As I walked through Bear Creek in Los Gatos, CA, I posed the question (out loud), “How do I know what to do when situations or decisions present themselves? How can I make decisions more easily?” This question came about after I was presented with multiple hard decision in a short period of time, of which the very idea of making the decision made me uncomfortable (almost as much as it was to state questions out loud while random hikers saw that I wasn’t talking to anyone in particular lol). I did not receive answers that day, but the next week as I reflected on this outing (specifically seeing a deer blocking my path then moving slowly and calmly as I approached), the answer found me.
Now, this may seem like a very basic answer because this word is thrown around so often, but I realized that as of late, I have not been using this gift. I understand the basic concept of it. You get a hunch or gut response about something and this hunch helps guide you in your life, whether that be what you think (or how you perceive), what you do, or both. What I realized was, both myself and my clients seem to focus more on using the mind to figure out what to do next in life (classic cognitive behavioral therapist [playful eye roll]).
Many people, including some of my clients, have asked me how to tell the difference between intuition and anxiety. To put it simply, the mind perceives and makes meaning out of situations and this creates other avenues of emotional suffering depending on the energy of the narrative. If the meaning of a narrative is negative, then we will release and create the corresponding chemicals and body responses that match. Intuition on the other hand, provides zero discomfort. It is effortless and you just, know, but with your body. So if you’re feeling uneasy about a decision or about a situation that is or has occurred and you wonder if your gut is trying to tell you something…I hate to break it to you, but that is not your gut. That is anxiety. So now that we know the basic (yet significant) difference between intuition and anxiety, why the heck don’t we use intuition? It sure seems more fun (and dare I say) practical to use since it operates on a “higher knowing” versus a thought process that dictates the likelihood of discomfort.
Honestly, I think we don’t use intuition enough because we aren’t setting the intention to (say that 5 times fast), or we don’t have the space or capacity to. We have been taught to think from a young age, and many of us live in our head (I know this from being a therapist for almost 9 years and hearing hundreds of people tell me they’re consumed by their mind). So instead, set the intention for your intuition and gut to speak to you when you most need it. And, as I often say in my 1:1 sessions with clients, in my posts, in the classes and groups I facilitate, and in my day-to-day life as I talk with my friends and family, your thoughts create your emotions, and your emotions dictate your behaviors which dictate the outcomes/consequences of those behaviors. Your thoughts are things that start a domino effect of happenings that contribute to how your reality is shaped. You have the power to change how you think about or perceive something. You are in control therefore you can control your own domino effect. That includes what the dominos represent, how they feel, where they go, what they do, and whether or not you even have the domino effect. Observe yourself having thoughts. Observe yourself having emotions. This removes you from being a participant or, dare I say, victim of the mind hijacking your emotions and behaviors and creating consequences you don’t even like! Keeping yourself as an observer rather than a participant gives you more energy and space to change your narrative (thus changing your domino effect). Do this when you feel anxiety. Train yourself to constantly reframe unhelpful thinking (unhelpful thinking = thoughts/assumptions you believe based on zero evidence) and, the more you do this, the more easy it will be to remain present, in the moment. The more you can remain present without the chatter-chatter of the mind the easier it will be to feel your intuitive “higher knowing.”
Set your intentions with care, comment, and share! (That wasn’t meant to sound like part of a nursery rhyme, but I dig it lol).
On this episode Dr. L answers questions presented to her by her listeners. She discusses her insight and tips on what to do if a person hurts us and we are left feeling anxious or angry, touching on subjects of riding waves, mindfulness, thought reframing and radical acceptance. She then discusses managing panic attacks, providing breathing tips and a mindset of celebrating your wins. She is joined with her friend, assistant and coordinator, Zy.
If you aren’t already following Dr. L you can @drcecilialopez on instagram. Also please subscribe to this podcast so you may be alerted of new episodes, share it with others, and/or leave a review. Lastly, for guest bookings or business inquiries you may contact Zy, at email@example.com, and if you would like therapy services with Dr. L, you may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! Don’t forget, Dr. L and Zy are both so grateful to share this space with you.
You can find the Mindful Living with Dr. Cecilia Lopez podcast on:
EP 27: Practicing Mindfulness With Food, Pets, Music & More With Zyanya Santana
Hi! On this episode you’ll hear both Dr. Lopez and her friend, assistant and podcast coordinator Zyanya Santa discuss mindfulness, activities they participated in to learn mindfulness, and they go in depth on the topic of mindful eating. They also touch on mindful listening with music and practicing mindfulness with pets. Lastly, Zyanya explains her passion for helping others and you get a good feel for Dr. L and Zy’s chemistry and bantering style.
