self-care

Happy new year to you all! This month’s article is not about resolutions, but about something we should be doing regularly (and probably should have been doing all along): that is self-care of the mind, body, emotions and spirit. It’s never too late to start – anytime is a good time. How about now?

Sure, it’s nice to take a steamy bubble bath, or buy something nice for ourself when we can afford it, even indulge in a sweet treat, or get a mani-pedi…you name it. However, caring for the self goes much deeper. I was exposed to this concept around 1999 or 2000 after having worked in the child abuse prevention and trauma field for a brief period of time. For the last 20 years, I have had a self-care regimen of some kind. Still, I have been treated for vicarious traumatization (VT) and secondary traumatic stress (STS)/compassion fatigue (CF) due to all the exposures in my field and my particular work as a trauma therapist over the years, in addition to my own history. Life can be complicated and we can be complicated creatures. No one self-care routine is best. They can differ drastically from individual to individual. One routine may feel sufficient for months, then suddenly more support may be needed in one or more areas. A lot of what professionals teach regarding self-care, we can learn on our own with some research and thoughtful consideration. If you are experiences symptoms of VT, STS/CF, consult with a professional – that is a licensed psychologist or licensed psychotherapist specializing in trauma. After all, it is an opportunity to have another offer evaluation, new ideas and emotional support through a heightened self-care process.

Sometimes, self-care is divided up into physical, mental, emotional, spiritual categories, which is alright, but I prefer to look at things differently because one action, or domain, can support each of these categories.

One major self-care domain is Time in Nature. Getting regular time in the great outdoors and away from busy city life can do wonders for our nervous system and for calming theIMG-4846 mind and the emotions. Taking in fresh air while surrounded by plants and trees is a gift in itself. We can connect spiritually in nature as well. After all, everything is alive. Some people I know go camping (sleeping on the ground directly) every season while others dedicate a weekend day to beach walks, forest trail running or engaging in the practice known as Earthing. Earthing, sometimes also referred to as Grounding, is basically walking barefoot on dirt or grass (not on concrete) for example, like our ancestors did. The last time I did this, it was 45 degrees outside. My feet felt the chill of the ground, but I was bundled up everywhere else, so I was fine. The practice of Earthing is recommended in order to absorb some earth energy, as the planet is negatively charged. IMG-4842The build up of positively charged free radicals throughout the day can be tamed through Earthing due to it’s antioxidant effect. It’s an anti-inflammatory technique! Instead of coffee, try 15 minutes of Earthing in the afternoon as a caffeine substituting self-experiment for relieving grogginess. If getting your shoes off is impossible, do not give up – do it with bare hands instead.

Another major domain in my life is Organic Whole Food, Plant-based Eating. I used to complain (a lot) that organic purchases were too expensive, and that I didn’t have time to cook. Then I had a wake-up call teaching me that buying cheap food on the fly can lead to expensive medical treatments needed to correct a problem I encouraged through my behavior and choices. The inflammatory garbage I was putting in my mouth most days came with a cost. Basically, it’s pay now or pay later with a potentially bigger cost. This decade, it is even more critical since hundreds of new chemicals are being introduced into the environment each year. We know (for years now actually) that babies are born with toxins in their umbilical cord blood. Pregnant mothers’ blood carries many toxic chemicals too, of course. This develops by way of environmental exposures, one being the pesticides in processed and conventional foods. Thinking more about costs, some organic choices are very affordable, such as bulk beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables are similarly priced to conventional. If it’s possible to grocery shop with a friend or family member with similar interests, the experience can be educational, curious, and maybe even fun. Eating as clean as possible offers benefits not just for physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. It’s true – consuming organic foods can be a support for optimal mental and emotional functioning.

An additional major domain is what I’ll label as Cleaning. Our entire being –mind, body, emotions, spirit – can benefit from regular cleaning. By cleaning, I mean committing to actions that invoke reflection, gratitude, clarity, protection, and especially release. Here are some examples:

Unstructured, reflective journaling,

Warm epsom and Celtic sea salt baths,

Writing gratitude lists (at least 10 things I am grateful for),

Mindfulness practices including meditation and guided imagery,

Energetic services such as Reiki or acupuncture,

Tracking dreams and looking for patterns and themes,

Adopting a short home-based energy medicine routine (see November 2019 article),

Getting lost in a craft such as knitting, painting, or coloring mandalas.

That’s only eight examples, but naturally, there are dozens and dozens of ways to clean. I clean daily-to-weekly. How about you?

Most of the ideas I have shared here can be combined in a variety of ways and many of them support more than just one aspect of ourselves. What you see here is by no means an exhaustive list, so add to it, and please share your ideas with me. Remember, a solid self-care routine can be done at-home and cost nothing, or if you have extra funds, hiring a service provider can be very nice.

Everyone wants their personal compass pointed in the direction of good health, happiness, meaning and connection. The power to make changes lies within each one of us. There is no rule saying that changes must be drastic or come all at once. Every small step we make in the right direction for our lives and the lives of our loved ones is well worth it in my book. May this new year bring all good things your way!

 

2020 blessings to you and yours,

Kim

#selfcare

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dreaming in recovery

While working as a trauma therapist at a non-profit agency for substance abuse recovery, I meet all kinds of women. The clientele are highly diverse, yet they come together in their recovery journey. Whether in an individual or a group therapy session, the topic of dreaming often emerges even though I do not advertise my experience as a dreamworker or dream researcher. Dreams in early and mid-stages of recovery surface and are shared. The question often asked is “why now?” and “what does this mean?”

“Dreams belong to the dreamer,” I state, “so you are the one to determine that.” My offer to share some prominent theories, in order to generate ideas, is met with approval. One perspective of dreaming is that dreams come in service of evolution. They act as a protective evolutionary factor. In this case, if a woman is striving to stay clean (and recover from long-term drug abuse), a drug-of-choice dream might remind her of her purpose and this most pressing issue.

In the dream, sometimes the dreamer simply looks at, or holds, a bag containing the drug-of-choice; other times she prepares to consume the illicit drug, but awakens before doing so. And even other times, dreamers use the drug while in the dream state .Perhaps these three examples represent levels or stages of recovery integration. Or, perhaps they exist simply to encourage the dreamer to progress in some way.

In the first example, some of these dreamers have spoken about a feeling of mastery or pride in that they could be so close to such a dangerously tempting substance, yet not act impulsively or have any desire to do so. In the second example, dreamers have reported feeling worried about their dream activities (e.g. chopping a line; preparing a syringe), only to become increasingly vigilant in their recovery work. The third and final example can leave the dreamer with much confusion and fear. One woman reported smoking crack cocaine in a dream, and while slowing waking up (aka hypnopompic state), she touched her face, perceiving it as thinner and sunken in. This perception led her heart to race and body to jolt out of bed in fear. The dream, she said, upon reflection, supported her recovery by scaring her out of thoughts of using. The cravings dissipated for some time and she made several statements about her commitment to her recovery.

Substance abuse is like a slow death. It is, essentially, self-harm and the illicit drug is the weapon. For those living with addiction, the drug-of-choice is extremely powerful – powerful enough to hijack, sabotage, and rob a person of their own life. If dreams do serve evolution, then a dream centered around the relationship and power dynamic between the drug and the dreamer, may support relapse prevention or prepare the dreamer for what could come.

Addiction is a chronic disease. It can cause disability and premature death, but it can be managed and people do recover. The resources listed below can offer help and provide information, however, they are just a starting place.

http://www.asam.org

http://www.na.org

http://www.smartrecovery.org

http://www.womenforsobriety.org/beta2/