Reducing worry about Covid-19

Blog Post No. 62

25th April 2020

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2020

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Survival skills for very difficult times: Reducing Covid-19 anxiety and worry

By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach/Counsellor

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Introduction

Ok magazine, Davina McCollMillions of people are going through terrible uncertainty and fear for their families and their incomes at the moment, all over the world, because of Covid-19.

Various individuals have described what a massive challenge the current situation has been for them to deal with.

For example, Davina McCall stated in a recent interview in the UK magazine ‘OK’,[1] that she had been battling anxiety, and she said that:

“If you start thinking too far in advance it becomes too much for your brain to handle.”

However, the problem is not really about how far in advance you try to think, but the idea that the future contains threats and dangers, which worry and/or frighten you.

And Catherine Zeta-Jones stated in the same issue of ‘OK’ magazine, in a section which was headed “Lessons in Lockdown”, that: “I worry about everything”.

What can they do to handle this?

Front cover 2I have recently co-authored a book on how to overcome worry, using various approaches.

In this blog I am going to describe one of those approaches: an ancient technique which helps you to reduce your worrying.

Anxiety and worry are not just a mental strain, but also very bad for your physical health.

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The worries mentioned by Davina McCall and Catherine Zeta-Jones, sound very onerous and trying, and it would be good if they could figure out how to stop worrying so much.

And that is certainly possible, as indicated in Dale Carnegie’s book, ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’.

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The price we pay for worrying

First calloutKnowing the effect of worry on the central nervous system can be very useful.   It’s important to know what the bodily price tag is for worrying. Awareness of the physical effects of worrying can protect you against allowing worry to take over your mind. If you know you are harming yourself, you are less likely to allow worry to dominate your mind.

It can also be helpful to know Dr Tom Miller’s view that “Worry is a magical attempt to control something which cannot be controlled by worry!”

And those two insights can, with other strategies, stop you going over and over problems in your mind.  Worry can keep you awake when you need to be sleeping at night, which prevents you then feeling fully re-energized in the morning.

The beneficial effects of not worrying are described by Reid (2003)[2], like this:

“When you ‘don’t worry’, your adrenal glands don’t secrete stress hormones such as cortisone, which suppress immune response and enervate the nervous system with hypertension. When you are happy, your brain secretes neuropeptides, the happy hormones that communicate directly with the glands of the endocrine system, and signal them to ‘turn on the juice’ of healing hormones and other growth factors.” (Page 319).

Potential solutions

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8So what can we do to handle the uncertainty of this present health crisis?

How can we stop worrying?

I want to describe a very ordinary skill, but one that is hard to practise and is a daily challenge to do; but the physical and mental rewards are well worth the effort.

The skill I want to describe is the skill of practising living in the present.

This practice – which includes the ideas of meditation and mindfulness – helps you to avoid going off into the future, where you worry about threats and dangers.  If you keep your mind focussed on the present moment, there are no threats or dangers to worry about.

To help you to stay in the present, you can focus your attention on your breathing, as the breath comes into your lungs, and goes out again.  In addition, you can count your breaths, over and over again, which further keeps your mind focussed on the here and now.

That’s all you have to do – but it is surprisingly good for you.

In the absence of this kind of ‘present time awareness’, your mind can take over your body and drain it of energy.

More detail on meditation

Buddha-image-2Meditation is an extremely simple process, and there are a lot of different techniques. One of them is called ‘breath counting’, and is said to have been recommended by the Buddha Gautama, about 2,500 years ago. You simply count your breaths, over and over again from one to four, as you breathe in and out.

You must breathe ‘from your diaphragm’, which is a dome shaped muscle between the bottom of your lungs and the top of your intestines. As you breathe in, you push your diaphragm down, which expands your belly. You might have to experiment a little to make this happen.

As you breathe out, you belly returns to a flatter state.  This is called ‘belly breathing’, and it is illustrated on a number of video clips at YouTube.  (Do not let your upper chest rise.  That is called ‘anxiety breathing’).

Firstly, sit comfortably; with you back straight; hands open, one on top of the other; palms facing upwards; thumbs touching each other, and both little fingers touching your belly button region.

Secondly, count (silently in your mind):

– 1 on the in-breath;

– 2 on the out-breath;

– 3 on the in-breath; and

– 4 on the out-breath.

And repeat, over and over.

Slowly, slowly, let your rate of breathing slow down; and relax your body. And, as you breathe, focus your attention on your diaphragm, where your breath is fully experienced. Feel the air filling your lungs, from bottom to top.

I suggest you try 10 minutes a day at first. Ten minutes of peace! But as you get to feel the effects on your body, I would suggest that you build up to 30 minutes a day. That will be really good for your mind and body; and it will improve the quality and quantity of your nightly sleep.

If breath counting doesn’t work for you there are a variety of other methods. For example, some people chant a single word mantra – like ‘Om’ – or a multi-word mantra – ‘Namo Amitaba’.

The results and benefits of meditation

  1. Your calm breathing will switch on the “rest and digest” branch of your autonomic (automatic) nervous system, and your body will begin restoring your energy and healing you. This also switches off the tendency to worry.

Your body will become more relaxed and rested, and this will mean that when you experience stressful events, you will be meeting them with a more relaxed body/mind. Therefore the stress response will be less powerful and you’ll recover more quickly, making it much less likely that you will tend to worry.

  1. Focussing on your breath keeps you in the present, and stops you creating scary images about the future.

image-3-indian-master

Conclusion

This blog has suggested that worry can have a nasty effect on your body, even in people who are great role models of physical fitness, like Davina McCall. And meditation is one of several valuable ways of reducing the effects of worry on you.

To see details of our most recent book about how to reduce worry, called ‘Cutting through the worry knot’, please click the link:

https://abc-bookstore.com/how-to-reduce-and-control-your-anxiety/

Bringing your mind back to the present, with meditation, will help you strengthen yourself in the face of the regular and shocking daily news that we hear about the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meditation reduces stress levels and helps people sleep much better.

Some people meditate each morning, and again when they want to get off to sleep at night; or if they wake up in the night and want to get back to sleep again.

Here is a very good website which has gone into detail about the benefits of meditation: https://parade.com/969668/ericasweeney/benefits-of-meditation/

Best wishes,

Renata

BlueLogo13CRenata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

renata@abc-counselling.org

01422 843 629

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[1] OK, Issue 1234, 28th April 2020. http://www.ok.co.uk

[2] Reid, D. (2003) The Tao of Detox: The natural way to purify your body for health and longevity. London: Simon & Schuster.

Freud, sex, literature, Descartes, and the body-brain-mind-environment-complexity

Blog Post No. 170

By Dr Jim Byrne

23rd July 2018

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Dr Jim’s Blog: Freud, sex, literature, Descartes, and the body-brain-mind-environment-complexity!

