Archives for Relaxation
It's the end of a long week, isn't it? This week's rap sheet includes sub-zero temperatures, frozen pipes, and a dead car battery. Dearest polar vortex: you're drunk. Go home. But I'm not here to grumble about winter any longer -- well, not in this blog post, at least -- because this week, I found one of the most beautiful and therapeutic videos I've ever seen.
If you're too ill to work, how can you wrestle a shark? That's the question that Paul Marshallsea's employer asked after seeing footage of the Welsh man dragging a shark away from swimmers while on vacation in Australia. According to the BBC, Marshallsea and his wife were both visiting some friends in Australia when a shark was spotted in the water during a beachside barbeque: Mr Marshallsea ran into the sea where he was filmed dragging the 6ft-long (1.8m) dusky whaler shark into deeper water. The charity's former project co-ordinator, said: "If I hadn't gone in to save the kids on that beach that day my wife and I would still have a job."
Okay, I fibbed a little bit. The blog post isn't technically blank. There are words and sentences and stuff, but that's about it. It's hard to fill anything with great meaning when you're placidly walking around with a blankity-blank mind. Let me set the scene: it's 4:23 p.m. I am sitting in my bedroom office (i.e., at an L-shaped desk that I hacked together with a real desk from Target and a long hand-me-down dresser from the 1970's). I'm facing the bed. I see an unmade mess of sheets, quilts, and pillows. I should probably make the bed, shouldn't I? Or, well, maybe not -- after all, I'm only going to un-make again five hours from now. There's a window to the left of the bed. From my vantage point, I see an overcast sky that makes me strangely comfortable. Overcast days give me permission to do whatever I'd like -- work, read, putz around, cook -- without dealing with the manic "OMG get outside and enjoy the sunlight while it's here!" message that the sun tends to broadcast. A cloudy sky releases the pressure to savor the season. It's a neutral force that I've come to know and love ever since developing panic disorder. In my pre-panic days, I was a high sensation-seeking gal who never passed up an opportunity to spend a day in the sunlight, ride an upside-down roller coaster, or jump off a 20-foot cliff into a river. I'm not a high sensation-seeker any longer. Adrenaline is not my friend. I don't search for it. And when it finds me accidentally, I usually tell it to shut up.
Can science give us the perfect sleep-inducing song? I've been a bit of an insomniac lately. Somewhere in the depths of 2 a.m. last night (or this morning?), I Googled "most relaxing song ever." And what did I expect to find? Well, a bunch of songs esteemed Most Relaxing by the court of popular opinion. But instead, I found...science. Maybe. From The Telegraph: ...the eight minute track [by Marconi Union], called Weightless, is so effective at inducing sleep it should not be listened to while driving. Carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms and bass lines help to slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Manchester trio Marconi Union worked with sound therapists to create the soothing tune, which also slows breathing and reduces brain activity. Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, says that the song's rhythm begins at 60 beats per minute and then gradually falls to 50 by the end. She told The Telegraph that the song's lack of melodic repetition quiets the brain from trying to predict a musical pattern.
Today was a drag. I'm all wound up. My brain is mush. Meet the metaphor: a literary technique that allows us to represent not-so-tangible things (like the feeling of a tired, overworked brain) with tangible things (like "mush"). They help us to understand complex topics. To draw an example from George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's book Metaphors We Live By, argument is war. In an argument, as in a war, you can win. You can lose. You can gain ground or lose it. Your claims can be right on target or they can miss the mark. You can shoot down someone else's idea. This week, Brain & Language published some new metaphor-related research. Psych Central's news team reported their findings: In a new study using brain imaging, investigators discovered a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard. A textural metaphor is, well, a metaphor that uses a tangible texture to represent a not-so-tangible concept. Let's say you had a rough day. You didn't stick sandpaper up to today's date on the calendar, did you? Nor did you spend the whole day dragging your hand on a rough surface. When you claim you've had a rough day, you're using the word "rough" to describe the more abstract concept of difficulty.
(This is the sixth post in a series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) I talked with Ashley Taylor, a certified hypnotherapist in Easton, PA, earlier this week about the basics of hypnotherapy and what to expect during sessions. (Turns out, hypnotherapy is nothing like that silly spectacle of stage hypnosis.) Today, we discuss what hypnotherapy can do specifically for anxiety sufferers. Our conversation continues below: Summer: For someone coming in to your hypnotherapy practice with an anxiety-related issue (say, a fear of highway driving), what kinds of affirmations or therapeutic techniques would you employ? Ashley Taylor, CHt: For any phobia, I would first attempt to understand the initial sensitizing event. Often with phobias, we see there is always an initial event that has caused the fear. So, in this case, perhaps the individual witnessed or was involved in an accident on the highway. For the affirmations, I might say that any old, outdated, unproductive information is no longer beneficial or pertinent to you now. As far as a therapeutic technique, I would suggest exposure therapy so that the individual can face their fears with someone beside them in the vehicle -- someone they trust. So, who should try hypnotherapy? Do you think it's a good first step for someone experiencing anxiety and panic? Do you envision it more as a complimentary treatment?
