How to start to find peace in the midst of the storm
Nowadays we’re living in a world that’s constantly and rapidly changing, fuelled by a performance driven busyness where high expectations and stress makes us run even harder. And as if that’s not even enough, the storm in our heads never seems to lie down. We’re haunted by thoughts, worries, and judgements and often live on an automatic pilot that makes life pass by so quickly. There’s a never-ending search for something external that gives a short-term gratification, but which is not really fulfilling in the long run. The storm in our heads doesn’t pass. The constant focus on taking action, on reaching goals in the future or unresolved resentments about the past all hold us back to find peace and calmness within and to simply just be.
It’s a fact. We have become human doings instead of human beings.
It might seem impossible to step out of the train of thoughts that is non-stop running through your mind and hampers you to be fully present in the moment and enjoy life as it is. However, through the consistent practice of meditation, one of the most effective forms of stress reduction, we can reach a state of thoughtless awareness.
A state of profound deep peace that occurs when the mind is quiet and still, yet still alert. Where we find comfort in this present moment and experience a deep acceptance that everything is ok the way it is. We don’t need to go into the stories of our mind. A profound realization that we are not our thoughts or emotions, it’s just something that comes and goes and the only thing we have to do is observe this from a distance. Without judgment but coming from a place of compassion and acceptance.
The only way is the way within. How to start your meditation practice as a beginner?
- Find a space where you’re not being distracted and where you feel comfortable and at ease.
- Start with small steps. Begin with just a couple of minutes sitting per day, which you can increase over time.
- Do it first thing in the morning. In the morning the mind is still very clear and not being occupied by daily issues.
- Just do it. Don’t think too much about the how. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sit in lotus. Just sit. On the floor, on a chair, on your bed.
- Find a focus. Keeping your eyes slightly open will help you in the beginning not to drift away in your thoughts. Gaze at a spot in front of you, or use a candle to focus your attention to.
- Open up your senses to your surroundings. Listen, feel, smell, taste, observe with awareness everything that is present in that moment and see if you can just let it be, without analyzing where it’s coming from or what it is.
- Bring your awareness inside. Withdraw your senses, let everything around you be for what it is and focus within. Observe how you feel. Become aware of all the physical sensations in your body and the places where you still feel tension or stress. Observe your emotional state of being. Whatever there is, it’s ok. See if you can hold the space for yourself to let everything just be without judgement.
- Use your breath as an anchor to stay present in the moment. Just follow the way your breath is moving through your body, every inhale, every exhale.
- Don’t judge yourself if your mind wanders, that’s normal. Thoughts will keep on popping up in your mind. The only thing is that you don’t have to go in to these thoughts. Just watch them come and go and when you’re distracted bring your attention back to your breath.
- Become aware of how peace and calmness inside feels for you. Where do you feel this in your body, what are the physical sensations? Recognizing this makes it easier to reconnect with this place within in the future.
- Practice and all is coming. Having a consistent daily practice in spite of changing weathers in your life, enables you to get to know yourself better and gives you deep insights in the working of your mind. Practice with commitment and discipline. After a while you can increase the amount of time and maybe add in some contemplative practices as well. But for now, just keep it simple and tangible for yourself.
Take your meditation practice with you throughout the day. Just take a couple of moments during the day to stand still, be present and mindful of what you’re doing. Do things you would normally do on the automatic pilot, like washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, eating your breakfast with full awareness and focus. Remember that storms will always be there. Inevitably. Meditation doesn’t make them go away. But through meditative practices we’re able to find peace within that gives us the space to breathe and makes us stand strong in the midst of the storm.
De effectieve werking van yoga als antidepressivum
Maak je niet druk. Stel je niet aan. Neem nog een pilletje. Of een drankje. Wat je wil. Alles wat je een beetje verdooft. Niet zo makkelijk in deze periode die veel van ons vraagt. Een periode waarin we de neiging hebben om te vervallen in een depressieve toestand. Geen zin meer hebben om iets te doen. Depressie is de nieuwe epidemie in onze maatschappij van tegenwoordig. Wereldwijd lijden er meer dan 300 miljoen mensen van alle leeftijden aan een van de meest voorkomende psychologische aandoeningen. Depressie is een serieuze complexe psychische gezondheidstoestand en het is echt wat meer dan een beetje verdrietig zijn. Het heeft een enorme negatieve impact op ons fysiek en psychisch welbevinden. Mensen die kampen met depressie voelen zich somber en ongelukkig, ontbreekt het aan interesse en motivatie en zien geen enkele hoop meer voor de toekomst. Als een depressie niet effectief behandeld wordt, kan het een chronische conditie worden.