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Part Two: More on ‘What are the linkages between psychology and psychotherapy, on the one hand, and literature, on the other’?

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, July 2018

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Introduction

Books on emotional intelligence.JPGRecently, I’ve been blogging about some of the important linkages, or overlaps, between psychology, on the one hand, and literature, on the other.

For examples: I have written about:

(1) Some of the books that helped to grow my emotional intelligence; or to help me to ‘complete’ (or process) some early, traumatic experience;

(2) My own semi-autobiographical novel/story about the life of Daniel O’Beeve – and how this is legitimate psychotherapy for the reader, as well as the writer;

(3) How to “write a new life for yourself” – in the form of a new paperback book about a system of psychotherapy, which I have developed over a number of years.

(4) How psychological insights seep into literature; and how literature in turn influences, or humanizes, psychology and psychotherapy.

Today, I want to describe some experiences with literature that I’ve had over the past couple of days.

Visiting bookshops in Bradford

Julian Barnes, Through the WindowTwo days ago – on Saturday 21st July – Renata and I took some time out and went to Bradford for lunch, and to take a look around the shops, including two bookshops and the main DVD/movie outlet (HMV, in the new arcade).

In Waterstones’ bookshop, towards the end of our visit, I was looking for something which would help me to reflect some more upon the linkages between psychology and literature.

There was nothing of any relevance in the Psychology section.

Then I went looking for a Literature section.  The best I could find were two adjacent book cases, one on Poetry, and one on Drama.  (Bradford is not a particularly big city).

In the drama section, there were a few books on literature, including one by Julian Barnes: Through the Window – Seventeen essays (and one short story); London; Vintage Books; 2012.

The blurb on the back of this book suggested it was exactly what I was seeking.  It began like this: “Novels tell us the most truth about life…”

I bought it, and brought it home, and dived into the Preface, which describes ‘a Sempé cartoon’, which shows three sections of a bookshop.  On the left, the Philosophy section; on the right, the History section; and in the middle, a window that looks out at a man and a woman who are approaching each other from roughly the locations of those two sections, and who are inevitably (and accidentally) going to meet in front of the middle section, which is the Fiction section.

For Julian Barnes, this cartoon describes his own beliefs about the central role of fiction in our lives.

“Fiction, more than any other written form, explains and expands life”, he writes, with great assurance.  “Biology, of course, also explains life; so do biography and biochemistry and biophysics and biomechanics and biopsychology.  But all the biosciences yield no biofiction.  Novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, how it goes wrong, and how we lose it.  Novels speak to and from the mind, the heart, the eye, the genitals, the skin; the conscious and the subconscious.  What it is to be an individual, what it means to be part of a society. What it means to be alone.  …” Etcetera.

However, it could be objected that, while the various sciences instruct, and suggest what must be done and not done, the literary arts merely create visceral and emotive sensations, which must link up with our socialization in general – that is to say, our previous learning – to help us to decide what to do with this new literary information; these insights; or newly forming feelings and thoughts.

Indeed, it seems to me that if all we had was literature, then we would be “weaving without weft” – or trying to make a fabric without those long strings, from one end of the loom to the other, through which the shuttle passes.  We would be trying to make sense of fictions in the absence of the insights we gain from the various sciences, and the ruminations of the various philosophers.

However, the reverse is also true.  Without literature and art, the sciences would provide us with long strings of facts, set up on our mental looms, but with no means of weaving a living fabric of warmth and depth and emotional meaning.

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An example from fiction

John-Fowles-MantissaWhat I omitted from my story above is this: Before going to Waterstones’, we had visited the Oxfam shop, which has a vast floor dedicated to second-hand books, included the abandoned books of waves of undergraduates and postgraduates from the local universities: yards of books on Psychology, philosophy, health studies, and so on.  And then there’s History, and lots of novels – many of the pulp variety – and some classics.

During this visit, I did look at psychology, and health studies, and personal development; but I began by looking for a novel which might help me to elucidate some of the points I’ve been exploring in these blog posts.  And I did find one.

I found Mantissa, by John Fowles. This author’s name jumped out at me because I have read five of his nine books – but I had never come across Mantissa.

So I opened it, and what should leap off the page at me, but a quotation by René Descartes.  This had an electrifying effect upon me, because I have been arguing – in earlier blog posts in this series – that philosophies, like Descartes’ misleading ‘cogito’ (“I think therefore I am”), got into psychology; and that, whatever arises within, or gets into, psychology, inevitably finds its way into literature.  And here was a living proof of my assertions.  The particular quote from Descartes, promulgated by John Fowles, on page 5 of Mantissa, included the following conclusion:

“…this I, that is to say the soul by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body, is even easier to know than the body, and furthermore would not stop being what it is, even if the body did not exist”.

We know from previous considerations of this ‘cogito’-philosophy of Descartes by generations of philosophers, that it is impossible to sustain his beliefs about the body-mind split.

But the more important consideration is this: Why is John Fowles beginning his novel with this quotation?

Is it his intention to argue that we are souls, separate and apart from our bodies?

Or is he going to try to undermine Descartes’ belief?

Part I (of IV) begins with the suggestion of ‘a consciousness’ surrounded by “a luminous and infinite haze”. And out of this connectivity comes an individual consciousness – a male person, in a bed, looking up at two women; one of whom claims to be his wife, and the other a doctor (of neurology); and the suggestion emerges of ‘loss of personal memory’.  The ‘wife’ departs, and a nurse arrives to join the doctor, and it unfolds that the treatment for this poor man (Mr Green’s) mental problem is a physical therapy.  (The theory, explicitly stated by the doctor, is that there is a link between the genitals and the personal sense of remembered self!)

At this point, we can say that Fowles seems to be setting out to refute Descartes view of a separation between mind and body, by treating memory loss via the genitals. (Crazy theory, I know!  But it proves to owe a lot to Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages of human development!)

Fowles’ intention to undermine Descartes seems likely, especially given that the doctor in this story is a neurologist: a specialist in understanding brain-mind functioning. Or the physical brain as the substrate of mind.

Mr Green proves to be resistant to the sexual activities to which he is subjected by the doctor and the nurse, until, at the start of Part II, it emerges that no such reality exists.  There are no physical bodies present! It is all going on in the mind of Mr Green – (who is obviously, ultimately, Mr Fowles!) – who is essentially writing (in his mind) some scenes of pornography.

This is an echo of one of Descartes’ meditations, in which he wonders if he might be just a brain suspended in a vat by an evil demon, and that his brain imagines that it is attached to a body in an external environment.  (I know!  Descartes was a nut!)

(But think about today’s counsellors and psychiatrists.  Most counsellors think of the client as a floating mind!  And most psychiatrists think of the mind-brain as a chemical unit separate and apart from the stresses and strains of its social environment, its philosophy of life, and its personal history of experience!)

