A Self-soothing Recipe for Nighttime Freak-Outs
Having an anxiety disorder sometimes means that I get to wake up in the middle of the night feeling high anxiety or the beginning of a panic attack. These episodes can be triggered by real or imaginary concerns and fears. One way or the other, that’s certainly not the best way to spend my time in bed at night, especially when I should be healing and recovering my energy through peaceful sleep.
One of the most effective methods I employ to trick my mind into relaxing and falling back asleep is the same technique I started using years ago to help release sciatica and osteoarthritis pain: I soothingly guide myself to sleep with positive affirmations (silently, in my mind), as a form of self-hypnosis.
Although my affirmations are customized to different circumstances, I usually start repeating something along these lines, as I take deep breaths:
“I am not my body... I am not my aches and pains or health conditions...
I am not my mind...
I am not my fears...
I am beyond my mind and physical body...
I am health... I am wellness... I am wholesomeness...
I am perfect in my imperfection...
I am loved... I am loved... I am loved...
I am love... I am love... I am love...
I AM... I AM... I AM...”
Occasionally, depending on the level of anxiety, I have to repeat this exercise more than once to achieve the desired effect. More often than not, however, I fall asleep in the middle of the first set, as I start relaxing and feeling relief from anxiety and physical pain.
This simple technique is just as effective for daytime anxiety or panic. Although it’s often recommended that hypnotic suggestions are made as affirmations, rather than stated in the negative, in this case it feels empowering to first acknowledge limiting beliefs by denying them, and then affirm that which is true.
What self-soothing techniques are effective for you?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/21/22
Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash
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The best things in live often involve stolen moments that provide priceless glimpses of peace. As I close my eyes, start deep-breathing and set the intention to recall the feeling of peaceful moments, countless of such instants easily spring to mind (and they do last but an instant in the fabric of time):
- Scuba-diving in the Florida keys on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, peacefully floating at the bottom of the ocean, barely touching the sand, admiring the sun rays refracting in the water and the colorful fish swimming around the brilliant coral reefs...
- Feeling the light Spring breeze and observing the leaves and flowers gently swaying as I sit outdoors for my daily sun meditation...
- Feeling the cool sheets in my soft, comfortable bed at night...
I could go on and on... As the saying goes, “life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans.” Stealing peaceful moments is especially helpful during periods of stress and overwhelm triggered by too many activities and not enough play time and rest. This simple practice is the perfect antidote to rushing through life on a “doing” mode; it helps you ease into a quiet “being” mode instead. Finding the space between breaths.
Become a peace thief and hoarder! Turn it into a game and challenge yourself to break your daily or weekly record. Create a “peace moment stealing” score card, invite a few buddies to join and compare “peace moment stealing” scores! Then plan a weekly or monthly celebration where the winner receives a small reward from the group.
Steal those peaceful moments whenever possible, throughout the day:
- Before getting out of bed
- When you’re getting ready to start your day
- When taking a shower or bath
- While doing house chores
- When waiting at the traffic light, school drop off/pick up line, bank drive through, etc
- Through a short meditation or prayer time
- By taking a sun meditation break (sitting outside in the sun for 15 minutes or so)
- By taking a rain meditation break (sitting by a window and watching the rain)
- On the treadmill or exercise bike
- When doing yoga, Tai Chi and other mindful practices
- At bedtime
How many peaceful moments have you been able to steal and hoard today?
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/12/22
Photo by Disha Sheta on Pexels
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…But Being Defined by Labels Can Become a Deficiency
Never before have we had access to so much information about… well, pretty much everything. That can be helpful and useful in many ways, if we have the discernment to sift through the overload of available information and determined what’s accurate, what’s inaccurate, what’s distorted by the sponsors behind the information being disseminated, and so forth. If we do manage to come out on the other side of the maze, there’s plenty of reliable information we can access on our own or through reputable healthcare professionals to help answer our questions.
