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What Years Of Anxiety & Insomnia Taught Me About How To Effectively Deal With It

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As I review posts on Facebook I am amazed by how many of my friends express their dissatisfaction with not being able to sleep at night, and then being tired during the day.

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This is such a common complaint that an entire industry has grown out of it—not just in pharmaceuticals but also in the self-help area and in gadgets like audio or music sleep aids.

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I am therefore moved to write about my own personal struggles in this area and to discuss what has helped me.

Before I continue I will caution you that as you read this you may react negatively to some of what I suggest. If possible just notice this reaction; try as much as you can not to “feed” it. It’s fine.

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My Experience With Anxiety & Insomnia

So about me. Seven years ago I had panic attacks although I didn’t really know what they were. I sought and got some medication but I had continuous fatigue and spent many nights lying in bed wide awake, only to find myself exhausted the next day.

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Since I didn’t want to depend on drugs, I tried other things, almost frantically. I used audio “beats” which did relax me and were probably the best of the external remedies. I also bought an expensive “light box” to alleviate my diagnosed “SAD” or seasonal affective disorder. None of this really worked, however, and I spent my days looking for more answers.

Of course I also saw my doctor, who was a no non-sense ex-marine still practicing into his 70’s who eschewed vitamins and any sort of faddish or pop medicine. He gave me some sleep aids but advised me, “Don’t worry, when your body needs to sleep, you’ll sleep, believe me.” This provided little solace, however, as I spent my days in perpetual fog and (take note of this) agitation about my condition.

Finally I had a few sessions with my friend Michael Jeffreys and I told him that my agitation was the worst in the morning, after I got up from a sleepless night and felt particularly awful. He asked me a very important question. He said, “What would happen if you knew that this would continue for the rest of your life?”

At first of course I was appalled by the prospect and I recoiled. But as I took it in I realized that I could either kill myself or just accept the situation for what it was. I would need to surrender.

I’m not going to tell you that I slept like a baby that night and my problem was solved. Far from it—my symptoms continued and I even went to acupuncture at one point. But Michael’s words sunk in and I remembered my doctor’s response and I began to consider the possibility of just accepting sleeplessness at night as part and parcel of my existence.

Michael also sort of “gave me permission” to take naps or lie down and rest when I felt tired. Up until then I tried to power through. At that time I also read Ram Dass’ book “Still Here” about aging, because I attributed a lot of my problems to reaching the age of 60 and Ram Dass talked about clients of his who spent a lot of time “lying around” and when they complained about it he told them that was normal and to just enjoy it.

Applying This To You

Okay, so now I know some of you are saying “but I have to go to work and when I get tired I’m at a desk and can’t take a nap.”  That is unfortunate and it makes it difficult but you can take a break, watch your breath, pull back and just accept the fact that you’ll have to finish the day tired.

You need to surrender to the reality of the situation. If this sounds familiar it is the essence of the teaching of Eckhart Tolle. And now here comes the “ah ha” moment – are you ready?

As you actually begin to pull back and accept the circumstances you may discover that it is not the fatigue that is the “problem.” The fatigue is there. It is what it is.

IT IS YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FATIGUE THAT ARE THE PROBLEM.

Here Byron Katie’s work can be helpful when she asks, “Who would you be without that thought?” So right now your mind is screaming, “You’re damn right, I can’t stop thinking about how tired I am.” And of course this is what is happening at night when you are worried about not sleeping and the consequences that await you the next day.

There is only one possible solution. Let the mind scream. Love it for warning you about the consequences. But try to relax and watch it scream, like a baby that wants attention. It won’t be easy but begin to recognize that you have hit the wall. You are out of options.

In my case it would continue screaming at me about how unproductive I was in the morning. My work had slowed down and I wasn’t doing much of anything. This was exacerbating my unease. I was judging myself as a deadbeat and a failure. Slowly I began to recognize this pattern—my mind had a thought, I noticed it and believed it, I tried to “solve” what the thought suggested, and it led to a series of more and more frantic thoughts.

To get a brief glimpse about how wrong your word-based mind can be, consider this:

 

Presentation1And it may finally become clear that the thoughts are simply not “true.”  They’re just thoughts.

As Eckhart Tolle suggests, when you begin to notice this you can talk back to the thoughts or just ignore them, and eventually laugh at them.

I have come to believe that the condition of actual insomnia is your body rebelling against the tyranny of the mind and reality itself trying to teach you a valuable lesson:  you are not and cannot be in control of everything—and possibly you have no real influence on anything (but that’s another story).

