What is Somatic Experiencing?

For the last 3 years I have been immersed in the study of Somatic Experiencing…it’s a body based approach to working with the symptoms of trauma and accumulated stress…in what’s being referred to as ‘the new traumatalogy’ Somatic Experiencing is one of the leading disciplines in a new and vibrant field.
However… around Monaghan and Cavan it probably isn’t widely known – as far as I know I’m the first around these parts to have earned the title ‘Somatic Experiencing Practitioner’ SEP! Intending to put this right and spread the word about this wonderful therapeutic approach it’s my plan to write a series of articles to explain its background and potential.
In the meantime, here’s and extract from an email I sent out to my network recently – may begin to put you in the picture…but as it says – there’s more to come

Somatic Experiencing, or SE is a way of  working with trauma and accumulated stress that’s based on latest knowledge of the brain and nervous system. Over the last couple of decades there has been a veritable explosion of new knowledge about the human brain and nervous system. This new knowledge has been the result of both new technologies (Cat scans, fMRI scanners etc) and an unprecedented wave of inter-disciplinary research involving neuroscience, neurobiology, psychophysiology, psychotherapy, attachment theory, sociology, anthropology, nutrition, functional medicine etc, etc…a new understanding is emerging on the many and inter-related influences on human well-being.

The main focus of Somatic Experiencing is the nervous system. I promise to not get too technical, but  feel I should at least introduce you the nervous system. It’s job is to regulate all our essential survival functions: breathing, heart rate, digestion, elimination, muscle tone, the rhythm of sleep/wakefulness, and stress responses. Given half a chance, the nervous system does this really well, helping us rise to the occasion in a crisis and settle back down to normal functioning when the crisis is over. However the nervous system can be overwhelmed by trauma or accumulated stress. Now bearing in mind that it regulates all our vital functions, it’s easy to appreciate how nervous system disturbances can have far-reaching consequences on our health and well-being: it can contribute to symptoms which range from problems with sleep, digestion, headaches, chronic muscle tension to full-blown syndromes such as IBS and ME. Somatic Experiencing Practitioners are trained to recognize signs of nervous system dysregulation and to work with the client in re-establishing the conditions which allow the nervous system to resume its normal function.

But I promised not to get technical – if you’re curious about the scope or SE (and I hope you are!), I intend to post a series of articles on my website explaining a bit more. As well as providing some background, I’ll offer some  easy self-help techniques you can use yourself to help your nervous system stay healthy and resilient.

For the moment, suffice it to say that SE has had a profound influence on me: in both my work and personal life I have felt it’s very positive impact.
I have thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to the many new and hopeful areas of research and practice with which SE is associated. But with study over for the moment, I am hoping now to immerse myself in spreading the word…At the risk of sounding like an evangelist, I feel this information is so important  that everybody needs to know! And  I have a bit of a strategy  for making it available in a way that will be easy for you to access. At the moment it’s a 3-pronged strategy that goes something like this:

1. From Stress to Resilience: a 6-week course
Understanding how our brain, body and nervous system work can be a powerful tool in mitigating the feelings of anxiety, tension that can be caused by trauma or accumulated stress. So, I’m offering this 6-week psycho-education programme based on the theoretical underpinnings of Somatic Experiencing. Blending fascinating input with nourishing practice, the course aims to be informative and deeply encouraging – offering tools for living with greater ease, connection and resilience.
Starting in the Be Well Clinic in Monaghan on Wed 27 Jan, 7 to 9pm Further details, see the attached flyer

  1. Somatic Experiencing: One-to-One Sessions
    Perhaps you are experiencing persistent symptoms of stress: digestive problems, issues with sleep, mood swings, chronic pain, and fatigue are frequently the result of trauma or accumulated stress. If you feel you need more than a course, why not contact me and I can explain how Somatic Experiencing works as a one-to- one therapy.  Tel: 086 8120332
  2. Articles to appear soon on www.ways-to-wellness.org
    You might not want to take one-to-one sessions or attend a course, but I’d still love you to know something about this material – I’m hope to start posting by the end of the month

 

A little bit of research..

