Build resilience with Chinese exercise

Blog Post No. 56

2nd March 2018

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018

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

Keeping 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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Reference

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

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Emotionally Intelligent Resilience

Blog Post No. 162

By Dr Jim Byrne

11th February 2018

Updated: Sunday 25th February 2018 – (See Postscript No.2 at the end of this blog)

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

Contrasting moderate stoicism against extreme stoicism in dealing with life’s adversities…

A personal blog story…

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Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

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Story at a glance:

  • I recently faced a serious adversity involving the crashing of a piece of written work – (a digital index in a Word document,  for a new book) – which had taken weeks to construct; and which will now (it seems) take weeks of work to restore!
  • I felt very bad when I realized how serious the problem was.
  • I instinctively used a system of coping which I have described as the ‘wounded cat’ position – which involves allowing the passage of time; and staying with the bad feelings; and not trying to jump over them.
  • In order to illustrate this ‘wounded cat’ process, I present a case study of a former client who had a serious loss to deal with, and to whom I recommended this process.  It was highly effective in allowing the client to process and integrate his sense of loss.
  • I have also clarified that there are two other processes that have to be in place before the ‘wounded cat’ process can be used: (1) Work on family-of-origin fragility; and (2) development of  moderate stoical re-framing skills.

Context

Why people become upsetWhen important things go wrong in a person’s life, that person predictably and understandably becomes emotionally upset.  This was a common-sense perspective until rational and cognitive therapy resuscitated an ancient Roman slave’s perspective which asserts (wrongly) that people are not upset by what happens to them!

And that is precisely the problem.  Epictetus was a slave in ancient Rome.  Not only was he a slave, but his mother, before him, was also a slave; and he was born into slavery.  Imagine how low his expectations of life would be – the slavish son of a slavish woman!  And then he was released by his slave-owner, to preach Extreme Stoicism to the masses.

For a time, I was taken in by Stoicism, and subscribed not only to moderate Stoicism (which is realistic resilience), but also to extreme Stoicism (which is an unrealistic and unhealthy tendency to try to tolerate the intolerable!).

Today I want to present you with a little story of a recent adversity that I had to face – (which I am still having to face) – as a way of teaching a particular point about philosophy of life, and how it fits into emotional self-management. Needless to say, I will be trying to avoid Extreme Stoicism, while at the same time showing some resilience in the face of adversity.

The adversity is actually more than a ‘little’ problem.  Basically, I was getting close to publishing my next book – Counselling the Whole Person – and I had produced two or three new sections of the index, at the back of the book.

Cover, full, revised 5-10th Feb

The rest of the index had been borrowed from an earlier version of parts of this book (published as Holistic Counselling in Practice, in 2016), and the complete index seemed to be working well electronically (in that the automatic page numbering changed correctly, every time I inserted new pages, or extracted deleted pages).  Then, all of a sudden, I noticed some of the entries in the index did not correspond to the content of the pages to which they referred.  They were out by exactly 8 pages.  Always the same scale of error. I checked four, five, seven, nine, entries, and every single one was incorrect.  So I checked eight or ten more.  Each one was inaccurate.  The index had become corrupted somehow, and was now useless, because it was misleading and inaccurate.  I could not see any way to fix this, and so I had to decide to delete the whole index, including the extensive entries for two or three new chapters that I had recently completed, (which had involved about two or three weeks’ work altogether).  I am now faced with constructing a whole new index, which may take a month, or six weeks.  Who can say?

Coping with adversity

Sleep section of indexThis is a significant adversity, for me.  It involves a lot of wasted labour constructing a useless index, which had to be dumped.  It involves having to do a lot of days and days and days of reconstructing this index, which prevents me from engaging in other areas of important and urgent work.

A moderate stoical way of seeing this, which is the E-CENT approach, goes like this: “This is awful – but I am determined to cope with it!” (It is awful in the sense of being very bad; and very unpleasant.) And my commitment to cope with it is in the context that there are some things I can control, and some I cannot control.  And so I will try to control those aspects of this problem which are controllable by me!

By contrast, an extreme stoical way of seeing this same problem – which comes to us from rational and cognitive therapy – would be: “This isn’t awful.  I certainly can stand it.  And it should be the way it indubitably is”.

The problem with this extreme stoical approach is this:

  1. It’s completely unsympathetic to the suffering individual who is facing the adversity.
  2. It encourages the victim of adversity to jump over their emotional response, and to deny that they have any right to feel upset about this. (In practice, the extreme stoic often sails under a false flag, [which may actually be non-conscious!], which claims that they only want the victim of adversity to avoid overly-upset emotions, and to keep their reasonably upset emotions! But in practice, there is no space in an REBT session [based on extreme stoicism] for the client to articulate their reasonable upsets, and to have them acknowledged!  And they had better not expect any sympathy, because they sure as hell are not going to get it!)

So, given that I have moved away from extreme stoicism (in all its forms, including REBT and CBT), and now only practice moderate stoicism, how have I managed my adversity involving my crashed and burned index?

My moderate stoical approach to coping with adversity

Firstly, I no longer use the ABC model of REBT/CBT, because those systems are based on the false belief expressed by Epictetus like this: “People are not upset by what happens to them, but rather, by their attitude towards what has happened to them”.  And the only aspect of their ‘attitude’ that is taken into account by modern rational and emotive therapies is this: The thinking component of their attitude!  But our attitudes have three components, which are all interrelated and bound up together – the thinking component; the feeling component; and the behavioural component.

I reject the Epictetan view, that I am upset by my attitude, and not by the crashing of my index. I know I am upset by the crashing of my index, and the negative train of events which flowed from that happening.  If my index had not crashed, I could not possibly be upset about a non-existent event!

And I reject the modern cognitive/rational perspective, that the only thing that intervenes between my experience of my crashed index and my upset emotions is my Beliefs or Thoughts about the experience.

Firstly, it is not possible to separate out my so-called thinking from my so-called feeling, and my so-called behavioural response.  In our E-CENT model – the Holistic SOR model – there is only this:

S – Stimulus = I notice that my index has crashed

O = Organism = My whole body-brain-mind identifies (or matches) this adversity with a historically shaped response, linked to similar experiences in the past.

R = Response = My emotional and behavioural response is outputted, or expressed, into the world.

PS: I will write some more about what goes on inside the ‘O’ (or Organism) tomorrow!

Cover444

Epictetus was a slave, with low expectations of life, and his writings were discovered by 19 year old Albert Ellis who had low expectations of social connection, love, and affection, because he was seriously neglected by his parents from the beginning of his life.  Ellis has tried to teach all of us to join him and Epictetus in having exceedingly low expectations of life.  Ellis calls this “High Frustration Tolerance” – but I have called it “Tolerating the Intolerable“; or “Putting up with the changeable and fixable aspects of adversity!”

Resilience as defined by Albert Ellis and Epictetus is way too far from what I now see as necessary or reasonable expectations of a human being.    I have reviewed a lot of literature on modern views of resilience, and I have summarized that work in my book on REBT.  Here’s a brief extract:

“In this spirit, I want to make the following points.  Perhaps we should abandon any reference to Stoicism in counselling and therapy, and replace them with advice on how to become more resilient in the face of unavoidable life difficulties.  Southwick and Charney (2012)[i] – two medical doctors – suggest that a useful curriculum for the development of greater resilience would include: Developing optimism (and overcoming learned pessimism); Facing up to our fears (or being courageous); Developing a moral compass (or learning to always do what is the right thing, rather than what is opportunistically advantageous); Developing a spiritual, faith, or community connection that is bigger than the self; Connecting to others for social support; Finding and following resilient role models; Practising regular physical exercise; Working on brain-mind fitness, including mindfulness and cognitive training – (but Southwick and Charney overlooked the impact of food and gut flora on the brain-mind, so that needs to be considered also); Developing flexibility in our thinking-feeling-behaviour (including acceptance and reappraisal); Focusing on the meaning of your life, the purpose of your life, and on desired areas of personal growth.”

