Breathing

“Don’t forget to breathe!” “You are holding your breathe.””Take a deep breathe.” All of these reminders about how important it is to breathe. As a therapist, I have learned that among the strategies explored to manage intense emotion, positive and negative because our bodies respond to distress and eustress in the same way, breathing is the most effective and easiest to use.

Yoga instructors teach the importance of breathing as do Lamaze instructors. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says we could spend a year learning about how to breathe and he gives some simple instruction in his book The Art of Mindful Living. In a nutshell when we breathe, consciously choosing to do so, we slow down. We open up the neural pathways in our brains, giving way to greater possibilities by increasing our awareness. When we hold our breathe and allow the adrenal response to rule the day we are operating from the smallest part of our brains, the mid-brain and we have limited options, fight or flight.

Something about this cool, crisp Fall morning is inspiring me breathe, other than the obvious absence oppressive humidity. Being reminded of the gift of the present, I appreciate slowing down, breathing, and in this moment knowing all is well.

 

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Witnessing Courage

This past Sunday, Grandparents Day here in the US, I had the privilege of being asked to be part of a panel of experts, as therapist who works with families, addressing grandparents at an event for them sponsored by our local chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. While the evening was meant to be a casual gathering to open up the dialogue about grandparenting and how Type I Diabetes impacts the experience of grandparenting, it was difficult to not be impressed with the passion, energy and knowledge of the people I met. I believe I came face to face with with tangible courage during the evening.

I have heard courage defined as “being about enthusiasm and commitment” during my training at Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy. After listening to the story of one set of grandparents in particular and in brief conversation with other parents after the panel discussion on Sunday, I heard one example after another of courage. Grandparents who dared to say things like “You don’t have to watch over your little sister, I will be there to do that.” Parents who challenged and educated their child’s school administration and staff to ensure their child had the opportunity to attend school safely in light of their medical needs. Adults who shared their experience of living with Type I Diabetes for twenty, thirty or forty plus years and their enthusiasm for life.

My exposure to Type I Diabetes and the impact this disease has on a family has been limited. In an effort to prepare for Sunday evening I contacted the mother of a young lady who has Type I Diabetes and who is a friend of my daughter. We talked at length about how grandparents, when involved, are an integral part of the support system families need in order to raise children and how grandparents, in an ideal situation, respond to the challenges of grandparenting a child with Type I Diabetes. The big “take away” for me was understanding the importance of what one of my clients, who happens to have parented a child with a serious chronic illness, calls the “most important question:”  “What can I do to help?” Asking someone this question and following it with active listening is just plain courageous and fundamental to healthy relationships.

The evening was hugely enlightening to me with regard to the role JDRF plays in helping folks manage this disease and in the fight to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. I heard about enthusiasm and commitment from the staff of JDRF locally and nationally, which was impressive to say the least. I encourage all of you who have not had a chance to learn about JDRF to check out their website. I have posted a link to their website on the “Links” page of this website. I especially encourage to take a look at the information there if you are a therapist working with families dealing with Type 1 Diabetes and has limited knowledge of how this disease impacts families. It is a fantastic resource for families and clients facing this disease and the professionals working with them.

It truly takes a village to raise a child and even more so when faced with a disease like Type 1 Diabetes. I am now a better educated member of the village and grateful for the opportunity to be witness to courage. I enthusiastically encourage everyone to buy a JDRF “sneaker” wherever you have the opportunity to do so or sponsor someone doing the JDRF Walk. The money goes to support some incredible research and network of resources for families dealing with disease.

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Transitions

Today marks the end of the first week of school here in many parts of the county. As this day comes to a close, I am aware this is a time of transition for so many. Parents, kids, teachers, the community at large are all experiencing a shift that will require patience, support and encouragement.

When a woman is in labor and she enters the transition stage of labor she experiences what some refer to as the most intense part of labor.  A birthing mom needs active support to navigate this stage of labor. Given reminders that she is not alone, that she is doing well, that her body was perfectly designed to birth her baby are encouraging and empowering.

We all need encouragement when navigating transitions in our own lives. School starting, our kids growing up and choosing different activities to participate in, completing drivers’ education or choosing a boyfriend are recent reminders to me that life is often about transitions. Reminders to myself to be patient, breathe, treat others respectfully, including myself have been part of my internal dialogue and what I have found to be soothing during this time.

Reaching out to your network of friends, implementing a different script for your internal dialogue that is encouraging, encouraging others around your by using respectful language, acknowledging that which you appreciate about yourself and others internally and out loud are some options for managing the transitions you experience in life. Asking directly for what you want and need will go far in meeting the need for support. Remember you are not alone as you transition and acknowledge the experience of transition for those around  you.

Happy Transitions!

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