Terwijl antidepressiva doorgaans massaal worden voorgeschreven gaat dit ook gepaard met een lijst vol met bijwerkingen die een gevaar vormen voor ieders gezondheid, zoals lage bloeddruk, spierkrampen, agressie, verwardheid en verminderd zicht. Ook is het bewezen dat antidepressiva weinig effect heeft op de lange termijn. Onderzoek wijst uit dat 40% van de mensen die antidepressiva gebruikt niet volledig herstellen van hun depressie. Bovendien, buiten het feit dat er geen volledige remissie bereikt wordt in meer dan de helft van de gevallen plus de negatieve bijwerkingen van deze medicatie, wordt de echte oorzaak van het probleem niet aangepakt wanneer er antidepressiva worden genomen. Het lijkt misschien te werken op de korte termijn, vanwege het onderdrukkende en verdovende effect van de medicatie. Dit zorgt ervoor dat gevoelens van ongemak, pijn en verdriet niet meer zo sterk worden ervaren. Echter biedt het geen lange termijn oplossing, omdat antidepressiva alleen maar de symptomen van de depressie aanpakt en niets doet met de onderliggende gevoelens en oorzaken.
Neem een diepe adem op je mat in plaats van een pil
In toenemende mate komt er bewijs dat yoga en ademhalingsoefeningen bijdragen aan een goede fysieke en mentale gesteldheid. Studies wijzen uit dat yoga een depressie kan aanpakken door de stresshormoonhuishouding en de werking van de hersenen in balans te brengen. Stressreductie is belangrijk in de behandeling van depressie en dit kan effectief bewerkstelligd worden door yoga en ademhalingsoefeningen. Yoga kan worden ingezet als een diepe effectieve therapeutische tool in de preventie en behandeling van depressie.
Vijf redenen waarom je je yogamat als effectief antidepressivum kunt gebruiken
- Yoga is meer dan activatie
In de behandeling van depressie is ‘activatie’ – in beweging komen – een van de essentiële sleutels tot positieve verandering van de gemoedstoestand van mensen. Door het lichaam fysiek te bewegen worden er ‘gelukshormonen’ vrijgemaakt in de hersenen. De serotonine productie neemt toe, versterkt het immuunsysteem en dit maakt je minder vatbaar voor depressie. Het beoefenen van yoga is nog veel meer dan fysieke beweging. Het blijkt dat mindful bewegen met bewustzijn en aandacht een grotere positieve invloed heeft op het centrale zenuwstelsel dat zorgt voor een goede balans tussen spanning en ontspanning.
- Yoga stimuleert stressontlading
In behandeling van depressie ligt de nadruk op het ontladen van stress, aangezien de stressreceptoren aanzienlijk overwerkt zijn wanneer je gebukt gaat onder depressie. Het beoefenen van yoga zorgt ervoor dat de focus meer gaat liggen op ontspanning en het leren loslaten van stress en spanning in het lichaam. Door een consequente yoga beoefening op reguliere basis, in combinatie met goede ademhalingstechnieken, kunnen er dieperliggende spanningen en stress worden losgelaten op het niveau van het centrale zenuwstelsel. Ook worden er endorfines, gelukshormonen die tevens pijnstillend werken, vrijgegeven door het rekken en strekken van spieren in het lichaam. Bovendien zorgt een yoga practice voor een afname van hyperactivatie in het lijf dat resulteert in een lagere hartslag, bloeddruk en maakt de ademhaling een stuk makkelijker. De hartslag variabiliteit, een indicator van de capaciteit van het lichaam om meer flexibeler met stress om te gaan, neemt toe door het beoefenen van yoga.
