improved homeostasis in my autonomic nervous system

  • Which translates to an increase of parasympathetic tone in my body

  • Equaling, more capacity for me to socially engage! Woot woot!

If this is new to you and maybe even sounds a little woohoo, consider some of the physiological benefits:

  • This deceptively simple exercise of controlled rotation of the head and eye movement engage the suboccipital muscles in the back of your head, drawing the first two vertebrae into alignment.

  • This repositioning of C1 and C2 increases mobility in the neck and the entire spine - it all connects.

  • Better movement of the neck will increase blood flow to the brainstem.

  • This acts to nourishing the 5 cranial nerves necessary for social engagement, which originate from the brainstem.

Which my friends, in turn, improves the function of the ventral branch of the vagus nerve.

Clients I have shared this exercise with are surprised to experience an improvement in mobility even after one practice session. They have also reported feeling calmer and cooler in their body, have better focus, and even feel more comfort and ease in simply liting their gaze up from the ground (and holding it there). I typically will have them walk around after a practice session for a minute or two to integrate all this new information that their body has learned.

Give it a try. I’d love to know how it goes.

Learn more about Stanley here - http://www.stanleyklinik.dk/

TAKE 5 FOR YOU TODAY

As I continue to navigate the chaos of this feisty week I thought I’d share some more tools and resources I’m drawing on to stay present, grounded and mostly regulated - no easy feat! I found that if I break things down into short manageable experiences and practice at least one 5 times a day (or you could try all 5 throughout the course of your day) I was more successful at making time and sticking to a practice of connecting to the present moment.

AND I felt more settled, grounded and regulated! #win.

SO MY TAKE 5 FOR YOU TO TRY:

1 - Practice 5 ¼ sun salutations or chi gong movements with the arms in an upright position (either seated or standing). Get the body moving, blood flowing, and notice where you and the space around you meet (maybe not try this on the subway, during rush hour - awkward).

2 - Give yourself an applause - Clap your hands 5 times - and do so with some UMF (is that a word??). Note: if you do this in the am and are the first up, well, you might not be the most popular.

3 - If you’re a java drinker see if you can connect to the aroma of your coffee, or even the scent that fills the air if you’re in a coffee shop, or passing by one. Take 5 intentional breaths through your nose. What does your coffee/the scent of coffee smell like - Chocolate? Rich? Acidic? Vanilla? If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can also try this with your tea or with baked goods.

4 - Read 5 lines, paragraphs or pages about something that you’re curious about or from that book/magazine that lives on the shelf or you toot around in your bag. If when you’re done you still feel called to continue reading...then maybe consider sticking with it for a bit longer?

5 - Towards the end of my day (or sooner) I’m gonna give myself a hug and take 5 natural, calm breaths thru my nose. I’ll put my attention into feeling the movement of breath within my own embrace. I will also try connecting to a few things (maybe 5) that I accomplished today - I got up. I went to work. I completed a chore or task - simple life things. And then I’ll try to sit with that feeling of accomplishment or contentment for a few moments - marinate in it, soak it up, take it into my core/centre.

What are some of your short and quickie take 5 tools and resources?

Yoga For Resilience - Monday's at the Healing Collective!

I'm excited to announce that Yoga For Resilience get's underway next week - yay! This trauma informed all-levels practice is centered around supporting an experience that fosters self-awareness and a more compassionate relationship with yourself and the world around you. 

CompassMindBody-InstagramPost2.jpg

There are many benefits to a mind-body practice like yoga, including: 

  • Feeling more grounded, centered and regulated

  • Cultivating a sense of feeling more at home in your body

  • Boosting quality of sleep

  • Improving posture, strength, coordination and balance

  • Managing somatic issues and chronic pain

  • Connecting to your inherent resilience

  • Improving confidence and self-respect

Classes are 60 mins in length on Tuesday's at 9:30am and Wednesday's at 6:00pm. I'm going to cap things at 10 students - I love sardines, I just don't need to experience what it's like to be in that can :) Please bring a mat unless you like practicing without one. I will supply props as needed and feel free to bring any fav props of your own. You might also like to bring a journal as I will provide time at the end of class for you to document your experience (completely optional). Don't forget your water bottle!

Drop into a class for $20 or purchase a 5 class pass for $90 (6 month expiry). I can currently only accept cash at the studio but you can pay online in advance when you register.

The Healing Collective is located on the main floor of 2005 Danforth Ave. - south side just west of Woodbine - look for the Field & Flower store front. It’s a 5 min walk from the Woodbine subway station and there is street parking. Barrier free entry through the front entrance. The washroom is located on the main floor, but is not wheelchair accessible. 

I hope to see you soon!

As Rick Hanson says: Drop The Load

BlowUpTheToDoList.png

It's taken me a really long time (like 2+ decades) to be able to see tasks for what they are - simply tasks.

According to Google's dictionary, used as noun we're talking about a piece of work to be done or undertaken. As a verb, a task might be something we assign a piece of work to.

Do you see anything about emotion or feeling in that definition? I don't, but it doesn't mean I haven't felt emotionally hijacked or sucked into a story in my head when reviewing my task list (aka to do's personal, professionally, socially, etc.).

Dr. Hanson discusses this and more in his most recent Just One Thing - Drop The Load blog post. He identifies 4 areas to consider when you examine your own relationship to tasks:

  1. Take on Fewer Tasks
  2. Put a Fence around Doing
  3. Shift Your Relationship to Tasks
  4. Recognize That Tasks Are “Empty”

Bingo!

For me personally, it wasn't until #4 landed that I was able to decouple the tight grasp of emotion from the clear reality of it all. This has allowed me to:

  • Cut my to do list by 1/3 - for reals!
  • Prioritize tasks based on legit urgency (not "must" urgency) and where they fit in the big picture.
  • Pause and respond from a regulated state and not from a wild reactive place - ever sent an email that you kinda regretted?

You can read the blog in full here - https://www.rickhanson.net/drop-the-load/