Effective Self Care Practices during Challenging Times
Welcome to my website and I hope this finds you well. There is so much going on in the world right now and it is especially important to focus on self care, especially when we feel pulled into a phase of depression, anxiety, or despondency. Although these are not simple times, there are simple things you can do to support yourself. There is currently a short waitlist for psychotherapy and bodywork, but feel free to message me here if you are interested.
1. Create a Gratitude Practice
What are you grateful for? Think of three things every morning and every evening and write them down, think about them consciously, or journal about them if you have more time. This is an extremely powerful self care practice. One client I worked did this every day for a few months while he was job-searching. He reduced his anxiety and was chosen out of 365 people for a coveted sales position. Granted, he’s a bad-ass and earned that position, however the positive mindset helped him shift out of negative cognitive patterns. In his book “Tools of the Titans”, Internationally known author and podcast host Tim Ferris suggests adding the following:
Three things you are grateful for
One thing that could make this day better
Three affirmations that speak to you (“I am kind”, “I am whole”, etc.)
Write down anything amazing (or good) that happened that day
How could you have made that day better?
2. Consider a Cleanse or Gentle Detox
These are challenging times and the world is experiencing ecological and social disasters like never before. We are a global community and even those of us fortunate enough to have supportive resources may be persistently inundated with external stimuli, or internal preoccupation that gets in the way of self care.
Feelings of overwhelm, exasperation, and fear can be debilitating and may lead to unhealthy coping strategies, like consuming excess sugar, alcohol, processed food, or drugs. Disassociating with TV or gaming is also an unhealthy coping mechanism when done in excess.
The body will tell you when you are ready for a cleanse. It is important to desire change and be ready to limit or remove unhealthy behaviors. Now when I say “ready”, I don’t mean doing cartwheels ready. Cleanses may be difficult. And in my experience, once I get going, joy and balance are provoked through the process of consciously honoring and clearing out the body.
Cleanses support us to slowly (or rapidly) eliminate things that are bad for us, and through the detoxification and rebuilding process, we are better able to feel the positive effects of healthy food, movement, supplements, and clean water. When the body starts to recognize what healthy and normal is, we build healthier habits for the long-term.
I am inspired by a product line that supports and nourishes the cleansing process and increases good self care habits. I have been using these products and have seen amazing results. There are so many benefits, but I’ll list just a few. The all-organic, GMO-free green shake and amino acid/gut health supplements have regulated my moon, cleared my skin, and supported motivation and productivity.
If you are interested in beginning your own transformational cleanse and would like to learn more about these products and receive support, message me here. It is an amazing experience that may transform your life and wellbeing.
3. Move Your Body Every Day
This is not rocket science, but unfortunately the mind loves to paint it that way, or recruit the inner critic instead of the inner bad-ass. If you’re out of practice, do something every day that moves your blood and body. Start with twenty minutes and slowly increase. Or, commit to a hour, three to four times a week and notice how you feel. If you miss a day or a week, don’t beat yourself up and try again.
Movement supports the production of dopamine, serotonin, estrogen, testosterone, and increases endorphins, so there is no question that movement, alongside therapy (and in some cases medication), is crucial for the treatment of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that a brisk walk combats depression and when done regularly, increases the efficacy of therapy by 75% (Scientific America, 2015).
Some Ideas: Walking in Nature, Yoga with slow, deep breathing, Stretching (add music or a podcast if you are easily distracted), Ride your bike, Strength-training, Dance, etc. Youtube has an awesome free fitness channels as well.
Go-to stress relieving breath practice
*If you do not meditate, try this instead in the morning Set a timer for 5-15 minutes
Inhale for a count of 4 Hold your breath for 4-8 counts Exhale 5-7 counts
4. Social Support
Developing a healthy social support network is crucial for mental health and self care. Make sure to be in regular contact with your closest friends and family members. Schedule activities, phone calls or videos chats weekly, especially when you know you are having a hard week. My out of town friends and I love the app “Marco Polo” for video exchanging. It works better than Face-time if you’re busy and can’t get to your phone in real-time.
