Counseling for the Mind and Body

Our body is not separate from our mind, but instead they are aspects of the same system. An event in the body creates a response in the mind, and feelings and thoughts in the mind create physical responses in the body. When creating health, it is often necessary to address the mental and emotional aspects of distress as well as the physical effects.

Biologically, there are multiple ways that the mind and body communicate. Three of these pathways physically respond to our thoughts and feelings through the neurological system, endocrine system, and immune system. We are wired this way so that our bodies know when to prepare for danger and when it is safe to focus on digestion and healing.

When confronted with stress and danger, our bodies divert resources away from long term health in order to maintain short term survival. This means that our ability to fight off infection, to remain calm and centered, to fully and comfortably digest our food, and to have enough restful sleep is sacrificed in order to run away from lions, even if they are not real lions.

The reverse is also true. When our bodies experience pain and distress, it impacts our thoughts and feelings. The pain affects our nervous system, causing distinct physiological changes that can result in depression or anxiety. It also impacts our ability to keep things in perspective, increasing our worry and fear to levels above what helps keep us safe.

This is why mental health counseling is such an important part of what we do at Ha.Lé, and we have recently expanded our counseling offerings. All of our counselors understand the deep connection between the body and the mind, and bring deep compassion and expertise their sessions. We are here to help you create health for your whole mind and body.

Mind Body Therapy

Restorative practices are key to maintaining and creating health. Our bodies are designed to regularly have deep rest in order to reset the nervous system, flush the effects of stress, and rebalance internal processes, which all supports health and healing on a deep, fundamental level. Without enough restoration, our bodies become locked into chronic stress patterns that create dysfunction in our physical, mental, and emotional lives.

Mindfulness principles support restorative practices, which in turn creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. As the body moves into rest and restore mode, the heart rate will slow, the breath will deepen, and blood pressure will decrease. Common areas of muscular tension like the diaphragm, pelvis, and neck and shoulders, will begin to relax and release. As the musculoskeletal tension along the spine releases, the vertebrae will be able to make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system will also re-regulate itself, which helps to turn down the volume of pain signals, and other systems of the body like digestion, circulation, and circadian rhythms, will also reset and rebalance.

Mind Body Therapy uses this effectiveness of mindfulness and restoration to address specific health conditions.  At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation, and the initial conversation for Mind Body Therapy will assess your health condition and personal goals. We will also seek to understand your current physical, mental, and spiritual capacity. This allows us to create a personalized mind body practice for you that applies mindfulness principles to optimize your health.

Your personalized mind body therapy practice can provide specialized techniques for a variety of specific health conditions. It can help with chronic pain from musculoskeletal conditions, and cardiovascular disease including heart failure and coronary heart disease. Mind Body Therapy can also address conditions like diabetes mellitus, obesity, anxiety, depression, post traumatic disorder, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

Mind Body Therapy is the application of principles of mindfulness for wellness and specific health conditions. Mindfulness techniques are able to turn the complex systems of the body toward restorative states, which creates space for deep healing and rebalancing.

Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a researcher, scientist, physician, and mind body therapist. He is now available for Mind Body Therapy sessions at Ha.Lé.

From Self-Criticism to Self-Compassion

Self-Criticism refers to the voice inside our head that criticizes our thoughts, actions, and/or appearance. We use self-criticism as a way to motivate ourselves to drive forward, do the right thing, or stay safe. However, it turns out this is not an effective way to change our own behavior, and we often use this voice to say mean things to ourselves that we would not be comfortable saying to others.

Research conducted at Stanford University shows that self-criticism is more destructive than helpful. The more people criticize themselves, the slower their progress toward a goal, and the less likely they are to ever achieve it. Looking at the neuroscience of self-criticism, it actually shifts our brain into a state of self-inhibition and self-punishment. This causes us to disengage from our goals because we feel threatened and demoralized.

In the end, self-criticism makes us more likely to end up stuck in a cycle of procrastination and self-loathing. Even when we are able to push through this, it still saps emotional energy that could be used more productively.

Self-compassion is the alternative to self-criticism. It improves overall mental health, making you more likely to be happy, resilient, and optimistic about the future. It is a way for our inner voice to become more of a supportive friend, helping us feel safe and accepted enough to see ourselves clearly and make the changes we need to make to become healthier and happier.

There are 3 main components to self-compassion. Self-Kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding, and to offer yourself soothing and comfort in the face of suffering. A sense of Common Humanity means recognizing that all humans are imperfect, and we all make mistakes, which helps put things in perspective. And finally, Mindfulness is a form of self-awareness that sees painful feelings in a clear and balanced manner, neither ignoring nor obsessing about what you don’t like about yourself.

