Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Pain

A message from my butt…

Pain is weird. 

We often think that the cause of pain is due to something “wrong” with our bodies.  We blew out that knee in a skiing accident in high school.  We have “horrible posture” while we sit at our desks all day.  My dad had a bad back; his dad had a bad back; I therefore have a bad back.

All these things could be true.

And they could all be contributing to the experience of pain in your knee, your shoulders, your back.

But what else could be true?

Could you have knee pain because when you went to the doctor back in high school, he told you, “Someday you’ll get arthritis in there”?  Would you have pain if that thought seed had never been planted by a trusted authority figure?

Could it be true that you thinking all day, “Ugh, my posture is horrible.  I really should sit up straight” is causing unnecessary tension in your traps and jaw and gut, thereby increasing your pain?

Could it be true that since your lineage is riddled with back pain, at the first twinge of something… interesting… in your back, you start to restrict your movements, start to baby your back, and start to become hyperaware of any possibly dangerous sensations in your back?  You move less (and therefore lose out on the amazing benefits of exercise) and train your system to get really, really good at noticing pain.

Pain is weird! 

I had a first-hand experience with how weird pain can be a couple of weeks ago.  I am in a 3-year Somatic Experiencing Trauma Resolution training program, and as part of that program, I have to do several sessions with trained practitioner.  During my last session, with a woman named Erin Diedling, I asked if we could work on the pain in my low back.  As Erin helped me stay present with the sensations in that area, I noticed that while, at that exact moment, I wasn’t noticing anything in my back, I DID notice a slight area of discomfort at the tip of my tailbone.  We spent some time noticing the sensation, describing it (it feel like brown sludge), and then Erin asked something like, “What do you hear, what message do you get when you focus on this sensation?”

Well, first of all, I had to tell her that when I work with therapists, I have this huge impulse to try to figure out what they WANT me to say.  It’s SO hard to figure out how I really feel, what I really think.  I just want to make the therapist happy and give them the RIGHT answer – the RIGHT answer about how I am feeling and what I am thinking.  Yes, I know it sounds nuts, but well, that’s me. J

I told this to Erin and she assuaged my anxiety by telling me that wanting to please the therapist is actually a pretty common thing.  She added (and I’m paraphrasing), “If you DID know the right answer (and you do).  What would the answer be?  And remember, whatever answer you give is perfect and is 100% correct.” 

Well, that helped me dive under the shell of people-pleasing and become more open to what my body had to say.  And the message I heard was “Get off your ass.”

We spent the next few minutes talking about how “getting off my ass” by excelling in school, by being the good girl, and by doing what I was told and making my parents and the authority figures in my congregation proud of me served me well as a youth, and how that action-orientation helped me differentiate myself from the beautiful and talented group of ladies I hung out with. 

So, this Part of me served a vital purpose in my life – it got me attention and love.  But do I still need it?  Erin asked if I wanted to retire this part of me, and I noticed I was reluctant to let it go away completely. I decided to put it on the shelf, so I can bring it out again when needed – when I really need to get some Sh*t done!

And you know what?

At the end of the session my tailbone pain was gone.

I haven’t felt it again since that session on 6/8.

Pain is weird. 

What is your pain trying to tell you?  Why is it trying to get your attention?  What stories are you telling yourself about your pain that might not be true?  What would happen if you took a pause and opened a non-judgmental, open-hearted chat with your pain?  You might find out something interesting!

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you would like some help in figuring out what might be contributing to your pain, you can book a session with me here

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Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Mindset, Yoga

The Magic You’re Looking For

Hello!  Remember me??  I took a couple of weeks off from writing due to vacation.  We spent a week in the Black Hills of South Dakota – biking, hiking, eating, watching X-files.  That last thing – watching X-files – kinda made me feel guilty.  Here I am, in the middle of absolute gorgeousness, and I’m sitting inside, butt on the couch, watching a TV show I have seen 3 times already.  But, then, I realized I AM ON VACATION AND CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT!  I  can choose to go outside and enjoy the Hills, or I can choose to relax, put my feet up, and enjoy some very high quality entertainment.
 
This trip was full of awakenings like that.  Here are a few of my realizations.

