Posts filed under Mental Wellness

Stressed Out? Try "Forest Bathing"

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I have this habit of spending the vast majority of my time indoors. I even semi-jokingly refer to myself as “indoorsy,” preferring to spend my free time inside rather than out in nature. But often, I find myself feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. A high-stress life of modern society can leave one feeling frazzled and depleted. When we get caught up in our daily lives hustling from one task to the next, not only does our nervous system get tired, but we can experience a sort of “tunnel vision” that has us only half experiencing life.

Here in Eugene, I feel so fortunate to live somewhere with such abundant greenspace. Just being able to sit by the Willamette and soak in the sights and sounds of nature is a little magical.  And as the weather slowly warms up and the sun peeks through the clouds, spending time outside in Oregon becomes even more enjoyable. Even my “indoorsy” self has something to enjoy outside here: the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.”

“Forest Bathing” is the idea that spending time in the forest (or whatever natural setting you might find yourself near) can positively influence your health. Proponents of Shinrin-yoku claim that the connection with our natural surroundings promotes mental and physical well-being.  Through mindfulness, observation, and sensory exploration, forest bathing can help lower stress and bring mental clarity. In studies, test subjects who took a 40-minute slow walk in a forest showed lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who did the same physical activity in a lab setting. Pretty neat, huh?

Shinrin-yoku, at its core, does not only provide benefit to the individual, but also to the forest. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) describes Forest Therapy as:

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

Now, I’m not usually one to feed into pseudoscience, but this makes some sense. It comes down to compassion for your surroundings-- when you benefit from your surroundings in a meaningful way, you tend to take care of it more. Regular Forest bathing walks provide you with a firsthand account of the health and welfare of your surroundings.  Is there trash everywhere? Can you hear birds and other wildlife? Having a mindful experience in nature opens you to small details you might otherwise miss, and gives you the opportunity to take action to take care of the environment which you find yourself in. You win, the forest wins, the birds win-- everyone wins!

The next time you find yourself depleted or stressed, take time to find nature and experience Shinrin-yoku for yourself.  Interested in learning more about Shinrin-yoku? Visit the link below for articles and lots more information from the ANFT.

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Healthy Living.

Vision and Positive Change

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I am a big proponent of challenge and growth. Like a video game, I sit down, focus, and make an attack plan to make it to the next level. Inevitably, I level up—which feels amazing, but once I feel comfortable on that level I can sometimes feel lost. How could I work so hard and so focused to only end up lost?

Well, It turns out I wasn't as focused as I thought. Ouch, ego blow! I guess I am just going to have to dust myself off,  and come up with a better action plan! So, what is this woman talking about? Valid question...

Have A Clear Vision: I think this is where a lot of us can begin to get lost. It's easy to say, "I want things to be better!" "I want to make more money." "I want to be a faster runner." But in what way specifically do you want things to improve? A dear friend of mine always asks, "What are the measurables?" You may be asking," What the heck does that mean?!" But it's quite obvious. What can be measured. What data/information is present? What do you want to see change?  For example; Say, "I want to increase my monthly income to $X dollars a month... or... I want to increase my client retention X% this quarter...or I want to decrease my mile time when running." The fun with visualization is you get to make the rules. It's your vision. Go nuts! Dream Big! Why not? And write it down...somewhere you can go back and find it. That's key. It feels really good to go back and see what you wrote down and see how far you have come.

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Support The Vision: Spend time daily. Even if it's 1 minute or 10 minutes. Call it meditation, or prayer, or write it down, or have mantra you say out loud. It sound weird, but it's important. Tell the  people in your circle; friends, family, coworkers.  This creates accountability, which may feel like pressure. But to make a diamond of coal we need pressure. Pressure can also be called motivation. This feeling of pressure is in your mind. Which can be challenging in it's own right. Then, like your Vision, you remember, "Hey, this is mine! I am manifesting change and it feels hard. And that's OK!  Much of what is worth doing is not easy. It takes determination. You will not regret working hard. You will not regret staying focused. You will not regret being loyal to your vision. Conversely, walking away from your vision (because it feels difficult) may create a path of regret or self defeat. Good news though, it is completely natural to loose focus, and the gift with energy and thought is it's never to late to star all over again!

