Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Eating: Katie Davis

Holiday Eating

Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to see family and friends that you might not otherwise see during the year. But what is a holiday without rich and tantalizing foods? To arrive into the New Year with only positive memories of the holiday season, here are a few nutrition tips to guide you:

1.      Be “choosy” with your choices: The holidays are a great time because it is often your one chance during the year to have Aunt Sue’s famous pumpkin pie, grandma’s stuffing, or cousin Vinnie’s bacon-wrapped scallops. My advice? Eat them! But choose those options over other foods you are able to eat any old time of year. Be “choosy” – eat what you don’t always get!

2.      Be mindful: Once you decide what food(s) you are going to eat during that special holiday meal or event, find somewhere to sit down and truly ENJOY what you have selected. Don’t be in a hurry to eat – take your time and converse with family or friends as you eat. Food should be enjoyed slowly, thoughtfully, and with intention. As you are eating, take note of your hunger and satiety levels – always stop when you are comfortably full or even sooner if your craving is sufficiently satisfied.

3.      Eat a sufficient meal before evening holiday outings: If you are heading to an evening holiday party serving only appetizers or desserts, be sure to eat a well-rounded meal before leaving the house. This will provide your body with energy to help you more easily make good eating choices at the event. It is easier to make smart choices when you are not ravenously hungry.

4.      Mingle away from the food table: To take the focus of your party away from the food, mingle with family or friends away from the food table. Position yourself in a completely separate room or with your back to the food table. This will help you to think less about the food because you can’t see it.

5.      Make sleep a priority: Studies show that inadequate sleep signals a hormone in your body that increases the drive to eat and makes it more difficult for your brain to gravitate toward healthy options. Help your body by getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night on average.

6.      Enjoy what truly matters: Keep in mind that what truly matters during the holidays is not the food, but the time spent with family and friends. By focusing on the enjoyment derived from people and not food, the holidays will be much less stressful for you and making healthy choices will happen naturally.

Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers individual nutrition counseling on Tuesdays at The Awakening Center. For more info call 773-929-6262.   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

EDA or OA: Which is right for you?

Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) or Overeaters Anonymous (OA): Which is right for you?
EDA and OA are very different programs, and it seems as though many people do not know the differences between the groups.

Deandra Christianson

Both programs are based on the Twelve Step and Twelve Tradition Program that originated in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. The programs are funded through the voluntary contributions of the members. Also, they seek to create a place of support for individuals with eating disorders that they may not feel alone. Though we are all unique, there are other people who are sharing similar experiences. There is no religious affiliation with either organization, and the spiritual values endorsed by the programs are to be interpreted by each individual, if they so choose.

The biggest difference between EDA and OA are the views of recovery.

“Our primary purpose is to abstain from compulsive overeating and to carry this message of recovery to those who still suffer.” –OA
OA believes that an individual with always have an eating disorder. An individual must abstain from certain behaviors or food and is always in recovery. Compulsive eating is seen in OA as a ‘progressive illness.’ OA emphasizes an ‘action plan’ for individuals in the program. This is a plan surrounding food and behaviors to help a person abstain from his/her patterns of overeating. The group focuses on the spiritual, physical, and emotional impacts of overeating and stresses health in all three of these areas.

“Our primary purpose is to recover from our eating disorders and to carry this message of recovery to others with eating disorders.” –EDA
EDA believes that an individual with an eating disorder can recover completely. The organization does not endorse any rules or rigidity around food. It is believed in EDA that the behaviors were due to emotional distress that was expressed through food. EDA strives to help individuals learn safe and effective coping skills. The program’s goal is balance and not abstinence.

To find more information about:
Overeaters Anonymous (OA), go to www.OA.org
Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA), go to www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org

At The Awakening Center, we have an Eating Disorders Anonymous program on Wednesday nights from 7:45pm-9:00pm. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Change it Up!

Courtney Morris
Change it Up!