Combining these three things creates self-compassion. This allows you to be easier on yourself when your suffering occurs through no fault of your own. It also helps you support yourself when the external circumstances of life are simply too painful or difficult to bear, and eases the suffering that you cause for yourself.

Moving out of self-criticism to a place of self-compassion is a gentler and more effective way to reach your goals and become the person you would like to be. It creates the feeling of internal safety that allows us each to blossom and thrive, growing in the direction we choose for ourselves.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used to support health for thousands of years. It is tridoshic, which means that it works for the constitution of most people, and is used to support, tone, and revitalize bodily functions. As an adaptogen, it is especially effective for countering the effects of stress.

In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” to say that the herb has the potential to impart a stallion’s vigor and strength. It counteracts the effects of stress that cause fatigue and agitation by nourishing the nervous system. This gives it a dual capacity to energize and calm at the same time.

Ashwagandha supports higher energy levels, strength, and vitality. It helps strengthen the immune system, calm mental distress, and foster healthy sleep. It can support the health of the thyroid and adrenals, reduce inflammation, and quiet the distress signals of the body to promote health and healing.

Overall, Ashwagandha is an herb that can reduce the effects of stress in order to increase vitality. It is well tolerated by most people, and can be a great support for general health and wellness. As one of the most widely helpful Ayurvedic herbs, Ha.Lé offers it in tablet form from a trusted, sustainable source.

What is Stress Management?

Stress is built in to being human, as we manage challenges and respond to problems. It is a fundamental part of being alive. It is also a whole-body event, with physical, mental, and emotional effects. Our bodies are designed to experience stress as a temporary state, and then return to rest and relaxation mode. However, modern life often creates chronic stress, where the body and mind do not fully reset.

Stress Management creates a set of tools that allow us to intentionally counter the effects of chronic stress in our bodies and minds. High levels of chronic stress put our wellbeing at risk. These fight or flight responses can reduce quality of sleep, slow healing times, affect digestion, strain heart health, and weaken your immune system. Because stress is a survival response, the body is basically pulling energy away from non-essential systems in order to fend off a lion attack.

Another way to think of stress is as a set of alarms. If our lion attack alarms are going off all day every day, our system doesn’t put energy toward long term health and wellbeing. The tools of stress management allow us to turn down the volume of the alarms and counter the signals of chronic stress. Through mindfulness exercises and daily physical practice, we are able to access the nervous system in a way that changes our physical, mental, and emotional states.

Because the effects of chronic stress build on themselves, layer by layer, over time, stress management can have profound effects. Physical discomforts, mental health impacts, and emotional resilience can all see positive results. Even if an issue is not caused by stress effects specifically, it is often made worse or heals slower because of the effects of chronic stress. Turning down the stress alarms frees up energy for the body to heal itself.

Stress management is key to our overall health and wellbeing, because chronic stress has comprehensive effects on our body and mind. Creating a sense of calm safety on a daily basis allows our survival-sensitive inner alarms to turn down the volume, which in turn lets our natural healing mechanisms get to work.

What is Walk & Talk Psychotherapy?

Our bodies are made to move, and walking is probably the single activity that brings the most benefits for the whole body. Walk and Talk counseling sessions use the physiological benefits of walking to support mental and emotional health.

A walk and talk session is exactly what it sounds like: you walk outside with your therapist during your counseling session. This can create a more relaxed environment, and sometimes make talking about difficult things easier. You set the pace, from a slow, meditative walk to an active, high energy session.

Walk and talk sessions can help get things moving, both literally and figuratively. They are a great fit for when you are going through a life transition, experiencing loss or grief, feeling challenged, or experiencing anxiety. The physical rhythm of walking becomes meditative, calming the nervous system and supporting emotional health.

On a physical level, walking outside while working with mental and emotional health topics reduces anxiety and stress and improves overall mood. The activity can reduce depressive symptoms, and being outside supports feelings of grounding and release. Not being face to face for the counseling session can also create more ease for processing on some topics.

Activity in general, like walking, also increases creativity, self-awareness, and emotional awareness. This means that walk and talk sessions can boost positive therapy outcomes. The movement improves blood flow to the brain, and one theory suggests that walking decreases brain activity in the left hemisphere and opens the way for creative insights in the right hemisphere.

Walk and Talk psychotherapy helps to integrate body and mind for the greater support of overall health. At Ha.Lé, our psychotherapists are happy to conduct sessions in a cozy office or while walking quiet residential streets, and you can decide as you go what the best option is for you.