Open your your heart and mind for the change:  Open yourself up to the notion that you could be experiencing greater success. Yes, this may be sounding a bit "self-helpy/cheesy",  but it's a necessary step. It's difficult because it's not an A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 situation. It's not cut and dry. I can admit this part was challenging for me since I'm a  Type A person who prefers consistency and clear cut path.  But once I decided I was all in with my vision I rolled up my sleeves and asked myself, "OK, what can I do differently today?" One of my recent vision goals was to increase my retention percentage in a recent quarter. I'm going to be real honest here; it was a bit of an ego blow to acknowledge that I needed to improve in this department. You see, I fancy myself quite talented in my trade and thought, "Hmpff! Me need to improve?! But I was killing it! Right?!?" Oops! Looks like I had allowed myself to get a little too comfortable. Ouch! Again, it is not easy to admit this to you. I have spiritual practice and part of it revolves around the letting go of the ego. Well, the joke was on me.  (Insert Laughing at self! Hahaha!) And in the spirit being really honest, I was not initially laughing. I was irritated!  But, I looked myself square in face (literally and metaphorically) and  asked myself why I had this resistance? Why was I limiting myself...Oh Boy! Eureka! That was it! I realized I was placing limitations on my potential. Upon seeing this I was then open to acknowledge that I was a little scared. That's all...just a bit of fear.

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Put The Vision To Work: Make that dream do some heavy lifting. Treat it like a science experiment. This is the fun part. What I loved about this process was I could just pick one thing at a time, and simply try it. Then sit back and see what happens. I looked at my daily work practice and tore it apart. I consulted with others in my field, asked questions and tried new things. For example, as a massage therapist we do a lot of listening. I made a specific goal to ask more open ended questions and listened better. I followed through with clear questions about the clients' expectation for the massage. And when the appointment was over I asked direct questions about  the issues originally brought into the room and if they felt like they were addressed. This helped! Of coarse I was already doing this with clients, but my process was not as distilled and focused as it could have been. Another thing I tried was writing directly to my clients, going the extra mile as they say. I wrote to them about difficult things they were facing in their lives, about progress we had been making together in their treatment, or simply to say 'Hello' and thank them for their loyalty. Every day I thought about my clear vision. I spent a small amount of time "manifesting it" through meditation (again, call it what you like to match you). Then I opened my mind to the idea that it would work. And at work, I took to making small and significant changes. All said it was simple, but not always easy! I also suggest giving yourself grace when taking on new challenges. Growth isn't always linear. There are ups and downs. There is quiet a bit of two steps forward and one step back...but you are moving forward. Be grateful to yourself for growing.

I'm Happy to report that my retention vision Goal was reached.  Yay! It feels amazing to see the hard numbers in front of me (though I still have room to improve and I plan on it) Honestly, it's a little spooky and wild and beautiful! Now I know this really works. One of the many gifts of self growth and challenge is that it never ends. One may feel annoyed by this, but choose to feel excited about it!  And now I'm armed with this wonderful 'How To' for visualizing and making positive growth and change in my life. Will it be hard work?  Yes. Am I stoked to see where this wacky adventure takes me, Absolutely!

I'm excited for you and for me! Cheers on the road to success!

May You Be Well,

Lily Lunnemann

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Mental Wellness.

Keeping up with New Year's Resolutions

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Chances are that, by now, you have fallen off the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Research shows that almost 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are ditched before the second week in February. Overly lofty goal and aspirations can quickly fall by the wayside once the holidays are in the rear-view mirror and we settle back into the routines of our normal lives. I always start the year with a list of goals, and usually by the end of the month I am back to my old ways. This year, I made a resolution to eat fresh veggies every day (we’ve got a long and complicated history). In order to maintain these goals long enough to develop into healthy habits, I have noticed that two things help me to rediscover my aspirations: mindfulness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is a critical tool to that helps us to stay aware of our actions and thoughts.  It can be invaluable when setting and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions. Being mindful to the reasons why you chose that goal can hone down what is really important to you in the coming year. Instead of deciding to exercise more, examine what it is that makes you want to exercise more.  Why has it not happened already, and what do you need to change in order to attain this goal? Mindful examination of behaviors may lead you to create different resolutions. Instead of telling myself I need to eat more healthy, which is vague, it really comes down to adding more vegetables to my diet. When you feel as though you are falling off the wagon, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is detrimental to my efforts?”  It is way easier to microwave some leftovers than make a fresh salad, but is that necessarily the best for me? Mindfulness brings you to an objective place to analyze your actions and habits in order to move forward again.

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“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Creating new habits is really difficult and takes time. Acknowledging this is the first step to helping achieve those New Year’s Resolutions.  They don’t come overnight, and they will have obstacles. Accept slip-ups with grace, forgive yourself, and make the choice to get back in the game. By doing this, you not only show compassion for yourself, but allow the faults and failures that lead to true change over time. This helps gently reaffirm your original goal. It is fine to have a week or even longer where your goals fall by the wayside; that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Failure only happens when you stop picking up where you left off.

I hope you have success in your goals for 2019. If you slip up, remember to accept your obstacles with grace and keep on keepin’ on.

