3/10: The Tyranny of Commitment

Today I was searching my online photo subscription account for something that would visually describe the word “commitment”. I knew I would probably have about 5,000 wedding related pictures to wade through, but was completely unprepared for what I ultimately found.
For the word “commitment”, I was treated to several images of people with handguns pointed at their heads. Oooookay….what else might I find? Ah, a few pictures of faceless men wielding knives. Interspersed throughout all of this were pictures of Jesus. At what presumably was the Last Supper.
So, based on this website’s algorithms, the word “commitment” is synonymous to being shot, stabbed, or executed. Nice.
This led me to start thinking about how daunting commitment is for people. Think about it: when you commit to something, you are saying that you are going to see it through to the end. No matter how rough, tough, or scary it gets, you will do your part and uphold your end of the bargain. That’s what a commitment is all about.
As time has gone on, I have begun to realize that many things I thought were “necessary” commitments weren’t really as crucial as I thought. They were ways of pleasing other people and bolstering my own ego. Sometimes, my “helping” actually didn’t support others at all because it kept them from being responsible for their own experience. And in the long run, it wore me out and caused me to eventually resent those I was “helping”.
Since that realization, I have started to look at where in my life I can commit to myself. It might be my workout, my brain training time, or even when I practice obedience lessons with Logan. And while it may seem “selfish” at first, I’ve learned that in the long run, committing to myself in ways that support my own health and happiness spill over into positive and supportive experiences for others.
What is a commitment you can make to yourself that will have positive effects on those around you?  Share in the comments below!

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Why Your Stress Never Works Out the Way You Plan

We’re all stressed, and why wouldn’t we be? We live in 21st Century America. We’ve got stuff to do. And stuff has to be done and not just now, but yesterday. Because bosses, kids, school, groceries, husbands, wives…
Yikes!
Yuck.
Some of us like to wear our stress like a badge.
It makes sense, kind of. “Maybe when people see how stressed I am, they’ll see how busy I am. How important.”

 

Or, “Maybe they’ll see how stressed I am and they’ll give me a break. Quit giving me so much to do. Offer to help.” (How well does that one work out?)
Sometimes, we think our stress pushes us to perform better and that without it we would end up slacking off on everything. (How’s that for not trusting ourselves?)
Even worse, some of us think that we don’t deserve to live in a stress free environment. That if we aren’t miserable and aren’t terrified of failing somehow, we won’t “earn our keep”.
Have you ever seen someone create drama and stress when there was no reason for it? A dollar to a donut says that person is completely uncomfortable when things are calm and happy.

(Not kidding, someone I know once said “Well, if there isn’t any drama you should create some”. They aren’t exactly the healthiest person in my sphere.)
The fact is, our stress never works out for us the way we plan.
Chronic stress actually makes it harder for us to pay attention. It makes it more difficult to remember things. To think clearly. To solve problems. We are more likely to make poor decisions when we are stressed.
Stress also affects our health. It makes us grouchy and snappish to our friends, loved ones, and coworkers. (Shoot, it can make you rude to the Quick Trip people, and that’s downright wrong!)

Stress drains us of the energy we could use to exercise and make other healthy choices. It causes our bodies to be in a constant state of inflammation, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s time to drop the lie that being stressed is some kind of badge of honor. It’s not. It hurts us, the people we care about, and ultimately the world in general.

Brainwave training can help manage stress and retain the experience of relaxation over a long period of time.  Try a session today with our New Client Special.

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10/28: On Ebola and Fear

Keep Calm
I don’t know about you, but on a daily basis my Facebook feed is lit up with posts screaming that we’re all going to die of the zombie plague that is Ebola. To be honest, I’m not afraid of Ebola (and I’m a germaphobe, so that’s saying something). But, what I am concerned about is the level of OMG-fear mongering that is truly plaguing us.

 
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, FDR famously stated. But what does that mean exactly? Isn’t fear supposed to help us? Warn us that microbes are invading, the CDC doesn’t know what it’s doing, and the coming apocalypse is all part of Obama’s evil master plan? Shouldn’t we all be running for the hills while properly fitted in our Hazmat gear? (Seriously, don’t do that. You will have a heat stroke and die.)

 
If we look at FDR’s quote closely and apply it to the Ebola situation, we will see that the old man is right. When we react to situations with uncontrolled fear, we not only make poor choices, but we actually damage our brains in the process, leading to vicious cycle of more poor choices. Left unchecked, this fear can actually cause us to behave in such a manner that we will often create the situation we are so desperately trying to avoid.
From a brain training standpoint, why do we do this? The answer has its roots in trauma theory.

