Saturday, October 11, 2008

Being Triggered by Halloween?

Hi Everyone, I thought you might enjoy this article given the time of year. It's about being triggered by scary movies so I thought it might be in keeping with the spirit of Halloween.

For many folks, Halloween is a great fun time. Nonetheless, we don't all experience special days and holidays in the same way.

In my work with clients I've learned that if our trauma is related in any way (even in ways we cannot recall), we can be triggered. For instance, the goulish images, mock death scenes and frightening rituals of Halloween can evoke powerful flashbacks for some folks.

Does this surprise you?

Halloween is celebrated as a way to help us playfully deal with our fears. But if fears are rooted in unresolved trauma we might experience this event a little differently.

You see, if trauma is not resolved both emotionally and psychophysiologically it doesn't matter to the body that it happened years ago. The part of the brain that records trauma doesn't time-stamp it. There are good reasons for this.

The brain needs easy access to information that's critical to our survival. It's important to understand that trauma memories are very different from memories of people, places or book learning. These latter types of memories are prone to decay...like, "where did I park that darn' car of mine!"

Enjoy.feareyes_cropped1.jpg


Shrinklady




The Brain that Ate Milwaukee

"How Horror Flicks Make you Scared"

A friend once told me that she used to enjoy horror flicks. Emelia said it was the only time she felt 'normal' because she knew that everyone in the theatre was feeling the same paralyzing fear that she felt every day.

Our tolerance for suspense and what's considered scary is miles away from what it was a mere fifty years ago. Some folks might say, we've become more "sophisticated".

Others suggest we've numbed ourselves to the horrors. With the increasing numbers of stress-related illnesses and the spread of anxiety and depressive related symptoms, this might be the more plausible explanation. It certainly confirms what I see in my therapy office.
623287.scary_movie.jpg
You see, nowadays we're way too "activated".

Stress-related illness, anxiety and depression are symptoms of intense levels of activation. And, the higher one's level of activation--that is, the higher our internal rate of buzzing--the less conscious we are of what's around us. It takes more to grab our attention.

Not that we don't notice things. Some folks with high activation are hypervigilant about changes in the environment. But the higher our activation the less choice we have about what we can focus on. It's like seeing all the trees in front of you but failing to realize it's a forest.

But Emelia's comment just might be the biggest clue. With all of us buzzing a little higher these days, it takes a lot more to get an emotional reaction out of us. Horror flicks today more closely "match" our internal rate of activation.

Danger and Activation

Activation is a measure of how dangerous the world appears to us. That's how we get more activated - the brain learns through direct experience. With each negative or traumatic episode our brain buzzes a little higher.

The most important part of the equation is that the higher our activation the more the brain is dominated by the primitive, reptilian brain. The reptilian brain manages basic functions such as eating, breathing and sleeping including the survival mechanisms associated with fight, flight or freeze.

Not that we need to physically move into flight or fight to know we're operating in reptilian mode. We do it seamlessly as fantasies enter our consciousness.

The higher my activation the more I tend to notice things in a movie theatre that for others would be totally unimportant (i.e. where the exit doors are, or how many people are sitting near me). So in effect I've become a little more "street smart". The downside is that I'm less internally reflective, less conscious of social niceties, and less able to concentrate objectively.

It's a strange paradox. While high activation renders us hypervigilant to particular cues in the environment, it can also make us less aware of the wider world around us. That's because more brain resources are being dedicated to survival-related needs. And, none of this is under my conscious control.

Movie Therapy

Movies have the potential to evoke powerful emotions including fears. It's probably why most people go to them. Moreover, our reactions to movies can often illuminate some curious aspects about ourselves.

In fact, I believe some folks experience deeper emotions in movie-land than they do in their everyday lives.

Watching a movie is actually one of the few situations that approaches being in therapy. Indeed, the potential for us to shift emotionally when absorbed in a movie is quite high.

Moreover, choosing the right movie at a critical juncture in one's life can challenge and inspire us.

In the days following the opening of "Rocky" (or "Chariots of Fire") sales of running shoes shot through the roof. And how many couples tried a little harder after watching "Kramer vs Kramer"? Almost everyone could describe at least one movie that has inspired them.