“Perhaps a consideration of these ideas could take us beyond the ‘wishful thinking’ about impossible goals set by Zeno, Marcus and Epictetus (and Albert Ellis, and some other CBT theorists).”  (Extracted from my book on REBT. )

Footnote [i] Southwick, S.M. and Dennis S. Charney (2013) Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

If you have been enrolled into the Extreme Stoicism of REBT, and you want to think your way out again, so you can be fully human, living from your innate emotional wiring, as socialized by moderate stoical resilience, instead of trying to live like a block of stone, or a lump of wood, then you have to read this book: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: the case against RE&CBT***)

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Anger, anxiety, depression, and nutrition and physical exercise, imageUnlike the rational and cognitive therapists, I accept that I am an emotional being first and last, with some degree of capacity to think and reason – though my so called thinking and reasoning can never be separated from my perceiving and feeling.  So I am not so much a ‘thinking being’ as I am a ‘perfinking being’ – where perfinking involves perceiving-feeling-thinking all in one grasp of the brain-mind. (And I am a body-brain-mind in a social environment, and my approach to diet and exercise is just as important as my approach to philosophy.  See How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, using nutrition and physical exercise.***)

New ways of coping with adversity

In dealing with my own adversity, involving the ‘death’ of my book-index, I think, (meaning, I now assume that), without any conscious awareness of what I was doing, I followed a pattern that I had used with a male client who had been betrayed by his lover/partner, who had had an affair with a near neighbour.

Let me now review that case, so we can understand my moderate stoical approach.

Instead of telling this client, regarding his partner’s infidelity:

  1. “It should be the way it is!” (This is the REBT – Extreme Stoical – approach! Think how insensitive that is!)

I also avoided telling him:

  1. “It isn’t awful!” – (Because it obviously was awful, according to any reasonable dictionary definition! And also, that was precisely what it felt like to him – awful! And the dictionary definitions that I’ve consulted say that ‘awful’ means ‘very bad’ or ‘very unpleasant’ – which this experience undoubtedly was!)

And I did not resort to telling him:

  1. “You certainly can stand this kind of abuse!” (Enough already!)

Instead, I listened sympathetically.  I knew he was suffering, and in a stressed state.  I knew he was locked into a deep grieving process.  And grief is not pathological!  It’s not inappropriate!  It serves a very important function; and the way to manage grief is to stay with it; to feel it fully; and to let it take it’s course.  (See Chapter 5 [Sections 5.10 and 5.11] of Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes.***)

Grief is an innate ‘affect’, or basic emotion, which is further refined in the family of origin.  Grief is implicated in the attachment process between mother and baby; and is clearly related to the map/territory problem.  We humans build up a map of our social experience; and every significant person and thing is represented on our inner map of our social/emotional world.  When somebody to whom we are close either abandons us, or dies (which comes to the same thing!) there is now a serious discrepancy between the map and the territory.  The inner reality and the outer reality. And it takes a long time to bring our inner maps up to date.  In my experience, it will most often take up to eighteen months for a healthy updating of a person’s inner map when they lose their partner through divorce or death. (But bear in mind that the Berkeley Growth Study showed that “…ego-resilient adults come from homes with loving, patient, intelligent, competent, integrated mothers, where there is free interchange of problems and feelings (Seligman et al., 1970…” And “ego-brittle persons, by contrast, come from homes that are conflictual, discordant, and lack any philosophical or intellectual emphasis…” (Cook, 1993, Levels of Personality).

Knowing what I know about grief – that it requires time: I did not try to send any ‘solutions’ to this client!  There are none, in this kind of grief about loss situation.

I did not offer any advice, for at least three-quarters of the session.

I showed that I felt for my client; so visibly that he would ‘feel felt’! 

I also communicated non-verbally that it is okay to grieve; it’s normal to grieve when we have lost a significant other person, or even a significant possession, like a career, a home, or whatever.

Wounded cat 2Right near the end of the session, I told him:

“Imagine you are a wounded cat.  Take yourself off somewhere quiet, and rest, and recuperate.  And lick your wounds (metaphorically).  And take very good care of your needs, for food, and rest, sleep, and withdrawal from the world for a while. And allow time to pass, like a wounded cat would!”

This man did exactly what I suggested, and three weeks later he was back in a more resilient state. He had found a way to ‘square the circle’ – while resting and sleeping.  He had got over the worst of his grief, though he was still understandably raw. He and his ex-partner had been the best of friends for many years; and he had eventually found a way to forgive her; and to preserve the friendship.  The sex-love aspect of their relationship was at an end, but they were able to be friends, and that was a great comfort to him.

I congratulated him on finding his own solution to a difficult problem, and I commiserated with him about his loss of his love object.  But I also celebrated with him the fact that he had salvaged an important friendship.

(What this client was doing, while licking his wounds, like a wounded cat, was what I call ‘completing his experience’, instead of jumping over it.  In this case, he was ‘completing his feelings of grief’. I have written a paper on Completing Traumatic Experiences, which anybody can acquire via PayPal.***)

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If you want to get a feeling for this  concept of ‘completion’ – accepting – or ‘allowing to be’ – I could do a lot worse than to quote a famous statement by the American playwright, Arthur Miller.  Miller was just 23 when the second world war broke out, and 25 when the Americans joined the war.  My understanding is that he was sent to Europe to fight, and that his experiences of war in Europe wounded him deeply.  He may also have been carrying other kinds of ‘existential wounds’, or psychological problems from his family of origin.  Anyway, in this quotation, he is talking about the impossibility of finding salvation outside of oneself, and about the way in which life suddenly shifts from safe and secure known territory, to something horrendous:

“I think it is a mistake”, he wrote, “to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.  One day the house smells of fresh bread, the next of smoke and blood.  One day you faint because the gardener cuts his finger off, within a week you’re climbing over corpses of children bombed in a subway. What hope can there be if that is so? I tried to die near the  end of the war.  The same dream returned each night until I dared not go to sleep and grew quite ill.  I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot, and I ran away.  But it always crept onto my lap again, clutched at my clothes.  Until I thought,  If I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep.  And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible … but I kissed it.  I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms”. (Arthur Miller, quoted in Baran, 2003: 365 Nirvana Here and Now, page 307).

And that is what ‘completion’ is: taking your life in your arms; accepting reality as it is; allowing the unchangeable to be!

This can also be expressed like this:

“When we truly hate what’s happening, our instinct is to flee from it like a house on fire.  But if we can learn to turn around and enter that fire, to let it burn all our resistance away, then we find ourselves arising from the ashes with a new sense of power and freedom”.  (Raphael Cushnir, quoted in Josh Baran, 2003, page 14).

But already we are heading into problems here, since these two quotations can be interpreted in both moderate and extreme forms.  A moderate interpretation would say, if you cannot change your life, you will benefit from accepting it exactly the way it is.  An extreme way will simply opt for saying you should accept it the way it is, disregarding the potential for changing it for the better.  There is a core of realistic acceptance to the moderate approach, and a core of sado-masochistic dehumanization to the extreme interpretation.