- Yoga zorgt voor structuur en routine
Mensen die kampen met depressie vinden het vaak moeilijk om goed voor zichzelf te zorgen en de juiste keuzes te maken over hun gezondheid, voeding en slaap, wat weer een negatief effect kan hebben op werk of studieprestaties. Uiteraard heeft dit dan ook weer een enorme negatieve invloed op je zelfwaarde. Een regelmatige beoefening van yoga, bij voorkeur in de vroege ochtend, geeft je iets om op te staan uit bed. Het brengt structuur terug in het dagelijks leven, een goede start van de dag en zet de toon voor de rest ervan. Naast de positieve gezondheidseffecten van zo’n routine, vraagt het ook enige toewijding en discipline om te doen. Dit kan een uitdaging zijn op zichzelf aangezien mensen die kampen met depressie de neiging hebben om dingen op te geven of ze niet af te maken. Dus het daadwerkelijk kunnen volhouden van de routine geeft je eigenwaarde een enorme boost. Het geeft een reden om te geloven in eigen kunnen.
- Yoga is exposure therapie
In plaats van het verdoven van gevoelens of alleen te kijken naar de symptomen van depressie zoals antidepressiva doen, biedt het beoefenen van yoga ‘full on exposure therapy’. Lichaamsbewustzijn en mentaal bewustzijn nemen toe en het creëert een verbinding met de taal van het lichaam. Het beoefenen van yoga biedt een spiegel die je laat zien wat er echt van binnen speelt en er is geen mogelijkheid om dit te vermijden. Emoties, gedachten en gevoelstoestanden komen omhoog gedurende een yoga practice. Dat wat gezien wil worden, laat zich zien daar is geen ontkomen aan. Yoga leert je om te zijn met alles wat er is en om jezelf te observeren van een afstand. Waarden van acceptatie en compassie nemen toe, hoe moeilijk dat soms ook is. Daarbij leer je het principe van loslaten, van emoties, gedachten en identificaties door de beoefening van yoga. Je bent je depressie niet. Het is een staat van zijn die komt en gaat en je bent veel meer dan dat.
- Yoga geeft je tools om je depressie te behandelen op de lange termijn
Depressie neemt vaak iedere hoop op de toekomst weg en legt een donkere schaduw over alles in het leven. Het blokkeert alle innerlijke levenskracht en energie. Antidepressiva kunnen dit verdoven, maar de schaduw blijft vaak bestaan. Yoga geeft een gevoel van hoop en licht aan het einde van de tunnel. Een reguliere practice zorgt voor het opbouwen van stamina, kracht en een sterke connectie met onze ‘core’. Het bewustzijn van de werking van mula bandha is uddiyana bandha onmiskenbare tool om toegang te krijgen tot prana, onze levenskracht. Op een ander niveau hebben mensen die kampen met depressie vaak de connectie verloren met zichzelf en de wereld om hen heen. Het beoefenen van yoga maakt je gevoeliger, sensitiever en bewust van een connectie met iets dat groter is dan jij. Dit brengt ons terug naar de oorsprong van yoga, die ontstaan is voor vele geloofsovertuigingen en een gegronde basis en vertrouwen geeft dat een depressie een alleen maar een schaduw kan zijn die komt en ook weer gaat.
Een diepe adem op je mat.
Working together in understanding the inner you
It’s quite something if you don’t want to nourish yourself anymore. If you deprive yourself from your daily needs. When you feel the inevitable need to control yourself in such extreme ways. If you starve yourself to death. That something must be haunting yourself so deeply that you aren’t able to get out of it, no matter what the people around you say and do. That there is such a big difference in the way you perceive yourself than that others perceive you. That the obsession of wanting to lose weight no matter what, makes you lose everything in life, including yourself.
Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterised by attempts to lose weight to the point of starvation, with a lot of physical, hormonal, psychological and emotional complications. Almost 5% of the women in western societies suffer from this condition in a severe way. Amongst men we see a lower percentage, but we also know that it can manifest itself in other forms. And besides that, there are many people finding themselves in the grey areas, having issues with (not having) food, but living a kind of normal life. These are the highly functioning people on whom we will never get a grip on, because there’s no reason to change for them. However, the fact remains that there is a growing problem worldwide and the excessive food culture we’re living in is only making it worse.
