Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast

Ask Amanda [Parenting Self Care, EMDR, Tangible Depression Tools]

August 01, 2023 Amanda Armstrong Season 1 Episode 24
Regulate & Rewire: An Anxiety & Depression Podcast
Ask Amanda [Parenting Self Care, EMDR, Tangible Depression Tools]
Show Notes Transcript

CLICK HERE to submit a question for me to answer on our next "Ask Amanda" episode.

Today I answered 3 questions from listeners just like you! We talked about how to build in self care as a parent, EMDR vs our 1:1 coaching, and a desire for advice and tangible tools for depression. Hit play to learn more!

CLICK HERE for full show notes + 3 takeaways!


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Welcome to regulate, and rewire and anxiety and depression podcast where we discuss the things I wish someone would have taught me earlier in my healing journey. I'm your host, Amanda Armstrong. And I'll be sharing my steps, my missteps, client experiences and tangible research based tools to help you regulate your nervous system, rewire your mind and reclaim your life. Thanks for being here. Now let's dive in.

Welcome back, and welcome to our first ever ask Amanda episode. In the last few podcasts, I mentioned that in the show notes, I had a link to a form where you could submit questions that you want answered on the podcast or share something that you are personally struggling with, that you want feedback on. This is a format I would love to do more of in the future. If this is something that you enjoy or something that you want to participate in. I will have that link down in the show notes so that you can submit questions or things you're struggling with for future ask Amanda episodes.

So the way this is going to work is I am going to read what one of my listeners submitted. And then just take a handful of minutes to offer some thoughts answer the question. And we will get through as many of these as I can in our about half hour ish time together for this episode.

So jumping right into the first submission, and it reads. "In a recent episode, you asked us what we were doing with the tools we've learned in the podcast, I took some time to stop and reflect on my efforts. I'm a stay at home mom with a six year old who goes to school, I began therapy recently deleted my most used social media apps for my phone, which were taking up so much time for my day, I began journaling and will soon start to go to the gym for the first time ever. In what other ways can I support myself, I would like tips as a stay at home mom of a busy child who has all the after school activities and more and has a social life that's more active than those of my husband's and mine combined. I have always had a tunnel vision for everything. So I don't know what else would be considered self care. But if I'm given ideas, I'm willing to try them."

Okay, lots of moving pieces with this. And I am excited to give some thoughts. So first things first, I have no context for whether you are currently struggling with anxiety, or depression, more activation, more shut down, etc. And so knowing that what I'm going to offer you is just some food for thought, some questions for you to explore. And then I will also give you some kind of tips and suggestions for what might be considered self care for you, especially things that are going to help be kind of nervous system regulating. When it comes to parenting, one of the first places I go when I am coaching parents is to the first 10 to 15 minutes of their day. And this is because a lot of times as parents, we don't realize it, but we are waking up with our kids and we are waking up reactive to their needs their wants. And we stay in kind of this reactive mode throughout the rest of the day. And so when when it's possible, I love to find a way that the parents that I coach can find two minutes, five minutes, 30 minutes, whatever is reasonable for their situation, to be proactive with the way that they start their day.

So taking a moment to reflect on what your morning looks like right now. Are you waking up and picking up your phone? Are you jumping right into emails? Are you waking up at the same time as your kid and jumping right into the hustle of getting them off to school? getting them ready, etc? And if so, what is the possibility? Or what would it look like for you to wake up even just 10 minutes earlier than your kid? Or if you are currently getting up earlier than your kid? What does it look like to be a little bit more intentional with those first 510 or 15 minutes. And the place I think is the most important to start is to get used to some time between when your eyes open up. We almost all head into the bathroom take care of that need sometime between the bed and the bathroom doing a quick check in. I often ask especially mothers, when was the last time that you checked in with yourself and asked what do you need? And more often than not they cannot remember when? Because they're so focused on meeting the needs of their kids of their family. We have the other people around them.

And so really getting in the practice of coming into conversation with your nervous system, checking in with yourself first thing in the morning and saying, How am I doing? What state Am I in? am I waking up? Feeling Okay, feeling pretty regulated? Do I feel more red zone and shut down? am I waking up feeling exhausted, am I waking up feeling pretty anxious and activated about my day. So taking time, even if that's all you do, what you're going to do is bring yourself into conversation with your nervous system. First thing in the morning, and that's going to help you just calibrate for the rest of your day.

