Talking about Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery

We had the pleasure of being on the radio recently and we want to share our interview with you! We talked to A Mindful Emergence on WPVM-FM in Asheville, NC.

We talked for an hour about Therapeutic Yoga for Trauma Recovery!

We hope you can join us to listen to the show!

Care for the Caregiver

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By Melanie Trivette

Consider for a moment the number of caregivers in your life. You may first think about professionals: doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, teachers or hospice workers. You may also see a friend, neighbor, or parent who provides emotional and/or physical support to a relative or person in the community. You yourself may be one, tending to a sick child or elderly parent. The role of a caregiver is not an easy one, yet compassion is a natural response to seeing others suffer. Often the stress of helping or wanting to help can become overwhelming, resulting in ‘compassion fatigue.’

Compassion fatigue is “a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper (1).” Not to be confused with burnout, which encompasses general occupational stress, compassion fatigue can present symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to indirect exposure to traumatic events (2). These symptoms include, but are not limited to hopelessness, guilt, social withdrawal, and diminished self-care that can lead to negative habits or consequences for the caregiver.

Many caregivers experience compassion fatigue, and letting it persist can have detrimental and debilitating effects on one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state. Recognizing early signs and symptoms is the first step in managing it. You may already know that you have compassion fatigue, or you may need help assessing your situation. There are online resources available to help you determine your risk, such as this self-test quiz from Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project (CFAP). If you, or someone you know is experiencing or exhibiting signs of compassion fatigue, please consider talking to a licensed professional and trying some of our recommendations below.

Self-Care
One of the first steps toward healing from compassion fatigue is a renewed dedication to self-care. Identifying nurturing, joy-filled practices that help to ‘recharge your batteries,’ and incorporating them into your daily life can have a profound effect in minimizing symptoms of compassion fatigue. Such practices may include exercise, eating well, journaling, dancing, being in nature, meditation and achieving restful sleep. Consider getting an accountability buddy. Often it is easy to say we are going to incorporate self-care into our routine, but it can be the last item on the list, getting less attention than it deserves. Enlisting a friend or colleague as an accountability buddy can be a fun way to approach this new commitment to your well-being (2).

Connect With Others
Compassion fatigue can feel isolating, often presenting as social withdrawal. Seeking healthy relationships that provide the platform for connection and conversation can go a long way to reducing feelings of separateness. Talking about compassion fatigue with a licensed professional, co-worker, and/or support group are also great options. If you are experiencing compassion fatigue in your job, the chances are high that other people in your workplace and community are as well. Gather your resources, such as workplace bulletin boards or support group listings. Try this web site: CompassionFatigue.org

Respect Personal Boundaries
Defining healthy personal boundaries is an additional mechanism for managing compassion fatigue. Maintaining boundaries that promote a healthy work-life balance and checking in with those boundaries on a continual basis can be eye-opening and empowering. Those who do not help themselves first, are in no position to help others. See your personal boundary commitments as instrumental in supporting your role as a caregiver.

When you think about it, do you feel you know what real, healthy boundaries look like? Try these 10 tips from Psych Central to get you on track.

Discover Self-Regulation
Self-regulation may be a concept that you promote to family members, clients, students, and/or patients, but perhaps it is lacking in your own life. Identify methods of self-regulation that suit your lifestyle, such as meditation, breathwork practice, or yoga (3). Incorporate these tools during times of high stress to foster relaxation and build resiliency. See our article on 5 Tips to Be Here Now for simple ways to practice calming yourself.

An important thing to know is that compassion fatigue is a normal experience for many caregivers. Mother Teresa is known to have made it mandatory that her nuns take a year off from their duties every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of caregiving (4). You can heal from it too. Organizations such as CFAP have made it their mission to help caregivers recognize and manage their symptoms. Included here is a list of resources for those seeking help and support with compassion fatigue:

This blog post was co-authored by Melanie Trivette, Anna Ferguson, and Becca Odom. For more information about the authors, click here.

Please note that these suggestions and tips are based on our opinions, and should not be considered medical advice. If you are seeking to treat a traumatic experience, please consult a licensed mental health professional before engaging in these tips. You can find a practitioner in your area at the National Association of Social Workers web site: www.helpstartshere.org

References:
1. “Did You Know?” Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
2. “Secondary Traumatic Stress.” Secondary Traumatic Stress. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
3. Gentry, J. Eric. COMPASSION FATIGUE PREVENTION & RESILIENCY (n.d.): n. pag. Georgia Hospital Association. Web. 04 Dec. 2015.
4. Hopkins, Debra. “August 1934.” Burnout & Compassion Fatigue (2013): n. pag. My Viewpoint Health. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

5 Ways to Practice Compassion

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Photo by Tucker Wilson

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”– Albert Einstein

What wise words from a man of genius, to free oneself by offering compassion to others, to creatures, and to the natural world. So what exactly is compassion, and how can you feel the effects of freedom in your own life by practicing it?