If you aren’t already following Dr. L you can @drcecilialopez on instagram. Also please subscribe to this podcast so you may be alerted of new episodes, share it with others, and/or leave a review. Lastly, for guest bookings or business inquiries you may contact Zy, at email@example.com, and if you would like therapy services with Dr. L starting October, you may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! Don’t forget, Dr. L and Zy are both so grateful to share this space with you.
You can find the Mindful Living with Dr. Cecilia Lopez podcast on:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of mindful living with Dr. Cecilia Lopez.
On this episode Dr. L discusses her experience with getting not-so-great medical news and going on two weeks of vocal rest. Luckily, she is now OK, but she emphasizes her experience of noticing the mind as it went to the future while resisting the past. She discusses and provides examples of using mindfulness, grounding, acceptance, and the “I can handle anything in the moment” attitude to help her rest easy in the “land of the unknown” versus float away with anxiety. These examples may assist you if you are, have, or ever will face adversity that is outside of your control. Enjoy the episode!
Hello, this is Zy! If you aren’t already following Dr. L you can @drcecilialopez on instagram. Also Feel free to subscribe to this podcast so you may be alerted of new episodes, share it with others, and/or leave a review. Lastly, For guest bookings or business inquiries you may contact me, Zy, at email@example.com, and if you would like therapy services with Cecilia starting October, you may contact Cecilia, and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! Don’t forget, Dr. L and Zy are both so grateful to share this space with you.
You can find me on:
Hi! The episode today was taken from a live Dr. L did with a licensed therapist named Gilza Fort-Martinez, LMFT. Gilza is known as the “tough love healer,” and she assists women with rebuilding themselves after betrayal. She also specializes in life transitions and relationships. In this episode, Dr. L and Gilza discuss what it means to prioritize the Self and avoid Self-betrayal. They discuss assertiveness, boundaries, prioritizing the Self in relationships, and how the use of grounding and CBT can assist with putting yourself first.
On this episode you will also meet Dr. L’s friend, assistant, liaison, coordinator and podcast producer Zyanya Santana (AKA Zy) and learn how they met and what brought them together as friends and colleagues.
Enjoy the episode! And, if you would like to follow or get in touch with Gilza, her instagram handle is @toughlovehealer, and her website is gilzafort.com. And if you aren’t already following Dr. L you can @drcecilialopez on both tik tok and instagram. Also Please subscribe to this podcast so you may be alerted of new episodes, share it this episode or the podcast, and leave a review. Lastly, For guest bookings or business questions you may contact me, Zy, at email@example.com, and if you would like therapy services with Cecilia starting October, you may contact Cecilia, and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget, Dr. L and Zy are both so grateful to share this space with you.
Hi! On this episode I discuss the power of believing you can handle stressors in the moment. This episode reviews the following points:
1) You can’t tell the future, and this is a luxury.
2) Being mindful of putting out fires that don’t exist.
3) Having faith that you can handle anything in the moment.
4) Challenge your thoughts (including questions to ask yourself in order to do so).
5) Noticing yourself creating imaginative worries of the future non judgmentally, and bringing yourself back to the present moment.
I will provide another episode with more details on challenging thoughts this month. I hope you found this helpful and I would love if you shared this episode, whether you’re listening on apple podcasts, Spotify or IGTV. If you’r not already following me on tip Tok or IG, my handle is @drcecilialopez on both. You can email me at email@example.com if you’d like to inquire on therapy, and for business inquiries you can email my coordinator Zy, and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi! On this episode I breaks down how impactful what we consume can be on our mindset, mood and overall energy. Often when we hear someone discuss “what we consume,” we might think of what we eat, but I’m not just talking about nutrition from food. Im talking about what we consume through our other senses, like what we hear and see, which can include who we spend time with, what we watch through screens and what we hear through speakers and our headphones. In this episode I go over the following points:
1) Asking yourself if what you’re consuming makes you feel good from the get go?
2) Checking in with your body while consuming…once you feel low, gross, drained, uneasy, off, or the themes of your thoughts take a turn to the land of stress, you may have overindulged. Know when to switch what you consume or take a break from consuming at all.
3) It’s ok to consume things that are a little, ya know, haha, questionable. Such as me and my death metal and violent martial arts movies…but just like you’d have balance with junk food, have balance with that.
4) Know when something is out of alignment with you from the get go. Pay attention to your body the first few seconds to minutes while you go down this rabbit hole of instagram posts. Pay attention to your muscles, your jaw, your forehead, your stomach. Did they tighten up? Pay attention to your inner dialogue. Did the theme of how you think shift? Pay attention to your mood and energy? Did it just shift to low or anxious? If so, get out of there.
My name is Dr. Cecilia Lopez and I hope these tips and insights helped you. Please share this episode with someone you think would be interested, and if you’re not already following me please do so you can stay up to date with live events, workshops, therapy openings and more podcast episodes. My handles are @drcecilialopez on tik Tok and IG. I appreciate you so so much for listening.
