Choose Carefully Where You Direct Your Attention

This post will hopefully be a familiar topic for many of you. It is not a new idea and you will find it in many different forms. It is the idea that what you focus on becomes bigger. You will see this idea in vision boards, the idea of ‘the secret’, the concept of manifestation, or the advice to ‘think positive’. As I said it is not new, but I find it is often worth remembering. I believe the reason this topic it is such a prevalent idea, is because it is true. I often work with my clients to explore the aspects of their lives that they are currently nurturing and growing with their attention and focus. Sometimes they are aware of their focus and other times they have not noticed that one area has become so all consuming. It can be a particular worry that circles over and over in their brain, taking up more and more of their time and space. Clients will often think that if they let go of the worry it is more likely to come true. Ironically focusing on the worry might be increasing that very likelihood. Mindfulness can be a great tool to start to increase awareness of how and when attention is being directed. If you can be aware of your thoughts as a non-judgemental observer, you can become more aware of your patterns. Sometimes just this increased awareness can be enough to shift the pattern. If the pattern has become more persistent, we move on to more active techniques. These techniques are usually personalized, but can include distraction and challenging unrealistic thoughts...

Acceptance

I often think about the effort it takes to fight against something that already exists.  I suppose that is denial.  Which is appealing for many different reasons, but takes a lot of effort.  When an elephant is sitting in the room, it can take a lot of effort to pretend it doesn’t exist. Holding back reality can be exhausting. That is what has me contemplating the idea of acceptance today. And acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to want IT, or even like IT, it just means that you have to acknowledge that IT, whatever IT is, exists. Examples of IT, that I often see (aside from elephants) are things such as anxiety, depression, brain injury, anger,or perhaps an unhappy relationship. When people are working to deny the existence of these issues, they are often fearful of the work involved in dealing with them. Or they may be afraid of what it says about them and what others will think or how it will affect their sense of identity. What they don’t often realize is how much energy they expel trying to pretend these things don’t exist for them. As I said before, an important piece of this acceptance process is knowing that you do not have to like or want the issue you are facing, but by acknowledging it’s presence, you can get the upper hand. For instance if you are to acknowledge that you have anxiety, you can start to get to know your anxiety.  As you get to know your anxiety, you can start to anticipate when it will affect you and to learn ways that...

Mindful Moments

These days we hear so much about the benefits of meditation.  Scientific studies claim meditation can improve brain function, decrease stress, reduce inflammation and much more.  In particular there is evidence that meditation is beneficial for those struggling with a brain injury. Yet it can be challenging to fit a meditation into our busy lives. That is why I often encourage people to take mindful moments throughout their day.  Stop and notice . . . What do you see around you? Slow down . . . What sounds do you hear? Take a breath . . . and observe your inner world of thoughts and emotions. Without judgement, just notice how your body feels and where you might be carrying tension. Be curious and notice! This mindful check in can take a few seconds or a few minutes or even longer.  It is a practice and you will get better at it the more you try it out. At first you might choose to set an alarm on your phone or select a particular time of day so that you remember to stop and take a mindful moment. Perhaps you will identify a particular trigger or emotion as your cue to take a mindful moment.  The key is to try and to be playful without judgement and to be an observer or your own experience. Often just the act of noticing can set changes in...

All I want for Xmas is a Little Peace and Quiet . . .

The Holiday season after brain injury . . .  Many people look forward to the holiday season to catch up with friends and celebrate with family at social gatherings and events.  Then there are those who dread the holidays . . . After a brain injury you may find yourself one of those who dread the holidays.  Social gatherings take on a whole new meaning when you struggle to follow multiple conversations due to slowed processing,  memory impairment, concentration difficulties and a tendency toward over-stimulation. All of these symptoms are common after a brain injury. These and other brain injury symptoms can make social engagements a lot of work.  At the end of a night of trying to concentrate and remember and keep up with the conversation a person with a brain injury can be exhausted! If you or someone you know lives with a brain injury pace yourself this holiday season. I encourage couples who live with brain injury to talk about events and prioritize which ones they really want to attend and keep tabs on the fatigue levels of the brain injury survivor.  If fatigue levels are high, generally all other symptoms of brain injury are exacerbated.  Plan an exit strategy or a way for the survivor to get away from the crowd to take a brain break. Make an effort to include some downtime this holiday season. In general, people tend to run themselves ragged in the name of Holiday Celebrations.  In honor of those who need a little peace and quiet this holiday season, I encourage everyone to take a break.  Find a simple way...