Towards the end of Part IV, it becomes obvious that all of the action being described within this narrative, is not actual action, but narrative within narrative; with a magical edge, provide by the presence of the Greek goddess, Erato: (originally introduced as the doctor of neurology!); and the pornographic ravings of a juvenile author (Fowles!)

There is a nod backwards towards Freud in this book; not alone by reducing all human activity to a sexual nightmare; but also these nuggets:

“Now listen closely, Mr Green”. (This is said by the doctor of neurology; who we later learn is the goddess Erato!) “I will try to explain one last time.  Memory is strongly attached to ego”. (NB: Ego is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the I’.)  “Your ego has lost in a conflict with your super-ego”, – (Super-ego is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the Over-I’ [the first instantiation of which is every baby’s mother]).  – “which has decided to repress it – to censor it”. (The concept of repression comes from Freud!) “All nurse and I wish to do is to enlist the aid of the third component of your psyche, the id”. (‘The id’ is the English-psychoanalyst rendering of Freud’s concept of ‘the It’; the ‘thing’ that we are at birth! The ‘whole thing’, body-brain-and-embryonic-mind). “Your id” writes Fowles, through the ethereal person of the doctor/goddess, “is that flaccid member pressed against my posterior.  It is potentially your best friend. And mine as your doctor.  Do you understand what I am saying?” (Page 31 of Mantissa).

So, I think some of my points are being ‘firmed up’ here (if you will pardon my inability to refrain from making a pun at the expense of Fowles and Freud!)  In particular, I think it is safe to say that ideas pass freely between philosophy, psychology and literature.  Each feeds off the other. There are no impermeable boundaries between those domains of thought!

And we have to be awake to this reality for various reasons which I will look at later.  The most obvious one being that fictions find their way into philosophy; and philosophical fictions find their way into psychology; and fictitious aspects of psychology inform counselling and psychotherapy!  And round and round!

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Back to Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes © Alan Edwards
Julian Barnes

Earlier I quoted a very strong argument by Julian Barnes, from the Preface of his book, Through the Window; in which he said: “Novels tell us the most truth about life…”.

However, if you read your texts closely, you will often be rewarded with insights like this: Barnes was inconsistent.

Really? In what way?

Well, just 45 words after the end of his strong claims about novels telling the most truth, we read this statement; the final statement of the Preface:

“The best fiction rarely provides answers; but it does formulate the questions exceptionally well”. (Emphasis added, JWB).

So, if we put his two main ideas together, we get this:

Novels tell us the most truth, but not in the form of answers; only in the form of questions!

Does that make any sense?  No.

Why not?

Because the novel actually presents imaginary scenarios as history. Reading those scenarios – and taking them at face value – the reader finds that certain questions automatically form within their body-brain-mind, based on their socialization; their past experiences; and their current circumstances.

The author cannot control which questions will form in the mind of the reader.

But what is the value of the questions that are thus formed by fictional writing?

The value is huge!  Why?  Because questions are the first and most essential part of what some people call ‘thinking’, but which I call ‘overt, conscious perfinking’ – where ‘perfinking’ means perceiving- feeling- thinking, all in one grasp of the mind.

So, novels impact us, by bringing up new thoughts, and especially questions, which, if we pursue them, may produce dramatic answers that shunt us out of a current reality into a range of new possibilities! In this sense, novels are potentially hugely therapeutic!

For this reason, I recommend novels – the very best novels – my counselling clients; and to my supervisees – counsellors who need to keep growing their hearts and minds; and improving thereby their body-brain-mind-environment-complexity!

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How did the body get into the previous statement?

Heckler-Anatomy-of-change.jpgIt might have been difficult to answer the question – ‘What does the body have to do with reading and/or writing novels?’

Except, while I was scanning the pages of John Fowles’ Mantissa, Renata came over to me and showed me a book she had found: ‘The Anatomy of Change: A way to move through life’s transitions’. This book was written by Richard Strozzi Heckler (1993), a teacher of Aikido (which is a system of Japanese unarmed combat – which I studied briefly at the Dublin Judo Club, in 1991-’62). Heckler’s philosophy of life can be summed up like this:

Renata pointed me at a section on Living in the Body; in which Heckler describes how he was once hired by a juvenile detention centre, where he was to work with difficult juveniles who were violent offenders.  He worked with one, physically huge, and very angry young man who expressed the desire to kill somebody, because he was so angry. Heckler, intuitively, and pragmatically, told this youth that he could show him precisely how to kill somebody.  The youth was hooked, and they began to work on the Aikido pressure points.  But this youth’s physical energies prevented him easily learning what needed to be learned; and so Heckler began to work on his body, to get him to the state where he could master the Aikido pressure points that he wanted to learn. However, through the process of focusing his attention on his own body, and learning to release tensions, this youth lost his interest in killing anybody. He was beginning to live in his body; and he realized it was more interesting to find out about himself than to kill anybody.

Moving a muscle can change a thought, and/or an emotion.  Physical training is profoundly stress reducing.  It teaches physical self-confidence.  And, the softening of ‘body armouring’ can release the person’s feelings, intuitions, and compassion, and, according to Heckler, it can heal our physical and emotional wounds.  (That certainly lines up with my own experience at the Dublin Judo Club [which was actually called the Irish Judo Association at the point when I joined]).  Our experiences shape our body-brain-mind; and we can begin to loosen and reframe our most troubling experiences by working from the body-side of our body-brain-mind, or from the mind-side of our body-brain-mind.

Conclusion

honetpie
Dr Jim Byrne

Reading a novel on the way to and from your equivalent of the Judo Club will double your progress in healing your body-brain-mind; and seeing a good, wise, broadminded counsellor, at some point each week, will also help!

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PS: If you want to see the kind of range of ideas that I write about, please go to Books about Emotive-Cognitive Therapy (E-CENT).***

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

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Manager insomnia harms workers and productivity

Blog Post No. 58

6th April 2018

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018


Renata’s Coaching Blog: Do managers/leaders realise how crucial their sleep habits are for their staff?

Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac:”- A revealing research study by a Professor of Management

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Introduction

I continue to do my research on the science of sleep, and the things I am discovering are really quite fascinating.  I have begun to structure my book on this subject as I go along with my research.

Here’s an example of the kinds of things I’m discovering:

Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac

When people are in a position of responsibility for, and control over others, their work can be very difficult and physically draining at times. (This applies to managers at every level: directors, company executives, university and college managers, social and health care managers, emergency service managers, police management, psychiatrists, supervisors, teachers, and parents; and many others). Because of this wear and tear, self-care is very important when you are managing people.  But so also is the need to take care of the people you manage.

uninterested-group

In this blog I’m going to describe a research study which shows how the physical condition of a leader (or manager) can negatively impact the behaviour of their employees, or staff.