Hi! This is a quick guided meditation for riding a crave or emotion wave. What does that mean? If you feel discomfort caused by stress, emotions or a craving and it feels overwhelming or you find yourself using energy to distract from it, then listen to this. It can be hard to sit and actually feel the discomfort of a craving or emotion, but having a guide may help. This 5 minute guide runs you through the tools to actually feel the discomfort. It takes much more energy to avoid/distract from “feeling our feels,” but actually feeling them isn’t very fun either, which is why this quick guide is presented to you, now.
Here is what we do in this short meditation:
-Exercising controlled attention
-Active body relaxation and grounding
Repeat this short meditation as many times as you need. If you found this helpful please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and say hello on IG! 🙂 @drcecilialopez
Hello! On this episode Dr. L discusses her motto, “Guess less, ask more, wait and see.”
She discusses the following:
-The power of investigating and exploring to combat assumptions which cause anxiety, depression, anger, and any uncomfortable emotion in between.
-Being mindful of “filling in the gaps of the unknown” through future thinking, and how to keep your imagination in check (if it causes you anxiety or other uncomfortable emotions).
-Examples of exploring/asking questions to combat worrisome thoughts of the past, and waiting and see how things unfold to combat worrisome thoughts of the future.
If you enjoyed this episode please let Dr. L know in the comment section of her IGTV (where you can find this latest episode) on Instagram and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Don’t forget to give her a follow on IG and Tik Tok @drcecilialopez for more content on mental health and wellness. She is also accepting new therapy clients (California residents) and to inquire further you may email her at email@example.com. For all other business inquiries please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi! This episode focuses on riding the “waves” of cravings and uncomfortable emotions (which include uncomfortable feelings and body responses). In my clinical opinion, it is better to feel your emotions and feelings rather than stuffing them down OR acting them out impulsively. But how exactly do we do that? How can I feel my emotions without feeling like I’m losing it?
This episode covers how to feel discomfort in a way that is grounded and present. This can help with managing impulses as well as managing stress put on the body by “stuffing” our feelings down.
Head over to my IG to leave a comment under the IGTV video of this episode! You may also communicate with me via DM on IG or message me on Tik Tok (@drcecilialopez for both). I look forward to hearing from you!
Welcome back! This is a “bite sized” episode that discusses the wonderful magic of free association journaling.
In a nutshell, this version of journaling has no rules…no limits…NO BOUNDARIES. In a sense, it’s word dump (or, dare I say, word vomit).
What’s the point of this? To bring the unconscious to the conscious. To unblock blocks. To process emotions. To help you reach your subconscious to find answers to your questions. To figure out what you want or don’t want. To figure out how you feel and why. Some people do this form of journaling before bed to reduce the “chatty mind.” You can do this style of journaling if you feel angry, anxious, burnt out, stressed, depressed, low, worried, frustrated, sad, confused, and even happy or excited!
Honestly, there are many reasons this technique poses as useful.
Basically, if you feel “off,” want to reflect, or feel completely fine, give this style of journaling a go so that you can explore yourself.
Let me know how it went on IG! @drcecilialopez
As always, I appreciate you listening! Let’s keep in touch!
Special Delivery! I present to you a recording of a LIVE guided meditation from my Tuesday morning meditation group.
To skip the intro go to 4:16. 🙂
I decided to record this session and share it with you all here as the group is now paused until June 2021, so I wanted members to have something to utilize until then and also to share it with non members. 🙂
We start out with a paired progressive muscle relaxation to get us in the zone, then I guide you through a smooth mindful meditation.
Feel free to lay flat or sit up on the floor or in a chair. Headphones are not required!
Let me know if this meditation was helpful. I appreciate you for listening and sharing this space with me!
Today’s episode is VERY special as I had the privilege of being a guest on another fab podcast called Fitness Mindset Podcast with Maximos George, and he was gracious enough to let me share the episode with YOU.
A little about the Maximos:
Maximos George is a fitness coach who is passionate about movement. He has a diverse background including bodybuilding, calisthenics, martial arts, theatre and eastern practices, and his background influences him to create a more holistic approach to physical training. Maximos doesn’t see fitness as just a means to a dream physique, but more of a practice to improve ourselves overall by increasing mental and physical strength while challenging the body and mind. Through his teachings, he helps people get physically and mentally stronger while simultaneously building a physique that functions as good as it looks.
