This is a post from October, 2011...
For the last two years I have been conducting a dangerous experiment: How far can you stretch a girl before she breaks?
This experiment would not have made it past the Human Subjects Review Board.
The experiment is now happily suspended indefinitely.
What I learned along the way about coping is now coming in handy for others.
It is that time of the year - school has just started and people are already stressed. I have been getting calls from people trying to cope.
Here is a list of what has worked for me. This list is entirely subjective so please experiment with an open heart and mind. For instance, I love, love, love acupressure but my husband went to the same guy and felt nothing. On the other hand, my husband really vibed off our massage therapist-turned-acupuncturist and I did not. So there you have it. Have fun exploring healing practices that might work for you.
Please remember, as I learned (finally!), no matter how much you try to cope, there is a limit. Take a step back and reflect on whether you have taken on more than you can chew. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our appetites and we have to say no to a project even if it seems really juicy. There is time enough for it later if we take care of ourselves now. Work up the courage and faith to make a big change if necessary, including changing your unrealistic expectations. Your spirit may be trying to tell you something with all that discomfort and dis-ease. By all means ask yourself, what do I really want? and trust your inner voice.
Prayer and/or meditation. Regular practice is key.
Supportive friends and/or family. Regular contact with people rooting for you and who you can talk to about almost anything.
Eating well. We have so many food allergies we are unaware of - listen to your body or go to the doctor to get tested. Because of my gall bladder disease, I stay away from butter, cream and fat from red meat (I miss caldo de res, chorizo, and cream-based soups). If I eat these foods, my belly swells up six-months pregnant-style or I wake up in the middle of the night to a burning ring of fire around my torso. Generally speaking, our bodies need and thrive on plant-based foods. Food is medicine.
Supplements & Medication. Find a healer to help you find the combination that works for you. For me, high grade Salmon Oil, the Vitamin B series and Vitamin E (makes my eyelashes longer even) works. Unfortunately, there is a lot of shame around taking medication for mental health. Please don't let that stop you from being well. I know a lot of wonderful, intelligent and beautiful people who swear by it, including myself.
Sleeping well. We need 8 hours. Every night. Insomnia is epidemic and you are not alone. It is a sign that our mind-body-spirit is out of balance. There is so much to do to address this. Reach out to healers. I like to try exercise, chamomile tea, a super dark room, a warm bath, counting my breaths, getting up in the middle of the night to write if I have a lot on my mind, George Lopez or the Pixies on my iPod, etc. I talk more about hypnotherapy later but I found a free downloadable podcast at HypnosisDownloads.org to stop insomnia.
Exercise. Do whatever seems fun and safe and do it often. I like to sweat it out at the gym as often as possible. I like to blast a tennis ball weekly to channel my aggressive drive. I like to dance whenever I can to move the spirit. My massage therapist said I can naturally re-align my body through dancing - woot woot. My shaman said I need to spend more time in nature, so I am taking it outside and adding hiking to the list of things I do to move my body.
Laughter. Whatever it takes to make you laugh, baby. Laughter releases the body's natural painkillers - really good medicine. Even if she doesn't get the joke, my daughter laughs when I laugh, enough said I think.
Sex. Yes, energy for sex and sex for energy. The more sex we have the longer we live - I would add the happier we are, too. As long as it is mind-body-spirit safe. Good medicine.
Forgiveness. I went to a workshop at a local church about forgiveness. The speaker, Connie Domino, is a public health nurse who developed a curriculum for achieving your goals. She found that some people got stuck and others bounded ahead. She noted the least successful were bitter and resentful and the most successful were forgiving. So now she teaches how to forgive. She has a book, The Law of Forgiveness: Tap in to the positive power of forgiveness and attract good things to your life, with a great script for releasing people, dead or alive, with forgiveness. I heard Oprah quote that resentment and not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Forgive and live.
Reading or Listening. I love reading books, mostly non-fiction. Okay! If you must know I have read a lot of self-help/self-improvement books. I hate that the genre is stigmatized. Cynics and hipsters, please look away now. One of my favorites is, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I really believe it is important to be selective about what we feed our brain. What or who are we reading, listening to and letting in? We have a choice. It makes a difference. I read a Children's Bible to my daughter at bedtime. I learn something new every time I read the same stories over and over. I love Paulo Coelho, Iyanla Vanzant, Napolean Hill, Martin Seligman, Emmy Werner, and so on. Check out the recommended reading list on the right hand side of this blog. The words of these wonderful spirits now live on in me because I have read them and internalized them. Some lyrics have the same effect on me - Susana Baca, Tears for Fears, Bad (live) by U2, and many others stir the passion in my soul and make me feel bold or happy. Or they help me to embrace sadness and pain before letting these feelings go. I like singing and reading the hymns at church on Sunday mornings as well. I like filling myself with good stuff. Good stuff in - good stuff out.
Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. I know many people who use alcohol and other drugs to manage their emotions. I have no judgments, I get it. Personally, these methods don't work for me. I don't have a strong taste for alcohol and I don't get a buzz, I get a headache. One time I tried medical marijuana for stress and it gave me allergies. When I was a kid in East Los Angeles, I participated in an after-school program called "Get High On Life" at Salazar Park. We played, did crafts, went camping. Hearing my daughter laugh, laughing at my husbands jokes, dancing to live music, watching fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl, playing tennis and so on - all these things give me a natural high. If you are looking for alternatives to coping, please read on.
Hair, Face, Hands & Toes. Getting your hair did, getting a facial or wax, getting a mani or pedi - it all feels like a getaway and love wrapped into one, especially if they throw in a massage. Good stuff. Sometimes you just want to leave work at lunch time and have someone wash your hair, like mama did when you were a baby.
Acupuncture. I have gone for stress or body pain. I know others who have gone for weight loss assistance and fertility issues. I have a really good referral for this type of healing - email me if you are interested.
Acupressure. Wow, this cleared out a lot of stuck energy. Sobbed for awhile. Good stuff. My acupressure guy moved away :(
Massage. This has been really good for me after sports activity. If you tend toward being anxious/worried or have a high stress job (hello, social workers!), then this is good on a regular basis, say weekly or monthly. I see a lot of sidewalk signs for $45 massage while driving on Fair Oaks, Wilshire Blvd., or Santa Monica Blvd. I would say buyer beware. Get referrals and experiment. I have a great referral who charges $70 an hour and does home visits if you are in the Northeast Los Angeles area - email me if you are interested. I also have been to dtox spa in Atwater Village (a referral from Josh) and Burke Williams in Pasadena (I like going on a Friday night when I feel like I got the whole place to myself. Beware: bathing suit or birthday suit in the Jacuzzi? I have seen both. Wear whatever you are most comfortable in.)
Chiropractor. Sometimes life throws me out of alignment. I usually need to go to a chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist all in the same week if I am really in a bad way - from structural to soft tissue repair. I have a great referral in Silverlake.
Yoga. A lot of research dollars have poured into testing this ancient spiritual healing practice. So far the results are really good for anxiety, depression, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and so on. After the final resting pose, I feel as calm and relaxed as I do after a one hour massage. $10 per yoga class if you can muster the energy to move the energy yourself or $45+ if all you can do is crawl to the massage table. Again, I got a good referral for the Northeast Los Angeles area (my massage therapist extraordinaire also teaches yoga).
Energy Healing. Okay, I can't explain this one very well but my practitioner clears away negative energy and charges me up with healing energy. I have referred nearly a dozen friends to her and most all come back to me with stories about healing and transformation. When I interviewed her for a paper on healers for a UCLA class on Latin American Medicine, Shamanism & Folk Illness, she said most people come to her saying they are stressed and need something. She trained at the Lion Heart Institute and charges $70 an hour. Email me if you are interested in this referral in the Northeast Los Angeles area.
Hypnotherapy. I have yet to try this professionally myself. When I was in grad school for the MSW, one of my preceptors was in an LCSW exam prep group and all but one of the members tried hypnotherapy before the oral exam. All but one passed the exam on the first try. Anxiety can make our thinking brain shut down so any treatment that calms and relaxes our mind-body helps us to perform better. I hear this type of treatment is especially good for weight loss efforts, I have to track down the reference for that one. I downloaded some podcasts from HypnosisDownloads.org on weight loss, positive affirmations and how to stop insomnia. I listened to the positive affirmations at bedtime with my daughter. It is a very sweet recording and reminds me of the things a loving parent would say. According to the website, we don't hear the good stuff enough. One of my mentors swears by this type of treatment for his PTSD and anxiety. I have a referral in the Pasadena area if you are interested...
Talk Therapy. There is room for all healers in the 21st century. I have met helpful therapists for individual, group, family and couples counseling.
Shamanic Treatment. I had focused on mind-body-spirit healing for most of my life and neglected soul healing. I didn't realize spirit and soul were distinct. Shamans do soul retrieval and spirit helper work. In traumatic situations, pieces of our soul can check out and not return until it is safe. A shaman can journey to retrieve parts of our soul that have checked out. We don't have to walk around with a maimed soul. Spirit helpers are like guardian angels and may show up in the form of animals consenting to help and protect us. Shamanic practices are part of almost every culture in the world, originally from Siberia, you will find shamanism in Korea, China, Australia, Africa, Latin America, Medieval Europe, Alaska, Native America, etc. My ancestors are from Latin America and I had been completely cut off from our traditional spiritual healing practices, until now. I met a gifted and experienced shaman in the greater Los Angeles area who charges $75 per hour or a flat rate of $100 per treatment and anything in between as you are able, please email me if you are interested...