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3 Things You Can Control in the Natural Birth Process

3 Things You Can Control in the Natural Birth Process

by Melyssa Marshall

As it goes in life, we grow and learn from experience. The thoughts and expectations that become part of our world views are picked up and accepted as we go through life and experience it. Experience can be done to us, we happen upon it, we make plans for it, we choose into it. Whatever the case, experience is unavoidable. Kind of like breathing. By being conscious, we are experiencing.

As a Doula (birth assistant), I've learned that each birth experience is different and cannot be - nor should be - completely controlled. There are many factors and variables that make up the atmosphere and circumstance, and only so many of those are up for election or adjustment. This can breed a sense of insecurity from fear of the uncertain or unknown in the experience, especially when it's a mother's first birth. But while these may be out of our control, there are factors within our control that can aid to ease insecurity and eliminate fear.

Expectation.

As natural as expectations come, you would think we'd have a better gauge of where to set them. The reality of natural child birth is that a woman can count on her body to get from point A to point B. But by no means should there be an expectation that the line between points is straight. No, the design that happens within those points would rival any abstract artist on their best day. So a more realistic thing to do with expectations would be to hold them as hopes. While the two can be said to be related, hope differs from expectation in that it does not call for judgment or invite some kind of level of evaluation. An expectation will be met or not met. But a hope by definition recognizes the possibilities. In childbirth, it is best to hope for your experience.

Intention.

There's something to be said about the connection between mind and matter. The strength in mind or willpower is no small force, rather one to be reckoned with. Focusing your intention is of most importance in labor and birth in order to minimize what pulls at and distracts strength in mind. And to be sure, there will be plenty of things and thoughts pulling at your strength. It's often best to vocalize intention so that those supporting your experience can know how best to encourage your strength and to be your strength wherever possible.

Acceptance.

Come what may, the birth experience is final. There's no going back in order to do something differently nor can you pay an extra fee for a do-over. From minor disappointing details to major negative outcomes, the amount of processing that happens postpartum is up to you. You can think through every moment and talk through every detail, but nothing will change the experience. The onus on you will be one of response, taking an accepting posture towards the experience. Acceptance in some cases doesn't mean approval of an outcome or a detail or even someone. Acceptance can be merely acknowledgement and will be a helpful first step in moving forward.

I've come to find that these aren't just helpful for the circumstance of labor and birth. They translate to all sorts of area and happenings in life. Choosing to hope, focusing intentions and accepting the experience are all things in our control every day. So whether you're about to give birth, planning to give birth, or not even close to thinking about birth, consider them for your life today.

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Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

by Adam Tharkur B.A.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR as it is commonly referred to as a tension release exercise I have used with many clients. One of the first things I do with all clients is finding out what is bringing them into counseling. For the clients who share they have obstacles like stress or anxiety, which are preventing them from reaching their goals, I recommend PMR. I have also used it for client's with panic disorder, the results have been positive.

I noticed a growing trend since I began seeing clients. Different people with different stressors all had the same concern- anxiety. It is not uncommon for a client to come in due to concern of a possible, future event which they cannot control. For instance, applying for a job, and becoming anxious during the wait period even though there is nothing more they can do at the time. Same applies for clients who show signs of depression; in most cases the depression comes from past events that a person wishes to change. However, unless scientists have developed a time machine which allows individuals to change their past, the individual is in a standstill until they choose to move forward. The idea of staying present and keeping it in the "here and now" can be daunting, I am not dismissing that. PMR may be the answer to continuously staying in the present moment.

I will share an experience I have had using PMR with one of my clients. A client came to seek counseling due to his continuous panic attacks starting in Christmas of 2012. Although he has been given medication to combat these attacks, he wanted a more lasting solution that does not have many side effects that comes with medication. The client disclosed that he had sexual dysfunction and insomnia from the medication. In addition to the medicinal side effects, we learned during our sessions that he was constantly living in fear that he might have another panic attack at any moment. I taught this client PMR techniques so he may implement these during stress provoking situations, such as work. With PMR and counseling, the client was able to determine what the best course of action to apply at work. Once he determined the appropriate action, and implemented it, he was no longer distracted by what he should have or could have been doing. Instead, he was able to focus on his responsibilities and therefor increase productivity. Once this client saw the progress he made with PMR and counseling in a professional setting, he attempted to apply the techniques with personal goals and duplicate the results there as well.