As a child of a mother who was suffering from anorexia, I was a close witness for years of the physical and emotional imprisonment that this condition brings across. I saw its devastating effects on not only my mother herself, but on her whole environment that became smaller and smaller, eventually resulting in serious isolation. Health, work, relationships and love of many and even her children were falling apart, in the end being drenched in every aspect of life that was not only related to food anymore. The path of destruction pulls everything with it into a dark black hole, where it’s very lonely and scary.
It’s not only because of all the patterns of lying, manipulation, secretly hiding and obsessive compulsive behaviour people suffering from anorexia become isolated, but there’s also a lot of misunderstanding and judgmental behaviour in the outside world. Sadly I saw how pathological loneliness and emptiness led to ultimate self-destruction and finally to death. Often it has made me feel very powerless not being able to save someone so close from dying and I punished myself with feelings of guilt and shame, which was not always easy to turn around, but I did. In many ways I’m very grateful now for my life experiences so far that bring me back to the essence of my values as a human being – as a person and professional – in my daily life and how I want to connect and work on a therapeutic basis with others.
Ironically, I find myself nowadays working a lot with people that are suffering from eating disorders and body image issues that unfortunately are being increased by society’s emphasis on the physical appearance and the superficial ideal picture of a so called ‘perfect’ body. What is important in that for me, is that we go beyond that. It’s about finding the inner self that is deeply hidden underneath the layers of the physical body. Wanting to control the appearance for the outside world, its shape, form and weight is a way of coping with something that goes on deep down inside and trying to deal with the believed powerlessness of not being able to have any control on that.
Recently, one of the women that I’m seeing weekly expressed that she wanted to share in public for the first time how life is living with anorexia and believes that sharing her story can help many others in the path of healing. I believe deeply in that too, as well as in the collaboration of our therapeutic process and sharing that with others. Therefore, we will come up in the next period with sharing our dialogues and bringing them to the point where we can understand and connect from the perspective what’s needed when working with anorexia nervosa. In this article we address five major aspects that are needed in therapy to reflect upon and take into account to understand the inner you when it comes to dealing with anorexia nervosa.
At a young age I felt my life wasn’t going like in other families and I always felt different. My parents always had a lot of fights and as a child I had to jump in between, asking them to stop. I wasn’t aware of the situation I was being pulled in and it gave me a deep rooted feeling that I couldn’t do anything right as a child. I was seeking support in cartoon characters like the Care Bears stories on television and my biggest wish was that would be alive so they could give me a helping hand. In puberty life was hell on earth for me. My body changed from a child into a woman and I had my first sexual abuse experience, which I didn’t saw as abuse because it was all looking very nicely by good parenting. At school I had a difficult time, I had problems with concentrating and I was bullied for being too fat for two years. My second sexual abuse was during a high school party by two classmates. I couldn’t tell what happened at home, I was feeling ashamed of myself so I hided it for years. I was feeling very lonely, ugly and fat which I could not change. I had no self worth nor self esteem. Years where passing by and actually nothing changed at home. During dinner I felt like an outcast of the family. Fights between my parents were always my fault. At the age of 20 I started with a diet and I allowed myself strict two pieces of food a day. I went to school by bike and work so I had my daily exercising. I started to control my weight every day. Nobody had any idea. I wanted to lose weight, only a few kilo’s. At the age of 36, I wanted a relationship so badly so I started to chat with a man on Facebook. I thought everything went right and I was hoping for a warm relationship. But it wasn’t. He had some serious problems with alcohol, and gambling and most time he was drunk, hammering on my front door of my apartment. Even in my own home I wasn’t feeling safe. I wasn’t able to say “No”. After eight months the relationship was over. During that time I was feeling depressed, didn’t understand wat was going on with me so started my diet again, this time with almost no food and started to throw up after eating. The first time it felt like a huge step like jumping in front of a car but after several times it went easy. It’s all about control. I fell of from 62.1 kg to 42.6 kg now on my age of 43. Every day is a new day, a new fight try to let go of control.
- Connection & trust in the therapeutic relationship
For me, one of the most important things I found in dealing with anorexia controlling my life, is that nobody sees me the way I do. I often felt misunderstood by mental health professionals or in daily life. I had moments where I didn’t even knew who I was and that made me feel very depressed. When you find someone (a good professional) to talk to and stay connected with, understanding and trust are so incredible important and valuable.