I have recently begun to appreciate the importance of switching things around occasionally.  This can be beneficial for our physical, mental, and emotional well beings.  While it can be great to have a routine, as this allows many of us to be productive and consistent in our work and social activities, it is often too easy for us to get stuck in a habitual rut, especially as the temperature starts to drop and we want to bundle up in the warmth of our homes.  The lack of new physical activity and mental stimulation can take a toll on us all.
The cure for this? Simple! Try something new...or perhaps call that friend or family member you rarely speak to anymore but really miss and make a date to catch up.  Or, perhaps try a new activity which makes you a little nervous; extra points for the further you venture out of your comfort zone as this is where the most opportunity for character growth is offered.  What's the worst that can happen?  If you're brave, try doing this once or twice a week for a more exciting life and see where it takes you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Asking for Help

Asking for Help

Cara Chill

  I have recently taken notice in my life that asking for help seems to have a negative connotation.  Ever since I can remember, if I did not understand something, I would ask for assistance.  However, in adulthood, I am noticing a lot of individuals who see this as a sign of weakness or incompetence.  When did we start to say that it is not acceptable to ask for help? Many of us would admit to going above and beyond when it comes to helping our friends and family but when it is us who needs help, we have a tendency to refuse it.  Understandably, it is not the most comfortable experience to admit that you may be struggling.  However, if you do not seek help, how are you supposed to receive it? I have been ruminating over this topic for a while now and simply cannot grasp it.  I have finally come to the conclusion that you have to accept that you cannot do everything yourself 100% of the time and there is nothing wrong with that! Even the best and the brightest have had trouble at one point or another.  There are many people throughout history who have struggled and ended up succeeding in the end.  Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, Thomas Edison had 1,000 unsuccessful attempts before creating the first light bulb, and Oprah Winfrey was fired when she was once a television reporter.  What I am trying to demonstrate is, everyone has flops in life but it is up to you to turn that flop into something useful.  I try to make every negative experience into something I can learn from.  Learning is a process that we go through our entire lives and along the way, we may ask for help.  Asking for help should not be a negative reflection of someone’s intelligence or ability.  It should demonstrate their strength and courage for seeking the opportunity to learn and better themselves. Teaching, learning, and helping others, is a part of life, and appreciating those times in life where we can learn something new or teach something to someone makes life a bit more exciting.  I will leave you all with a quote that may be a tad bit cliché but fitting for my thoughts. “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life.” Chinese Proverb

Friday, October 5, 2012

Getting Caught in the Rain: a Personal Story

Getting caught in the rain: a personal story
By Jade Braden

I recalled an instance in my life that involved a very drenched girl with a beaming face to boot. When I was in 6th grade, I was waiting for my mom to pick me up after school. She was running late but she asked me to wait outside of the library, across from my middle school. As I was waiting, I remember seeing the clouds continue to grow darker and the wind pick up. As a couple more minutes passed, it suddenly began pouring. At first, I took the initial reaction of trying to take cover to avoid getting wet. Seeing that I was already soaked during the first two minutes, I decided to stop trying to hide under a half-covered tree, place my book bag on the ground and spread my arms wide with my head tilted up. I closed my eyes and felt the raindrops fall on my face and run off my chin. As I listened to the rain fall on the concrete and into quickly forming puddles on the ground, I felt my face slowly draw a smile. I couldn’t help but laugh as I felt an unexplainable joy well up inside which encouraged me to spin around a couple of times. This seemingly infinite time abruptly ended with the sound of a horn and a mother’s cry, asking for her daughter to get out of the rain.
Although this moment was somewhat brief, this theme of getting caught in the rain consistently comes up, while I’m going out for a run or heading out of work. What I learned was more than simply accepting a ruined hairstyle and clammy feet. I learned to experience and maintain the joy that a child felt when she recognized the pure nature of rain. The soothing sounds of rainfall combined with cool raindrops on ones’ skin are a reinvigorating experience but the weather is often widely dismissed as bad weather. I figured out that the moment one decides that they are not afraid of the effects on ones’ appearance I was more ready to jump into the moment and enjoy life as it comes at me. So, consider this an opportunity: when a storm is brewing and there is nothing to lose, give it a try. Close your eyes and look up to the sky as the rain comes down on you and feel invigorated.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not Being Perfect is Perfectly OKAY!

Not Being Perfect is Perfectly OKAY!
 Deandra Christianson

I have recently been thinking about how important it is to not only acknowledge and appreciate our strengths, but also acknowledge our weaknesses. By doing this, we give ourselves options. Instead of being critical of ourselves for having weakness, we can make changes or just “own” it. This concept can be extraordinarily frightening, but we just cannot be perfect. We are human. We make mistakes. We have weaknesses. AND IT IS OKAY! That, to me, is a HUGE relief!

For example, I am not good at sports. I am very uncoordinated, and if a ball is flying at my face, I will run the other way. I love being active, but I have found other ways such as dance, running, and yoga to move my body. This is a weakness I “own.” At this point in my life, it is not a priority for me to be good at sports. Maybe in another time, this will be something I will work on. This is where it is very important to know my strengths. I can appreciate that there are other things I do well.

