Are you analyzing me? Is the first thing people say when they find out I am a Psychotherapist. Its crazy. We could be having a conversation about politics, high fashion, the last episode of True Blood or house hunters on HGTV and somehow it comes up that I am a psychotherapist and boom! This is what they ask me. I’m talented but not enough to be discussing these topics and secretly analyzing you at the same time. To all non-therapists, asking a therapist if they are analyzing you is the quickest way to get a therapist to analyze you.
If you are interested in therapy I am your girl. I am funny, skilled, easily approachable and strong. Sounds a little like a personal add doesn’t it? But shouldn’t it? It is probably one of the most personal services you will ever seek . This is a time during which people really need therapy. But it is of course a time during which they cannot afford it. So I have decided to write a series of articles that cover the therapeutic issues that come up in my practice that you might find helpful.
So today’s topic is cheap treats, how to treat your mind to the respite it needs for little to no money. Lets start with little money first. If you are interested in counseling/ psychotherapy, many psychotherapists in private practice, including myself, work on what is called a sliding fee scale. They slide their fee down according to income and need. Another option is to go to an agency such as The Mezzoni Center, The Women’s Therapy Center, The Council for relationships or any religious agency, such as Catholic Social Services, which offer non-secular counseling. The advantage to seeking counseling at an agency is that they are usually able to slide their fees much lower. The disadvantage is that they often have a long waiting list and you are assigned a therapist rather than being able to pick the person that you work with.
Many yoga studios such as Yoga Child, Wake Up Yoga and Studio 34 offer donation classes. The way this works is that you make a donation for the class, usually no lower than 5 or 10$. Classes usually cost between 15-18$.
So now for the free stuff. Here is a list of completely free actions you can take to calm your mind during these stressful times. I will give specific directions on how to utilize all of these suggestions but remember these tools are best used in a way that most benefits you.
- Journal for at least 5 minutes. The goal is to get the stuff out of your head and on to paper. Some guidelines: don’t pay attention to grammar or your handwriting, write on an as needed basis. Many people feel pressure to write for a long time or every day. Remember this is for you, you do this in a way that works for you.
- Do a round of Yogic breathing every day or as needed. You will gain the most benefit by doing 5-10 breaths in the morning and in the evening before you go to bed. Breathing is the only element besides drugs that regulates your nervous system’s response to stress. The less you react to stress when it occurs, the less tired and overwhelmed you feel. The easiest breathing technique is one in which you do 5-10 breaths. Your inhale and exhale equal one full breath. Breath in and out of your nose. Count your inhale and then double whatever your count is on your exhale. If you count your inhale at 4 then your exhale should be 8. You may be forcing your breath at the end of your exhale but that is fine because you are trying to lengthen your breath because the shortness of your breath signals the nervous system that you are stressed.
- Take a break from Reality TV shows, the gossip rags. In small increments these pastimes offer great escape but sometimes spending to much time in other people’s reality makes it harder to find the peace or good in your own.
- Take a break from any kind of trauma media; CSI, Law and Order, horror flicks, the news. You can experience what is called vicarious trauma, which means secondary trauma. When this happens your mind absorbs the elements of a show or news that are traumatic and reacts as if it is happening to you. This can cause unnecessary stress or ultimately lead to burn out especially if you have have previously experienced trauma.
- Google calming exercises such as different sequences of Yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi. These practices offer the benefits of a moving meditation. They link your breath with each movement. Especially for people who experience a great deal of anxiety, or are very active the combination of meditation with physical exercise can make it easier to calm down.
- Spend 5 minutes upside down. This can calm your brain, relieve stress, alleviate mild depression and help with sleep disturbances(for more info search the anatomy of inversions). In Yogic speak the term is inversion. You don’t actually have to be upside down. The key is to have your feet over your head. Legs up the wall is the easiest inversion. Scoot your butt up to a wall, your upper body lying on the ground. Gently move your legs over your hips to rest flush with the wall. Arms can be down by your sides, over your head or wherever they feel comfortable. It is helpful to combine your breathing from #2.
- Read a great book, fantasy, romance, autobiography. A book that offers you hope, inspiration or gives you a break from your own reality.
- Start your day with a page or a line from that very hip boutique Zen book that was given to you on your birthday 5 yrs ago. Spend some time thinking about how it applies to your life. I use The Tao of Inner peace, a concise little book that breaks down the Tao Te Ching into small increments making it easier to apply to your own life. Stop staring at it and read it! Who has ever heard of Zen by osmosis.
- Get into nature and move. Take your canine friend or a human will do in a pinch and move, move, move. Get your blood flowing, release some endorphins. Especially when the sun is shining we can all benefit form sunlight.
- Let go of spending a lot of time with people who are difficult. Times are difficult enough. Get together with people who are easy to be around and who make you laugh. So cheesy is the line, “Laughter is the best medicine.”, but when was the last time you “belly laughed”. For me it was with my youngest niece. First she tried to pass me the “Pinto Grigiot”. Then we were with our friends who had just had a baby and she yelled out, “It is painful to have a baby!” We were all impressed with her level of empathy at such a young age. Then she followed up, in her Karen from Will&Grace voice, “No I mean it’s painful to my ears when they cry!” We cracked up.
Know that you are doing the best that you can and the rest is out of your control. Most of all try to be kind and gentle with yourself and the people around you. As times get tougher often our natural inclination is to be tougher on ourselves and the people around us. Instead commit to doing the opposite.
Psychobabble4u, signing off
**If you like this blog please share it (use the SHARE button)…we all know somebody who could use a little help…:)**
(c) Cori Grachek,: January, 2009
If you have any questions about therapy, are interested in therapy or just have a more private thought or question that you would like to share with me I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
**This is not and can never be a replacement for therapy