The other problem here is that there is a difference between a philosophy of life which is normally passed on through an oral tradition, to initiates who are readied for the new insight.  That is to say, they are ready morally, and in terms of character development, for the new revelation.  For example, take this quotation from Native American wisdom:

“Every struggle, whether won or lost, strengthens us for the next to come.  It is not good for people to have an easy life.  They become weak and inefficient when they cease to struggle.  Some need a series of defeats before developing the strength and courage to win a victory”.  (Victorio, Mimbres Apache: Quoted in Helen Exley, The Song of Life).

Quite clearly, this quotation could be used to justify political oppression.  “We’re doing the poor and downtrodden a favour”, the neo-liberals could say, all over the world today.  “We’re helping to strengthen them by defeating and crushing them!”  Indeed, versions of this kind of argumentation have already been used by right-wing ideologues; and this very quotation by Victorio could be used to defend the expropriation of the Native American tribes’ traditional tribal lands, and their confinement to ‘reservations’ (or ‘Bantustans’).

People should, clearly, not allow themselves to be tricked into feeling they have to be more Stoical than they absolutely need to be. And we should all hold on to the right to be morally outraged and politically active in the face of oppression and exploitation!

Furthermore, we have to ask this question: Is Victorio right to say people are strengthened by struggle?  It seems they might be, if they have a ‘learned optimism’ perspective.  But if they have a ‘learned helplessness’ perspective, from previous defeats, then they are only going to become more defeatist and passive as a result of being subjected to more oppression or difficulty. (See Martin Seligman on Learned Helplessness).

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Back to my cuckolded client:

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that I could not have asked this client – let’s call him Harry – to go away and process his grief in private; to complete his experience of loss, over and over and over again – unless I had already taught him a moderately stoical philosophy of life, combined with a sense of optimism and hope – of self-efficacy, and the possibility of positive change.  And that I had done, about two years earlier, when he was struggling with problems of social conflict.  At that time, I introduced Harry to my Six Windows Model, which is derived from moderate Stoicism and moderate Buddhism.

And it should also be noted that, resilience is linked to family of origin.  Some families produce children who are resilient and some produce children who are fragile.  So I had to deal with Harry’s family of origin problems, about a year before I taught him the Six Windows Model.  At that earlier time, I focused on my relationship with him; how to provide him with a secure base; how to re-parent him, so he could feel secure in his relationship with me, so he could then generalize that feeling to his valued, close relationships.

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Conscious processing of traumatic events

Of course, it is not possible to make much progress in terms of personal development, or recovery from childhood trauma, unless we engage in some form of talk therapy (or writing therapy). The ‘wounded cat’ process will only take us so far. And especially if you want to accelerate the healing process, you need to work on your traumatic memories, and to process and digest them.

I did just that, in a couple of early pieces of writing therapy that I completed; one about my story of origins; and one about my relationship with my mother. I have since packaged those two stories, with some introductory and commentary material, in the form of an eBook. The title is this: Healing the Heart and Mind: Two examples of writing therapy stories, plus relective analysis. You can find out some more about those stories here: https://ecent-institute.org/writing-therapeutic-stories/

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My crashed index

So how does this relate to my adverse experience of having my book-index crash and have to be written off; and having to start all over again, from scratch?

Firstly, I was numbed by the experience: for minutes, or even hours.  It was a significant, symbolic loss.  A loss of face.  A loss of my self-concept as a highly efficient and effective author/ editor/ publisher.  It was also a significant material loss, of labour-time that was now down the drain!  And I had to face to discomfort anxiety of contemplating starting all over again, from scratch, to do this long, boring, tedious task of rebuilding this index, word by word, phrase by phrase, page number by page number.

Cover444Secondly, I wanted to jump over the experience, and to get right on to starting to construct a new index. (I was, after all, just like Albert Ellis – (the creator of REBT [as a form of Extreme Stoicism]) – raised in a family that showed no sympathy for my pain and suffering (in this case, my sense of loss of face, and loss of my sense of self-efficacy, and discomfort anxiety about starting over).  But that desire, to jump over my feelings, was cruel and insensitive, and neglectful of my sensibilities.

And I can now see that my family script fitted very sell with REBT, when I first encountered it, in 1992, when I was going through a painful career crisis! That is to say, REBT fitted well with my extremely stoical family script!  REBT taught me to jump over my feelings about my career crisis – and to rationalize them away, so I would not have to deal with them!

However, thirdly, I jumped track from the appeal of an extreme Stoical denial of my pain, and moved to a ‘wounded cat’ position.  I stopped any attempt to immediately switch to constructing a new index.  I stayed with the sense of shock; of frustration; of loss and failure!

I allowed time for some non-conscious adjustment.  (This most likely involved some low-level grief work.  [Meaning the processing of feelings of loss]. I had lost something meaningful; valuable; and I had inherited a painful challenge up ahead: namely, the building of a new index, where the old one had ‘died’!)

It would take time for my inner map to be brought up to date; to come in line with the external reality.

And I found a way to salvage some good from this bad situation, by writing this blog post to help others to be moderately stoical when things go wrong in their lives; and not to buy into the extreme stoicism of REBT and much of CBT, which demands that we should jump over our negative experiences; we should dump the experience; and thereby to fail to learn from it; and to live our lives in a kind of anaesthetized state, instead of feeling the full range of positive and negative emotions which are the lot of a sensitive human being.

~~~

Conclusion

DrJimCounselling002Some of our day-to-day experiences are awful – in the sense of being ‘very bad’, or ‘very unpleasant’.  It takes time to process such adversities, and we owe it to ourselves to take the time to process our emotions (like grief about losses, failures; anxiety about threats, dangers; anger about insults and threats to our self-esteem; and so on).

Extreme Stoicism demands that we pretend to be stones, or lumps of wood. That we pretend that we are not hurt by the things that hurt us!

It demands that we should deny that we are fleshy beings with feelings and needs.

But if we allow ourselves to be enrolled into such an unfeeling philosophy of life, we will miss the opportunity to heal our wounds – like a cat or other animal would.  We will end up denying our pain; failing to process it; and becoming deniers of other people’s pain – since we ‘cannot stand’ to hear of the pain of others, if we have unresolved pains of our own!

Unlike the extreme Stoicism of REBT, we in Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) practice a much gentler form of moderate Stoicism and moderate Buddhism.  For example, to help myself deal with the crashed index adversity, I can use my own Six Windows Model, which begins like this:

  1. Life is difficult for all human beings, at least some of the time; and often much of the time; so why must it not be difficult for me today, with this crashed index? Quite clearly, this is ‘my karma’, and I will have to adjust to it (but not necessarily today; or tomorrow; but one day soon). I can allow myself to take the time to process this difficulty, as an inevitability, and to gradually adjust to it; and then, and only then, will I bounce back!
  2. Life is going to be much less difficult if I pick and choose sensibly and realistically. Therefore, I should not choose to have my old index be magically fixed; and the problem to disappear! Instead, I choose to take a break; to rest and recover. After all, it happened on Friday, and it is now just Sunday!  And most people take Saturday and Sunday off anyway!  So even if it takes another couple of days to adjust and recover, I am going to choose sensibly.  I will be ready to re-start this uphill climb when I am ready.  Two days; three; four or five?  Who knows?  But I am going to take my time, and allow myself to feel whatever I feel in the meantime.

That is just a sample of the first two windows of E-CENT. To find out about the other 4 windows of the six windows model, you can get a copy via PayPal:

Re-framing problems, 6 windows modelE2 (Paper 3) The 6 Windows Model…  Available from PayPal, for just £3.99 GBP. Please send me my copy of  The 6 Windows Model pamphlet.***)

This (Six Windows model philosophy) is a million miles from the insensitivity of REBT – which is most often practised in an Extreme Stoical way.

This is also a few thousand miles from mainstream CBT, which would insist that my ‘problem’ is caused by my ‘thoughts’ about it.

This is not true.

The loss of my index is a real adversity, which any sane human being would lament and feel the loss of; feel the pain of its loss; feel the adversity of having to start all over again, or just feel like giving up and quitting!

My problem is not caused by my feeling.  My feelings are mainly caused by my experience.

Or, to be more precise:

The primary cause of my upset feelings right now is the failure of my IT package, which screwed up the digital links between actual page numbers, on the one hand, and the page numbers listed in the index entries, on the other.

The secondary cause is my need to get that book out sooner rather than later; which is also a real need, dictated by something other than my ‘mere thoughts’.

The tertiary cause of my feelings, is the history of my experiences of dealing with adversities. That history is recorded in my body-brain-mind.

And so on.

So please do not jump over your own feelings.  Stay with them.  Digest and complete them, and watch them disappear, leaving a stronger, more sensitive, and more human ‘You’ behind! 🙂

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

Postscript: Monday morning, 12th February 2018

I decided last night to adopt the ‘wounded cat’ position regarding the stress arising out of my sense of loss of my book index (involving weeks of work lost; and weeks of recovery work to engage in! And some loss of self-esteem around self-efficacy and productivity!)  I clocked off work at 7.00 pm last evening; and I made an omelette salad for tea; and we sat down to watch a cop show (‘Endeavour’) on TV at 8.00 pm.  We went to bed about 10.30, and I decided to have a lie-in in the morning, in keeping with my ‘wounded cat’ position.

I got up late this morning, had chunky vegetable soup (or stew) for breakfast – homemade (which I created at 4.30 am, when I was up briefly). Then I read three quotations from a book of Zen quotes; and meditated for 30 minutes.

Then I stood up to do my Chi Kung exercises (which normally take 20 minutes to complete).  At that point in time, I had the thought, which just bubbled up from my (rested) non-conscious mind: “Perhaps I can salvage the Index, if I can find out what went wrong with the page numbering, and go back to an earlier draft, and fix the page numbering!”

This seemed like a long shot, but it paid off!  I went to my office – at the end of exercising time – and investigated the possibilities.

And I have now salvaged the index, and saved myself weeks of work in rebuilding it from scratch.

And this was only possible because I acted like a ‘wounded cat’ for a few hours, instead of ‘jumping over the problem’, as advised by Albert Ellis and Epictetus and many CBT theorists!

Long live the ‘wounded cat’ position! (But do not try to use it with somebody who has not yet learned a moderate Stoic form of coping – like the Six Windows Model.  And also investigate whether there are family of origin problems leading to fragility, which have to be fixed before the windows model can be usefully taught).

Best wishes,

Jim

