Finding comfort and joy, moment by moment.

During this season we hear a lot about comfort and joy but many people feel only pain and loss. Comfort and joy are the perfect antidotes to this suffering. It is what a broken world needs most. It may be that we can’t find comfort and joy because we believe that when we do we will stop feeling hurt. This is not always true. Our heart is to create more space not to eliminate hurt. That would be a nice result but isn’t reality. We strive to allow comfort and joy to coexist with our pain and loss. This inner act expands our heart of compassion. We now have a greater capacity for feeling both comfort and pain, joy and loss. It is a spiritual paradox but it is a direction for our own healing. 

Science confirms this idea. Our hearts literally do expand when we entertain compassion and allow more space for comfort and joy. Choosing compassion releases neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the body and calm down the hyperaroused nervous system, reducing fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. 

Studies on the practice of compassion reveal improved autoimmune functioning, decreased inflammation, improved digestion, increase mental focus, motivation, and even sleep. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a noted cognitive neuroscientist, and researcher on the mind-body connection report that compassion increases the grey matter in the brain, allowing improved thinking and sensory processing. 

So how does compassion start? How do we allow comfort and joy into our lives when we feel stuck emotionally? The answer is where we put our focus. 

Right now, at this moment, you have a choice. Whoops, there it went but don’t worry, here comes another. Missed that one. Just wait…

We have thousands of opportunities to choose comfort and joy. Every moment is a chance to change the directions of our lives. It will not remove pain and suffering but it will allow us to build a mindset that allows comfort and joy too. Take a deep breath and make one statement of comfort and joy. Maybe it is gratitude for that cup of coffee or tea in front of you. Is it warm and comforting however brief? Maybe you heard someone laugh and it made you smile? Perhaps, someone opened the door for you when your hands were full? Life is constantly presenting micro-moments of comfort and joy. You just have to notice them. 

The problem is that we allow suffering to be our filter for living. We get angry expecting things to be different than they are. We resent people for not treating us the way we deserve. Just allow those challenges to exist alongside the next moment of gratitude and pleasure. Build those moments up, one after the other, and live a day full of tiny, joyful experiences. Tip the emotional scale in your direction. 

The brain likes to automate our life. It will take any repeated experience, good or bad, and make it a habit. This is how we can do so many tasks and face so many diverse problems. It makes us efficient and skilled. It can also make us miserable if we stop being aware of what is going on around us. A lack of moment to moment awareness makes us a machine, driven to self-protect and insulate from anything that smells dangerous or out of the norm. We don’t want the norm. The norm is hurt. We want the new which is comfort and joy. This will cost you some mental energy until the new norm becomes a happy habit. 

Test these ideas out today. Stop three times today to recognize a moment of comfort or joy. Write them down on a post-it note. Remember, in as much detail as you can muster, throughout the day, what it felt like. Do this for a week and see if your pain, your suffering, starts to lessen and a life of greater compassion takes over. 

Let Ron Huxley, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, assist you in finding more comfort and joy. Schedule a session today – Click here!

Weaknesses Can Be Wisdom

Trauma is an overwhelming event that surpasses our nervous systems’ capacity to manage or understand. Because of this, we can’t expect that we will go through it normally or rationally. Why would we think that we can? But we do!

It may have to do with an underlying belief that it is not OK to have weaknesses. Everyone has them, even without the toxic effects of trauma. Trauma only accentuates those areas of weaknesses. We constantly compare ourselves to others and use examples of others’ success as a measuring stick of our own level of goodness. We gravitate to negative media and negative people who reinforce our own negative thoughts and feelings.

The consequence is usually anger or shame. That’s when the vicious cycle of self-deprecating comments and further comparisons start and then more anger and shame. We have to get out of this negative cycle of abuse. The trauma that was done to us or the hurt that others did to us has shifted now to the torture we put ourselves through…as if we deserve to stay stuck in this suffering. We don’t!

Write Brain Reflections: Your weaknesses are opportunities for wisdom to shine through. Pain is not something we have to live with. It is something to learn from. What is it teaching you today? Where do you need to set stronger boundaries? How do you need to pause and rest, every day! Yes, every day. What new, more healthy rules for life have you discovered? What are the five things you are grateful for? Repeat them every day. What and whom do you need to forgive? 

The aftermath of trauma and the weaknesses it exposes can reveal the wisdom that allows us to reach deeper levels of living. Let yourself benefit from this today. 

READ MORE trauma-informed contemplations at TraumaToolbox.com, our free online resources for trauma-informed care in the home, school, and community.

