This short video gives a brief introduction to my work as a Certified Holistic Practitioner and my approach to working with clients.
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:
Write down everything you can remember about your dream in as much detail as you can. Note the parts that held the most emotion.
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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.]
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.
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I’ve been wanting to write something for the new year, and this is not what I wanted to write. But it is what wanted to be written.
I wanted to write a piece on empowerment, specifically to women on ways to start the year (and the decade for that matter) off in a powerful way.
But what’s been creeping up behind my eyes and in my psyche, stirring my dreams at night, are family traditions.
Traditions, rituals, ceremonies, these things we enact again and again, oftentimes without thought—they have become so rote—but carry such deep significance.
My family is from South Carolina and even though I was raised in Southern California, my heart is a Southern heart. I love going back home to visit my family. As soon as we make the descent into Charlotte Douglas International Airport and I see the evergreens and that red clay dirt, I know I’m home.
One tradition that comes from the south that my family and so many southerners partake in is a traditional New Year’s Day dinner; it’s intended to be both a prayer and a blessing for prosperity for the year to come.
It was nice to see that the Los Angeles Times did a feature on the importance of the tradition for black families.
The components of the meal are simple yet carry special meaning: greens (usually collard or mustard greens) symbolize “foldin money” as my great-grandmother used to say, and black-eyed peas symbolize “pocket change” or coins. We round the meal out with a pork dish and cornbread.
The pork is customarily chitlins. And days before the countdown to the new year, you’ll see the big buckets of chitlins piled up, ready for purchase in the meat department at your local grocery stores.
Chitlins, for those who don’t know (and if you don’t know then you’ve lived a good clean life, LOL) are the intestines of a pig. That’s right. Pig intestines. And if you think that sounds disgusting to eat, you’re right. It is.
My memories of the women in my family cooking chitlins are of someone dragging in that big-ass bucket of intestines and my aunties (actually cousins but they were so much older than me they were like my aunts—you know how that goes) standing over the kitchen sink washing and washing and washing these damn things, pulling the lining out and discarding it, and washing them some more.
My great-grandmother’s house would reek to high heaven! Because chitlins smell like shit. Literally. It’s gross. It’s so gross that by the time I reached my teens I was sick of it and I told my mom we were not eating those ever again. We’ll make a pork roast or pork chops or ribs or SOMETHING but we aren’t eating chitlins any more. Thank God, she agreed.
Fast -forward to New Year’s 2020 and I’m in my own home preparing the dinner for my partner and me and our friends.
Come to find out that one of our neighbors had a grandmother from Oklahoma who would make the same dinner as we made in South Carolina, chitlins and all. Unlike me, my neighbor has fond memories of eating the chitlins her grandmother made. God bless them both.
For our dinner we made a pork roast.
While I was preparing the collards, I suddenly became acutely aware of each step: washing each broad green leaf then stacking them one on top of the other smallest to biggest, rolling them up like a cigar, then slicing them into long ribbons. With each fall of my kitchen knife, I felt something inside me swell, something that recognized that we have enacted these same steps since the time of slavery when the enslaved Africans created this meal from the scraps that their masters gave them.
You’d think that recognition would make me sad or angry. It didn’t. I just made me still. Everything within me went very still, almost like how I’ve felt after hours of mediation, I call it “the inner mountain”.
There are brief moments when I feel like life allows me a glimpse across time that connects me to my ancestry. This was one of those moments.
I think the fact that we recently had a death in our family—my great-uncle Lad, enhanced this feeling. His given name was William, but we all called him Uncle Lad. He is the second to last of that generation of great-aunts and uncles to go. When our great-aunt Eunice passes, that will be the end of that generation in my family. Sitting with that thought brings a soft, solemn feeling with it.
My great-aunts and uncle were people I saw only at the big family events like reunions, weddings, or funerals. You’re not close but you know that they’re out there and doing fine. You know what I mean?
To feel that group of family members moving on brings the importance of traditions to the front of my mind.
