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+ Journaling for Mind, Body benefits – Guest post by Gemma Philips

How Journaling reduces stress
Recent scientific studies have backed what has long been known in Eastern philosophy since ancient times: holistic practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation lower stress hormone levels, lift our mood, and boost our academic and work performance. If you are already well versed with the many benefits that meditation can bring to your life, you might consider adopting a complementary activity, which will only enhance the relaxing effects of meditation. It’s called journaling, and it is currently a therapy that is encouraged in a variety of settings – including centers for rehabilitation for drug abuse, for eating disorder recovery and for the treatment of stress-related conditions such as depression and anxiety. Journaling is also used for patients which chronic health conditions, including cancer, asthma, chronic pain, insomnia, etc.

How does Journaling differ from diary writing?
Far from merely recording the events of the day, as is the case with diary writing, journaling goes a step beyond, in that it involves writing down our thoughts and feelings which are our reactions to the day’s events. In this way, we can get to know ourselves better – find out what triggers stress or anxiety, note down the way we tend to react to conflict or difficult issues, and jot down alternative, more positive reactions the next time we encounter a similar situation.

What benefits does journaling bring?
Some of the many benefits of journaling include:

  • Helping us deal with stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Helping us deal with challenging events and circumstances
  • Helping us ‘metabolize’ our experience – when we do not journal, we can simply block any unpleasant thoughts or emotions, which are transformed into a muddled memory we obtain little value from. Journaling helps us process the day’s events, so that we are not plagued by distressing thoughts and feelings. In this way, journaling very much resembles mindfulness.
  • Helping us track our progress – we can use our journal to create strategies to deal with difficult situations, and take note of how we are progressing in our goals.
  • Identifying triggers – journaling regularly enables us to identify the situations or people that tend to make us anxious or upset. We can analyse how they manage to have this effect on us, and either make a conscious decision to process their words and actions in a different manner, or take more drastic measures if necessary (such as limiting the amount of time we spend in these types of situations, especially if they are toxic or bring no good to our lives).

What Types of Journal are there?
Ultimately, each of us defines and creates our own type of journal. Some people find success from keeping a gratitude journal – in which they regularly list down the things, people and events they are thankful for. Others (such as those in recovery from substance abuse, for instance) keep a recovery journal, to help track their progress, triggers and setbacks. Still others keep a journal to note their progress towards a defined goal. Another popular journal is the evening reflection journal, which enables the writer to reflect on their reactions to a specific event.

How to Journal?
Journaling ultimately only works if we are truly committed to it. The aim should be to write daily, or every couple of days, for a set amount of time (between 20 minutes and around half an hour at least). If you are considering starting a journal, find a comfy, quiet spot in your home, where you won’t be bothered by noise. Make this area as personal as you can – fill it with lights, put on relaxing music or decorate it so that just the idea of journaling seems immensely appealing. Every few days, go back over previous entries to reflect on them. During the day, use your phone or keep a small notebook, jotting down any important thoughts or feelings you may otherwise forget. Remember that journaling is a reflective exercise; use your journal to become more self-aware and to make the necessary changes you need for a better quality of life.

Further Reading:
Journaling as an Aid to Recovery, Recovery.org
Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress, Health.Harvard.edu
Yoga, Umm.edu
Journaling for Mental Health, Urmc.Rochester.edu
The Benefits of Journaling, UWhealth.org

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+ “I am blessed by your counsel and friendship”- a client

Anna (name changed) in her seventies attended four of my classes. One day she came to our office in my absence and left an envelope. It had a ‘thank you’ card and some payment. The payment was far beyond what she owed me for the used books I sold her in the last class (1). Her note in the card reads –

“Dear C S
Enclosed is my payment for the books. The extra money is what I wish to give you, for your therapy sessions. While you may not have a counseling degree, it’s no matter. You are a wise, intuitive, compassionate and warm human being. You and I know ‘the degree’ doesn’t always equal quality and common sense. You possess both (2). I am blessed by your counsel and friendship.”

I feel humbled by her appreciation and unexpected payment.