~~~

Postscript No.2: It never rains…

But my relief from stress did not last long…

Of course, it was a great relief to realize that I could salvage my book index, and it seemed likely that it would not take many days to fix it up and make it good enough for purpose.

Then it just so happened that I needed to look up some concept in our recently published book – How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  I went to the index, looked up the page reference, and went to that page.  It was not there.  So I did some checking, and, nightmare of nightmares, that index was also corrupted.

This was a huge shock, because I had worked so hard on that index, and talked it up as a significant aspect of the book – the usefulness of the index!

So, to say the least, I was embarrassed.  And anxious that this situation might undermine my credibility with future potential buyers of my (our) books. These two emotional states – and especially my desire to be free of them, when I was not free of them – was very stressful.

Part of me wanted to respond with the complaint that “It never rains but it pours!”  But that would be too bleak a viewpoint – comparable to Werner Erhard’s view that “Life is just one goddamned thing after another!”  The problem with these two statements is this: they could be taken in a defeatist way to mean it’s all too much; too difficult; and therefore demoralizing and defeating.

And part of my problem was this: I wanted to be over the embarrassment; beyond the anxiety; clear of the problem.  But it is patently impossible to be “over the embarrassment” when one is embarrassed!  And it is equally impossible to be “beyond the anxiety” when on is immersed in it!

So now I was floundering, and spinning out of control.  I reached for a Zen quote, from Gay Hendricks, which talks about ‘giving up hope’.  Perhaps that was the solution: to give up any hope of being beyond the anxiety, and free from the embarrassment?!?  This is what Gay Hendricks writes:

“If you give up hope, you will likely find your life is infinitely richer. Here’s why: When you live in hope, it’s usually because you’re avoiding reality.  If you hope your partner will stop drinking, aren’t you really afraid he or she won’t?  Aren’t you really afraid to take decisive action to change the situation?  If you keep hoping the drinking will stop, you get to avoid the rally hard work of actually handling the situation effectively…” (Gay Hendricks, in Josh Baran (2003) – 365 Nirvana Here and Now: Living every moment in enlightenment).

For me to hope that this problem would go away – or resolve itself – would be even crazier than somebody hoping their partner would give up drinking alcohol.  Why? Because this published index is a fixed reality, which has no capacity to correct itself!  And nobody else has the power or need or responsibility to correct it.

This caused me to revert to the ‘wounded cat’ position, in terms of living in the embarrassment and anxiety; and not trying to get rid of it.  I stayed with the bad feelings, not knowing what to do about it.  This also allowed me to non-consciously process the problem, and about 36 hours later I came up with an action plan to revise the index for the Diet and Exercise book, and post it online so it can be downloaded by people who have already bought the book.  So I set about doing that, and it is now posted online

at: https://abc-counselling.org/revised-index-for-diet-and-exercise-book/

in the following format, online:

Revised index – downloadable 

Final corrected Index 14XXX001

In November 2017, we published a new book titled,

How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity

by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.

Unfortunately, an error crept into the index, after it had had its final proof-reading.  This resulted in all the page references in the index being exactly 8 pages lower than they should have been.

We have now tracked this error down and corrected it, and, if you bought a copy of that first edition of the book, then please download a revised index from the link below, and print it off.  We are deeply sorry for this technical error, and we are willing to make appropriate amends by providing the corrected, downloadable index.

Download the corrected index by clicking this link.***

PS: And if you feel aggrieved by the error in the original copy of the book, and you bought it in paperback from Amazon, then we are willing to send you a free gift – of a PDF document on the science of sleep – if you email dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org with the receipt number which you received from Amazon.

Thanking you for your understanding.

