Can direct neurofeedback help individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia?

The effects of the unprecedented coronavirus will be felt by all for a currently unknown period of time.  The fear-driven behavioral responses that this pandemic has been producing is a reflection of how deep and strong our survival response goes.  And, yet, at some point, relief will come in the form of a vaccine.  However, there is another health challenge that stirs fear in the hearts of many, the life-long diagnosis of the severe mental disorder of schizophrenia.

One of my very first clients that I saw as a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee carried a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  My client challenged me to learn more about this disorder in order to provide the best quality of service I could at that point in my training.  I learned that schizophrenia, although not as common as other mental disorders, affects feelings, thinking, and behaviors and the symptoms can be very disabling.  Symptoms of schizophrenia are categorized using the medical terms of either positive, negative, or cognitive.  Positive symptoms add and negative symptoms take away.

For example, positive symptoms might include hallucinations, delusions, or repetitive movements that are hard to control.  Negative symptoms include reduced feelings of pleasure, reduced speech, apathy, reduced social drive and social interest, and loss of motivation.  The underlying cause or causes of this severe mental disorder are still unknown and available treatments focus on eliminating the symptoms of the disease.  The first line of attack as far as treatment is concerned is antipsychotic medications.  Once a medication is found to work, then psychosocial treatments, such as therapy, is offered to help individuals learn and use coping skills.  Research has shown that participating in such psychosocial treatments reduces relapses and/or hospitalizations; however, the most challenging aspect of treatment is nonadherence to medication.  Therefore, a focus on increasing treatment adherence could have a positive effect on all impacted by this severe mental disorder.

Individuals with schizophrenia struggle to live life independently and improving this situation is a significant mental health priority.  It seems as though the negative symptoms of this disorder are associated with poorer functional status and quality of life than are the positive symptoms and this may be because primary negative symptoms generally do not respond well to the antipsychotic medications currently available.  Research has suggested that up to 60% of patients may have prominent clinically relevant negative symptoms that require treatment.  With this information it then becomes more easily understandable why these individuals may not be compliant with their medications – because those medications don’t work for them.  The question now is what is being done to support these individuals and address this unmet medical need?

Well, there is hope on the horizon.  An article recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry looked into the use of transcranial direct current stimulation (AKA direct neurofeedback) as an add-on therapy for negative symptoms of schizophrenia.  In this double-blind randomized clinical trial of 100 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia with predominant negative symptoms, results showed that this non-medication treatment was effective and safe in ameliorating negative symptoms.

If you would like to read more, click on the button below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Reduce Inflammation During Times of Transition

The experience of the season of Spring seems to reflect Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote above – and, no wonder, Spring might be the most eagerly awaited change of seasons of the year for many of us!

At the same time, did you know that it is also the time of year when suicides peak?

Researchers are beginning to uncover why this world-wide trend might exist.  Adam Kaplin, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, suggests that there is overwhelming evidence that links inflammation to depression and suicide.  One of the sources of inflammation is seasonal allergic reactions, with chances of depression being 42% higher for people with rhinitis.  So, although Spring may, at first glance, seem full of rebirth and like a welcomed time of transition, it too comes with the reminder that all transitions come with challenges.

So, although you might not be currently experiencing depression (or suicidal thoughts), becoming aware of the impact that inflammation has on the body and mind can help to support you through this seasonal change, as well as other times of significant change, such as navigating the stress of moving or from the loss of a job.

Please consider the following intention-setting ideas to support your immune system, especially when navigating transitional times which tend to increase the experience of inflammation in the mind and body:

  1. Nasal cleansing.  Consider investing in a Neti pot and trying a daily practice of washing out the irritants from your nasal passages.  Using a sterile water and salt mixture has been shown to reduce sinus inflammation and the symptoms of an itchy nose, sneezing, sinus headaches and the long dreaded sinus infections.  This practice can also be used to prevent and treat symptoms of colds and the accompanying inflammation, since it takes 8-12 hours for a cold virus to replicate within your nose.  If you are hesitant to try out this practice (and who wouldn’t be a little scared to fill your nose with water as we are humans for goodness sake and not fish!), check out some of the videos on YouTube to get tips on how to overcome the fear.  My suggestion would be to start a practice now before the pollen levels grow even more!
  2. Legs-Up-The-Wall.  Known as Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, this restorative yoga shape supports and strengthens your immune system, among many other benefits.  It can be done anywhere, including the back of any door in your home or office.  The longer you hold it, the greater the reduction in stress (AKA inflammation), in both the mind and body.  Perhaps holding this shape for 10 minutes each day for a week and sense into the difference it might make in your energy levels, clarity of thoughts, and quality of sleep.
  3. Alter what you eat. There is much written about the impacts of the types of fuel you add to your body, so it is not my intention to promote any specific “diet” out there.  I’m offering the suggestion to consider adding one or perhaps two new “premium” sources of energy to your existing routine.  For example, adding foods that are rich in antioxidants, known as polyphenols, has been shown to reduce inflammation.  These foods include onions and red grapes, the spice turmeric, and green tea.  Consider simply adding one of these each day for one month.  Another example is adding more omega-3 fatty acids, which includes olive oil, ghee, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel into your meals.  Now you can’t convince me to eat sardines, but I have switched over to ghee, so perhaps you might too!
  4. Immerse yourself in a Sound Bath.  What is a sound bath you might ask?  Well, it is an experience where you listen to sounds that are soothing to the nervous system.  Music has been shown to ‘speak’ to the body’s autonomic nervous system, the part of our nervous system that controls the unconscious functions of our bodies, such as our heart beat, and reduce the level of cortisol (i.e., the stress hormone).  It has also been shown to improve the body’s immune system functioning, have a positive effect on the brain, and enhance cognition.  Perhaps take a moment now and do a search in your area for the next Sound Bath event at a local yoga studio, health spa, or holistic practitioner’s office space and schedule it in your calendar.  If you are sensitive to sounds, consider trying a one-instrument sound bath, such as Crystal Singing Bowls or Gongs first.
  5. Practice meditation.  Both meditation and self-compassion practices have been shown to reduce stress-induced inflammation.  Consider finding an online self-compassion meditation that resonates with you and implement a daily practice, perhaps each night before going to bed.  If you would like to read a little bit more about how meditation reduces inflammation, check out this article from HuffPost.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

Compassion for Survivors of Trauma – a New View of Substance Use Disorder/Addiction!

I remember being assigned to read the book by Dr. Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, while in graduate school and simply feeling gratitude, compassion and validation afterwards.  I never believed in the medical model of addiction that describes the symptom of addiction as a chronic disease of the brain, even suggesting a genetic component to the disease, implying that if my parent(s) had addictions, most likely I would too.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the brains of people who struggle with addiction are different, yet those changes are created as a response to the adverse childhood experiences (AKA TRAUMA) these people survived.  And if your parents suffered from addictions when you were growing up, that experience is traumatic to a child!

I’ve written before about the impact of adverse childhood experiences, especially on physical health later in life as well as addiction; however, I felt compelled to revisit it again when I learned of research that found over 96% of the study participants suffering from substance use disorders, including prescription opioids, nicotine, and cocaine, had trauma histories.  When comparing the groups based upon their drug of choice, the prescription opiate group reported more traumatic childhood experiences than the other groups and a younger age of their first adverse childhood event.  So, when you learn about the underlying dynamics associated with substance use, the thought of “Just Say No” to drugs seems crazy!

Trauma comes in many packages and I’m grateful that the new California Surgeon General (Dr. Nadine Burke Harris) is focusing on early childhood, health equity and Adverse Childhood Experiences and toxic stress as her key priorities. (For more information on the ACEs Aware initiative, visit www.ACEsAware.org.)  It is time to stop blaming the victims and participate in bringing this information forward in order to educate.  What we don’t know, we don’t know.  However, once we know better, we can do better.  With this knowledge, we can bring more empathy and compassion in our interactions with people that struggle with substances.  We can take extra steps to explain this new research to them, validating their experiences and bringing them hope that they can heal from these past traumatic experiences and release their attachment to something that is harmful to them.  We can empower them to explore various healing modalities, such as psychotherapy, neurofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, guided imagery, and expressive arts, such as yoga, writing and drawing, all of which have been shown to support post-traumatic growth.