(1) Her son in his forties Joseph (name changed) died under unbelievable circumstances. As shared by Anna:
Joseph separated from his wife and shared the custody of their five year old daughter. He was under stress, having been fired from his job when he reported to the management about discrimination at the work place.  Anna visited him and granddaughter in Minnesota. One day, Joseph was driving with Anna and family in the back seat. For an unknown reason, Joseph showed his middle finger to another driver (5).  The other driver followed them in his truck. When they both stopped at the next red light, the other driver jumped out of his truck with an ax, smashed the rear screen of their car, pulled out Joseph out and badly hurt him. The police arrived promptly and took the other driver away.

After the near death experience, Joseph was devastated. He thought that his having a puny body was the cause for his humiliation. He resolved not to let anyone humiliate him again. He bought a gun and always carried it with him. Anna realized his acute stress and tried her best to convince him to seek therapy. But he did not like to do that.

One day, Joseph and his ex-wife were in a store parking lot, exchanging the custody of their daughter. His ex took custody of their daughter and backing up her car, about to leave. An unknown car driver who was behind her, beeped, to caution her. Joseph was watching the scene from his car, parked a few spaces away. Apparently, he misunderstood that the other driver was harassing his ex-wife and daughter. He jumped out his car with his gun, fatally shot the innocent stranger and himself.

(2) The circumstances which led her to my attend my counselling classes:
Anna came to my seminar for NAMI Rensselaer County members in March 2014 and liked the technique (3). She enrolled for three of my Meditation classes at Venture Inward in Nov 2016, but did not show up after the first class (4). When I called her in Jan 2017 to inquire, she told me about the tragic death of her son. I could hear her crying over the phone. I advised her to seek help from a counselor. On a follow up call, I came to know she was not inclined to seek a counselor. I then invited her to come to my solo classes, as I owed her 2 classes anyway.
(3) NAMI Rensselaer County: National Alliance for Mental Illness
(4) Venture Inward
(5) Middle finger – Wiki page

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Seminar – East Greenbush Library

I offered the 16th seminar at East Greenbush Community Library (1) on January 11, 2017 from 6.30 to 8.30 pm. Attended by 12 adults. A folder containing my key handouts  and sample testimonials was given to each participant (2), (3). It was interesting to hear from a participant that she attended the seminar a few years back and the technique helped her sleep. She came this time along with her husband. They both met me at the end and her husband commented “she falls asleep so quickly”. She said she brought him along because he does not sleep well.  

Summary of the Feedback

I will practice this technique for my (concern) 

  • Anxiety and Insomnia
  • Insomnia and to turn my brain “Off” when I want to sleep.
  • Sleep
  • Anxiety and Panic attacks
  • Stress
  • Relax when feeling stressed
  • Increased peace

My ‘Take home’ points

  • 3 Steps/ ways to fall asleep
  • Breathing at bedtime and awakening
  • Practice breathing, Try morning routine
  • Waking up with stretches and breathing, Chanting, Picking something that speaks to my heart
  • I like the ideas of breathing techniques before sleep and after waking
  • Stretching techniques before starting the day
  • Counting while breathing

Evaluation of the seminar 

  • Very satisfied – 9 (only 9 people returned the forms. Two people left early as they had an appointment)

Comments

  • I took this class a few years ago & the breathing techniques definitely help with my sleep.
  • Very useful ideas to use going forward.
  • Too short! I loved every minute. I want to learn more.
  • Counting, Feeling, folding – I will use tonight to relax and sleep.
  • Very passionate about topic, obviously a major part of his life
  • Thank you for sharing from your learning.
  • Great!
  • Thank you!
  • Counting, feeling and folding modes – I will use tonight to relax and sleep. Thank you so much!

I wish to 

  • Receive ‘Annual update’ on this technique – 4
  • Interested in ‘follow up classes’ on today’s techniques – 2

(1) East Greenbush Community Library
(2) Documents for download – All handouts
(3) Sample testimonials – 16

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Related pages
Public Seminars

Seminar for the father of a client

A young software Engineer has been coming to the classes for the last 18 months. He brought his father 60+ visiting from India, to be introduced to the techniques as they helped him come out of his severe stress (1). His feedback after the introductory session.