Some other things you can do in the morning, you can do some vagal toning with some gargling as you brush your teeth. Going outside, I love to have a cup of tea or breakfast on the porch doing some distance viewing. So when we view things at a distance that reads as safety and as regulating for our nervous system, as opposed to our eyes do something called converging when we're looking at something close up, like our phone. And so just baking in a couple really simple morning practices. And I invite my kid to do that often with me as well. So if I don't wake up early enough to sit on the porch by myself, well, then a lot of times I have my toddler come out, and we do breakfast together out on the porch.

So this isn't necessarily about doing more. I think a lot of times when we think about self care, we think about healing, we think about well, what more can I do, what more can I do. And oftentimes we're struggling with anxiety or depression, because our capacity is pretty limited. We don't have a whole lot more to give to ourselves to others to healing. And so I love to approach it with clients as not necessarily thinking about how can I do more? But how can I just do different? So if you are already driving your child to school? Can you after drop off have some kind of regulating ritual? Do you take a few deep breaths? Do you maybe do color spotting? So all that is, is it incorporates distance viewing, you look out your windshield, you look in the room around you. And you identify a particular color. So maybe your colors green? How many green objects can you count? Or if it's orange, how many orange objects can you count, having some kind of regulating ritual for right after you drop her off at school.

And my assumption is if you're a stay at home mom, you then come home and your house manager so you are doing the cleaning the grocery shopping, the errand running, etc. And as you go through your day and your tasks, how often are you incorporating intentional rest, intentional plays something that really fills your cup? And if the answer is nope, not doing that, never, then that would be something that I want to invite you to explore. We live in a culture that has prioritized productivity over self care, productivity over play, over and over and over and over and over again. And I am here to tell you that rest is not reserved for when you've earned it, rest is an essential piece of wellness. And sometimes that means something's got to give, maybe your floors don't get cleaned as often. Maybe the dishes stay in the sink some sometimes, maybe you have the financial capacity to outsource. And maybe you have somebody come do the deep cleaning once a month. So really getting creative on what you can do to prioritize some rest and some play while your daughter, I am assuming daughter, I don't actually know if you said daughter or son while your child is at school. So using that as some time where you bake in what helps you to feel the most like you. And so again, just building some somatic exercises are vagal toning practices into your day when you when you notice that you are starting to feel a little bit anxious proactively. This is something that we do with our clients. We help them do this in a personalized way all the time. And then the two other things I want to briefly mention here is one there is a likely some longer term approach to this.

So figuring out why you are struggling in the first place and it sounds like you began therapy recently. That's amazing. And I hope that that's really helpful for you in uncovering whether there are some belief systems that are no longer serving you right what is the narrative? What is the story you're telling yourself around what makes you a good mom versus a bad mom? And are those beliefs, yours? Or are they what society gave you or your parents gave you or somebody else. And so untangling some of those things alongside a practitioner, whether that's a therapist or a coach can be really helpful. The others could be that there is some deep trauma healing that needs to happen to give you more capacity.

And then another suggestion that I'll make here is to simplify your life. So I was that kid, I was that girl who had countless afterschool activities, a really, really, really, really, really busy social life. And looking back, I'm so grateful for the experiences that my parents gave me, I got to do so many different things. And there's part of me that maybe wishes that I had more space. I think that being as active in all of the things having a social life, never having any downtime, as a kid has created. And at least for me, personally, you're gonna have to be reflective about this for you and your family. But for me, personally, I think that that fueled a lot of my productivity based self worth. It fueled a lot, and created an inability for me to be comfortable in rest and stillness, because I was always going and I was always doing as a young kid into my teenage years and 20s. And so maybe looking at this, as a parent, you are the orchestrator of your child's life. Do you want to simplify some of their activities, simplify some of their social calendar, because that also simplifies you in your life? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe no, but just giving you the space to explore that, to give yourself a little bit more capacity.

