Reflecting on 2014

The shortest day of the year is behind us. Maybe you’re feeling tired from the frenzied holidays and craving rest, or perhaps you’re filled with energy and hope for 2015. This time of year can be filled with emotions – positive and negative.

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A few days ago, I was sent a link to a post that offers help to anyone wanting to reflect on the past year. I haven’t answered the questions yet, but just reading them caused me to think. It’s tempting to look back on the past year and focus on all that went wrong and how you might be able to change things to avoid the same kinds of hurt. I wondered, how many years have I spent the end of December looking back on all that I thought I’d done wrong or all that I thought I lacked, hoping and planning for the next year to be different? Focusing on changing ourselves can do a disservice to who we are and all of the positive things that we were and are a part of.

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I invite you all to take a bit of time over the next few weeks and write down or talk about these questions with a loved one. Please be gentle with yourselves and remember the strengths that you bring to the world.

  1. Where did I thrive?
  2. Where did I struggle?
  3. Who was important in my life & why?
  4. What lesson am I grateful to have learned?
  5. Where & how was I courageous?
  6. What brought me joy?
  7. How did I treat my body, heart, spirit, and mind?
  8. How did I show up for the people I care about?
  9. What situations triggered fear or discomfort? Did I move through them? If so, how? If not, why not?
  10. Which rituals & habits served me well and which ones didn’t?

Words and Photos by Cassandra Van Dyck

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Self care during the holidays: just for you

The holidays are often about giving, especially for women.  But this posting is just for you.

Here are 3 insights I got from attending the Self Care for Caregivers Workshop on November 24, 2014:

  • Start the day with an affirmation. Some examples are, “I am calm, I am loving, Life is a journey”; I am safe, I am healthy, I am loved”; “I am grateful, I am growing, I embrace life”
  • Use the Stop Light analogy for living to guide you.  A red light means stop, an amber light means “warning”, and the green light means “full steam ahead!”
  • For perfect relaxation, try a book and a cup of tea.  Here are some suggestions: “The Open Focus Brain: harnessing the power of attention to heal mind and body” by Les Fehni; Books by Shakti Gawain: ” Creative Visualization” (2002); “Developing Intuition” (2000); :”Living in the Light” (1998) Note: All of these books are available at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

Happy and safe Holidays everyone!

 

Calm Pond.

 

How Life force gets stuck

Calm waters & stones
How LifeForce Gets Stuck
I recently gave a talk for a group of caregivers in North Vancouver. I was
delighted to be able to share some information with them about how stress
can become trapped in the body, blocking the natural flow of lifeforce in our
system, which, over time, will lead to a variety of health problems. I think it’s
very important that knowledge of this material be spread, not only among
caregivers but also among the entire medical community and everyday folks
as well.
There are so many health problems, mental, physical and emotional,
that are mysterious to patients and doctors alike. Problems that have no
apparent clear cause, yet are very real in their effect on people’s lives – things
like fibromyalgia, depression, chronic anxiety, chronic pain, migraines,
irritable bowl syndrome, and many more.
What if I told you that all of these “diseases” are actually symptoms of one underlying problem?
This root cause is something that I hope will someday have a classification of it’s own! We could call it ANSD – Autonomic Nervous System Dysregulation, and it is this fundamental disorganization of the framework of our physiology that is, in my opinion, the number one cause of poor health in our world. Giving that talk to the caregivers was important to me, not only because I believe passionately in sharing this information, but also because speaking confidently in front of a group of strangers is something that I couldn’t have done a few years ago. The reason is that I too have suffered from ANSD – I have had to overcome anxiety, depression, chronic pain and digestive disorders myself and so I speak now not only from what I’ve learned in my training as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (an intricate and highly effective form of trauma resolution), but also from personal experience and struggle. Read on if you want to know more about how lifeforce gets stuck
and what you can do about it!
 
What is Trauma?
LifeForce becomes stuck in destructive patterns when we are traumatized, so the first step in understanding this process is to understand exactly what trauma is. The first thing to understand is that trauma is not an external thing that happens to us, it is the result of an internal response that occurs within us, an internal experience that is catalyzed by an overwhelming external event, or series of events.Fundamentally, trauma arises when the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the part of our body that governs all of our automatic functions, like digestion and heart rate variability, goes out of whack.The ANS also governs the survival energies – fight, flight and freeze -which are very powerful indeed. When these potent forces aren’t allowed to go through their full cycle of activation and deactivation we become traumatized and the lifeforce gets stuck.The other really important thing to understand about trauma is that it exists along a continuum. The range of the symptoms can vary from something mild, like slight anxiety around getting on an elevator, to really severe conditions like clinical depression, chronic fatigue and pain, or schizophrenia. It all depends on how much a person has been through and how much capacity they have to deal with life’s stressors. To sum up,trauma is a dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system that presents a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe.
How it happens:
I grew up as a child of divorce living in two-week increments in one household, then the other. In one household I always felt under potential threat, never knowing when my caregiver might erupt in rage. In the other house I learned a behavior of collapse and depression – the flip side of the ever-vigilant, anxious state. The cumulative experience of this, along with many other adverse experiences, completely discombobulated my nervous system and left me with a case of PTSD just as real, though admittedly not as severe, as in someone who has been through a war.
 
How did this happen?

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