In my experience and opinion, PMR cannot be the only intervention. As I've shared through my example, counseling plays an important role in identifying the client's triggers and the causes of their issues. With the above mentioned client, I used cognitive behavioral therapy techniques which allowed the client to become aware of his anxiety by using a technique known as paradoxical outlook: Welcome the panic attack rather than being scared which may intensify the episode. Though frightening for some, this is also the most effective way to apply PMR efficiently.

As for my client the use of PMR helped quell the intensity of the panic attacks. He felt like he was in control for the first time. The client has maintained his job for almost three years and has no written complaints from his supervisors about his work performance. Through counseling, it allowed him to have one more tool in his toolbox to combat panic attacks and endorsed a new stronger resilient person.

If you would like more information regarding a Progressive Muscle Relaxation script, I have provided a link Progressive Muscle Relaxation . Remember this is only a tool; this alongside counseling may garner better results.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script

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Accepting Change

Accepting Change

by Joel Christie

Quick show of hands: how many of you like feeling uncomfortable or being in pain? For most people, change can be painful, scary, or even downright terrifying. Change often pushes us into the unknown, and though it can of course be positive, most of us still tend to resist it because it disrupts routine, moving us into a place of uncertainty where we are forced to adapt and learn anew.

Regardless, this much is certain: change happens. Changes are happening right now while you're reading this and drinking your coffee. Indeed, every second of every day, we are undergoing changes as our cells form and die, while new cells are made, replacing the old ones. These types of changes might not bother us much, because we probably spend little time pondering cellular reconfiguration. Yet this is nevertheless illustrative of the nature of life, pointing towards truths that may make us quite uncomfortable to dwell upon. (Like the fact that all of us are going to die someday. There's a rosy thought.) I don't mean this to sound ominous, but change is inevitable and inescapable. I might imagine I can prevent change, but ultimately I can't. And if I allow myself to believe I can prevent change, my brain may expend considerable mental energy trying to generate ways to stop change from occurring, only to discover again and again that changes happen anyway.

Now, certainly some changes are more within our control than others; changing my career, changing where I live, or changing my hair style. But then again, those same things might not be within my control if, for example, the company I work for downsizes and lays me off, or a hurricane destroys my house, or I lose my hair as a result of cancer treatments. And so often life seems to happen that way, tossing aside our carefully-made plans. How inconsiderate, right?

Here, like this: Our son's due date was September 25th. Well, apparently nobody told him the game plan, because late on the night of August 3rd I rushed wife to the hospital where we learned she would need an emergency C section, rendering the old due date instantly irrelevant. Our son Jack was here, and just like that everything had changed.

I wish I could tell you I handled this situation with zen-like calm, coolly reminding myself that change is a natural and ongoing part of life, and that there is no use yelling at God and the universe that things turned out unfairly, but basically I ran around like my hair was on fire, frantically checking with any doctor in sight to make sure my wife and child were okay, while intermittently crying and pacing around in small circles. You know, that sort of stuff. Because the truth is, I wanted to control the situation. I wanted guarantees that everything was going to be fine. And I didn't want to deal with all this sudden jarring change. The whole situation seemed wrong to me, and I hated the fact that my wife and son were stuck in the hospital, instead of getting ready to come home where they were "supposed to be."

But honestly, that was near the center of the problem: the notion of how things were "supposed to be." I had this cuddly, happy picture in my mind of a glowing new mom and dad heading home with their new baby. That was "supposed to be" us. But it wasn't. People told us over and over "It's not gonna be easy," and "Get used to the idea of never sleeping again. Ever." But nobody said anything about our son staying in the NICU for a month.