The research was conducted by Christopher Barnes, (who is an associate professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business), with his colleagues Lorenzo Lucianetti, Devasheesh Bhave, and Michael Christian. He summarised the research they had done in an article in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, in an article entitled: “Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac.[1]

Sleep affects productivity – your own and your team’s

Harvard-review-image

Christopher Barnes’s previous research had investigated the effect in the workplace of the sleep behaviour of the staff, and he had found that sleep was crucial for replenishing people’s ability to control their own behaviour.

He and his colleagues then went on to conduct a field study of 88 leaders and their subordinates. For two weeks, they conducted surveys of leaders at the start of each work day, about the quality of the leader’s sleep on the previous night and the amount of self-control they had over themselves at the point of completing the survey questionnaire.

And for the same period of two weeks, their subordinates completed surveys when they had finished the day’s work, and recorded any abusive supervisor behaviour of their leader (manager) on that day, as well as their own work involvement on the same day. The research was aimed at focussing on the individual leaders, rather than assessing leaders in relation to each other.

Researchers tracked the amount of sleep that the leaders had (their sleep patterns) over a number of weeks. During that time, the reactions and observations of their subordinates to their leader’s performance was carefully recorded. (There was no knowledge, on the part of the workers, of the amount of sleep that their boss was getting, during the course of this research exercise).

Angry-boss

Sleep quality and quantity affects leadership ability

The research revealed that, if the supervisor had experienced a poor night’s sleep, this resulted in a more derogatory and disrespectful attitude towards the supervisees the following day.

Lack of restful sleep also led to a reduction in the leader’s ability to self-regulate – (to manage their responses to others constructively). This was described by the employees in their reports of their leader’s behaviour.

Another quite alarming result also occurred: On the days after the leader had a disturbed night’s sleep, the employees – (even if they had nourishing sleep themselves) – were less interested in their work during that day, as a result of the leader’s insomnia, with a consequent lack of productivity.  As Matthew Walker commented:

” …it was a chain reaction effect, one in which the lack of sleep in that one superordinate person in a business structure was transmitting on, like a virus, infecting even the well-rested employees with work disengagement and reduced productivity.” (Page 302, Walker. 2017)[2].

Conclusion

Sleeping-pair

Leading, managing and working with others needs energy and stamina, and this research is clear evidence of the vital importance of making sure that people working in management roles get a good night’s sleep (of at least seven to nine hours per night). This will have a really beneficial effect, not only on the manager’s own health, but also on the morale and work performance of the people they are in charge of during the working day, which can only be a very good thing for the organisation as a whole.

But changing habits and altering behaviour isn’t easy, especially when there is strong, social pressure to conform to the patterns of sleep of the people around you. Many managers feel under pressure to over-work and avoid self-care strategies, because of the macho cultures in some organizations. And these macho cultures actually work against the productivity of the organization!

Sorting out your priorities, as a working manager, can be difficult on your own; and being coached within your own organization can simply reinforce the pre-existing macho and self-neglectful culture.

The Lifestyle Counselling Book
The Lifestyle Counselling Book

In my chapter on sleep, in Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, I mentioned some former leaders who harmed their brains (and now we know, also their teams!) through lack of adequate sleep – Thatcher and Reagan being the most notable examples. The current President of the United States boasts that he only takes 5 hours sleep per night.  So don’t make the mistake of working for him, folks!

Clearly, you could often benefit from coaching outside your organization on the subject of managing your health and leadership ability by managing your sleep, and other lifestyle factors. This could be one of the best investments of your precious time that you ever make.

 

SLEEP-QUOTE-CALLOUTThe crux of leaderships is this: “Example, example, example!”  What kind of example are you currently setting, at home and in work, in terms of self-care, including adequate sleep?

Contact me if you want to be coached on how to manage your energy and increase the quality and quantity of your sleep, so that your working life and home life can be enriched.

Have a good night’s sleep!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

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References:

[1] Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/11/research-your-abusive-boss-is-probably-an-insomniac

[2] Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker (2017), Allen Lane Publishers.

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Build resilience with Chinese exercise

Blog Post No. 56

2nd March 2018 – Updated on 31st March 2020

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018/2020

Renata’s Coaching and counselling Blog:

Millions of Chinese people can’t be wrong! Why practising Chi Kung will keep you away from the doctor’s surgery

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Introduction

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8Keeping fit by doing lots of exercise is good for you, isn’t it?  There is lots of talk these days about the importance of keeping fit, and of avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

However, there are certain drawbacks with some types of exercise, which I want to tell you about, because you may not be aware of them.

Not all exercise is automatically good for your body. A lot  depends on the type of exercise you do.  A good deal of injury to muscles and joints is common in the most widely practised systems of exercise in the West.

In this blog I’m going to outline some of the differences between Eastern and Western types of exercise – and describe the benefits of Eastern exercise, and some of the disadvantages of Western exercise, which are not widely known.

It’s important that you know the effects of different types of exercise, so that you can make an informed choice, if you decide that you want to improve your health by exercising.

Why is this important?  Firstly, because you will want a good return on the investment of your valuable time and money. And secondly, because you will want to avoid physical damage to your body.

‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ exercise

In his book, ‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003), Reid makes a distinction between ‘Hard’ exercise and ‘Soft’ exercise, and he explains the different effects these two types of exercise have on the body.

Here’s what ‘Hard’ exercise includes:

hard-exercise-picture

And now for some ‘Soft’ exercise systems:

Soft-exercise

The effects of ‘hard ‘exercise on the body

 There are lots of benefits from active sports, but there is also a downside to them. Here are some of the effects on the body of hard systems of exercise:

Infographic-on-hard-exercise.JPG

As you can see, the effects on the body aren’t all beneficial, and if there is also a competitive element to the sport, then this can act as a source of stress throughout the body-brain-mind.

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For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The effects of ‘soft’ exercise on the body

The Eastern approach to exercise (which we’ve called a ‘soft’ approach) is that the exercise must be therapeutic for the body. So let us look at some evidence of the value of soft exercise.   And this will help us to understand why millions of Chinese have practised it continuously for thousands of years.

Here are some of the benefits:

# One of the top rewards of doing this type of exercise is that it switches your body into the ‘rest and digest’ (or healing) mode of functioning.  When you do ‘Soft’ exercise (which involves slow, rhythmic movements, combined with deep breathing), this shifts the autonomic (or automatic) nervous system into the calming, healing branch of your nervous system and keeps it there throughout the exercise.

This enhances the immune system and stimulates the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

# It also stimulates the thymus (the immune system’s master gland) and other glands, to release the full range of immune system protection factors; and at the same time it stops the release of the stress hormones which are part of the ‘Fight or flight’ response – (which  have powerful immune-system inhibiting effects).