But, not all movies are inspirational and they needn't be. Some are just for fun. As a psychotherapist, I've often "prescribed" such movies as "The Gods Must Be Crazy" or "Analyze This" for resourcing a depressed client between sessions.

frightened man

And then there are those movies that are downright chilling. Even so, sometimes this experience has less to do with the movie and more to do with who's watching it. In other words, it all depends on what's going on in the reptilian brain.


Movies are triggering.

I remember the first time I watched the movie "Speed" and how I was on the edge of my seat when the car chase finally ended. My shoulders were tense, my breathing was shallow, my gut was tight. I wasn't upset though. I was excited. My body was responding in a patterned way, a survival-based pattern that's arisen through the milenium of human evolution.

Terry, a friend of mine, watched the same movie. But his response, although similar, was different than mine. His arousal pattern didn't reach the height that mine did. We know each other well around movie scenes like these and we have our own quirky ways of managing activation. Terry is constantly up and about, fixing this, putting away that, during the action highs and lows.

When I anticipate a scary part coming up, I run into the next room and wait until he says it's safe to come back!

Movies and Your Health

What few people know is that how we experience a suspenseful or scary movie, depends to a large extent upon the health of our nervous system, reflected in how activated we are.

A healthy nervous system that's frightened easily recovers, returning to its baseline (i.e. homeostasis). It bounces back to normal faster.

However, if a nervous system is compromised by too much activation, there is literally not enough "room" to contain increasing excitement or fear. This extra energy spills over into symptoms such as increased anxiety, feeling speedy or wound up, being fidgety or restless.

...that is, until months and years later of unrelenting overstimulation we finally tap out. It's at this point that the body moves into a low arousal state called "dorsal". We're all born with the ability to move into dorsal.

In fact, dorsal is the dominate state we're born with. It's that flat, low energy
state often associated with brain fog. We move into the dorsal state when the nervous system has been compromised with chronically high levels of activation for too long.

You might recognize it if you found it hard to concentrate or focus on task. At the movie theatre you just might find yourself falling asleep.

The level of activation in your nervous system is a gauge of the latter's resiliency. You can think of activation on a continuum ranging from relaxation at one end to increasing tension at the other.

High activation in the nervous system is like a tightly wound coil that's on a hair trigger. The more activated the nervous system, the less likely you'll enjoy the exhilaration of tense movie moments. So, as Emelia became more in tune with her body, she could no longer tolerate the activating charge of over-the-top movie images.

A movie that's too activating for the nervous system can imprint upon your memory so strongly that you may have a hard time letting go - think of the dead girl climbing out of the TV screen in The Ring! A frightening scene can keep you buzzing and haunt you long after the movie's over.

frightened female

There came a point where Emelia, for instance, could no longer handle being at a horror flick. Her body said "no more". She learned that if she saw a scary movie she'd become even more agitated and reclusive in the days that followed. She'd be haunted not only by the graphic images she'd seen but also by flashbacks triggered by her own personal history.

We're not always aware of what triggers us.

A scene from a movie can launch the nervous system into heightened arousal by triggering a traumatic memory that's been totally forgotten. When this happens, you can leave the theatre and have no idea why you're feeling disturbed, agitated or unsettled.

I remember seeing "The Shipping News " for the first time. It was an afternoon matineƩ and the theatre was mildly crowded; I was looking forward to seeing Kevin Spacey, one of my favourite actors. Wouldn't you know it, a few minutes into the movie and I couldn't sit still. I couldn't find a comfortable position, and fidgeted, twitched, and shifted constantly in my seat. I drove my partner nuts!

On the plus side, this provided some good material for a few therapy sessions of my own...

Why we get triggered.

Movies easily trigger our excitement, our fears, and our emotions. In other words, they increase our activation. In the darkness of the cineplex, we can experience a range of sensations and emotions. But, good or bad, that's why we love 'em!

Movies are triggering because the raw images and sounds are processed directly by the reptilian brain.

It's only after this sensory information is processed by the lower brain that the neocortex (i.e. the thinking brain) gets involved (albeit milliseconds later). It's that brief delay between the reptilian brain's reaction and the neocortex's realization (that "it's only a movie") that accounts for why we get triggered.