Keeping up family traditions is to know that you are participating in a custom that has gone on for centuries or even millennia, like in Zoroastrianism and the Persian custom of Shabe Chelleh, celebrating Winter Solstice.
It grounds me and helps me to see myself as a small part of something far greater that stretches back through time and will extend beyond my life. Knowing this comforts me deeply. I feel embraced by my ancestry even as I think on them and honor them by continuing these traditions.
The older I get, the more importance these things have. I’m finding that these traditions make life meaningful and my connections to my ancestors visceral.
I keep their memories alive with each meal. And our lives are enlivened by the customs they left us.
May you rest in peace, Uncle Lad, Grandmother, Aunt Ethel, Aunt Catherine, Aunt Jenelle, and Ma-Vinnie. May you rest in peace.
(Article previously published by the wellness brand The Candidly.)
Let’s be real. Yoga is weird. I know it’s incredibly trendy, and it seems like everyone is doing it but the bottom line is it’s just a semi-bizarre thing to do. It feels strange moving your body in ways that seem wholly unnatural and counter-intuitive—leave “Happy Baby” to actual babies.
And then there are the people. Typically, skinny women outfitted in Lululemon, carrying brightly colored metal water bottles filled with Kangen water because regular water isn’t evolved enough. And then there are the bearded men, with their calf tattoos, and their man buns, all of them also sporting Lululemon. Lululemon is making a shit-ton of money off people easily parted with their cash.
So I hear you. The ick factor is high.
Then there is the 20ish yoga teacher, with her perky Instagram celebrity glow, who speaks in a low, airy voice—the kind of voice that should only ever be used when you’re waking somebody up from a deep sleep or trying to put someone in a deep sleep. They tell you things like “breathe into your ovaries,” and” rotate your inner thighs out toward the wall” (wut?) and then they try to pixie dust you with essential oils to help you “deepen” into your Savasana. Get back, lady. I’m juuuust fine.
As someone who has done yoga for years, taught yoga for years and watched yoga transform to fit the needs of the American consumer, I can attest to the downright eye-rolling annoyingness of it, the hype of it, and the over-priced expense of it. For the longest time classes were around $10. Now the average hovers between $20-25 for a drop-in class. And I get it—overhead. You gotta pay teachers, cover the rent, supply the evolved Kangen water, and have the square footage for all those prayer beads and $65 gauzy tank tops.
If you can put all that noise aside and get down to the essentials of yoga, you will find something that is real, that can be used in everyday life, and that has tremendous value.
These are the things that yoga has taught me that I use several times a week even if I don’t step foot into a yoga class.
Just breathe. You’d be surprised if you took the time to notice how many times a day you aren’t breathing. Lots of people hold their breath periodically throughout the day and never notice it. If you’re a woman in the workforce and you’ve had men talk over you or take full credit for your ideas, then you probably hold your breath. A lot.
Holding breath equals holding emotion. Why? Because one way we control our emotions is through our breath. When someone does something that really angers you and you can’t say anything at that moment, what do you do? Usually, you suck in your breath and hold it for a second, then breathe out with clenched teeth. It’s something we do when we’re angry or scared or sad.
Yoga makes you pay attention to your breath. So much so that with time, you will quickly make the connection between a change in your emotions and a change in how you’re breathing.
When I teach, I tell my students that the poses of yoga are secondary. Yoga is about connecting you with your breath. In each pose ask yourself, ‘How am I breathing in this pose? How does my breathing change from one pose to the next?’ When you move with the breath, each posture becomes an expression of that breath.
There are different breathing exercises for different purposes ranging from those that calm you to those that energize. Alternate-nostril breathing is a technique that helps calm you down.
Here’s how to do it:
Using your right hand, curl the middle three fingers down against the palm, leaving the pinky and thumb extended. Press your thumb against the right nostril, cutting off the air, and inhale through the left nostril. Hold the breath in as you pinch your nose with both the pinky and the thumb. Then release your thumb, opening the right nostril and exhale through the right side. And repeat, closing by closing the right side with your thumb and inhaling through the left. Do this for a few minutes and I guarantee that you will feel calmer.
