What My Holistic Counseling Practice Is All About

This short video gives a brief introduction to my work as a Certified Holistic Practitioner and my approach to working with clients.

According To Neuroscience, This One Unexpected Thing Will Wildly Improve Your Focus

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If it feels like your attention span is getting shorter and shorter with every new iPhone release and Netflix drop, you’re not wrong. Toss in an international pandemic, and most of our ability to focus is out the window completely.

Neurologists have found that we can maintain focus for about 20-minute intervals at best. So while we shouldn’t feel guilty about our wandering minds, we’re also not opposed to seeking out new strategies to help us focus for longer periods of time. Thankfully, neuroscientists have discovered a way to extend our focus, and surprisingly, it has everything to do with sound.

Yes. Sound.

These burgeoning fields of neuroscience and psychology, called auditory neuroscience and psychoacoustics, study how our perception of sound affects the brain, our thoughts, and feelings. And these new scientific fields have spawned the development of something called “streamlined music,” which is thought to help improve cognitive functions, i.e., the way we think, process, and yes, focus.

The Science of Staying Focused

Neuroscientists have extensively studied how our brains take in external stimuli, process it, and focus on a single thing, blocking out everything else. When we’re able to focus on something with laser-like, narrowed concentration, that’s called selective attention.

The process for selective attention is complicated, so I’ll spare you the endless jargon and focus on this one word: norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurochemical transmitter that works as a stimulant— it’s released from your brain stem (at the base of your brain) when you take in external stimuli, and it acts on your decision-making faculties. Basically, it helps your brain decide what to pay attention to, as it’s part of our arousal response of fight, flight, or freeze. For example, if you encounter something dangerous, norepinephrine tells you to pay attention to it.

The neocortex (or frontal lobes of your brain) is also incredibly important for focusing. While the brainstem plays a role in selective attention, the neocortex regulates something called executive attention. Executive attention calls the shots; it can override the selective attention of the brainstem and decides what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.

The last piece of the pay-attention puzzle is habituation, which is when you adjust to your surroundings until they no longer distract you. So, when you’re working from home, and your kids are playing video games, and your partner is listening to NPR, and your dog is barking at the neighbor’s cat— at first, all of this is hugely distracting. But after 20 minutes or so, you might start to drown them out, and they become background chatter. That’s habituation.

When you’re focused and efficient, then all these aspects of attention are working for you. But, at some point you’re going to get bored — remember, we can only maintain focus for about 20 minutes. Your mind will begin to wander, and when this happens, it’s called goal habituation, which means that you’re no longer interested in what you were doing (old goal), and now you want to do something else (new goal). This is when attention and focus can fall apart. If it’s not the noise and clamor of other people in the house distracting you from the task at hand, it’s your own brain, looking for something novel to pay attention to.

We need novelty. Every 20 minutes or so, we need something fresh to engage us, so that our minds don’t trail off into rabbit holes of Pinterest or YouTube videos or Amazon shopping. This is how sound helps.

The Right Sounds Can Help You Stay on Task

Neuroscientists are still studying how and why sound affects mood and our ability to focus, and they’ve found that people who listen to music while they work are more productive and happier. So like DJs in lab coats, neuroscientists have started playing with beats. Monaural and Binaural beats, to be precise.

Specifically, neuroscientists are interested in how we perceive these two types of beats. We can hear a monaural beat with one ear, but we can only hear binaural beats when we listen with both ears.

Beats are measured in frequencies. With a monaural beat, you have two frequencies being played together that the ears are hearing, but as the ears perceive the sound, the sounds either cancel each other out, or they amplify each other. With binaural beats, one frequency is played into one ear, and a different frequency is played into the other ear; from this combination of frequencies, your brain perceives a third sound. That third sound is what makes binaural beats intriguing because no one knows what makes it.

What they do know about binaural beats is that after listening to these sounds for a while, different areas of the brain that were pulsing at different frequencies begin to pulse in synchrony. While the evidence is far from conclusive just yet, this synchronization of disparate parts of the brain could be the reason people are better able to focus.

Participants in experimental studies have been found to have positive reactions while listening to binaural beats, like a slower heartbeat, feeling calmer, and improved focus. According to a study from the University of Southern Denmark, “there is also cumulating evidence suggesting that listening to binaural beats may increase sustained attention.”

To test this out, I played binaural beats as I worked on this article. YouTube is flooded with them— here’s one, if you want to listen. And though I can’t say for certain what helped me focus, I enjoyed the calming tunes and felt more focused overall.

If the number of binaural beats videos on YouTube is any indication of popularity, then it’s no surprise that all sorts of apps offering binaural beats are popping up, including one called Focus@will.