(This is the fifth post in a new series called “Anxiety Society,” in which I interview everyday anxiety suffers from all walks of life about their struggles, their triumphs, their coping methods, and more. I believe that the more we openly talk about our mental health, the less of a “thing” it becomes. Conversation can reduce stigma, and my interviewees want to be a part of that.) Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Biofeedback. Medication. Meditation. Exercise. Nutrition. Talk therapy. There's a laundry list of therapeutic approaches to the treatment of anxiety. You're probably familiar with several of them. Some involve treatment of the body (nutrition, exercise) and some involve treatment of the mind (meditation, talk therapy). Other modalities incorporate both mind and body into treatment. Hypnotherapy is one of those modalities that involves both the body and the mind. Meet Ashley Taylor. She's a certified hypnotherapist, an entrepreneur, and an anxiety sufferer. While walking through the halls between classes in 6th grade, Ashley experienced her first panic attack -- complete with a racing heart, dizziness, and shortness of breath. She chalked it up to the standard middle-school stressors like hormonal changes and dealing with bullies. Her anxiety continued into adulthood, however. After consulting with a trained hypnotherapist and undergoing a few sessions to help her tackle her own anxiety, Ashley felt motivated to pursue hypnotherapy as a career path. She founded Mindful Change Hypnotherapy in Easton, PA. Her personal experience with anxiety, she says, helps her to better relate with her clients. We recently chatted about hypnotherapy itself, what it entails, and what it can do for stress and anxiety sufferers. Summer: So, I guess I'll start with this: what IS hypnotherapy? Ashley Taylor, CHt: Hypnotherapy combines interactive cognitive behavioral therapy with a hypnosis session at the end in order to help others reach their goals -- whether it be quitting smoking, weight management, stress relief, improving academic performance, increasing confidence, and so on. The list is literally endless. When someone has the intent and willingness, hypnotherapy can aid in virtually any issue or concern. How does real-life hypnotherapy differ from the kinds of self-hypnosis exercises that you can download on the internet?
Those of us with anxiety disorders know the feeling well -- we lay in bed, but sleep does not come. Our mind is too busy racing its way from here to there, rehashing the day's activities, and constructing lists of would have could have should have. Did I turn off the oven? I should have called Janice back. Where did I leave my car keys? I could have finished that project at work, but I got sidetracked and I hope the boss isn't upset with me. Did I remember to set the alarm clock? It is exhausting. Yet somehow, it is not the type of exhaustion that brings sleep. I often wish that my own mind came equipped with an off/on switch. Or, well, a dimmer switch. That would be better. I mean, I doubt that I'd ever want to cease all thoughts -- especially an important thought like, "Okay, I want to turn the switch back on now!" Yeah, a dimmer switch would be nice. I would crank it up during daylight hours & slowly dial it down as the evening sets in. Alas, there's no such thing as a Mind Dimmer Switch. But can we trick our mind and brain into slowing down for the evening?
This is my very first outdoor blog post. I am typing from a sunny deck that overlooks a yard full of green grass, yellow and red trees, and brownish-gray squirrels. The sun, sliding westward, is warming up the left side of my face. The finches, flitting nervously, aren't disturbed enough by my presence to fly away from the bird feeder that hangs in the closest tree. A hawk circles above in a cloudless blue sky. A tiny spider just ziplined down a single strand of silk from the deck railing to the ground. A family of crickets works the wrong shift, but their raspy drone is still soothing in the daylight. Honestly, I'm surprised that I can see my computer screen in this kind of light. And I am thankful for it. I've always tried to keep a wall of separation erected between nature and technology. On my most recent camping trip, I left my iPod at home and my cell phone in the car. I made my fiance leave his new iPad at home. ("No, we're NOT going to want to watch an Angry Video Game Nerd episode by the fire," I told him. Also, let it be publicly known that I started the fire on that camping trip with a single match and without using gasoline to cheat, thank-you-very-much.)
As I type, a cat named Knuckles is doing a figure 8 around my ankles. Earlier, he took a nap by the sliding glass doors at my future in-laws' house. Then, he ran into the kitchen and furiously rolled around on a small green rug in front of the sink. He's also famous for curling up on paper -- newspaper, computer paper, wrapping paper -- and napping there. I don't know what's so comfortable about it. The last time I took a nap on a bed of paper was in grad school, in the library, on a wide splay of photocopied research studies from various communication periodicals. The text starts always starts to blur around my second hour of reading, but a quick nap can reset my brain and my tired eyeballs. In the time it took to write the above paragraphs, Knuckles has resigned from ankle-circling and settled into sleep mode (or, as I like to call it, "kitteh deactivated" mode) on a soft couch cushion behind me. This cat has got a pretty good life. He was born outdoors and my future mother-in-law and father-in-law (MIL and FIL for short!) coaxed him indoors once per day for a bowl of cat food. Soon, Knuckles began to wait by their back door and meow incessantly when he wanted to escape the wild jungle of their suburban street. He's been alive for about three winters now and could have easily died in the cold weather if he hadn't warmed up to MIL and FIL.