Click here to read my article on trauma fatigue and how to better understand the body’s fight/flight/freeze response. Additional video resource for empaths below.
This is an seven minute read and includes an extensive list of psychological, spiritual, and community-based resources to support you and your loved ones. Feel free to keep it as a reference, or pass it on. To be added to my newsletter, email email@example.com
So where shall I start? The world as we know it is dramatically shifting and things feel strange, confusing, and at times, frightening. Many of us feel out of whack physically and emotionally, uncertain of what is to come and how we are meant to proceed. Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic requires us to stay present in the moment. It requires us to commit to introspection, thoughtful choices, and loving, compassionate awareness.
We are interconnected beings living on an interconnected planet, and the global autonomic nervous system is functioning on overdrive. We know we need to relax and calm down, but internal chaos is galvanized by daily triggers. We have never seen such an unprecedented turn of events, as this pandemic continues to perpetuate a cross-national, viral war. In many locations, there are so few medical facilities and such limited equipment, doctors and nurses have to decide in an instant who must die. Global past-times and orders of operations have screeched to a halt, while up close and personal social engagement is no longer acceptable. Even the disheartening cross-fire of the 2020 presidential race is getting “trumped” by the global pandemic. These are crazy times.
Right now is a transformative and creative time. It may not be graceful or yielding, and for many of us, there is an eerily apocalyptic energy in the field, especially when we brave the wilds of the supermarket or drug store. Most of us are social distancing and sheltering in place. This can feel isolating and provoke feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety, especially for those with preexisting conditions. Yet amidst all these intense feelings, the Earth is catapulting us into a deeply transformative time of personal growth and opportunity. We are being called to explore what it means to be human.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious”
Continue preparing yourself for a complex emotional, physical, and spiritual journey, or as Her Mystery School founder Jumana Sophia calls it, “The Descent”. For the months to come, we will be taken out of our personal and interpersonal comfort zones. As social distancing continues to be the best method to mitigate virus dissemination, we are being given an opportunity to deeply transform ourselves and help others. As we sense into the global psyche, influenced by environmental, biological, and social factors, we are able to uncover wisdom hidden beneath the disturbance. It is when we are most disturbed, that we are forced pay attention to what is really important.
“I can’t run away from myself right now”
We are learning to not take things for granted and are building our appreciation for the simple things we are unable to experience right now. If you are accurately practicing social distancing, you are avoiding contact with friends, groups, and even loved ones (whom you don’t live with). You are consistently washing your hands and not touching your face. You are limiting your time in public, and infrequently shopping for food and supplies. When in public, you are staying six or more feet away from the people around you. Hiking and public exercise is especially tricky, as walking inches apart from strangers does not equate to social distancing. For more information about right practices, click here.
This is a challenging time for people who live alone, especially elders who have limited social contact, or who are disconnected from the internet and socially-supportive technology. Many elders feel isolated, fearful, cannot see family members, or have minimally available caretakers.People who suffer from mood disorders, severe anxiety, and addiction issues will also need as much support as possible right now. Scroll down for psychological and elder-related resource guide.
While you ponder these somber reminders, I urge you reconsider the meaning of “hardship”. Although we are required to shelter in place at this time, many of us are fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads, food on our plates, a job, savings, or stipend, and no sick relatives. This may change soon, or has already changed, but for the time being, it is crucial we focus on what it is we do have. If you are struggling, fearful, sick, or out of work, I am sending you virtual hugs and want to remind you to sense into your hard-wired, warrior strength. Various resources are listed below. If you do not live in the Santa Barbara area, contact your county’s online resource center, and view The Resource Project link below to receive ideas about what could be offered in your area.