Sincerely,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne – Director – E-CENT Publications – February 2018

~~~

 

Sleep, learning, health and happiness

Blog Post No. 53

14th October 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017


Renata’s Coaching Blog:

Do you want to feel better tomorrow morning, at no cost? The amazing power of sleep can transform your life

Introduction

This blog is a rave review of a book review I read, two weeks ago, in the Sunday Times Culture Magazine (October 1st 2017). It was written by James McConnachie.

He was reviewing ‘Why we sleep’- a book written by Matthew Walker, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Berkeley, California.  The book was published in September of this year.

Sleeping -baby

Vital facts about sleep

McConnachie has done a very clear and fluent analysis of this book, ‘Why we sleep’, and has picked out some fascinating facts about why sleep is so important, and how we could all benefit from being more aware of its importance. In this blog post, I will present some of these gems so you can have the latest findings on sleep and how it makes you feel better.  Of course, to gain the benefits, you would have to take on board the implications of the research findings. They really clarify, on the basis of sound research, the importance of sleep for our well-being.

Sleeping-man

A vital fact: We need a minimum of 8 hours sleep every night!

If you think you can get by on less than 8 hours sleep a night, then you are most likely wrong.  According to Matthew Walker:

“You have forgotten what it is like to function properly”.

Sleep-book-coverWalker estimates that 2 out of 5 people in the UK are not having the sleep that they need, and he points out the consequences of not having enough sleep, which you may not be aware of. I will now present some of those consequences.

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

Short sleepers eat an average of 300 calories extra per day, adding up to 10lb to 15lb of weight gain over a year! This is because people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more. (Their bodies produce more ghrelin, which is a hormone that makes you feel hungry. They also produce less leptin, which is the hormone that makes you feel full up). You also become vulnerable to some of those medical conditions which sleep protects us from.  What are those conditions?

Appetite

Sleep protects us from:

According to Walker’s research, sleep protects us from:

# Influenza

# Infections

# Dementia

# Heart disease; and:

# Mental ill health. (Walker states that: “There is no major psychiatric condition in which sleep is [found to be] normal”.)

Adequate sleep also protects us from car crashes. (Drowsiness, resulting from sleep deprivation or insufficiency causes more road accidents than drugs and alcohol combined).

Walker also states that adults of 45 and over, who sleep fewer than 6 hours a night, are 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke!

So what are the benefits of adequate sleep, apart from removing the risks listed above?

What having enough sleep gives you

The research results show that, adequate sleep will help you in the following ways:

# You will have more energy (and be more productive);

# You control your weight better;

# It makes you more creative;

# It makes you more emotionally intelligent and able to pick up vital, subtle, non-verbal and verbal cues from people in interpersonal communication; and:

# It makes you look younger!

Some ‘killer facts’ mentioned in the book

Matthew-WalkerIn addition to these benefits, Walker mentions two other important facts.  The first concerns sleep, and the other learning and memory (of particular interest to students).

Firstly, it has been discovered that a single night of inadequate sleep (of just 4 hours) destroys 70% of the ‘natural killer cells’ in the immune system!  Those killer cells are what protects us from various pathogenic invaders of our bodies.

Secondly, if you are a student trying to learn new information, Matthew Walker has some great advice for you:

On his ‘You Tube’ talk entitled ‘Why We Sleep’, he shows the power of sleep in relation to learning and memory:

~~~

What All-nighters do to your learning efficiency

As described in the video clip above, Walker did some research on sleep and learning.  One of the things he investigated was this: If we go to an all-night party (or cram for an exam all night), and have no sleep, would it affect our ability to learn the following day? Dr Walker wanted to test the hypothesis (a testable statement), that “Pulling an all-nighter is a good idea”, so he set up a research experiment:

Two groups of healthy young adults were split into a ‘Sleep’ group and a ‘Sleep Deprivation’ group. The ‘Sleep’ group were going to get a full eight hours’ sleep, and the ‘Deprivation’ group were going to keep awake all night, under supervision, with no caffeine or naps.

Then the following day, the members of each group were placed in an MRI scanner – (which can monitor their brain functioning) – and were asked to learn a whole list of new facts, as snapshots were taken of their brains’ activities. Following that, the participants were all tested to see how effective the learning had been.

When the learning efficiency of the two groups was compared, there was an amazing 40% difference in the ability of the brain to make new memories as between the two groups. So all-nighters have to pay a mental price tag in terms of almost halving their ability to learn!

If you are a student, or learning new material of any kind, then this has to be ‘a wakeup call’ for you (if you will pardon the paradoxical pun!).

Matthew Walker made the following statement in response to these findings, about the impact of sleep on our ability to learn new information:

“This should be frightening considering what we know in our education populations right now about what is happening to sleep. It would be the difference between ‘aceing’ an exam and failing it miserably”

He goes on to say:

It’s been recently discovered that you need sleep before learning, to prepare your brain, so it’s almost like a dry sponge, ready to soak up new information.

Sleep after learning is essential to hit the ‘SAVE’ button on those new memories so you don’t forget them”. 

He then also goes on to state that:

“Without sleep our memory circuits effectively become waterlogged and you can’t absorb information.”

So, to be clear, we need adequate sleep to prepare to soak up new information; and we need adequate sleep afterwards to consolidate the learning (in the form of memory traces in the brain).

Conclusion

This evidence about the importance of sleep has emerged over the last 20 years, and has massive implications for our health, and our ability to learn, to interact with others effectively, and to enjoy life.

Since I read the review by James McConnachie, I have been religiously making sure I get at least 8 hours’ sleep per night, and intend to get Matthew Walker’s book. I strongly recommend it, and also watching him talking on ‘You Tube.’

But please bear in mind: This blog has given you some of the latest information about sleep from an expert. I’ve just given you some declarative knowledge (which means that you’ve now got some information that can be retained or stored; or articulated or stated to another person). This has to be distinguished from what we call ‘procedural knowledge’.  That is to say, knowing how to tie shoe laces is not at all the same thing as being able to tie shoe laces.

If you want this information about sleep to improve your quality of life – your health and relationships, your learning and memorizing ability, and safety when driving – then you need to turn this information into procedural knowledge.

You need to actively change your sleep patterns, which are most likely well established habits!

You need to be able to stick to your commitment to change your sleep habits, and assertively alter them in the face of possible pressure from others. As Dr Phil said, “This is when the rubber hits the road”.

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachIf you want support in doing this, that’s when coaching can be a great moral and practical support. So contact me if you want to take on board these findings and change your sleep patterns for the better.

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

 

 

 

Sleep,

A self-coaching exercise: Happiness audit

Blog Post No. 52

25th August 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

A Self-coaching exercise which can improve the quality of your life:

The “Haversack and Balloons” exercise

Introduction

In this blog I am going to introduce you to an exercise that you can do, which is like a visual ‘balance sheet’ of your life at the moment.  It will help you to see if you need to bring more happiness into your daily life!  And it will help to balance self-support against the pressures of life.

I came across this exercise many years ago and found it to be really helpful for lots of people – in particular with students on my stress management courses and counselling courses. It’s a very simple and effective way of checking out whether you have a good balance of pleasurable and nourishing things in your life at the moment.  It’s important to watch that balance, as you need adequate resources to keep you going as you do all those daily tasks at work and/or at home.

Method

Print off a copy of this four-step exercise – shown in green – and follow the simple instructions:

STEP 1: Burdens and responsibilities (tasks, etc)

Write in the white spaces on the haversack those things that weigh you down at the moment:

Haversack image

(If you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 2: List the things that lift you up or raise your spirits

In each of the balloons, write in one thing which makes you feel good, and enriches your life, and keeps you happy on a daily basis.

Ballons image

(Again, if you need to continue on a separate sheet of paper, then please do so.)

STEP 3: Review

Weigh up your stressors and the supports (or balloons and burdens)

As you look at the two different aspects of your life at the moment, (your haversack and your balloons), see what proportion of problems and challenges you have weighing you down, and what proportion of daily pleasures and uplifting experiences you have filled in.

~~~

STEP 4: Your action plan

For a happy and contented life, you need to make sure that you have a roughly equal balance of pressures and supports – or challenges and pleasures.

Your balloons will keep you going (and sane) as you handle all the aggravations life throws at you!

So decide what action you might need to take to increase your ‘daily balloons’ or reduce some of your mental burdens or pressures.

Make a list and commit to take action.

~~~

Review

Reviewing this exercise carefully will show you immediately if you have lots of problems weighing you down, like an invisible knapsack that you are carrying round with you all the time.

It will also show the number of daily pleasures or supports which you have – (your balloons) – to balance those problems out. This balance does affect the quality of your life.

Of course, too little pressure and strain can be almost as bad as too much. You could (theoretically) be having lots of self-nourishing experiences and pleasures, but  too little in the way of challenges to keep you mentally engaged in life, and stimulated. Boredom can be stressful.  We feel happiest when we experience ‘flow’, which means that the challenges in our lives are balanced by our coping capacity.