In other words, when high activation is triggered in an artificial situation like a cineplex, the neocortex ends up having to override the reactions and compulsions of the reptilian
brain.

scared male

So you can tell yourself it's only a movie (your cortex is online), but your reptilian brain says otherwise. To the primitive brain, those images are the real deal!


So, here's what happens...


  • The heart beats quickly and forcefully.

  • Hormones flood the bloodstream.

  • Breathing becomes shallow and rapid.

  • The eyes dilate (to better identify the source of danger).

  • Blood is transferred from the surface of the skin to the muscles.

  • And, you get goose bumps all over.


It doesn't matter whether our fears are based in reality or imagination; the nervous system (i.e. the brain) responds in the same way!

One technique that movies use to reel us in is scaring us through the use of sound, including music. They take advantage of the fact that the brain is wired to process each and every note. We can shut our eyes but it's impossible to ignore the soundtrack.

Try closing your eyes during a scary movie. Your body will still get agitated if the score is effective in communicating threat.

From an evolutionary point of view, this all makes sense. The brain is wired this way so we can hear danger approaching even when we're asleep. Sound travels to the "front of the line" claiming our attention, whether we're awake or asleep; it's our built-in "early warning system" for survival. We don't become consciously aware of it (i.e. it doesn't get assessed by the cortex) until after it has been processed by the reptilian brain.

Remarkable, eh?

movie theatre

It was only after Emelia learned how to lower her activation level, that she could return to the joys of carefree movie-watching. Even so, her choices are very different today. They reflect a new appreciation and a wariness for what she allows into her brain--and into her life.

How did she reduce her activation level

Through a body-based therapy. The primitive brain is the power source for our emotions. Body-based psychotherapy works directly with the reptilian brain by accessing and modifying the neural wiring that underlies physical and emotional symptoms.

So the next time you're at the cineplex, here are seven signs to look out for to tell if you've been tirggered:

Seven Signs of Being Triggered

  1. Feeling restless or fidgety in your seat. (High activation)

  2. Feeling an urge to leave the theatre. Or, playing out emergency fantasies in your head. (Both are evidence of fight or flight.) Personally, I think I've played out more fire fantasies than a firefighter!

  3. Finding it hard to stay awake. (Dissociation)

  4. Getting bored when everyone else finds it interesting. (Numbing, associated with dissociation)

  5. Compelled to torque your body in an awkward position or overly leaning to one side. (High activation triggers defensive maneuvers)

  6. Buzzing throughout your body. (Discharge)

  7. Jiggling legs. (Discharge, stuck in a feedback loop)

When you look back at your reactions to a particular movie, remember that your body-based state before see the movie can also have an effect. For instance, if crowds
makes you nervous you may already be in an activated state when the movie starts.

Other things that can influence your movie enjoyment:


  • You normally feel fidgety and restless in public places.

  • You drank too much coffee or tea. (caffeine buzz)

  • You haven't slept for three days and now you're falling asleep. Well, that's a no brainer!

  • You're on a first date. (Congratulations, and good luck!)

  • You're mad at your partner and s/he is sitting beside you!


Tips for calming a revved up nervous system.

If you've become too charged up watching a movie the best strategy--in the short term--is to dial down on your sensory overload. This gives your body an opportunity to discharge the hormonal energy that got triggered. Try lowering the lights, shutting off the radio, having a hot bath with candles, for example.

Don't be surprised if your body still has a few twitches here and there. This is normal. That's how your body releases excess energy.

The long-term solution to reduce your overall activation and forgive the obvious plug, ...the best way I know how, is through a body-based counseling. For an introduction scroll below and check out Julie DiJoseph's Mp3's on Mind Body Relaxation.

So, the next time you go to a movie for pure entertainment, remember you're in for a full body experience. After all, the reptilian brain never sleeps.feareyes_cropped1.jpg







What's New in the Gift Shop -- Mp3 Special

Relaxation MP3's
Relaxation mp3

Can't let go?

Feeling pent up?

How to be calm and centered when you can't relax:

Mind-body therapy is the mind-body connection in action! Here's why.

The stress and anxiety we feel always shows up in the body...shoulders feel tight or hunched, chest feels constricted, stomach's in a knot. Sometimes we'll get uncomfortable and unfamiliar sensations: tingling, shaking, buzzing, aching.