Focus@will has taken binaural beats and the idea of streamline music to create customized beats for its customers, and reports that customers are experiencing “decreased self-awareness, timelessness, and motivation known as ‘flow.’” Sounds good to me.

The company claims that their beats can help you maintain focus for up to 100 minutes straight! And a study they did (which of course, take with a massive grain of salt, because any study done by a company selling a product could demonstrate bias) showed that their clients improved focus by 200-400%. They also tout a pretty solid fan base singing their praises.

To be fair, there are dissenting voices out there that say binaural beats are just a bunch of hype. These writers refer to the sounds as “auditory illusions.” They report that people are being tricked into thinking that they are hearing something they’re actually not and that the beats have no proven benefit. Is it a placebo effect? Maybe. But if you think it helps you focus, then isn’t it helping you focus?

But the bottom line is this; the right sounds can potentially do wonders for your concentration and productivity. Will it work? Try it. At worst, you’ll be relaxed. Which doesn’t sound half-bad right now.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

COVID-19 Causing You Anxiety Dreams? You’re Not Alone.

Sleeping Woman

A surprise to no one, our anxiety levels are at their absolute highest. And how we each handle our anxiety might differ, but our subconscious minds often cope through dreams. Lately, there’s been a huge uptick in vivid dreams.

“Many people have shared this has been like a ‘waking nightmare’ for them and are having more bizarre dreams than ever before,” says Linda H. Mastrangelo MA, LMFT, a psychologist and professor of Consciousness & Transformative Studies at John F. Kennedy University and Board Director of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). The “dramatic shifts from our everyday routines, not being able to reach for our usual ‘non-essential’ distractions as well as experiencing more sleep and /or erratic sleeping patterns is a perfect recipe for more dream recall, as well as nightmares and recurring dreams,” Mastrangelo, shared.

And while anxiety, lack of sleep, and the massive disruption in our routines are all contributing to our crazy stress dreams, how and why our subconscious psyches are in overdrive is a bit more complex. As it turns out, our anxiety dreams might actually be trying to protect our conscious minds. To understand why, we need to turn to the field of dream studies.

How Anxiety Impacts Your Dreams

With this huge increase in everyday stress, our anxiety dreams are taking on an entirely different character. Themes of intruders in your home, or feeling terrified that someone is trying to hug you, or the very literal fear of actually contracting the virus are all popping up in dream studies right now.

And although dream analysis isn’t a “hard science,” the field of dream studies can offer some interesting explanations for this phenomenon. Dreams help us integrate what happened during the day, what we watched before going to bed, along with our conscious and unconscious realities; so, dreams are integrating the part of you that is totally stressed out about bills piling up, and the part of you that is just outside your awareness— the subconscious one that is desperately afraid of not being in control of your life.

The originator of modern dream analysis, Carl G. Jung, saw dreams as integral to our nature, speaking to us in a language we intuitively understand—symbols—and ultimately leading to a process he called “individuation,” or the pursuit of the psyche to become whole and self-actualized, rather than fragmented. Our anxiety dreams, then, are a method for our subconscious to integrate with the conscious mind. In a very real way, your subconscious is taking the weight off of your conscious mind, helping you process your anxiety while you sleep.

Think of it this way. We live two lives: a waking life and a dreaming life. Dreams work in service of integrating our two worlds and creating wholeness in our psyches. So even though anxiety dreams can unnerve, even carrying over into the day as this uneasy groggy feeling, they are working toward a greater goal of psychological wholeness.

Use “Active Imagination” To Uncover Your Emotions

Marriage and Family Therapist, Isadora Alman, suggests delving into the emotions of our dreams for greater insight into ourselves. However bizarre the dream (why are my teeth always falling outttt), it is the feeling underneath the scene that reflects the real core of how you’re feeling.

“I have found working with dreams can be a gentle yet powerful gateway for healing, especially when it comes to identifying and working with emotions,” states Mastrangelo. She recommends the practice of “active imagination,” which entails assuming that your dreams hold emotional wisdom for you to uncover, and then picking something from your dream to “dialogue” with it. This is best done right when you wake up while the dream is still fresh, and you’re still in a restful state.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write down everything you can remember about your dream in as much detail as you can. Note the parts that held the most emotion.

  2. Next, select the part that was the most emotional and write about it, imagining that you can give it a voice. So, for instance, if you dreamt of a menacing animal lurking outside your home, you’d imagine that animal could speak to you and tell you why it’s there, what it wants, and what it has to say to you.

