Wellness

Self-Care and the Pursuit of Wellness

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When I talk to others about what stress management looks like, there’s one word that is usually brought up in the conversation: self-care. This buzzword that people mention seems to be thrown around without anyone truly understanding what it means or looks like practically. I want to challenge myself and you to think of self-care as more than the temporary relief of a bubble bath, video game, movie or whatever else pop-culture defines it as. Rather than talking about self-care and stress management, let’s talk about what it might look like to pursue wellness which requires a deeper look into how we are doing holistically.

When looking at wellbeing, we can gauge how we’re doing by looking at five different parts of ourselves: social, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. As we look into what each of these mean, let’s think about how we’re doing in each of them right now.

 Social - the relational aspect: do we have meaningful connection with others throughout the day? Are we isolating ourselves or over exerting ourselves in our social commitments? How are we engaging with others?

Emotional – our emotional state: are we in tune with both our positive and negative emotions? Are we denying ourselves from experiencing both the highs and lows of our life? Or are we being consumed and overwhelmed by either one of them?

Physical – our bodies: are our bodies telling us we need more or less of something? Perhaps we are a little tired and hungry so we grab extra caffeine and easy-to-reach snacks that fuel us temporarily. Are we noticing that our bodies need stretches and movements after sitting all day? Or maybe our bodies needing rest because we haven’t stopped moving. 

Mental – our thoughts: are our thoughts racing and preoccupied with something? Are we avoiding making a decision or not wanting to think about a particular event?

Spiritual – our core self: are we honoring who we are? Regardless of faith or spiritual practices, we are valuable individuals. So, are we connecting and being kind to ourselves?

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 So, how do we move towards our well self? Think about what it looks like when we’re doing well in each of these areas. For example, are we feeling connected to others when we eat meals with co-workers or are we needing a one-on-one coffee run with a close friend? Are we melancholic and need to practice gratitude or do we need to let our emotions run free for 10 minutes to be able to refocus on our responsibilities? Do we need to get 6 hours or 8 hours of sleep to feel restful? Do we need to write a to-do list to organize our thoughts or do we need to practice containment to not bring our work stress home? Do we need to rediscover what our preferences are or do we need to spend time reconnecting with our faith beliefs?

 There are more questions we can ask ourselves to prompt how we’re doing in each of these areas.  Regardless of what the questions are, are we pausing regularly to assess how we’re doing? The more frequently we’re able to gauge how we’re doing, the more sensitive we become when we stray from our well self. As we incorporate these steps into our lives and practice them regularly, we’ll be able to advocate for our needs and be kind to ourselves.

About the Author:

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Alex Song, RP, Apprentice, is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. Alex is passionate about helping people become their most authentic and true selves. She loves helping people navigate their life pursuits, identity formation, and career aspirations. She feels honored to walk alongside clients as they share their story with her, inviting her into that sacred space. She desires her clients to live life purposefully and well through evaluating their physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional health. As clients navigate meaning making, she works with clients to equip them with the tools to live their best life. Alex desires to connect with the Asian population to help them advocate for their voices as they pursue what wellness looks like. Alex is a Colorado native and enjoys exploring new coffee spots, watching movies, and catching up with friends.

Navigating Your Relationship With Food

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There are so many components that help us to regulate our minds, bodies, and emotions. Attachment theory says that from cradle to grave the primary need of every human being is human connection. Beginning in early childhood, our attachment styles begin to develop based oftentimes off of our family’s attachment style.In the clinical world, counselors refer to there being four primary styles of attachment, which are anxious or ambivalent, avoidant, disorganized, and secure. When our need for human connection is not met in a way to provide a safe haven to come to when we feel emotionally vulnerable or a safe base to venture out into the world, we grasp for substitutes that will fill the void of that painful feeling of disconnection and fear.

Food can become this safe haven for many people since it is comforting, predictable, and oftentimes it will always there when you need it. These are the same qualities that we long for with the closest people in our lives. After time, however, it becomes evident to most people that food is not meeting their need for connection. This is one of the central themes that will be uncovered in the group that I will be running called Navigating Your Relationship with Food.

This October, I will be running a group for women from the ages of 20 to 40 years old who desire to find more freedom in their relationship with their food. There are many components that influence one’s relationship and patterns of eating such as self-esteem, body image, relationships, family history, and life circumstances. My hope is that this group provides a safe place for women to come and sort through what factors are complicating their relationship with food, themselves, and their relationships with others.