The other option is to work on a weakness. For example, I tend to run late or arrive somewhere with no time to spare. This is a weakness I am aware of, and I think it is important to work on it. I have been making improvements in this area. For me, this was something that was impacting my life and needed to be addressed.

Having these options can be freeing. These examples may seem arbitrary, but I believe this can be applied to many areas. I think the root of this is feeling so grounded in one’s strengths that other things are not as important. It also incorporates the idea of being compassionate toward ourselves instead of critical.

You can give so much to the world through your strengths. Let them shine, and don’t worry about perfection.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Many Calories Do I Need?

How Many Calories Do I Need?

Most clients will at one point ask me this question. In fact, most people - whether I am at the grocery store or the coffee shop - ask me that question as soon as they find out I am a registered dietitian. If only that question were as simple to answer as it is to ask.
What makes the answer so complicated? The truth is that there is no one number that I can guarantee your body will need every single day. The reason is that there are many things that affect how much energy you need to take in over a 24hr period. Here is a short list:
- Number of hours of sleep
- Presence or absence of illness, such as a fever
- Presence or absence of menstrual cycle
- How much time spent outside in what type of environment
- Physical activity: time, intensity, type and wearing what type of clothing in what type of environment
- Level of stress and how well you deal with it
Each of these variables affect what your body needs on a given day not just to survive, but to help you do what you want to do, such as work, exercise, or spend quality time with friends and family. Remember that food is fuel and - just like a car - without fuel your body can't go where it needs.
So perhaps the question shouldn't be "how many calories do I need", but "how can I fuel my body to do what I want to do"? The answer to that question is mindful eating. Your body does a very good job of telling you exactly when it needs more energy and in what portion...but you have to listen and respond. When you eat intuitively (eat when you are hungry; stop when you are full), you are honoring and respecting your body. In addition, mindful eating is significantly less stressful than trying to worry about counting every bite that goes into your mouth because - as I keep saying - you don't know how much you should eat anyhow! Only your body determines that - not your mind! So the next time you are tempted to start counting calories, I challenge you to stop and instead ask, "how hungry am I?" Then let your body tell you how much is enough.

Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers both individual and group nutrition counseling at The Awakening Center. For more info call 773-929-6262.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Being You: Courtney Morris, Graduate Intern

“Being You”
Courtney Morris

I have recently become increasingly aware of the pressure many of us put on ourselves to constantly be “doing”.  We base a large portion of our self-worth on our achievements and activities rather than who we are intrinsically.  This external focus is largely created and reinforced by society at large.  We are taught from a young age the importance of attaining high grades in the classroom and winning trophies in little league, dance recitals, or art shows. 
Our culture continues to push competition through achievement, placing a strong emphasis on constant striving to “do” more.  We often internalize such messages, thus telling ourselves that we must live up to this incessant force taking the place of our true selves. There is no doubt that we are a fast-paced society, but where does this leave room for us to just simply “be”?  How and when can we learn who we are at the core, when we are not striving to achieve what we are told we are supposed to? 
The formation and maintenance of our true identities seem important in providing a core basis for giving us a strong sense of self.  This core self is important to have throughout the highs and lows we all experience in life, something which will carry us through when times are tough and we feel lost.
However, it is easy to get wrapped up in the achievement-focused whirlwind of society.  How then do we separate the “doing” versus “being” components of our identities?  This can be difficult, especially for those of us who are used to judging ourselves based on our accomplishments.  Here are a few suggestions: try out new things you have never done before, not to challenge yourself but rather to learn more about your own preferences; make a list of as many descriptive words about yourself as you can (unrelated to activities you participate in); ask your close friends and family members to describe you in detail; keep a journal about your feelings, thoughts, and ideas.  These are just a few ways to become more aware of your self.  Remember, this may be a slow process!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Focus on Today