A valuable way to do this exercise is to share what you have put on your diagrams with a trusted friend or colleague, and if you take turns to talk about your lists, you will both benefit from expressing your current problems, and finding out if you are both taking care of yourselves by having daily pleasures and supports to balance the work you are doing.

Your balloons

As explained above, your ‘balloons’ are the daily experiences which keep you happy and motivated, and supported, either outside of work, or within the work situation.  A helpful list of balloons might include: Solid breakfast; slow and relaxing journey to work; planned daily activities so work load is balanced; tea break or dinner break with friends or work colleagues whose company you enjoy; sipping water at fifteen minute intervals during the day; avoiding sedentary lifestyle, which means get up and move around ever fifty minutes or so; daily physical exercise; listen to relaxing music; dance; write out your problems every day; and so on; and so forth.

Let’s take one example:

Music as a daily ‘Balloon’

Book-cover

Caroline Webb, in her book ‘How to have a good day’ (2016) describes how one doctor (Rakesh) uses music as an essential strategy (one of his daily ‘balloons’) to keep him going when he is on duty in the Emergency Room of the hospital where he works. Describing his job, Rakesh told her:

“You’re constantly handling problems. You don’t have much time, and you never stop moving. In one hour you’re probably making perhaps one hundred or two hundred decisions: which tests to order, where to send a patient, and what interventions are needed. You’re on different shifts – sometimes morning, sometimes nights. A 12 hour shift can turn into a 14 hour shift if something bad happens with one of your patients.”

Rakesh confirms that the job is emotionally draining as well as mentally and physically challenging… And so what he does to keep going throughout a long shift, is that he uses music to shape and alter his mental state.  He says:

“You know that you are going to walk into a full waiting room, and as soon as you walk in you’re going to need to spring into action. So I pump up my energy levels on the drive to work, with music that will do that for me, like some Linkin Park.

”Once I arrive I switch to Reggae music and we have it playing in the background for everyone. It’s sort of happy but also relaxed, which is how I need to feel to perform at my best under pressure.”

His use of music to keep him happy whilst doing a very demanding job, impressed Caroline Webb, who stated:

“One thing I’ve noticed about people who are able to sustain their energy in gruelling jobs is that they know themselves really well. They understand what causes their peaks and troughs, and they know the quickest way to lift their spirits when needed.”

The power of music to uplift you

What is the evidence that music be effective in improving your day? And what does it improve? A review of 23 studies covering almost 1,500 patients found that listening to music reduced heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in heart disease patients (Bradt & Dileo, 2009: Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0014029/.

If you doubt that music can change your state for the better, then let me suggest that you have a listen to the following extract from Mozart’s piano concerto No. 23 (second movement) played by Helene Grimaud:

~~~

How did you feel after listening to that short extract? The value of listening to Mozart’s music has been very carefully researched.

Listening to Mozart’s music can help reduce high blood pressure

Mozaet-pictureAccording to a new research report, listening to Mozart and Johann Strauss’s music can help lower hypertension, which means really high blood pressure. Listening to Mozart can not only soothe your mood, but also help lower blood pressure as well as stabilise the heart rate.

The findings showed that listening to classical composers,  Wolfgang Mozart and Johann Strauss (the younger), for 25 minutes, could lower blood lipid concentrations and heart rate.

The study analysed 60 participants who were exposed to 25 minutes of music by Mozart, Strauss or ABBA — a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm in 1972. Another group of 60 participants were allocated to a control group that spent their time in silence.

The participants who listened to Mozart lowered their blood pressure.  (Specifically, Mozart lowered their systolic [upper reading] BP — the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats – by 4.7 mm Hg, In the case of Strauss, by 3.7 mm Hg; whereas no substantial effect was seen for the songs of ABBA.  Diastolic [lower reading] blood pressure — when the heart rests between beats — also fell by 2.1 mm Hg for Mozart and 2.9 mm Hg for Strauss.)

Here’s what the researchers said:

“It has been known for centuries that music has an effect on human beings. In our study, listening to classical music resulted in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. These drops in blood pressure were clearly expressed for the music of Mozart and Strauss,” said Hans-Joachim Trappe and Gabriele Volt of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany.

But Mozart’s music had the strongest effect,” they added.

In addition, after exposure to the music of Mozart and Strauss, cortisol levels (which are stress hormones) were found to have dropped more in men than in women.

Quiet music of a slow tempo, and long legato (meaning that the notes are played or sung smoothly and connected together), are regarded as beneficial for the cardio-circulatory system, according to the paper published in the Journal ‘Deutsches Arzteblatt International’.

~~~

I love to do Chi Kung exercises to Mozart music in the mornings; but I also find other forms of music to be uplifting balloons.  Here’a good example:

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson

Kids-cover-of-Uptown-FunkA fortnight ago I heard an amazing sound on Zoe Ball’s BBC Radio 2 music programme, and I enjoyed listening to it so much that this is one of my daily balloons, as it is full of energy and movement.

Here’s Mark Ronson’s official music video for ‘Uptown Funk’ performed by Bruno Mars. By the number of views of the video you can see that it’s pretty popular: (2,623,758,877 views on You Tube).

~~~

Conclusion

If you try the ‘Haversack and Balloons’ exercise, you might find it to be a useful, quick self-coaching tool that can help you search for ways to enhance your daily life-balance. It can help you to produce an Action List for ways to reduce the pressures under which you labour, and to increase those experiences that uplift you and keep you going under pressure.

And if you need some help with this process, please contact me.

Best of luck.

That’s all for now.

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: Renata Taylor-Byrne

01422 843 629

(Or 44 1422 843 629 from outside the UK)

~~~

 

 

 

