Listening to your body

I am one of these people whose emotions manifest somewhere in their bodies, almost instantaneously! Particularly anxiety or worry will be felt in my stomach usually as a swirling emotion and sadness/grief in my chest or head area.

I am one of these people whose emotions manifest somewhere in their bodies, almost instantaneously! Particularly anxiety or worry will be felt in my stomach usually as a swirling emotion and sadness/grief in my chest or head area. The other part of my body that carries my emotions is my lower back- not all of my back pain is emotionally connected, but when I am feeling down or having relationship issues, my lower back will often hurt.

I have learned to use this as a guidance system to what is going on inside of me and to bring things into awareness that I was out of touch about and then take care of the emotions in some way. For me taking care of worry or anxiety is doing soothing self talk and exercise. I am amazed that even a 5 minute walk with almost always reduce any anxiety I feel. When I am sad or feeling down, what helps me is to journal and to connect with others, and then I usually feel the physical sensations subside.

With the individuals I have seen in therapy, I have had a front row seat in seeing how our emotions manifest in our bodies from fainting, vomiting, heart palpitations, tingly sensations, headaches, movement problems to high blood pressure influenced by stress.

I do believe in a balanced approach to physical pain/problems that may have an emotional component. First and foremost, any medical causes have to be ruled out/ruled in! Then we can look at the mind/body connection and how our emotions may be influencing the physical.
A quick way to see if your bodily sensations are emotionally connected is to:

  • Scan your body in your mind. This can be quick, but notice what sensations are at each part, if any.
  • Describe the sensation, what does it feel like.
  • Ask yourself if this sensation is connected to anything in your life.
  • If an emotion/situation does get identified in this process, take some steps to listen to it and address it (talking, exercising, journaling, positive self talk, etc).

What is Art Therapy

Perhaps Wisconsin native artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) said it best while describing her own creative process, “I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

Angela Waldoch on Art Therapy:

Art Therapy 101

Perhaps Wisconsin native artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) said it best while describing her own creative process, “I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” This is the very core and beauty of art therapy.

So what is Art Therapy?

Art therapy is using art as a means of expression to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages, abilities, and from all walks of life. Research indicates the inherent powers of art making can help people resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight (AATA, 2011)

How is Art Therapy Powerful?

Art is the universal language. It is cross-cultural; it knows no age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. In fact, human beings have been expressing themselves through imagery since the beginning of time. Whether you define yourself as an artist or not, creating art is a natural, innate gift we all posses.

The creative art process allows the client to experience freedom of spontaneity, choice, and control. Art making operates on a meta-verbal and often subconscious level; it can offer a different perspective and insight for a client, especially the resistive client who does not want to talk. You will be surprised how quickly someone will open up if given the opportunity to create art. Suddenly, the art becomes the thing to talk about, and this also allows for separation from the client’s situation, in a safe and non-threatening way. The art then becomes the problem, not the person and situation.

Who Can Do Art Therapy?

Art therapists are trained mental health professionals well versed in both the areas of art application and professional counseling. However, art as a form of therapy can be used by any mental health professional. I recommend having at least these basic materials readily available in your office: white paper, markers, colored pencils, and crayons, just incase you encounter a client who cannot find the words to express what is happening right now.

Passive Aggressive

So many of us are not comfortable with expressing our anger or sharing what our needs are so we resort to passive aggressive behavior in an attempt to communicate what we are feeling or what we want.

So many of us are not comfortable with expressing our anger or sharing what our needs are so we resort to passive aggressive behavior in an attempt to communicate what we are feeling or what we want. Problem is, this behavior does not get our needs met and it usually brings distance to a relationship rather than closeness. What is passive aggressive behavior? A definition is a pattern of behavior where you where one reflects hostility or resentment through indirect means.

The bottom line is that we do not feel that we can express ourselves directly or we don’t know how too, but our feelings come out in other ways: procrastination, “forgetting”, sarcasm, not doing things well, talking behind people’s backs, etc. Some examples from my personal life is my mother, who always had a difficult time saying how she felt, would get sick or have a headache (like clockwork) when an event approached that she did not want to go to, but felt like she couldn’t say no.

Passive aggressiveness is not only about inability to express anger, but also a more general message “I can’t directly state what my needs/feelings are so I have to try to get them met/heard in other ways”. Often, the person learns through experience that their needs won’t be met, or their feelings are not important- to change this it can be skill-building (in effectively expressing ourselves) or deeper issues of “my needs are not important”.

Most of us have displayed passive aggressive behavior at some point in our lives and some of us use it on a regular basis! I have used avoidance as a coping mechanism, which can be very passive aggressive, depending upon the circumstances.

A word of caution about sarcasm:
Sometimes, not always, it’s a way to indirectly express how you feel, in usually a negative way that can harm the relationship. If your partner/child/friend doesn’t like your sarcasm, it’s probably a sign to tone it down.

Here are some questions to reflect upon regarding expressing your feelings and needs:

  • Is it difficult for you to express what your needs/feeling are
  • Is conflict very difficult for you, and you prefer to avoid it?
  • Do you use a LOT of sarcasm, and it’s been noticed and mentioned by others?
  • Do you talk behind other’s backs a lot instead of directly telling the person whom you have an issue with?
  • Do you often agree to do something, then find a reason to back out later (knowing that when you said yes, you really wanted to say no)?
  • Are you often told by others that you procrastinate, or do jobs poorly on purpose?