I want to use this technique for my …

Spondylitis pain, Insomnia, Anxiety, Stress from thinking about garbage thoughts, Mental peace lacking inpite of strong will power

My Take home points …

I can cope with mental stress using the breathing techniques by diverting the mind

(1) Focusing on breathing

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Yoga and Meditation Class – June 11

The second monthly class at Venture Inward was done on June 11, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.00 pm (1). Two women attended. Summary of their feedback is shown below .

Summary of the Feedback

I will practice this technique for my (concern) 

  • Relaxation, Sleeping
  • Stress, Sleep, Relaxation

My ‘Take home’ points

  • Remembering to stretch am and pm & Various postures. Focus on breathing 1 breath

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 2

Comments

  • Has helped me in many ways: De-stress/ Calm down with others, Sleeping, Focus and free my mind to give and receive Reiki. (This is her second class)
  • More informative; More effective than expected.

I recommend this seminar to (specify the group with contact details if possible)

  • My daughters, friends.

(1) ‘Venture Inward’ Call #477-6566 to register.

Related pages: Public Seminars

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Seminar – Castleton Library

The third seminar at this library was on May 11, 2016, organized by Melissa Tacke, the Director of the Library (1). Attended by 2 adults. Each of them was given a select set of my handouts in a folder (2). Their feedback is summarized below.

Scanned images of the Feedback forms

I will use this technique for my

  • Stress
  • Thought change, Sleep, Quit smoking

My take home from this seminar

  • Breathing in any situation: driving, waiting in lines, always concentration on breathing
  • Plant seed, Clear the mind

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 2

Comments

  • May follow up with class.
  • Thank you for the lesson.

I recommend this seminar to another group

No response

(1) Castleton Public Library
(2) Documents

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+ Relief from anxiety, insomnia, & more

Pam attended 4 of my classes (her name changed). She knew about this technique and my classes from the handout I keep at the East Greenbush Library (1). Her acute stress was due to her husband’s late stage colon cancer, now being treated by chemotherapy.

Pam’s condition before the classes

I chose to do classes as I had become quite anxious. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I felt pretty much out of control, constantly worrying & getting along on not much sleep. I needed help.

The techniques she practiced (2)

The methods I’ve been using are: counting mode, folding mode, tip mode, segment mode, 911 mode and feeling modes.

I used the 911 and the folding quite a few times when things were crazy.

At bedtime, I do normal breathing in and breathing out with counting mode and if still not sleepy enough switch to feeling mode.

In morning I use normal breathing, then segment mode and folding modes.

When driving I tend to use feeling mode a lot and if riding I’ll use counting and tip mode.

How did the practices help Pam?

When I was extremely anxious, I tended to make myself ill. I would also get a headache. I did the 911 and folding method. I slowly calmed down. My stomach settled and my headache eased.

CS I’m glad to give you this info.

(1) The Breathing Solution for sleep problems
(2) Focusing on breathing – different modes

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Seminar – Yoga & Meditation

I offered the fifth seminar at Venture Inward  on March 24, 2016 from 6.30 to 8.30 pm (1). Attended by 12 people – 9 female and 2 male and one girl. A folder containing my key handouts  and sample testimonials was given to each participant (2), (3). 

Scanned images of the feedback forms (w/o indetities) – PDF

Summary of the Feedback

I will use this technique for my (concern) 

  • Falling asleep
  • Mental relaxation
  • Sleep and relaxing
  • Stress and sleeping
  • Asthma
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Energy (mental), Focus, Calmness, Sleep
  • Stress reduction
  • Stress, sleep
  • Spiritual health
  • Relaxation, when stress increases
  • Family stress

My ‘Take home’ points

  • To calm ‘Monkey mind’; I like the idea of a back door to meditation. I am going to try this! Thank you!
  • This helped me understand meditation better. Breakthrough!
  • Breathing using fingers, stretching on Yoga mat.
  • Relaxing.
  • Practice breathing.
  • Easy to do.
  • Several of the breathing methods, yoga stretches.
  • Stretches, Great breathing techniques.
  • Practice, enjoy, let it happen.
  • Don’t worry about your breaths. Some are short and some are long.

Seminar evaluation

  • Very satisfied – 12

Comments

  • I live in Cambridge, so it is too far to come for a meditation group.
  • Awesome.
  • I will most likely contact ‘C S’ to further the practice.
  • Very enjoyable, do-able, for all ages/ body types.
  • I thought it was great.
  • Can’t wait to teach the grandkids and use it for myself.
  • Would love to continue more workshops to add to what we have learned and make sure I am doing it correctly, to remember the techniques.

