Post-Election Repair: Three Steps to Not Losing your Sh*t when Election Results Don’t Go your Way

Your phone rings. You look at your screen and notice it is your relative calling you, your family member who voted for the candidate who won the presidency, the candidate whom you did not vote for.

Suddenly all of the sadness, fear, grief, anger, and worry flood over you again. You have been feeling waves of these emotions for the last two days.

Sometimes they are so intense that you burst into tears.

Sometimes they hurt so much that you want to curl up in a ball and hide. It’s a situation that you don’t know how to handle, an unprecedented time of uncertainty and feeling out of control.

 

Coping With Feelings of Grief and Sadness

These experiences are being felt all over our country right now. No matter who you voted for, you are aware of an energy of divisiveness, fear and judgment that has percolated into our souls like a poisonous drip over the past year and a half.

Stress of this kind shows up in our bodies in somewhat unusual and perhaps unrecognizable ways – physical exhaustion, irritability, difficulty focusing, using destructive behaviors to self-soothe (or to attempt to), digestive problems, sleeping problems, volatility in your closest relationship because you don’t know how else to cope, avoidance, among many others.

The future is uncertain. What will happen next is unknown in many ways, and this can feed our fear even stronger. So what do we do? How do we discuss this with our children when we can’t wrap our heads around it ourselves?

Fear has run rampant in our country ever since the beginning of this election season and it came to a head Tuesday night when the country became more divided than ever before. Fear breeds hate.  We must not feed the hate.

 

Three Steps to Taking Care of Yourself and Finding Meaning in Despair

I certainly don’t have all of the answers on how to get through this difficult and trying time, but I have been leaning on many of my loved ones and listening to how they are coping. I’ve learned some quite amazing and …hopeful… things.  Here are a few ideas:

1.)  Let yourself feel. Many of us are in shock. Shock affects our nervous system in intense ways, slowing down our responsiveness and our abilities to integrate our minds with our bodies effectively. We are more susceptible to reacting with WHY and HOW COULD YOU, than responding with mindfulness. This will ease up.

 But for now, taking care of yourself and your loved ones in ANY way you need to is our           priority. Leave work early to go home and cry in your bed; call upon your neighbor to come sit with you and hold your hand; attend a gathering in your local community. Don’t try to change your emotions today. They are there for a reason and need to be given space to run their course. It won’t always feel this intense.

2.) Set boundaries. How might you mindfully address the family member in the beginning of this post? Give yourself permission to kindly and gently tell them that you are not able to talk with them right now and that you love them. That you will call them back later when you feel more able to come up with words to speak. This is on your own timeline, there is no deadline.

This is how boundaries are enforced: by identifying your need and your emotion, by recognizing who and want can either help with those needs or who might hurt those needs, and then communicating with them what needs to be in place so you can move forward.

Set boundaries with news sources and with social media. Social media can be a way of connecting with others who feel your pain, but it also can easily become an obsession and lead to more suffering. Choose your battles, and know when to turn it off.

3.) Lean in and come together. This is one of the most beautiful results of the recent election that I have witnessed so far. When we are united in pain, we can move forward to heal it. Connect with your neighbor and smile at them. Organize with your community to rally for local causes that matter to you. Volunteer. Attend a spiritual service. Recognize that we will get through this, stronger together than divided.

 

Nurture Your Spiritual Self

I’m noticing within myself a need to reconnect with my own spirituality as my soul has felt hurt and broken recently. I have wanted to avoid feeling things instead of trying to be with them and understand them.

I know that I tend to this part of myself when I am in nature. I am uncertain how else I can heal it, but I do know that spirituality connects us with a part of ourselves that is empowered to heal us. How can you connect with your spirituality?

 

Repairing with Love Instead of Dividing with Hate

In closing, I want to touch on how we might repair the love and connection that our society so desperately craves right now. We all make assumptions about people….this is a huge part of why there is so much fear, hate and judgment in our country right now.

We fear and we judge what we don’t know. Fear loses its power when we open up and allow.

The person who has different views than you do, whether they are a family member or friend or just someone you see walking down the street: try to offer them loving-kindness. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. Even if it feels like the most difficult thing to do in that moment.  You don’t know what it is like to be in their shoes, and if we can try to accept and allow instead of judge, then we’re one step closer to finding hope in our lives once again.

 

Steps to Self Compassion

Here is a mediation adapted from HeartMath that teaches us how to practice compassion for ourselves and for others:

  1. Recognize what you are feeling.
  2. Focus in your heart area and breathe in love for about a minute.
  3. Now breathe self-compassion through the heart area and throughout your entire body for a few minutes.
  4. Find a still, quiet place inside where you can feel this compassion. If negative thoughts or feelings about yourself arise in the mind, gently return your focus to the heart area.
  5. Radiate compassion out from your heart to any issues you are addressing – perceived failure, a feeling of inadequacy, insecurity or self-pity – with an honest understanding of what you are going through. Continue to do this for a few minutes, longer if needed, all the while creating within a heart-filled environment of compassion.