 
All of us experience traumas throughout our lives. They can vary; from big to small, physical or emotional, real or perceived. If the traumas are big enough or we have several small ones over time, they can permanently change our brain function. This causes us to live in a constant state of arousal, with the “fight or flight” mechanism in our brain activated no matter what. The result is that we experience constant worry and fear no matter what is going on around us. Because the brain’s job is to make sense of the world around it, it then creates stories to justify how it is feeling. Sometimes it seeks out things to be anxious about; from constant worry about leaving the stove on to believing every event on the news is a major catastrophe soon to destroy life as we know it. (Political pundits, pay attention here. Just sayin’.) When no such material is available, the brain will then cause the person to behave in such a way that they create what they fear. Ever hear of the term “crazymaker” or “drama queen”? People who engage in drama seeking behavior HAVE to do so, so that their environment reflects what they are feeling on the inside. By behaving this way, negative events spring from the drama to reinforce the person’s beliefs (while re-traumatizing the brain) and the cycle continues.

 
On the other hand, some people respond with “Well, I can’t do anything about it, so I’m going to ignore it.” That isn’t helpful either. This type of response is another form of engaging fear by resisting it. When we stick our heads in the sand and ignore problems we allow them to grow bigger and bigger until they overwhelm us and cannot be ignored any more. By that time, the problems have then already reached a tipping point to where they are no longer manageable. Fear wins again, because now there truly is a catastrophe to deal with.

 
We can’t engage fear and we can’t ignore it either without disaster. So, what do we do? The answer is somewhere in the middle. We must learn to address fear through conscious response.

 
Conscious response allows us to identify problems, evaluate possible ways to address them, and then follow through with the most appropriate action to our situation and ability. Conscious response allows us to move confidently, without fear, to face adversity. Conscious response also gives us space to re-evaluate ourselves and others without anger, guilt, or shame when our plans fail. Conscious response allows us to try again and again until we succeed.

 
How do we come to place of conscious response? Here are a few suggestions I can share:

 
Brainwave Training: I cannot stress this enough. Remember how we talked earlier about trauma disrupting brainwave function? Well, brainwave training is one of the only things available to us at this time to get our brains out of fight or flight and back to functioning in an optimal state. Once the brain is trained, all things are able to fall into place. Without it, the brain will continue to go into fear, whether you want it to or not.

 
Daily meditation and mindfulness: If you want to learn to play the piano, you don’t take lessons one day a week and then never practice. And if you do, Mrs. Hollenshead (my 103 year old piano teacher who is still alive and kicking) will give you a very stern lecture in front of your mother and then you will get grounded for a week (don’t ask how I know that). Meditation is the same way. It is your daily practice to support your brain health and keep you in a place of conscious response throughout your day. It is not a one and done. Mindfulness and conscious response are tools you use throughout your day in all situations.

 
Integration of emotion: Ignoring how we feel will only allow those feelings to grow bigger and eventually become destructive. They will cause us to react, and often not in a way that is most beneficial to ourselves and society as a whole. The process of integration of our feelings of fear, anger, shame, and sadness, involves sitting with those feelings and allowing them to be without creating stories around them. (For more information, be sure to check out “The Presence Process” by Michael Brown.) Upon integration of these emotions, they cease to have the power to drive our behavior.

 
Response instead of reaction: Reaction to fear perpetuates the cycle of trauma by making problems bigger and less manageable. Conscious response allows us to take time, calm ourselves, and address fearful situations without losing control. It allows us to see exactly what is in front of us, along with logical ways to address the problem. Conscious response allows us to effectively set a plan into motion so that we may resolve situations without creating more drama and trauma.

 
Remember that fear can be spread more rapidly and cause more destruction than almost any disease out there.   So, I implore you: stop the zombie outbreak. Don’t let fear eat your brains.

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08/13: Brainwave Training and Lumosity

BrainSpa1
Last week we sponsored a booth at the Parkhill School District Benefits Fair. It was a great event and offered many people the chance to learn more about brainwave training and even try it out for themselves. Today, I want to answer a question I was asked repeatedly throughout the fair: “Is this like Lumosity?”

For those of you who have not heard of Lumosity, it is an online program that helps a person train different areas of cognitive skill through games. It suggests participating in about 20 minutes of activity, 3x per week to improve areas like memory, attention, organizing information, and planning. Many people use it as a kind of “mental workout” in the hopes of keeping the brain healthy and possibly ward off diseases of aging, like Alzheimer’s disease. Lumosity trains the brain through repetition of tasks, which change in difficulty as appropriate to the user. This constant repetition is thought to encourage connections between neurons for those specific tasks. Lumosity requires you to actively engage in the activities in order to reap the benefits. There is also the possibility that without continued training, you can lose the benefits you have achieved.

What we do at our office is very different. We are looking at the electrical activity of your brain. This is one of the most basic processes of brain function. When the electrical activity of your brain isn’t working properly, it is very difficult for anything else to work well either. For example, if your brain is producing an abundance of delta (sleep) waves in your frontal lobe while you are trying to focus on the instructor in math class, no amount of “attention training” will help resolve it. You will continue to create excess delta waves and you will continue to fight to stay awake and remember everything that was said in class.