Due to the outspread availability of information, it has also become easier to label conditions, even when those labels mean that current knowledge doesn’t have all the answers and healthcare professionals don’t really have a clue about what’s going on or how to cure it. Still, there are plenty of labels that get thrown around in relation to diseases and illnesses with internal, external and unknown causes that doctors can’t quite define or understand, from autoimmune to brain-related/neurological conditions such as RA, Fibromyalgia, Autism and Alzheimer’s, to name just a few.
On one hand, it’s important to know as much as possible about health issues and conditions that may limit our lives in any way. Knowledge is power; it can enable us to manage such issues and maintain a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.
On the other hand, being defined by such labels can become a deficiency if that instills fear in us, preventing us from living life to the best of our abilities. It can become a deficiency if we accept these labels without question and feel limited to the point where they are used as excuses to stop growing, to justify the belief that we’re not capable of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone, trying to overcome our circumstances and doing better every day. Labeling can lead to resignation that makes us forget the power of the mind and spirit.
As someone who deals with frequent anxiety and even the occasional panic attack due to OCPD, and who has discovered as an adult that I might be on the lower end of the neurodivergent spectrum (in addition to having physical issues such as herniated disks and hip repair surgery), I understand how difficult it can be to deal with and manage a limiting condition. Because I don’t want to take medication, managing myself takes a combination of alternative therapies (hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, flower essences, essential oils, etc), along with regular meditation, breathing techniques, etc. Exercising and practicing yoga also help; so do writing and coloring book therapy. In other words, proper self care is vital; that includes establishing priorities and strong boundaries that involve plenty of quiet time, while not neglecting to stay connected with loved ones. I also developed the habit of deliberately shifting my thinking when I start obsessing and feeling anxious about something; I try to focus on the ultimate goal, set my intention and simply say to myself: "I give this to God (or my guides, Angels, Source, Universe, etc)." That opens the space to receive clear guidance and be able to follow it, even when it’s unsettling. Not beating myself up for not being perfect is also key!
Of course, each individual has different needs and needs to find their own ways to cope or recover; but here are some additional tools that have been effective for myself, my clients and others who have tried them:
- Rather than reminding myself of why I can't do something, I make sure to constantly re-frame that thought by teaching myself how I can do anything I set my intention to accomplish.
- Hypno-coaching can help jump-start healing on a subconscious level by using scripts such as Gateway to Healing by Linda Bennett and Self-Health by A. Chips.
- The Emotion Code is a simple technique to help release trapped negative emotions from the body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g7pRNLJKh4
- Mel Robbins' 5 Second Rule and other similar techniques are effective shortcuts to trick the brain into doing what I want it to do: htthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI2VQ-ZsNr0
- The morning pages exercise (also known as brain drain or mind dump) is a powerful method of uncluttering the brain and opening the space for creative solutions to life’s puzzle:
Here's Everything I Learned From Doing Morning Pages Every Day
FINAL WORD: We are all works in progress, doing the best we know how at any given moment. Whatever challenges we deal with on the physical, mental emotional and spiritual levels, we are the only ones with the power to define ourselves; and that in itself is an organic, ever-changing process. Let’s not get stuck on a label!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 09/28/21
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
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What You Might Have Been Missing…
Have you tasted some of the amazing vegan products that are available at your grocery store lately? If not, you’ve been missing out…
As awareness about the health benefits of plant-based diets expands, the demand for good quality, minimum-ingredient and incredibly good-tasting meat, dairy and wheat substitutes has also been increasing rapidly. Many specialty food companies have been rising to the challenge and coming up with delicious alternatives! The best thing is that you don’t have to be vegan to give them a try. Although my husband and I are pescaterians, we use many plant-based food products. Here are some of the vegan food and beverage items that, in my opinion, are definitely worth a taste:
- Banza Chickpea Pasta: A delicious gluten-free alternative to wheat- and rice-based pastas, it also has high fiber and protein content! Banza offers many different kinds of past, in addition to pizza and rice substitutes.
Where to find Banza Foods: You can use the Find Banza Near You store locator on their website (under References). In my area, Banza products are available at Publix, Target, Walmart, Sprouts, etc.
- Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger: If you believe that you can’t fake meat, think again! These plant-based burgers cook, smell and taste like the real thing. Both brands offer other plant-based items such as sausages, meatballs, ground beef and more.
Where to find Beyond Burger: Many restaurants and fast-food chains serve them, but you can also buy them at Publix, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, etc.
Where to find Impossible Burger: Many restaurants and fast-food chains also serve them, but you can use the Impossible Foods store locator under References to find them in your area. Some of the places in my area are Publix, Walmart, some Starbucks locations, etc.
- Califia Toasted Coconut Almond Milk and Chobani Oat Milk: Delicious, creamy and tasty milk substitutes! Both brands offer different milk and coffee creamer flavors, either sweetened or unsweetened.
Where to find Califia Milk and Coffee Creamers: You can use the Find Your Plant Base locator on their website (under References). In my area: Publix, Sprouts, Chamberlin’s Whole Foods, etc. Their products are also available on Amazon.
Where to find Chobani Milk and Creamers: You can use the Where to Buy Base locator on their website (under References). In my area: Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. Their products are also available on Amazon.
- Daiya New York Cheezecake: Best plant-based cheesecake ever! Try it with blueberry sauce or others favorite toppings. Additional flavors: Chocolate, Strawberry and Key Lime. Daiya offers many additional plant-based products, including cheese alternative shreds, slices, sticks and blocks; salad dressing (try the Creamy Caesar or Blue Cheeze); pizza; burritos; dessert bars and more.
Where to find: You can go to the Daiya Foods Product Locator website page (under References). In my area, I can find their products at Public, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.
- Miyoko’s Creamery European Style Organic Cultured Vegan Butter: This brand deserves an honorable mention for offering several vegan products that are among the best I’ve ever tasted! As someone who likes to eat butter with bread, rather than bread with butter, not being able to do that anymore was the hardest part of giving up dairy. I always found butter substitutes very dissatisfying, until I recently tasted Miyoko’s vegan butter. If you don’t tell your family or friends that they’re having vegan butter, they won’t be able to tell the difference. This vegan butter is perfect for cooking, too!
Miyoko’s Creamery offers many other delicious items, including Vegan Cashew Milk Mozzarella (original or smoked) and Fish-free Lox Cream Cheese. All their products are organic.
Where to find: You can use their Store Finder link (under References). In my area, I find these products at Publix, Target, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.
- So Delicious Dairy Free Plain Yogurt: The So Delicious brand has been around long enough that it could be considered an old vegan classic. In addition to their above-par coconut milk- and oat milk-based yogurts (in different flavors, either sweetened or unsweetened), they’re famous for their very tasty coconut milk, cashew milk or almond milk frozen desserts, as well as milk, creamer and cheese alternatives.
Where to find: You can go to the So Delicious Dairy Free Where to Buy - Find Our Deliciousness page (under References). In my area, these products are found at Publix, Target, Walmart, WinnDixie, BJs Wholesale Club, Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.
- Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto: In my opinion, their delicious plant-based version of this classic sauce is better than the real thing!
Where to find: Trader Joe’s stores (please see their store locator under References).
- VioLife Just Like Cream Cheese - Original: After trying many different fair to good-tasting brands of cream cheese, this brand has become my favorite, by far.
Where to find: You can use the Where We Are Locator on their website (under References). In my area, I find it at Publix.
Although vegan foods have become much more affordable due to their increasing popularity and demand, some of these products are still considered a bit pricey, if compared to their non-plant-based counterparts. But not if you take into consideration that this is an important investment in your health; not to mention the health of other living beings and our planet. Try them out!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/2721
Photo by Raul Vargas
Find Banza Near You - Store Locator
Beyond Meat - Where to Find
Impossible Products Store Locator:
Califia Farms - Find Your Plant Base
Chobani - Where to Buy
Daiya Foods - Product Locator
Miyoko’s Creamery Store Finder
So Delicious Dairy Free Where to Buy - Find Our Deliciousness
Trader Joe’s Store Locator
VioLife Where We Are Locator
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