Frankly, it wasn't until I accepted that this was how things were that I started to feel a little more grounded. "Supposed to" didn't matter. I could ask my brain a million different ways why things had happened the way they did, but it wouldn't undo anything. On the other hand, accepting the situation would allow me to face what was happening rather than letting my mind spin through endless unanswerable questions about how things were supposed to happen. Don't get me wrong: I think it's okay to look back and ask why questions when we get steamrolled by the unpredictable hardships of life, and I think it's okay to wonder what implications the changes we are going through have for the future. But eventually, our minds also need to return to the present to face the here and now, no matter how scary it might be.

When our focus is on the present, we are able to ask different questions, questions that can ultimately leave us feeling more empowered since we can actually do something about the here and now. What can I do right now to care for my wife and son? I can offer love and support. I can go and bring meals back to the hospital. (As it turns out, hospital food isn't great, just FYI. What flavor is this Jello?) I can pray, or call friends and family, or run errands. And as I begin to see myself not only surviving but actively engaging this present state of life, my fear will gradually diminish. I may still feel sad or hurt or angry, but I can also be comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that I am facing this hardship, not shutting my eyes and wishing this wasn't happening. The change has already happened. And more changes will come. And since this is the reality of the world we live in, I want to move forward with these changes as they happen rather than wasting brain power trying to unmake a situation that cannot be unmade.

Oh, by the way, a month and a half later my wife and son are both home from the hospital, doing well, which is a change that I like very, very much.

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

By Brandon Vieira, MA IMH #11609
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
EMDR Clinician

The Basics

For those of you who didn’t look at that title and immediately say, “NOPE,” let me congratulate you and then break it down.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a counseling treatment used to treat victims of trauma, anxiety, and phobias.   

Let’s focus on trauma, specifically.  When something overwhelming happens to us we call it a trauma and that memory gets stuck in our brains.  Smells, sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings can bring that memory back and make us feel like it is happening again, or remind us so strongly of that memory that it feels awful, unsafe, or like we are out of control.  EMDR works to change that, so you can think of the trauma itself without feeling like you got pulled back in time to the moment it happened. EMDR actually puts the memory into focus, so we can make meaning out of what happened and move forward as a stronger person.

 The basic idea is that with eye movement, tapping, or sounds on alternating sides of your body, both halves of your brain are working at the same time.  Then the stuff that is hard to talk about, and the horrible memories and feelings that come with it, or the “yuck,” is discussed.  This reprocessing can be a bit uncomfortable, but the EMDR clinician will provide you with so many tools to work with it that you will be prepared for the discomfort and be able to cope with it.  As you talk or even think about this event, and the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs surrounding it, you will find yourself thinking about it in a new way.  

Sometimes this happens immediately, sometimes it takes multiple sessions, but the trauma feels less threatening, and it becomes clear that it happened in the past, and is not happening again and again every time you are reminded of it.  Finally, you can even grow from the experience in ways you wouldn’t think possible.  You will make new discoveries about who you really are while overcoming a major obstacle to reach your full potential, which is what counseling is all about.  

Breaking it Down

The E and M stand for Eye Movement because this treatment literally involves moving your eyes left and right continuously while focusing on a specific  event, emotion, or belief. It is usually one that is disturbing to focus on.  This can be replaced with tapping the back of each hand, or a noise alternating from ear to ear, or some mix of all of these.  The D stands for Desensitization, which means to take the sting away or to become a bit numb to the trauma.  Try saying “Refrigerator” twenty times.  By the twentieth time, you may find it is losing all meaning and it’s just sounds.  This is basically what happens initially with EMDR.  

The R, for Reprocessing, means we go a step beyond just becoming numb to what happened, we work to change the way we think about the event, ourselves, and all other potential traumas in the future, to see the opportunity for growth, for learning, for strength, and for survival.  We also are able to celebrate that this tragedy, this terrible event that seemed so insurmountable can no longer rule our lives but rather, we have become stronger, more self-actualized individuals because we have been through it and come out the other side.  We may even change the way we think of who we are, gaining more insight into our nature, purpose, and potential.  

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