Many people try to talk themselves out of stressful or anxious feelings, but this left-brain "thinking" strategy has limited results in changing the way your body responds.

A more effective strategy is to work directly with the right brain to change how you physically feel (i.e. to take a body-based approach). We've learned this from mind-body therapy and now we're passing it on to you.

A mind-body therapy approach to relaxation and stress relief.

For over 20 years Julie DiJoseph has successfully used mind-body therapies and techniques to resolve trauma and stress-related symptoms. And she's put the wealth of her experience into these three CD's.

We chose to highlight these MP3's on MyShrink because Julie's approach is an excellent example of the principles of mind-body therapy in action. We're proud to offer them to you now.

Based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine (Somatic Experiencing), Emilie Conrad and Susan Harper (Continuum Movement) and Dr. Donald Epstein (Somato Respiratory Integration), together they provide a fundamental model for changing how your body responds to stress.

Volume 1: Grounding & Releasing


Relaxation mp3You don't need a pill for stress or anxiety!


Based on the latest insights of neuroscience, this MP3 shows you how to
"get out of the way" and let your body recover, naturally and gently.


You see, our biology is programmed for fight or flight when we're under
pressure. It's like a car alarm that keeps going off inside you whenever you're stressed or anxious.

But did you know that we're also programmed to chill out when the pressure is off?

Julie DiJoseph, M.A., counselor and instructor, will teach you how to turn off that alarm. Let her guide you through this interactive CD as you learn, almost effortlessly, a skill you can use anywhere, anytime.

Gently release energies that keep stress and trauma locked in the body!

Her soothing voice creates an atmosphere of safety where you learn how to identify where the stressful energy is stored, and then gently release it.

As you follow a few simple instructions you'll discover how sensations in your body can "speak" to you. Then Julie will show you how to respond in a way that releases stress now, and builds immunity for the future.


Listen to an audio sample where Julie introduces grounding.




Volume 1: Grounding & Releasing

Contents:

1. Introduction: Grounding While Sitting (incl. Concepts) 41:51

2. Grounding While Standing (incl. Concepts) 9:50

3. Grounding While Sitting 17:00

4. Grounding While Standing 10:11

Download now. Get started right away!

Grounding & Releasing is now available in a convenient MP3 format. That's right, you can download it immediately.

Want stress relief away from home? Put it on your iPod and use it to calm down anyplace, anytime!

Save $5 when you purchase just the mp3. $19.95!

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Want the CD too? $24.95!

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“Great CD! You are very easy to listen to and the pacing was just
right. I felt more relaxed afterwards, especially in my stomach."

L.H., Student

"I love this CD! The more times I listened, the
easier it was to find solutions at home, and be patient and present and
less reactive with my students at school."

L.V., Teacher

"Excellent CD. The exercises were very illuminating. I was able to go back towork, had a lotof good energy, and was much more productive allafternoon."
R.H., Project Manager

Volume 2: Resourcing & Breathing

mp3 relaxation
In her second CD Julie shows you how to be calm and centered by accessing thoughts, images and emotions which comprise your inner resources. When these become grounded in the body using the exercises, then stress, anxiety and trauma can be released, leaving you focused and calm.


She also teaches you the power of breath and sound to further enhance your healing. Most importantly, this CD can gently and safely open up areas inside you that are ready to shift towards health and healing!


Listen to Julie explain the felt sense here:



Volume 2: Resourcing & Breathing

Here are the things you'll learn:

1. Resourcing & the Nervous System 9:13
2. The Felt Sense & Releasing Energy 8:43
3. Gazing & Pendulating 4:58
4. Making a Resource List 5:02
5. Using an Item From Your List 5:55
6. Integrating with Breath and Self-Touch 3:46
7. Follow Your Breath 3:55
8. Breathing into Stuck Areas 2:15
9. Breathing for Anxiety 4:03
10. Sound as Audible Breath 3:34
11. Sa Cha Sound 5:07
12. Spray O Sound 6:14
13. Spiritual Resources 6:44
14. The HU Song 4:55

Download now. Get started right away!

That's right, you can download the mp3 immediately. For a great stress reliever away from home, put it on your iPod and use it anyplace, anytime!


Save $5 when you purchase just the mp3. $19.95!

Or...