FREEDOM is FREE: Get Anxiety Course thru Thanksgiving…

Fall 2019 Thanksgiving Special: Get our Freedom From Anxiety course free under Friday, November 29th, 2019. Use code: “Thankful” to access the course today at http://ronhuxley.thinkific.com/courses/freedom-from-anxiety

Complete course on Anxiety, Worry, and Panic issues…

Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States today!

That’s 18.1% of the population and the problem appears to be growing.

Over 6 million people have General Anxiety Disorder. That’s 3% of the population with women experiencing this disorder 2x more often then men. Sadly, only 42% of people with this disorder actually seek help.

Every day, another 6 million good people experience Panic Attacks resulting in visits to emergency rooms, missed school, and work, and avoidance of social situations.

An amazing 15 million people claim to have Social Anxiety Disorder. This is a growing problem in children and continues into adulthood. Most people wait 10 years before seeking help with this management issue.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder affects 2.2 million or 1% of the population in the US today. One-third of all adults state that OCD started in childhood. 

The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable but very few people actually take advantage of these simple treatments. 

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with anxiety 3 to 5x more likely to visit the doctor and 6x more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders. 

Because anxiety affects every area of a person’s life, the Freedom From Anxiety program offers interventions that treat the body, mind, and spirit. You work on finding an immediate breakthrough with simple tools every week for 15 weeks. You can go as slow or as fast as you want. You set the pace of your freedom. Each tool builds on the other!

Get your course free now at http://ronhuxley.thinkific.com/courses/freedom-from-anxiety

Universal Screening for Trauma in all Schools

This article was reprinted from The Conversation website, under a Creative Commons license. It is a wonderful example of helping schools become Trauma-Sensitive.

If your schools is in need of training on trauma-informed care and how to help children heal from the toxic effects of trauma, contact Ron Huxley today at 805-709-2023 or rehuxley@gmail.com

The effects of childhood trauma can be long-lasting. shutterstock.com/lightspring

Sunny Shin, Virginia Commonwealth University

As the first person to hold the new role of Surgeon General of California, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is pushing an unprecedented plan to implement universal screenings for childhood trauma within the state’s schools.

Childhood trauma is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as an “emotionally painful or distressful” event that “often results in lasting mental and physical effects.”

Burke Harris’ plan is already more than a dream: In June, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a budget that provides roughly $45 million for trauma screenings and another $50 million to cover training for those who will administer the screenings. Burke Harris’ vision of universal screening for trauma in children may be a massive undertaking, but it’s also already under way.

The first ever Surgeon General of California, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, being sworn in. California Governor’s Office

Well-intentioned critics might question the cost of Burke Harris’ project or schools’ capacity to handle it. As a social work professor whose research has long focused on childhood traumatic experiences and addiction, I believe such a program is needed nationwide.

If all the country’s children could undergo developmentally appropriate screenings for what we in the medical and social work communities call adverse childhood experiences, I suggest, based on my research, millions of tax dollars could be saved every year, premature deaths and diseases could be prevented and schools would be healthier, happier places for students and teachers. A quiet but urgent public health crisis could finally be seriously addressed. Here’s why:

1. Untreated childhood trauma can cause permanent biological damage

Recent biological evidence confirms what many child development experts have long suspected: When kids experience certain types of childhood trauma, the impacts are not necessarily temporary. It can fundamentally change their brain development and other aspects of physical development.

One example of this: It appears that for some children who face adverse childhood experiences, the brain and body changes the way it responds to future stress. Many of the changes affect the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in the regulation of emotions. A possible consequence: Some children with unresolved traumas are not sufficiently able to understand their own or their peers’ emotions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this disconnect can lead to various behavioral problems in schools.

2. Early detection can largely resolve the impacts of trauma

A traumatic experience itself cannot be undone. However, adults often underestimate just how resilient children can be in the face of even the most serious adverse childhood experiences. And when adverse experiences are detected early, trained professionals can help sufferers resolve lingering effects of trauma through therapy before they turn into much bigger behavioral problems.

Efforts, then, should focus on ensuring early detection of traumatic experiences. They should also focus on fostering habits that strengthen children’s resilience. That includes getting enough sleep and exercise, opportunities for mindfulness practice, and the support of a nurturing community.

