Can neurofeedback be a “Nudge” to a Stuck Nervous System Due to Early Life Stress?

Growing up in a single-mother household created a lot of stress and fear that stayed with me even as an adult.  Such a household dynamic brings a greater risk of poverty, which creates challenges in securing a safe place to live and putting food on the table on a consistent basis.  Fear in childhood from stressful experiences can change the trajectory of a person’s health over the entire life span if not addressed, specifically an elevated vulnerability to addiction in all of its forms.  Now, with the advent of the pandemic, we might need to add this to the long list of stressors that children struggle to adapt to as it might be years before the impact and lingering effects of the fear and isolation it has caused to be fully understood.  Is it possible that neurofeedback might be able to “nudge” the fearful nervous system back in the direction of health?

What we have learned about adverse childhood experiences and the traumatizing effects of such, is that talking about it may not be enough to move through the fear and calm the emotional centers of the brain.  More is needed and not everyone is willing to tolerate the side-effects of prescription medication, such as suicidal thoughts.  Therefore, research into alternative and complementary non-invasive, non-medication treatments, such as yoga and neurofeedback, has increased over the past couple of decades, with very promising results.

A recent review focused on neurofeedback to determine if it might help move the autonomic nervous system away from fear toward homeostatic equilibrium in people who experienced early life stress.  The researchers conclude that neurofeedback can increase the efficacy of other training protocols and more traditional talk therapy techniques.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Help Save Lives

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about and yet that is exactly what is needed in order to reduce the growing rate of this tragedy.  Conversations can make a difference when someone is thinking about suicide.

Did you know that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, that, according to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by more than 30% in half of the states since 1999, and that the youngest person to kill themselves was only 6 years old?

Many of us will notice changes in people around us and get the feeling that “something is not right”. You may not want to say anything for fear you won’t know what to say if they confirm your concerns. While these conversations can be very difficult and confronting, just one conversation can save someone’s life by preventing suicide.

You may not be sure what to do to help, whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. Here’s what you need to know to start saving lives today:

  1. Know – and look – for the warning signs.  There are several warning signs of suicidal thoughts that you may hear or see, such as:  1)  Seemingly harmless comments such as “I wish I was never born”, “I wish I wasn’t here” and/or “I wish I was dead”; 2) Withdrawing from friends and family and/or wanting to be left alone; 3) Having dramatic mood swings; 4) Impulsive, aggressive and/or reckless behavior; 5) Obsessed with death, dying or violence; and 6) Increasing use of drugs or alcohol.  Additional warning signs that the person’s thoughts may be moving toward putting a plan into action include:  1) Giving away their possessions or getting their affairs in order when there is no other explanation for doing this; 2) Saying goodbye to friends and family as if they are not going to see them again; 3) Their mood shifts from a sense of despair to calm; and 4) Taking action to secure the tools needed to complete suicide, such as buying a gun or stockpiling prescription medications.  Take any and all signs of suicide seriously.  If someone tells you they are thinking of harming themselves or behaves in a way that suggests they may be thinking of suicide, don’t dismiss or ignore the situation as many people who have killed themselves had expressed the intention at some point.
  2. Know the risk factors.  According to NAMI, the following are risk factors for suicide:  1) Previous suicide in the family; 2) Personal history of trauma or abuse; 3) Prolonged stress; 4) Agitation and reduced sleep; 5) A recent loss or tragedy; 6) Isolation; 7) Substance use and intoxication; 8) A serious or chronic mental illness; 9) Access to firearms; 10) Gender (men are 4 times more likely to die from their attempt) and 11) Age (under 24 and over 65 are at a higher risk).
  3. Ask questions!  If you sense something is not right and you have noticed some of the warning signs, connect with the person by asking them some questions.  Be sensitive and direct and ask some of the following:  1) How are you managing with what is going on in your life?; 2) Do you ever feel like just giving up?; 3) Are you thinking about hurting yourself?; 4) Have you ever thought about suicide, or tried to harm yourself, before?.  If they tell you that they have or are currently having suicidal thoughts, continue to ask the following questions: 1) Have you thought about how and when you would do it? and 2) Do you currently have access to the weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?  Please know that asking someone if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push that person into doing something self-destructive. In fact, connecting with someone by starting the conversation and creating space for them to talk about their feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
  4. Know what to do.  If you become concerned that your friend or loved one may attempt suicide:  1) Stay calm (don’t fidget or pace) and don’t leave the person alone; 2) Ask what you can do to help, including “Can I help you call your therapist or psychiatrist?”; 3) If they ask for something, give it to them as long as the request is safe and reasonable; 4)  Don’t argue, threaten, or raise your voice, especially if they are experiencing hallucinations or delusions, instead be gentle and compassionate; 5) Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong; 6) Seek support by telling another family member or friend what is going on, by getting help from a trained professional, and/or encouraging them to call a suicide hotline number (i.e., in the U.S., National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)).  Even if your friend or loved one may not be in crisis, it is important to still offer and provide support.  Let them know you are open to talking about what is on their mind.  When listening, demonstrate you are actively engaged in the conversation by providing positive reinforcement, reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts.  Actively listening can help your loved one feel heard and validated.  Reassure your friend or loved one that you care and are concerned for their well-being and that they can lean on you for support.  If your friend or loved one has attempted suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately or take them to nearest emergency room if you believe you can do so safely.  Try to determine if they have taken drugs or alcohol, whether they are under the influence or may have taken an overdose.  As soon as possible, tell a family member or a friend what is going on for additional support as you don’t need to try to handle the situation alone.
  5. Do more.  Start a dialogue now.  Consider watching “13 Reasons Why” and ask others if they have seen it, what they thought about it, and when (i.e., at what age) they might consider it appropriate to have a proactive conversation with their own children on the subject.  Consider helping out at a crisis center or volunteer with an organization that makes house calls to isolated individuals, such as single, house-bound seniors, such a Meals on Wheels.  Share images and graphics on social media to promote awareness and reduce stigma.  Remember that your engagement might just might help prevent suicide by letting others know that there are people that care and that there are other options available!

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!

Hybrid (On-site/In-person and Online/Virtual) Reiki-infused Sound Healing and Meditation Class!

On-site/In-person Community Gathering Practice Tips

We understand that, during this transitional time, some of us are more ready than others to slowly re-enter into the experience of small social gatherings.  For this reason, we have created a hybrid service model, where a small number of (no more than 4) participants will be able to join us in-person.   If you are interested in this option, let us know and we will provide further guidance, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment (to ensure your spot is saved)
  • Masks will be required before and after the class
  • Bring your own props (e.g., mats, blankets, pillows, bolsters, eye pillows, intention cards, etc.)
  • Come at least 15 minutes early to settle in and allow physical distancing while doing so (doors will open at 6:30 pm)

Virtual Community Gathering Practice Tips

For those that would prefer to stay in the comfort of home – whether due to physical distance, family participation and/or even the enhanced sense of privacy – we will continue to provide the option to connect with us through Zoom.

Once you let us know that you are interested in attending, we will send you an email that will include details around what is needed from you, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment
  • Checking your email for the Zoom link to join the class
  • A few minutes before the class, simply clicking the link within the email to be sent straight to our meeting room

To facilitate the benefits of such a virtual community practice at home, below we have provided some helpful hints:

  • Set up your mats at least 3 giant steps from your device.
  • Elevate your device 21-24″ from the floor and have it tilted forward slightly.
  • Have your props nearby.
  • Although not required, having a headset or ear buds to listen when the singing bowls are playing may enhance your listening pleasure.
  • Please know you will not need to have your audio/video camera on during the practice.  If you would prefer to reduce the number of distractions or increase the sense of privacy, we invite you to turn off your audio and video once the class starts.