All right. Hopefully, I have given you something to work with there. As always, if this is your question, and you have some follow up, you can submit that to the q&a forum, send me an email or a DM over on Instagram. I would love love, love to hear from those of you whose questions I answer on these podcast episodes.

All right. submission number two for today. This person wrote in and said, "in a couple of weeks, I have an EMDR consultation slash initial meeting with a therapist who specializes in it. And I was wondering if you've ever done that, it would be my first time doing that mode of therapy. What are your thoughts on it as far as potential trauma healing? How is that different from your one on one coaching regarding trauma healing work? I feel I have multiple traumas that are impacting my current life circumstances, most especially mothers slash parenthood friendships, etc. I feel I bounced between the yellow anxiety zone and the shutdown red zone."

Okay, great question. So for some context for any of you who may not know what EMDR is, so EMDR stands for eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing. And it is a type of therapy used to help people overcome the emotional distress that is caused by traumatic experiences. So how does EMDR work the theory behind this bilateral stimulation. So EMDR utilizes something called bilateral stimulation is that it mimics the natural process that occurs during your REM sleep. So EMDR is kind of flashing your eyes from right to left. Sometimes it can actually be auditory bilateral stimulation, or even something like butterfly taps where it's more tangible, tapping bilateral stimulation. But the idea is that bilateral stimulation mimics the natural process that happens during REM sleep. So during that stage of sleep, your brain processes and integrates information from your day, including your emotional experiences. And so this is why sleep is one of the many reasons why sleep plays a crucial role in mental health. Because especially REM sleep because that is where our brain is processing and integrating what we experienced that day. And so with bilateral stimulation, it engages both sides of the brain. And it's believed that traumatic memories can be more effectively reprocessed and integrated with non traumatic memories, when we have this bilateral stimulation happening, which is engaging both sides of your brain again, kind of mimicking what's happening in REM sleep.

So EMDR can help you integrate rate information of a traumatic memory with more positive beliefs, emotions or coping mechanisms. In summary, the whole goal of this is really to help a person reprocess traumatic memories using this bilateral stimulation to help them reduce the emotional intensity that potentially comes up when they feel triggered. And it helps them to integrate those experiences with some positive beliefs, etc. I think it's worth noting that I am not an EMDR specialist. Bilateral stimulation is a tool that we will sometimes use, it's a somatic practice that we will sometimes use with clients. It's a tool in our toolbox as practitioners that rises we, but I have not personally done EMDR. I am not trained in EMDR. But I being in the field, have knowledge of general knowledge that I've shared with you of what EMDR is. So that's EMDR.

Now, what have I heard from clients, people that we've worked with, who've done EMDR it has been incredibly helpful for some, it has been a completely neutral experience for others. And it has been frustrating for others. So here is I'll share a little bit more on that. So I have not personally worked with anybody who did EMDR and felt like it was a really, really traumatizing or awful experience. There are definitely some people who got a few sessions in, it felt dysregulated for them, they decided they weren't going to continue, but they didn't feel like they walked away from it. Like worse off just frustrated that they tried one more thing that didn't work for them. Same thing with a lot of clients we've worked with who've done EMDR, who felt like it was just a neutral experience, it was like golly, like it was just another thing I did, and I don't feel like it really benefited from it. While there are clients that we've worked with who did EMDR and felt like it did help them to decrease the emotional intensity around a particular traumatic experience. So from my understanding EMDR is the most helpful if you are trying to process a specific traumatic event. And I have talked to many EMDR practitioners, some agree some disagree, that it can be more helpful for specific trauma and oftentimes not as helpful for situations in where there's complex trauma. So complex trauma, meaning that you have identified that you may have childhood traumatic experiences, you may have, you know, what sometimes gets labeled as big T and little t, where there is multiple experiences that have been overwhelming for your system that you have identified as potentially being traumatic.

