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Post-it Notes

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letters and this blog is entitled, Post-it Notes.

Have you ever watched Chip and Joanna Gaines on the Magnolia channel and seen the magical transformations that are possible to the houses that they renovate? The show begins with a look at the house they plan to transform. It is barely standing. It always lacks luster to put it mildly. By the end of the show each home will have the WOW factor. These decorating make-overs get us all dreaming about the possibilities of creating our own inviting, welcoming space. It prompts me to wonder what could happen if time, attention, and TLC was put into areas of life that have been neglected? You may have never thought of a part of your brain needing a make- over. Notice what happens when you spend the day spring cleaning or rearranging the furniture? You begin to look at your space from a fresh perspective. What if we viewed our brain as the fixer upper and made intentional steps to give it the WOW factor?

Inside our brain is the Amygdala which is responsible for deciding the importance of each experience throughout life. If considered emotionally significant, it forms an emotional memory about objects or situations, jots this down on a post it- note and slaps it up somewhere on the Amygdala wall. Sounds rather impulsive doesn’t it? It is true that the Amygdala does not always have the best decorating sense. It is easily influenced by past experiences, acts without accessing the logical part of the brain and then continually re-reads each negative post- it note message. If the brain reads a post it note -message, DANGER, it responds in one of four ways. These negative messages are clearly poorly processed and will either evoke mismanaged symptoms of fear, worry, compulsivity or avoidance. While it is re-reading the danger filled messages, the brain is giving the Amygdala permission to dictate how the body responds and preparing the body to run, fight or freeze. In addition, the Amygdala has a warning siren that makes it difficult to think or speak when it is sounding. Needless to say, time spent in this space while looking at the walls filled with negative post it note -messages would not feel warm and fuzzy, especially when the alarm system is echoing in your ear. What if you could communicate new information about the objects and situations in the experiences to give your Amygdala a face-life? Ask yourself, is it time to give my Amygdala a make-over and rid myself of outdated emotional memories?

Get with a person that you consider safe, such as a therapist, to learn techniques that promote relaxation, such as breathing exercises and meditation to reduce the level activation in the Amygdala. The goal is not to eliminate activation but to decrease the level of distress. Research points out the physical benefits of simple breathing exercises completed on daily basis. Daily progressive muscle exercises found on my website in the resource section can reduce muscle tension, counteract arousal, and promote calm. Yoga, practicing healthy sleep hygiene and aerobic exercise all act to promote relaxation of the Amygdala. EMDR is proven to rewire circuitry in the brain by helping to pair it with new learnings to create lasting change. Practice saying the following meditation to yourself. Notice on a scale of 1-10 how you would rate your level of distress before the exercise and after.

Get comfortable in your chair. Breathe in and out. Breathe in and out. You notice that you are standing in a room that is cold and slightly dark. The only light is coming from the doorway which is slightly cracked open. It is just enough light to notice that the walls in this room are lined with wallpaper. The course paper has words on it. You look closer at the wall and realize these words are ones that you say to yourself each day. Maybe these are the words that people you love have said about you. What are they saying to you? How do they make you feel? You begin to walk around the room and notice more and more painful words and phrases that you have told yourself, which you believe about yourself. Some words you can’t quite make out but when you touch them with your hand they are still painful. You notice a warm light enter the room. It feels comfortable and inviting. You feel your body begin to relax and know you are safe. With each breath in you feel encouraged, healthier, and energized. Something inside tells you to say to yourself “I will not believe these words this time”. You reach up and being to tear these ugly words off the wall. Each time you tear down a word you feel lighter in your shoulders. Your mind feels clearer and more focused. You turn to the next wall and continue to rip off more and more of these painful words. You continue to move from wall to wall until all the painful words are gone. You feel your body relax as you watch the light move around the room. The light begins to repair the torn wall with new, more inviting words. You look from wall to wall and read the new words and phrases to yourself. You notice phrases such as, “I am worthy of love”, “ I am capable” , “ I am not defined by my past”. You begin to repeat these phrases softly to yourself.

Each wall glows after you finish saying these phrases. Take a moment to let these words comfort and reassure you. You notice that you have finished moving from wall to wall softly repeating these nurturing words. You pause to look around the room. The room is lit with a warm glow. It is inviting and peaceful. Take in a deep breath and breathe out any tension that remains inside. As you continue to repeat the words and phrases that bring you peace your eyes glance over at the warm light. It is moving slowly out the door. You feel ready to follow the light out the door. You reach into your pocket and pull out a piece of paper. It has the new words and phrases that you have been repeating to yourself on it. As you follow the light you feel rested and assured. Each step out the door you remember your new phrases that you are saying to yourself and feel confident to go about your day.

As you are ready you may open your eyes and come back to the room at your pace.

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