There is so much research these days on the benefits of Mindfulness and Yoga – I do my best to keep up myself, but usually forget to share. Here’s a link to a nice short article a friend sent me on how even 8 weeks of Mindfulness benefits the brain.
I’ll put something up soon about Yoga – lots of studies show that Yoga practice affects the brain in much the same ways as Mindfulness …enjoy!
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/

Autumn classes ready to roll!

If you’re hoping to put self-care high on the agenda this Autumn, here are a few opportunities you might be interested in (and more to come…)

     Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction(MBSR) has been clinically proven to alleviate stress, anxiety, panic, depression and chronic pain. Studies suggest that meditation not only makes us healthier and more productive, but actually happier…maybe just what you’re looking for!

8-week course starting:
Wed 23 Sept ~ The Crocus Centre, Monaghan ~ 7.00 to 9.30pm 

    Yoga and Mindfulness
Working gently with body, breath and mind to cultivate physical ease, mental clarity and emotional resilience…taking good care of you!

10-week courses starting:
Thurs 17 September ~ Canal Stores, Clones ~ 6.00 and 7.30pm
Tues 22 Sept ~ The Crocus Centre, Monaghan ~ 7.00pm 

Details and Bookings: Call me on 086 8120332

Compassionate Presence to Body and Emotions

Do you often give yourself a hard time? Have you a very active inner critic?
Can you imagine what it would be like to be your own best friend?

Have you grown to tolerate tiredness and minor aches and pains?
What might it be like to recover a sense of ‘firing on all cylinders’?

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by what life throws at you?
Would you like to explore ways back to your own natural resilience and passion for life?

If you can relate to any of the above, you just might be interested in….
A one-day workshop with Mairéad Flynn & Mairéad Heaney

  • Reflecting on aspects of Body and Emotions
  • Understanding & valuing compassionate presence to self
  • Exploring practices which help us integrate mindful compassion in daily life (this will include some gentle movement)

The workshop will be offered at 2 venues:

August 22nd: Wellington Hall, St. Mary’s Rd., Dundalk

August 29th: The Wetlands Centre, Ballybay.

Times10am – 5pm

Please bring along a lunch to suit your own taste!

Tea/ Coffee breaks will be catered for.

Cost:     €50

Booking: Closing date is August 15th

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact one of us…

CONTACT: maireadflynn8@gmail.com /086 8120332

                       maireadh66@gmail.com / 087 6889822

Both Mairéads are experienced Mindfulness Teachers alongside having other professional qualifications:
Mairead Flynn in Yoga and Stress Management; Mairéad Heaney in Psychotherapy.

They offer regular themed workshops as on-going nourishment and support for those who have completed the 8 week MBSR. However they welcome anyone who wishes to explore the possibilities of mindfulness for personal growth and wellbeing.

Like my new flyer?

When I posted last on June 1st I had a kind of secret intention to post something at the beginning of every month. Luck it was ‘secret’ because it didn’t happen! There is something in the pipeline – not quite ready to go…but in the meantime, I though I’d have a go at posting my new flyer.  My IT skills are limited and I’m not sure if I can just copy a Jpeg file here (I don’t really know what a jpeg is), but I’ll have a go…

Layout 1

Now that seemed to work! Pleased about that – hope you like it!

More news of summer workshops soon – watch this space….

Mindfulness and more – lots of holistic summer nourishment!

Here’s an email I send out to all on my mailing list: economy of effort, I’m hoping it will double as a post! Here goes…

Summer greetings to all!

And yes it is summer – according to Wet Eireann (Oliver Callan’s joke, not mine!) this is officially the first day of summer….
Despite the wind and rain, I hope you are enjoying a pleasant bank holiday…doing something relaxing and nourishing to recharge the batteries for the week ahead.

And speaking of relaxing, nourishing and recharging batteries, I’m happy to flag some very nourishing events coming up in June – some regular nourishment and something exciting and new – read on!