To read more about this research, click on the box below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas For Supporting Diversity and Inclusivity

Celebrating National Black (Afro-American) History Month!

Why is it important to promote Black History Month?  Well, I believe, as did Gandhi, that it is our ability to embrace diversity that reflects the highest aspects of being human and defines the very fabric of our nation.  This month is an opportunity to recognize the central role blacks played in our history of the United States.  This month has been set aside so that we may broaden our awareness, deepen our understanding and choose to celebrate and thank those contributors!

Consider the following intention-setting ideas to try this month in our efforts to elevate the collective consciousness of the world:

  1. Embrace Diversity.  Embracing diversity challenges our ability to accept and respect differences.  Each person is like a snowflake, unique yet similar.  When we lean into embracing our uniqueness, we also need to explore our differences in a safe and nurturing environment.  Embracing goes beyond simple tolerance and taps into our innate ability to feel empathy and compassion for one another as humans.  Perhaps consider a conscious practice to move from acknowledging to embracing diversity, such as:  1) Shifting the cultural value meter on the scale of dependence/independence to the middle point of interdependence, appreciating that all of humanity is interdependent; 2) Practice mutual respect when confronted with cultural practices that are different from yours; and 3) Acknowledge the institutionalization of discrimination which creates an unequal playing field.
  2. Own Your Bias!  We all have them!  We live in a judgmental culture and learn to compare ourselves to others from a very young age.  It is only through becoming more aware of our learned biases that we can begin the practice of discernment instead of judgement.  In addition, research has shown that we have a natural tendency to hide biases from ourselves.  So consider setting an intention to explore your biases, by visiting Harvard’s Implicit Bias site here and taking one or more of the online tests.
  3. Acknowledge Holidays.  Last month marked the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., with many businesses closed in honor of his contributions to the world.  How did you celebrate this day?  January also included the Chinese New Year (January 25th – a Metal Rat year!) – again, how might you have honored this holiday?  To support your expanding awareness of diversity, perhaps start by simply recognizing that people celebrate a variety of holidays and set an intention to take an interest in the traditions that are included in such holidays.  Perhaps you ask someone what holidays they celebrate and explore one ritual that is included with them?  Or you add some new holidays to your calendar and research them when the day arrives?
  4. Get to Know Someone Different Than You.  This intention-setting idea might be a little more challenging.  Consider actively looking for opportunities outside of your familiar circle to expose yourself to new experiences.  Volunteer work is a great way to find people of all backgrounds and abilities with similar passions.  Or you might invite a neighbor over so that you might get to know them on a deeper level, coming from a place of curiosity.  Travel also lends itself to exploring different cultures.  There are many benefits to leaning into our differences, including but not limited to reducing fear (think increasing love, peace and compassion), increasing creativity, and personal growth.
  5. Read ‘White Fragility’.  This book is written by a corporate diversity trainer (who happens to be white) with the intention to challenge the responses white people have when their participation in racism is revealed.  So, for those of us privileged white people (me included), consider reading this book to deepen your understanding how all white people are racist so that you might make different choices as you move through the beautiful rainbow world we all inherited.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

Will physicians start prescribing yoga for hypertension soon?

Both of my parents have a diagnosis of hypertension and were put on antihypertensive prescription medication to control it.  I think my mother received the diagnosis in her 30s.  I was turning 40 when I first heard my physician say my blood pressure was “elevated” and wanted it monitored in order to determine if I too would need to be put on some medication.  Boy, am I glad that shortly after that I discovered yoga!

