self-care in the bathroom

Jesse Brisendine’s video podcast, A Handful of Hope, offers listeners inspiration and, just what you’d expect, hope. I was honored to be invited for an interview, or rather,  a cheerful discussion with Jesse. It was fun to participate in a naturally evolving conversation around wellness and self-care. In the end, we titled the podcast Self-care in the Bathroom.

We didn’t expect to encourage our listeners to use restrooms for self-care, but why not? After all, a bathroom break is the only ‘break’ some people will get in their long day. So, why not stall, take our time, and tune inward. Besides, it’s one of the only acceptable times when people can actually lock themselves in a room, not having to answer to anyone. I propose that a restroom is as good as any place to ground and be mindful. In this video, Jesse and I talk about all of these things in addition to the neglected resources we can freely access in a restroom.

I hope you enjoyed the video podcast! At times like these we can all use a little humor, and a handful of hope.

If you’d like more self-care resources subscribe to my YouTube channel or enroll in my subscription course, Self-care 360.

Be well…take good care of YOU,

Dr. Kim

5 ways to start the day off right!

Each morning after we wake up in bed, we have the power to impact our experience of the day ahead. Sometimes I forget that. To remind myself and anyone else out there who’s listening, I’ve put together a list. Here are 5 things you can to before jumping into a busy day that have positive impact. And for the record, these simple practices can be done throughout the day as a way to recalibrate.

1) Instead of jumping out of bed as the alarm goes off or the mind clicks on, lie still and experience the inner silence. Can you catch a dream? Maybe yes, maybe no, but either way, soak up the sense of warmth, peace, stillness, comfort, and silence. Notice how soft the breath is and how quiet the heartbeat is. Take this moment to just be. If dream material is flooding in, move on to your dream journal or voice memo next.

2) Take three slow, conscious breaths. Become aware of the moment. By practicing conscious breathing each morning, we are more likely to return to it throughout the day. By engaging in abdominal breathing with awareness we practice self-regulation. Self-regulated individuals find it easier to make intentional decisions and actions.

3) Smile. Just smile. No reason needed. Years ago, when I was in the middle of completing my PhD program, one of my instructors told us how he would remember to smile as be began or concluded his daily Tai Chi routine. That’s because the facial micro-muscles activated when smiling ignite positive feelings. So go ahead, smile for no reason at all – you just might find yourself feeling happier.

4) Express gratitude in any way that feels right for you. This can be done either verbally, or in writing (in a fancy journal or on an old napkin makes no difference). State aloud or write down a half-dozen things you are grateful for in this life. It’s ok to exclaim what you are grateful for to your pet, a vase of flowers, or even the sun. No one needs to hear you but the universe. If you chose to write out a gratitude list, you can read it to all of the above if you wish. Grateful expression can be considered an act of prayer.

5) Recognize that today is a new day – a chance to bring about a fresh intention. With each new day, we get to start over. What do you want to do differently today? Is there a specific self-care practice that you’ve been wanting to try? Is there someone you need to forgive? If the ego-mind is already rattling off distorted views and engaging in maladaptive thinking, tell it to STOP, then insert an affirmative, adaptive thought in its place. If any of the above steps could use repeating, give yourself permission to do so.

These 5 practices, when done with consistency, can bring about positive change, elevating kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. If you would like to dedicate more time to learning and practicing self-care, from a holistic stance, contact me. Or you may join my course, Self-care 360, today. It is an ongoing subscription course. Read more about it by clicking here.

Happy 2021 everyone,

Dr. Kim

grounding in the ashes

Let’s face it, 2020 continues as one scary, wild ride. We need to take care of ourselves and our families now more than ever. I’m writing this article from Northern California, where COVID continues to have a long, harsh impact, and where acres are scorched in just about every county. The air is very unsafe to breathe and bits of ash fall like a light dusting of snow. Even amidst the chaos and despair, there are ways we can care for our bodies and our mental health while simultaneously praying for rain. Staying present, mindful and grounded are some of those ways. Remember that you and I are not the only ones experiencing uncomfortable or negative feelings. And we surely are not the only one’s feeling unsettled or distracted. So, for one of my favorite techniques continue reading. You can share this with your children too!

Today, I want to share with you a simple, yet effective grounding technique known as 5 senses grounding. This technique was taught to me over a decade ago by Dr. Stephanie Covington. It’s one that I use anytime I need to get out of my head and into my body. This easy, yet brilliant, go-to technique brings quick results and has helped so many people return to their breath and body, plus lower the heart rate, when frenzied thoughts and intense worrying persist. Take a look at the graphic below!

Now if you’ve worked with me individually or in a group, you know how big I am on self-care, so you probably know this one. I’m curious how this technique – 5 senses grounding – has been helpful in your life. Do let me know. If you’d like to work with me this Fall and Winter season, contact me by clicking here, as it will take you to me services page.

In resilience,

Dr. Kim

breathing for health

No one needs to convince us why we need to breathe. Sometimes, however, we need convincing as to why we should do it consciously, with awareness. Study after study shows us that intentional, abdominal breathing has direct affects on the body – this is good news. After all, it is free and can be done anywhere, at any time. Stress doesn’t have to get the best of us! By just a few minutes spent each day on the practices I’ll be describing below, one can invoke healing in the immune and nervous systems. This stuff calms the mind as well. Don’t we all need that, especially during this time?