 

I’d love for you to leave a comment with any ideas you have for how to persevere despite adversity and how you have taken care of yourself in a time of turmoil and pain.  We are stronger together!


The Labyrinth of Recovery: An Ancient and Mysterious Archetype in “Eating in the Light of the Moon”

“In surrendering to the winding path, the soul finds wholeness.”

As I embark upon research and reading for my presentation at Friday’s Conscious Living Book Club event, I have come across the metaphor of the labyrinth.  This metaphor is truly speaking to me at this moment.  In Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, PhD, the symbol of the labyrinth highlights each of the chapters as Dr. Johnston explores how metaphors, stories, and fables can describe our relationships with food and can help us understand and heal from disordered patterns of eating and experiencing our bodies.

“The labyrinth walk is a request to nature for harmony.”

A labyrinth is a pathway that loops back repeatedly upon itself, reaches the center, and then winds its way back out again.  It’s different from a maze in that there are no barriers, false turns, or dead ends.  You cannot do anything wrong.  There’s only one path to the labyrinth, and you have no choice but to follow it.  The labyrinth is typically in the form of a circle, with a meandering but purposeful path, from the edge to the center and back out again.  On the spiritual journey we meet fellow travelers, obstacles and unexpected turns. The labyrinth walk is a process meditation that seems to suspend time as well as judgment and invites us to embody our experience in a completely new way.

Many see the labyrinth as a symbol of the journey of life, death, and rebirth and our journey through life.  In recovery from disordered eating or from any other type of addictive behavior, says Dr. Johnston, the journey requires you to follow a twisting, turning, winding path to your center.  You must leave behind perceptions of yourself that you have adopted from others and you must reclaim your own inner authority.

On your path, listen to your inner voice and allow it to offer guidance and support as you search for true thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Let go of linear expectation of progress, disengage the rational mind, embrace the power of emotion and intuition.  When you are able to do this, you can find freedom from behaviors and compulsions that have seemed to be holding you hostage, and your inner voice can guide you to nourish the TRUE hunger that you are feeling.

One of the cool things that I love about the labyrinth is that you can actually, physically, take this walk.  There are hundreds of labyrinths dotting our earth, many ancient and naturally born.  They have been healing tools for us for thousands of years!

As you wander the maze either literally or figuratively, imagine that you are wandering to the true center of yourself, you inner voice, your pure soul.  However, when you get to the center, when you find the essence of who you truly are, this is not the end of your journey — your task then becomes to find your way back out again and exit the labyrinth, and as you do so, integrate this new vision or understanding of yourself with a new way of being in the world.  This is the most pure definition of eating disorder recovery.

A mentor of mine uses the labyrinth concept regularly with the clients she helps, and envisions someday creating a real labyrinth for them to follow as they are working through healing issues in their own lives.  She had the idea that as they wandered through the labyrinth they could share all of the worries, anxieties, doubts, or negative self talk that plague them every day, and offer space to these feelings.  But once they reach the center and turn to find their way back out, they will come up against these feelings again on the path and this time they must offer them compassion, hope, and grace.  This exercise allows our FULL experience to be accepted and all feelings we might have, but as we integrate a new worldview on our way out of the labyrinth (or on our way in recovery) we can show ourselves that we are able to fully experience joy, peace, and love as well as the “negative” feelings.

Tell me:

  • How do you think the labyrinth could be a rich tool for eating disorder recovery?
  • How could it help you heal parts of yourself and discover what you are TRULY hungry for?
  • How does the metaphor of the labyrinth fit in with your own life journey and soul searching?
  • What other metaphors can be used in recovery?

Leave a comment with your own thoughts on this concept and any other ideas for how it can be healing!


A poem for the victims of the Aurora tragedy

I have struggled with the words.  The tragedy last Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado left me without breath, without sense, without energy.  As many of us try to pick ourselves up after this devastation, my heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones.  There is no understanding of this senseless act, and healing has just begun.  I am floored by the outpour of love and support that has enveloped Aurora and its surrounding communities and this gives me some sense of hope that light will shine again.  What do we do in times of crisis?  We cope in the way we know best.  We come together, or we isolate until we can face the light.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and we all experience loss uniquely.

 

If you or someone close to you is affected by this tragedy, please know there are many sources of support, many of them free or low-cost.  Please contact me at kate@katedaiglecounseling.com for more information.  I am here to support you.

I wanted to share a poem that I wrote about this tragedy, as it helped me release some of my pain and I hope it might provide some encouragement for others.