# “Chi-gong also stimulates the increase in secretions of natural steroids”, states Daniel Reid (2003) “thereby relieving arthritis without the need to resort to the toxic synthetic steroids which most doctors prescribe for this condition.” (Page 114)

group-chi-gong

# Furthermore, apparently when we stretch our muscles, this squeezes stagnant blood from our body tissues and then the relaxation part allows fresh arterial blood to flow in. And stretching also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which we need to stimulate through body movement each day, so that wastes (e.g. toxic waste products, infectious microorganisms, etc), can be destroyed by our white blood cells, as they pass through the lymph nodes.

Because these soft exercises are always done in a relaxed, smooth and slow manner, with the smallest amount of effort, this means that no lactic acid is produced in the body tissues, which is a side effect of ‘hard’ exercise.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The benefits to the body (continued)…

Benefits-of-soft-exercise-chart.JPG

# Doing these soft exercises slowly ensures that the heart doesn’t race, and the breath isn’t reduced.

# Apparently twenty minutes of Chi Kung practice slows down the pulse by an average of 15%, while increasing the overall amount of blood circulating in the body, and this effect lasts for several hours afterwards.

This increase in the flow of blood around the body results from the way soft exercise alters the workload of circulation from the heart, over to the diaphragm.

And one of the implications is this: High blood pressure, which is a life-threatening condition all over the world, can be controlled without effort by doing daily Chi Kung practice, without the need for drugs.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Research findings on how Chi Kung reduces blood pressure

At the Shanghai Research Institute for Hypertension, one hundred people who were suffering from chronic high blood pressure and hypertension, took part in a research project to test whether Chi Kung exercise could help them.

What the researchers found was that after only five minutes of Chi Kung practice, blood pressure levels in all of the participants began to drop dramatically. And after twenty minutes their blood pressure reached the level it normally would have reached after three hours as a result of taking the kinds of blood-pressure drugs normally prescribed by Western medical practitioners.

Ninety-seven of the participants stayed free of high blood pressure and didn’t have to use the drugs any more, just by continuing to practice Chi Kung at home every day.

And the three patients who decided not to continue their Chi Kung practice quickly relapsed and had to go back on drug therapy.

Older-people-chi-gong-practitioners

The benefits of Chi Kung for the brain

# Electroencephalographic (EEG) scans of elderly people in China – who practice Chi Kung daily – show signs of rejuvenation.  That is to say, a pattern and frequency of brain waves has been found that are usually found in the brains of young children.  This is interpreted as showing that those who regularly practise this type of exercise can bring back the mental skills and abilities they had when they were young.

# Also, Chi Kung infuses the brain with energy, and activates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and enkephalins. The effect of this is that brain functions are balanced.  Mental alertness is increased, and pain reduced.  And communication is enhanced between the brain and the peripheral nervous system.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Chi Kung benefits for the digestion process

# Indigestion, and acid reflux, are very common for people who are following a Western diet.  According to studies in China, the practice of Chi Kung affects the stomach in a beneficial way.  For example, fifteen minutes of practise of Chi Kung produces a big increase in the enzymes which are released by the stomach to digest food: pepsin, and other digestive enzymes; plus lysozyme, which is secreted by the salivary glands. Apparently this system of exercise balances the pH level in the stomach (the level of acid and alkalinity) and this helps prevent acid indigestion.

Conclusion

We are socialized in the UK, Europe and America to see sports as a necessarily competitive process, either between different teams (for example the recent Winter Olympics) or competing against one’s own previous performance at a particular sport. But competition causes stress, as nobody wants to lose the race, or to let their team down!  And even after your team has won, there is always the anxiety about next time!  Next time we might lose!  And then who would we be?!

And inevitably there are vast audiences for these competitive sports.  And this has become a major form of involvement in sport: A passive, consumerist approach.

But what about the health of the people who are watching these events? Clearly, their health doesn’t get better by watching other people exercising. In fact, we now know that sedentary lifestyle is killing people! (Spectator sport does however make large fortunes for sports-related businesses and TV companies.)

The Eastern approach is very different: The benefits to the body of Chi Kung, (which is one of several Eastern forms of exercise), are many and varied. It’s like a type of medical therapy as well as an exercise system.

I was very fortunate in the 1980s to stumble across Chi Kung, when I joined Penny Ramsden’s Chi Kung class in Hebden Bridge. I found it so helpful, and health-giving, that I am still doing the exercises almost every morning, for over thirty years later!

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Illustrating Chi Kung in action

Further down this page, you will see a video clip which illustrates the calming and relaxing movements of Chi Kung exercise, which gently gives the body a full workout – and practitioners feel great afterwards!

The exercise costs nothing, after you’ve learned how to do it.  It’s safe and effective and you can practice it anywhere at any time (indoors if the weather is bad. But exercising outside is better, because of all the fresh oxygen [chi] you get into your lungs and bloodstream).

You don’t need special equipment and, if you do it in the morning, it sets you up for the day to deal with the many hassles of life which you will inevitably face.

Here is a video clip of a group practising Chi Kung techniques:

My tutor (Penny Ramsden) told our group that, before she tried Chi Kung, she had been bed-ridden for a significant amount of time with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Now she was fully recovered, after being taught by Michael Tse (pronounced Shay!), who teaches Chi Kung all over the world.

There are many classes where you can learn the movements, which you can then use for your physical and mental benefit for the rest of your life!

This form of exercise is great for developing resilience and managing the stresses of daily life, and if you practice it every day, it will slowly transform and strengthen you and enrich your life.

For many years I have recommended these exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

I hope you investigate this system of exercise, and experiment with it. It’s incredible value for money. And it builds up your most precious asset: your physical and mental health.

It feels good right away, once you start to do it!  And when you set out to face your day, you can feel the energy flowing through your body!  You will also feel resilient in the face of the inevitable hassles of your day!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

 ~~~

Reference

‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003). London, Simon and Shuster UK Ltd.