Whereas Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who created psychoanalysis, thought all dreams represented suppressed desires (Freud had a slanted view of sexuality, as witnessed in his Oedipal Complex), Jung saw dreams as representing parts of ourselves seeking fuller development.

Jung suggested that each symbol in our dreams represents an aspect of ourselves. So, by giving a voice to these dream symbols, we are actually talking to different parts of ourselves. Working with your dreams through active imagining is a deeper way into self-awareness.

Four Ways To Ease Anxiety Before Bed

As much as we can use our dreams as tools for self-knowledge, we also want to be able to sleep soundly without waking up in terror-sweats 15 times nightly. So try these 4 strategies for a more peaceful sleep:

  1. Decompress: Give yourself time to decompress before getting in bed an hour or so before bed, have some quiet time, take a soothing bath or a hot shower, read, use a gua sha, watch something soothing.

  2. Write out your worries: during your decompression time, you can also write down all your worries until you feel that you’ve got them all out. (I know this has worked for me when my mind stops generating worries and starts wandering and futurizing.)

  3. Make your bedroom a “Worry Free Zone”: Dedicate your bedroom to sleep, sex, and other pleasant activities, so that just walking into your bedroom puts your mind at ease. That means PUT DOWN FACEBOOK when in your bedroom.

  4. Try out different relaxation methods: Listen to a guided meditation, or a relaxation app (ASMR and binaural beats are hugely popular in helping people relax), do some light stretching, or restorative yoga, or try progressive relaxation exercises.

Carl G. Jung coined the phrase the “collective unconscious.” He used it to describe how we are intimately interconnected through myths and symbols, and how these themes show up in the dreams of people across the globe. We all share the interconnected experience of our psyches being impacted by the coronavirus. This pandemic is a global collective experience. And we’re all dreaming through it, together.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

What do Wellness Writing and Holistic Counseling have in Common?

Answer: Me!

Hi, and thanks so much for visiting my site!

I’m Tamara, a wellness writer and certified holistic practitioner.

Who is this site for, you ask?

1. Wellness Professionals, Marketing Directors, and Editors

Are you a wellness professional interested in increasing your client-load and/or building relationships with new and existing clients? Could you use the specialized perspective of a fellow wellness professional who understands the mindset of those seeking your services?

OR

Are you heading up the marketing efforts of a healthcare or wellness industry brand and have deadlines staring you down, a staff that is already spread thin, and no bandwidth to take on one more writing project?

Whether you are a wellness professional in private practice, a marketing director, or an editor of a wellness brand, I can help you in creating relevant, engaging, and convincing content that increases engagement and converts leads into sales.

If you’re looking for someone who understands the importance of well-researched SEO optimized content, meeting deadlines, speed, and accuracy all the while delivering materials in your unique voice, contact me today for a free 30-minute consultation.

I’m here for your website content, landing pages, newsletters, email marketing, blogs, and article writing needs.

Let’s talk!

2. Women Seeking the Support of a Counselor or Coach

Transform Yourself from the inside out, even if counseling and therapy failed you in the past.

  • Work through the negative thoughts and move around the drama that has you stuck
  • Calms your fears and get back on track to navigate through anxiety to a better, more joyful place
  • Get past internal conflicts and see that you are a good, worthy person who deserves a life of joy and happiness
  • Peel away layers of old habits and learn new life skills and behavior modification techniques
  • Learn to love yourself and to forgive others

My heart has broken many times, as I sat with a woman in session and listened to how she spoke of herself; the precise words she used, all revealed the layers of low self-worth and even self-loathing.

My commitment is in helping you to see yourself and the wisdom, power, and joy that you hold within you.

Living with depression and anxiety can make those things feel distant. I can help you reclaim them and start living the life you want.

3. Readers Interested in Health and Wellness

I don’t think anyone would argue with me if I said that most of us want to live well and be well. That’s a given. The question is, ‘How?’ There is so much information out there, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

That’s why I created a space to share wellness pieces that don’t get lost in the clutter and noise.

I’m here to share all things wellness that will help you grow and thrive!

 

Thanks again for visiting my site!

If you’re interested in my services, just fill out the form below, and I’ll do my best to get back to you within 24 hours.

If You Do This One Thing You Have A Higher Chance Of Getting Divorced

(Article first published on The Candidly.)

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I’m not even going to make you scroll to get to what the “one thing” is.

It’s sarcasm.

But sarcasm is fun! It’s funny! It’s easy! People boast about how “sarcastic” they are on their Hinge profiles to show what a great hang they are!

But using sarcasm with your partner during conflict is completely ineffective, distancing, maddening, unhelpful, and turns out to be one of the biggest predictors of divorce.

