stressmanagement

wellness

Dream Journalling: Technique & Interpreting


RECORDING & INTERPRETING YOUR DREAMS

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I believe the symbolism of dreams to be very cultural and individualized; for this reason in interpreting dreams the more important take away is any consistent theme i.e. feeling anxious, sad, worried, pensive, joyous. Be as detailed as possible in your recording, for example, knowing that the dream surrounded performance anxiety, instead of just recording general anxiety. The more you know the more you benefit.

In time, you will start to recall more and more dreams (upwards of eight a night), and a clearer subconscious theme will emerge. This can point to things that you maybe feel during the day, but are either unaware of their presence, or things you feel but do not say/express in a healthy way. Ask yourself what is coming up consistently, and gauge how much you relate to that experience in waking, potentially taking steps to better manage those subconscious and fear driven responses.

 

DREAM RECOLLECTION TECHNIQUE

  1. STEP ONE | EQUIPMENT - Keep a dedicated dream journal and stationary next to your bed.

  2. STEP TWO | THE PROCESS - On waking, keep your eyes closed, mentally run through the major details of the most recent dream(s) point by point.

  3. STEP THREE | RECORDING - Open your eyes, then record in point form all major details, i.e. how you felt emotionally, place, interactions etc.

  4. STEP FOUR | INCREASE RECALL - After just a few days your ability to recall dreams will increase from one to as many as 8+ dreams. Record as many as possible.

wellness

Introduction to Pranayama [Breathing Techniques]


ABOUT PRANAYAMA

Pranayama is one of the eight limbs or core tenants of yoga; and It’s meant to prepare the body and mind for other core practices in yoga such as the: asana - physical poses, Yamas - relation to other, niyamas - relation to self, Pratyahara - withdrawal from the senses, Dhara - concentration, & Dhyana - meditation, but where stress is concerned it’s valuable in its ability to shift how we relate with stress, lessen the reactivity of the mind and gain more clairity in thinking.


WHY DO PRANAYAMA?

One of the main reasons that breath regulation is emphasized in pranayama is because it is said to share a special connection between our bodies stress responce and our consciousness / minds; with consistency and practice it aims to restore a sense of still- ness through gaining controlling of the breath, and not allowing it to become irregular.

This connection between consciousness and breathing can be witnessed in how breath- ing becomes agitated immediately with a perception of ‘stress’, it moves instantly from relatively deep and smooth to shallow, rapid, or restrained; whereas when we are at ease (however long ago that might have been) we breath deeply, our pear shaped lungs fill into their reaches, and the tummy fills gently with ease.

In practicing maintaining correct breath during perceived ‘stress’ we provide valuable biofeedback to the body that it doesn’t need to be in a heightened state of ‘flight or flight’ / adrenal / stress responce. The mind becomes less agitated and able to remain calm in the adversities of waking life, the result is that you feel more at ease and less drawn into the reactivity of the mind.

“WHEN WE PRACTICE PRANAYAMA THE VEIL IS GRADUALLY DRAWN AWAY FROM THE MIND AND THERE IS GROWING CLARITY. THE MIND BECOMES READY FOR DEEP MEDITATION” (YOGA SUTRAS OF PANTANJALI 2.52)

THE BENEFITS OF PRANAYAMA


  • CALM & FOCUS THE MIND - Prepare to still the mind for more techniques such as dhyana (meditation) / Ana Pana (breath meditation). This can be used as a stand alone practice or one to compliment a formal meditation sitting.

  • LEARN TO DEEPEN THE BREATH & CORRECT IMPROPER BREATHING - Beginners often experience difficulty breathing deeply, they may find their inhales/ exhales to be choppy or differing lengths, or even a tendency to ‘gulp’ or expel their breath hurriedly instead of breathing in/out calmly and in control.These difficulties can aid in compounding an experience of ‘stress’ in a sort of negative bio-feedback loop.

  • MANAGE STRESS & GAIN MORE CONTROL “FIGHT OR FLIGHT” RESPONSE - These techniques induce a level of controlled (read: workable) stress on the body; this practice teaches us how to relate differently to perceived stressors, in time learning to control the breath as a way of regulating the mind, and its fight or flight response.

  • COMPLIMENT TO THE OTHER LIMBS OF YOGA & A SENSE OF WELLBEING - Pranayama is a great support to all the limbs of yoga; clearing the mind for better understanding of the Yamas - ethical perception with relation to other, niyamas - ethics and perception when related to self; can send the body into a state of Pratyahara - or withdrawal from the senses; increase Dhara - concentration; aid in creating the stillness required for Dhyana - meditation (quells ‘monkey mind’); and of course helps us go deeper and more fluidily through our vinyasa (flows) in the various asanas - or physical postures of yoga.


KEY POINTS ON ESTABLISHING A PRACTICE

  • FIND YOUR “EDGE” / INTERVAL AMOUNT FOR PRANAYAMA TECHNIQUES - Begin with a relatively low interval i.e. 3 sec, and continue building the interval until to reach your “edge” - consider it 90% of how far you are able to go without too much discomfort, take the interval back 10-15% from there, this is the place we work in, a manageable amount of induced ‘stress’ to face and practice with.

  • MAINTAIN CORRECT POSTURE - Having a tall spine and correct posture aids in facilitating a deep breath, it provides the room the lungs need to descend into their lower reaches, when we are slouched there is obstruction in the lungs ability to descend. To correct this, line up and stack your ears above your shoulders, and your shoulders above the hips, rocking back and forth, tilting the head until you find a tall spine.