Focus on Today
Cara Chill

In an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle and accomplish a personal goal of mine, I have decided to start training for my first 5k.  Working out and going for walks or jogs has always been a great way for me to cope with stress while having a moment to myself.  I have always wanted to take jogging to the next level and run a 5k but have never had the courage to register.  The fear of coming in last was always something that deterred me from pursuing this dream of mine.  However, several weeks ago, I had a realization that encouraged me to register.  Something inside me believed that I was capable of running a 5k. It took me a very long time to relinquish my anxiety and my “what if” thinking, but now; I am focusing on the present, and understand that worrying about something in the future will not help me in the present. I then began browsing the internet and came across a quote that I found most fitting to my situation. “Worrying does not empty tomorrow if its troubles, it empties today of its strengths,” Corrie Ten Boom. I have always been the type of person who worries about things in the distance instead of focusing on the here and now.  As difficult as it was to change this type of thinking, I feel a lot more confident in my abilities when I maintain focused on the present. What I can do is try to focus on the present and try to not worry about things that are out of my control.  In order for me to be successful at my first 5k, I can practice, eat right, and sleep well.  This way of thinking can be taken into many different contexts.  People tend to worry about many aspects of their daily lives such as school, work, family, etc.  From my recent experience, my advice would be to focus more on whatever your current situation is and less on worrying about things off into the distance.  I know this may be easier said than done but I am trying to use this approach as much as I can.  I am beginning with something simple like running my first 5k and hopefully will use this to become more present the different aspects of my life. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Eat an Elephant

How to Eat an Elephant


My client comes into my office, sits down and promptly bursts into tears, “I can’t do it!  It’s too hard!  I don’t even know where to begin!”

I am sure you have felt the same way – maybe even said these very words. Recovery from an eating-disorder can feel overwhelming!  Your recovery may at times feel so insurmountable that you feel defeated and completely unable to make any progress at all.   It may feel so big it would be like trying to swallow a whole elephant. 

So how do you recover?  How do you swallow an elephant?   One bite at a time! 

What is the first ‘bite’?  Where do you start swallowing the elephant?  It doesn’t matter, start anywhere! 

When we get overwhelmed and discouraged we get paralyzed.  Nothing feels like it would be good enough.  Since we don’t know what would be the perfect place to start, we don’t start at all.  This causes us to feel more overwhelmed, discouraged and anxious – and we turn back to our symptoms and behaviors to make those feelings go away.

Instead we need to break the problem down into small ‘bites’ – and it really doesn’t matter what we pick to do first – we need to just pick something that is achievable.  What small ‘bite’ feels like you would be able to do it?    Our inner critic may say, “Just stop!  Just eat normally.”  If we are bingeing several times a day that would not be do-able.  If we say, “I am going to eat, and keep, breakfast before I see my therapist” – that may be do-able.

Once we do that, we have made progress.  A tiny bit of progress leads to another ‘bite’ and then another.   Pretty soon the ‘bites’ join together and we can see pockets of progress.   We may notice after a while that eating and keeping breakfast is just a part of our routine! 

Also we do not have to do this alone!  Reaching out for support - whether in a support group, a therapy group, a positive relative or friend, or your therapist – is a big ‘bite’ of progress. 

What one small ‘bite’ feels do-able to you at this point in your recovery?  Once you decide what that one ‘bite’ is tell someone safe – because making a commitment often helps us be honest with ourselves, and keeps us accountable.  And if we are struggling, we know that we can reach out to that person to help us. 

Hang in there – you can do this, one ‘bite’ at a time!


Amy Grabowski 

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC is the Director and Founder of The Awakening Center.   She is in the final editing phase of her upcoming book about recovery from eating-disorders.  You can reach her at (773) 929-6262 x11.  
ps - Amy has great respect for elephants as does not advocate eating one! ;o)



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Seven Virtues: Jade Braden

Seven Virtues
By Jade Braden

When I was in my senior year of high school, out of all the subjects we discussed, my English teacher enjoyed talking about the medieval ages to the class with heartfelt excitement. In particular, his favorite subject was King Arthur’s knights. What made these medieval men stand out to him were the codes of honor that those knights practiced rigorously which showed signs of a true knight. Following the completion of high school, I realized that knights were not the only ones capable of gaining these virtues that were memorable enough to write stories and poems about these great men. Numerous sources, from Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, to the Catholic catechism describe these “knightly” virtues into seven specific virtues.
In the Catholic catechism, the seven virtues were categorized into two sections: the four cardinal virtues include prudence, justice, restraint (temperance) and courage (fortitude) and then the three theological virtues are faith, hope, and love (charity).  Another individual named Aurelius Prudentius later revised the list of virtues through his poem, “Psychomachia” (or “Battle/Contest of the Soul”) as the seven heavenly virtues to combat the seven deadly sins which many people such as you may have heard about through the media’s popular portrayal of these vices. These virtues became chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
In this blog entry, I am offering the audience a chance to view these virtues, their vices and the meanings associated with those virtues. As you read each virtue, consider the roles of these virtues or counteracting vices in your life and how you, close ones, or society reacted to any virtue or vice active in your life. Often, people are not aware of the vices that take hold of them but by recognizing the vices, the person receives the option to continue fulfilling vices or appeal to a contrary virtue. Ultimately, the choice is up to that individual. With that, glean what you can from the list of virtues with their respective vices and enjoy!