You can use this anytime you need it. And don’t worry if you’re in public and others can see you. You don’t know those people and what they think doesn’t matter.
One of the big payoffs to breathing exercises is that they have a direct impact on your ability to focus (more on that in a minute) and the health of your brain. A study reported on in Science Daily from Trinity College Dublin found that “The way we breathe… directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.” The goal of this study was to see if the things yogis and meditation teachers have been saying for years about the benefits of breathing exercises were true. Turns out, yes, y’all!
Knowing how to control your breathing and the ability to transition from regular breathing to a long, deep breath is one of the key take-aways from yoga class for managing daily stress and anxiety.
Today things move so fast that being able to focus on one thing for even five minutes can feel like a challenge. Yoga teaches us how to focus. During a class, our focus will shift from our breath to our alignment to our gaze.
‘Set your gaze on a spot on the floor in front of you,’ is something you typically hear when doing a balance posture like “Tree Pose”. Where you place your eyes is important because it becomes your focal point. Think about when you drive your car. If you take your eyes off of the road ahead of you and look to your right at an accident on the shoulder, the car will veer slightly to the right. The car follows your gaze just like your focus.
Your practice will only be as good as your focus. If you are distracted and looking at the person on the mat in front of you or looking at your toes thinking, ‘It’s really time for a pedi,’ then you won’t be able to feel the subtle shifts in your body, or your breath. You won’t reach that inner stillness of mind that comes from putting all of your attention on one point.
Paying attention in this way is an act of mindfulness. And mindfulness has been proven to have countless benefits on emotional and psychological health. Studies have proven that mindfulness practices work to bring your attention to the present moment and enhance your ability to focus overall. In a recent article from Positive Psychology, current studies stated that “In the research it was discovered that mindfulness cannot only positively impact attention… [it] can help keep attention stable and help one remain focused on the present.” This is one of the great things about practicing yoga—what you learn on the mat about being mindful and maintaining focus—can be used in your everyday life.
Have you heard the expression, “monkey mind”? It refers to the incessant chatter that goes on in your head. Based on practically nothing, monkey mind can take your emotions on a roller coaster, leave you exhausted, and keep you spouting off at the mouth about things that really don’t matter, that are just neurotic, anxiety-driven nonsense. Pull up old episodes of Felicity. That entire show was monkey mind.
To deal with all the mess that anxiety churns up, we meditate. When it comes to alleviating anxiety and anxious thoughts, meditation has been proven to help tremendously. At the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital, psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, gives her take on monkey mind this way, “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power”. In her work, she uses mindfulness meditation practices to help her patients overcome their overpowering thoughts.
Most people go to yoga, twist and bend for about an hour, then bounce. What few yoga teachers teach (in this exercise-based fitness culture that yoga has squeezed itself in) is that yoga was meant to be a preparation for meditation. By exerting the body, you prepare it for stillness. Once in meditation, you can still the mind in a couple of ways. But before I share those, I want to clear up a misconception: It is almost impossible to completely quiet the mind. You may, at best, achieve a moment or two. Rather than silencing the mind, we are giving the mind something to focus on. And here’s how:
Focus on the breath. You can pay attention to the way air flows in and out your nose, feeling the sensations of air passing over your upper lip. Or you can focus on the feeling of your lungs expanding along with your belly on the inhale and the lungs contracting and belly emptying on the exhale. Paying attention to these gentle movements of the body gives the mind just enough to focus on that it slows down and gets quiet.
Mantra. Mantras are sounds or words that convey a meaning or message. “Om” is the most common mantra in the yoga world that you’d most quickly recognize. They can be spoken aloud or silently. Mantras are my go-to for getting out of monkey mind. When I’m stressed, can’t sleep, or when I’m stuck in a loop of catastrophe thinking (a loved one is late getting home- they must be dead on the freeway. You know that one.), mantras always work for me and bring me back to a calm and peaceful place.