Suffice it to say that this relaxation in the face of a mind that has taken control through years of conditioning is a revelation. In fact, I believe as Eckhart Tolle suggests that it is precisely what Jesus meant by the “Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Power In Rebellion

A big step in this direction can be outright rebellion. When the phone rings don’t answer it. When a text comes in don’t look at it. When an email arrives don’t respond until some time passes. Again, do not expect results “overnight.” In fact, try not to expect anything. Try to just accept the circumstances as they arise. “Oh shit, I’m tired again” is sufficient. Try to rest. When you sleep, be grateful. If you lie awake next to a loved one be grateful.

If you lie awake next to someone annoying, try to change the circumstance. If you lie awake alone, don’t get into an inner dialog about being lonely and if only you had George Clooney or Kate Upton lying next to you. In fact, reflect upon how annoying the most attractive person you ever had there became when you were really tired.

And if possible, try to begin a daily meditation practice. The essence of meditation is noticing what is, and noticing that thoughts are just thoughts. And noticing the breath. And the space between thoughts. But this is key—don’t see any of these steps as a “solution” to a problem. The real problem is not the circumstances but your thoughts about them.

The circumstances are reality. Period.

You might also begin to see your thoughts as the rolling text in Times Square or the “crawl” under CNN or ESPN on TV.  Just let it continue to crawl and do the best you can. You may become surprised at how sweet it feels to discover that it’s just a bunch of pixels going across a screen.

And lastly, be kind to yourself and remember to breathe. But DON’T try to “learn how to breathe.” Just notice your breath as evidence that Life is going to do its thing, miraculously, with your nasty thoughts or without them.  It doesn’t give a shit.

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How To Ground Yourself: A Simple Yet Powerful Technique

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Mental health challenges, depression and even physical illness, are all on the rise. All three are believed by emerging research to be linked to trauma.

Thankfully, nervous system health and trauma are becoming a big part of what people talk about as it seems people are looking to get to the root of these issues more now than ever before.

After coming to my own realization that I was traumatized from experiences I had, I began studying trauma to not only help myself but to see how I could further improve my own media work – which has been, in essence, trauma-informed, since 2009.

What I’ve come to feel is that trauma affects almost all of us in some way, while there is not much data to back that up, I truly believe this to be the case. Learning useful skills to work through that trauma is becoming important in order to take our health into our own hands.

In the video below, I talk a bit about how events going on in the world can make us feel anxious and worried, and how that affects our bodies, minds, and health. I also share a simple yet powerful technique for sensory grounding.

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Consciousness

Why Hugging Is Powerful: Especially When We’re So Isolated

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

When’s the last time you had a good hug? Can you even recall a time when one lasted longer than 10 or 15 seconds? Hugging releases oxytocin, a bonding hormone, as well as serotonin and endorphins. These hormones are a big part of what makes us feel good and build a sense of community and connection with others.

When we hug our friends or family, or even spend a good few hours with them, we often don’t know what exactly the mechanism is that makes us feel good, but often times it’s touch, eye contact and reading facial expressions.

Throughout COVID, once we got a sense of what it feels like to not have as much touch, see smiles, see our friends or family, we might have gained a greater awareness of how important this really is. Intense isolation, like we’ve all experienced, leads to touch deprivation, and one could argue, has led to collective traumatization throughout the course of this pandemic.

Humans biologically need touch, it’s built right into our physiology. When we are babies, touch is a crucial part of our ability to regulate our nervous systems and feel safe. When we’re very young, our bodies have not yet built the ability to self-regulate (feel safety and comfort), and thus our caregivers play the important role of not only touching to bring regulation and safety, but also using facial expressions to send the message that ‘all is OK.’

Further, humans thrive in a sense of community and connection. When we are too isolated, without a deep and dedicated practice like monk’s might do in a cave in Tibet, we begin to lose the benefits of co-regulation, and in turn our psychology can begin to suffer over time. Humans have built incredible things – together – when in community, and touch plays an important role in that.

It most cultures around the world, hugging is part of daily life. Other cultures might decide to greet one another with cheek kissing instead, but touch is often a common denominator. But it’s true, there are places that may be ‘less touch-y’ and will certainly find other ways to connect.

One thing I can say though, especially during this unprecedented time of isolation, make it a point to hug those close to you when you can. Make it a good one, 15 or 20 seconds! Pay attention to how you feel after.