On this episode we cover the following topics:
-Our description of mindfulness
-How to use mindfulness during the fitness journey (especially when experiencing challenges)
-Mindful eating and how this may help with portion control
-Riding waves of craving and emotions with mindfulness
Please give Maximos a follow on IG @MaximosGeorge_ and TikTok @Maximos_George and check out his p
Sherry is an example of the importance of practicing mindfulness and self love. She is certified as a Gut Health Coach, Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor & Life Coach, Reiki II and Theta Healer Practitioner, CBD/Cannabis Coach and provider of beautiful & unique crystals. After suffering in silence for 5 yrs with mystery symptoms, she was diagnosed with Hashimotos, an autoimmune thyroid disease, which eventually led her to leave her 12 year career in the public sector and go back to school and obtain her certifications to start her businesses. Her path led her to yet another challenge to overcome when her 13 yr marriage came to a traumatic ending. This is when she began her journey to awakening, following her spiritual healing path. She believes in the practice of mindfulness and the importance of self/unconditional love with oneself in order to obtain happiness within and embrace the opportunities that the world has to offer.
This episode covers the following topics and points:
-Sherry’s definition of mindfulness and early experiences with learning the practice
-Her journey of triumph after experiencing trauma from a relationship
-Choosing yourself over the expectations of others
-Self-love, self-compassion, and self-acceptance
-An explanation of love and kindness exercises from Sherry’s self-love related classes
-A step-by-step explanation of a mirror work activity for improved self-love and acceptance
-The power of CHOICE, perspective, energetic release and meditation
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did! Please check Sherry out and connect with her via IG and FB @resilienthealthcoach and resilienthealthcoach.com.
I am pleased to bring to you the wonderful, Janet Fouts!
Janet is a Human Potential Facilitator, mindfulness-based emotional intelligence coach and trainer, she brings the tools of mindfulness, positive psychology and emotional intelligence together to help leaders and their teams realize their full potential.
She’s authored 7 books and hosts two podcasts. Mindful Social Business and Nearly Mindful.
In this episode we discuss the following topics:
-Janet’s definition of mindfulness
-An activity to demonstrate mindfulness
-The importance off “anchoring ourselves”
-Shifting to a nonjudgmental attitude
-Janet’s path to becoming an author and coach
-Significant shifts/transformations she has witnessed after teaching mindfulness
-Using mindfulness to improve feelings of procrastination, stress and burnout
-Using mindfulness to recognize compulsive behaviors as the first step to curbing them
-Strategies for managing social media consumption
-Riding the “crave wave” to manage addictive cravings (a mindfulness technique)
-Recognizing the ego
-Actionable tips for practicing mindfulness
On this episode I had the privilege of speaking with Michael Arterberry, Master Encourager, and Dynamic Motivational Speaker.
As a teenager, Michael was fortunate to receive guidance from positive adult role models who helped him overcome adversities and set high expectations for his future. Grateful for the role these mentors played in his own development, Michael decided to dedicate his professional life to helping people navigate the difficulties of life and launch their future into motion. For more than 25 years, he has been helping teens and adults to use what they have gone through as a catalyst for success rather than an obstacle for failure.
Michael received the 2010 USA Network’s Characters Unite Award for exceptional commitment to combating prejudice and discrimination while increasing tolerance and acceptance within the community. He is also the recipient of the 2014 100 Men of Color Award for leadership in education, government, mentorship, entrepreneurial success and community service.
In 2008, Michael founded Youth Voices Center, Inc. a non-profit with the mission of helping young people to become active, productive members of society by overcoming their obstacles, their history, stereotypes and even their own self-image and limiting beliefs.
Join us as we discuss what it means to regain control of your beliefs and behaviors, as well as use adversity to fuel our motivation.
Hi! In this episode I had the privilege of interviewing my dear friend, Erika Cadenas, licensed marriage and family therapist. She brings us 7 self-care tips to help us boost and maintain a balanced mind, body and soul as we continue to navigate through these difficult times during the pandemic. This episode covers the following:
-Creating structure and a routine
-Getting plenty of sleep
-Staying connected to sources of support
-Disengaging from social media
-Practicing positive affirmations
-Practicing empathy and kindness with self
Erika Cadenas can be reached via erikacadenaslmft.com and through IG @erikacadenaslmft. Please feel free to reach out to her or myself with any questions. And we are both accepting new therapy clients! 🙂
Expressing gratitude or having gratitude themed thoughts is one of the fastest ways to shift your mood, raise your vibrations and revamp your experiences. Take less than 10 minutes of your day to lay down, get cozy, and lift your mood with this guided meditation.
If you struggle with feeling fearful, anxious or nervous, this episode is for you. This is a short, to-the-point guide on how to ground yourself, shift your mind and what to do with the uncomfortable energy fear creates. More specifically, this episode covers the following:
-My clinical/professional perspective on what FEAR is
-How fear becomes ANXIETY
-How to quickly ground yourself and gently move to a “REST” state
-How to reframe the thoughts which fuel FEAR ENERGY
-How to burn and MOVE fear energy
Let me know what you found helpful from the episode on my IG or FB @drcecilialopez, and please share!
