My clients in perimenopause talk of two primary issues: vitality is weakened & stress has increased. What can they do?
Most of us agree that chronic stress is not conducive to long term health. It can cause increased heart rate & blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches, adrenal fatigue, depression and anxiety. There is a lot of information out there on how to reduce stress.
What about vitality? A 2007 study found out that emotional vitality reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18056547 Emotional Vitality was defined as: a sense of energy, a sense of positive well being, a connection to life & the ability to be emotionally balanced in life situations. There is NOT a lot of information on how to cultivate & increase vitality.
Emotional Vitality cannot be easily measured. It is an experience, a view and a way of living. Due to this, it is hard to sell. It is not happiness, even though some cola companies would like us to believe that. It is not about getting new apps, even though most tech corporations would like us to think that. It is not conventional success, even though most of us crave that. Emotional Vitality is much more than any of these. It is something that we actually need, to support our hearts and to embody long term health.
Most perimenopause clients have a vague idea that to reduce stress & increase vitality they need to get stronger . They see the problem as something wrong with their body (a separate entity from their mind). They want me to fix their body, so they can get on with life. The fundamental problem is that even if I could ‘fix’ their body it would have no long term effect, unless it was balanced with an equal ‘fix’ of emotion and mind. Emotional Vitality is completely dependent on disengaging from the stressful effort of separating our mind, emotions and body.
What I see as a doorway to disengaging from this outdated & ill-fated notion of mind-body separation, is the cultivation of movement awareness & mindfulness. This doorway unfailingly leadsto vitality, buoyancy, resiliency.
Jan had six automobile accidents over a five year period of time. After seeking the help of many professionals, she was referred to me after her 7th accident. Jan was defeated, discouraged and in chronic pain. She passively dragged her body into the room as if her body was an old moldy sleeping bag. She slumped in the chair & spoke in a gasping monotone voice. She was completely unaware of her body, emotional tone & dark view. Jan had no sense of her feet, her pelvis or even her hands as they limply attempted to gesture. She was as far from emotional vitality as one could imagine.
In an intake, I gather body-mind & movement history, while observing the emotional-movement patterns of my clients’ responses. I often hear: “I don’t know how to answer that”. Gently I encouraged Jan to reflect quietly on each question, while I taught her how to be aware of her breathe, showed her how to listen to her view internally and helped her sense her feet & hands. I do not encourage or deny pain, instead I use movement to help each client discover something within the pain itself. This initial mindfulness & awareness of movement is a step toward to Emotional Vitality.
As Jan reflected, she began to breathe into her pelvis, find rhythm in her hands & discovered how to allow air to move for speech. After a few minutes, she became lighter and freer in her mind-body. Jan even remarked that she was “having fun”, that she had ‘delightful curiosity’ like a toddler being introduced to a new skill. We barely completed the intake when the session was completed. “Why has no one asked me these questions or taught me this before? That was the most interesting and uplifting hour I have ever spent. I feel alive. Why did no one do this in the past?”
This was the birth of Emotional Vitality for Jan – one hour, simple questions, deep reflection, while being taught how to include and be present in her body. Over the next month, she continued to develop skill in movement awareness & body-mindfulness. The way she walked, worked, drove and moved in all of her life became buoyant. Through this her pain decreased, and she became physically and mentally more resilient. All of this confused her pain specialist and primary care physician, as we were not doing something clearly measurable. Vitality cannot be measured, yet it can be cultivated.
What can you do to increase emotional vitality?
1. Learn how and take the time daily to listen from within
2. Learn how to become aware of your breathe & the quality of your voice
3. Find out what you enjoy and engage it in some manner daily
4. Do not push
5. Reconnect to movement without form – like a child, move for the love of moving
6. Every day, take joy in something you experience
7. Do not isolate – find people who can guide, laugh and “walk beside you”
8. Study how mind and body are one & practice a movement form for harmony and balance
©Copyright June 20, 2013 Gail Gustafson http://www.unfetteredmovement.org