Posted on February 14, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Self-care.

The Value of (Dis)Connection

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When was the last time you ate a meal alone without looking at your phone or computer? If you are like the vast majority of people, myself included, electronic devices have crept their way into every aspect of your life. The average American spends close to ten hours a day in front of a screen—TV, phone, or computer.  That adds up, and can be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  Beyond being a distraction, this tech-heavy lifestyle can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways—but it doesn’t have to.  Here are some ways to turn off and tune back into real life.

Limit & Be Discerning

When you begin to limit the amount of tech-time throughout your day, it becomes apparent how often we tend to mindlessly indulge. Is it really beneficial to binge watch Law and Order for eight hours straight? Certainly not—I can think of a lot of things to instead that have a better impact on my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  Making impactful choices allows you to take control of the technology in your life, rather than becoming the proverbial slave to it. For example, once a week I only watch television I can learn something from—Nature docs, cooking shows, that sort of thing—for only an hour or so rather than all day.  This way, I feel good about the content I am watching, and I have time to put what I learn to good use.

Practice Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh often tells the tale of savoring a cookie as a child.  Sitting in his front yard, he would take his time eating and being present to all his surroundings.  In much the same way, we can be present to whatever it is we are doing, be it eating, walking, or even scrolling through Facebook.  

First, only do one thing at a time. In our crazy, hectic world, multi-tasking is so encouraged that we tend to forget just how to do one thing at a time. Instead of juggling three things at once, try instead sitting in the present with one.  Don’t check your email while scrolling through social media and watching TV in the background. Instead, do one thing with your full attention, and notice all the subtleties of it.

Second, slowwww dowwwnnnn. The average user looks at an Instagram post for one second. What’s the rush?  Try this—the next time you are looking at Instagram (or Facebook, or anything online) give each post 10 seconds.  Look at all the details, read the captions, give it some thought, and then when you are ready, move on to the next.  At first 10 seconds might seem like a lot, but you will retain much more information, and be more mindful in the process.

Check out— even for a little while

Taking breaks from the constant inundation of social media, news, and images can have a great impact on mental and emotional health. Consider designating one weekend a month as a “screen-free” weekend.  Take a hike, spend time face-to-face with loved ones, or even schedule a spa day as a way to honor the present moment away from distractions. By engaging in activities in which phone use is either discouraged or impossible, you engage more fully with your surroundings.

Can’t commit to a full weekend? Try enacting a screen curfew for yourself.  Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by handheld electronics such as phones and tablets can have a dramatic effect on your sleep cycle. By shutting off all the screens at a certain time in the evening, it can alleviate these effects, and promote deeper and more restful sleep.



Understanding and Protecting Yourself From the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is at an all-time high. People suffering from chronic pain, especially, are at risk for addiction to drugs such as Vicodin, oxycodone, morphine, and Percocet, among others. But while these drugs may initially address acute pain, are they safe for long-term use in chronic pain patients?

How Opiates Affect the Brain

Everyone's brain contains opiate receptors. The reason is that your internal neurotransmitters act on these receptors and naturally produce effects that are nearly the same as opiate drugs. When you introduce an opiate drug into your brain, it binds to these receptors and acts like these naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals. While these drugs can block pain, they can also produce unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and confusion.

These drugs can also cause feelings of euphoria. And, while they are effective in treating pain, many patients quickly develop a tolerance, even when taking them exactly as prescribed, which leads to addiction. If the drugs are suddenly stopped, symptoms of withdrawal occur, including abdominal cramping, anxiety, vomiting, muscle aches, and irritability.

But there are other ways to control chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives. Here are some of the things you can do to alleviate your pain, without risk of addiction.

Acupuncture

Practiced for thousands of years in China, acupuncture is defined as "a body of procedures and techniques for stimulating specific points on the body." There have been many scientific studies showing that acupuncture can help ease chronic pain, as well as chronic headaches and migraine.

Mindfulness

It would seem like the very last thing we want to do when we're in pain is to pay more attention to what hurts. But that's what's behind mindfulness, which is an effective tool for chronic pain and other issues. Instead of wishing the pain would go away, we focus on the pain with curiosity and without judgment. This leads to an acceptance of the pain and, in turn, helps the patient to deal with it. Discuss this with your doctor to see if mindfulness is an appropriate practice for your chronic pain.

Nutrition

Sounds like a drag, right? But changing your diet and adding more of the right nutrients can go a long way towards alleviating your chronic pain. An anti-inflammatory diet, especially, can help alleviate pain without the use of opiate or opioid medications. See a nutritionist to discuss an anti-inflammatory diet.