1. Some regular nourishment:

ONE DAY MINDFULNESS RETREAT
in The Wetlands Centre, Ballybay on Saturday 13 June, 10am to 4pm
As the current MBSR group finish their 8-week course, all of you who have done MBSR are welcome to join us. I’m aware that last time there were so many takers, I had to turn some of you away! I am so sorry about that…and while I’m not expecting the same demand this time, it’s not a bad idea to let me know in good time if you want to join.
Booking: You can reply to this email, or contact me on 086 8120332.
Cost: if you have done MBSR and never got to do the one-day retreat, then you are entitled to this and there’s no fee.
If you’re coming back to join us for a refresher day, you are most welcome – I suggest that you contribute €10
What to bring: As many of you know from before, I ask everyone to bring something simple for lunch and also a Yoga mat and blanket – whatever you need to be comfortable for some very gentle mindful movement and Body Scan.
These days are a great opportunity to link in again with the nourishment of mindfulness practice and with like-minded friends – hope to see lots of you there!

2. Some new and very exciting nourishment:

SUMMER SOLSTICE HOLISTIC RETREAT
also in The Wetlands Centre, Ballybay on the summer solstice weekend – Sat 20 and Sun 21 June
I’m delighted to co-host this very special event with Margaret Palmer (Herbalist) and Claire Clerkin (Nutritional Therapist). The three of us got together to see if we can pool our varied expertise and design some truly holistic events to nourish body, mind and spirit – and this is our first offering….

There’ll be herbal walks, cookery demonstrations, mindful walking; we’ll get to eat the deliciously healthy lunches prepared under Claire’s guidance; you’ll take away a nourishing herbal body lotion that Margaret helps us create; there’ll be talks on how to use food and herbs to maintain health and energy; and each day will start with some gentle Yoga and end with a short Mindfulness practice.   .
The theme on Saturday will be ‘relax and detox’ and on Sunday ‘recharge and energize’.
Interested?
You’ll find all the details on our website:  http://summersolsticeevent.weebly.com/
and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/solsticeholisticweekend
Booking is essential: You can book through the website (there’s a link to Eventbrite), or simply give one of us a call.

3. Further into the summer:

If you can’t make either of the above, don’t worry there will be some further workshops later in July and August…

An Introduction to Somatic Experiencing
– a body/mind approach to reduce the symptoms of trauma and accumulated stress
Yoga and Mindfulness
– learning to inhabit the body whether moving or still is for many the best way towards mindful presence
Mindful Self-compassion
– learning how important it is to gently take care of yourself as you do your best to negotiate what challenges life presents


I’ll be sending more details of these soon…

4. And finally – some on-going nourishment:

As you can see from the above, I love working with groups and most of what I do can be very effectively taught in groups – in fact group interaction and support often adds to our experience and learning. It can be amazingly consoling and encouraging to meet others who are negotiating life experiences  which are similar to our own…
However, there are times for all of us, when we could do with more focused and individual support.
Based on the training I have been doing in Somatic Experiencing (to finish in October) I see many of the issues we struggle with (problems with sleep, digestion, chronic pain, anxiety, fatigue, low mood) as reflections of a nervous system out of sync, due to trauma and accumulated stress. ‘Nervous system dysregulation’ is the buzz phrase of the leaders in trauma healing; and the symptoms of accumulated stress are often very similar to those of trauma.

If your nervous system is feeling somewhat frazzled (and if it is, you’ll know what I mean!) you might consider that a few individual sessions could help  restore balance and stability in your system.
Currently I see people for one-to-one Yoga, Mindfulness, Reflexology  and Stress Reduction These are all very effective ways to restore nervous system regulation. While they can each be learned in a class situation (all except Reflexology) it can sometimes be more effective to learn exactly what you need to learn and to have individual support/guidance as you make your own journey back towards balance and resilience.
If you think you might benefit from some one-to-one sessions, do give me a ring and we can explore together what might work best for you.
Tel: 086 8120332

I think that’s it for now – the sun is shining at the moment, but I’m not entirely convinced that summer has set in – let’s see what Wet Eireann has to say later! But whatever the outside weather I do hope that your internal weather is pleasant, and that whatever life is presenting you are handling it with grace and resilience… and that your mindfulness skills are coming to your aid!