  1. Doing hard, uncomfortable things can be super energizing and life-affirming.  The day after we arrived in Custer, we did a 35 mile bike ride, with a 260 elevation gain on the way out and a 947 elevation gain on the way back.  This was done on my new Surly Ogre, which is MUCH heavier than my road bike.  The tires are also about twice as wide, and we were riding on crushed gravel.  So I was biking a lot more weight, over a stickier surface, at a much steeper grade than my sea-level legs are used to.  It was ROUGH and beautiful.  On the ride back, I was kinda hating life (just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling), but once I got done and sat down with a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, banana, and peanut butter toast, I was totally loving life.  I CAN DO HARD THINGS!
  2. It takes a while to decompress and slow down, so if you can swing it, taking at least a week off is SO nice.  Usually when we go on trips, we just spend a couple of days at our destination and then move on to a new spot (Have to cover as much territory as possible!  Have to get home and have some time to recuperate before starting work again!  Can’t spend too much money!), but this time we stayed at the same place for 8 full days.  We had time to settle in, settle down, establish a home base and venture out.  We started to sink deeper into the vibe of the area – not just skimming along the surface and checking sites and activities off boxes, but really starting to get a feel for the area, getting to know the weather, getting to the know the moods of the skies. 
  3. Watch the stories you tell yourself.  I packed SO many activities to do in the cabin – 3 books (The Enlightened Marriage, Mists of Avalon, and Understanding Human Design), colored pencils, watercolors, my journal, and 5 Pubmed articles about the importance of therapeutic touch.  I did write every day, so I could remember what we did, and I did read a good portion of Mists of Avalon, but I didn’t touch the rest of the stuff.  But, you see, here is the story I always tell myself, “If only I had more time, I would be an amazing artist.  If only I had time, I would be SO well informed on all things mindbody.”  Yet, I DID have time.  But I did not even attempt to create any art, and the articles never got touched.  It reminds me of a quote I saw on Facebook yesterday, “People romanticize their plans but dread the execution.  The magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.”  Wow.  That really hit me.  I just want to be an amazing artist and an amazing therapist, but I want to avoid the discomfort of GETTING GOOD and of PRACTICING (there is no doing something perfectly in the learning stage).  This ties back in to point #1 – I HAVE to do the uncomfortable things in order to experience the joy and satisfaction that I want. 

Shoot, I had all sorts of stuff I wanted to write about – the amazing Somatic Experiencing session I had this week, the importance of looking at the Adverse Childhood Experiences you have had (and how they affect your marriage), and how Presence is a fundamental requirement for us both as individuals and as a collective.  But, I will need to explore those topics in future posts.  This is my SUMMER OF FUN.  I’m really trying to focus on enjoying life NOW instead of when I accomplish my To Do list (aka “never”), so I am going stop here.

Space to be Human Lab

  • I am taking the second class in my Somatic Experiencing (SE) Trauma-resolution training on June 24-27.  I am really excited to bring these trauma-resolution skills into our sessions.  So much of our chronic pain comes from nervous-system dysregulation that’s a reflexive response to various types of traumas (defined as events that overwhelmed our ability to deal with them) we have experienced in our lives.  Our responses to these events enabled us to keep functioning and surviving (so THANK YOU, Body!), but those responses can get stuck in our nervous system after they’re no longer needed and affect our ability to THRIVE.  But SE can help us process those through and find more space for presence
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can easily book a session here.

I hope you are enjoying this hot, humid Sunday!
 
<3

Hlo
 
P.S.
It is Sir Huehue’s 6 month birthday today, so I have to share a picture.

Habit Change, Health & Fitness, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Mindset, Yoga

A bad case of The Clench.

Hello There!  If you are in the Quad Cities today, you are experiencing probably the MOST beautiful day we’ve had this year.  Nature is a great reset for our minds and bodies, and as I am feeling very…sucked up inside myself (just breathe, Heather!), I am going to take massive advantage of it today.  So, today’s post will be short, so that all of us can go outside and play.  Also, I am going to be on vacation (South Dakota, here we come!) starting next weekend, so you will be newsletter-free. 😛
 
Since today I need to hear some advice on how to regulate a spun-up nervous system, that is precisely what I am going to share with you.
 
Side note:  Why am I wound up today?  WHO KNOWS?!  It could be hormones.  It could be what I ate and/or drank yesterday.  It could be dehydration.  It could be indecision about a decision.  It could be all the things I want to/need to get done before we leave for our trip.  Maybe it’s contemplating the cost of gas and food and fun whilst on vacation.  It could be the 60 to 80,000 thoughts, stories, and internal narratives assaulting me daily.  And it’s most likely a combination of all of the above.  But I guess The Why really isn’t the important thing. The Important thing is, I’ve noticed I’m feeling a bit tense, wound up, and fast.  So.  What next?

  1. Spend 90 seconds just sitting and noticing the sensations I feel in my body.  According to Dr. Joan Rosenberg, the vibrations associated with an emotion last just 90 seconds.
  2. Locate the sensations (I feel it in my throat and belly) and see what happens if I inhale and exhale through the area.
  3. Acknowledge that I am feeling anxiety.  Ask myself, “Is that a problem?”  What happens if I just allow it to be there instead of fighting it and pushing it away (which adds a layer of suffering on top of the layer of anxiety)?
  4. Lay on my back in Constructive Rest and take some long, slow smooth breaths.
  5. Write.  Get all the thoughts out of my head and on paper and look at them objectively.  Preferably this should be done in a Moleskine journal with a nice pen.  Just sayin.
  6. Take a walk, encourage the furrow between my brow to relax.  Open up my peripheral vision.  Notice all the shades of green.  Notice the sounds of the birds and the wind in the leaves. Notice the smell of the lilacs.
  7. Take an Epsom salt bath (FYI – my sister-in-law’s sister told me that taking a hot bath with ½ cup of Epsom salts, ½ cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of kosher salt can be a mind-opening experience.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to tonight!).
  8. Pet Huehuetenango Schneiderjohns.  Here is a picture of him playing with his new Chewbacca toy. 
  9. Roll my abdomen with the Coregeous ball (this would also help that pesky low back pain).
  10. Do something fun!  Tim and I plan to bike over the new I-74 bridge this afternoon.

