Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

by Simanto Khandaker

3 steps to having a more mindful eating experience:
Preparation (Remove distractions)
Observation (Utilize all senses while eating)
Reflection (Bringing awareness to how the body & mind processes the experience)

Preparation: The goal is to minimize distractions and maximize opportunities to be present. For example, finding a secluded location, turning off the phone/tv/computer, washing dishes, removing disruption by informing others about your intentions eating mindfully.

Example: When i'm eating with a group of people, I usually take a few minutes to set my food, and put my phone face down, on silent, and about an arms length away from me. Usually, in front of my food, where I have to reach across my food to get the phone. It allows me to be conscious about my reaction to the phone's vibration (ringing).

Example: When I'm eating alone, I put my distractions (phone, reading material, computer, to do list, etc.) in another room, set my table, wash dishes used to prepare my meal before eating. This allows me to minimize the to do list before moving onto the next step.

Observation: This is the big one! The goal is to use all the senses while eating: taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Observation can be more impactful if the first step, preparation, is done to the best of our ability. Minimal distraction allows us to focus on the experience.

Example: Eating a peanut butter sandwich: I look at the bread, the ratio of peanut butter, how it flows, the grains and patterns of the bread, the crust and other characteristics that I see. When I pick up the sandwich, I feel the texture of the bread, the temperature, the peanut butter, etc. As it approaches my mouth, I smell the sandwich, and after every bite I try to find another aroma. I observe how it impacts my taste buds, and listen to my chewing or other sounds. I give myself 5 - 10 minutes before moving on to the second half and reflect on my experience.

Reflection: The goal is to create an open connection with our body and mind. For example, I observe my thoughts, feelings, body posture, stress, etc... Taking an inventory of myself.

Example: When I have a peanut butter sandwich, my mind usually goes back to when I was in college. My roommates and I used to make, hot pressed, peanut butter sandwiches. The bread was toasted, the peanut butter melting, the jelly combined with the peanut butter and bread. It was something we did when we didn't want to cook and were too tired to go out. It was quick and delicious. At this time, my body is relaxed, eyes are closed, and I feel happy to have gone through the experience.

Reminder: Give yourself permission to be present and accept that sometimes it will be challenging. Each attempt is a step closer to having a more mindful eating experience.

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Men and Stress, Please Don't Fix Me

Men and Stress, Please Don't Fix Me

by Peter Rivkees

Stress that is not dealt with is a real issue affecting just about every living creature on earth and can be managed successfully with a little bit of self-awareness and effort.

We all stress over money, work, and family relationships (yes your pets count), personal and family health, world events and everything that we hold as important to us. Research shows that almost 70% of us feel that stress has a negative impact on our physical health and mental health. Symptoms of stress that we can experience include anger, general irritability, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, addiction, passive aggressive behavior, depression and sexual dysfunction are but a few. We all experience stress in our own unique way based on our past experiences over our lives. When we were younger we may have dealt with stress by acting out with slamming doors, refusing to listen to our parents or eating an entire bag of Doritos and some of us in our adult years may do exactly the same things. How do you act when you are under a lot of stress?

My therapy practice focuses on the men so I'll share with you how stress directly impacts the lives of men and potentially every interaction in their lives. For most men we have been brought up to hide our emotions, do anything in our power not to appear weak and live life as if it were a continuous competition. We are the perfect candidate for physical and psychological issues directly related to stress. Most men are programmed not to ask for help when help is needed most, to keep up the bravado that makes us "real men". We are more apt to hire a golf coach to improve our swing than hire a therapist to work on our family, our marriage, our relationships with our children our career, our siblings, our boss or our coworkers. My wish for all men is not to be remembered for our golf handicap, but for the impact we make on those that are most important to us in our lives.

We would rather suffer in silence, saying "I've got it under control ", or take out our stress on those in our lives at home and at work. We have been conditioned, some will say brainwashed by our parents, media and any other sources from our earliest memories that "real men" get over it, don't cry or just don't get emotional. The truth is that every man, woman and child is born with the same set of emotions. We pretend not be afraid of anything, have an "I can conquer anything attitude", but in reality we are most afraid of discovering who we are and how we got to be who we are.