As mentioned, hugging is not the only way we get a sense of co-regulation and connection. Looking into one another’s eyes, sensing facial movements and reactions are also important. We have millions of mirror neurons in our brains that are constantly reading what is happening in another person, and sending information to areas of our brain, subconsciously, that tell us how a person might be feeling, for example. When we witness someone taking an action, neurons in our brains respond to that action in the same way as if we were taking that action ourselves – hence ‘mirror neurons.’

This might mean that when we watch a nervous moment in sports for example, although we are not playing, we might take actions like covering our mouths or holding our chest, feeling the nerves the players are likely feeling. As you can imagine, this is not a perfect science. Sometimes we are nervous but the player is cool as a cucumber, but generally, mirror neurons tend to help us connect to what others are feeling or doing, giving us a sense of empathy.

It goes even deeper. Research from Institute of HeartMath has shown that the human heart emits a measurable electromagnetic field that contains information other people can pick up on and decode in their brains. Regardless of how ‘new-agey’ this might sound to some minds, it’s a reality of our physical bodies.

Just think, have you ever walked into a room with multiple people in it and noticed the energy of it? Perhaps you noticed right away it was very tense or very jovial. This sense likely comes from having an awareness of how our electro magnetic field is interacting with the collective field of the room.

What you’re feeling is how someone’s general emotional state is affecting the field they emit. The more we feel tension, anxiety, or depression for example, the more we also put that signal out into our communities. Now, this isn’t a call to get stressed out about how we’re affecting others, this is simply a realization of what’s going on.

In our current chaotic world, it’s quite common to feel anxious or uncertain about what’s happening, and acknowledging that is OK is perfectly fine. The next question becomes: how can I manage my emotional state and create a a felt sense of calm? (Which of course will change the field you emit as well.)

Managing Our Emotions & Energy

One very simple option is written at the top of the article we post here on The Pulse. It’s a simple technique I adapted from my training at HeartMath, but I added in my own flair learned from my trauma specialist training as I felt a greater focus on interception, our awareness of sensations in our body, was important to be in the mix.

As go move through your day, stop, take a breath and release the tension in your body starting from your head all the way down to your feet. Take a few moments on each muscle group if you like. Place attention on your physical heart and breathe slowly into the area for 60 seconds, focusing on feeling a sense of ease.

I wrote a much more in-depth article here, where I share more detailed steps and how this helps improve our overall energy levels as well.

Our bodies are filled with tools that sense anything from obvious to ‘unseen’ signals coming from others and our environment. These tools suggest we are beings of connection, and we thrive when we get enough of it. They also suggest it’s important to pay attention to more than just the material aspect of our world, as there is much that needs to be ‘taken care of’ in the ‘unseen.’ By that, I mean, as we manage our emotions and regulate our nervous system’s, our felt electro magnetic field communicates a different message to others out there.

What message are you sending?

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Aquarius: Rationality & Seriousness

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

We are having a Full Moon in Aquarius on July 23rd/24th. It will appear the brightest on the night of the 23rd throughout most of the world and on the night of the 24th in the time zones East of Japan. This is the peak of the Lunar cycle that began with a New Moon in Cancer on July 9th/10th.

The energies of a Full Moon are strongest in the days surrounding it yet its astrological configurations also play a part over the following two weeks. You may start to see its themes slowly build up after the New Moon prior.

This is a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Aquarius and the Sun in Leo. It can play out as either a conflict, an integration, or some sort of dynamic between the energies of both signs. The Moon reflects the expression of feeling and emotion while the Sun reflects the expression of ego and conscious self.

We may feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us; with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Aquarius side and others expressing the Leo side. In some cases, Full Moons can also reflect/trigger some sort of change or release.

Full Moon In Aquarius Opposite Sun In Leo

Leo season began 36 hours before the Full Moon and will continue until August 22nd/23rd. This is the sign of self-expression, creativity, love, affection, children, courage, vitality, passion, leadership, generosity, and playfulness. Ruled by the Sun, it is also about shining in our power and being in alignment with what really lights us up and gets us excited.

The negative expressions of Leo can be egotistical, self-absorbed, authoritarian, dramatic, stubborn, jealous, and hot-tempered.  As it is associated with seeking praise and attention, it can be demanding of respect and be boisterous without considering or caring about how others respond to that.

The Full Moon highlights and brings the energies of the opposing sign of Aquarius into this Leo backdrop. This is the sign of friends, networks, social dynamics, social issues, groups, teams, humanity, and being in the best interest of the collective. This energy is unconventional, idealistic, innovative, progressive, scientific, original, inventive, technological, reforming, and even revolutionary.