~~~

 

 

Lifestyle coaching on diet and exercise

Blog Post No. 161

By Dr Jim Byrne

2nd February 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Walking the talk of the holistic self-care movement…

Managing my mind by the use of exercise, diet, meditation and self-talk…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

~~~

Introduction

natajim-coaching-counselling2My wife, Renata Taylor-Byrne, sometimes reminds me of the important principle of ‘extreme self-care’.

I didn’t learn any such principle in my family of origin, where the main message was to ‘behave yourself’; and to uncritically go along with the dominant trend of social pressure!

Over the years, I have woken up to the problem of (physical and emotional) stress, and how unmanaged stress leads to all kinds of mental, emotional and physical health problems. Also, because I developed a problem with Candida Albicans overgrowth – a gut dysbiosis problem – decades ago, I had to become clear about the importance of managing my diet – especially the elimination of sugary foods and alcohol.

This morning

Michael-Tse-demonstrating-Chi-KungAt a certain point this morning, I found myself exercising, and wondering if this information would be helpful in motivating some of our website readers (meaning you!) to shift to following the principle of ‘extreme self-care’. So here I am, following up on that thought, as a contribution to your health and happiness.

I got up this morning, at the same time as Renata, and got some salad ingredients out of the fridge, and put them on one side to warm up to room temperature.  (While that was happening, I checked my emails and website traffic, and so on).

When the salad ingredients had warmed up enough, I chopped them up and put them into two bowls.  They consisted of:

Salad bowl 74 leaves of Romaine lettuce (chopped very small)

2 radishes

a quarter of a yellow pepper (diced)

a quarter of a red pepper (diced)

four inches of cucumber (halved and sliced)

a quarter of a red onion (diced)

8 green olives

2 black olives

2 ozs of petit poise

6 fine beans (chopped small)

2 tsps of Maca powder

2 desert spoons of flaxseed

2 desert spoons of mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds

8 whole almonds

2 ozs of pickled beetroot

~~~

This meal was so much more exciting and enjoyable than a bowl of cereal, or a full ‘English’ (fried) breakfast; or waffles with maple syrup!  Truly enjoyable! However, it would not be a good idea to eat the same breakfast every day.  Varity is important for gut bacteria and the available range of nutrients!

~~~

On my own bowl, I also added some fermented cucumber (instead of kimchi, which I had yesterday), and some Miso (the brown rice variety).

I then ate this as my breakfast, with a mug of green tea.

(In case I am beginning to sound like Saint Selfless, I had a cafetiere of exotic coffee while I was processing my emails!)

~~~

Meditation and physical exercise

Sitting-meditationWhen we had finished breakfast, I read some brief quotes – about living in the moment, in the main – to set the mood for our Zen meditation, which we did for 30 minutes.  And then Renata led our Chi Kung (Chinese exercise) session, which lasted about 20 minutes.  Then we did a couple of minutes of the Plank (from Pilates) – for core strength – and then I did three sets of press-ups (30 presses in each set), and three sets of sit-backs (for 30 seconds in each set), for arm and stomach strength, and for hips and lower back.

~~~

The sun was shining in the front and back of the room in which we meditated and exercised, and we had Mozart playing in the background for the exercise session.  Divine!

~~~

At the end of this time, I was as relaxed, happy and de-stressed as a person could be, and all set for another session on the computer, working on promoting our book on diet and exercise.

Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imageThe book is called: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression using nutrition and physical exercise; and it is available at amazon, at the following links:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.com*** (North America)

Or:

Diet and Exercise book at Amazon.co.uk*** (UK and Ireland)

If you want to order the book from another Amazon outlet, then please go to the webpage listed below, and order it from one of the other links (in Europe, Australia, Canada, etc.), which are listed there.

Renata has just completed a little 2-minute video introduction to this book, here:

Please take a look and see what you think.

DrJimCounselling002If you would like some more information about the book (or to order it from a non-UK/US outlet), you can find a good introduction on our webpages. Just click the following link: Diet, Exercise and Mental Health.***

~~~

That’s all for now.

I wish you a happy and healthy life, and the wisdom to engage in extreme self-care! J

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

 

 

Sleep, meditation and relaxation strategies for greater quality of life

Blog Post No. 54

13th November 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017


Renata’s Coaching Blog: Developing resilience when you’re working on the front line in your job:

Coping with stress, anger, anxiety and depression…

Sleep, diet and exercise are critical…

~~~

Introduction

Front cover, 8Dealing with people is very enjoyable, and very demanding at the same time, isn’t it? Especially when you are dealing with people who are suffering from all the trials and tribulations that life has thrown at them.

How do you stay strong? You need all your energy to communicate with them and not become drained. And three of the most challenging conditions to deal with are the problems of anxiety, anger and depression, whether it’s experienced by yourself or other people.

My work is about helping others to grow in strength, creativity and happiness.  I do that in several ways: face to face coaching; and writing blogs; and (more recently) writing books.

What I have done most recently is to co-author a book with my husband, Dr Jim Byrne, which shows how our emotions of anxiety, anger and depression are very strongly affected by the food we eat, and the physical exercise we take, or fail to take!

We’ve put in some significant and surprising research findings which are therapeutic, because they show how we can better manage our energies and emotions so that we are stronger in ourselves. But also these findings can be used to help others.

I’m just about to begin the final proof-reading of that book, and then it will be available to you, via Amazon.

~~~

Moving on to sleep, relaxation and mediation

Sleep-book-coverBut as I mentioned in my last blog, I have now been reading Matthew Walker’s book called “Why we sleep”, which was published in September of this year. And I have been so shocked and stunned – by the many research findings that he quotes about why sleep is so important – that I have decided to write about his key findings, and to summarise them for everyone. I have also identified several other books which must be taken into account, and I have begun to do that research work and note taking.

I also intend to include research findings about the power of meditation and relaxation techniques in the book, because those three strategies are closely related; and support each other.

The benefits

Sleep, meditation and relaxation techniques can transform our experience of anger, anxiety and depression. This book will describe the ways that our resilience can be greatly enhanced by adequate sleep, daily meditation, and sound approaches to relaxation.

I’ll let you know when both books become available.

The Sleep/Meditation/Relaxation book will not be finished until I have found several ways to help you to put some new strategies into your life, to strengthen you, and to enhance the quality of your life.

Here is part of Walker’s message:

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”. (Walker 2017).

In the meantime, I strongly recommend Walker’s book, because, as he states, the importance of our sleep hasn’t been properly communicated to us by scientists. And when you look at the bare facts of the negative impact of the lack of sleep on us, it can be a real shock!

Conclusion

So if you want to live your life on a full tank of gas, then improving the quality of your sleep will make a big difference. If you have teenagers, the section of his book where he explains the needs of teenagers for more sleep than adults, is excellent and very helpful.

Sleeping -baby

See what you think of his book (and I swear I haven’t got any shares in his publishing company!)

So now, I must get back to proofreading our Diet and Exercise book; and then back to the sleep research!

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachIf you need any help or support, you know where I am!

Happy snoozing,

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

 

 

 

Post Traumatic Stress Solutions

Blog Post No.155 (was 119)

Posted on 4th May 2017 (Originally posted on Saturday 21st February 2015)

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: A counsellor blogs about ‘Living in the Present’… And Processing the Past!

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2015

~~~

A fly in my ointment

drjim-counsellor9About one week ago, I got up, ate my breakfast, meditated and did my physical exercise, as normal.  But something went wrong.