If you have had a diagnosable eating disorder in the past you are welcome; if you have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder you are welcome. The focus of this group is not how to heal from a diagnosable eating disorder, per se. It is rather to help you untangle the web of emotions and cognitions behind food and addressing those aspects rather than the eating itself. My hope is that women are able to find sustainable methods of connecting with themselves, with others, and with food and break out of the maladaptive patterns that have been formed. The tone of this group is welcoming, understanding, compassionate, and empathetic because has unhealthy habits and beliefs that they develop  to help them cope and survive. By the end of this group, I hope that you are no longer surviving in your relationship with food, but rather thriving!

About the Author:

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Amy McCann, RP, Apprentice, is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She is open to seeing many types of clients of all age ranges. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and desires to help couples strengthen their relationship. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont, and desires to help her clients in a holistic way. She is passionate about people finding true freedom and healing in every area of life. Amy also has rich cultural experiences with living overseas and enjoys cross-cultural work with clients. Amy is originally from Boston, but loves living in Colorado with her husband. They enjoy hiking, fly fishing, playing games with friends, and eating ice cream. 

A Guided Meditation

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Feeling overwhelmed? Take a few minutes to breathe and rest with this four minute guided meditation. Click below to play. 

Interested in mindfulness and holistic wellness? Schedule a free intake to learn more about our offerings. 

 

- Jenni Kay Long, RYT, LCSW, ADS {Learn more about the author}

Befriending Anxiety

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For many of us, the idea of befriending our anxiety would be akin to befriending the quicksand that we feel ourselves sinking into. How can we ever learn to accept and appreciate something like anxiety when all it has ever done is make us feel miserable and out of control?

In my opinion, the first step towards befriending anxiety begins with understanding it. Have you ever wondered why human beings experience anxiety? While anxiety does have a bad reputation it is also a universal human experience that is hardwired into our DNA. Whether we like it or not, our anxiety has a purpose.

Anxiety, at its core, is a biological alarm system designed to notify us of a perceived threat. When we are extremely anxious our brain descends into fight or flight mode. As a part of instinctual survival, when we perceive a threat our best possible options are to fight the danger or to run away from it as fast as possible.  

This would all be perfectly fine if human beings were still living in an era where survival was literally dependent on your ability to fight or run. In the modern era however, we are more likely to experience threats like midterm exams or uncomfortable conversations with coworkers. Anxiety has evolved over millennia so that it can be triggered by emotional and existential threats as well as threats of physical danger.

This may seem like a malfunction of evolution, an obsolete system of alarm that is now causing chaos and havoc in our modern lives. However, I believe that anxiety has adapted to the new modern standards of survival and at its best functions to keep us in alignment with our values and beliefs.

This theory of anxiety operates under the assumption that there are at least three unique types of anxiety:

1. Existential Anxiety- This is the anxiety associated with being alive. Our fear of death, our questioning of reality and why things happen. This type of anxiety plays an essential role in our pursuit of meaning in life because without questions we would never seek answers.

2. Motivational/Moral Anxiety- This anxiety identifies when we are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with our values. If being truthful is important to us, this anxiety will arise when we tell a lie. The theory of conscience could be attributed to this type of anxiety as it is foundational the development of our moral code and idealized sense of self.

3. Neurotic Anxiety- This is the type of anxiety that gets the most attention. Neurotic anxiety is attributed to anxiety disorders. This anxiety can develop due to several factors: genetic predispositions, imbalances in brain chemistry, trauma, etc. Unlike the two previous types of anxiety, the anxiety is purely symptomatic and indicates that there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Understanding which type of anxiety we are experiencing means that we can respond to them appropriately. Each of the three types expresses a specific and essential need to resolve the anxious feelings and grow from the experience.

  • The essential need for Existential Anxiety is to pursue answers and meaning.
  • The essential need for Motivational/Moral Anxiety is to change either our values or our behaviors until they are in alignment.
  • The essential need for Neurotic Anxiety is to address the underlying causes and to develop healthy coping strategies.

The key to befriending our anxiety lies in our ability to respond to these essential needs. When we give our anxiety what it is asking for we accomplish more than an end to anxious feelings. We grow closer to our idealized selves, we mature and develop resiliency each time we come out on the other side.

To be able to identify which type of anxiety we are experiencing we must learn to listen to what it is telling us. Awareness will follow a willingness to view our anxiety as the messenger rather than the enemy.

Imagine anxiety as the check engine light on a car. If we ignore the light, cover it up, or continue driving we risk causing even more danger to our vehicle. The same is true of our anxiety, if all of our effort is placed on turning off the feeling without discovering the cause, we not only deny ourselves the opportunity for growth, but we risk causing ourselves more damage in the long run.

My hope is that you would be willing to give your anxiety a voice. Allow it the opportunity to express its needs so that you can respond in kind.

The path to friendship can be difficult, but well worth the effort.