Along with other natural alternatives, such as yoga and ecotourism, you can manage your pain naturally. If you're concerned about managing your pain without opiates, talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives.

 

Sources

WebMD

Freedom Treatment Center of California

Everyday Health

Posted on June 20, 2018 and filed under Mental Wellness.

Developing a Healthy Body Image through Bodywork

Body Image

Learning to Love Who We Are

The statistics are alarming. The majority of U.S. women–some estimate more than 80 percent–are unhappy with their appearance. At least 10 million young women, and 1 million young men have an eating disorder. Girls as young as 6 and 7 are expressing disapproval of their looks, and most fourth-grade girls are already diet veterans. Most unsettling is the fact that more women, and girls, fear becoming fat than they do dying.

Combating the Images

How do you see yourself?

Are you content with the person looking back at you from the mirror each morning or do you frown in frustration? Unfortunately, many of us are unhappy with the person looking back. Whether it’s lamenting about having a pear-shaped figure instead of an hourglass, or exhibiting more serious, self-hating body dysmorphic disorders, body image is under siege in our celebrity-fixated society. While Madison Avenue continues to airbrush photos of svelte, 120-pound supermodels for magazine covers, others are trying to teach young girls to love their bodies, beautiful imperfections and all. One way to combat the Hollywood hype and to create an appreciation for the bodies we have is through hands-on massage and bodywork.

Why Massage Affects Body Perception

Being unhappy with our bodies has serious, and sometimes lifelong, ramifications. Feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing can set up a lifetime of self-deprecating behaviors. What regularly scheduled massage allows us to do is “get back” into our bodies and reconnect with ourselves. Massage can help us release physical and mental patterns of tension, enhancing our ability to experience our bodies (regardless of their shape and size) in a more positive way. Just as it facilitates our ability to relax, massage also encourages an awareness of the body, often allowing us to more clearly see and identify destructive behaviors, including overeating or purging.Massage also creates a sense of nurturing that is especially powerful when it comes to poor body image. Accepting the nonjudgmental touch of a trained therapist goes a long way toward rebuilding an appreciation and respect for your own body. If we find acceptance for who we are and how we look, we are giving ourselves permission to live comfortably in the skin we have.The Value of Massage

Research shows that touch is a powerful ally in the quest for physical and mental health. Not only does it help us be more in tune with our bodies, it can also helps restore a sense of “wholeness” that is often lost in our segmented, over scheduled lives. When we regain that connection, it’s much easier to remember that our bodies are something to be cherished, nurtured, and loved, not belittled, betrayed, and forgotten.Valuable for every age and every body type, massage and bodywork have innumerable benefits. Here are a few:

– Alleviates low-back pain and improves range of motion.
– Decreases medication dependence.
– Eases anxiety and depression.
– Enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow.
– Exercises and stretches weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
– Increases joint flexibility.
– Improves circulation by pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
– Releases endorphins–the body’s natural painkiller.

Every Shape and Size

No matter what a client weighs, massage and bodywork therapists are trained to appreciate all bodies, without judgment, and to deliver the best care possible. As in any session, a therapist’s goal is to create an environment that feels safe and nurturing for clients, all while delivering much needed therapeutic touch. For heavier clients, some minor adjustments might be needed in the delivery of the bodywork, but its nurturing, therapeutic, nonjudgmental role will remain unchanged.

Through the Scars

We also have to remember that a negative body image is not necessarily about those few extra pounds on the hips. It might instead be tied to the scars of past injuries and surgeries. Massage can help here, too. For burn victims, research has shown massage can help in the healing process, while for post-surgery breast cancer patients, massage and bodywork can reintegrate a battered body and spirit. In addition to softening scar tissue and speeding post-surgery recovery, massage and bodywork for these clients is about respect, reverence, and learning to look at, and beyond, the scars.

Finding the Stillness

Experts say that when the tissues start to let go and relax under a massage therapist’s hands, profound shifts occur emotionally and physically. A softening happens, and the brain and body begin to integrate again. The chasm between body and mind that created the eating disorder, or fueled the negative body image, begins to narrow. In her book, “Molecules of Emotion,” Georgetown University Medical School professor Candace Pert explains that the body is the “actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind.” She says that if we generate negative energy in response to our appearance, it can eventually find its way into reality. Self-acceptance, then, is paramount for living well, and massage/bodywork is a healthy path to get you there. Finding the stillness in a massage session allows you to just “be,” without judgment. Partner that with the comfort that comes from allowing your body to be nurtured by someone else, and we begin to remember our value, regardless of our outward appearance, or what we perceive it to be.

Posted on December 22, 2017 and filed under Self-care, Mental Wellness.