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  • The Power of Breath

    Did you know that one of the most effective calming exercises you can perform is deep breathing exercises?! Getting overwhelmed can trigger your fight, flight, or freeze response. This response activates your sympathetic nervous system and sends oxygen to your arms and legs so that you are prepared to fight or flee. The side effect of this is that oxygen is diverted away from your brain which makes it difficult to think clearly. Deep breathing activates the other part of your nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a signal to your brain to tell your anxiety that you are safe and don't need to fight or flee. Deep breathing also gets more oxygen to your thinking brain and frees up mental energy. The best part about deep breathing is it is something you can do anywhere and any time! Two strategies for deep breathing are 3-4-5 and hand breathing! To learn more check out the handouts provided by Galaxy Brain and Therapy Center!

  • The Importance of Self Care During Turbulent Times

    We were so honored to have Judith Malinowski, PhD, clinical psychologist as a guest on our Brainthropology podcast for our two-part series on anxiety and depression. In this short video focused on being kind to your mind during the pandemic, several coping strategies were discussed to help alleviate anxiety and depression that we feel are important to share. The video discussed the psychological ramifications stress has on our body when it experiences uncertainty. As human beings, we are wired to react with fear when we experience a situation that doesn’t have clear boundaries. Uncertainty can lead to a state of confusion that can cause our brain to shut down. This prevents us from accessing the part of our brain that is responsible for problem-solving. During uncertain times it is a basic human need to stay connected to one another, whether during a pandemic or not. It is important to connect with people not only by text, but to hear each other's voices and see their faces. Although the video was created to address the pandemic, it’s important to know that these strategies can be used during any situation that may cause stress. During turbulent times it is important to take care of yourself. Anytime there are unknowns in life, it’s typical to have human reactions such as becoming anxious, fearful, and sometimes even becoming depressed. An important strategy to use when you are feeling anxious or depressed is to KEEP MOVING! Make a conscious effort to exercise! Obviously before starting any exercise regime consult your physician to ensure it is appropriate and safe. Here are some simple ideas: go for a walk ride a bike practice yoga Garden Lift weights or engage in strength training Stretch Go outside Find a youtube video exercise class Many times when we are in a state of anxiety we become paralyzed. Finding ways to stay in motion is very important to address this state. It’s important to stay focused on what you do have control over instead of what you do not. We have control over our reactions to situations. The video discussed the equation Event + Response = Outcome. As we have control over our responses we can directly affect the outcome of any situation. Listed below are some suggestions to help facilitate a positive response to uncertain times. Limit your exposure to the media to avoid being overwhelmed. Be conscious of what your kids are exposed to, and help them manage their anxiety. You cannot help others if you don’t help yourself first. If you do feel overwhelmed, JUST BREATHE! The 3,4,5 breathing technique will help you focus. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. Engage in activities that give your brain a break such as hobbies like puzzles, games, or books. It is important to understand that fear is not a coping strategy, it will only keep you from accessing the parts of your brain that will give you important options, choices and emotional control. Every crisis that our body experiences causes change to occur. It is up to us to control how we respond to a situation thereby affecting the outcome. Our peace of mind is directly related to our ability to accept uncertainty for what it is. Mental Health Resources: PHQ9 Depression Questionnaire GAD Anxiety Questionnaire NAMI- National Association of Mental Illness Power of Breath Handout Meditation Apps: Insight Timer, Calm, Headspace Movies: Screenagers Movie: The Social Dilemma Movie Amazon Links: Anxiety and Phobia Workbook Stress Ball Pillbox Pill bottle with timer cap: SAD Light Brainthropology Blog About Today’s Topic:

  • Communication Cards

    What do you do if you have to be out and about in the world, but you sometimes get overwhelmed and are unable to advocate or communicate clearly for yourself?! You can create a communication card! This postcard-sized document can express your challenges and how people can help you. What should be included on the communication card: Name (optional) Address (optional but helpful if you need someone to help you get home) Problems that you might have in public Ways that you can be helped Emergency contacts Once you have created this card, you can print off copies and keep them in your car, bag, purse, or anything else you carry when you are out and about. If you need more accessible access to your communication card, consider getting a passport pouch with a lanyard! View our sample communication card:

  • Concussion Basics

    Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries and getting a concussion can change your life in an instant! Confusion, fatigue, irritability, headaches, sensory sensitivity, and difficulty thinking are just a few of the symptoms people can experience. If you or a loved one have suffered a concussion recently or had a concussion in the past where the symptoms haven't gone away, you might feel really lost with where to start. While you should always start by seeing your physician, our concussion basics guide can help you to understand and start managing your symptoms. Also, see our blog post on self-advocacy to learn how to advocate for your needs! All of these tools were discussed on our podcast in episode 6A!