Negatively, Aquarius can be overly detached, aloof, unemotional, and very invested in the mind at the expense of the heart. Traditionally ruled by Saturn, it can also be unyielding when it comes to the ideas and perspectives that it has already decided on.

Both Leo and Aquarius have some similarities. They are ‘Fixed’ signs and therefore can both be determined yet stubborn. They are also both associated with originality and authenticity. In Aquarius, this comes from its unconventional and innovative attributes while in Leo it comes from being inspired by its heart centred self-expression.

Full Moon Quincunx Venus, Conjunct Saturn, & Square Uranus

This Full Moon is in a quincunx with Venus which has recently entered Virgo. Our feelings, emotions, needs, or domestic lives may be at odds with friendships, values, finances, pleasure, or matters of love. It can be hard to integrate these areas but being flexible and making adjustments can be the solution.

The Full Moon is moving towards Saturn in the same sign. This can reflect a serious energy and we may be faced with limitations, restrictions, delays, or obstacles. We or others may be emotionally distant, pessimistic, or reserved. However, this can be good for some sort of effort that requires discipline, structure, and orderliness. After the Full Moon period, some of these energies will be strong again on August 1st/2nd.

Following the conjunction with Saturn, the Moon forms a square aspect with the disruptive Uranus in Taurus. This is activating the square between Saturn and Uranus that is happening throughout the year which I’ve covered in previous articles. Themes around ‘old versus new’, ‘restrictions versus freedom’, ‘the status quo versus revolution’, ‘commitments/responsibilities versus liberation’, ‘elder versus youth’, ‘progressiveness versus tradition’ and so forth.

Jupiter Going Back Into Aquarius

Jupiter entered its home sign of Pisces in mid-May for a short stint as it is returning back into Aquarius on July 28th/29th. The planet of expansion, freedom, beliefs, perspective, education, is unrestrained in Pisces and gets to express itself more ideally in this sign. We have seen examples of this as many jurisdictions loosened up covid related restrictions during this period.

With it going back into Aquarius, a traditionally Saturn ruled sign with Saturn currently present there, Jupiter will be more inhibited until late December when it re-enters Pisces again. It’s possible that during this 5 month period we will likely experience more restrictive measures return or new ones implemented. We may also experience this in different ways in our personal lives such as not being able to expand the way we’d like to. However, this might not be noticeable immediately.

The combination of Saturn and Jupiter in Aquarius (which began last December) can be good for building towards something or planting seeds pertaining to some sort of technological integration, social networking, collective or social pursuits, activism, new scientific approaches to things, and innovation.

Venus Square Lunar Nodes, Mars Opposite Jupiter

Venus will be in a square with the Lunar Nodes which will be strong from July 28th-30th. We may be reflecting on the past and future, or perhaps at a crossroads, when it comes to friendships, love, values, or financial matters. We may need to complete something and address what is holding us back  to help us move on and take a step forward in an evolutionary way when it comes to these areas of life. Venus is in Virgo so therefore discernment, details, practicality, health, organization, or efficiency may be key.

At this time Mars will be switching from Leo to Virgo while in an opposition to Jupiter. We may begin to feel the need to apply ourselves in a way that is more productive, sustainable, healthy, and clean. However, we can overextend ourselves and take on more than we can handle. This can also play out as conflicts around beliefs, perspectives, opinions, or judgements.

Mercury’s Superior Conjunction

Mercury will be in its Superior Conjunction on August 1st/2nd which is in an important phase of Mercury’s cycle with the Sun. From this point onward we may have a better perception around certain things that were seeded or occurred in the previous two months which may also help our momentum forward. .

Circumstances and developments that happen at this time can help us gain more clarity or facilitate necessary realizations to help us make the right decisions and appropriate mental focus. During this conjunction, the Sun and Mercury will be opposing Saturn which can play out as hindrances or the need to be pragmatic as part of this process.

Things To Consider

How can you balance or integrate your personal passions with the needs of the collective? How can you resolve any conflicts between leadership and a team or group? Are you experiencing any challenges or conflict between your heart and intellect? What areas of your life do you need to be more orderly, structured, disciplined, or take more seriously? Is there anything that you need to separate from? How can you apply yourself in a more noble way?

These are just some examples of themes that could come up or ways to approach this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out as well.  If you wish to do any sort of intentional release, it is best to do so after it begins to wane following the peak or during the two weeks afterwards when it is waning before the next New Moon. The exact peak of this Full Moon is at 2:37am Universal Time on July 24th, night of the 23rd. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

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