“Clarity will not come from control. Be willing to empty out, release any excess that is not serving you, and allow what you know to come to the surface” – Jumana Sophia
This is a powerful time to practice releasing control and sitting with the unknown. Attempting to dominate via antiquated, patriarchal methods will not support us to rise above. We need to preserve our energy and bolster our immune systems. That requires yielding, relaxing, tending, and listening. Even during those moments when you feel like you can’t crawl out of bed, attempt to be grateful and strive to maintain a positive, hopeful outlook. If you do not already have a meditation or gratitude practice, NOW IS THE TIME. There are myriad meditation apps and videos on YouTube that support inner balance and wellness (see below). If you need additional support, seek online counseling for immediate one-on-one support.
Self Care! Self Care! Self Care!
We are in the throws of a self care revolution. Never before have (most) people had so much time to self-reflect, self-care, and self-love. Use this time wisely, as it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I recommend setting aside time and personal space every day to feel what you are feeling. Write it down, move your body, and emote if you need to; away from family members, children, or housemates. Even just ten minutes of personal reflection time will support wellbeing, balance, and inner transformation.
Part of self care involves letting go. There is nothing like a global crisis to reveal truth that would otherwise go unnoticed. This is a powerful time to think about what and whom you need to let go of. Who is aligned with you? Who makes you feel better about yourself and supports you physically and emotionally? Right now is the time to step away from the people in your life who weigh you down, talk down to you, or don’t reciprocate your thoughtful energy. The ones that matter most are the ones who are responsive to you and who tangibly show you that they care.
Ingesting large amounts of news and media may deplete your intellectual and emotional resource bank. Pay attention to how you feel after taking in intense news or negative opinions. Although it is good to stay informed, consider reducing your total screen time. You can find out everything important about the state of the world in less than thirty minutes. Consider getting outside more, taking on a new creative project, or video-chatting a friend. The key to good health is calming down your nervous system (also known as, “regulating”). Consistently entering panic-mode produces stress hormones, which provoke anxiety and tax your immune system. Explore activities that assist parasympathetic nervous system response. This is the branch of your nervous system that aids rest and digestion. Yoga, meditation, nature walks, exercise, and soothing creative projects (cooking, art, music, etc.) are excellent ways to reduce fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system response), and bolster your immune response.
Interpersonal Silver Linings
As much as our brains are wired for in-person human connection, social distancing has catalyzed new ways for people to connect with one another, albeit virtually. Before the pandemic hit the fan, virtual connections felt less personal. Now, things like Zoom, FaceTime and Facebook Live are helping people stay sane and connected. We are making the most of it, and people are being more creative than ever. I have felt more emotionally connected to my closest friends in the last few weeks than ever before. Think of how amazing those hugs are going to be in a few months?
And lastly, if you know someone who isolates or needs support, please reach out to them and offer an ear. People all over the world are stepping up to help one other. A neighbor I don’t know left this note at my door last week with a plate full of banana bread. The power of love will always overcome the power of fear. Wishing you love, inner strength, and softness during this descent.
P.S. Thank you First Responders, including all the service workers, delivery drivers, and store employees who are risking their health to be of service. Consider leaving a gift or note out for your garbage man or delivery worker, or drop food off for a nurse or doctor friend.
Romi Cumes LMFT (805) 448-4111 Anthem Blue Cross Provider Sliding Scale Available for Private Pay
Free grocery and prescription delivery service for seniors, front line health care workers and those compromised, run by your neighbors. Pay at delivery! SB, Goleta, Montecito, (805) 448 3788 Info@movingmissdaisy.com
Interested in donating some of your time to support lonely elders in Santa Barbara or your community? Consider contacting a residential or assisted living facility in your area and ask if they have residents in need of phone calls or letters.
True Self Exploration: An Introduction to Somatic and Relational Psychology; Tools for Empowerment & Growth
Sunday March 19, 1:00 – 3:00pm
Location: Santa Barbara Yoga Center. 32 East Micheltorena St.