Purchase the CD and the MP3.

Free Shipping!

“This is a great CD! I got excellent
results, especially from the sounds, breathing exercises, and the HU
Song. I finally understand why the nervous system “freeze” causes so
much trauma as well as health problems.” K.B., Marketing Manager
"


“I had a major confrontation with someone and just ‘lost it.’ Your CD
really helped me calm down and re-focus. Thank you for doing this.”

B.M., Mother and Homeschooler

“I felt calm and relaxed after virtually all the exercises. They were easy for me to do.” M.M., Painter

Volume 3: Boundaries & Safety

boundaries and safety


In her third cd, Julie teaches you how to recover a feeling of safety, both in your relationships and in the world. The secret is in establishing healthy boundaries so you can be relaxed and confident in any and all circumstances.







In this CD you'll learn:

  • How feeling safe can change everything!
  • The real reason you want good, healthy boundaries...
  • Why you use old coping behaviors to feel “contained” in your body...
  • How stress and trauma cause holes or “ruptures” in our boundaries...
  • Simple exercises to replace old coping behaviors and feel less anxious...
  • How to locate where your boundaries have ruptured...
  • How to repair those ruptures...
  • How to test and reinforce your new boundaries...


"The very first story created such a deep feeling of calm in me. It really defined the concept of boundaries, and actually created a sensation of safety." C.R., Reporter


The exercises and tools that Julie teaches you are based on the latest neurobiological research. You see, boundary 'holes' or 'ruptures' make us overly-susceptible to people's thoughts and actions. So if your self-image is weak because of trauma, anxiety or stress, it means your 'boundaries' need some repair.

When you reduce your “fight / flight / freeze” energies you will:

  • Be able to stand up for yourself.
  • Be less reactive with others.
  • Feel strong and centered.
  • Be emotionally resilient in all circumstances.
  • Feel calmer, more relaxed, less stressed.
  • Know when you should be cautious, when bold.
  • Have healthier, safer, more loving relationships.
  • Feel more like the person you really want to be.
  • Worry less, and have more fun!


“This CD had the flexibility to fit me wherever I was, each time I listened to it. I’m now more aware of boundary ruptures before getting into a situation where they might occur. And if they do, I know I can fix them.

S.W., Occupational Therapist


Listen to Track 10 here as Julie describes repairing your boundary ruptures:


Here's what Julie will teach you:

1. Safety - What does it Mean? 7:14
2. Boundaries & Containment. 7:09
3. Feel the Boundaries of your Physical Self 4:06
4. Feel Contained when you're Anxious 3:56
5. Your Body & Your Energy Field 3:27
6. Freezing & Boundary Ruptures 3:39
7. Types of Boundaries 7:34
8. Your Boundary Strategies 4:09
9. Locating Your Boundary Ruptures 6:34
10. Repairing Your Boundary Ruptures 5:36
11. Reinforcing Your Backfield 5:54
12. Testing Your new Boundaries 5:29
13. The Power Stance 2:55
14. Your True Self 5:23

For someone who has no experience with psychotherapy or counseling, this CD helped me a lot. It gave me a clear understanding of the harmful boundaries I’ve built and ways I’ve used to contain my body, mind and emotions. Now I can rebuild healthier boundaries that help focus my energy, so I can be calmer and less anxious.” H.L., Bookseller

Download now. Get started right away!

That's right, you can download the mp3 immediately. Put it on your iPod to learn and practice repairing your boundaries anyplace, anytime!

Save $5 when you purchase just the mp3. $19.95!

Or...

Purchase the CD and the MP3.

Free Shipping!

Remember!

Healthy boundaries are essential to get what you need and want in your world, and in your relationships. Feeling safe and contained in your body is the key.

Volume 3 teaches you practical, body-centered ways to develop healthy boundaries, so you can relax and feel safe and centered in any circumstances!




Popular option: buy all three cds and SAVE 15%.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Holiday Season and Being Triggered

Hello, and welcome to MyShrink's second annual newsletter. That's a bit tongue in cheek, having been a bit delayed in the delivery of my second newsletter :)

I've been on another steep learning curve both Internet-wise and personally. I won't share too much of my personal growth here but just to say that my therapy is going well and I seem to be growing from the inside out!

