In Harmony with Self & Nature

Nature & Inner Harmony

The restorative aspects of nature has long been verified in both folk lore and science. The further you drive away from the city, the fresher the air may feel. Enjoying long walks, hikes, trails, or climbs in nature affords you the opportunity to learn from the environment. Retreating to the countryside, conservation areas, local parks or beaches gives your body, mind, and spirit the chance to reconnect with nature in the wild and to reflect on your own corporeal nature.

There is no doubt that modern modes of work have increased demands on cerebral functioning. Business and service industries have migrated to online platforms. Even those jobs that require direct or in-person contact have increased digitization and techo-merging with computer systems and processes aimed to streamline administrative and staffing functions such as scheduling, attendance, payroll, and more. The amount of time required to merge traditional labour, as you know it to virtual webspaces has been enormous. It remains to be seen what the toll of this work will be on the human brain and body.

Cognitive Fatigue & Burnout

More and more clients disclose symptoms consistent with adrenal and cognitive fatigue that typically result from extended periods of extreme stress. There appear to be a set of shared mental and physical impacts created by working too much, too hard, and for too long. Clients who avoid symptoms of overwork are at greater risk of burnout. Learning to identify when to take a break is a critical first step in sustaining your wellness over the long term. Once you begin to become aware of your need to take a break, the next challenge will find ways to integrate these into your work and play days.

Your body is usually the best measure of your health and wellness. Your corporeal self is essentially made up of the same materials found in all other life forms on the planet. When you find time to rest and recharge in nature, you benefit from the subtle nuances of natural rhythms you encounter when walking through a field, forest, or mountain top. You are exposed to reproductive, life and death cycles, and seasonal changes in all the plant and animal life that surrounds you. Being close witnesses to these miracles of nature will likely lead you to a deeper reflective view of yourself in nature as well.

In my clinical practice, understanding the self is a lifelong process of deep introspection and reflection. It is an integrative journey of self-knowledge that includes your body, mind, and spirit. A lack of balance in your life generally leads to problems in one of these three areas of the physical, mental, or spiritual self. Journeys of recovery and healing require you to regain balance in one or all areas. Years of self-neglect may require months or years of recovery. Getting to know yourself is a cool journey. Getting to a state of inner harmony where you appreciate that your life is as miraculous as those miracles of nature you see regularly on a casual walk each day is well worth the time you invest in yourself.

There are several natural cycles that you experience each day as well. These bio-rhythms include sleep, digestion, menstrual cycles, and hormonal changes. Some bio-rhythms change hourly, others daily, and even others progressively change over several years as you age. As a younger woman, I had regular menstrual periods that were consistent and not terribly painful. As a married woman, my sexual activity was connected to a loving partner who agreed to a family planning method that did not rely on the pill. I noticed many things about my monthly cycle that did in fact change when stressed, overworked, or with changes in the number of daylight hours. I had a relatively longer cycle that was usually 32 days in length, while many peers had shorter cycles. When work had been particularly stressful, I noticed a delay in my period by up to two weeks. Many women shared similar experiences and reflected on the impact of stress on this regular monthly hormone driven bio-rhythm.

Peri-menopause and menopause itself is another very intense period of several years where natural bio-cycles progressively change and on many levels. My professional and personal approach to care has always been bio-psycho-social. Understanding the self must include a corporeal perspective that allows you to be aware of the changes in your body when distressed. You may learn that you lose your appetite for food, sleep, or sex under great stress, or alternatively that your desires for food, sleep, substances, or sex grow as a means to release a build-up of toxic energy or the primary stress hormone cortisol. Some people make reckless decisions when distressed and regret that they failed to learn healthier coping strategies sooner. Practices such as yoga, Taiichi, mindful meditation, or contemplative prayer offer opportunities for you to slow down and “feel” your body‘s cardio and breathing rates. Newer technologies such as the Apple Watch, or Fitbit also provide you with immediate bio-feedback that can help you to identify signs of overwork as well as periods of rest.

Achieving states of inner harmony at different developmental stages in your life is possible when you care for yourself as a miraculous creation of nature. Self-love flows when you accept the fragility of your human body, and nurture yourself for health and wellness over the long term.