Creative writing and the therapeutic journey

Blog Post No. 155

18th July 2017 – Updated on 22nd January 2019

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, 2018-2019

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Recent books

If you have come to this page looking for recent books by Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne), then here is the list of the latest books: on Lifestyle Counselling; Writing Therapy; and Diet and Exercise linked to emotional functioning; plus building successful couple relationships.

~~~

Book Descriptions:

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: 

Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy

Front cover Lifestyle Counselling

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available at Amazon outlets.***

The contents

In this book, you will find a very clear, brief, easy to read introduction to a novel approach to ‘counselling the whole person’. This emotive-cognitive approach does not restrict itself to mental processes.  We go beyond what the client is ‘telling themselves’, or ‘signalling themselves’; or what went wrong in their family of origin. We also include how well they manage their body-brain-mind in terms of diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional self-management (including self-talk, or inner dialogue). And we propose that it is better for counsellors and therapists to operate in a primarily right-brain modality, and to use the left-brain, cognitive processes, secondarily.

The most important, and novel, chapters in this book are as follows:

Chapter 4, which summarizes our research on the impact of diet/nutrition and physical exercise on mental health and emotional well-being.

Chapter 5, which reviews the science of sleep hygiene, plus common sense insights, and presents a range of lifestyle changes to promote healthy sleep, and thus to improve mental and emotional well-being.

Chapter 9, which explains how to incorporate the learning from chapters 4 and 5 into any system of talk therapy or counselling.

There is also a chapter (8) on counselling individuals using our Emotive-Cognitive approach, in which there is a section (8.3(b)) on using the Holistic SOR model to explore many aspects of the lifestyle of the client.

For more information, please click the following link: Lifestyle Counselling book.***

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How to Write A New Life for Yourself:

Narrative therapy and the writing solution

Writing Theapy book cover

By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications

Available as a paperback at Amazon outlets.***

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In this book, we set out to show you how you can quickly and easily process your current psychological problems, and improve your emotional intelligence, by writing about your current and historic difficulties.  (Chapter 8 contains a detailed introduction to the subject of how to understand and manage your emotions).

This approach to writing about your emotional difficulties in order to resolve them has a long and noble tradition.  Many nineteenth century poets were seeking to heal broken hearts or resolve personal dissatisfactions by the use of their poetry writing activities; and many novels are clearly forms of catharsis (or release of pent up emotions) by the author.

But not all writing is equally helpful, therapeutically speaking.  If the writing is too negative; or too pessimistic; or simply makes the reader feel raw and vulnerable, then it is not going to have a positive effect.  Later we will show you how to tackle therapeutic writing, (within the two main disciplines of writing therapy – [the scientific and the humanistic]), in order to make it maximally effective.

For more information, please click the following link: Write a New Life for Yourself.***

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How to control your anger, anxiety and depression,

Using nutrition and physical exercise

Front cover design 4

By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Available at Amazon outlets.***

1. Introduction

What we eat has a very powerful effect on our bodies and minds. And knowing and understanding how our body-mind reacts to the substances we feed ourselves is a crucial part of self-care.

For instance: depression can be caused by psychological reactions to losses and failures.  But it can also be caused by certain kinds of body-brain chemistry problems, some of which can begin in the guts, and be related to bad diet, and lack of physical exercise.  For example:

“If you are depressed while you suffer from regular yeast infections (like Candida Albicans), or athlete’s foot, or have taken antibiotics recently, there is a connection. Our brains are inextricably tied to our gastrointestinal tract and our mental well-being is dependent on healthy intestines. Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses from autism to ADHD can be caused by an imbalance of gut microbes like fungi, and ‘bad’ bacteria”.  (Source: Michael Edwards (2014))[i].

And when we take antibiotics, we kill off all of our friendly bacteria, and often what grows back first is the unfriendly stuff, like Candida Albicans, which can then cause depression, anxiety and other symptoms, as listed above.

Also, we can really benefit from knowing some of the latest ideas about where – (in our diets) – our depression, anxiety and anger can originate from; as provided by specialists who have devoted their lives to years of investigation into the workings of the human body and mind (or body-mind).

[i] Edwards, M. (2014) ‘The candida depression connection – How yeast leads to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental disorders’. Available online at:                https://www.naturalnews.com/047184_ candida_ depression_gut_microbes.html#

For more information, please click the following link: Diet, exercise and mental health.***

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Top secrets for

Building a Successful Relationship: 

Volume 1 – A blueprint and toolbox for couples and counsellors: C101

By Dr Jim Byrne

With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol 1543762369 (1905x1383)

The full paperback cover, by Charles Saul

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On this web site, you will find enough information about our new book on couple relationships to inform your decision about buying it.  We have posted the full Preface; plus the full set of (revised) Contents pages; plus a brief extract from each of the main chapters (1-13).

Pre-publication review

“I have recently finished reading Dr Jim Byrne’s immensely useful book (about love and relationship skills).  This book is full of cutting edge thinking and priceless wisdom about couple relationships; which inspires us to believe that we can undoubtedly shape and improve our most important relationships.  The approach is comprehensive (despite being Volume 1 of 3), covering as it does: the nature of love and relationships; common myths about love and relationships (which tend to lead young people astray); some illuminating case studies of couple relationships that have gone wrong; and very helpful chapters on communication skills, conflict styles, and assertive approaches to relationship; plus a very interesting introduction to the theory that our marriage partnership is shaped, for better or worse, in our family of origin. I particularly liked the chapters on how to manage boundaries in relationships; and how to change your relationship habits. I can highly recommend this ‘must read’ book to couples and counsellors alike”.

Dr Nazir Hussain

Positive Psychology and Integrative Counselling Services, Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

September 2018

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Here’s a quick preview of part of the contents of Chapter 1:

This book has been designed to be helpful to two main audiences:

1. Anybody who is curious about how to build and maintain a happy, successful couple relationship, like a marriage or civil partnership (civil agreement), or simple cohabitation; and:

2. Any professional who works with individuals and couples who show up with problems of marital or couple conflict, breakdowns of communication, or unhappiness with the couple bond.

For more information about this book, please go to Top Secrets for Building a Successful Relationship.***

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Recent publications

Facing and Defeating your Emotional Dragons:

How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience

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Holistic Counselling in Practice:

An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy

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Daniel O’Beeve’s Amazing Journey: From traumatic origins to transcendent love

The memoir of Daniel O’Beeve: a strong-willed seeker after personal liberation: 1945-1985

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Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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Introduction to first draft of this blog post

Cover444It is now more than three months since my previous blog post was published.  The delay was down to how busy I’ve been, largely because of writing my latest book, which is now available at Amazon: Unfit for Therapeutic Purposes: The case against Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.***

My main role in life, as a doctor of counselling, is to see individual clients who have ‘problems of daily living’ which they cannot resolve on their own.  I help people with problems of anxiety, depression, anger, couple conflict, attachment problems, and other relationship problems.  Dr Jim’s Counselling Division.***

drjim-counsellor1However, I also write books, blogs and web pages; and articles or papers on counselling-related topics.  And I help individuals, from time to time, who are struggling with their creative or technical writing projects.  Sometimes I help individual writers to stay motivated, or to process their repeated rejection by an unreceptive and uncaring world.

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The frustrations of writing

It is far from easy being a creative writer.  Frustrations abound, from conception of a new and useful writing project; doing the research; writing early drafts; then polishing, editing and publishing; and then trying to sell the end product in a world which is awash with information-overload.

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In my book on REBT, I wrote about that period like this:

“As early as August 2003 (and probably earlier), I was writing about the fact that stress was a multi-causal problem.  That idea contradicts the ABC theory, which asserts that all emotional distress (including the common manifestations of stress: which include anger, anxiety and depression) are caused exclusively by the client’s Beliefs (B’s).  Here is an example of my writing from August 2003:

“I have developed a stress management programme consisting of fifteen strategies which help you to work on your body, your emotions, your thinking, and your stress management skills. This programme allows you to develop a stress-free life.

8-physical-symptoms-of-stress

“You may also be affected by many life-change stressors, e.g. Moving house; death of your spouse or other loved one; divorce; marriage; redundancy; bullying at work; promotion; demotion; change of lifestyle; etc.

“Your stress level also depends upon such factors as your diet, exercise, what you tell yourself about your life pressures, and so on. (What you tell yourself about your pressures is called your “self-talk”).

“And a lot depends upon your sense of control. Can you control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you confident and assertive enough to at least try to control your workload, your work environment, and/or your social life? Are you wise enough to learn how to stoically accept those things which you clearly cannot control? The more control you have, the less stress you feel, according to the Whitehall Studies, conducted by Michael Marmot, beginning in 1984.” (Original source in footnotes)[1].

However, the frustration was this: Although I had expertise about managing stress; and although I had packaged 15 different strategies for getting your stress under control, very few people bought my book!

And today, I believe, most people do not understand stress: How it destroys their happiness, damages their physical health, and causes all kinds of emotional problems.

Tough stuff! This is the lot of the creative writer.  The world most often seems to not be ready for our insights!

~~~

People love simplicity and side-tracks

While my stress book was not selling to any reasonable degree, the simple books about the ABC model of REBT, produced by Dr Albert Ellis, were selling much better.  Those books presented an exaggerated claim that they could help the reader to quickly and relatively effortlessly get rid of any problem, simply by changing their beliefs about the problems they encountered.

My REBT book demonstrates that there was never any solid evidence that this claim is true.  It also demonstrates that, in the process, the REBT/CBT model blames the client for their own upsets, thus excusing the harshness of current government policy in the US and the UK, where the rich are enriched and the poor are squashed!  That squashing process hurts, and causes emotional distress and physical health problems.