In this episode you will learn what the symptoms of general anxiety are according to the DSM-5, and hear my insights on each criterion. This episode also provides tips on grounding your mind to the present moment and other suggestions for starting or continuing your anxiety management journey.
This episode covers the following:
-How mindfulness can be used to maintain better hygiene and awareness of what we touch as we navigate COVID-19
-How mindfulness can help improve awareness and caution while around others
-How mindfulness can help us keep our mind grounded to the moment and control future thinking (including worrisome thinking) and dwelling on the past
-Examples of practicing mindfulness with day-to-day activities such as eating and washing dishes
-My professional insights on how mindfulness can improve control over our mind (versus our mind being in control of us)
In this second episode you will hear my perspective on having a mindfulness practice and how this can help with managing thoughts which contribute to anxiety, depression and anger (and the physiological features associated with these emotions). Hear me use metaphors to assist with explaining mindfulness as well as explain ways you, the listener, can start practicing mindfulness today with day-to-day activities to promote presence, balance and wellness. Enjoy!
*Learn about the “Monkey Mind”
*Learn how to control reactions with mindfulness
*Learn how to notice your own thoughts in order to control emotions
*Learn about using the 5 senses to remain present
I’m going to keep this blog post as short and sweet as possible. I’ve been asked more than a few times in the past few weeks for tips on managing the impact of grief and loss. I am providing tips I normally share concerning expressing thoughts and emotions in a healthy manner, as well as self-care. It is my clinical opinion that these are key to moving through the grieving process in a healthy manner. They are as follows:
1) Discuss your thoughts and feelings with trusted members of your support network. Grieve in the company of others.
2) Journal your thoughts freely, without limitations.
3) Move the energy associated with uncomfortable feelings as much as you can. This can be done via walking, dancing, stretching, etc.
4) Go to nature. This can be extremely cleansing and allow you a supportive space to feel uncomfortable emotions.
5) Meditate. You can also set an intention before you meditate to feel peace or experience less pain.
6) Express your experience through art, such as with painting, drawing, or music.
8) Engage in self-identified self-soothing activities. What makes you feel good, even if temporary? Cuddling your friend? Cuddling your dog? A warm bath? A foot rub?
9) Attend grief and loss support groups. Sometimes talking to others who are also grieving provides a different type of benefit than talking with our loved ones.
10) If you are experiencing thoughts or emotions that are hindering your functioning, meaning hindering your ability to socialize, manage your health, manage your meaningful roles (such as working, parenting, attending school), or managing your living situation, seek mental health assistance (you can find therapists and psychiatrists at Psychologytoday.org).
It should be noted that it is OK to feel the difficult feelings of grief. You may have heard the phrase, “It is OK to not be OK.” I agree with this. The above suggestions may help you, but you do not need to move through the grieving process quickly. Go at your own pace. Email me if you have questions, or comment below. 🙂
According to the awesome Dr. Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a crisis is considered a highly stressful, short-term (meaning it isn’t going to last forever) situation that causes a sense of pressure to resolve the crisis immediately. A crisis situation is subjective, as not everyone views every situation the same. For example, giving a presentation in front of your boss and the team while you’re also afraid of public speaking may seem like a crisis to one person, but not another. Realizing you can’t pay your rent this month may seem like a crisis to one person, but not another. You get my point. During a crisis, we can use distress tolerance tools when we feel intense emotional discomfort (anxiety, panic, anger) which also can lead to discomfort in the body (e.g. rapid heartbeat, hyperventilating, dizziness, tunnel vision). We should especially use tools when we feel like this and still need to GET. STUFF. DONE (e.g. take your kids to school, work, attend class). Dr. Marsha Linehan calls tools to help these types of situations “Crisis Survival Skills.” One acronym she created is TIP, which stands for Tip the Temperature, Intense Exercise, Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle relaxation.
One way to sort of “shock your system” out of a fight-flight response is to use cold water with the Tip the Temperature technique. It is suggested to hold your breath and dunk your face in a bowl of cold water, but I also think putting hands or feet in cold water or taking a cold shower is effective. From my knowledge, I know that shocking yourself with cold water immediately stops whatever thought process you’re having that is contributing to interpreting your situation as a crisis (how very CBT of me lol), which can help slow down or stop the fight-flight response. It also increases alertness and helps you focus if you’re starting to panic or experience intense emotions to the point of feeling overwhelmed.