Just before I mediate, I am in the habit of reading some ‘thought for the day’ from a Zen source.  On that occasion, I read a quote from Chögyam Trungpa.[1]

This is what it said:

“…Once you begin to deal with a person’s whole case history, trying to make it relevant to the present, the person begins to feel that he has no escape, that his situation is hopeless, because he cannot undo his past.  He feels trapped by his past with no way out.  This kind of treatment is extremely unskilled.  It is destructive because it hinders involvement with the creative aspect of what is happening now, what is here, right now…”

This quotation was concerning for me, because it seems to support Dr Albert Ellis’s advice to “forget the god-awful past” – which I have rejected several times in recent years, in various pieces of my writing.

Dealing with tensions and contradictions

As a principled practitioner and researcher, I therefore felt obliged to address this statement by Trungpa; to investigate it; to see how it is constructed; and to come to some kind of resolution of the tension between Trungpa/Ellis, on the one hand, and myself on the other.

front-cover7I was very busy during that period, for perhaps the past two weeks – with much of my time going into editing my revised autobiographical novel.  (See Metal Dog – Long Road Home***)

Yesterday, I completed the current editing task, and today I wrote a little 29-page paper on the question of which is supportable: the suggestion of ‘forgetting the past’; or the suggestion of ‘processing the past’.

Please see: Personal history and the mind of the individual counselling client. The (frequent) importance of processing the past in counselling and therapy.***  

In this little blog post, I want to take Trungpa’s quote apart to see what it is made of.  Let us begin with the first element:

“…Once you begin to deal with a person’s whole case history, trying to make it relevant to the present, the person begins to feel that he has no escape, that his situation is hopeless, because he cannot undo his past. …”

This statement is:

(a) Not in line with my clinical experience. I could, given the time, write up lots of my client cases to show that many of my clients experienced dramatic levels of relief once they had finished processing some past, traumatic experience.

(b) Misleading.  The second clause – “…trying to make (the past) relevant to the present…” – is not a therapeutic task that has ever been proposed by any of the major therapists that I have studied.  This is either a misunderstanding or a red herring presented by Trungpa.

(c) Unsupported.  Which person “begins to feel that he has no escape”?  Certainly not any of the many individuals that I have helped to process their old traumas.  They have a very specific form of escape.

(1) They find and confront the troublesome past experience; and, simultaneously:

(2) They find a way to re-frame that old experience, so it does not seem so daunting; painful; impossible to bear.

(3) Once they have digested/re-framed the old, troublesome experience, they can let it go, and move on with the rest of their lives.

See my paper on ‘Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions’.[2]

(d) Unclear.  Who is this person who “feels trapped by his past with no way out”?  Certainly not me.  (See my papers on processing my own childhood traumas, in Byrne [2009][3] and Byrne [2010][4]).

(e) Not about any known therapy.  The process which Trungpa describes, which he says “is destructive” is not a process that corresponds to any form of psychotherapy that I have ever encountered.  There is nothing to stop any client in CENT counselling from being in touch with the present moment, immediately before, and immediately after, their attempt to complete and re-frame an old experience.

An additional argument…

Trungpa goes on, in the next paragraph, to say: “As soon as we try to unravel the past, then we are involved with ambition and struggle in the present, not being able to accept the present moment as it is”.

Again, this does not correspond to my experience.  Whenever I have worked on processing old childhood traumas, I was perfectly able to accept the present moment as it was.  (I have been meditating since 1980, and striving to ‘live in the present’).

Let us look at one of my recent cases.  It should be of interest to Trungpa that I worked with one woman who had a hugely traumatic family problem dating from her childhood (when aged about seven years onwards), which we reviewed, processed, and I helped her to reframe it – in just three sessions of 45 minutes of counselling.  At the end of this process, she declared that she was ‘done’ – but that she would join a Meditation Group and continue to develop her sense of having been ‘washed clean’ by our therapy work together!

Certainly it is true (as Trungpa says) that processing the past involves struggles, but they are struggles that are well worth undertaking and completing, because they allow you to live more fully in the present when you have burned out the old hurts and pains in the (largely non-conscious) basement of your mind.

I have written an eBook on how to face up to traumatic memories of past experiences, and to process them, digest them, and burn them out, so they can be filed away in an inert file in long-term memory, from which they can cause you no further disturbance.  Her are the details:

NTS eBook No.5 – Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons: How to process and eliminate undigested pain from your past, by Jim Byrne

~~~

Finale

It may well be that every philosophy of life contains its strengths and weaknesses.  Trungpa and Ellis are illustrations of that hybrid nature of philosophies of life.

So, by all means, try to live in the present moment; try to engage in ongoing mindfulness as you go about your day.  But if you are troubled by emotional (or physical) symptoms which may be connected to childhood, or early adult life trauma, then by all means engage in the struggle that is required to process and re-frame those traumas, so you can free your energies for a more enjoyable life in the present moment.

~~~

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Jim Byrne – Doctor of Counselling

ABC Counselling and Psychotherapy Division

Email: drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

[1] Chögyam Trungpa, The situation of nowness, in: Josh Baran, 365 Nirvana: Here and Now.  Element/HarperColins.  2003.

[2] Byrne, J. (2011) Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions.  CENT Paper No.13.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/ 