- Virtue: (Vice)
i.e., Alternative meaning of virtue word
Meaning of virtue

- Chastity: (Lust)
i.e., Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom
Incorporating chastity is to abstain from sexual contact, refraining from intoxicants. One becomes honest with oneself and others. One embraces moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of thought through education and betterment.

- Temperance: (Gluttony)
i.e., Self-control, justice, honor, abstention
There is constant mindfulness of others and one’s surroundings. One takes caution to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time. There is proper moderation between self-interest versus public-interest, and against the rights and needs of others.

- Charity: (Greed)
i.e., Love, will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice
Charity is not the same as simply giving money out to homeless people. Charity or Love as a congruent definition is loving kindness towards all others, self-sacrificial. The sacrificing of oneself can include a sacrifice of one’s time, services, finances, etc.

- Diligence: (Sloth)
i.e., Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude
One has a zealous and careful nature in ones’ work and actions. One has a decisive work ethic, is steadfast in belief, fortitude, and has the capability of not giving up. One budgets ones’ time, monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. One upholds ones’ convictions regardless if others are watching or not, indicating integrity.

- Patience: (Wrath)
i.e., Peace, mercy, sufferance
There is forbearance and endurance through moderation. One resolves conflicts and injustice peacefully as opposed to resorting to violence. One accepts the grace to forgive, show mercy to others. Create a sense of community and stability.

- Kindness: (Envy)
i.e., Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity
Empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment. There is unselfish love and voluntary kindness without bias or spite. One has positive outlooks and a cheerful demeanor. One inspires kindness in others.

- Humility: (Pride)
i.e., Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism
It involves modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is a spirit of self-examination. Courage of the heart is necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved. There is reverence for those who have the wisdom and those who selflessly teach in love. One gives credit where its’ due while not unfairly glorifying one’s one self. One becomes faithful to promises, no matter how big or small they can be. One refrains from despair and the ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation

Hunger Cues: Katie Davis

Are You Hungry?

One approach I teach when working clients at The Awakening Center is Intuitive (or Mindful) Eating. Intuitive eaters eat when they are hungry and stop when they feel satisfied. We all had the ability to do this as babies. Have you ever tried to take food from a baby or small child who is still hungry? It’s not pretty! Unfortunately, as we grow older, many of us lose the ability to not only recognize but - more importantly - to trust our body’s cues of hunger and fullness. The good news is that this skill can be re-learned, leading to a comfortable and healthy long-term relationship with food.

One common struggle in the process toward becoming an intuitive eater is recognizing when the body is signaling hunger. Many clients incorrectly believe that they should only respond to stomach growling. In fact, the body gives us many signals that it is time to eat…and oftentimes stomach growling is the very last cue.

The next time you are trying to determine whether or not you are hungry, look for these physical cues or signals. This is your body saying “I need more energy!”
  •  Headache: Note - try to drink 1 cup of water and wait 15 min in case you are in fact dehydrated. If headache persists, it is time to eat.
  • Fatigue/lack of energy: A particularly good hunger cue if it has been >3-4 hours since you last ate
  • Dizziness: When sitting or upon standing
  • Problems concentrating on a task or focusing on a conversation
  • Nausea: Often occurs when other hunger cues have been ignored and extreme hunger has set in
  • Stomach growling or hunger pains: Clearly it’s time to eat!

Many of these signals (i.e. headaches, dizziness, etc.) originate in the brain because the brain gets priority when it comes to energy supply. Plus the brain runs 95% on energy from glucose, which is mainly derived from carbohydrate intake. So it is not surprising that if hunger is ignored for too long, oftentimes cravings for high-carbohydrate foods set in. High-carbohydrate food are quick, easy source of glucose. Your brain is smarter than you think!

Some clients claim they can go for hours during the day and feel no hunger at all. Keep in mind that caffeine, stress and focusing on an important task can all affect our ability to “hear” our body signaling us. To better listen, make an effort to stop what you are doing every few hours and become aware of your body and any signals that might be present. Take a few deep breaths or go for a quick mindful walk. You may find that you were in fact hungry all along, but simply forgot to listen.

Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers both individual and group nutrition counseling at The Awakening Center. For more info call Katie at (773) 929-6262  x24.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over Again

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over Again

"Nothing's impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again" (Lyrics by: Dorothy Fields / Music by: Jerome Kern).

On the path to recovery, to a greater understanding of oneself, or even just an improved outlook – it can be tempting to beat oneself up whenever life throws a curveball and a moment or a day or a week occurs that makes you feel like you have messed it all up.  It can sometimes feel like you have to press the reset button on all of your progress, and that nothing you accomplished before that difficult moment counts anymore.  I know I have struggled with this concept.  I felt that if my recovery or my plans for self-improvement weren’t just perfect, that I either wasn’t doing it right or I was just a failure.  I was living in this black and white world where there wasn’t room for progress, only “perfection”.  Then one day I was introduced to two concepts that actually made me pause and reflect on how I was approaching my life.  I was told that I couldn’t push the river, it was simply going to flow as it needed to.  I was also told that if I did find my “chin on the ground”, to be a gentle cop; meaning to acknowledge that perhaps I had experienced something difficult, and perhaps didn’t make the best decision in the moment, but that I didn’t have to beat myself up so badly that I couldn’t even get up again.  I could love myself, understand that I’m human, and just get back up again and continue down my path.  As I adopted these thought patterns and practiced them, I found that I did indeed become more gentle with myself, and over time I actually stopped perceiving myself to be on the ground so much.  It just felt like life, and I was walking down my path with a greater feeling of Self-love and Self-acceptance.  If you find yourself in a moment with your chin on the ground, perhaps you can practice pausing, remembering you can’t push that river of Life, and gently remind yourself that it’s OK, you’ve still accomplished so much, and you are experiencing your journey and your recovery exactly the right way for you.  You don’t even have to start all over again – you simply pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep moving onward.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Falling Apart: Erin Diedling

Falling Apart
By: Erin Diedling

Falling Apart, Coming Unglued, Becoming Unraveled…It’s Good Stuff. No. really.
The idea of it sends most people running, saying uncle or plugging their ears. But it is also an act of being. An act of bravery. I speak from the front lines.
I have the great privilege to work with the brave clients who seek help in dealing with a binge-purge cycle, ADHD, OCD or the myriad other smart ways their nervous systems attempt to right the proverbial ship. I find that these clients use these tactics because they are simply looking for a way to defend against what may feel like a greater emotional pain. It’s actually quite intelligent of the body and psyche to defend against what feels scary and overwhelming. They may fear that if they don’t defend against the overwhelm, they may fall apart. But don’t underestimate the power of coming unglued…the genius of falling apart.
This is usually the difference between a client who goes away to treatment and a client who tolerates the suffering so as not to go away to treatment. That’s what treatment centers are FOR – for clients to fall apart and to have multiple safety nets in place as they do fall to pieces. It is the grateful kind of falling to pieces.
Most of the work I do in a private practice setting, while working with trauma, eating disorders and blocked artists/creatives has to do with controlled little-falling-aparts. Clients keep it together during the week and then come the weekly appointment, in a safe incubator they fall apart a tiny bit in session, do some psychoeducation, and get back on the road of day-to-day life armed with new tools and skills.
In our offices, at The Awakening Center, in a quiet, non-shaming and safe way, we hold a space for clients to gently sink into and feel those emotions. We invite them to sense inside and find a voice, an image, a color, a sense, an expression for that small quiet or scared part to speak up, to be scared, and to get the comfort – to FEEL the comfort and finally get what she needed, even if it is 20 or 30 years after the scary, annoying or triggering incident.
Sometimes it is in the falling apart that the true self can come forth. In allowing ourselves space, time and permission to fall apart, we allow things to ultimately fall INTO place.
I recently had an experience going into what I affectionately call, “the dark night of the soul”. And I don’t say that lightly. It was some of the most difficult, albeit intentional, raw space I’ve ever handled. It is my job to keep others safe. To keep it together. To be a healing force for the mental health of my clients and to forge greater awareness of trauma treatment in the world.
And yet, at the core of me, I knew I needed to fall apart. So I did. I gave myself time, space, permission and the required ethical time away from client work to go through whatever it was that would get me where I knew I needed to go. I craved greater self love. I craved putting my emotions as a priority. I wanted to KNOW what interested me. But I grew up in an environment which put all that on the back burner. There was always a fire to put out, there was always chaos or oppression to dodge.
I see this in my clients. When kids grow up in that kind of home and I ask them as adults what they prefer, what they like, what they desire, I’m often met with silence and a faraway stare. This is a new question to a client who grew up in chaos and/or trauma. If we’re lucky, we’ll actually have time to explore those preferences in therapy. They may have habits, ways to regulate the nervous system, ways to stay safe via ADHD, OCD, restricting or binging and purging, etc, etc. Habits to stay safe are one thing. But when you ask them what they WANT, what is fun, what is worth it, what is desirable, what makes them tick????? Well, that is a whole other ballgame.
Counselors often attract the kind of client they are or the kind of client who has been through what the counselor has been through. Hopefully, a good and ethical counselor will continuously do the internal work so that she can be a wise and experienced resource to her clients. That experience can only add to the compassion within the therapeutic alliance.
My compassion has increased as I see clients who are looking at the potential for unraveling. I let them know that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. That they have their answers inside. That finding the answer may involve some falling apart. It may also involve some joy.
For me, in the process of falling apart, I trusted in the universe and I trusted that the child inside could and would get the support she needed. I joyfully sank into the trust of the universe. And interestingly, the universe delivered. Gratefully, colleagues, healers, friends, even strangers showed up for me in such unusual places. I got everything I needed and more. And my heart is broken open, inviting, but protected and radiating trust. This is all new.
So, you say you’re afraid of falling apart? It’s pure genius. Go for it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Slowing Down and Being Present: Deandra Christianson, Intern