3. Screenings can help educators better understand their students

When teachers better understand what might lie behind violent, stubborn or erratic behavior, it can help them be less punitive and respond in ways that get closer to the root cause. In other words, teachers can spend more time proactively addressing the bigger potential issues rather than simply reacting to what has already happened. For example, if a teacher knows a child has been exposed to domestic violence, the teacher may have the school nurse check regularly whether the child is having any biological reactions. And school social workers and psychologists can talk to the child about whenever the student reacts negatively to something that took place in class.

4. Universal screenings remove the stigma of “at-risk” kids

The school system is the right place for universal screening for trauma, because every child is required to go to school. That means it’s not just kids coming from certain ZIP codes who are labeled as more “at risk” and more likely to undergo the screenings. Unfortunately, our society has a history of using these types of screenings for discriminatory purposes. For an example, look no further than this country’s history with mandatory genetic screening programs.

What’s next after universal trauma screenings?

Once we’re screening for trauma across the board, educators and school systems will have no choice but to develop a language and practice around trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed education. This can only be a good thing for our schools, our children, and our society.

I think of trauma screenings as being similar in some ways to an X-ray: Even the most advanced machines cannot heal the bone. In order to heal the fracture, what you need is treatment that often involves resetting the bones and immobilizing it with a cast or splint. We will have to stress: What will we do with these results? How can we help our systems get to the point where they’re more than ready to handle the next step?

Implementing universal trauma screenings in the nation’s schools is an understandably daunting proposition. It would be highly costly and require intense logistical planning. School systems will also need to anticipate what they’ll do with the results if universal trauma screenings become a reality. The benefits of such screenings, however, far outweigh the logistical and financial costs. In my view, not implementing schoolwide screenings for childhood trauma should be more worrisome than the challenges associated with the implementation. Too many modern societal problems, such as chronic disease and addictive behaviors, originate from ignorance around childhood trauma. But with a trauma screening plan like the one in California, schools could better work toward massively beneficial solutions.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.. ]The Conversation

Sunny Shin, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Humility Allows Opportunity for Family Healing

Humility is a great opportunity for healing. It creates an ideal mental state that allows you to connect deeply with another human being. When you are in a humble space, I see our relationship as it is, not as I think it is… It restructures the nervous system to “fire and wire” with new neural networks that prepare us for change. This is why pain can bring breakthrough in our life and relationships. It is why loss can develop into growth. It’s not that you want to go through the pain and loss but it can be transformed into some new and precious.

Humility will break-through emotional programs of trauma from the past. In others words, you can get unstuck!

“The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

I will have the honor to speak at Faith In Motion on October 28th, 2019 on the topic of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Join us if you are in the San Luis Obispo area for this FREE workshop.

>> Looking for a training on this topic or Trauma-Informed Care? Contact Ron today at 805-709-2023 or rehuxley@gmail.com.

National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month (Recovery Month), sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. This observance celebrates the millions of Americans who are in recovery from mental and substance use disorders, reminding us that treatment is effective and that people can and do recover. It also serves to help reduce the stigma and misconceptions that cloud public understanding of mental and substance use disorders, potentially discouraging others from seeking help.

Now in its 30th year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

Recovery Month works to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible.

As part of the 30th anniversary, Recovery Month is introducing a new logo that signifies the true meaning and values of the Recovery Month observance. The new Recovery Month logo features an “r” symbol; representing r is for Recovery and the need to support the millions of individuals who are proudly living their lives in recovery, as well as their family members and loved ones.

Each September, tens of thousands of prevention, treatment, and recovery programs and facilities around the country celebrate Recovery Month. They speak about the gains made by those in recovery and share their success stories with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues. In doing so, everyone helps to increase awareness and furthers a greater understanding about the diseases of mental and substance use disorders.

Recovery Month also highlights the achievements of individuals who have reclaimed their lives in long-term recovery and honors the treatment and recovery service providers who make recovery possible. Recovery Month also promotes the message that recovery in all of its forms is possible and encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective preventiontreatment, and recovery services for those in need.

Each year, Recovery Month selects a new focus and theme to spread the message and share the successes of treatment and recovery. The 2019 Recovery Month observance will focus on community members, first responders, the healthcare community, and youth and emerging leaders highlighting the various entities that support recovery within our society.

The 2019 Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger,” emphasizes the need to share resources and build networks across the country to support recovery. It reminds us that mental and substance use disorders affect us all, and that we are all part of the solution. The observance will highlight inspiring stories to help thousands of people from all walks of life find the path to hope, health, and personal growth. Learn more about this year’s and past year themes.