[3] Byrne, J. (2009) A journey through models of mind.  The story of my personal origins.  CENT Paper No.4.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[4] Byrne, J. (2010) The Story of Relationship: Or coming to terms with my mother (and father).  CENT Paper No.10.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

~~~

Daily Resilience–boosters for you

Blog Post No. 46

31st March 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Daily resilience–boosters for you

Introduction

Do you want to be more resilient? To stand up to the pressures of your daily life more vigorously and powerfully and energetically?

Tennis-starIn this blog I am going to summarise some findings from research conducted on athletes, which can help us build our resilience in the face of all the hassles and challenges we can face at work each day.

An explanation of micro-resilience at work

Micro-book-coverBonnie St. John and Allen Haines wrote a book called ‘Micro-resilience’, and in it they summarise this research finding: Dr James Loehr (a sports psychologist) wanted to understand why there were hundreds of athletes who were on international tours, but there were only a few who regularly won the tournaments and trophies. He wanted to know what the difference was between these two sets of athletes.

Loehr put heart rate monitors on a selection of the two different sets of tennis players – the ‘winners’ and the ‘also ran’s’ – and discovered that the top tennis players were able to very speedily recover their energy and positive focus after having played shots.

As they were returning to the baseline in the tennis court, or to the side of the court, they used particular strategies to recover their energy, focus and motivation.

These top-players very quickly returned their heart rates to normal – much more quickly than their less successful competitors. Here was the crucial part of what Dr James Loehr learned:

The further he went down the list of seeded players, the more dramatic the differences were. Those at the bottom of the list (the less successful tennis players) employed none of these rejuvenating behaviours….”

“They stayed keyed up, tense and even distracted in the sixteen to twenty seconds that normally elapse between a point scored and the following serve.”

The power of ‘mini-recoveries’

He discovered that by the final set of a 3 hour tennis match, the player who had been using small, imperceptible ‘mini-recoveries’ in-between the points, was much more likely to succeed in the tennis game than the players who did not use such strategies.

So Dr Loehr created something called the ’16 second cure’ and this consists of focusing exercises and relaxation techniques that help the players, who are under intense pressure, to do the following things:

“…shake off mistakes, release tension, and project a positive image to their opponents…”

And this strategy has now been taught by tennis coaches throughout the world.

How this research finding can help people in all types of jobs

We can all use this research insight in any field of work.  Each day, any of us can experience periods of intense pressure, quiet times and a whole range of experiences in-between. We also have a constantly changing selection of people to deal with and respond to. How can we keep going so that we aren’t totally washed out by the end of the working day?

Power-of-full-engagment-coverDr James Loehr created the concept of the ‘executive athlete’ after these research findings, which he wrote about in his book ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ (2003) with T. Schwartz.

This very successful use of energy management strategies by athletes can be transferred to other working environments, if we adapt them appropriately.

Micro-resilience techniques to help us stay in control

If you experiment with using some of these strategies – listed below – to keep you going during the day, you will find that your energy level is higher and you won’t feel as drained.

I used these techniques during my career as a college tutor, and there are also techniques from Bonnie St. John and Allen Haines’s book. (Bear in mind that if you are working in exploitative work situations, you will need help from your union as well as these self-management strategies. The union’s specialist form of protection is necessary as it will be beyond your capacity to fully defend yourself if your energies are drained from: bullying management tactics; zero hours contracts; wages below the minimum wage, and/or unhealthy work environments).

Here is a little selection of just seven such strategies; and I teach many more to my coaching-counselling clients:

1. The Yoga ‘Death pose’

Picture-death-poseFirst, let us look at the ‘death pose’ from yoga practice.  This is an amazingly effective way to recharge your batteries, and is very good for your back. If you have you own office or there is a vacant room, simply lie on the floor for 10 minutes with a book (of, say, two inches thickness) under your head (as a ‘hard pillow’). Put your arms down by your sides. Clear your mind of any stress or strain, worry or preoccupation.  Breathe deeply into your belly, and relax.  Stay still, and close your eyes if you want to. Any ideas that arise in your mind should be gently brushed away.  After 10 minutes, very slowly sit up, and then stand up. This will refresh your body and mind at the same time.

Benefits-death-pose-callout

2.The  seated Tin Soldier/Rag Doll Relaxation Exercise

Whilst sitting at your desk, after about 30 or 40 minutes of intense concentration, you will need a break.  Sometimes you will need to get up and move around (as sedentary activity is very bad for you, physically and mentally!).  But sometimes you can relax while you are sitting down.  One way to do that is to use the ‘Tin soldier/Rag doll’ exercise.  This is how it goes:

Tense your body, arms, and face as much as possible for a couple of minutes. Really feel the tension in your body. Imagine you are made of tin, and are very stiff and unbending. (The ‘tin soldier’ phase).

Then slowly, slowly let all the tension drain out of your body, and change yourself into a rag doll. Feel yourself melt into the chair. Relax all your muscles – your thigh muscles, feet, arms, hands and fingers, stomach and jaw, and facial muscles.  Let your arms hang down by your sides.  Let your head fall, and your shoulder slump. (The ‘rag doll’ phase).

Sit with the feeling of complete relaxation for a few minutes (say, five or six).  This will be really good for your body and mind – to say nothing of your productivity, creativity and focus.  In the process, you will be switching on your ‘relaxation response’ which is (to get a bit technical) the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system.

3. Have a quick, healthy snack to boost your blood sugar level.

By eating a small amount of nuts and seeds (for example) you boost your blood sugar level which helps with willpower, and energy during late morning or late afternoon meetings or other challenges.

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4. Have a short walk

Get out of the building, to change your environment. Just a ten minute walk will put you in a different space (mentally), but in particular, it’s really valuable to get out at dinnertime (lunchtime).   You will feel mentally refreshed and have more energy for your work in the afternoon. Seeing trees and experiencing fresh air will boost your energy. Recent research shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus”: “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.”

5. Write it Out!

If you’ve had a draining, difficult interaction with someone in work, and you are still reverberating from it, then when you are at your desk (or workstation), write down what happened and how you felt about it.  Writing it down will get it out of your head and give you a chance to cool down. Later you can then reflect on what happened.

(If you are unable to write anything down, simply name the emotions that you are going through, in your mind.)  This is a technique that is called “labelling” and there is a New England head teacher (whom St John and Haines describe in their book) who uses this technique when she has confrontations with parents and teachers.

“When she tried labelling, Kathleen noticed that it increased her sense of control. Now, unbeknownst to her guests, Kathleen’s notes during confrontational meetings not only cover action steps and follow-up items but also descriptions of her emotions during each encounter.”

Dr Daniel Amen, who is an expert on brain-scanning techniques, says: “Often, just naming a thought takes away its power”.

Or as Dr Daniel Siegel says: “You have to name it to tame it!”

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6. Using your sense of smell

Cinnamon

Scents are very powerful. Dr Joan Borysenko, who was one of the pioneers of  integrative medicine and worked at Harvard medical school, stated: “Certain scents can cut right through an emotional hijack. For example, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.” These scents affect our limbic system and relax us very quickly. This finding was confirmed by Dr Daniel Amen, in his book ‘Change your brain, change your life’:

“Because your sense of smell goes directly to the deep limbic system, it is easy to see why smells can have such a powerful impact on our feeling states. The right smells likely cool the limbic system. Pleasing fragrances are like an anti-inflammatory”.

So, having small samples of spices, perfumes or sweets, in your work environment, which have really comforting associations for you, can give you a quick boost of energy.

hardcastle-crags

7. Images from nature can calm us down

Finally, having pictures of scenes from nature around us will have a beneficial effect on us, even if they are just on our screensaver or on a poster on the wall. Or in a frame on our desk or workstation.  Just looking at photos of nature in a quiet room can give us a greater mental boost than walking down a busy urban street.

Dr Marc Berman and researchers at the University of Michigan had participants take a break for 10 minutes in a quiet room to look at pictures of a nature scene or city street. They found that mental performance improved after the nature break, even though the images were  only on paper. Although the boost wasn’t as great as when participants actually took a walk among the trees, it was more effective than an actual city walk.

Conclusion

Balancing our stressful working days with micro-resilience techniques- like the seven outlined above – will make us happier, increase our energy, and improve the quality of our lives.

Why not experiment with them, and see if any of them work for you!

If I had more time and space I could teach lots more of this stuff to you.

Best wishes

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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References

Loehr, J and Schwartz, T (2003) The Power of Full Engagement. New York. Simon and Shuster.

St John, Bonnie and Haines, Allen (2017) Micro-Resilience: Minor shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy. London. Piatkus.

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Continue reading “Daily Resilience–boosters for you”