Restorative Yoga Tips and Props

On the day of the class, here are some additional recommendations to create a more sacred space in advance for your practice:

  • Make sure you’ll be in a space where there won’t be any background noises, distractions or interruptions.
  • Adjusting the lighting in the room to your liking, perhaps turning off any overhead lighting and minimizing outdoor light and instead turning on a room lamp or lighting your favorite candle(s).
  • Wear warm, comfortable clothing including socks.
  • If available, bringing your favorite deck of intention cards and essential oil to your mat.
  • Placing your props (see below) to the side of your mat so they are within an easy reach during the class.

 In home prop ideas:

  • Bolster:  couch cushions or a tightly rolled comforter, towel, or blanket (can be secured with 2 ties, scarfs or belts)
  • Pillows:  couch, chair or bed pillows will do
  • Blankets:  your favorite blanket to cover yourself and either 2 additional blankets or bath or beach towels (no sheets)
  • Yoga blocks: books, either paper back or hard cover, stacked
  • Eye pillow:  hand towel, tie or scarf

Can focusing on emotions when talking with your therapist improve symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder (BED)?

Binge-eating disorder, although not formally recognized until added to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), is the most common eating disorder in the United States.   Having experienced the suffering from this diagnosis myself in the past, I used to refer to it as an emotional eating disorder.  Simply put, I used food to soothe and comfort myself.  I had not learned any healthy coping strategies when I experienced emotions, so I did my best to stuff them down with food.  It wasn’t until I took the journey of befriending my emotions and honoring their intelligence that I even became aware of my unhealthy relationship with food and eating behaviors.

Once I was able to accept my emotional beingness as a human, so many more things began to make more sense to me.  With the support of a good therapist, I came to learn that what I had experienced as a child was traumatizing and I disconnected from my emotions to survive.  However, living life from only the logical intelligence perspective was so limited.  And, even though I disconnected – or dissociated – from my emotions, it didn’t mean they went away.  They wanted to come out and be heard, so they knocked on the door loudly, sometimes bursting in when I least expected or wanted them.  So I used food to try to quiet them down, like you feed a baby when they are crying.

When I learned how to recognize my emotions and allowed them to have some air time, I was able to engage in a dialogue with them so they could inform me what I needed in the moment.  I then needed to learn how to give myself what I needed.  My personal journey towards valuing my superpower – my emotional intelligence – is the reason that my psychotherapy services include emotion-focused therapy (EFT).  Prior to EFT being researched to the point of becoming an evidenced-based practice, most research and treatment for BED aligned with cognitive behavioral therapies (CBTs).  Unfortunately, these approaches could not address efficacy, failure to abstain from such unhealthy eating, and high drop-out rates from treatment, because powerful emotions are among the most accurate predictors of BED.

This realization led researchers to consider exploring other psychological treatments with a focus on emotions.  A recent research study looked at EFT as an alternative treatment approach for BED other than CBT.  The results validate my own personal journey.  The findings provided additional evidence that individual EFT might be beneficial in the treatment of BED, as it supports clients in processing uncomfortable emotions instead of relying on food as an emotional coping mechanism.

To read the full article, click the link below:

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Support Your Overall Wellness

National Wellness Month!

August has most of us experiencing “the heat” of summer, which makes us humans a little edgier and more prone to irritability, even more so during a pandemic that just won’t go away!  Heat, of all kinds, makes us uncomfortable.  Physical heat has been shown to elevate levels of cortisol in our bodies.  So what might we “do” to make ourselves more comfortable this summer – and perhaps for a lifetime?

National Wellness Month encourages us to focus on our self-care. When we do so, we are actively participating in reducing our stress and keeping us aligned with our authentic self, the one that reflects your inner strength through vulnerability and open-heartedness.  Unfortunately, many of us have been told that self-care is selfish, so we put ourselves last on our list of responsibilities.  When we don’t prioritize our self-care, we disconnect from our authentic self and expose ourselves to toxic stress, making us uncomfortable in our own skins.