Somatic Psychology is the study of the lived experience of the body as it pertains to psychological exploration. Somatic and relationally-based awareness practices can support us to elucidate innate body wisdom, while uncovering valuable insight about emotional processes. Similar to yoga, such practices assist us to ease protective or adaptive mechanisms, often manifested as body armor, tightness, pain, and emotional distress. These techniques are distinct from specific yoga and cognitive therapies however, in that there is no pre-planned asana or scripted protocols.This workshop will assist you to get in touch with your most authentic state of being. From a place of somatic authenticity, we become more present, and can therefore show up in the world in a more peaceful and powerful way. This workshop will offer both a lecture, and experiential exercises to support participants to tap in to innate body wisdom. We will also work with a few basic yoga postures to explore how somatic awareness is inextricably linked to yoga and other mindfulness practices.
Other elements of this workshop:
-Review of Polyvagal Theory (evolutionary stress response, social communication, self soothing behavior) -Tools for interpersonal connectedness -Utilizing somatic awareness in your yoga and mindfulness practices -Partner exercises exploring nervous system response -Relaxation/Guided mindfulness practices
Romi Cumes MA, MFTI, LMT, is the founder of Transformative Healing Arts, which offers counseling, yoga instruction, bodywork, performance art, workshops, and international retreats. She received a masters in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on somatic psychology from the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology; and completed advanced training via the Three Fold Way program in Southern California. Romi is currently a psychotherapist part-time at Hospice of Santa Barbara and is completing hours towards a California M.F.T. license. Romi has been a certified yoga instructor since 1998 and a massage therapist since 2001.
I have many clients and friends that want to start practicing yoga, meditating, or exercising more, but find the process daunting or unapproachable. Even though I have been practicing and teaching yoga for many years, I can relate and often find it challenging to simply get on the mat. One thing I find extremely helpful with this yoga/exercise quandary, is to simply commit to five postures. That’s right FIVE POSTURES or simple exercises. We can all make time to do five poses and by setting the intention to just do five, we usually end up wanting more and extending the practice. Doing five poses a day is not overwhelming and only takes fifteen to twenty five minutes, depending on how fast you work through the sequence and how many variations you add.
Today is a new moon and a new time to commit to taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. Here’s a sequence that can help you jump start your day and motivate your self-care practice.
Pose 1: PLANK 10-20 breaths if done without variations. With variations, 5-10 breaths each
(Variation 1 and 2 Pictured below)
Additional Pose/Rest: Child’s Pose or Wide Knee Child’s Pose
POSE 2: Low Lunge with Rhomboid Squeeze
5-10 breaths holding lunge. 10-20 shoulder/rhomboid squeeze reps (pulse and squeeze shoulder blades together behind you, keeping hands active)
Variation 1: Gentle twisting low lunge (left arm not visible in photo and can reach above head to activate psoas/hip flexor stretch)
Pose 3: Side Stretch with Hip Opener; keep feet and arms active (both sides, 5-15 breaths)
Variation 1: Side Stretch with Hip Opener and Neck Release
“I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together”
Battles against humankind are as old as time, yet never before has science fiction so symbolically depicted the absolute insanity of American politics and its media-driven counterparts. Being mammals, we have experienced or thought about mythological, allegorical, or literal power themes more than once in the course of a lifetime. Such tales of good vs. evil and light vs. dark have pervaded indigenous knowledge systems, history, literature, and fiction for as long as humans have been guided to transcribe them, and possibly long before that. These stories represent a human experience that is still being lived today: A hero confronts corrupt leadership, or a heroine speaks out against an icy queen; poor civilians become refugees, threatened by political violence; mythical dark forces attempt to overtake peacemakers and shamans; religious or social extremists prostrate to their belief systems and their cause means more than life; world leaders go to war with ‘evil doers’ and ecosystems, driven by power and oil; obstreperous dictators commit genocide and build palaces with funds that could feed starving children; a disheartened populace revolt against the brutality of their government… You get the idea.