Now that we have things like free yoga videos on YouTube, accessibility is much less of an issue. You can do yoga in your living room in your underwear if you want to, and not be bothered with all the unnecessary gobbledygook that yoga comes with. If you can look past all that to the essentials of what yoga was meant to be–a spiritual practice that aligns body and spirit through movement, breath, and meditation—you will find a treasure trove of tools that will carry you through all the days of your life.
Oh, and you may even live longer if you do yoga. So, there’s that.
Part of the joy in writing this monthly feature on wellness businesses is discovering the little gems around my city. For the month of September, I am featuring Sacred Roots Holistic Healing and its offshoot, Panacea Holistic Institute.
Recently, I met a woman who told me of a healing center on Broadway called Sacred Roots. The name was vaguely familiar—probably having driven past it countless times while never consciously registering it.
The exterior, like the center itself, is understated. There is something about minimalism that soothes the mind.
When you walk into Sacred Roots, you are immediately put at ease. The space is bright with lots of natural light, uncluttered, and calm. Voices are hushed as sessions are underway within any one of the five treatment rooms, with each room dedicated to its own element. Even if sessions weren’t underway, something about the space makes you want to whisper. It’s something you feel as you walk through it, a movement inward, to be in silence and stillness.
Sacred Roots is a women-founded community wellness hub that hosts daily, weekly, and monthly offerings of impressive and diverse holistic modalities. Along with therapeutic massage, they offer yoga classes, sound healing, Dharma talks followed by meditation class, and moon circles at the new and full moon.
The whole person is catered to at Sacred Roots not just with bodywork but through sessions with counselors, Reiki practitioners, and doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine providing acupuncture and cupping. What’s more, you can book chiropractic services or an Ayurveda session. It is a beautiful coupling of Eastern and Western holistic healing practices.
Of the offerings that I was excited to see, their Momma-to-be care team just won me over. They refer to it as “Womb Services” and they offer natural fertility help, birthing consultations, and pre/postpartum doula services.
Additionally, mommas can take care of themselves and their newborns with pre and post-natal massage, infant massage, and the utterly charming offering of a henna belly blessings. You can just feel the sweetness and nurturant holding that is created to welcome your baby into the world.
It almost makes me wish I was pregnant … almost. If you’re expecting or know someone who is, please, let them know about these gorgeous services!
There is also an educational component to Sacred Roots – as if it needed more cool things.
For those interested in proactive steps to optimizing your health and wellbeing, they offer a 6-week course in Sacred Self Care. The course covers self-care practices like yoga, mind/body awareness, Ayurveda, mindfulness, and self-massage just to name a few.
Interested in teaching meditation?
You’re in luck! They have a Meditation Instructor Course. Held on the first Saturday of the month, this 6-month course just started in August and will run through January 2020.
Just to tack on other awesomeness, Sacred Roots also provides gallery space for local artists. They do a quarterly showcase that is “curated to fit the four seasons.” AND they have partnered up with other wellness businesses that will give a discount to those who are proud Wellness Card caring members of Sacred Roots. It’s like come on already, we get it, you’re awesome. But seriously, check out the conscious companies on this roster; You got everything from juice shops to vegetarian restaurants to yoga to essential oils.
But the most exciting new development for the healing space is the upcoming opening of a new teaching wing. Panacea Holistic Institute will be Long Beach’s first holistic health college. Cue applause!
Panacea will provide an accredited 555-hour certification training in Bodywork & Healing Arts. A student clinic will be operated on the premises to provide pupils with supervised practicum hours and give the public access to discounted bodywork sessions. Yes to affordable massage therapy!
The grand opening celebration will be held this Saturday, September 14, 2019, from 11 to 5 pm, at 2841 East Broadway, right here in Long Beach.
During the festivities, the owners will honor individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the community. The day will include a food drive, giveaways, and bodywork sessions.
Sacred Roots and Panacea are truly something worth celebrating!
If you can make it to the grand opening, Go! Support this local business that is doing so many great things and fully living up to its name as a community wellness center.