Slowing Down and Being Present
By: Deandra Christianson

Lately, I have noticed, more than usual, the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Everyone is in a hurry, has somewhere to be, a cell phone attached to one hand, and coffee in the other. People are honking if the person in front of them doesn’t move his or her foot from the break to the gas pedal fast enough after the light turns green. Everyone must constantly “go, go, go!” Now add to the mix cell phones, texting, e-mails, Internet, and computers, and we truly can be reached almost anytime, anywhere.

Personally, this all gets to be a lot. I have started challenging myself to live in the moment and notice the experiences around and inside of me more frequently. Taking a deep breath can bring me to a place of awareness, but sometimes it takes a little more work. This usually happens when I am stressed out or overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. In those times, it feels as if all I can think about is the daunting “TO DO” list. When this occurs, I go through my senses and try to pay attention to what each one is experiencing in that particular moment.

When I practice being in the moment, I am brought to a place of gratitude. I am better able to see all of the wonder and beauty around me. Being in the moment helps me forgive and move on from the past and to not worry about what is to come.

And of course, after these moments, my “TO DO” list is always there waiting for me, and the constant “go, go, go!” goes back to normal. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Different Points of View

Different Point of View
Courtney Morris

 Through my own experience and simple observation, I have recently become aware of the importance of opening oneself up to others' perspectives.  It seems that too often we get caught up in our own lives, which of course is easy to do, and fail to notice (or even try to imagine) what life may be like for others.  When we allow ourselves to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" (please forgive the cliche), we are opening ourselves up to new experiences and opportunities to gain new insights in which we may not have otherwise. 
    Lately I have tried doing this myself, simply as an experiment.  Whether in a conversation with a friend or family member, or even during a discussion at school or work, I have found the experience to be not only eye-opening but also quite beneficial for the relationship on both ends.  I tried this without telling anyone what I was doing, but it may be helpful to tell a friend what you are doing, if you think he or she could benefit as well: "I've been finding it really helpful to look at life from different perspectives lately."...
    I also found some simple ways to incorporate this into my life.  First, I simply started asking myself some basic questions, such as "what might this situation be like for (so and so) based on his or her background/personality, etc."? or "how might (so and so)'s experience be impacting how they are reacting to what I'm saying right now?".
    In learning to live more open-mindedly with an appreciation for others' perspectives, we can all grow and hopefully become more understanding people

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stress and Coping:Cara Chill

