This week's blog is particularly for retrainers who have very little or no support while they are in the process of retraining, and for those who have the responsibilities of looking after and caring for others while at the same time trying to retrain. If you do not fall into this category, then please take some time this week to deeply experience gratitude for the supports that you have and perhaps consider expressing that gratitude to those who are supporting you. While being supported may have its challenges too, it does ease the burden of retraining and helps to calm your brain and nervous system which ultimately makes brain retraining easier. For those who don't have much support or are supporting others, retraining is still very much possible. It just sometimes takes a little longer and may look a little differently at times in order to accommodate your needs. Below are some suggestions to help you along the way.
Prioritize & Keep it simple
It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the different parts of brain retraining in addition to keeping up with the activities of daily life. When we become overwhelmed it can feel like everything is important and needs to be done right away. We have trouble discerning what truly are the priorities. If we take a moment to settle our system down (through a round of practice or through meditation) we can step back and look at our to-do list from the place of the curious observer. When we engage from this place, we are activating our pre-frontal cortex, which helps us to see the bigger picture perspective and to discern what needs to be addressed versus what can wait. Watch your limbic system if it tries to suggest that some of the things on your to-do list have been on hold for so long that they need to get done now. That is very likely an automatic negative thought or POP. If those things have waited this long, they can likely wait a little longer.
Also keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Committing to the basics of retraining in a way where we are more likely to succeed is going to be far more effective and useful to you than trying to do way more than you can fit in everyday. Additionally, the stress of constantly being pulled in too many directions or feeling pressured to do more that you can realistically manage is counterproductive to recovery. Retraining is not just about changing the brain pathways, it is about settling and regulating the nervous system. This may mean doing a little less retraining than what is recommended in terms of formal practice. Simplifying and cutting down to essential activities, not just in retraining, but in all areas of life, will help the recovery process. Often in our society both kids and adults are way overscheduled, and society praises people for this. It is not conducive to wellbeing or thriving long term for any nervous system (whether they have limbic impairment or not). When we operate in this way, we are not teaching our kids how to have balance in their lives and we are certainly not modelling it. Learn to be okay with children having less scheduled activities. If you are on your own, practice acceptance with having simple meals and only very basic cleaning & errands for now. Let go of taking on any extra organizational projects or putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. This will free up time and energy to do the things that will help to improve your health and wellbeing. After all, that is what is most meaningful in the long run, and will help to return you to a state where you can do more if you choose. Simplifying can be temporary, although many people find after living this way for a while, it is actually preferable.
Retrain on the fly - incorporate it into your day
There are so many ways to meet the basics of brain retraining while engaging in our daily activities and to-do's. Much of it has to do with our perspective and what emotions we are choosing to entertain while we are going through the motions of our day. I have worked with people that fully retrained their brains by continually observing and redirecting their thoughts and elevating their emotions throughout the day, and fitting in short practices when and where they could. They would do short rounds of practice while commuting to work, waiting to pick up their children, on their lunch breaks, in their driveway or garage before returning into the home. They would use music, YouTube, conversations and memories to elevate their emotions while cooking dinner, doing dishes and cleaning, showering, folding laundry, and engaging with their children. They would elevate their emotions and visualize wellbeing right before going to sleep and again first thing when they woke up. They would stop, take a deep breath, smile, and state a meaningful affirmation when they noticed their brains being drawn back into old pathways, and then immediately redirect their attention fully into the task at hand. Pretty much every moment in our day is an opportunity to reinforce healthy pathways and resilience in our nervous system. When we access these moments with ease and playfulness (rather than seeing it as work or trying to force ourselves), they can be very powerful.
Be kind to yourself
It is a lot to navigate all the basics of daily life and to be in the process of retraining. Take a moment to recognize what an accomplishment this is and how well you have been doing so far. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and build off of them. Often we get so caught up in how we could be doing more or doing it better, that we fail to realize our accomplishments so far. While things may not look perfect you are still doing what you can. And every day is a new day, so you have a clean slate and get to start fresh every morning, regardless of how yesterday went. It takes a strong willpower and perseverance to do it all yourself or to be continually meeting the needs of others while trying to improve your own wellbeing. It is understandable that at times you may falter. In the difficult moments, try practicing some self compassion. Cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to be human (rather than perfect). Place your hand on your heart, or give yourself a hug, acknowledge that this is a difficult moment & that difficulties are a part of life, that you are doing your best, and bring in some self-compassion or loving kindness. (For more on self-compassion practices, visit self-compassion.org) Also, consider giving yourself some mini breaks in your day. Five minutes here and there to just stop, breathe, and simply be, isn't going to end in disaster for those around you or for your to-do list. In fact, when we give ourselves moments throughout our day, we are often more productive in the end. Over time, it gives us back far more time than it takes, and it is far kinder to us along the way.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She has a background in nervous system regulation, trauma, grief & loss, mindfulness, & positive psychology. She taught the DNRS in-person program for 5 years, has over a decade of experience coaching brain re-trainers & provides mentorship to other coaches. Candy works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com