I found yoga while celebrating my 40th birthday in Neversink, NY at the New Age Health Spa.  I recently learned that this place closed down a couple of years ago, which made me a little sad to think that it truly launched me on a path toward holistic health and wasn’t able to sustain itself, unlike the riches the pharmaceutical companies rake it.  The first things I noticed after practicing yoga initially were that my low back pain (from bulging/herniated discs) went away and the chronic tension in my body began to lessen.  The best news though was when I went back to the doctor’s office and was told my blood pressure was back to “normal”.  Now, after many years of practice, my blood pressure is actually considered “low”!

This dramatic change in one of the leading causes of morbidity in my own experience – and one in which prevented the need for a life-long attachment to a prescription medication – was all the motivation I needed to continue to explore the benefits of a yoga practice, eventually leading me to becoming a teacher to offer such healing benefits to others.  Unfortunately, my individual story doesn’t equal proof of a connection, so it has taken many years for the research to show that yoga does have a positive effect on your blood pressure.

In a recent systematic research article review that included 49 clinical trials, the data now show that yoga, when breathing and meditation practices are included, is a viable antihypertensive lifestyle therapy.  It is in moments like these that I would like to say “I told you so”!

If you would like to read more on this recent research, please click the button below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Change

I believe most of us have thought to ourselves “I hate change” at least once in our lives.  And the message we often hear is “Change is hard”.  Perhaps it is these messages, thoughts, and/or beliefs that underlie the approximate success rate of 10% for the New Year resolutions set at this time of year!

On the other hand, we know that change is inevitable and constant – perhaps the only experience we can count on to always be there.  The hope that comes from the trust in change is that we don’t get stuck in a rut.  However, the universe invites us to be co-creators of the changes we want to make in our lives.  This co-creation requires us to commit to learning new things . . . whether that is to learn to do something new or to learn something new about ourselves.

We are very supported at this time to initiate the process of change due to the fact that we are in the midst of a current Eclipse Gateway.  Eclipses support growth and the 2 weeks between the Solar Eclipse (12/26/19) and the Lunar Eclipse (1/10/20) is a potent time for transformation and renewal.  So, if you might want to catch the wave of energy, consider trying the following intention-setting ideas to support change this month:

  1. Reframe Change.  Perhaps consider simply reframing change as growth – or a growth opportunity – as it will help move you in the direction of embracing change versus denying its value.  You still have a choice, whether to take the growth opportunity or not.  As we begin to lean into the process of change or growth, we must also recognize the loss it creates.  If we decide to try something new, it often means that something we were familiar with falls away, even if it is due to the limits of time or resources.  Therefore, it is important to honor our feelings around the loss and even doubt that might arise around whether we made the right choice for our growth.  In those moments, reminding yourself that all of our choices bring with them information to help guide us toward our highest good will soothe the doubt, so you can’t make a bad one!
  2. Embrace Emotions!  Fear is often underlying the sense of loss of the familiar and doubt in the process of change, so it is important to look fear in the face.  Remember, emotion (even fear) is simply [E]nergy in [motion], which means turning to look at it even for a moment, instead of distracting yourself or running from it, changes it immediately!  Inviting your greatest fear, and its various emotional friends, such as anxiety, anger, or sadness, to sit for a moment with you so you might listen to what it has to say, will begin to bring clarity around what it is that you value most in life, not what others have told you in the past.  Emotions are one of the most powerful guides on our journey to discover our highest self.  Consider allowing your emotions to participate in your decision-making process and use their energy to guide you forward toward fulfilling your heart’s true desires!
  3. Think Small.  We tend to set lofty new year resolutions and when we don’t experience immediate results, we might get discouraged, providing fuel to our fears.  I like to remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  So, perhaps consider a very small change you would like to make in your life, and put it on your calendar every day, so you can track your progress.  For example, you might decide to add more walking to your daily routine.  Consider starting with very specific, yet small goals, such as parking further away from the stores you visit, taking the stairs at work or walking around the block.  Then each day, check it off your list when you achieved the goal and celebrate in some way, even if only to say out loud to yourself “See, I told you I could do it!”
  4. Find a Partner.  Whether your heart desires more peace, health, happiness, clarity, or love, change or growth requires you to transform into someone different than who you are currently.  Having someone support you on your journey of transformation is very helpful.  This person can be a source of encouragement when you sense discouragement creeping in.  They can challenge the fear that works to disconnect you from your highest self.  They can help to hold us accountable as well as provides support when we do begin to sense the discomfort that comes with change.  Discomfort is part of the process of change so having a partner to share those experiences of discomfort with can make us feel less alone on our journey.  Consider identifying someone in your life that might be willing to be that support partner for you, someone that believes in you and will help you embrace the growth your desire.
  5. Visualize.  It is important to visualize the change you desire, because if you can’t imagine the change you want, how do you know what direction to start out in on your journey?  Visualizing the result of your efforts to change or grow will support the discovery process.  Remember too that discovery is not a linear, straight line.  Often, it involves taking a winding road that might make you feel a little lost for awhile.  In those moments of disorientation, bringing your visualization back into mind will remind you of the value of change or growth, deepening your understanding of your heart’s desire and refueling the process of change.  Perhaps consider a tool to document your visualization, whether it is to draw it out, write it down, or create a vision board, so that you might reflect on your heart’s desire each day.  This practice will ease the integration of the new steps you are taking to co-create the new you!.