In every therapeutic relationship it’s crucial to establish a connection in which authenticity, honesty, safety, trust and compassion are present. I personally take a lot of time to build on these anchors, because I believe this is the key of progress in any form of therapy. Many studies have shown that a good therapeutic relationship has helped many in more ways than the therapeutic content of the therapy. For me this is what it’s all about.
- Working on (self) acceptance beyond shame
In most cases anorexia has an underlying deeper problem that causes the disease, which is also the case for me. I developed a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of something that happened in the early years of my life, and in a way I had lost control over my life and the situation. For me it felt that as long as I experienced someone else is having controle over my life, in an unhealthy way, it is pretty hard to let go the control of food and weight. Same for the feelings of unworthiness, insecurity and lack of self love. This causes for example loneliness and feelings of self hate. It was so important for me to face the problem and accept it the way it is. I realised that I can’t change the past. But I can change the future.
Feelings of self hatred, shame and unworthiness, not wanting to be here, even not wanting to exist at all are so painful to experience. But this is where the healing process starts. To be with all these feelings in all its heaviness and painfulness in the connection with someone you trust. Sharing that in itself is breaking through the barriers of shame. In the safety of the sharing you give it the space to just be. Someone else is seeing for who you are again and is being ok with that. This is a very big challenge and a process that needs a lot of time. Dealing with unresolved traumas or life events that are often the underlying cause of developed behaviour that gives someone in a way self control back, even though it’s destructive, and then letting that go again, requires a lot of strength and resilience. It’s not the food. It’s not the body. It’s what’s inside that needs attention and wants to come out in the presence of non-judgment and compassion.
- Feeling safe
It is normal when you are not feeling safe, talking about anorexia and the underlying problem is very hard to do. I have experienced that many times. For me it’s important to find a healthy adult modus in a person, who is there for you when you’re not coping with the pain inside. Someone who lays an arm around you, shows compassion, gives you a hug and cares for you. It took years finding the right person for help and acceptance of my underlying problem and a long time to find out what makes me feel comfortable. For example I like to write about beauty I see in things and in life, being creative, using my imagination to let go of fear, anger, grief and control.
I do too believe that safety comes first. Always. In the first place the safety of welcoming you with all your flaws. And that everything is just fine. To hold the space for whatever is going on. This can only happen when it feels safe. Besides this emotional safety, as human beings we also need a sense of physical safety. The nervous system can calm down when there’s a sense of physical connection and togetherness. A hand, an arm, a hug. Sometimes this might even be too much. Somatic approaches can help then to create a safe feeling within yourself. And journalling is always a great way to express what’s going on inside.
- Redefining perfect as whole
Facing my problem is pretty hard to do. I know that dealing with it takes time to cure. I noticed that the inner voice in myself will continually try to stay in control with food, weight and causes me to live my life in fear instead of facing and accepting the underlying problem. It’s important to find connection to your inner self, to live in the moment and find some kind of inner peace.
I believe that loving yourself is one of the hardest things to learn in life. It takes a lot of time and awareness is the first step in that. Of course you will fall back. And that’s ok. Just to realise that this is exactly what is being needed. The place where you need to be. For me perfect is being whole. Integrating all the parts of yourself, also the ones you don’t like about yourself and having the space and light to just let it be. Without darkness there wouldn’t be no light. Accepting that is seeing it for what it is and allowing it to be there without judgement.
- Working on finding inner peace
It’s easy to say ‘find inner peace’, but there are tools which may be helpful as I have found. I learned to look at nature around me. Try yoga, meditation, visit a good friend who is willing to help and look for distraction. I made myself feel valuable and it helped me to be proud on myself. Actually self love is the most important issue to heal from anorexia that gave me inner peace.
Inner peace is an easy term that is being used for many reasons. It’s important to find your own reason. Therapy only works when you find your way in that and what resonates with you. Yoga and meditation are anchors that can support you to find your inner peace. But in the end it’s all about that what brings you back to a consistent practice of mindfulness. Whatever that may be. Don’t forget to breathe.
Letting go step by step is the key
In the end I’ve learned it’s all about letting go. Letting go is all about acceptance and commitment. Commitment with your inner child or inner adult, commitment and connection with your heart. From my own experience I know it’s difficult, hard, very emotional and scary but also relieving just letting (little) things go, one by one.