If you have queries about any of the above, I’d love to hear from you…
With warm wishes,
Mairead

From Stress to Resilience – and why cavemen didn’t get ulcers!

Have you ever had a moment – perhaps on a particularly bad day – that you’ve thought ‘This can’t be right! A human being was never meant to live like this!’ There’s a lot of truth in your bewildered observation; it may or may not be some consolation to know that the world’s leaders in trauma therapy are coming to the same conclusion!

Because trauma is rampant in our world today an enormous amount of work has been done, and helped along with new insights in brain science, a lot more is understood about the brain-body mechanisms that lead to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and it’s many debilitating symptoms.

Naturally someone who had been through a horrific event – like a serious road traffic accident, a violent assault, or a natural disaster – will experience after effects. The worrying thing is that many who have been through fairly minor events are being diagnosed with PTSD. An example might be someone who seemed to be functioning perfectly well is tail-ended on the way to work one morning, and their lives fall apart! Someone who would be no means be perceived as a ‘wimp’ may suffer years of sleep disturbance, chronic pain and inability to hold down a job – the result of a 5mile an hour collision!

So what has gone wrong when someone (as in the example above) appears to have so little resilience – how can a minor event have such devastating consequences? Leaders in the field of trauma therapy would say that the underlying problem is accumulated stress: stress responses that are meant to fire up, help us through crisis, then disappear, have actually stacked up in the system. These accumulated stress responses mean that a person who appears to be functioning perfectly well might actually be living very close to their tipping point; due to the backlog of stress in their system, they are working really hard to ‘function perfectly well’. Sadly, it’s not going to take much to push them beyond their tipping point.

The other possible reason for this apparent lack of resilience is developmental trauma – conditions in the person’s early life were not sufficient to lay down the basis of resilience and somehow they have not sufficient inner resources to roll with the punches.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating new developments in trauma therapy, why not investigate ‘From Stress to Resilience’ a new 6 week course starting in Monaghan Wellness Centre. While the bad news is that trauma and accumulated stress are so rampant in our society, the good news is that an amazing amount of work is being done to understand and to discover ways to heal this modern plague. Hence the course will not only present some fascinating information about how trauma messes us up, but also lots of ways in which we can reduce our own backlog of accumulated stress, thus restoring resilience and aliveness.

But coming back to your thought at the beginning ‘This ain’t right. Surely this isn’t how a human being is meant to live!’ One of the most fascinating lines of enquiry that the experts in trauma are following – is that indeed this isn’t right. While life has changed enormously since our human ancestors came down from the trees and started to live a two-legged live on the ground, our nervous systems have not actually changed very much. Our nervous systems are designed for a life of the hunter-gatherer – a life lived in tribes of about 50 to 150 people, where we knew everybody, everybody looked out for everybody else; we hardly ever met a stranger and crises – such as a visit from a man-eating tiger, or aggression from a neighbouring tribe – were intense but short lived. The important thing is that crises were spaced out – there was time for life (and our nervous systems) to get back to normal, to a state of relative ease, before the next crisis.

 So from this perspective, it seems that modern life itself is a ‘trauma’ for a species meant for a much quieter, slower existence. Unless you’re living as a hermit, you may well have the sense that there’s always something else – you’ve just sorted one crisis and there’s another half dozen waiting! This is a recipe for accumulated stress, a recipe for living dangerously close to your tipping point – the edge of your resilience. But, please don’t despair – there’s a lot that you can do –  just to understand how your nervous system and stress responses work is a great first step; and then practising yoga and mindfulness are great ways to restore order and resilience within your system, no matter how overworked and chaotic it has been.(Yoga in particular is recommended by leaders in the field of trauma and it is taught as an integral part of the recovery programmes in many of the world’s leading trauma treatment centres.)

If you’d like to hear more, do please come along to a free information session in Monaghan Wellness Centre on Wed 17 September at 7pm.

Details: Mairead Flynn 086 8120332