As always, if you try any of these intention-setting ideas for holistic health, I would love to hear about the impact they might have had for you.  Please send me an email at linda@sanctuary4compassion.com to share!

Might direct neurofeedback reduce impulsive behaviors?

The symptom of impulsivity can be found listed under several mental/behavioral health diagnoses, including but not limited to intermittent explosive disorder, substance abuse, OCD, PTSD and binge eating disorder.  When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth edition (DSM-5™) was published in 2013 and included binge eating disorder, I finally felt validated and, at the same time, gratitude for discovering yoga, which helped to reduce my anxiety and my out-of-control eating, especially in light of the fact that I didn’t want to start taking any prescription medications.

My relationship with food has been a long and winding road.  I have memories when I was 4 or 5 of sitting at my kitchen table by myself, long after everyone else finished eating and was allowed to move on, because I was not allowed to leave the table until I finished everything on my plate, including those horrible green vegetables.  I tried every trick in the book, including slipping some to the dog under the table and putting some in my mouth, wiping my mouth with a napkin and spitting what was in my mouth into the napkin.  I also hear my parents in my mind saying “Eat your food!  There are people starving in Africa” and thinking to myself “Great, send them my food!”.

From there, after my parents got divorced, food became scarce for most of my adolescence.  My parents’ divorce and subsequent relationship was very contentious, pushing me into the land of anxiety.  I began to worry about where my next meal would be coming from and if it would be enough.  The pattern that grew from there involved eating large amounts of food (even if I wasn’t hungry) when food was available and eating very quickly (to ensure I got enough before it disappeared).  I also have memories as a young adult where I would eat my meal very quickly and then eat what was left by others on their plates.

As time passed, my relationship with food changed when my weight began to increase.  At this point, I would not allow myself to eat anything until the end of the day, after I had taken care of everyone else’s needs on my list.  Only then, almost like a reward for completing my “To Do” list for others and my sense of self-restraint or control, would I allow myself the indulgence of fulfilling one of the most basic human needs.  What didn’t change at this point though, was the speed in which I ate and the amount of food I would eat!

I then ventured into the many ‘diets’ being promoted.  My weight began to yo-yo.  My life felt so out-of-control as did I!  It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I found myself in a space to really confront this unhealthy relationship I had with food, facing the fears lying beneath my journey in the land of anxiety.  And even with the support of my yoga practice (and a boost from some hypnotherapy), it took me many more years to see food as simply a source of energy for my body, like gas or electric for a car.

So how excited was I when I read the recent promising research on using direct neurofeedback (i.e., transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS) to reduce impulsive behaviors!  Although it is not exactly clear how it does so, a positive effect was found in 74 out of 92 research studies.  It warms my heart to learn that there is an alternative to prescription medications, something that specifically supports the brain’s innate ability to reorganize itself towards health, and does so relatively quickly.