During NeurOptimal ® Brain Spa sessions, you don’t have to be an active participant in order for the training to help. In fact, the more you relax into the sessions, the more effective your training will be. You don’t have to “do” anything to improve your brain function; your brain does the work for you by responding to the information that is provided to it by the technology. And the benefits you gain from these technologies will stay with you long term. The only time you may need to repeat sessions is if you have a trauma (like a car accident) or are in a very emotionally stressful situation (such as a death in the family).

The best part about brainwave training is that it places your brain in an optimal state for learning. What do we mean by this? When your brain is able to generate the correct waves for thinking and learning, along with producing the proper amount of sleep waves at bedtime, it will be in a place where it is better able to receive the information you want to give it. That information can be in the form of learning a new skill, completing an educational program, or even boosting your cognitive reserve with games like those offered through Lumosity.

Trying to teach a brain with unbalanced electrical activity is putting the cart before the horse. Use brainwave training first to optimize your learning potential. Then, you’re free to pursue any learning or cognitive fitness program you desire!

Get your brain optimized and ready for school! Call today to start sessions and be in tip-top shape for success! 913-954-7007

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08/06: How a Bump on the Head Can Ruin It All

“But, how did my brainwaves get ‘out of whack’?, asked Meghan*, a new client and college student in her early 20s. Meghan had struggled with depression and anxiety throughout her childhood and teens, but found that it was worsening as she got older. She found our office after reading about brainwave training online through various depression support groups. After hearing about the success others had with brainwave training and looking for an alternative to medication, she decided to experience it for herself.

Outward appearances suggested that Meghan was a talented and hard working  young lady destined for success. She reported a fairly stable childhood, friends, good grades, and a desire to do well in life. However, further discussion revealed some possible answers to her question. Her mother had told her that, as a first born, her birth had been difficult. Her family has suffered some financial difficulties when she was in grade school and her father lost his job. Although he eventually found new employment, Meghan reported that she began to worry that “something bad” was going to happen ever since that incident. Active in sports and athletics, she also reported that she had suffered her fair share of knocks to the head, but had never thought that they were of concern. Finally, she was in a little “fender bender” while she and a friend were out shopping. Although no one was hurt, she realized that afterwards her moodiness increased and she began having trouble paying attention in school. She also observed that her grades had started hurting, but had attributed it to the challenging college curriculum she was studying.

Almost all of us can report having experiences similar to Meghan’s. Part of the “Earth Experience” is that we will suffer losses, times of worry, trauma, and bumps on the head. It just goes with the territory. For some of us, just being born is traumatic! However, when traumas occur there is no “walking it off” as we would like to believe. The effects of trauma stay with us.

You see, when traumas happen to us, our brains become extremely active to try and protect us. Depending upon the situation, this activity can activate our “fight or flight” response, or in some cases the “freeze” response. Unfortunately, once the danger passes, our brains can get stuck in these activity patterns. Over time and with repeated traumas, this unbalanced brainwave activity can cause disruptions in our sleep, affect our ability to focus, or keep us in a near constant state of worry, anger, and sadness. For some individuals, the brain becomes so unbalanced that it interprets non-threatening events in day to day life as dangerous, causing the individual to react inappropriately to the stimuli and making situations worse.

Our culture likes to believe that trauma is something we can “shake off” or lock in a box and put away. Unfortunately, the brain just doesn’t work that way. When we push our feelings away, they begin to fester and appear in our lives as dysfunctional behaviors. These behaviors can show up as drinking, substance abuse, gambling, shopping, eating, or drama seeking. Each of these activities creates an experience where our brains feel temporarily balanced. But, when the activity ends and the chemicals caused by the activity leave our systems, we go back to feeling as bad as or worse than when we started. At the same time, some of us also begin to identify with our traumas and the stories surrounding them. We begin to believe that they define who we are and then start to act out the story we have told about ourselves, creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

Meghan was a mix of both. She didn’t believe that any of the traumas she had experienced should have any effect on her. She saw them as separate from her current experience. However, she also began to tell stories about herself. She saw herself as a worrier, a moody person, and a perfectionist who never really got things right. She started to think that maybe she really wasn’t “college material” or smart enough for higher level classes. She began to fear that she wasn’t cut out for success after all. Until she came in for brain training, she didn’t really understand how seemingly “insignificant” events in her life were having a profoundly negative effect on her current situation.

After learning how brain training works and how trauma can cause experiences like hers, Meghan was convinced. She purchased a package of 12 sessions and is now about halfway through. Already, she reports that she is starting to feel happier and more like herself. The constant worry has begun to abate. She is more clear and focused throughout her day. “I can’t wait to see how I do during fall semester”, she recently stated. “I’m actually looking forward to my Junior year of college!”

 

 

 

Brain training is a great way to start feeling and thinking better. We offer a variety of packages that can fit your needs. Call today to learn more! 913-954-7007
*Names have been changed to protect client privacy

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