SAMHSA creates a Recovery Month toolkit to help individuals and organizations plan events and activities to increase awareness about mental and substance use disorders, treatment and recovery. The kit provides media outreach templates, tips for event planning and community outreach, audience-specific information and data on behavioral health conditions, and resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. These resources help local communities reach out and encourage individuals in need of services, and their friends and families, to seek treatment and recovery services and information. Materials include SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662 HELP (4357) for 24-hour, free, and confidential information and treatment referral as well as other SAMHSA resources for locating services.

Trauma + Faith = Resilience

According to the National Opinion Research Center’s General, Social Survey over 90% of Americans believes in God or a higher power. Sixty percent belong to a local religious group. Another 60% think that religious matter is important or very important in how they conduct their lives, and 80% are interested in “growing spiritually”.

Even when people do not belong to a specific religious group or identity with a particular spiritual orientation, 30% of adults state they pray daily and 80% pray when faced with a serious problem or crisis.

Trauma is defined as any event, small or large, that overwhelms the mind and bodies ability to cope. Some people appear more resilient or able to “bounce back” in the face of trauma. Studies proof that faith is one-way children and adults can cope with traumatic events and suffering.

The question remains “how does faith make us more resilient?” It may be that faith reduces the negative, victimized thinking that results from trauma. For example, victimized people understandable “feel” as if they are damaged, dirty, worthless, stupid, vulnerable, ashamed, or unlovable. The type of trauma might be small or large but this is a common emotional reaction to the hurt someone suffers.

This reaction results in a lower ability to mentally plan and adaptively cope with situations create more possibility that fear, hurt, and worthlessness will result. You can see the vicious cycle that trauma can create…

Our minds are meaning-seeking devices. We like to find things to validate our thoughts and experiences so we can better navigate future circumstances. The upside of this is that we can be more efficient problem-solvers and survive. The downside is we can unrealistic or simply untrue beliefs.

Faith counters this downward cycle of believing, acting, and reacting by shifting the story from the negative plot lines to the bigger themes that “I am loved, valued, and cared for…even when things are bad!” Faith can override negative views of oneself with the belief that you are loved just as you are, normalize the internal spiritual struggles, encourage opening up and being vulnerable again, renewing a sense of control or mastery in life, and fostering social connections.

Being part of a larger group of people contributes to our collective connectedness that detours isolation and loneliness and encourages greater personal healing. Research demonstrates that socially connected people are more likely to meet the demands of everyday loss and stress.

Spirituality and religious affiliation can also benefit traumatized people from the toxic memories of the trauma event. This occurs with the individual feels they can share their grief with a greater community. Traumatic memories cannot be forgotten but they can be contained and/or unburdened when shared with fellow sufferers and with God or your higher power. This is a move toward memory instead of moving beyond memory. As one author described it: “One must have the courage of memory, because through it, one can seek God.”

Finally, religious groups have the best inspirational self-help scripts available in the form of the Bible, Torah, Koran, other holy scriptures, liturgy, and worship. They offers a framework for dealing with trauma and copes with stress.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his popular book on “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” writes:

“In the final analysis, the question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” (p. 147) .

Faith provides us with the HOW of living resiliently!

REFERENCES:

Meichenbaum, D. (2016) TRAUMA, SPIRITUALITY AND RECOVERY: TOWARD A SPIRITUALLY-INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY :

https://www.melissainstitute.org/documents/SPIRITUALITY_PSYCHOTHERAPY.pdf

SAMHA Website on Faith-based Communities : http://www.samhsa.gov/fbci/fbci_pubs.aspx

Pargament, K. I., Kennell, J. et al. (1988). Religion and the problem-solving process: Three styles of coping. Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 90-104.

Microsoft Word – MeichSPIRITUALITY INTEGRATED PSYCHOTHERAPY1 final edits.doc

Jay, J. (1994). Walls of wailing. Common Boundary, May/June, 30-35.

Harold S. Kushner’s “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” New York: Schocken Books, 1981.

Welcoming Home Conference for Foster/Adoptive Parents

Register now at WelcomingChildrenHome.com

It will be my honor to speak this years Welcoming Children Home conference on Faith-Based Adoption and Foster Care. My talk will be on the subject of “The Healing Power of Forgiveness and Reconciliation”. This is a powerful and timely topic for faith-based families who want breakthrough the effects of trauma and toxic stress. There will be many amazing speakers and the keynote will be delivered by Philip Pattison, the co-founder of Foster the Bay, a coalition of more than 60 churches across the Bay Area.

>> Find more online education NOW at Family Healer TV!