Above: Practicing mindfulness is one way you can institute self-help in your daily life. Photos by Pixabay.
A common February problem might be keeping up your momentum with last year’s resolutions. (You know, those promises you plan to fulfill before 2019 ends.) Are they vanishing before Valentine’s Day? Need a little support?
Here are some approaches that offer alternatives to traditional medical approaches. You might want to consider trying one or two.
Help for Your Self-Help
No one knows you as well as you do, and, often, you’re the real expert on what you need. Self-help means you guide your improvement. Even so, experts rely on others for knowledge and support.
People may offer to help you ‘find yourself’ this year, but guard against frauds and worthless promises. Self-help can make a difference, if you find the right mentors.
Atlanta nurse Sharon Reynolds is also a naturopath, a person who uses natural remedies to help the body heal itself. She often speaks with older adults about mental health and the art of self-healing.
Like most naturopaths, Reynolds embraces many therapies to treat the whole person.
“It’s much more fun for me to understand a person’s preferred behavior style than focus on disease and a physical symptom,” she said.
Reynolds also said that adults need purpose in their lives and to be able to contribute something of value at every age. She wants the person to be healthy: mind, body, and spirit; that’s the World Health Organization’s definition of health, Reynolds explained.
Following her nursing education, she became interested in, and mastered, studies including hypnotherapy, mind-body health issues and life coaching. Now semi-retired as a nurse, Reynolds is a passionate believer in life-long learning. She has produced a video on behavioral styles, and she shares mind-body information online and through speaking engagements.
Reynolds agreed that hiring a life coach — someone who will counsel and encourage you — may be something to consider at any juncture in life.
The U.S. Department of Labor refers to life coaches, via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as someone who wants to establish a “partnership” between people and their “life’s vision.”
And although you may be in your 50s, 60s or even 80s, it’s not too late to rethink your life — or your life’s plan, for that matter. However, major changes generally work best when they are thoughtfully planned with a skilled individual.
Why look for a life coach? Have you found retirement is not quite as gratifying as you first thought?
Perhaps you’ve trekked a few places in Europe and the Orient. What’s next? Australia or New Zealand? Maybe both?
Or maybe you’re ready to get back to work, with the stipulation of doing something you love?
There are no formal life-coach requirements. “The field is unregulated,” according the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, bls.gov. “There are dozens of life-coach training and certification programs in the United States.”
When looking for a life coach, do your homework. Seek recommendations from others you trust.
Take the time to choose someone with credentials who can provide the right background and teaching opportunities for you. It makes sense to find a life coach who has experience and shares an interest in a field you’d like to explore — anything from Jungian psychology to photography.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends [gaining] “… knowledge of a field related to life coaching, such as psychology” from your coach.
“Stay in the present,” say the mindfulness experts. Focus.
Originally a Buddhist concept, the ancient art of mindfulness remains somewhat experimental. Studies suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness and reduce anxiety and depression, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
According to Mayo Clinic News Network, “Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment.”
Simply put, mindfulness is the art of taking a negative thought and replacing it with something positive — or having an anchor, such as your mental vision of ocean waves or snow-covered mountains.
One of the reasons for the mindfulness buzz is that it’s readily accessible. In other words, “anyone can learn about it and anyone can practice it,” according an article in the Berkeley Science Review.
Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem. In fact, one NIH-supported study found a link between mindfulness meditation and measurable changes in the brain where memory, learning and emotion are involved.
The hard part is finding the time for mindfulness in our fast-paced culture. The NIH suggests practicing mindfulness when sitting in traffic or waiting in line, especially when you’re in a hurry and prone to frustration.
Change the part of your mind that’s racing to the future and bring it into the present. Try deep breathing, too. You won’t change the traffic, but you can improve how you manage the situation.
Emotional Freedom Techniques or Tapping
If last year’s holidays left you feeling a bit empty (e.g., Christmas wasn’t merry and Thanksgiving just left you thankful it was over), then you should know about another self-help strategy that has been gaining in popularity.
Its formal name is ‘emotional freedom technique’ or EFT. It’s a mind-body-spirit approach to self-care. This technique involves a specific movement — physically tapping on 12 acupuncture points of your body — while repeating emotionally charged statements that relate to specific health issues.
According to the EFT Universe website, “there are no exact words, phrases or statements, as tapping is an individualized process.” However, some suggested tapping statements are listed on the site. One example is: “Even though I have a problem, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Some experts may refer to this as “acupressure for the emotions,” according to Duke Integrative Medicine, part of Duke University. EFT can help people with anxiety, weight loss and food cravings, depression, PTSD, phobias, pain and other physical symptoms.
Following many scientific studies of EFT, research suggests even veterans have improved —and remain better over time — using this treatment for specific types of stressors.
Be Open, Not Gullible
The list of self-help methods is long but, remember, the State of Georgia does not license practitioners of life coaching, mindfulness or EFT. It’s a good idea to stay skeptical of two-week courses and people who have “expert” printed on their business cards.
“If you feel overwhelmed or are unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking professional help,” says the American Psychological Association.
In fact, psychologists are uniquely trained to help. In addition, nurses and other medical professionals receive training in goal setting with their patients. After all, it takes years of training to understand the connection between the mind and body.
As always, check in with your physician before starting any new self-care regimen. As a rule, healthcare professionals are supportive to their patients who want to improve their lives and are happy to offer helpful direction.