Acupuncture for Depression & Anxiety

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression because it works like physical therapy for the nervous system. It trains the brain and nervous system to behave in ways that stabilize mood, decrease anxiety triggers, and bring a sense of happiness and ease.  

When we feel threatened, our body sounds the alarms and turns on the sympathetic nervous system to deal with the danger. However, most threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors that can leave us feeling threatened all the time, which creates chronic stress. Emotional symptoms of chronic stress include anxiety, frustration, moodiness, overwhelm, inability to relax, and depression.

The key to treating chronic stress and its emotional symptoms lies in the central nervous system. Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function, which helps to turn off the alarms of stress and bring the nervous system back into rest-and-digest mode. This more fully activates the Central Autonomic Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input.

Scientific meta-analysis of studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments has also  shown that the “dosage” is important. In order to retrain the nervous system away from chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, patients need to receive more than 3 points per treatment, and sessions should not be spaced too far apart. Treatments at least once a week get the best results.

Acupuncture is effective for creating nervous system health and treating anxiety, depression, and stress. It can help us feel more focused, make better decisions, and be happier overall. When our nervous systems are in balance, we thrive.

Emotional Support for the Holiday Season

November and December can be some of the most wonderful and most stressful months of the year. Family closeness, preparing for celebrations, and colder, darker days can all bring depression and anxiety as well as comfort and joy. HaLé has expanded our psychotherapy offerings in time to support you through this potentially difficult time of year.

Susan Dendtler, MA, believes that we are all born with a great capacity for love, creativity, joy, and kindness. She has taught Restorative Yoga classes at HaLé for the last year, and is now seeing psychotherapy clients as well. She specializes in restorative practice and integrating yoga with mental health, and is able to meet each person where they are.

Susie embraces those of different cultures, genders, ages, and sexual orientations, and she is committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone. She sees individuals and couples to process emotions, heal, and overcome any internal or external barriers to reaching their full expression of self. She has extensive experience working with children, teens and parents who have experienced trauma, grief, and loss, and is certified in Trust Based Relational Interventions and Trauma Informed Care.

Whether you need a little extra support through seasonal anxiety or depression, or have deeper emotions ready for healing, Psychotherapy at HaLé can help provide the emotional nourishment you need for your own health and wellbeing.

Supportive Treatments for PTSD

PTSD is a stress-related disorder that can develop after a traumatic experience. It often includes symptoms of increased anxiety and hypervigilance, pain from muscle tension and headaches, and sleep issues, and it can make every day a struggle. Treatment with HaLé therapies can help empower the healing process and ease the distress.

HaLé Bodywork can provide pain relief, lower anxiety and stress, and improve mood and sleep quality, all of which are especially helpful for people with PTSD. Our sessions are also based on creating and strengthening a trust relationship with your massage therapist. This trust bond brings both physical and emotional comfort, which creates safety for increasing awareness of both physical and psychological distress. This combination of trust, comfort, and awareness creates room for healing.

Our classes also provide many of these same benefits. HaLé Yoga and our other offerings all increase mindful awareness of the body in the present moment, and help release stress and anxiety, reduce pain, and create a general sense of wellbeing. By linking the mind and body through the breath, the mind is able to calm, which can reduce the intensity of feelings and thoughts associated with PTSD symptoms.

By reducing physical and mental distress, the bodywork and classes we offer at HaLé can provide relief for PTSD symptoms. Through increased feelings of trust, safety, and awareness, the constant alarms of PTSD can be recalibrated, and we are happy to offer support through that process.

Cooling, Receptive, Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is a different experience from most yoga classes. It is designed to bring deep relaxation and rest in order to create healing in the body. We all need to take a break, especially if we live with a lot of time pressure and stress. That kind of stress can break down the body if we don’t learn to regularly let it go.

The benefits of Restorative Yoga far outweigh downtime at home. A lot of us can’t rest in our own homes, because there is always a to do list, or a project list, or meal prep that comes next and draws our energy away from rest. Rest and restoration require dedicated attention.

Coming to a beautiful space that is completely dedicated to healing can really assist a Restorative practice. It uses a lot of props like blankets, bolster pillows, and blocks to create poses you can relax into, allowing gravity to do the work and your body to release. A lot of us don’t even realize we aren’t relaxing until we engage in a practice like this, and then we can feel the tension melt away, releasing in waves.

Restorative Yoga is also a cooling practice, and can help take the edge off high blood pressure and deepen the healing for other health issues, especially inflammation, pressure, and other issues that are about too much heat in the body. It is gentle enough to work for most people regardless of injuries, surgeries, age, or fitness.

Receptive and cooling, Restorative yoga is not about doing, but about being. It meets you wherever you are in your body and offers an opportunity for deep wellness.