There’s my top 10 list of self-advice.  Oh shoot. I just thought of another one.

11. If I’m forbidden to call what I am feeling “anxiety”, what would I call it?  Anxiety can be a “cover” emotion that hides something deeper going on. What emotion am I hiding from by saying I feel anxious?  (This also comes from the podcast linked in #1).

Ok.  Now I’m really done.  Hopefully if you struggle with that fast/spinny/unable to exhale sensation, this list will give you some ideas to experiment with.  And I’ll remind both of us that:  MAYBE FEELING ANXIETY IS NOT A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED.

Space to be Human Lab

  • The Lab will be closed 5/28 to 6/5.
  • Don’t let your self-care suffer during the busy summer months!  You can purchase a 3 pack of 60 or 90 minute sessions and save $10 per session!  Link here (click on Products and Packages link at the top).

Happy Sunday!  I look forward to regaling you with stories from South Dakota when I write again on the 5th. 😛
 
<3

Hlo
 
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Habit Change, Mindset

I’m lazy, and you should be lazy too

When you want to make a change in your life, do you have a tendency to go balls-out? For example, going from not lifting weights at all to going to “I’m going to start lifting weights 4 days a week for an hour each day.”  Or “Starting this week I am going to plan, prep, and cook ALL of my meals at home!” (when you typically eat out 3-4 times per week).
 
I am one of the aforementioned humans.  I have a tendency to overestimate my motivation and drive, and as a result, I go like gang busters for a few days, or even maybe a few months, and then I peter out and return to my original set point.
 
My friend and teacher Dinneen Viggiano had a great newsletter about “MVA”  Minimum Viable Amount.  She verbalized something I have noticed but ignored when it comes to my own life – even though I know “X” is super good for me and will help me become the person I want to be, if “X” is hard, boring and/or time-consuming, I will do it for a bit and then give up.  And then I will feel bad about giving up. And that will make me even LESS motivated to do ANYTHING – even something small – to improve my wellbeing.  And thus begins a pity party that ends with me wondering who do I think I am and why do I think I am qualified to help ANYONE improve their life.  Things get dark pretty quickly in Heather-Head-Land.
 
Dineen offers a solution to this nip this negativity spiral in the bud:

  1. Start out doing something that you seriously think you would honestly really do.
  2. Do it regularly for a while and see how you feel (see how your pain responds).
  3. Start to pare it back a bit and see if you still feel benefits while doing the smaller amount.
  4. If you get to a tipping point where the pain starts to return, titrate back to the slightly higher dose.

Here is how I am implementing this advice in my own life:

  • I am working on getting my low back feeling better, and I know that working on my breathing would help.
  • I worked with an Athletic Trainer awhile back who gave me several breathing exercises to do.  I was supposed to do them 2-3 times a day, and they take about 15 minutes each time.  I kinda did them for a while, and then, well, you know.  I humaned and stopped.
  • SO, I am starting with doing 2 minutes of Constructive Rest whilst breathing from my diaphragm every night before I go to bed.  Two minutes is so easy that I have a hard time convincing myself that it’s a burden.
  • I’m finding that at the end of the 2 minutes, I often have started to relax and breathe more deeply and I want to go longer, but I’m not!  I’m just doing 2 minutes until I feel as if the habit is ingrained.

Now that I type it all out, I’m kind of following Dineen’s advice backwards.  I am using a “tiny little action step” to build the habit, and then assessing the effects, so I can potentially do more, but the overall gist is the same:


FIND THE DOSAGE THAT YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO AND THAT ACTUALLY EFFECTS SOME CHANGE IN YOUR SYSTEM, AND DO IT CONSISTENTLY.


If you are overwhelmed, bored, or frustrated with your exercise plan, maybe you could experiment with doing a little less and see if a smaller dose will get you the same results.  I think it’s a universal truth that doing less and doing it mindfully and consistently is better for our mindbodies.

Lastly, I want to put in a little plug for a fundraiser for the QC Yoga Foundation.  This is a local non-profit organization that is trying to bring yoga to as many people in our community as possible.  They (or maybe I should say “we” because I’m on the Board) are hosting a super fun event on 7/9/22 called Fireflies and Flowers.  Music, tasty food, flowers, mid-summer vibes, picnic, and connection to your community – what more could you ask for??

If you are interested, you can “Buy a Blanket” of 8 tickets here or individual tickets here.  I would love to see you there!  I am trying to put together a group of 8, so we can get a blanket.  Let me know if you’re interested.

Space to be Human Lab

  • If you have a family member, friend, or coworker who has been sidelined by pain or tension, I would be so grateful if you refer them to me, so we can see how massage, meditation, and movement can get them back to doing what they love.  For every Referral who books with me, you get a coupon for $10 off your next session!  Your friend can find more information about Space to be Human here.

I hope you are having a delightful Sunday and can find some space to do nothing and be okay with it.  🙂
 
<3

Hlo
 
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