Within each of these power-driven stories, life depicts myth and myth depicts life and it is as if there is always a new, yet similar story to tell. Although tales of struggle and darkness seem to be woven into the fabric of the individual and collective psyche, consciousness also prevails, and many of us are ready to experience a more compassionate and broad-minded way of being.
Currently, a next-level power battle exists within American politics, and nefarious characters disguise themselves with personality disorder-driven antics perfectly suited for mainstream cinema. Reality television stars are somehow allowed to become presidential candidates and Ivy League trained attorneys are on deck to promulgate religious extremism. Well-vetted politicians have dibs on delegates, as if their influence is predicated upon a superficial popularity contest. These men and women demonstratively parade narcissistic personality disorder and xenophobia like a boy scout badge, while many of us sit back and wonder what the hell is happening. How did we get here and did we actually go back in time?
“We are going to have to build a wall to keep people in the country if one of these radical candidates is elected”
-Professor Jennifer Holt Ph.D, University of California, Santa Barbara
Each century, complicit acts of power and dominance create a repetitious cycle, and it is as if we are at war with an apparition because the battle appears endless. It is no wonder why science fiction, albeit frivolous with it’s computer generated exaltation, is depicting what is happening in politics and mainstream media today. And it gets really frightening when we realize how sneaky modern-day villains and villainess’ can be. Strewn across this nation is a bunched up, tangled mess of power, and with mythological and historical roots this deep, we will need to collectively pull proverbial all-nighters to change the story-line.
The 2016 United States presidential race is not unlike the movie, The Hunger Games. Our current media displays are reminiscent of the scene where the lead competitors of the games are brought on stage to be showcased by the powers that be, otherwise known as the “Capitol”. The main character Katniss – a fearless and morally-driven heroine archetype – becomes enraged by the media-infused insanity she is trying to abscond. Within the confines of the Capitol’s pretentious display, the heroine walks among troglodytes, victims, and narcissists; all of whom are prompted by inauthentic media. Sound familiar? The heroine is forced to play a part in a production that is cruel, flagrant, and detrimental to the individual and collective psyche – that is, until she fights back.
We do not yet know what will transpire politically in November, but collectively, many of us understand that the misuse of power, and choosing structures that dominate, rather than unify, is ineffective for the growth of humanity, consciousness, and the environment. And we can look to the theoretical and practical aspects of social, physical, and biological science to shed light on the idea that we, as a society, are capable of shifting consciousness. Here are just a few examples:
~ When observing the biology of microorganisms, we can view the unique presence of the microscopic world and how it directly connects with macro-expression. In essence, what exists internally is instrumental in the creation of the external world.
~ Somatic and relational psychology is based on the belief that human beings are the most authentic and conscious (with self and other), when we tap into the lived experience of the body, also known as the “felt sense”. From a space of somatic intelligence, we are more capable of being kind, showing up interpersonally, and rewiring neuropathways associated with ego, pain and trauma.
~ Quantum physics has revealed theories about the holographic mind-body or mind-matter interface; how infinite pure potential becomes actualized as human consciousness. In other words, mind becomes matter.
~ From a depth psychology perspective, the darkness or shadow we experience is an unconscious aspect of the personality and the more we can embody and consciously express our shadows, the less negatively dominant they become. In other words, greater harmony can be achieved when one confronts their inner darkness, gets acquainted with it, and expresses it in a way that does not harm others.
The above ideas elucidate a general theme present in nature and consciousness: how we choose to embody our inner experience and the world around us is profoundly associated to what manifests outside of us, particularly for those of us who believe in interconnection and are committed to creating positive change for the Whole. Just as the immune system has the ability to thwart off disease, we have the ability to transmute the negativity we experience. We can choose to operate from a place of presence, love and connection, rather than one of fear and control, and the impact of that choice is far more potent than most people realize.