To honor August as National Wellness Month, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider that might support your level of comfort in your own skin, even in the heat, by reinforcing the connection to your authentic self:

  1. Find Your Passion.  Many of us might ask, how do I recognize my authentic self?  Well, a simple place to start is to identify what energizes you.  We engage in a lot of activities, by ourselves and with others, but don’t check-in with ourselves afterwards.  So perhaps taking some time to simply sit with yourself and check-in with your energy level after “doing” something.  Each time you do so, you will begin to identify activities and people that either leave you feeling “up” or “down”.   Consider starting two lists – one to track the uplifting and one for the draining.  Once you have identified several uplifting, energizing activities, perhaps see if you might find a common thread between them.
  2. Find Your Tribe.  I read once that the only difference between ‘illness’ and ‘wellness’ is moving from ‘I’ to ‘We’. To stay connected to your authentic self it is important to build your social support system.  Once we better understood that humans are wired for connection, the culture of independence has been questioned.  We are an interdependent species, so consider taking inventory of your social circle and put a plan in place to surround yourself with supportive people who energize you by encouraging your authentic self to shine. Perhaps find a group to join that represents your core values or set healthy boundaries around how much time and attention you give people who are naysayers.
  3. Find Your Peace.  Our culture of striving – to do more, for perfection, to be accepted – keeps us in a place of unease and disconnected from our authentic self.  Accepting our limitations as the flawed human beings we are is a starting point for attaining more inner peace.  Consider giving yourself more patience and compassion, acting like you are your best friend, talking to yourself like you are talking to your best friend.  Try it for day and check in.  Then perhaps try it for week and check in again.  Take note of what holds you back from being your own best friend.
  4. Find Your Flow. What are some simple daily self-care activities you can add to your schedule?  Perhaps it is drinking more water or making sure to eat breakfast.  Maybe it is to do a 10 minute yoga or meditation practice in the morning.  Consider keeping it real simple and adding just one practice to your day to start.  Check in.  If you are feeling more in the flow and more connected to your authentic self in those moments, consider adding another one the following week.  Take it slow and don’t forget to give yourself patience and compassion during the exploration.
  5. Find Your Purpose.  When we are able to challenge the belief that self-care is selfish, we can begin to hear our supportive inner voice guiding us forward.  Often times it is our inner critic that is so loud we can’t hear our authentic self speaking in our ear.  Creating those self-care opportunities allows for our supportive inner voice to be heard.  We need opportunities to hear that voice to identify what motivates us from the inside, those desires that reside in our hearts.  If you considered Find Your Passion above, perhaps you were able to identify a common thread in those activities and people that energize you.  Your heart’s desire is what it longs for most for you in this world.  When we can align our decisions and actions with our heart’s dream for us, we can find our purpose for getting up each morning and doing what it takes to stay connected to our authentic self.  Once aligned and connected, wellness is found in abundance all around us!

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 Yoga Help Prevent Teacher Burnout?

The pandemic caught most of us off guard and added significant stress to our lives, asking us at times to think out of the box to come up with creative ways to do what we did in the past differently.  In a flash, life went virtual!  Teachers, in particular, who, as a profession rank high amongst those helping professions that are predisposed to mental health challenges due to stress on the job, were asked to convert in-person curriculums to remote learning overnight.  Teachers were already at risk of burnout before the pandemic, with a significant percentage of teachers leaving the profession within the first 5 years.  The pandemic has simply added salt to an already open wound.

Past research has looked at the benefits of bringing yoga into the schools for the students.  This research has shown the positive effects on the developing minds of children, including but not limited to reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and attention span, enhancing coping skills, and increasing self-confidence and self-esteem.  By building yoga into the students’ curriculum, it was accessible to everyone and was not designated as an optional, after-school activity.  By supporting students in this way, it certainly indirectly helps the teachers.  However, with such a high burnout rate in this profession, it is just as important to look at what might prevent such teacher burnout more directly.