I recommend this seminar to (groups)

  • Yes – 2
  • Friends.
  • As always I do – to Venture Inward folks. (Margaret Kaufman the owner of this business, a clinical hypnotist).
  • Anyone -Seniors – Healthcare providers – Caregivers of ill family or friends – kids.

I wish to

  • Receive annual updates on ‘focusing on breathing’ – 8
  • Enrol for follow up classes on today’s techniques – 7
  • Join a support group for Meditation – 5

(1) ‘Venture Inward’ at 568 Columbia Turnpike East Greenbush NY 12061
(2) Documents for download – All handouts
(3) Sample testimonials – 16

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Public Seminars

+ Recurring Headaches totally relieved

Feedback from Krishna (name changed), a young married client who is doing my classes by skype and in person. His headaches were relieved within 2 weeks.

He came to my daughter’s office for his chronic headaches and received prescription for nasal spray for pain relief (1). I was checking him out the reception and could clearly see his anxiety, stress and lost look. I felt ‘Focusing on breathing’ may help him, gave him my key handouts and asked him to try the technique at night to fall asleep (2). He quickly scanned through the handouts and signed up for my classes (3). This is an interim report on his relief from headaches. He is continuing the classes to resolve stressful family relationships.

Before practicing this technique
He was getting headaches daily, lasting a couple of hours. Using the nasal spray prescribed by the doctor gave him relief.

What did he practice?
He practiced the ‘Folding 911 mode’, ‘911 mode’ ‘Counting mode’ and ‘Tip mode’. He practiced at bedtime, on waking up, at work, biking to office and back and whenever he felt stressed.

Improvement noticed
Whenever he got a headache, he practiced the ‘Folding 911 mode’ and it was totally relieved. He was very happy that he could control them without using the nasal spray. In a few weeks, the headaches totally stopped.

(1) Padma Sripada MD
(2) Documents
(3) Seminars and Classes

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+ Overwhelming anxiety relieved

Feedback from Pamela (name changed) a client aged around 40 years who attended 4 of my classes over 6 weeks. She is an active professional who was suddenly overwhelmed with acute anxiety when she received news of a serious health problem for one of their family friends. She looked as if she was in a different world losing all her initiative, causing lot of concern for her family. She came to my classes on the suggestion of her doctor Padma Sripada MD (1).

Interesting details of her practice and benefits are at (2).

“I am very grateful to the countingbreaths.com website and the excellent counseling sessions with C S. I was under a lot of stress from an overload of business work, some personal issues and was experiencing anxiety and feeling overwhelmed when I first started working with him. I did not have the work-life balance I so treasure.

C S is very gifted as a counselor and a coach. Right from the very start, I felt an immediate sense of trust being built. He helps you to see and really understand things more clearly and deeply. It was especially comforting to work with someone who really understands anxiety and takes the time to help you understand symptoms and how not to fear them. I learned how to understand the symptoms better. He showed me different breathing techniques – which are now a part of my daily life (2). He taught me to take 30 minutes out of my busy life every day and give those 30 minutes just to myself. I still have a lot of work but it is better paced now because I also make a conscious effort to pace it better.

I would recommend the website and C S very highly. He walks with you, empowers you and helps you to help yourself thrive.

Thank you again C S. I really valued the time I spent with you to overcome my anxiety issue.”

(1) Padma Sripada MD
(2) What did she practice?: Tip mode, Counting mode, Feeling mode, Staring mode at the red lights when driving, Waking up postures.

When?: Bedtime, Waking up, Driving, Walking, Waiting, Exercising, Working

What were the significant changes she noticed?:

Anxiety
Before – Didn’t feel like doing anything, Keep on thinking what will happen.
Now – Bad thoughts are gone. Feeling very happy.

Tiredness
Before – Felt tired and didn’t want to play with the kids.
Now – Happily playing with the kids every evening.

Confidence
Before – Less confidence in starting any work.
Now – Became confident.

Stamina
Before – Felt very tired.
Now – Feel active from the start of the day.

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