Discovering our inner self requires courage. The same courage that we have or pretend to have when facing the challenges of everyday life. Being a man in today's world is scary, frustrating and full of uncertainty. Changing our attitudes towards self-help and awareness will be an evolutionary versus revolutionary process and only you can start your journey of self-discovery. Dealing with stress through regular exercise, listening to music, reading, seeking professional help with a therapist are the leading activities to help relieve the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, many men turn to negative harmful behaviors including alcohol/substance abuse, behavioral addictions like gambling, exercise and pornography that only lead to self-destructive behaviors and damaging relationships that sometimes cannot be healed. The unfortunate result of not dealing with or ignoring stress will often lead to feelings of shame, fear and loneliness.

I often use the phrase "hiding in plain sight" to describe how we often wear masks that hide how our inner self is truly feeling in contrast to the mask that we project to others. We may appear "fine" to all that we are connected to in our personal and work lives, but inside if asked "if you really knew me, you would know that I am really __________ " afraid, scared, lonely, suicidal, sad, angry, confused, depressed, an addict, a failure, in debt or whatever you chose to fill in the blank. If we could only recognize and be comfortable in knowing that we are not perfect and that all men could truly benefit from exploring ourselves without the self-judgment or external judgment that "men do not go to counseling unless they are broken" what a better life we could have. We would open up our hearts to others and demonstrate true compassion; we would be vulnerable with ourselves and with those that we love. We would be better men, better husbands, better fathers, better in life.

Learning and growth does not often come from a place of comfort. True learning and growth comes from a place of discomfort when we push through the uncertainty of not knowing the answers to life's questions or being able to fix any problem with our tool kit. Men want to fix any and all problems that are presented to us as soon as possible and we practically know the perfect fix before the other person has fully described what the problem is. Most people aren't looking for someone to fix them; most people would prefer someone to listen to, a shoulder to cry on, a hug or gentle reassurance that you are in their corner or just someone to sit next to in silence.

When I work with men, I understand that we are not accustomed to expressing emotions, that it is just really hard to admit to someone else, let alone ourselves that our world is not perfect. I want to create a safe environment built on trust so men can learn to understand what emotions are, how they feel, how to accept them, how to heal, how to communicate effectively, how to be angry, how to be sad and most importantly how to feel real joy and happiness. I choose to believe that our purpose is not to live a life hiding in plain sight; it's your decision to make as to what you can do to become a man that makes a difference in others' lives and to live a life that is full of all the rewards that you deserve.

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3 Things You Can Control in the Natural Birth Process

3 Things You Can Control in the Natural Birth Process

by Melyssa Marshall

As it goes in life, we grow and learn from experience. The thoughts and expectations that become part of our world views are picked up and accepted as we go through life and experience it. Experience can be done to us, we happen upon it, we make plans for it, we choose into it. Whatever the case, experience is unavoidable. Kind of like breathing. By being conscious, we are experiencing.

As a Doula (birth assistant), I've learned that each birth experience is different and cannot be - nor should be - completely controlled. There are many factors and variables that make up the atmosphere and circumstance, and only so many of those are up for election or adjustment. This can breed a sense of insecurity from fear of the uncertain or unknown in the experience, especially when it's a mother's first birth. But while these may be out of our control, there are factors within our control that can aid to ease insecurity and eliminate fear.

Expectation.

As natural as expectations come, you would think we'd have a better gauge of where to set them. The reality of natural child birth is that a woman can count on her body to get from point A to point B. But by no means should there be an expectation that the line between points is straight. No, the design that happens within those points would rival any abstract artist on their best day. So a more realistic thing to do with expectations would be to hold them as hopes. While the two can be said to be related, hope differs from expectation in that it does not call for judgment or invite some kind of level of evaluation. An expectation will be met or not met. But a hope by definition recognizes the possibilities. In childbirth, it is best to hope for your experience.