More recent research is now looking at bringing yoga to the teachers at school.  One such recent quasi-experimental study looked at the connection between improving the mental and emotional well-being of teachers through a twice-a-week yoga class, including gentle meditation exercises, and a reduction in burnout.  Yoga, and is contemplative practices, was considered for this research because it is a discipline that has been shown to enhance body awareness and encourages equanimity in the mind.  The design of this research included concern for the need to adapt to the working environment, so that no particular setting would be required, making it easy to replicate.

The research was able to identify a significant, positive effect of yoga on the psycho-physical well-being and resilience response on the job of the teachers.  The program was short, only 8 weeks, and did not identify any risks.  The conclusion suggests that schools would benefit by offering yoga to the teachers to reduce burnout.

If you are interested in reading the full article, click the link below.  If you are a teacher or know a teacher, consider sharing this article with those that might benefit, including the principal of your school.

5 Intention-setting Ideas to Celebrate Our Differences

July is Disability Pride Month!

President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990.  This law is one of those major milestones in our history as it prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.  It is the official recognition that valuing and respecting each individual uniqueness is our collective strength.

In order to continue to raise the collective consciousness around diversity and inclusion, July presents an opportunity to continue the celebration coming off the heel’s of June’s LGBTQA+ Pride Month.  It is only when each of us can truly honor all differences as normal, natural and beautiful that the soil in which we grow becomes richer, where the seeds of acceptance, belonging, compassion and connection are able to blossom in all their glory.

Therefore, below are intention-setting ideas for you to consider as you reflect on your relationship with disabilities and how you might honor and contribute to the elevation of the collective consciousness:

  1. NOT ‘Special’ Needs.  All humans have basic needs, whether abled or disabled, so saying someone has “special” needs feels shaming, similar to the feeling that arises when suggesting someone is “needy”, like they are a burden.  To reduce stigmatization, consider embracing “disabled” or someone “having a disability” moving forward.
  2. A Different Perspective.  For those that travel to other parts of the country or world, reflect on why it is you enjoy travel so much.  For me, it is, in large part, the opportunity to experience a different culture that enriches my life with new perspectives or views of the world.  I learn so much in those moments.  Well, considering doing an “immersion” into a disability to learn how people with such a disability see and experience the world.  Not only might you learn something new, you might just find that you are forever changed!
  3. Awareness to Ableism.  By leaning into (and not away from) becoming more aware of the myriad of disabilities, it grows your own awareness of systemic ableism, which is simply the discrimination that people with disabilities experience.   Abled body-mind people take so much for granted, without much thought.  Consider trying an exercise, perhaps alone or with your family, where someone in the family selects a disability to experience for a few hours or even a day.  Afterwards, journal about what you experienced, including how it made you feel and share it with each other or someone else.
  4. Attend an Event.  Consider attending a Disability Pride event this month.  If you can’t find a local event, perhaps a parade, to participate in, virtual opportunities are available.  Increasing visibility by adding your able voice in the demand for equal access for all is mission critical.  Becoming more actively involved supports the growing counter-culture that respects and values the worth of all people equally.  Easterseals is hosting a virtual parade on July 26th to celebrate Disability Pride.
  5. Read Up on the Experience of Disability.  Perhaps the most energy and time you have at the moment is simply to read a book to expand your consciousness this month.  Consider Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century by Alice Wong.  Then perhaps recommend it to a friend or two!

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!

Free Informational Sessions on the Upcoming In-depth Yoga Study and 200-hour Basic Yoga Teacher Certification Training

Can direct neurofeedback provide hope to those experiencing post-stroke fatigue?

As a direct neurofeedback provider, I am continually amazed at the positive effects it has on people’s lives.  I am in awe of the human body’s natural ability to heal itself, especially when it is supported naturally.  I feel privileged to work directly in supporting the brain’s neuroplasticity and its innate ability to organize itself towards health.  I feel excited every day to learn how this treatment modality is being utilized to address so many different body-mind symptoms of disease, to improve quality of life and well-being.  A recent exploratory study took a look at a very common symptom post-stroke, fatigue.