In regard to Intense Exercise, when we are in a fight-flight response (experiencing anxiety, panic, and even anger) we need to do something with all those chemicals our body is releasing to keep us safe from danger (our body is trying to do us a favor, but little does it know that giving a presentation is not an immediate life-or-death situation). Use that energy to avoid that shaky, dizzy, lightheaded feeling we can get when feeling overwhelmed. Go for a brisk walk, do pushups, jumping jacks, jog, shake about like a little kid who has heard music for the first time. Sometimes I stand on my tippy toes and pulse over and over as a way to burn off excess adrenaline. Try it. 😉
With Paced Breathing, in a nutshell you need to breathe DEEP, SLOW, FULLY, and WITH YOUR BELLY. Push your belly out as you inhale and keep going (slowly) until your lungs fill up fully, then exhale (slowly) with your mouth the size of a Cheerio until all the air is gone, and repeat. A trick is to breathe in 4 seconds every round, and breathe out longer than you breathe in (so breathing out 5, 6 or 7 seconds, every round). You will notice I state this breathing method A LOT in my posts. It activates your parasympathetic system which is key to calming down in a crisis situation.
Regarding the Paired Muscle Relaxation, the DBT technique indicates you tense your body muscles while breathing IN with your belly, and releasing your muscles as you exhale. If you want a different method of relaxing muscles, I suggest actually clenching various parts of your body (feet, calves, gluteus [yep, your butt], stomach, back, raise your shoulders up toward your ears, make fists with your hands, and scrunch of your face TIGHT), and hold for 15 seconds, then release. Aaaaahhhh…feels good.
I obviously added my own spin on some of these as this is all a collaborative effort. I want you all to have as much control over yourself as possible, and when faced with a crisis it is imperative to ground your body so you can GET. STUFF. DONE.
I was asked to write a post on managing fear after a mass shooting. More specifically this was requested by someone in my community after learning about the Gilroy, California shooting. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and the American Red Cross define mass violence as the following:
An intentional violent criminal act, for which a formal investigation has been opened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or other law enforcement agencies, that results in physical, emotional, or psychological injury to a sufficiently large number of people to significantly increase the burden of victim assistance and compensation for the responding jurisdiction as determined by the OVC Director. (U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ], Office of Justice Programs [OJP], OVC & American Red Cross, 2005, p. 3 as cited by SAMSA, 2017).
1. Consider Counseling
Although this post is meant for those that learn of a mass shooting either in their own community or somewhere in the world, if you are reading this and were a direct victim of the tragedy, directly witnessed the shooting, you are linked to someone directly impacted by the shooting, or you experienced repeated or extreme exposure to the details of the shooting (such as if you were a first responder) some of the information in this article may be useful to you, but I have a stronger urge that you seek counseling if you are experiencing signs of acute or post traumatic stress. If you are experiencing intrusive memories of the traumatic event, having nightmares or flashbacks, experience a dramatic shift in your mood, struggle to experience pleasure, feel fearful or on edge, feel as though you’re in a daze, have issues with your memory or concentrating, feel a sense of emptiness or loss, are avoiding certain triggers that remind you of the event AND these symptoms are hindering your ability to function (such as socialize or engage the community, work, engage in leisure activities, manage your health or living situation), then counseling would be my first go-to suggestion. This suggestion also applies to those that have learned of the shooting in their community if one of more of the aforementioned issues are occurring and you believe your functioning is also being negatively impacted (you, of course, may also seek counseling if your functioning is not impacted and you believe counseling may be helpful for you). I have added a link at the bottom of this post for a website that is pretty much the Google for finding therapists. If you want tips on what type of therapist to look for, please email me and I can give you a quick pointer on this.
2. Remove Added Stimuli and Reminders
Ah, our cell phones and televisions can be such handy tools, but as you may already have guessed, there are many downfalls them. If you are experiencing distress or fear after learning of a mass shooting in your community or the world (or are a direct victim) then continuously receiving reminders of the tragedy is unhelpful (to put it simply). More often than not, I prompt my clients to do this after they learn of a tragedy and are starting to experience more stress, fear and other uncomfortable emotions and symptoms. Witnessing constant reminders include visuals and replays of the aftermath, as well as witnessing other people’s emotions (online or on television) can exacerbate psychological symptoms. One study has found that those who continuously watch images or video in the media about a tragedy had higher levels of PTSD symptoms (17.4%) and depression (14.7%) than those who avoided this type of stimuli (Ahern et al. 2002, as cited by SAMSA, 2017). I normally prompt my clients to take 7 days off from social media and specific type of TV programs. That means zero Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms as well as watching the news or political TV channels.
3. Seek Community
What I mean by seeking community is talk to your friends and
family about your thoughts and emotions so you may share your experience and receive
their support. I recommend finding community that will remain open minded and
patient with you and provide you validation, but not add to your fear. I want
you to keep going outside and living your life, so if certain friends or family
are projecting their fears on to you (causing you to feel more uneasy) then
they might not be the best candidates for this.
4. Get Involved
While working with my clients who have a stress response to learning of a mass shooting, a theme I’ve noticed is they feel as though they do not have control. I realize we are limited when it comes to controlling mass shootings, but getting involved in helping out with the aftermath of a shooting may provide a sense of purpose or control. This may be in the form of fundraising, volunteering for a 24-hour help line, donating to a charity (to ensure a charity is legitimate you can look them up on Charity Navigator or Charity Watch) or donating blood. Getting involved also gives you something to focus your attention on in the moment, which leads me to my next suggestions.