 

A Poem for the Victims of the Aurora Tragedy

A violation of personal safety

An explosion of broken boundaries

Chaos, fear, pain, then silence

To the victims

To their families

To their loved ones

I hold you

The words dissipate

The wounds are deep

Yet a community embraces

Each and every one

Light and hope are passed around

Like bread at the dinner table

Take a piece

Let it fill your belly

As it nourishes your soul

It empowers your body

This energy fills our limbs

So that we may embrace

One another

So that we may come together

So that we may stay together

So that we may hold one another

So that we may breathe

the healing has already begun

 


Healing the mind-body connection through body-centered psychotherapy

Have you ever felt like your body and your mind were disconnected, that you could not tell how you were feeling in your body based on your mind’s assessment? Maybe you have never thought about this — which would be a good indicator that perhaps your mind-body connection could use some more attention. Maybe you have felt a different type of mind-body connection, a toxic one, where you can feel pain in your body that has debilitated you emotionally. I know that sometimes when I am feeling low emotionally, I can feel it in the tension in my shoulders. Massage therapists could tell you how you are feeling emotionally based on the movement (or knots) in your muscles.

If this is a strange notion to you, think about it. When you do something that you physically enjoy, such as going for a run, does that tend to elevate your emotional state as well? Yes, endorphins are at play, but moderate exercise has been proven to decrease feelings of depression overall and deepen the mind-body connection, helping you become accustomed to reading the signals passed between the two spheres and addressing any pain. The mind and the body are much more in sync than we realize on a day-to-day basis, and if we do not notice where we are holding our emotional pain in our bodies, we risk damaging the mind-body’s delicate synergy.

When you have experienced emotional trauma such as depression, a loss of a loved one, an eating disorder, a divorce, or physical abuse, to name a few, chances are you are holding some of that pain in your body. Our bodies can be battlefields for our pain — somewhere we project our distress when it gets too much to bear. This can be seen in self-harm capacities such as cutting and eating disorders. Another effect of emotional trauma is dissociation — distancing and disconnecting from awareness so as to lessen the sensation of pain. While our pain may be held in our bodies, we have distanced ourselves from it as a protective mechanism — but in turn we have also disconnected ourselves from our bodies.

So how do you notice where you hold your stress, tension or pain in your body and how do you release it? Practicing mindfulness meditation and deep breath-work can begin the process of reconnecting with our bodies and appreciating the present moment.

A weekly open therapy group is held at the office of Kate Daigle Counseling on Wednesdays at 5:30pm. At this group, we get into deeper forms of healing the mind-body connection and processing this experience. Find out more and RSVP at www.katedaiglecounseling.com.

 


Honesty in recovery

I found this amazing blog the other day called Voice in Recovery.  It is a comprehensive narrative on the struggles, challenges, victories, feelings, and wonderings that occur along the path of eating disorder recovery.  It is an accessible resource to all — those who are struggling with an ED, those who have recovered/are in recovery, and families and friends of those affected by EDs.  The topic brought out recently in this blog that I was inspired to write about is honesty in recovery.  The blog author talked about being honest with all of the feelings, cravings, desires, and motives that you might have in your recovery.  I was struck by the HIDDEN theme in the post.

Eating disorders are complex and intricate mental illnesses that affect every part of a person’s life: their mind, body, emotions, feelings, soul, and their family and friends.  The ED can completely alter the way that you perceive the world as your are seduced by the powers of the ED voice.  The most essential ingredient in recovery, in my opinion, is the way that you fight back against the power of the ED, reclaiming who you are and revitalizing your strengths.  To find yourself and reclaim that fighting voice, you must be honest — with yourself, your family, your friends, your therapist, and anyone else who is in your life and who you would like to support you in your recovery.  While we are surrounded by people who love us and want us to be healthy, we cannot stand only on the feet of others…we must learn to stand on our own and we must turn inward and take a stark look at the factors that are contributing to the ED behaviors.  This can be intimidating!  It can bring feelings of guilt, shame, and loneliness – the very feelings that EDs thrive upon – to open ourselves up and try to heal the wounded parts.  I VERY strongly suggest that you do this with the help of a therapist, someone who is trained to hold those feelings for you as you sort through them and find ways to not let them be so central to your perspective.  Those uncomfortable and sometimes painful feelings that can surface when honestly looking at recovery may tempt you to close up and HIDE again…but they will not go away until they are exposed and you are freed of them.

Honesty is crucial in every part of life: in intimate relationships, in financial transactions, in college applications, and in legal documents.  Being honest can bring with it a feeling of freedom and release.  For someone who has suffered from an eating disorder, you may yearn for that feeling of freedom and release, but find yourself confronted with a dark and tangled forest of secrets, low self-esteem, and negative feelings that leave you exhausted before you even take a step.  Being honest is the key to getting to the light on the other side, and with that honesty must come a promise to embrace yourself with acceptance as you wade through the tangled roots.  I think the most liberating thing about honesty, whether it is in recovery from an ED or if it is involved in a relational issue, is the fact that you are letting a weight off of your shoulders that you may have carried around for some time.  And as you feel emotionally lighter, there is less and less obstruction towards the freedom and healing that you have been working towards.   Ultimately on a journey towards honesty, you will end up in a place where you can say “I am okay”.  Those three words can be very powerful.  When you are able to say “I am okay” and “there is nothing wrong with me”, and ED begins to lose its power and you begin to regain the strength you crave to design your own free life.