According to the CDC, stroke:

  • Is a leading cause of serious long-term disability;
  • Reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over;
  • Impacts someone in the US every 40 seconds.

With such statistics, anything that we can do to support the brain-body recovery would be a significant development.  As someone who has a family history of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, I feel excited about the possibilities.

With fatigue being one of the most commonly reported symptoms after a stroke, the study looked at using transcranial direct current stimulation (aka direct neurofeedback) to support the activity of the brain on its road to recovery.  The study only included a single session of direct neurofeedback and the results indicated that such treatment may be a useful tool for managing post-stroke fatigue.  I can only imagine the results if more sessions were offered, but I guess we will have to wait for that study!

In the meantime, if you or someone you love is suffering from post-stroke symptoms, especially fatigue, consider reading this study (click below) and looking for a direct neurofeedback provider in their area.

Hybrid (On-site/In-person and Online/Virtual) Reiki-infused Sound Healing and Meditation Class!

On-site/In-person Community Gathering Practice Tips

We understand that, during this transitional time, some of us are more ready than others to slowly re-enter into the experience of small social gatherings.  For this reason, we have created a hybrid service model, where a small number of (no more than 4) participants will be able to join us in-person.   If you are interested in this option, let us know and we will provide further guidance, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment (to ensure your spot is saved)
  • Masks will be required before and after the class
  • Bring your own props (e.g., mats, blankets, pillows, bolsters, eye pillows, intention cards, etc.)
  • Come at least 15 minutes early to settle in and allow physical distancing while doing so (doors will open at 6:30 pm)

Virtual Community Gathering Practice Tips

For those that would prefer to stay in the comfort of home – whether due to physical distance, family participation and/or even the enhanced sense of privacy – we will continue to provide the option to connect with us through Zoom.

Once you let us know that you are interested in attending, we will send you an email that will include details around what is needed from you, including:

  • Signed Releases/Waivers of Liability forms (one time, for new students only)
  • PayPal information to facilitate payment
  • Checking your email for the Zoom link to join the class
  • A few minutes before the class, simply clicking the link within the email to be sent straight to our meeting room

To facilitate the benefits of such a virtual community practice at home, below we have provided some helpful hints:

  • Set up your mats at least 3 giant steps from your device.
  • Elevate your device 21-24″ from the floor and have it tilted forward slightly.
  • Have your props nearby.
  • Although not required, having a headset or ear buds to listen when the singing bowls are playing may enhance your listening pleasure.
  • Please know you will not need to have your audio/video camera on during the practice.  If you would prefer to reduce the number of distractions or increase the sense of privacy, we invite you to turn off your audio and video once the class starts.

Restorative Yoga Tips and Props

On the day of the class, here are some additional recommendations to create a more sacred space in advance for your practice:

  • Make sure you’ll be in a space where there won’t be any background noises, distractions or interruptions.
  • Adjusting the lighting in the room to your liking, perhaps turning off any overhead lighting and minimizing outdoor light and instead turning on a room lamp or lighting your favorite candle(s).
  • Wear warm, comfortable clothing including socks.
  • If available, bringing your favorite deck of intention cards and essential oil to your mat.
  • Placing your props (see below) to the side of your mat so they are within an easy reach during the class.

 In home prop ideas:

  • Bolster:  couch cushions or a tightly rolled comforter, towel, or blanket (can be secured with 2 ties, scarfs or belts)
  • Pillows:  couch, chair or bed pillows will do
  • Blankets:  your favorite blanket to cover yourself and either 2 additional blankets or bath or beach towels (no sheets)
  • Yoga blocks: books, either paper back or hard cover, stacked
  • Eye pillow:  hand towel, tie or scarf