Here is the evidence that it is not the individual’s beliefs, but the social environment that has the most impact on mental health and emotional well-being:

While psychotherapists like Albert Ellis tended to emphasize the role of the counselling client’s beliefs in the causation of anger, anxiety, depression, and so on, Oliver James, and his concept of ‘affluenza’, tends to emphasize living in a materialistic environment. As Dr James writes: “Nearly ten years ago, in my book Britain on the Couch, I pointed out that a twenty-five-year-old American is (depending on which studies you believe) between three and ten times more likely to be suffering depression today than in 1950. … In the case of British people, nearly one-quarter suffered from emotional distress … in the past twelve months, and there is strong evidence that a further one-quarter of us are on the verge thereof.  … (M)uch of this increase in angst occurred after the 1970s and in English-speaking nations”.  People’s beliefs have not changed so much over that time.  This is evidence of the social-economic impact of the post-Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal economic policies!

Oliver James (2007) Affluenza: How to be successful and stay sane.  Page xvi-xvii. (63).

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Conclusion

If you are a creative writer, and you want to write your own autobiography, or autobiographical novel, or you need support with any aspect of your creative writing process, then I can help you.

Coaching, counselling and therapy for writers.***

Or you could take a look at my current books in print.***

Or take a look at my page about my top eight books, here: Books about E-CENT Counselling and related topics.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

 

Jim

 

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com

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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”

Physical exercise for emotional and physical health

Blog Post No.7

14th October

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: Why bother exercising? What’s the point?

Introduction:

sparkIn this blog I am going to explain why we gain so much from exercising, and how it can be very helpful for you in high pressure situations; and to briefly describe one type of exercise which you may not have come across before.

Humans are designed for a primitive lifestyle. We are designed by nature to go out hunting and keep warm, every day. We’re human animals, whose design has specifically developed to have daily exercise and activity as an essential part of our lifestyle.

Many of us in the UK no longer have to go out hunting for food. We can get the food we need from the supermarket, and warmth from a heating system, instead of searching for fuel for a fire.

But our bodies have specifically evolved (in the past) to go out and get what we need in order to survive. So we have to continue to provide our bodies with the daily physical exertion that is a built-in necessity, in order to function properly.

What happens if we don’t exercise?

If we don’t exercise, then, sadly, our muscles start to deteriorate.

Here is some information on this point: In only 24 hours of inactivity your muscle tone starts to deteriorate. Let a year go by without exercise and 50% of the health (and age control) benefits you may have gained from a lifetime of sport are lost!

Our minds also deteriorate from lack of exercise, because we do not have ‘separate’ minds, but rather we have a body-mind! Depression and anxiety will normally increase if (1) we experience stress, (2) we don’t exercise (to get rid of it), and (3) we do nothing else to reduce the stress hormones in our bodies.

But our bodies have evolved a natural way to deal with the stressors we face as we go out into the world every day. I mentioned in last week’s blog post that we have an immediate alerting mechanism called the ‘fight or flight’ response, designed by nature to protect us when we are faced with threats and dangers.

As soon as the danger is passed, the fight or flight response switches off, and our bodies switch into the ‘rest and digest’ mode. In this mode we go into recovery, unwind and relax; and our digestion returns to normal.

The problem is that many people don’t allow the ‘rest and digest’ process (of the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system) to do its job of slowly restoring the body back to normal.

A lot of people know more about the inside of their local supermarket than they do about their own body-mind and how it functions.

So they get stress, piled upon stress, piled upon stress, in their bodies (and minds). They don’t give their bodies time to recover, and end up feeling tired and strained all the time.

Stress hormones are reduced when you exercise

What exercise does is to help you to use up your stress hormones (of adrenaline and cortisol) which have been released in your body to help you fight the threat that your body-mind thinks it is facing. Our body tenses up in preparation for ‘fight ‘ or ‘flight’, and subsequent exercise helps the muscles use this energy up and also relaxes the muscles and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure as well.

Stress has negative effects upon your digestive system (such as ulceration); damage to your arteries (as platelets are released you’re your bloodstream); but it also pushes up your cholesterol level, and has a knock-on effect on weight-gain.

When you’re feeling stressed, your liver produces extra fuel (glycogen and glucose) for the ‘fight or flight’ response. At the same time, your liver’s cholesterol production increases. But exercise helps to remove this excess cholesterol, which helps with both your arterial system and your waistline (by reducing it).

Exercise makes us more resistant to stress because it protects us from the impact of cortisol (one of the major stress hormones). This means that we don’t get as wound-up by annoying events as we used to when we did not exercise. This is good news for those of us who get impatient sitting in a traffic jam, or waiting for significant others to finish a long and rambling description of their day! (Stress gets into everything and makes it worse!)

There are lots of benefits from exercising

Did you know that if you exercise for ten minutes (going out for a brisk walk; walking up stairs, etc.) that this will reduce your physical tension for up to four hours afterwards?

It’s important to understand how stress over-arouses your central nervous system, causing you to feel strained, irritable, and nervous; and making it difficult for you to think clearly (because of the cortisol filling your body-brain-mind).

These negative effects of stress are what make it difficult for you to engage in job interviews or exams, presentations or special events.  These kinds of events can be much less of an ordeal if your body is well rested and exercised.

If your body is less tense, the negative, self-frightening messages from your mind, about the forthcoming challenge, won’t be able to exert the same power over you.

The vicious circle of a tense (stressed) body responding with even more stress to an anticipated future event – which you see as a scary challenge – will be short-circuited to the degree that you exercise and relax. Relaxed muscles will reduce your stress level!

This is a fast and effective way to greater self-confidence!

Additional benefits

Research done with different populations shows that you have a 50% lower chance of developing bowel cancer if you exercise.

Exercise also reduces inflammation in the body; and much recent research suggests that all major illnesses begin as inflammation.  The mechanism of reduction here is that exercise strengthens the immune system, which then repairs damaged tissue and reduces and eliminates inflammation.

But what sort of exercise is right for you?

Different individuals thrive on different forms of exercise. It can involve a long search to find the sort of exercise that is really right for you. But exercise that you enjoy will help your body release feel-good hormones, called endorphins, which will quickly change your mood if you are feeling anxious or depressed. So try some different forms of exercise to find out what works best for you.

My favourite forms of exercise are as follows:

The first one is called ‘Chi-gong’ (or Qi Kung), and is a type of T’ai chi. It consists of very simple movements, which you do every day. If you go to China you will see people doing the exercises in the parks, in the early morning. (You can see a demonstration here: # Qigong – Chi Kung – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qQKCB1At3k&feature=related)

The great thing about Chi-gong is its simplicity. No special equipment is needed, and you can quickly feel the benefits to your body. And millions of ordinary Chinese people can’t be wrong! J

Tao Porchon-LynchMy second favourite form of exercise is dancing, and the benefits to the body are very obvious – here’s a picture of Tao Porchon-Lynch. She does ballroom dancing (and entering competitions) along with being a yoga teacher:

By the way, she’s 95, and she’s one of my top role models.

Finally, here is a link to a great book which Jim and I reviewed, called ‘Spark’ about how exercise  affects our brains and improves mental performance and stimulates brain growth. www.abc-counselling.com/id373.html

I’ll finish with a quote from Dr John Ratey, who wrote ‘Spark’ with Eric Hagerman:

The better your fitness levels, the better your brain works’.

Ratey and Hargerman (2009, page 7)

They also mention that: ‘Population studies which have included tens of thousands of people of every age show that fitness levels relate directly to positive moods and lower levels of anxiety and stress’.

That’s all for now. Happy exercising!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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