John Gottman, psychologist and author of loads of books dealing with marriage and relationships, says the reason the use of sarcasm is so threatening to a long-term relationship is that it’s a clear sign of contempt. And where there’s contempt in a relationship there is the loss of appreciation, admiration, and respect. According to biggest predictors of divorce, when we’ve reached this phase it’s as though we “can’t remember a single positive quality or act.” Which is just about the time that sarcasm rears its head.

However, before things get that bad, before we jump into the boat of contempt together, there can be other reasons we use sarcasm in our relationships. Namely? Fear. We are afraid of our partner’s rejection, judgment, ridicule, or abandonment.

Another common reason is that we’re just not very good at talking about our feelings because we just don’t have the words. Likely because we also can’t identify our feelings. By not having a sufficient vocabulary for our emotions, even if we wanted to express ourselves honestly, we can’t. One of the first skills Gottman teaches couples to improve their communication is “being able to put one’s feelings into words.”

Whatever reason you may have for being sarcastic toward your partner, just know that sarcasm damages romantic relationships. Period. So what if sarcasm has become your norm? Read this.

So how do we keep sarcasm from ruining our relationships?

1.    Awareness.

The first step to stopping sarcasm from wrecking your relationship is being aware of it in the first place. Start noticing when you use sarcasm. And start noticing why you used it. Is it used jokingly? Or is it used passive-aggressively? This can look and sound like a joke but you can feel the cut underneath it. Like, ‘Thanks, honey, you were soooo helpful.’ And you can hear the salt in your voice. That’s passive-aggressive.

2. Notice

The next step is to give yourself a minute. In the moment between your partner doing something that bothered you and you shooting back a sarcastic cut-down, there is a gap. In this space is your power to choose a different response.

When you’re caught in being reactive, then you will speak without thinking. Once you’re aware of what’s happening, you get to take a moment before you react.

Here’s an alternative to being sarcastic in that moment. When you sense a sarcastic comment about to explode from your mouth, stop. Take a breath. And notice what you’re feeling inside.

For example, say you had something happen in your career that you’re stoked about. The first person you want to share your excitement with is your partner. But when you do, they dismiss it as no big deal. They are not there for you to share your excitement or your pride. That can sting. You feel hurt and let down. Instead of saying that though, you say as sarcastically as possible, ‘Thanks for your support.’

Then you wait. Did it register? The baffled look on their face says no. You walk away feeling crushed.

3. Speak up.

Once you’re in touch with what you’re feeling, say it to your partner. It could be as simple as, ‘Wow, you know, I’m noticing that my chest feels really tight. I feel like I just had the wind knocked out of me.’

Your partner might look at you a little puzzled. They may not respond or they might ask why. You may notice that now your heart is racing and you’re feeling nervous because now you’re on the spot. It’s okay. Just keep breathing and keep noticing without trying to change what you’re feeling or dismissing it.

You might add something like, ‘I was really excited to share my news with you and I was hoping you’d be excited too and when you weren’t, I felt sad.’

It could be as simple as that.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that just because it’s simple it’s not also scary as shit; it can be terrifying to admit our true feelings so frankly.

What I can say is, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Sarcasm is the shield we put up when we don’t want to deal with discomfort. To be real about your feelings is to be uncomfortable and to risk being uncomfortable in front of your partner. It’s that kind of vulnerability and openness that creates closeness. While sarcasm only creates distance. Sarcasm can become a habit. And with any habit it takes time to change.

4. Build your vocab of “feeling words.” 

If you struggle to find the right words in describing how you feel, a great resource to start with is the Non-Violent Communication site, based on the book of the same name. It gives a handy download called the “Feelings Inventory” to help us better express ourselves.

5. Talk with your partner.

Arrange a time for you and your partner to talk. Talk openly about the ways you’ve used sarcasm to mask uncomfortable emotions. Or if it’s your partner who is the more sarcastic one, still frame the conversation around how you would like to have more honest and effective communication. And share how their sarcasm has affected you.

Bring up ways you haven’t been showing up as you would like. Because let’s be real, if your partner is sarcastic there is a possibility that you haven’t been showing up for them how they’d like. I know, it stings to hear it but it’s probably true.

By being the first to volunteer where you feel you’ve fallen short, you open an invitation for your partner to follow suit and express their feelings as well. Unless you’re dealing with a narcissist. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Our relationships offer us incredible opportunities to share life, love, and growth. Hiding behind sarcasm robs us of these moments and makes having a close relationship a challenge. Life can be challenging enough on its own. Make your relationship a safe place by being real about your feelings and encouraging your partner to do the same.