Intention.

There's something to be said about the connection between mind and matter. The strength in mind or willpower is no small force, rather one to be reckoned with. Focusing your intention is of most importance in labor and birth in order to minimize what pulls at and distracts strength in mind. And to be sure, there will be plenty of things and thoughts pulling at your strength. It's often best to vocalize intention so that those supporting your experience can know how best to encourage your strength and to be your strength wherever possible.

Acceptance.

Come what may, the birth experience is final. There's no going back in order to do something differently nor can you pay an extra fee for a do-over. From minor disappointing details to major negative outcomes, the amount of processing that happens postpartum is up to you. You can think through every moment and talk through every detail, but nothing will change the experience. The onus on you will be one of response, taking an accepting posture towards the experience. Acceptance in some cases doesn't mean approval of an outcome or a detail or even someone. Acceptance can be merely acknowledgement and will be a helpful first step in moving forward.

I've come to find that these aren't just helpful for the circumstance of labor and birth. They translate to all sorts of area and happenings in life. Choosing to hope, focusing intentions and accepting the experience are all things in our control every day. So whether you're about to give birth, planning to give birth, or not even close to thinking about birth, consider them for your life today.

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Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

by Adam Tharkur B.A.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR as it is commonly referred to as a tension release exercise I have used with many clients. One of the first things I do with all clients is finding out what is bringing them into counseling. For the clients who share they have obstacles like stress or anxiety, which are preventing them from reaching their goals, I recommend PMR. I have also used it for client's with panic disorder, the results have been positive.

I noticed a growing trend since I began seeing clients. Different people with different stressors all had the same concern- anxiety. It is not uncommon for a client to come in due to concern of a possible, future event which they cannot control. For instance, applying for a job, and becoming anxious during the wait period even though there is nothing more they can do at the time. Same applies for clients who show signs of depression; in most cases the depression comes from past events that a person wishes to change. However, unless scientists have developed a time machine which allows individuals to change their past, the individual is in a standstill until they choose to move forward. The idea of staying present and keeping it in the "here and now" can be daunting, I am not dismissing that. PMR may be the answer to continuously staying in the present moment.

I will share an experience I have had using PMR with one of my clients. A client came to seek counseling due to his continuous panic attacks starting in Christmas of 2012. Although he has been given medication to combat these attacks, he wanted a more lasting solution that does not have many side effects that comes with medication. The client disclosed that he had sexual dysfunction and insomnia from the medication. In addition to the medicinal side effects, we learned during our sessions that he was constantly living in fear that he might have another panic attack at any moment. I taught this client PMR techniques so he may implement these during stress provoking situations, such as work. With PMR and counseling, the client was able to determine what the best course of action to apply at work. Once he determined the appropriate action, and implemented it, he was no longer distracted by what he should have or could have been doing. Instead, he was able to focus on his responsibilities and therefor increase productivity. Once this client saw the progress he made with PMR and counseling in a professional setting, he attempted to apply the techniques with personal goals and duplicate the results there as well.

In my experience and opinion, PMR cannot be the only intervention. As I've shared through my example, counseling plays an important role in identifying the client's triggers and the causes of their issues. With the above mentioned client, I used cognitive behavioral therapy techniques which allowed the client to become aware of his anxiety by using a technique known as paradoxical outlook: Welcome the panic attack rather than being scared which may intensify the episode. Though frightening for some, this is also the most effective way to apply PMR efficiently.

As for my client the use of PMR helped quell the intensity of the panic attacks. He felt like he was in control for the first time. The client has maintained his job for almost three years and has no written complaints from his supervisors about his work performance. Through counseling, it allowed him to have one more tool in his toolbox to combat panic attacks and endorsed a new stronger resilient person.

If you would like more information regarding a Progressive Muscle Relaxation script, I have provided a link Progressive Muscle Relaxation . Remember this is only a tool; this alongside counseling may garner better results.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script

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