Now, I think if you have this initial consultation, go for it. And I really hope that it's helpful for you. And if it even if it is helpful for you. What often is still left, even after the EMDR helps to decrease emotional intensity of a particular traumatic experience is you still often have the coping behaviors or the beliefs about yourself or the world that stem from that particular experience. So EMDR is not a quick fix. It's rarely, if ever, like an end all be all to healing. It's not marketed as that but some people hope or expect that it will be you know, once I've repattern to this trauma, I'm just better. But what we know is that anytime our nervous system is overwhelmed, right, that's something that we deem as traumatic. We have wounded parts. We have protector parts that come into play, we develop coping mechanisms, we establish beliefs about ourselves or the world that help us to source for safety in the future. And so there are still those things that need to be reprocessed and repattern and challenged even after a successful EMDR. Reprocessing trauma in EMDR might give you some coping tools specifically on how you can use bilateral stimulation. But unless you're working with a practitioner who's also pulling in other tools and other practices, you may not be walking away from that with more more tools than bilateral stimulation to manage any dysregulation in the present moment. And again, unless you're working with a practitioner who is going beyond just the EMDR protocol, being part of that experience may not be looking at other contributing factors to anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.

So your other question was, you know, how is that different than what we do in our one on one coaching program. So like I previously mentioned, bilateral stimulation is one of the many tools in our toolbox, it's not necessarily a primary one, where EMDR is often focused on a specific traumatic event, our coaching takes a much more whole human whole life and nervous system based approach. So what we do is also different than what a lot of people experience in traditional talk therapy, where those sessions are predominantly talking, and a lot of reflective listening.

In our coaching program, it is more of a structured experience, where there is definitely space to support and to talk through things you're struggling with. But our one on one coaching program has module so it has some education that we're following over 16 weeks together, in a given one on one coaching session, you are going to do some nervous system awareness exercises, you're going to be guided through various somatic practices. A big goal for us is to help you in session identify various polyvagal somatic or just nervous system regulating practices that really move you up that nervous system ladder.

And so your coaching experience with us includes psychoeducation, personal exploration of and mapping of your unique nervous system. So looking at how you know whether you're in the green, yellow red zones, we work to help you identify specific reactive regulation practices that best work for you. So what are the tangible tools in moments of high anxiety or shutdown that help you to reverse that spiral, helping you to understand stress physiology, so how trauma is stored in your body, how stress shows up in your body, and how we can use various pieces of our physiology, things like our vision system, some ice therapy drills, different ways that we breathe, and how that impacts our nervous system. So that you can change literally shift your physiology and that helps to calm down and reverse some of the negative spirals in your mind healing psychology.

One of the things that we also do in our coaching program is we take a look at your current life, your circumstances, your capacity, and together decide what specific changes can be made towards further incorporating various research supported practices that regulate your nervous system and improve your mental health. So we will look at things like morning sunlight, sleep quality, vagal, toning practices, movement, stress management, relationships, and community in your life, etc.

Some other things that we incorporate our somatic parts work really helping you to come into conversation with your inner child, those different wounded or protector parts. We do thoughts and belief work and various other practices to, like I said, really work with the physiological component of trauma, anxiety, or depression. And so some of you might be like, my head is spinning. Our approach is very integrative. We have a lot of different modalities that we have brought in and a very specific way.

We walk all of our clients through our four phases of healing, starting with education and awareness, you have to understand how your nervous system works in order to work with it towards healing. And then that awareness piece is you have to understand how you uniquely experience states of regulation and dysregulation. And so once you have that foundation, then we move into regulation, helping you to identify those tangible in the moment tools to help you regulate where the mainstream means of working through mental health is often jumping right into talk therapy. So before you understand this mind body system before you have tangible tools to manage anxiety and depression symptoms, these states of dysregulation And you're often asked to engage in conversation about the most vulnerable pieces and parts of your life. And we have found that when you go there too soon, without first having regulation tools that can re traumatize your system, that can be really overwhelming. Because if you don't have tools to stay regulated in the present moment, your system doesn't know the difference between retelling the story and re experiencing that trauma. And so once you have this foundation of regulation, then we move into Phase Three, which is the rewiring, which is that parts work, somatic trauma, release, etc, where we are doing some of that deeper trauma work. And then resourcing is we don't want to be in the trenches of healing forever. And so once you get to a place that feels a little bit later, a little bit brighter, how do we maintain that place until you feel like you have the capacity to come back to a stage of more rewiring more repatterning, you're ready to take on the next limiting belief or trigger that you experience. And so our 16 week, one on one anxiety and depression coaching program, it's called Restore is very multifaceted. It's extremely personalized. Bilateral stimulation, like you might experience in EMDR is a tool we don't do specific EMDR. So that's something you would need to work with a specialized practitioner in.