What to do if you recognize that you have some passive aggressive personality traits?
– Stay calm, many of us do! It’s great that you can NAME what the behavior is, acknowledge that it is related to not expressing our feelings/needs, make a commitment to yourself that you will make steps in letting your needs be known, even when it’s uncomfortable (and it will be very uncomfortable at first) in a direct honest way. Do you not know what would constitute direct and honest way of expressing yourself? Then get some books on communication and practice building those skills! If you think you have some deep seated beliefs that your feelings/needs don’t matter, you may benefit from individual counseling to explore/heal that part of you.

Help! My Partner & I No Longer Communicate!

The leaves are turning colors and it gets chilly at night. I love the cooler air! We are walking more at night as a family and that’s been a very nice experience and good time to talk. At the clinic, our two new therapists (Deb Graf and Layne Sampson) are up and running and doing great.

Question and Answer:

My partner and I are both so defensive that we can’t communicate about anything anymore. Help!

Learn some basic communication tools and stick with them- such as using “I” statements, and making a pact to not blame or cut each other down. Then, understand what is happening is that each of you do not feel understood by the other, and the goal is to listen and acknowledge what the other is saying.
When communicating about heated topics, searching for and acknowledging areas of agreement can be very powerful in helping both parties feel understood and to reduce the chances of stalemate. For example, if you are disagreeing over discipline for your teen, acknowledging that you both love the child and are trying to do what is best can greatly reduce the defensiveness and eventually lead to solutions you both feel comfortable with.

So often in our arguments with our significant other, we don’t necessarily want to “win”, we want to feel understood, and when we feel understood, we are much more willing to look for areas of compromise. This works with kids too!

Excerpt from Mindful Living Blog: Healing Stories

Telling stories can be a fun activity, but it is also good for you! When we share stories of how we grew up, our parents or extended families, we build upon the connections and it helps shape our identity. Telling stories helps us see that we are part of something much larger than ourselves.

Research:

Marriage: It’s not if you fight, but how you fight, that can help or hurt.
However, if fighting is inevitable, why do so many marriages last—and, indeed, thrive—for a lifetime? The answer isn’t whether or not you fight, but how you go about it. The couples who have learned how to fight fairly, and also when to just walk away have stronger/healthier marriages!
Time Magazine, Sept. 29, 2010

From the director:

The leaves are turning colors and it gets chilly at night. I love the cooler air! We are walking more at night as a family and that’s been a very nice experience and good time to talk. At the clinic, our two new therapists (Deb Graf and Layne Sampson) are up and running and doing great. Tricia Schutz has expanded her hours due to high demand and it’s been nice having her around more. The play therapy room has been a hit so far with kids, and we are so happy to be able to offer that service to the community. Thank you, to our clients and others who refer to us- we appreciate it and will continue to practice with integrity and skill.

 

Helping Kids Ease Back Into School

Back to school time!! Our youngest, Lara, starts her last year of high school tomorrow. It’s my last year sending a child to school, and if feels bittersweet. We will take a picture of her on the porch with our dog like we do every year,

Back to school time!! Our youngest, Lara, starts her last year of high school tomorrow. It’s my last year sending a child to school, and if feels bittersweet. We will take a picture of her on the porch with our dog like we do every year, and she will be so tired when she gets home; she is going to pay for all the late summer nights. Good luck to all the parents and kids going back to school. This newsletter features some articles on how to make the transition easier on the whole family. I have been expanding my reading repertoire lately; just finished Truman (home spun ethical man), and Glass Castle (a memoir on an unusual family, which made me thankful for regular meals!). Next I am reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, then onto Truck and Coop by a northern Wisconsin writer. With the days getting shorter I will have more time to read, as long as I stay away from TV ; ). Enjoy the cooler weather and be good to yourself! Devona Marshall Clinic Director

Easing into School

Here are some tips from a mother of 3 (me!) on how to make the transition back to school easier for all of you:

  • Go to sleep early and avoid naps! This tip is mainly for you Lara!
  • Have a healthy snack ready for after school because most children will be hungry when they get home.
  • Try and have family dinners more often than not.
  • Keep on top of homework early in the semester; don’t wait until it’s too late to catch up. Another tip for Lara! ; )
  • Stay organized, both at home and school.
  • Spend time outdoors- its stress reducing and healthy.
  • Avoid the drama of teenage girls; be the girl who is kind to others and does not put anyone down.
  • Try something new! A new sport, hobby or extracurricular activity.
  • Have some family fun, even if it’s just on the weekend.
  • You will all probably be tired and crabby for a few weeks- expect it and be extra kind to each other

Research Review:

A worksheet for math-phobic parents
August 29, 2012, Wall Street Journal
Parents who often talk to their youngsters about numbers, and explain spatial relationships in gestures and words, tend to instill better math skills, according to a study.

Delayed development: Blame the 20-something brain
August 21, 2012, Wall Street Journal
Recent research into how the brain develops suggests that people are better equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s than earlier in the decade.

Focusing on children, not relationship problems helps separated couples
August 17, 2012, Medical News Today
Hostile relationships can improve when ex-spouses set aside their differences and focus on their children’s needs.

Blog Archive:

On being Kind
Many of us were not raised with good role models for self kindness, but that’s OK, it’s not an excuse to not treat yourself gently now. Perhaps you grew up in a home where criticism was rampant; they didn’t know any better. And the people I meet who are most critical of others, are often the hardest on themselves (sometimes secretly).

Those of us who are the most compassionate with ourselves are also the kindest to others. It’s a win-win for the world.