Dr. & Mrs. Lisa Romano-Dwyer BSc, MSW, PhD, RSW

Healthy Touch

Resilient children grow into caring & compassionate adults softening hearts of stone.

This past May, I attended the Annual Roots of Empathy Symposium here in Toronto sponsored by Mary Gordon and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers https://rootsofempathy.org/2019symposium/. Mary’s work has a strong hold in most schools in the Greater Toronto Area, surrounding regions, and across Canada. She also has research affiliates in Ireland and the USA. Her work, career, and extraordinary dedication to children and early prevention strategies is inspiring. Having started a clinical social work career in early years services, I was very fortunate to learn theoretical and practical approaches to parenting that really work to grow healthy and resilient children over the long term. Dr. Clinton, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University, division of Child Psychiatry reminded everyone about the essential nature of human touch and infant development.

Close to thirty years ago, the Hanen Approach was just beginning to reap the benefits of its piloted projects across this city. A unique blend of psychiatry, speech and language pathology, and social work, the Hanen Approach aimed to support healthy attachments between moms and babies. Research showed that a consistently caring and nurturing response style, eye contact, touching, and communication improved overall health and wellness in all children and adults, but especially in children with identified developmental delays in areas of speech, behaviour, and pretend & cooperative play http://integratedtreatmentservices.co.uk/our-approaches/speech-therapy-approaches/hanen-programme/.

Healthy human touch is essential and natural to human growth and emotional wellness. There are countless studies that reveal the negative impacts of significant caregiving relationships impoverished of human touch. People with histories of early trauma, emotional neglect, sexual, or physical abuse often develop problems with creating healthy boundaries in relation to personal body space. Some people may be overly vigilant and self-protective becoming touch adverse. Some people have loose boundaries standing too close to people waiting in line, rubbing a woman’s breast or a man’s bottom while standing or sitting next to them on public transit, or touching someone’s arm, baby-bump, or face without permission for example. There are social and cultural norms as well as professional training that shape how, when, why, and where people engage in human touch. The key here is speaking up honestly when you feel uncomfortable about someone’s unwanted touch.

More research is being explored about the prescribed use of touch therapy with patients suffering severe PTSD and other debilitating health conditions. It is imperative that clinicians feel comfortable with setting appropriate professional boundaries created with clients seeking counselling therapies from you. Clinical practice with children, adolescents, and adults do not require deliberate practices of human touch. There are other effective strategies such as voice tone, eye contact, and humour that help to reassure and co-regulate human emotion as people talk and/or process feelings about experiences or situations with you. Referring clients to therapeutic massage is suggested for people you assess would benefit from healthy human touching in a clinical milieu.

#wellness #healing #health #hugs #parenting

Visualization & Wellness

Visualization is an evidence-based strategy that works to reduce stress

Clinical Social Workers and Psychotherapists understand the importance of helping people to learn visualization strategies proven to reduce stress. Visualization techniques employ the imagination in the healing process. Breathing techniques are also highly valued strategies used to reduce the harmful impacts of stress, anxiety, and worry on the body. Breathing and visualization also help people sleep deeply and more soundly. Learning to relax is neither easy, nor quick. People often master relaxation techniques over several months and in most cases, over years of concentrated practice. There is ample evidence to support the use of visualization in elite athletic
programs and goal-oriented industries. The overall impacts on one’s sense of wellness is uncontestable when people sleep better, and engage in daily activities with more energy and calmness. There are several resources currently available that will help individuals learn the power of visualization techniques. It often merely takes the use of one practiced image such as clouds on a partially sunny day, or a warm beach for people to feel an immediate sense of relief. Many people practice visualization before presenting at a business meeting or professional interview. Do you feel confident about supporting your clients or patients to learn visualization techniques? What are your own experiences with breathing, visualization, or progressive relaxation techniques? When or how do you use your experiences with these strategies in counselling sessions, if at all? Have you reflected upon any ethical issues with your clinical or peer supervisors?

#wellness #stressmanagement #wellbeing #healthy #heal #breathing #visualization #progressiverelaxation