Friday, August 14, 2015

ALS Stress Management Made Easy

Years ago, at our wellness center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we offered a class on how to break negative emotional behaviors caused by feeling stressed-out.  Behaviors such as: being short-tempered, reaching for alcohol or a cigarette, going on a spending spree or finishing off a whole bag of cookies - - all by yourself!

Taught by our Holistic Nurse who was certified in the program, “The Solution,” was extremely successful and over time the program’s philosophy and methods rubbed off on each of us who were a part of the wellness center.

One technique that stuck with me is called, “checking in.” It’s asking yourself the three basic questions: How do I feel? What do I need? Who can help me?

For me, it’s grown into a habit where I ask myself those same three questions sometimes ten, twenty even thirty times a day - - and every time I answer - - I bring my life back into balance. This habit of “checking in,” has helped me through all the years before I was diagnosed with ALS, and they continue to help me now.

Sure, it works for Life’s big curve balls, but it's even better for all those little speed bumps that pop up day after day. Bumps that accumulate like: a ring that falls behind the dresser, a flashlight with dead batteries, Velcro that sticks to things it shouldn’t, plastic bags that leak and a printer running out of ink. Feel like having a cookie…or maybe three?

Hold it! Put the cookie down, read on and I’ll show you how to get balanced again.

1: How Do I Feel?
Most of us go through our day disregarding our feelings. Especially the simplest ones. For example: thirst, hunger, stiffness from sitting too long or “brain fog” after hours at the computer - - it's as if our body is a small child tapping us on the shoulder while pleading, “Don’t ignore me!” - - but we still pay no attention. 

According to Laurel Mellin, MA, RD who developed “The Solution,” the root of our stress-behaviors is the need for two basic internal skills: self-nurturing and effective limits.  Checking in on our feelings is the first step towards self-nurturing. Let’s try a little right now:

Turn your attention inward and “listen” to what your body-mind is telling you. For example, do you feel alert or dull? Tense or relaxed? Or simply, “OK.” Do a quick top-to-toe assessment; mental and physical.

Now that you are aware of how you are feeling, let’s do something about it.

2: What Do I Need? 
Our goal is to bring you back into balance, which is: feeling calm and neutral. So, what simple, quick, logical solutions are appropriate? 

Are you thirsty? Get a drink of water. Stiff? Shift to a more comfortable sitting position or even do a stretch or two. Eye strain? Close your eyes for a few seconds or move your focus from near to far. Cold? Put on a sweater.

It’s surprising how simple the solutions can be…if we do them early…and not wait until the stiffness turns into a back ache or tired eyes become a full blown head ache. Or, involve a whole bag of cookies! This is the skill of effective limits.

But what if the solution is not as simple as a sweater or a drink of water? Read on.

3. Who Can Help Me? 
Maybe the answer is a little more involved like: I wish I could talk to someone, or I need to get outside for some fresh air, or I need a hug. Depending on the trigger, we often need other people from our circle of support to help us. Which is just fine. In fact, the more we strengthen our network of support - - your close family and friends who will be there for you, and you for them - - the better you will handle Life's stressful situations.
My Challenge to You 
Would you like to navigate Life’s speed bumps feeling balanced and calm? You can by making “checking in” a daily habit. Let’s begin right now - - for the remainder of your day or evening, decide to pause once every hour to ask yourself the three questions. The first few times it may feel a little artificial or forced. But the more you practice, the more your personal balance becomes spontaneous and lasting. You will find yourself moving towards a more balanced life!

Leave a comment below and let me know how “checking in” is working for you. What do you do to bring balance to your life?
Want to learn more? 

Laurel Mellin's The Solution has been revised to: Emotional Brain Training:


Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger

Taking care of YOU, means the people in your life will receive the best of you, not what's left of you. 
Carl Bryan, Tennis Coach

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  1. I would love to use those three comments on T-shirts and bumper stickers to promote the ALS health care center. Perfect! Instead of being told what you need, it gives the power back to the patient to respond to the question [s].

    1. What a wonderful idea! If you do, send me photos - - I'll post them here and will mention your new ALS health care center.

  2. Love these tips. Thank you for posting them. I will definitely share them.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Share, share, share - - and help others de-stress :-)


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