Self-care: Mindfulness

When we hear someone say “take care,” it could be a friend saying goodbye, for now, as we part. Sometimes it’s meant seriously by someone who we are very close to. It could be that they want us to drive safely or get a little more rest.

In this hectic age we live in, Psychologists are inundated with people who suffer from anxiety, not infrequently to the point of suffering from panic attacks (shortness of breath or heart palpitations or fear of going crazy or dying, or nausea, or feelings of unreality or dissociation, as some of the symptoms).

As a result, many Psychologists are helping clients with Mindfulness training.

Dan Siegal has written a number of books on this subject (such as The Mindful Brain, Norton, 2007).

In my experience both personally and as a therapist, we experience stressful situations that we don’t have time to process or are afraid to process and or don’t know how to process. Our minds can add additional stress by focussing on things we can’t control, such as illness or our children’s issues. All of this unprocessed stress is like water behind a dam: eventually it goes over the top of the dam, resulting in conditions like depression, anxiety, illness, need to medicate and or anger issues.

Mindfulness by it’s nature trains us to stop adding to the stress and take time to detach and take care of ourselves. We move away mentally, for a few moments, from problem solving, to do lists and planning. We decide to take some time to take our emotional/physical “pulse” if you will. We become aware of our “state:” our breathing, heart rate, and tension in our muscles. This awareness puts us in the position to relax. Additionally, we can utilize techniques to open up channels for these stored energies to be released.

The technique I prefer for active releasing of stress (an additional technique) is called Brainspotting, but that discussion can be for another post. See my website:; Arizona Brainspotting Center, for more on Brainspotting.

It can be remarkably helpful to know how to relax. We do this by learning to be mindful of our bodies. Once mindful, we can allow (not force) the body to return to it’s fundamental quiescent base, which is quite restorative!  What you’ll see below is called Autogenic Training. This is a technique we can do ourselves (hence “auto”). Since being trained in it decades ago, I have found it to be perpetually of great value (yes, for me also).

So…take a few minutes right now if you’re able, and take a moment to indulge in Self-care!

1. Clear your mind…leave the rim of the wheel where all your concerns are and go down inside to the hub…find God’s presence there…Be Still and Know That I Am God…detach from all worries…just be here and now. To the degree that we can accomplish this (sometimes no mean task), we do not add any new stress to the body while relaxing.

2. Once you are working on detachment (notice it’s something you keep doing) start the autogenic training:

Sink into your chair and intentionally relax all your muscles…go
through your body (body scan) to see where you might be holding tension
and release where you can
Then give yourself the following commands…Remember, you can’t
force compliance, but you can allow healthy responses. Stay Curious,
Open, Accepting and Loving:
My arms and legs are heavy and warm…let that be so…notice what
your body does with this and let it deepen. Blood flowing to the extremities brings weight and warmth.
My breathing is calm and regular…let your breathing be deeper,
slower and very regular if possible
My heart beat is calm and regular…notice your heart beat…let it slow
down…the goal is that there is no pounding or racing…if there is, that will be
part of our work later
My forehead is pleasantly cool (sometimes blood flow gets a little too
busy in the head)…use this if necessary

Take 10-15 minutes to feel where YOUR BODY relaxes and enjoy and deepen it by
continually repeating the commands above while allowing your body to respond.

Warning: you may not want to stop after 15 minutes!

For more information, see my website:

Hope found in the midst of Robin William’s passing

How shocked we all were when we heard of Robin Williams’ passing. I liked what I heard Keith Ablow, MD, say on the news: while depression is a common malady and can be fatal, with education and awareness there is great hope. He went on to say that psychotherapy is the “gold standard” of treatment and that there are many medications which can be helpful. There are even novel medical treatments which are very promising for treatment-resistant depression and mood disorders.

We need to be talking about the signs of depression such as sadness, appetite and sleep disturbances, loss of interest in usual pleasures and other changes. We need to overcome the stigma of having depression by speaking out about it. Resources such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) are free for the person suffering from the illness and the families suffering with him or her.

Often the family physician or clergyman is the first to hear of a person suffering from depression. They assess and refer to mental health professionals, such as psychologists, as they prescibe helpful medications. It is important to treat depression and other mood disorders when they are detected because of the damage to relationships, work functioning and of course the person’s health and or life that can occur.

There is hope. We must take advantage of our loss of a favorite celebrity to speak to others about this subject and what can be done about it. Sharing on this blog, for example is my way of doing that. As others respond to this post, we can create a valuable discussion about the subject that others, from the comfort and safety of their personal computers and devices, may benefit from in amazing ways.