Compassion can be defined as the conscious recognition and acknowledgement of another sentient being’s ability to feel pain, joy, love, sadness, grief, happiness or any other emotion or experience. (1) Being in tune with another’s emotional experience can broaden our awareness of the world around us, and lead to greater harmony in our lives and the lives of others. Keep reading to discover our five suggestions of ways to practice compassion in your daily life.

5. Perform a Random Act of Kindness

Performing kind and thoughtful acts that aren’t expected can have an exponential and contagious effect in alleviating suffering and brightening someone’s day. In fact, studies show that not only the people directly receiving a random act of kindness benefit, but that people observing a random act of kindness also benefit. A 2010 news article from UC San Diego reports on the study, “When people benefit from kindness they ‘pay it forward’ by helping others who were not originally involved, and this creates a cascade of cooperation that influences dozens more in a social network.” (2)

Put it in Practice:  At least once a day, practice compassion by extending a random act of kindness. Try allowing someone with a child in tow ahead of you in the grocery line, smiling at a stranger, giving a compliment to someone you don’t know, or holding the door open for another.

4. Volunteer

Dedicating unpaid time and talent to a worthy organization or cause that is doing great work can not only broaden your horizons, it can also help to ease the burden that many nonprofits face, a lack of human resources.

Put it in Practice: Volunteer based on criteria. Think of a cause that’s near and dear to your heart as well as your current availability and location. Consider how interesting a project sounds or the need of the organization or cause. These days you can even volunteer on vacation! If you need assistance in finding a worthy cause, check out the website VolunteerMatch.org.

3. Employ Sympathy & Empathy

Sympathy is an awareness of and reaction to another’s suffering. Empathy is understanding and feeling another’s pain yourself. Both are noble ways to respond to another’s suffering, and both offer avenues to practice compassion.

Put it in Practice: Reflect on times in your life in which you experienced suffering. Perhaps it was after the loss of a loved one, or after hearing a medical diagnosis. Think about how you were able to get through the pain and hardship. Contemplate your family, friends, neighbors, or fellow human beings going through the same suffering that you experienced. Respond with compassion by lending an ear, joining a recovery group, and/or sending intentions or prayers for healing and peace.

2. Consider Commonalities

We are all human. Even if we don’t have the exact same experience as another and cannot respond empathetically, we can still consider the commonalities that exist within everyone in the human race. Compassion is a fruitful result of thinking about these commonalities.

Put it in Practice: We recommend using the 5-Step Commonalities practice, as quoted below, that originally appeared in Ode Magazine (now, The Optimist). (4)

  • Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”
  • Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
  • Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
  • Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”
  • Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
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Photo by Tucker Wilson

1. Use Metta Meditation, or “Loving-Kindness” Meditation

‘Metta,’ often translated as ‘loving-kindness,’ is “altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest.” (4) Practicing compassion through Metta Meditation is a powerful tool that can cross time and space. When you start cultivating an understanding of the suffering of others, it can help you feel connected to others and peaceful in the midst of your own struggles. You realize that suffering is a universal experience, and this compassion meditation can help you become more patient and kind with all beings in the face of hard challenges.

Put it in Practice: Metta meditation is an active practice, where the practitioner cycles through various intentions for loved ones, friends, strangers, and even enemies. The practice can be performed anywhere and at anytime by consciously extending wishes of health, love, freedom from suffering, and peace to all sentient beings. Repeat the phrases below with the key words of “safety, happiness, health and peace” to practice a simple compassion meditation.

  • I wish you safety.
  • I wish you happiness.
  • I wish you health.
  • I wish you peace.

Continue the meditation by substituting “I” or “us” for “you” to increase the effectiveness of the meditation to create a compassionate state. (5)

This blog post was co-authored by Melanie Trivette, Anna Ferguson, and Becca Odom. For more information about the authors, click here.

Please note that these suggestions and tips are based on our opinions, and should not be considered medical advice. If you are seeking to treat a traumatic experience, please consult a licensed mental health professional before engaging in these tips. You can find a practitioner in your area at the National Association of Social Workers web site: www.helpstartshere.org

References:
(1) Ferguson, Anna. “Practicing Compassion: A Highly Effective Technique for Happiness.” Vibrant Heart Yoga. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

(2) “‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off.” ‘Pay It Forward’ Pays Off. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

(3) “WHY IT MATTERS.” Seeds of Compassion : Why It Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

(4) “Contents.” Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2015.

(5) Anna’s Metta Meditation Recording