When I demonstrate these techniques to my patients, I first begin by putting one hand on my chest and the other hand on my abdomen. This sort of check-in tells me whether I’mPhoto on 7-27-20 at 7.34 PM #2 breathing into my chest (shallow breathing) or whether I am taking a fuller breath in so that my belly expands (this is what we want). If my breathing is in my chest, I can consciously imagine my next inhalation moving deeper down into my body. I do this – as many breaths as it takes – until abdominal breathing is comfortable. Try it for yourself now. See what I mean?

From there, I love to move on to the 4:8 breathing technique. This is done by inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for a second, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Simple, right? I like to do this for about 5 rounds or so. At that point I am really starting to notice the effects. The 4:8 breathing technique is so wonderfully calming.

Another way to encourage this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing is to use visualization. This was taught to me by one of my best yoga nidra teachers, Kamini Desai, PhD. With each exhalation, image that you are blowing the air out through a straw. So that’s inhaling through the nose, pausing for a second, then exhaling with softly pursed lips as if blowing through a straw. Really see that breath being pushed out through a skinny tube to slow everything down.

Another technique that involves counting, but in a much different way, is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Work downward, from 10 down to one. Some people recommend counting only the inhalations or the exhalations, while others recommend counting both. So, it would look like mentally/silently saying to yourself ‘10 I am inhaling…10 I am exhaling…9 I am inhaling…9 I am exhaling…8 I am inhaling,…’ and so on. When I was training in hypnotherapy, I was reminded that counting down (not up) was important to encourage greater levels of relaxation.

We all know that stress equals disease onset. In our overly-stressed society, conscious breathing has become a necessity. Not only do our bodies benefit, so do our minds. After all, the mind and body are linked – they make up a whole. You could even say that they are ONE. While these techniques are for anytime and anywhere, I find that they are perfect upon waking up each morning as well as at bedtime. That’s because an AM breathing practice sets the tone for the day, while the PM practice supports the melting away of stress and the day’s residue. It even adds to a solid sleep hygiene routine. With consistent practice, I expect that you will see a difference. I know I did.

If you’d like one-on-one coaching for stress management or support with your health goals, contact me. I can assist you in breathwork and in building a mediation practice. I offer guided imagery, hypnotherapy, and yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation), in addition to counseling services.

 

Here’s to your health,

Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, click here.

spirituality’s hidden mask

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

You are never alone. You are eternally connected with everyone. – Amit Ray

Surely you’ve heard sayings like these before. But have you considered how spirituality intersects with social justice? To believe that the two are separate is a mistake, conveniently ignoring centuries of oppression. Spirituality cannot be divorced from social justice and civil rights issues. To do so is a form of spiritual bypassing, a psychological defense mechanism which does harm.

Spiritual bypassing is a term coined by psychotherapist and Buddhist teacher, John Welwood, in the early 1980s. Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid unresolved emotional issues and wounds in addition to avoidance of negative or painful feelings. By spiritually bypassing these issues, one sidesteps the difficult inner work, thus adopting more comfortable and “positive” feelings and concepts. Sound familiar? In my experience, it is not uncommon among those in spiritual communities (many of which are White-led, co-opted new-age communities). While this defense mechanism can occur within an individual, it can also live among groups of people. For example, a well-meaning, highly educated, yoga-devoted White man once suggested that attention should be placed on one’s spiritual essence or core rather than concerning oneself with immediate issues in communities of color: the lack of food, safe housing, and job opportunities. Promoting individualism and ignoring the tangible essentials is toxic.

There are many layers to a person – people are complex creatures. The complexity increases as groups and communities form. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term ‘the shadow’ to describe unconscious aspects of ourselves – those aspects we have denied, rejected, despised, or disowned. Without conscious awareness the shadow continues to live – it is hidden. Think of triggers – what are you triggered by? When we disown or cannot tolerate an aspect of ourselves, or our group’s history, it easily gets projected onto other people or other groups. Hate, fear and prejudice are example’s of the shadow operating. Other people become mirrors – they trigger us, giving us a glimpse of our shadow. When we consider how much of what we see in our world today as manifested projections, it’s stunning.

Mindfulness practice can be a first step in beginning to see our shadow because as we slow down, turn inward, and increase awareness we can ‘catch’ projections (even as they are happening in the moment). A simple mindfulness exercise for beginners can be sitting quietly for about 10 minutes with closed eyes and focus on the breath. Notice what arises without judgment (thoughts, memories, future plans, desires, judgments) and return to your breath. With practice, moment-to-moment awareness increases which supports the shadow work process.

While it is easy to judge the shadow as something bad, let’s instead acknowledge that the shadow is just part of being human. It is neither good nor bad. It just is, like the sun rising to bring light and setting to give darkness. When we get a glimpse of our personal or collective shadow it can throw us off, and it can sting! We begin to become aware of our inner moral conflicts. To avoid the discomfort of all this, we are liable to defend ourselves from the pain by using the defense mechanism, spiritual bypassing.

In order to evolve in meaningful ways, we must be grounded in this world and we must face those aspects that we do not want to own. This is the way through these difficult times. ‘Love and light’ is wonderful, but it is not enough. Turning a blind eye to the collective pain currently surfacing only keeps us in denial longer, and it keeps us disengaged from our whole being. Taking meaningful compassionate action rooted in justice for all people is required. To sit back is taking a privileged position. To go silent, to not act, in times of injustice denies our interconnected spiritual nature.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.  ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Dr. Z (drzphd.com) has produced some great videos on #ShadowWork. Here is a link to part 1 of her 6 part series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHPn5Jtzyhw

Do you reside in California? I am available for individual counseling services for those interested in shadow work.

 

~Kim