  • Window of Tolerance

    The Window of Tolerance is a very useful tool to help you understand your level of attentiveness or as scientists call it your arousal level (no not the sexy kind of arousal). Your goal is to stay within your Window of Tolerance to allow yourself to comfortably and safely explore the world around you! Listen to Brainthropology podcast 04B to learn more about the Window of Tolerance and techniques you can use to stay within your window! Download a printable copy of the Window of Tolerance here:

  • Spoon Theory and Energy Conservation

    Energy conservation is an important concept to understand as it can benefit so many people including clients, the aging population, friends, and relatives that may be affected by illness or injury, or even those that just get caught up in everyday life and find themselves without enough time or energy at the end of the day. Energy conservation refers to the way activities are performed to minimize muscle fatigue, joint stress, and pain. By using your body in the most efficient way and completing tasks systematically, you can save your energy, which can affect your life dramatically as that leaves energy to do things that are meaningful and important to you! During the energy conservation discussion on the Brainthropology podcast, a great tool to help understand this concept was mentioned called the Spoon Theory. Spoon Theory is a term created by Christine Miserandino, a patient advocate that suffers from an autoimmune disease, Lupus. A friend of hers was having difficulty understanding her illness as “she didn’t look sick.” Christine explained to her friend what it’s like to live with Lupus by laying out a handful of spoons on the table. She explained that the spoons symbolized a person’s energy reserves for one day and that each spoon represented one task that she needed to complete that day. She continued to explain that each spoon, no matter how automatic or trivial, depletes from the energy supply. Examples of seemingly simple daily tasks such as getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, eating, and many other uncomplicated tasks threaten to deplete the day’s energy at any given moment. Christine continued to explain to her friend that “when you run out of spoons, you can choose to borrow against the spoons of a future date, but there are consequences. When you deplete your spoons, you are bedridden. You are unable to manage the simple activities of life. When my spoon supply is depleted, my body takes over, and I no longer have a choice of what I want to do. The pain or fatigue cannot be solved by medication or cooled by massage. I am forced to sit, or more commonly, lay down. Once resting, it is only a matter of time before the exhaustion washes over me. Sleep is the only respite.” This explanation has become a common language between “spoonies” - a now common term describing chronic illness sufferers. This concept helps us have empathy for those affected by illness or injury. Many times “spoonies” have reported feeling isolated by their biological emergency shutdown system because it gets activated by the most simple tasks like cooking a meal, driving to a corner shop, or even having an engaging conversation with a friend or family member as these tasks are enough to activate their systems to shut down until they can recover. The attached video to this blog offers an additional perspective to the original spoon theory for those who may or may not have an illness, disability, or injury. The presenter encourages us to use this concept for all people, explaining that whether or not your health may be compromised, that at one point or another in life you will find yourself running out of spoons. At Brainthropology we encourage you, whomever you may be, to practice understanding and compassion when it comes to using your own energy reserves and to have respect when you ask others to use their precious energy.

  • The Importance of Starting Your Day with a Positive!

    At Brainthropology we typically like to start our sessions out with a positive, whether it be a professional or personal one. Research has shown that the way your morning starts can set the tone for the rest of the day! Whether your day starts with a meeting in the morning or a quick phone call to a friend or family member we challenge you to start it with a positive attitude. To learn more about how to start your day with an intention to be positive watch this video! This 4-minute video is a great way to get your brain focused on the growth mindset. If we feed our brain with something positive to grow our mind and spirit then that’s what we attract. If we focus on stress and struggle then that is what we will attract. At Brainthropolgy, we challenge you to ask yourself “how can I grow today? How can I set my intentions to be positive to help live a joyful life?” Tune into our podcast to learn more about this concept and how to integrate it into your daily life.

  • People Want to Help. Tell Them HOW!

    Navigating through this loud, busy, and chaotic world can be overwhelming. Loud music playing at a restaurant, bright light from a window at a doctor's office, waiting at the DMV with fifty people talking all around you can overwhelm the sensory system making daily life feel impossible. While working with a trained therapist is always the best way to overcome these challenges, there are steps you can take for yourself to modify these situations making these tasks more manageable. This process starts with identifying the challenges that you have. Do loud noises, bright lights, or people walking up behind you overwhelm you? Many of these challenges could be less overwhelming with some small accommodations. You can ask to sit in the corner of the restaurant with your back to a wall, ask for the window shades to be closed, and/or temporarily use noise cancelling headphones to navigate that situation. We only identify the challenges you have so that we can identify situational solutions that allow you to accomplish needed tasks! Our friends at Galaxy Brain and Therapy Center have created a wonderful self-advocacy tool to help you to identify your challenges and communicate your needs! Use this tool to educate friends, family, employers, and businesses how they can help empower you. People want to help. They just need to be told how!

  • Practice Makes A Bigger Brain!

    We've all heard the saying, "practice makes perfect", but what does practice actually do?! Practice creates and strengthens neural pathways that make a task more automatic creating the illusion of muscle memory. This concept is known as neural plasticity and it should make you excited! We base all of our therapy in this concept that no matter how far out you might be from an injury, or how old (or young) you are, YOU can grow and change your brain! You might wonder why we have such an emphasis on mindfulness meditation here at Brainthropology. That is because we have read the research! Brain scans conducted on individuals who practice meditation reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input. This means you can strengthen your ability to focus and handle overwhelming sensory input. Since focused attention is the foundation of all new learning, this turns your brain into an efficient super learning machine! To learn more, watch this TED Ed video! It beautifully describes neural plasticity! If you want more tips on how to use neural plasticity to your advantage tune in to our podcast!