5. Ground When Experiencing Fear
I 100% acknowledge that experiencing fear after a mass shooting is an understandable response. A few days to a few weeks after a tragedy like this may feel out of the norm and emotions and mental health symptoms may be on high, but after some time it is important to try our best to remain in the here-and-now. To experience fear about a tragedy weeks after it occurs means we are focusing our attention on the past (thinking of the tragedy) or the future (worrying about it happening again). At that point it becomes imperative to ground your body, especially when you go back out to the community and public, crowded spaces. What I mean by this is managing the physiological symptoms associated with the fight-or-flight response (such as rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, sweatiness, dizziness), which becomes activated when we are afraid. I have personally talked to people in the past few days who are fearful of going to crowded places like the mall or night club. They explained to me that they do in fact want to go but after getting dressed and ready their hesitation sets in. I told them to ground so that they aren’t walking around the mall with adrenaline (among other chemicals) coursing through them and experiencing physiological symptoms of getting ready for a life or death situation when in fact they want to take their children school shopping. You can do this with alternative nostril breathing, square breathing, or more simply put breathing SLOWLY and DEEPLY, in through the nose (4 seconds) and out through the mouth (5, 6, 7 to 8 seconds or more) and repeat this 5-10 times. Make your mouth the size of a Cheerio when you exhale, and breathe with your belly. This activates the parasympathetic system in the body and helps keep you out of the physiological fight-or-flight state associated with fear.
Yes, I want you to talk to yourself. You don’t need to do this out loud (as that may feel a bit odd), but I do want you to engage in a dialogue with yourself that hits various points. Remember, we cannot tell the future (if we could, my job would be a lot easier). We only know what we know in the present moment, so if you have a fear of a tragedy happening, ask yourself 1) What exactly am I thinking is going to happen?, 2) Do I have evidence that this thought is true?, and 3) Is there another angle to view this situation from? For a more detailed description of this see my post titled Do I Have Evidence?
7. Stay Present
To put it simply, practicing mindfulness and being in the here-and-now takes us out of our future or past focused thinking, even if for a few seconds. If you continuously do this throughout the day, you’ve spent a huge chunk of your day in the present versus in your mind, which is where the narratives are created which contribute to fear. A way to practice this is to notice your five senses (or one or two at a time) as much as you can with each step it takes to get to and engage the environment you’d like to be in. Again, it’s OK if it’s a few seconds at a time, just keep trying to repeat it. So as you step out of your house, into your car (or however you would get there) and enter the surrounding you’d like to be in (e.g. mall, club, venue), pay attention to your senses. What do you see, hear, and smell? Feel your feet touch the ground. Notice your calf muscle as you walk. Feel the clothes on your back. Are you chewing gum? Focus on the taste, sensations and movement of chewing. As soon as a fearful or unhelpful thought comes in, GROUND, notice the thought, engage in self-talk, then focus your attention back to your breath, then back to your senses (and repeat).
Jumping to conclusions, mind reading (assuming you know what someone else is thinking) and catastrophizing (jumping to conclusions x10 + disaster) are 3 of the 10 unhelpful thinking styles many of us engage in (usually unbeknownst to us). As a CBT therapist I teach my clients all 10 thinking styles and how to catch and reframe these type of thoughts. These thinking styles can cause issues such as feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, impulsivity or social conflict. Imagine Clara assumes that Gwen took a piece of candy from her desk (jumping to conclusions). Then Clara thought that Gwen thinks she won’t notice (mind reading) which infuriates her because, well, that’s her salt water taffy 🍬 and she definitely notices. Then Clara worries that everyone from the office will steal from her (catastrophizing).
Instead of engaging in these thinking styles, Clara could ask herself the following questions:
1. What am I thinking? We often have our automatic thought then run with it until it snowballs into an unhelpful narrative. Slow down and clearly identify your thoughts. 2. Do I have evidence that this thought is true? If you don’t have proof then it would be unhelpful to allow this thought to influence our emotions and behaviors. If you have to ask Gwen questions, ask her questions (posts on assertiveness coming soon). 3. Is there another angle to view this situation from? Remember we can reframe our thoughts to that of acceptance, gratitude, compassion or a narrative that better serves us, but first you need to find out if there’s any proof to your thought. Start with the initial thought (Gwen stole the 🍬) and go from there.
It’s also OK if you can’t find evidence for or against your thought. Sometimes no evidence is all we need to help us stop a “snowball narrative” in its tracks. Accept that you do not have proof, BREATHE and create an alternative thought based on your investigation (or no thought at all).
