Once again this year I attended the TCA Conference with my dear colleague who also works as a counselor in a private Catholic school. I was initially looking forward to going just to spend some quality “consulting” time with her in a city 4 long hours away . . . Dallas.
But once again, TCA surely surprised me with it’s over-the-top sessions. I was once told as a teacher that I’d be lucky to get one good session a day at conference. So I suppose I must be really lucky that I got 7 good sessions out of 2 days. A few years ago, I shared my favorite sessions and the info I learned in them. I wasn’t going to do it again until the funniest thing happened Friday afternoon.
We were waiting to attend our last session, and clearly running out of steam, when I had the urge to look up information about our last presenter. She was a hypnotherapist and if we were going to make the effort to attend a 4 o’clock session, it had better apply to us. So, I typed her name, Jennifer Norris-Nielson, into google and up came her information, her business, and my blog post entitled, “Metaphors and Guided Visualizations that Accelerate the Change Process.” Lucky for me, I attended her session 2 years ago and I was reminded of how effective all her visualization techniques had been for my boys! Decision made, off to the last session we went.
I start with the last session because it’s the one session that has left a lasting impression on me. I say this without getting any sort of benefit from it, it is a shameless plug for a woman who has given me 3 great conference hours, and if I lived closer to her practice in Austin I would literally go there every week just for what she did for me in one 1 1/2 hour session.
So here’s what I learned:
Self Care for People Who Care
Here are basically my three “take aways” from this session that have changed my life in just a matter of 3 short days.
- Relaxation Basics
- Suggestions and the Worry Box
I will do my best to give her information to you, but if you are in the Texas area, find her! She does trainings all over Texas and I swear I might be her new groupie. I think the best way to pass my new knowledge on to you without writing a short novel is to break this into 3 parts. By Wednesday your life will be changed, too!
We learned 3 easy types of relaxation. Her biggest suggestion for us was to practice them any chance we get. She said they will become easier and we will become relaxed quicker the more we practice these techniques.
Eyelids – She taught us how to relax our eyes and eyelids. After being coached to relax our eyelids, she helped us move that relaxation up to the tops of our heads and down to the bottoms of our feet. She used a calming, reinforcing voice that helped me stay focused on the relaxation. If we want to us existential terms here, she helped me stay in the here and now. This same type of technique is used in yoga classes during savasana. In one yoga class my instructor told us to envision that our eyes had become liquid and that they had pooled in our eye sockets. A little graphic I know, but seriously thinking about it in that way helps you not just relax your eyelids, but all the muscles around your eyes, as well. I always love savasana. Not because I get to lay on my back completely still and consider it “working out,” but because it is the one part of my day that I can truly lay still, focus my mind, and leave the outside world for 5-10 short minutes. Jennifer’s eyelids relaxation technique is virtually the same thing, but you can do it at your desk in a moment of stress or in a need of energy. Sounds counterintuitive to relax yourself to gain energy, but I dare you to try it!
Warm Hands- In this relaxation technique, we started by relaxing our eyelids, but this time instead of moving the relaxation around, we focused only on our hands. We placed our hands, one on each leg, and focused on the heat coming from our hands. This one was a bit easier for me because it gave me something to focus on. After just a few minutes, I was almost so relaxed I could have fallen asleep. This technique reminds me of Reiki. Reiki is the Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation. So I guess it makes sense that we were basically doing Reiki on ourselves. True Reiki is administered by laying your hands on different places on the body and is based on the idea that a “life force energy” flows through us. If our “life force energy” is low, then we are more susceptible to illness or stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki is basically the transferring of this energy from one person to another or one body location to another. By focusing on the heat in our hands, we are focusing our energy and becoming more aware of our “life force energy,” directing it where needed to relieve stress.
Hands Breathing- This was my favorite. It required some imagination and so if you are opposed to something like that you may want to stick with the first two. We began by relaxing our eyelids and sending our focus to our breathing. We did big belly breathing and lead our focus to hands again. This time we envisioned that our hands were breathing. I imagined little bits of air inhaling through my fingertips and exhaling through the palm of my hand into the tips of my fingers. Because this was my favorite technique and I have used it to put myself to sleep for the past 3 nights I share with you this exact script from Diviniti Publishing. Their version has it written for someone to say to you. I adapted it so that you could say it to yourself. It is a bit different than how Jennifer taught us, but it is the same premise. I may even try this exact version tonight.
“Now I’m going to concentrate on my breathing for a few moments… and imagine a very strange idea… a very strange idea indeed… imagine that I can actually breathe… through my finger-tips… just imagine that rather strange idea that I can actually breathe in through my finger-tips… imagine that I can feel the air moving into my hands… quite slowly at first… just with a faint tingling sensation which I might feel on the back of my hands… or perhaps in my palms… and then just imagine that feeling moving slowly along my arms… through my elbows… just imagine that comforting flow of air moving through my elbows into my upper arms… and then into my shoulders… both arms… both shoulders… maybe finding again that faint tingling sensation… perhaps in my elbows or forearms this time… then moving down through the body… down into your legs… and through the thighs… through the knees into my shins and calves… and again, I might feel that faint tingling sensation, just there, just below my knees… then down through my ankles and into my feet… and out through the feet… And I can find a great deal of calmness and easiness… in that rather strange idea that I can breathe in through my fingers… that I can actually feel the air moving through my whole body… in one single, warming, comforting…unidirectional flow… and because it is a unidirectional flow of air…. moving through my whole body in one single comforting flow… the calmness and relaxation I breathe in… simply doesn’t get involved with the tensions and stresses that I breathe away from myself… the calmness and relaxation that I breath in… simply doesn’t get involved with the tensions and anxieties that I breath away from myself… so that with each breath I take… with each word I think… I find myself becoming steadily more and more… relaxed… with each breath I take, with each word I think… I become steadily more and more… relaxed… beginning now, perhaps, to notice the weight of my head against the back of the chair… wondering if that weight might seem to gently increase as I relax even more… the weight of my feet on the floor… wondering if that weight, too, might seem to gently increase… even as I think about it… and some people can find that sensation of total relaxation… that feels as if they are actually beginning to sink gently through the chair… actually beginning to sink gently through the chair… so that it seems almost as if the chair is beginning to envelop me… I am so relaxed… a good feeling… a feeling of great calmness and safety… great calmness… that increases with each breath I take, with each word I speak… as I continue to breathe in through my fingers… allowing that comforting, warming, relaxing flow of air… to move through my whole body and out through my feet… And this is something I can do for myself whenever you want to… simply settle into a comfortable position… with my eyes closed… then simply imagine breathing in through my fingers…. imagine that flow of air comforting and relaxing every part of my body…. then breathing out through my feet… and each time I breathe out just say, ‘Relax… now…’ … just saying: ‘Relax… now…’ to myself with each breath… will act as a trigger to my subconscious mind… and on the fourth time I say it… on the fourth time I say it… I’ll find myself to be more relaxed… than I’ve ever been before…”
After this, when you are ready, you slowly open your eyes and feel the calmness and energy that comes with these techniques.
Each of the other activities she did with us (and that I will introduce to you over the next couple days) were based on these relaxation techniques. So we got a lot of good practice during our conference session. I urge you to try one of these techniques today. Maybe at your desk in a moment of stress, maybe at 3:00 when you need a moment to rejuvenate yourself for the last 2 hours of your day, or maybe right before bed to calm your mind to sleep.
Once you have tried one, come back here and tell me how it went. When did you use it? Which did you use? How well did it work?