Out beyond glittering lights, fake political smiles, and pretense, exists authentic human beings who wish to make the world a better place. Love and harmony can be felt in the presence of solidarity and we are able to rest when embodying the power of inner sanctum. Perhaps ask yourself today what you plan on doing to contribute to the well-being of one person, or a group of people. When we are lit up with compassion and service, every gesture, no matter how small or how funded, is meaningful and noticed by the collective spirit of humanity. What is your cause? When this question arises within you, check in with your body. For example, what makes your heart feel full and warm, and what acts of kindness and service support you to feel alive and at ease in your solar plexus or core? And at the root of passionate service exists a stable human being. How are you taking care of yourself? Can you integrate nourishing self-care practices into your daily routine? And finally, are the individuals in your life making you more or less of who you are? Take a few moments each day to envision and participate in a peaceful, meaningful life. And on this journey, may we all connect with people who fuel inner vibrancy and inspire creativity, service, and compassion.
“What the American people want to see in their president is somebody who not necessarily can win every fight, but they want to see him stand up and fight for what he believes, take his case to the American people”.
I haven’t been posting finished writing pieces or newsletters much for the few months. Not for lack of inspiration, but due to a professional hibernation of sorts, and the bear is slowly sensing her way into spring. For the last seven years, I have been studying psychology, and to be frank, it has been quite a daunting task. For some years after graduate school, I have chipped away at the block of three thousand hours that must be acquired to become a licensed psychotherapist. Although I have managed to run a healing arts business simultaneously, having multiple irons in various proverbial fires has been a challenge for me. The common motivational denominator of my productive madness has been healing, however scattering myself around like a squirrel has yielded a half-chewed nut collection. Life is constantly offering us new opportunities to practice yoga in its truest form, and I feel grateful for the constant reminders.
Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodhah
When you are in a state of yoga, all misconceptions (vrittis) that can exist in the mutable aspect of human beings (chitta) disappear.
Transformative Healing Arts is largely in effect, but given the shifting nature of my personal and academic efforts, it is, well, transforming. Some professional offerings have taken the back burner including: group Hatha yoga classes and classical massage methods. Currently, my only public yoga offering takes place Monday nights at 5:15pm at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center. All levels are welcome. And as wonderful as classical massage is (I still love offering it), please note that my model is becoming quickly sublimated by the profound workings of Myofascial Release, Cranial Sacral Therapy, and Somatic Awareness.
Click here to learn more or email me to book an appointment. If you are in Southern California, mention this blog post to receive 20% off your next session.
A few more words about my process, your potential process, and being a facilitator of psychotherapy and somatic education…
The process of holding space for wounded, traumatized, and divinely inspired human beings has been one of the more profound experiences of my life. If someone asked me years ago how I felt about becoming a psychotherapist, I would never have pictured myself in that role. I thought I was too sensitive or too psychic. I thought I couldn’t handle the pain of the world, nor hear people talk about it. The truth is, I can handle it; and we all have the capacity to support others, especially when we give ourselves a chance to be the light we were born to be and step away from separatism.
You do not need a license to be empathetic and care for your fellow wo(man). It is possible for you to open up just a little bit more and reach out to people, even when it makes you a little or a lot uncomfortable. Inversely, are you able to reach out when you are in need? What are your self-care practices and who is it that you can depend on? These are important questions because the answers relate to you being taken care of and becoming the most loving, supportive being possible. You also have the power within you to transform another person’s life with your presence. So that being said, whatever your chosen path is at the moment, I hope it’s feeding your soul. I hope you wake up and feel good about the work you are about to do. And if your ‘pay the bills’ job does not evoke growth in yourself or others, your creative interests and volunteer efforts can.
In sitting with our own pain, or the pain of others, we are offered a beautiful gift: our humanity. And given the impermanent nature of the universe, everything has the capacity to shift and grow, expand and renew. Mindfulness practices, specifically somatic and relational awareness practices, remind us of the tangible, visceral human experience. And it is through that innate knowing and felt sense, that we may rewire years of pain and misunderstanding, and remind ourselves of the powerful, divine essence we are comprised of.