  • THE PRACTICE OF CONTROLLING THE BREATH & MIND - Try your best to breath as slowly and steadily as possible to meet the interval you have chosen. If you are having too much difficulty i.e. you feel too starved for oxygen, light headed/dizzy, or the breath is becoming very choppy, consider decreasing your interval to a more manageable amount. Tip: imagine sipping the breath slowly as you work with these techniques, imagine sipping oatmeal or honey through a straw, al- ways meeting your breath at the interval you are working with.

  • STAY WITH THE PERCEIVER / BE MINDFUL - Do your best to be mindful throughout the practice, try not to enable your subconscious mind, try not to indulge thinking about later in the day, moments from the past etc. Instead stay with the part of you that is aware, the minds eye as it’s called in yoga, the part of you that perceives the thoughts passing by. When thoughts arise, be gentle with yourself, don’t push them away, just acknowledge and gently return to the technique nothing else.

  • CONSISTENCY & COMMITMENT - Be honest with yourself when deciding how much to commit to; it’s a lot better to
    be consistent with training (i.e. 10 min a day) than consistently inconsistent (aiming too high i.e. 45 min). If you’re only able to do 5 minutes once a day do that, just start somewhere. Give the technique an honest run as well, not just trying it for a day and deciding it isn’t helping, you can’t undo decades of chronic stress and tension over- night.


ELEVATING YOUR PRACTICE - COMMUNITY IS KEY / SANGHA (READ: SUPPORT)

Self Care techniques, like pranayama or meditation, can seem like a chore when you’re first getting started. Remember that no man is a mountain, and the most impactful and lasting changes come when we set ourselves up for success. For that reason, if you are just getting started in a new self care technique, I encourage you to find support from friends, your partner, others in your network who you know are also interested in the practice. This helps in a few ways:

i. accountability & consistency - having a practice partner holds you accountable to consistency in practice, it’s a lot easier to bail on yourself than a friend or partner. maintaining consistency is KEY if you are going to discover if the technique has any real benefit for you.

ii. feedback + learning curve - it helps in overall learning and getting feedback, and addressing questions which are bound to come up along the way. ideally this would be under the tutelage of someone who has practiced longer than you, or at least checking in occasionally with someone who has walked that road before you.

iii. group energy/camaraderie - this last point may be subtle but one i find to be very true in practice. in group even if it’s just two of you there is a supportive air that will help pull you through your set interval... whether it’s just 5 minutes or 45 minutes.

wellness

Free Form Journalling & Stress Management


WHY JOURNAL & HOW TO USE

Journalling can increase awareness of how a seemingly ‘constant’ negative experiences of life, aren’t actually that constant. In time, with consistency, you will become more aware of the many faces of your waking experience - helping you associate less with just the negative perception and idea of the world. Free-form journalling will show you that there is more to your experience daily then you might be aware, it can show you that the same thing you call ‘anxiety’ is actually many things coming together at once and takes many different forms. Becoming more aware of the things that drive your anxiety or other emotional tension, is the first step required in finding ways to manage those feelings.

BENEFITS OF JOURNALLING

  • REDUCE PENSIVE RUMINATION - help manage difficult rumination of thoughts by diffusing via journalling.

  • BRING FEELING TO FORM - Transform the experience of a consuming unidentifiable feeling to something tangible.

  • MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS - systematically make more informed decisions, as you be- come more aware.


FREE FORM JOURNALLING TECHNIQUE

  • AVOID LEDGER STYLE - Avoid making a ledger/agenda account of what transpired throughout the day

  • WRITE HOW YOU FEEL - Write whatever is on your mind, dont think about what you should write, just write.

  • TIP | VERBAL DIARRHEA - Think ‘Verbal Diarrhea’, say the things you didn’t say that day, moments where you felt without a voice, or moments you feel some emotional charge around.

wellness

Stress Management & Escaping Dualistic Thinking

You can easily gleam the message that is trying to be relayed, one that says we should not judge our current situations with false dichotomies of good or bad, that dualism exists only to help us describe moments in time but falls short in relaying the overall direction or energy a situation may have in our life. I encourage you to remain open, to remain positive and keep striving for a better quality of life in whatever way possible. 

THE STORY OF A FARMER & HIS SON: FORTUNE & MISFORTUNE


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One day in late summer, an old farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he left his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.

Soon after, neighbours from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, "What a shame.  Now your only horse is gone.  How unfortunate you are!. You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?" The farmer replied: "Who knows? We shall see".

Two days later the old horse came back now rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainsides while eating the wild grasses. He came back with twelve new younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral. 

Word got out in the village of the old farmer's good fortune and it wasn't long before people stopped by to congratulate the farmer on his good luck.  "How fortunate you are!" they exclaimed. You must be very happy!"  Again, the farmer softly said, "Who knows? We shall see."

At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer's only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer's son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg.  One by one villagers arrived during the day to bemoan the farmer's latest misfortune.  "Oh, what a tragedy!  Your son won't be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You'll have to do all the work yourself, How will you survive? You must be very sad".  they said.  Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, "Who knows? We shall see"

Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor's army.  As it happened the farmer's son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg.  "What very good fortune you have!!" the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. "You must be very happy." "Who knows? We shall see!", replied the old farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.

As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbours came to pay their condolences. "Oh what bad luck. Too bad for you"!  But the old farmer simply replied; "Who knows? We shall see."

As it turned out the other young village boys had died in the war and the old farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The old farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: "Oh how fortunate we are, you must be very happy", to which the old farmer replied, "Who knows? We shall see!"