Holidays are a time for celebration with family and friends. It’s a time to mentally, physically and spiritually rejuvenate. However, as we can attest to, we celebrate but end up physically and emotionally drained. Our stress levels are high, our blood pressure is elevated and our lives are so hectic that we become sleep deprived.
We know we should slow down, breathe deeply, get a good night’s sleep, but that “knowing” isn’t translated into “doing.” We burn the candle at both ends and stress out, burn out and bulge out. What keeps us from celebrating the holiday season with joy and mental, physical and spiritual rejuvenation?
The latest in brain research together with over a decade of clinical experience by physicians, psychologists, social workers, and researchers (Block, S.H. and C.B. Block 2012) has given us the answer. There is a system in our bodies; the Identity System (I-System) that when overactive, cuts us off from experiencing our innate wellspring of healing, goodness, and wisdom, and impairs our ability to take care of ourselves. The I-System works through a major brain network called the Default Mode Network (Boly, Phillips, Balteau, et al., 2008). When overactive, the I-System prevents us from functioning effectively. We eat too much, drink too much, worry too much and sleep too little. Stress reduction becomes an up-hill battle. We lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays and become immersed in the hustle and bustle.
Everyone has an I-System and it’s either active or resting. The I-System is on when your mind is cluttered with spinning thoughts, your body is tense, your awareness shrinks and your holiday life style becomes very unhealthy. We call it the I-System because we falsely identify with the contents of the spinning thoughts and the physical distress it causes. It is crucial to recognize the I-System because when active, it disrupts the natural regulation and healing of your body. This creates a war between your brain and your conscious intention to celebrate the season.
Mind-Body Bridging uses both the mind and the body to form a Bridge from a state of internal war (with an overactive I-System) to a state of internal peace and harmony (with a resting I-System).
The first exercise will predict whether your internal war will spoil your holiday. The second exercise will show you a solution. Please follow the below instructions carefully.
1. Take a piece of paper and write The Holiday Season in the middle of the page. Draw an oval around it.
2. Next take 2-3 minutes to jot down around the oval whatever pops into your mind about the season (spending too much money, eating and drinking too much, family interactions, loneliness, over committing yourself, etc.). Work quickly and don’t self-edit.
3. At the bottom of the paper, write down the location and type of body tension that you felt while doing this exercise (e.g. pressure in chest, shoulders pulling up, tension in gut).
a) Is your mind cluttered?
b) Is your body tense?
If yes, you have the tell tale signs that you are at war with yourself and your I-System is overactive. The chance that your holidays will be stress filled and unhealthy is 65% - 95% (Sellman, D. 2009).
1. Take another piece of paper, write The Holiday Season in the middle of the page and draw an oval around it.
2. Before you continue writing, seat yourself comfortably, listen to the background sounds, experience the pressure on your seat, feel your feet on the floor and feel the pen in your hand. If you have thoughts, gently return to the background sounds and your senses. Once you feel settled, start writing whatever comes to mind about the holidays. Watch the ink go on the paper, continue to feel the pen in your hand and listen to the background sounds. Write for 3-4 minutes.
3. Ask yourself the following questions.
a) Is your mind cluttered or clear?
b) Is your body tense or relaxed? A relaxed mind and body shows that your I-System is resting.
c) Do you sense a new mind-body harmony?
d) In this state, how do you act?
If your mind clutter reduced, your body tension lessened and you saw more options, then you have a 90% chance of having a stress free and healthy holiday when using the Mind-Body Bridging Practice. In the first exercise you experienced an overactive I-System closing down your senses, creating mind clutter and body tension. In the second exercise, you formed a mind-body bridge with a Come to Your Senses technique called Bridging Awareness Practices. Throughout the day, take care to sense what you touch, experience gravity when you move and hear the sounds around you. It works not only to reduce tension; it creates a mind-body-spiritual balance that is essential in changing your life.
Mind-Body Bridging uses tools to rest your I-System throughout the day. It takes no time out of your busy life. Bridging aligns your conscious intention with your brain. Whenever your brain has made up its mind to carry out its own agenda, your body will always give you a signal like the body tension you experienced in the first exercise. If you ignore that signal, you will always be at war with your brain. When you heed that signal of mind-body disharmony, use Mind-Body Bridging tools to rest the I-System to put you in the driver’s seat.
Block, S.H. and C.B. Block 2012. Mind-Body Workbook for Stress: Effective Tools for Lifelong Stress Reduction and Crisis Management. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Boly,M., C. Phillips, E. Balreau, C. Schnakers, C. Degueldre, G. Moonen, et al 2008. “Consciousness and Cerebral Baseline Activity Fluctuations.” Human Brain Mapping 29 (7):868-74.
Sellman, J.D. The 10 Most Important Things Known About Addiction. Addiction 2009: 105: 6-13