So to sum up that question, they're very different experiences, what you're going to experience in EMDR, is likely very different from this kind of whole human whole life. approach that we take at Rise As We that involves nervous system regulation, somatic parts work, some just good old fashioned, personalized behavior change, etc. Really getting into conversation with your body, understanding your physiology, and how you can push back against the stress response in real time, reversing anxiety and depression spirals and eventually creating the capacity within your system to turn towards some of that heavier and harder healing some of that trauma work. Alright, hopefully that was helpful. I would love to hear back from you to know how that experience goes for you.

All right, I know we're coming up close to time. But I definitely want to get through at least three of these. So I might go a little over today. This third submission reads, "I'm struggling with some pretty bad depression, and now anorexia as well. I can't seem to break free. I'm high functioning and work full time while dealing with this. But I feel like these are slowly killing me. I'm on medication and followed by a psychiatrist. And I'm also in therapy but haven't found a therapist who can actually provide tangible tools. I think that's what I need advice or tangible tools on what to do not just somebody who listens. I just started with a new therapist. So we'll see how it goes. I have started trying some of the things you've suggested cold exposure, feet up the wall, etc, and have found some help in that. Are there any other suggestions to help me not feel like I'm drowning all the time?" 

Okay. So I'm going to start by giving you just some exploratory questions that I would ask if you were working with me as a client. So some of the work that we would start with was really looking at what is at the root of your depression. So let's for a minute strip away any belief that being depressed; depression is just how you are. And instead, take the perspective that I've taught in previous podcast episodes where we understand depression as an appropriate nervous system response to trauma or stressors in your life that either were too big or lasted too long. And your nervous system became overwhelmed to the point of shutdown. 

So looking at depression as a shutdown, a nervous system and this red zone, this shutdown state, this is a low feeling low energy state that really has to two purposes. To conserve energy. You're in this state because your nervous system is saying we don't have the energy to engage in life right now. Or to prevent further pain, right? life feels too painful and too hard. So we're going to kind of shut down and numb. So looking at the bigger picture of healing here of what are some of those contributing factors to this shutdown state? 

And then to mention the anorexia as well. Now, I am not an eating disorder specialist. But I am a nervous system specialist. And what I do know is that when we are too thin when we don't have enough body fat on our body or when we're in a constant calorie deficit, this is extremely dysregulated for our nervous system. So if you remember from some of the very first podcast episodes, where I gave kind of an overview of the nervous system, we talked about something called neuro ception. This is your nervous system constantly scanning both your internal and external environment and sourcing for safety. While a constant caloric deficit is absolutely going to flag as unsafe for our nervous system, adding load and adding and contributing to dysregulation. 

So just taking a moment to pause and realize that there is a little bit of a spiral happening here, there's some dysregulation that's causing depression, and that might be fueling some of the anorexia, which is adding to distress dysregulation, adding further stress to the system, etc. And I don't say that as like, Oh, this is like a doomsday spiral. But this is information because we can work with either piece of those either trauma work or stress management, or getting to a place where you're no longer in this chronic caloric deficit, to help create a little bit more capacity within your system. 

Now, in terms of what you said, you know, I'm having a hard time finding a therapist who can provide advice. So therapists, typically avoid giving direct advice to their clients as as kind of a professional practice. So a traditional therapeutic approach usually avoids offering advice or solutions. And instead, that therapists role is to facilitate a client's kind of self discovery. It encourages self awareness and really helps the client to explore like their feelings, their thoughts, their behaviors. In a non judgmental and supportive environment, there are definitely therapists who you know, can suggest some behavior change. 

Our coaching does a lot of that to a lot of that holding space for self discovery, because we do truly believe that you have more answers within you than you think. But we also incorporate a lot of opportunity to brainstorm together various regulation practices, lifestyle adjustments that might best fit your specific situation. And because this isn't therapy, or coaching, this is a podcast, here are a few things that I might do if I were in your situation. 