In letting go of all there is, we need to take one step at a time and do this one day at a time. Working together in understanding the inner you is a process that can’t be forced, nor rushed. Everything takes time and that’s ok. Every step is a milestone and worth to stand still for together in many ways. And that’s the path that we walk together in therapy. Step by step.
Step by step. One forward and two back. Just when you think you had this. Fear of falling back. Deep rooted patterns are catching up and make their manipulative way to pull you back into their prison. Relapse is part of recovery. Loving kindness looks upon the so called mess and let things just be.
The story of your life isn’t a fixed determined thing. If you want there’s time. A process. The allowance that the seeds which have been planted will grow into beautiful flowers. At its own pace. Peacefully.
A journey of time paced by patience. Gentleness. In the acceptance of what is and an allowance of being ok with that.
Petal by petal slowly opening up. From gross to subtle. Uncovering. Peeling the layers that have protected the pure essence, with the right intentions but therefore also hampering it from seeing the light. That cannot exist without the darkness that has brought you to the place where you are now.
The time to shine. Bright. Drama is making place for colours coming from the heart, moving into the direction of that what wants to be seen. Into the open. Holding the space for all there is.
Connection. Touched by the touch of life.
Nourished by love growing into vulnerability, revealing the immense beautiful power of life. A never ending shaking off. Letting go of all that doesn’t serve anymore.
Without fear, shame or guilt. Just as it is.
Different shapes moving into other facets of the same being where shadows disappear. Like seeing the light for the first time. Waking up. Unfolding sparkles of essence shine and rise. Coming closer to what it’s all about.
Breathing in the core of your being. Making space for you as you are. That beautiful being of you, that has always been wholesome. Opening up for all there is.
Breathing out and letting all go. A deep release. Knowing deep down inside that you don’t have to carry this any longer. Being able to just leave it. For what it is. Without judgement.
Life never promised you a rose garden.
The emptiness remains. This is the place where we are. In nothingness. In no man’s land. It requires a lot of courage to be here. Battlefields where flowers can’t grow.
Fight, flight and freeze. Responses to what was, but isn’t present right now. Overwhelming feelings of tsunamis that are rolling over. Fear. It’s ok. At this moment all is fine. Creating a playground for the inner child that just wants to be. Playing with the simplicity of life. In that safe space. The being. Nothing more, noting less.
The flower only opens itself up when it feels safe enough to do this. And you’re walking the walk. Resilient. Fierce. Step by step. In the direction of you. Growing towards the light. Blooming in your own way. More and more nourished by drops of compassion that comes from the heart. Awareness that is being reflected in the mirror of life. Seeing what is needed to heal. Everything you give attention, grows.
Healing wholesome. Perfectness in becoming whole again. One.
‘And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom’ – Anais Nin
Trust. Have faith that there is a shining light at the end of darkness. Even though it may not be present right now, you will be able to recognise a glimpse of its presence in the future. Sometimes life isn’t a straight way from A to B and its meanderings keep you wondering where this will all end. Wandering on the road less traveled.
Trust. In leaving the past behind, back to where it belongs. With every step making space for your place in this world. Your right to exist. Just as you are. In the lightness of your being. Finding your beautiful belonging again in the true essence of you. There’s no light without darkness and sometimes we need to go through deep dark holes in order to be able to even see the light for what it is. To become whole again.
Trust. And know that this is not how the story is going to end. Endure. Hold on. It may feel like an endlessly long road. It’s not for nothing. Keep going and stand still from time to time. Observe the magic of the process. The obstacles and encounters that have brought you to the place where you are right now. Be proud of how far you came. Looking back gives you a boost to go on. Fuelled by old patterns and pains. The lessons learned along the way. Releasing yourself from the chains of the past with the capacity to rise beyond. As a Phoenix flying over the dirty ashes that were once life. You have this.
Trust. Even though you feel you can’t go any further. Crawling on your knees. The light always wants to make its way in. Nourishing you. Making you grow like a flower, opening up its petals that bring you closer to the core of your being. Little sparks lighten the journey. Signs of synchronicity. Serendipity is on its way.
Trust. You’re not alone. We’re all walking our paths. Love is there to guide you, even if you don’t see it. Divine sparkles shining through.
Trust the process. Surrender. Breathe.