MyShrink has been growing also. Since my last newsletter we've added preview links, an RSS feed, social bookmarking, the feedback system for articles, the quick learning guide, a new home page (and another one on the way), and my favourite the "Right Brain" moments. We've also added a ton of new comments for the kids...not to mention, 25 more articles since this time last year.

I've been looking at my stats to learn what features of the site people are finding of interest. They tell me you're not clicking on the images. Did I forget to mention it's good for your brain? When you're reading intense text, your brain tires. Looking at an image even if momentarily, shifts your brain into the other hemisphere. It "interrupts the procedure", the patterned way you respond to a stimulus...in this case, the subject matter of what you're reading.

Besides...it feels better.

In this issue, given the season, I thought I'd cover the holidays and being triggered. Uhm. Not the combination most people would think of.

Each year many people enter the holiday season with vows to make it different, to have a balanced holiday and to come out feeling refreshed to start the new year. But the patterns of previous seasons are indelible. In this article I will explain why old patterns are hard to change, why wishing it so, isn't enough.good times at Christmas

The explanation goes to the heart of how change occurs in the brain.

Hope you enjoy it!


Suzanne LaCombe, Ed.D, R.Psych.

P.S.MyShrink is still in "Beta" as I can't yet gurarantee regular commentary or newsletters. This project is being totally funded by me and the money I receive from my sponsors only covers a small portion of the cost. But it's loyal readers like you that help me to continue...so a big thanks for that.





Triggers and the holiday season: An oxymoron?"

good times at Christmas
How often do you pair the notion of "triggers" and the holiday season? We all know that Christmas and the New Year's celebrations are about get-togethers and having fun...yeah, let the good times roll!

But few people realize that we can be unknowingly triggered by our experiences of holidays past. It's not likely that all our Christmas seasons or Hanukah's were remembered with the same fondness.

Recall that the earlier a life event occurs the more deeply it's laid down in the nervous system, positively or negatively. Not surprisingly, the deeper the imprint, the stronger the potential trigger effect. In other words, it isn't just the stress of looking for a parking spot at the mall, or hunting down presents that's got us wired.

When you add loud Christmas carols, other stressed shoppers and the myriad of holiday movies to the mix, how can one possibly make sense--literally and/or experientially--of the barrage of sensory stimulation coming our way. You see, all of this affects the nervous system whether we're aware of it or not.

The body has its own memory and it doesn't easily forget. I'm not just talking about the memory of names and places. It's the remembered sense of what events felt like. The sense of them remains. This type of memory doesn't simply fade away; it lingers in the subconconsious, ready to pounce on our unsuspecting psyche.

Let me be frank...

This is how it is for me. I've had such a tough time getting this newsletter done at this time of the year. "Missspelling words, can't form my thoughts, mind going blank" this is what I've had to deal with. (Next year I'm doing this Christmas edition in July just for the feel of it!)

In the midst of all this grief, I solicited the help of my good friend and colleague Dr. Carole. Which brings me to an important point...social support. It really helps to connect with people during times like these.

What's going on here?

Let's talk about triggers. The way the brain is structured, we can't always know why we're being triggered. Some events are just too emotionally overwhelming for the details to be laid down in long-term memory (i.e. explicit memory via the hippocampus).

Sometimes no memory will surface because the event occurred too early in time for it to be available for recall. But that doesn't mean it's not active below the surface. I know that nothing specific is coming up for me, but this internal wandering happens every year at this time. I'm a jumble of emotions; I can't compose a simple newsletter. I'm a bit of a space cadet!

Seeing family over the holidays

Check your pulse. Let the guilt begin! Not everyone's reaction I suppose, but this is a common response to get-togethers with family. We're often challenged in ways we don't comprehend. Feel like a kid? Regressing to earlier behaviours? Choosing or even thinking about doing something different is often accompanied by guilt.

You know, because we have so many associations with being with family, we need to give ourselves a break at some point. Rather than judging, we might name our reaction for how we're being impacted.

What would it feel like to acknowledge the impact of what we've been through without judgment? We've done the very best that we could with what we've been provided with. This isn't a blame game. We really need to notice how we've been triggered, and then to do what we need to do to take good care of ourselves.

What does this mean for you?