Stress and Coping
Cara Chill

As a senior in college, I often refer to my life as a balancing act.  It is up to me to maintain good grades while applying to graduate programs, doing research, volunteering, and interning.  As much as I love staying busy, it sometimes becomes overwhelmingly stressful.  I am sure most individuals also have this contradicting life style of trying to keep busy without becoming overloaded.  Personally, I feel stress in small increments can be beneficial, it gives us a reason to get out of bed our start our day.  However, chronic stress can be detrimental to our well-being and may cause physical, emotional, and psychological harm. 
There have been many times in my life where I have felt unsure on how to cope with stress and after years of experimenting, I found working out.  Working out had always been something I incorporated into my life but I never looked at it as a way to manage my stress.  I usually looked at working out as a way to be healthy and keep myself fit but today, it is a simple way for me to deal with stress.  Exercising not only gives me time to think about things in my life, it also ironically, provides a momentary escape from reality and allows me to work on the parts of myself that need some TLC. For me, the best feeling I could give myself is a nice workout followed by a shower and a good nights’ sleep.  Whenever I am stressed and do my routine of working out and getting enough sleep, I wake up feeling refreshed and prepared to start my day. Exercising is also beneficial because it releases endorphins which make you feel good that may also help when dealing with stress. 
            I understand that exercising may require time and planning which not everyone can dedicate to.  Also, some people would rather cope with their stress in a different way other than by working out. In that case, there are many other things that have been found to help decrease stress and some take little to no time at all!
1.      Laugh- it is so simple and you will have fun doing it.  Laughter reduces tension and improves blood flow to the heart.  So when stressed, spend some time with a friend or rent a funny movie and forget about your worries.
2.      Write/ keep a journal- it is also great to record your thoughts and feelings and writing your troubles down can be soothing and also a great way to release tension and look at the situation from a different perspective.
3.      Spend time with those you love- spending time in a place you feel relaxed with those you love provides you with a sense of comfort gives you a sense of belonging and purpose.
4.      Meditate- when you feel tension take some time and take deep breathes.  This can be calming and bring you solace.
5.      Be thankful- there is always something or someone to be thankful for and sometimes we tend to focus on the negative things in our lives instead of all the wonderful things.  It is always refreshing to remember all the positive things in our lives. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Negative Core Beliefs and Black-and-White Thinking

Negative Core Beliefs and Black-and-White Thinking

As you know, for a long, long time, I’ve been writing a book about Recovery from Eating Disorders – and finally I am in the process of doing the final “hard edit.”  This means that many good sections of the book are being cut.  I’ve been saving these sections in a file I call, “Good Stuff That’s Been Cut From The Book.”  
So I’ve decided to share these sections with you via our Blog.  This one is about Negative Core Beliefs and Black-and-White Thinking.  FYI - The Bully and the Outcast are two of your ‘Parts’ in their negative extreme roles.
Amy Grabowski

…Like the Bully, the Outcast also has distorted thoughts that reinforce negative Core Beliefs.  Black-or-white thinking is common, “There are good people and bad people.  If I do something bad, I am a bad person.” 
Black-or-White thinking can be tricky, sometimes it’s not directly stated, it’s merely implied.  We need to dig a bit to reveal the Black-or-White thought distortion.  When your Outcast thinks, “I’m not lovable,” it implies that you, the whole person, do not possess one lovable quality and not one person in the entire world finds you lovable. 
When my clients say, “Nobody likes me,” I respond in a warm but teasing tone, “Wow!  Even all the people in Asia?!  I didn’t even know that they all knew you!”  Usually the next response will be more realistic, “Well, no one at my office likes me.”  But not to concede to the distortion in even that thought, I question, “No one?  Not even one?” 
At this point I’ll get one of two responses, a realistic response or another distortion.  A realistic response would be, “Yeah, I’ve got a few friends at the office.  But the office manager, Joyce, acts like she doesn’t like me.”  At this point I will ask, “How does that statement feel compared to when you said nobody likes you?”  Usually it feels much more manageable, something we can work on, something we can fix.
More often than not, instead of a realistic response, my question will elicit a very insistent distortion, “But it feels like no one likes me.”  In his book, Feeling Good, David Burns calls this Emotional Reasoning - believing something to be a fact merely because it feels like it is true, even if there is evidence to the contrary: “If I feel it, then it must be true.” 
Emotional reasoning is based on our Core Belief System.  For example, if most people at work show signs of liking you: they smile at you, and show interest in your weekend activities, this would clash with your Core Belief that you are not likeable.  So, you get rid of the evidence, “They don’t really mean it.  They just feel sorry for me.  They must want something from me.  You can’t trust others.” 
Sometimes the Outcast may even invent evidence to support her Core Beliefs.  For example, if you believe you are boring, every time someone glances away while you are speaking, the Outcast may think, “See, I was right.  They are bored with what I am saying.  I am boring.”… 

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC is the director and founder of The Awakening Center.  She hopes that her book will be accepted for publication this year!!! You may contact her at awakeningcenter@aol.com or (773) 929-6262 x11.