Now I want 🍭 candy. Lol thanks for reading! I invite you to share this if you found it interesting or useful.
What’s the difference between stress and anxiety? Welp, they definitely are connected, but there’s an important distinction. Stress is caused by outside circumstances, such as a work deadline, getting your kids to hobbies on time or a disagreement with your partner. Anxiety, however, is your RESPONSE to the stressor. To observe a stressor without creating an anxiety provoking narrative, and accept it as is, can be within your control with practice. Let’s say I spilled onion soup in my car. To think that now my car will smell like onion FOREVER and my friends will think I smell like old onions (lol what?) and never speak to me again and Ahh! Yep, that’s a reaction to the stressor that is a surefire way to spark anxiety. Many of us aren’t taught to reframe our thoughts, observe without interpreting, and ground ourselves (posts on grounding to come). I’ve already discussed a quick reframe tool (in previous posts) to adjust unhelpful thoughts to the framework of gratitude, but you can also observe and accept what is happening and forgo the reframe. I see the spilled soup in my car, I grab a rag and some cleaner, and that’s it! I know this is easier said than done, but acceptance and observation without creating a narrative takes practice, just like exercising, eating healthy, or doing any new skill before it becomes second nature.
To get in the groove of observing without creating a narrative notice your body sensations, tap into your five senses and be in the moment. Observe the situation without using words in your mind. These are typical DBT and mindfulness tactics (that I’m bringing to you here [solo clap 👏😆]). Practice mindful observation next time you go into another room or outside. Look around and notice without creating a narrative about what it all means. The more you practice this the easier it will be to observe stressful situations as they are. Look at a flower, ants walking, or people’s facial expressions and notice details. If your mind begins a narrative, gently notice the narrative, take a deep breath, and focus your attention back to what you are observing (and repeat)!
What is mental hygiene? The term “mental hygiene” has been trending over the last few years, but this term originated in the 1800’s. In 1893 specifically, the founder of the American Psychiatric Association, Isaac Ray, defined mental hygiene as “the art of preserving the mind against all incidents and influences calculated to deteriorate its qualities, impair its energies, or derange its movements. The management of the bodily powers in regard to exercise, rest, food, clothing and climate, the laws of breeding, the government of the passions, the sympathy with current emotions and opinions, the discipline of the intellect—all these come within the province of mental hygiene.” (Rossi, A., Some Pre-World War II Antecedents of Community Mental Health Theory and Practice. Mental Hygiene, 1962, 46, 78-98, as cited by Mandell, 1995).
In the 1900’s there was a strong reaction to Clifford Beer’s autobiography called, A Mind That Found Itself, which highlighted how poorly those being seen for psychiatric services were treated by professionals. This kick started a movement of trailblazers that included Beer’s as well as Adolf Meyer, Thomas W. Salmon and Dorothea Dix. These individuals made serious contributions to the unveiling and reform of these issues, and the mental hygiene movement influenced the foundations of organizations like the Connecticut Society for Mental Hygiene (1908) and the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (1909). In 1950 the National Association for Mental Health was created, and groups like this aimed (and still aim) to create higher standards of care for those being treated with mental health challenges, to use preventative strategies to reduce the onset of challenges, and to guarantee that people are properly educated and informed about these topics.
I may not be on any of these particular committee or part of these organizations, but I have the exact same mission.
For now, let’s discuss the preventative, coping and maintenance side of mental hygiene. We wouldn’t think about going weeks, months or dare I say YEARS without brushing our teeth, or washing our body or clothes (whoa). Why would we go weeks, months or years without tending to our mind, emotions (or energy) or overall mental well-being? You may have heard that our mind, body and spirit (yes, spirit) are all connected. If we ignore one avenue then we risk imbalance. If we are imbalanced, well, we may feel stressed, overwhelmed, stuck, depressed, anxious or, simply put, we may start to experience the onset or exasperation of mental health challenges. There are so many types of mental hygiene tools to engage in for preventative or maintenance care, and some you may like more than others. From specific types of affirmations, to being in nature, to mindful eating, to creating a bedtime routine, there are plenty of options to prevent and cope with mental health challenges as well as maintain balance. I’m excited to give out as much knowledge and tips as I can. My goal is to help others, and if I can help just ONE person with a post, then my purpose is fulfilled.
Now, with all that said, as my first mental hygiene tip, I encourage you now to go outside. Once you’re done reading put your phone on airplane mode (GASP) for 20 minutes, and simply go outside. You don’t need to go to a grassy mountain (and listen to the buzzing of bugs) like this picture illustrates, but going outside wherever you are right now is good. Take a walk in your neighborhood, sit in your backyard, drive to a local park, and be outside even if for a few minutes. Since this post is already sooo long, I’ll explain more on the benefits of being outdoors soon. For now, just focus on getting some air and engaging new scenery. 🙂