If you would like to read a little more on this research, click on the box below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Bring More Joy Into Your Life

This time of year can be stressful for most of us to say the least!  For some, including myself, it might also bring up memories of loss, family discord, and unfulfilled dreams.  So I did a little research on tools that have been shown to shift us into a space of joy and, when integrated into a regular practice, can make that joy more sustainable and available to us any time of year (also see my Reflections below on Positive Psychology).

To take a deeper dive, perhaps consider saving this website (https://itsallgoodhere.com/) in your Favorites and set a new year intention to explore these tools more.

In the meantime, consider the following intention-setting ideas to try this month:

  1. Positive Moments.  Consider setting an intention to identify at least one positive moment each day in the month of December.  You may consider it small, even insignificant, such as the first sip of your morning coffee or tea on a cold morning or climbing under the warm blankets at the end of your day.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you take time to reflect on that moment and hold the experience in your awareness, perhaps for 10 to 20 seconds.  Then, consider sharing that positive moment with someone.  If you do this at night and would prefer, you can share it on Social Media.  The act of sharing allows the positive moment’s effects to linger for longer, inviting a deeper level of positivity into the body and mind.
  2. Personal Strengths.  Another option to consider for setting an intention for the month of December is to identify one of your personal strengths and then think about how you used it today or within the last couple of weeks.  You can stay with one of your personal strengths all month and challenge yourself to identify multiple times/ways you used it or challenge yourself to identify a new strength each day, along with an example of how you applied it in your life.  Or it can be a combination of both, it is all good!
  3. Set a Goal!  Perhaps start by simply reflecting on how you felt the last time you accomplished something you set out to do.  Can you remember the feelings that come with accomplishment, such as satisfaction, peace, motivation, joy?  From there, consider setting one small, attainable goal each day this month with a further intention to track your progress.  It can again be something simple like making your bed, finishing that book that you started awhile ago or reaching out to a friend that you haven’t connected with recently.  The key is to track your progress, specifically to reflect on how many times you met your goal that day.
  4. Reframe Negative as Positive.  This intention-setting idea might be a little more tricky – looking for the ‘silver lining’ in what our culture might label as negative.  When we are able to discover some benefit from an experience that brought us some level of aggravation or upset in the moment, we are doing what is called a ‘positive reappraisal’.  How do we do this?  Well, it starts with identifying something, whether an event or a routine activity that we find distasteful, for whatever reason.  Perhaps it is doing the dishes or getting stuck in traffic.  From there, we search for how these things might provide us with some positive outcome that we simply have been ignoring or have refused to consider in the past.  So, for the dishes, we might reframe it as now I have dishes ready for the next meal or the kitchen looks more welcoming.  For getting stuck in traffic, consider that you have more time to listen to your favorite podcast or music.  The more you practice this skill, the easier it gets and you tend to discover multiple positive aspects to every situation!
  5. Random Acts of Kindness.  Honda does not have to have the corner on this market!!  And it doesn’t have to cost you a thing!  During this season of connection, consider doing something kind for someone else each day this month.  It can simply be offering a genuine smile as you pass them walking by, opening a door for someone, or helping someone carry their bags in or out of their car.  Remember to take a moment to reflect on what you feel afterwards, sensing how the joy you feel inside is spreading out and touching others!

5 Intention-setting Ideas for Holiday Self-compassion Breaks

Once again I feel the holiday season crept up on me this year without a sound!  Although my eyes enjoyed the seasonal changes in nature and my skin noticed the chill in the air, my fine-tuned skill of denial also kept me from fully leaning into what’s to come.

Why, you might ask . . . well, it’s because my Perfectionist starts to get really loud at the beginning of November!  My “To Do” list seems to grow exponentially longer and, with the number of daylight hours shrinking, my energy level seems to decline.

It is at this time of year that I remember one of the things I am most grateful for in my life and that is my self-compassion practice!  And it is a practice, one that must be tended to on an ongoing basis to keep that harsh, critical voice of my Perfectionist at a low roar.

