Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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The Next Step

                                                      THE NEXT STEP 

By now you've heard about the Chatham County Stress Monster, the fiendish beast that roams around our beautiful county trying its best to ruin your lives. This month the Stress Monster is advising you to beware of the book by Marcie Shimoff "Love for No Reason: Seven Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love," Free Press, 2010. Emboldened by all the stresses of the year 2012, the Stress Monster is chortling with glee at all us pathetic humans feeling overwhelmed, dragged out and depressed.  He especially wants you to avoid this article describing the next step toward reaching the goal of Unconditional Love. Each step toward that goal diminishes his power. He's already shrinking so let's banish him to the closet and close the door.


Shimoff describes the next step as opening "The doorway of vitality: Turning up the juice." We all want to feel more alive, energetic and full of fun and excitement. However, the road to overwhelm, lethargy and distress is paved with "uppers": toxin-laden food, multitasking stress and repressed or uncontrolled emotions. Artificial stimulants produce only short-lived highs before the crash. Shimoff realizes that we must be filled with energy and vitality to take this next step toward vibrant health and aliveness. While the last article described the need for basic safety and security as the underpinning of Unconditional Love, the need for healthy bodies and minds is also a basic critical step. Coke or Red Bull or doughnuts may get you going, but you'll end up a tangled mass of nerves probably with sleepless nights.


We all have the ability to feel vital and energetic within ourselves if we take good care of ourselves. Self-care and self-love are absolute necessities as we move toward the joyous state of Unconditional Love. There is no one else to provide you with self-love except, of course, yourself! This step emphasizes the need for you to take control of your physical and emotional health. Shimoff discusses nourishing your body with appropriate food, exercise, sleep, breathing and opening yourself up to nature.  To fully understand how to care for our bodies, we need to understand how they developed over time. Most of the modern innovations in food, lifestyle and medical treatments were designed without understanding the real needs of the body. Processed foods, for example, contain chemical additives, toxins and genetically modified substances which are unnatural to the body. Digesting these foods actually requires extra energy. They are so difficult to digest that they actually rob the body of energy, while natural foods replenish and increase your energy. You might take a look at the new book called "Wheat Belly" (William Davis, M.D., Rodale, 2011) which describes the sad fate of wheat which has been so degraded by agribusiness that it is now as toxic to us as sugar! Additionally, our modern innovations and gadgets inundate our bodies with electromagnetic fields and forces unfamiliar to the body, causing first stress, then injury and disease.


We can nourish our bodies with exercise. Before you say that you don't have time to exercise, realize that our bodies were designed to move and move we must.  You can drive to a gym but you certainly don't have to do so to exercise. You just have to find enjoyable ways to move your body.   You can experiment with different types of movement until you find your preferred strategies. When movement can be combined with spirited or uplifting music or contact with the beauty of nature, the benefits are increased. I'm fortunate to be able to run around Forest Garden in the early morning watching the birds began to chatter and the sun overtaking the clouds. Donna Eden (Energy Medicine, Mass Market, 2008) is a great source of information about natural strategies to improve the flow of energy in your body. Chatham County is fortunate to have an Eden trainer who gives classes or consultations, Suzi Snyder,


Shimoff points out that toxic emotions play a major role in sapping vitality when the emotions are repressed or expressed disproportionately.  Most people these days have the mountain of painful and unacceptable feelings and memories stored inside which we try to avoid like the plague. Usually, however, they creep in unexpectedly and ruin our days or nights. Repressed emotions have been scientifically linked to many immune related diseases. How can you un-bottle these stuffed emotions? Not by expressing them excessively. "Anger Kills" is a classic research-based book showing how excessive anger causes heart problems (Williams, Mass Market, 1998.) The HeartMath program has demonstrated how just 5 min. of anger depresses the immune system for up to six hours.  There are many effective strategies to express and dissipate emotions. First it's important to understand the story behind the emotion. What we usually do is repeat the story over and over again in our minds, causing us to hold onto it disproportionately. Past problems, then, contaminate our present lives as we continue to ruminate about them. You can write down your problems and put them away so as to live in the now or resolve them with a therapist. Shimoff describes an interesting strategy to dissipate feelings. She advises you to recall the wonderful relaxed feeling of standing in a hot shower, then let the negative feeling begin to flow out and away down the drain with the warm water.  Whichever strategy you use, it's important to be able to feel your emotions and then let them go without harm to self or others.


You deserve to feel better; you deserve to feel great. Now is the time!