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Resources

Following are free resources that I would recommend and aide the therapy process. You may find some more helpful than others. This will be a growing toolbox of resources I would like to add to over time.

Sandy Beach

The 4 Elements is a simple tool that you can use wherever you are, and in just a few minutes. It has been used all around the world to help people after stressful life events. In 4 simple steps, it brings together evidence-based techniques that can help us feel calmer and more in control.

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Helpful chart to map what happens to our nervouse system when we are in fight, flight and freeze response

Wild Flowers

FREE meditation app to help on wide ranging topics such as anxiety, stress, relationships, trauma, healing and sleep

Balancing Rocks

Radical Self Compassion practice by Tara Brach

Window with Plant

Helpful diagram to understand when we have moved out of our sense of safety and calm

Blade of Grass

An EMDR calming body based technique, simple and effective

Resources

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Esther Perel is a master relationship therapist, speaker and author. Plenty of resources and podcasts on her website.

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Evidence based, practical and a wealth of resources on parenting and couple relationships.

Parent and Child

Evidence based, compassionate and practical parenting resources by psychologist Karen Young "Sometimes the only diagnosis is human" quote by K. Young

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Very helpful site by neuroscientist Mark Brady; translating complex brain science into practical ways it can improve relationships.

  • cecilia1865

Relationships really are everything

I thought writing a post about relationships is timely considering Christmas is just around the corner and can be a landmine of emotions for many of us no matter what our family situation looks like. For most of us, we may approach this season with a mixture of delight, warmth, and anticipation and varying degrees of inner conflict about this season. As with all emotions we experience on a continuum, there may also be a mix of anxiety, angst, grief, anger, or ambivalence towards our family and this time of year and not always knowing why.

Attachment seeking system This picture of a small sculpture caught my eye and encapsulates beautifully that innate attachment system within all of us - wanting and needing to reach out and connect with others and the desire to be met by the other in a mutually safe manner. Our built-in attachment-seeking system is the first line of defense when experiencing a need or threat which we see naturally in newborns who cry out for help. We now know the importance of quality attachment relationships across the lifespan – from cradle to grave. In other words, so much of our emotional and physical health is dependent on the quality of our most important relationships. And no other time like Christmas can bring up some mixed emotions about our closest relationships. How we experienced our first relationships can set up a template in our attachment system of what to anticipate in relationships such as whether we tend towards proximity seeking and closeness, or distance and separateness. Whether we even see relationships as a resource, for some of us, being overly self-reliant is the default. These attachment tendencies are not often explicit, they are implicit – in the sense, they happen automatically without our awareness.

Social engagement system I love the work of prominent psychologist and neuroscientist Stephen Porges’ explanation of Polyvagal Theory – the Science of Safety as a framework for understanding our biological imperative of attachment and relationships. He talks about how our social engagement system is activated if we have a felt sense (not just our thoughts) of safety and support in our relationships. Our social engagement system has an important regulatory function to help us not only manage but thrive in daily life. It’s a sense of feeling ok with ourselves and open and connected with others and the world. It also helps with other important adaptive systems such as our motivational, emotional operating, energy management, and sexuality.

No wonder relationships can throw us and affect us so much.

Following are some reflections and thoughts that can help you navigate this season, especially if it is a very emotionally activating time when in contact with extended family.

Pay kind attention to yourself Begin by offering gentle curiosity toward your reactions and responses. Often these come in somatic bodily responses and not just thoughts that always make sense in a coherent way. Our bodies remember and stores memories and experiences which can become aroused or activated in situations that remind us of past painful events. · Pay gentle attention to how your body responds when it interacts with certain people – do you tense up, or become agitated? Or soften and open in your body? · Do you tend to want to avoid certain people and become very quiet and uncomfortable and awkward and self-conscious? What do you notice happens when you get in that state? What happens and what urge/s do you get? · Maybe your shoulders tense up or your breathing becomes more labored? · Notice the signals in your body, learning to tune into your body for it to slowly become your ally.

What can help manage my emotions and reactions? · Notice who in the room feels like someone you feel safe with? Check-in with your body, it could be someone whose eyes always look happy to see you or is kind, a non-judgemental open presence, someone who takes a genuine interest in you, who can listen when you talk, this could even be a pet/animal in the room.

· If there is no one present who feels safe, see if you can notice a neutral or positive object that is pleasing and soothing, let your eyes rest and feel what happens to your body, and allow your body to experience this calming or neutral affect for a few minutes to regulate your arousal state.

· Bring an object you can carry that has a regulating affect with you, this can be a picture or object that helps you calm and soothe.

· Place a hand on that part of your body that feels ‘activated’ and offer comfort to yourself in the moment, see if you can slow your breathing down.

· For some focusing on their breath can be more dysregulating, so notice the part of your body that tends to hold a lot of tension and stress. Hold that part of the body for 7 seconds and then relax the muscles. You can repeat as often as needed and nobody needs to know you are doing this.

I hope the above is helpful and can offer some support during this time of the year. By Cecilia Ma, Accredited Mental Health Clinician


(Note: I especially offer this post as a resource for my clients during our period of separation over Christmas/New Year. As separation can be a tricky time for some, and it’s a small way I am thinking of each one of you and holding space for what can be a challenging time as you come in close contact with extended family members).


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