  • Establishing a Meditation Practice

    I am not afraid of storms, For I am learning to sail my ship. ~Louisa May Alcott How should I start my (each) daily practice? Sit quietly for a moment and let yourself become calm. Remind yourself of your intentions and hopes in establishing a practice: for example, to become kind, to be more fully aware, to sustain inner peace, to manage pain, to practice lovingkindness in the world, to lead a balanced life. How long should I meditate each day? It will support your practice if you decide ahead of time how long you are going to sit. An average length of meditation sit time is between 15 and 45 minutes. As you sit daily, you will gradually start to notice changes in yourself (i.e., feel more rested during the day, less irritable, periods of calmness, better control of appetite). If you are new to meditation, experiment with length of time initially. Start with 5 minutes and gradually increase to the amount of time appropriate for you. When you commit to a length of time and sit for it, your confidence to meditate increases. As the saying goes: you get out of it what you put into it. That being said, life happens. If you do not sit as planned, use that as incentive and do so with self-compassion. When should I sit? What is most important is to sit or to practice every day. It is usually best to commit to the same time every day; that will help to create a habit. It will become a time that you look forward to. A time for yourself, for quieting, for clearing. Tara Brach PhD, a well-known teacher of Mindfulness Meditation and the author of several books on the subject, shared her strategy for establishing her practice early in her meditation experience. It was a very busy time in her life—completing graduate school, raising a family, working. She called her strategy: “creating a non-negotiable practice”. What she meant was that, no matter what, she would do some form of meditation (i.e., breath, body sensation, walking meditation, practice of compassion), every day, even if it was only one minute. This is an attainable goal and works well for many; it certainly has helped me. Morning is the time when people usually choose to meditate. It sets the tone for the day; the mind is less cluttered. It is more important to choose a time that you can commit to on an ongoing basis. Some people meditate twice during the day—dividing their time between a morning and evening meditation. Taking a “mindful pause” during the day to gather yourself, establish contact with the breath and body, is helpful in being present, feeling alive. Where should I meditate? While you do not need a “special” place to go to in order to meditate, it is helpful to meditate in the same place every day. You habituate to that space, allowing you to enter your practice with greater ease. The space you choose—your living room couch, a chair with good back support by a window, your study—should be a clean, quiet area, free from distractions. You may wish to make your area “special” by decorating it with meaningful objects—stones, pictures, flowers, art. Whatever you sit in should encourage good spinal alignment. If you are not going to sit upright, i.e., without support/without leaning back against the chair, you may need lumbar/cervical cushions. However, any space can be a space for meditation—the commuter train, a park bench, a meadow. Allow yourself to experiment. What posture should I use to meditate? In this course, we will primarily be using the chair sitting posture. (Other postures are standing, walking, lying down.) One posture is not more important than another; what is important is achieving a balance between alertness and calmness while you are in a pose. Specific tips: Sit with dignity and kindness. Elongate the spine, following its natural curve, remaining relaxed. You may wish to fold a blanket and place it under your sitting bones; this elevates the buttocks slightly and can help with sitting upright. Let the shoulders move down and away from the ears, and the neck and trapezius areas soften. Hand placement: a. put your hands in your lap, one on top of the other or b. put your hands on your thighs, palms up or palms down (whatever is more comfortable) Be aware of the back of the neck, lengthening the cervical spine. Adjust the plane of the face, so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Let the lips part, so that the teeth do not touch. Move the tongue away from the roof of the mouth. Gently and consciously close the eyes. Do I need special equipment to meditate? No, no equipment is needed. You may find it helpful to have the following: Water bottle Shawl or covering Kleenex Journal plus writing implement Lumbar/cervical pillow/s If you are at a retreat or taking a class, a tote bag to carry the above. What do I do when I am done meditating? Spend some minutes writing spontaneously in your journal. Do not censor what you are writing, edit, reread, correct grammar—just write freeform. If what you are writing seems “illogical”, just say “oh, that’s fine” and continue writing. Thank yourself for the care you have just given yourself. Do you make regular visits to yourself? ~Rumi Presented by Barbaranne Branca, PhD, ABN

  • Our Podcast Origin Story!

    How in the world did four therapists decide to start a podcast?! We have been passionately working together for over 12 years helping people after an illness or injury and loving watching our clients find their joy again! We have been going into people's homes and working side by side with our clients and their families. We know that our skills are unique because of our training and experience. We have always dreamed of a way to share our knowledge to help people outside of Michigan where we live and work! When Meg, one of the Brainthropology hosts, was invited to be on the Coffee and Grit Podcast to tell the origin story of her starting Galaxy Brain and Therapy Center, she saw a podcast as an ideal way to reach people throughout the United States and beyond! Listen to the Coffee and Grit Podcast here!

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