Let's step away from it. The first thing you can do is try to avoid misinterpreting this "holiday" state. It's usually temporary feeling so don't get caught up in it unnecessarily. For example, don't make assumptions about your overall emotional health based on this short time frame. Give yourself some time to recover from the season and then see how you fare.

relax at christmasThe second thing you can do is to see your therapist more often. Most therapists are very busy at this time of the year for just this reason. If you are feeling worse, yet overall progressing in your therapy, consider that this time of year is "filling you up".

In other words, it's pushing you outside the normal limits of your capacity. When this happens, whatever state you started the season with (e.g. anxiety, depressed mood, irritability) may get a little worse.

The third thing, consider spending quiet time with a supportive friend. Not every event has to be "over the top". You can also consider spacing out your get-togethers or balancing your energy through contemplation and grounding exercises, such as walking in nature, spending time with your pet, regular hot baths or yoga. The holiday season can be all-consuming, so make sure you leave time for yourself.

After the Holidays

Remember too, that the higher we get cranked up over the season, the "lower we will go" as the holidays come to a close. In other words, the nervous system has a compensatory mechanism. If we've been in a heightened arousal state for a spell, the nervous system will attempt to balance out by down regulating. This is often called the biphasic response.

In doing so, the nervous system tends to overshoot a baseline neutral state and pull you into a flat, low energy state. You'll notice it as feeling extra tired, unmotivated or for some, even feeling depressed.

Try not to read into this "post holiday" state too much. Give yourself a week or two (the length of time depends on the specific nervous system). And, if you know what to expect, then this "rebound" time won't seem so bad.


Therapy in the News

psychotherapy on the couchIs your Shrink right for you?

Illustration by Kim Rosen
Article By C.W. Wolff, Boston Globe
December 16, 2007


One of the reasons I was inspired to create MyShrink was my dissappointment with the way a few people's experience with therapy was going.

Kim Rosen's article hits on some serious problems with how psychotherapy can go awry. If you're fortunate, you might find this article laughable. Unfortunately, this is the reality for some people.



MyShrink Site Updates

Online Counseling

Anxiety Attack Symptoms

Signs of Depression

Define Depression

The Human Nervous System

What is Counseling

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy

The Therapist Locator

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to Shrink your Christmas Stress

Hello, and welcome to MyShrink's first newsletter.


My, my…this Internet business is more involved than I initially imagined. I've been on a steep learning curve in the last few months. I'm being challenged to the max but having loads of fun.

I wanted to get my first newsletter off before the holidays to say thanks to everyone who's signed up.

MyShrink is still in a development stage so I'd appreciate hearing if you had trouble loading the site, viewing the pages or if you haven't understood some of the concepts. Oh, and not to mention, positive feedback is also welcome.

In this issue, I've got a holiday article, Therapy in the News, MyShrink updates, and what's new in the Gift Shop.

Hope you enjoy it!


Suzanne LaCombe, Ed.D, R.Psych.






"Getting snowed under with Christmas advice?"


Now that we're fully into the holiday season we're seeing lots of articles about how to survive the rush of Xmas shopping, office parties, and family dinners. Many advise us to take advantage of the opportunities for reconnecting with significant others, deepening relationships that have been ignored, or making new ones.

The general idea is sound, for there is a ton of research that says social support, i.e. satisfying relationships with family, friends and community, is almost a guarantee of a longer and happier life. In contrast, a lack of social support is tied with smoking as a risk factor for heart disease.

The explanation appears to be that connecting with others helps reduce excess levels of stress by reducing its adverse effects on the arteries and immune system. In addition, caring behavior may stimulate a type of hormonal activity that counters stress.

There's a catch to this advice, however . . . (continue reading article)



Therapy in the News

Sir Paul McCartney was recently interviewed by Radio Times Magazine. He admits that music has always been therapy for him. But for deeper work he went to the couch, the psychoanalytic couch that is.
(Source: Radiotimes Magazine)


For those local to Vancouver BC, Playwright and Director James Fagan Tait has an adaptation of the Christmas Carol currently showing at the Playhouse. He declared that after analyzing the cause of several failed projects, the common element in all of them was himself. So, he went to professional "shrinkage" for two years and hasn't looked back since. The success of his current play is a testament to the power of personal counseling.
(Source: CBC radio)


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