mental health: create a sentinel

Today’s post is brought to you by generous supporter Heather, my now paid Internet service, and both store brand children’s cough and cold medicine (grape flavored) and my own special homemade ginger based cough and cold medicine that my kid hates.

In Past Lives, Future Healing, Sylvia Browne instructs the reader to create a foot tall imaginary sentinel that they station at their solar plexus (stick with me here) to guard against overwhelming feelings and anxieties.
I had totally forgotten about this until I listened to an episode of one of my favorite newly discovered podcasts By The Book where they live by that particular book. By The Book is a podcast where two friends live by the advice and instructions of a self help book for two weeks and share their experience. The first episode I listened to was on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I was hooked. I could write an entire book about how I feel about that book. I appreciated all of what they went through. Truly.
(Sidenote: The very first episode is about The Secret, which I skipped at first but then went back to later. The Secret is one of those books looooovvvvved by the type of folks who give poor people the most useless advice ever about how they’re not trying hard enough to be positive and draw good things into their life and nonsense about manifesting your own happiness & success. It turned out to be a good listen)

I also adore this podcast because Jolenta and Kristen remind me of one of my longest friendships. That friendship is the only reason I would have ever known about Sylvia Browne and Past Lives, Future Healing. This was one of those books she once put in my hands, enthusiastically encouraging me to give it a go. I’m pretty sure I skimmed through it and laughed a lot. I was not into it. I’m still not into it but the bit about sentinels grabbed me. Like all self help books, even if most of it seems ridiculous there may be parts worth taking out and using.

My teenage daughter struggles with severe anxiety coupled with depression. We’re fortunate to live in a community with access to mental health services with sliding scale fees for low income folks. Our insurance does cover most of the cost and our co-pay is $20 per weekly visit, which is still too much but the office is understanding and helpful. We both love her therapist. Our pediatrician is also on top of things and has prescribed medication. Still on a lot of days, she struggles a lot. And because she struggles, I do,too. Even though I also have issues with anxiety and depression, it’s not as severe as hers. I can relate through experience but only to a point. I’m constantly looking for ways to help, even if it’s just knowing the right things to say. to support her.  If there’s a technique to help her work through anxiety attacks, I’m open to them all. Thank you, Jessica Jones for that reciting the streets to get home/safe place trick.

So, sentinels? This sounded like it was worth a shot. Just one more thing to add to her coping toolbox.

I didn’t go back and read the book but from what I remembered (or maybe it was partly how my friend described it), the sentinel you create can be anything that helps you feel safe. It can be a literally strong person like a gladiator or something spiritual like an angel. It can be a real person who makes you feel safe in your life or a fictional character. Whatever it is, you picture it to be a small projection that stands in front of you and guards from the feels.

The immediate imagine that came to mind for me when creating my sentinel was the little guard in Labyrinth, Sir Didymus. Who knows why. I’m a little shocked it wasn’t Wonder Woman or a velociraptor. My brain is funny.
When I call forth him as my sentinel when I’m having anxiety, it just makes me laugh a little. I’ve always found humor to be fortifying so I guess that works. It at least take me out of the moment and helps to minimize the anxiety threat, or at least to better refocus my emotions so they aren’t so overwhelming.

Image result for sir didymus

See, though? He is a good little guard! He’s a furry little version of Gandalf. Good job, little guy.

If you have tips for getting through rough days, I’d love to hear them.

Deep Breaths

No matter how many of those bad days are back to back, you need to remember this doesn’t represent the sum of your life.

Speaking of taking a deep breath … this is a good method fr when you find yourself having a panic or anxiety attack (which many people tell me they have experienced related to poverty-induced stress).

  • breath in for 4 seconds

  • hold your breath for 7 seconds

  • exhale breath for 8 seconds

repeat once or twice more.

This causes an autonomic nervous system shift from a sympathetic (fight or flight reaction) state to a parasympathetic response.

Use this for panic/anxiety attacks, exams, presentations.

via jaspinder