So first is I would find a practitioner who can help you explore what is contributing to your nervous system being in that red zone, that shutdown state, what you're referring to is depression. And so by understanding what is contributing to that shutdown state, you can then begin to create a roadmap for that healing. Number two is doing whatever you can seeking out whatever support you feel like you need, or that might be accessible to you to get your nutritional intake to a consistent and sustaining place. So really getting to the root cause of that behavior. And seeing what can be done to just physiologically, fuel your system so that it has the capacity for more of the regulation healing work that it sounds like, you're going to need to not feel like you're constantly drowning. 

And in the meantime, there, there's absolutely daily things that you can do that might temporarily be supportive and regulating. And I've mentioned a lot of those in previous episodes and here so vagal, toning practices, morning sunlight, etc. There are a lot of things that you can explore what helps to bring some mobility to an immobilized shutdown system. But in my opinion, until you can look at some of the bigger pieces here at play, what's causing the depression, the, you know, lack of caloric intake here. Doing some of those, just like little practices are going to feel more like I don't know, putting duct tape on a hole in your boat. It's going to help it's definitely going to keep your boat more afloat than if you weren't putting duct tape on that hole. But eventually you are going to need to pull that boat out of water to see what's going on and to do a more intense fix of the hole Some of that deeper healing work. 

All right, everyone it looks like about three questions is what I have time to get through in an Ask Amanda episode. Of course, future submissions may not call for as much detail. But I would rather be a little bit more thorough than leave somebody who took the time to submit totally hanging on the answer that I give them. I would love feedback on this episode, I would love to hear from you either send me an email through my website or send me a DM over on Instagram. Did you like this format? Or do you like the more traditional educational episodes? And if you would like to have a question answered, or to get feedback on some personal part of your anxiety and depression healing journey. In the shownotes, there is a link to a forum where you can ask a simple question or share with me a little bit more details about where you are in your healing journey and what you'd like some feedback on. 

So just a quick review, are three takeaways from today's episode. The first was where I answered a question about some self care practices for a stay at home mom to a six year old. And if this applies to you taking some time to not try to do more, but think about how you can do different building in micro moments of regulation, checking in with your nervous system first thing in the morning, maybe having a regulation ritual after you drop your kid off from school. But also acknowledging that in the long term, there's likely some deeper healing work that needs to happen. And you do have the option to simplify life for your child to help simplify life for you. 

Number two, was a question about EMDR. And the difference between EMDR and our one on one coaching regarding trauma healing work. So EMDR is going to help you to utilize a specific technique that mimics what happens in REM sleep to help you overcome some of the emotional distress caused by a particular traumatic experience. Our one on one coaching helps you to increase your nervous system regulation, we help you to identify both proactive and reactive tangible regulating tools that give your nervous system more capacity so that you can do that deeper trauma healing work. And we approach that work through somatic practices, helping you to cultivate a sense of self and safety in your body so that you can release some of that story trauma, as well as through somatic parts work. So through inner child work, getting to know your protector parts, your wounded parts, and healing a lot of the trauma and repatterning by coming into conversation with those parts of you. 

And number three was the individual who wrote in about their bad depression and anorexia, and was looking for some suggestions so that they didn't feel like they were drowning all the time. And my biggest takeaway for this person is to acknowledge the additional load that gets put on our nervous system when we're in a caloric deficit and finding a practitioner or practitioners to support you and understanding depression, exploring depression through this nervous system lens, doing what you can to make sure that you are meeting a baseline of nutritional needs for your body so that you have the capacity for that healing work. 

And as always, thanks for being here. If you have a question or personal experience you would like to be part of a future ask Amanda episode. Again, I have shared the link to that form in the show notes below. Thanks for listening to another episode of The regulate and rewire podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe and leave a five star review to help us get these powerful tools out to even more people who need them. And if you yourself are looking for more personalized support and applying what you've learned today, consider joining me inside Rhys, my monthly mental health membership and nervous system healing space or apply for our one on one anxiety and depression coaching program restore. I've shared a link for more information to both in the show notes. Again, thanks so much for being here. And I'll see you next time.

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