I also like to remind myself that I am not alone in this experience.  So, if you too experience a loud, critical voice inside of you, that tries to drive you to do more with less and sits in the shadows waiting to judge your every move, below are some intention-setting ideas to invite the more accepting, nurturing voice of your compassionate self forward:

  1. Honor your unique qualities.  Our Perfectionist part looks through the lens of what is needed for improvement while our Compassionate part looks through the lens of complete acceptance of who and where we are on our journeys.  So taking a moment to be proactive and choose to move through the holiday season from something inside of you, embracing your unique expression of you, instead of from that space where we feel pressured to do ‘it’ from an outside influence or pressure.  Consider trying this self-compassion break soon, before the rush of the season becomes overwhelming:  Find a space to sit for a few moments and invite your Perfectionist part to step forward.  What does it look like?  Let your imagination flow.  What does it sound like?  What does it want you to do?  What does it want to do to you?  Notice how your body feels when visiting with this part of you.  Let the images fill in as many details of what the experience is like to sit next to this part of you.  Now invite your Compassionate part to step forward.  What does it look like, sound like?  What does it want you to do and what does it want to do for you?  Again allow the images to flow to fill in the details and notice how your body feels when sitting with this part of you.  Now as you are sitting with your Compassionate part, ask your Perfectionist part what it is most afraid of and respond to that fear as if it was a dear friend revealing their deepest, darkest closet that holds this fear.  These two parts of ourselves often feel as though they are in battle and through this self-compassion break, they can realize that they both are valued and can be friends instead of enemies.
  2. Step-up your self-care.  The mantra that you will often hear me repeat is ‘Self-care is not selfish!’.  It is mission critical for survival.  So consider setting an intention now to commit to setting aside time each day for an act of self-care and while engaging in that self-care act, invite your Compassionate part to be present, reminding yourself that you deserve such care and acts of kindness.
  3. Accept your limitations.  Let’s start with the simple fact that we only have 24 hours in a day and we are all limited by this fact.  Now, start with an intention to not compromise on the number of hours you need for sleep during the holidays.  From there, begin to consider how you currently spend the rest of the hours you have each day, such as working, commuting, etc.  Inviting your Compassionate part to participate in this break, sense into what you are doing that truly brings you comfort and what does not feel good or healthy to you.  If you sense anything that brings you discomfort, this is an area for change.  When we act from a place of discomfort, even if the mind thinks it is necessary to please others, we are not serving the world or ourselves.  When you act from a place of compassion and comfort, even if it creates disruption and inconvenience to others, you are spreading true joy to the world.  And when you bring joy to what you do, it might surprise you how others will respond to this change. Remember, we cannot be everything to everyone, we can only be ourselves!
  4. Stop trying to digest other people’s energy.  When we become more aware of what our Perfectionist part looks and sounds like, we might realize that the critical voice inside is not our own.  If the voice belongs to someone else, such as your mother or father, then you can begin to accept that you might be carrying and trying to integrate or digest their stuff!  Inviting your Compassionate part to engage more fully in your life, you will be better able to discern what is yours and what is not.  Having compassion for others is a way of being of service, yet we cannot take responsibility for another person’s choices, including their intention for healing and growth.  When we are able to take responsibility for disentangling ourselves from the processes of others, we might just feel relief, lighter, brighter and more freedom to be ourselves!
  5. Use your voice.  Perhaps start with writing down what your Perfectionist part has been saying, what that inner critical voice has been saying to you repeatedly that you now recognize is not your own encouraging, motivating voice.  Then, for each statement that it makes, confront it, inviting your Compassionate part to assist with the words.  It might be something like “No, I don’t have to listen to you, because I don’t believe you anymore”.  Or, if your Perfectionist part keeps saying “You must continue to work very hard to be worthy of love”, then you might say (out loud!), “I’m worthy of love simply by being here.  I do not need to work hard to be worthy of love.  I am love!”  Perhaps consider taking such a self-compassion break under the Full Moon this month on the 12th, where you take what you have written down, use your voice to express your Compassionate response, and then burn what you have written down!