Quarantine Queen: March Online Community Meeting Recap

We are THRILLED to introduce our new writer, Hilary Pearson, who will be writing re-caps about our Community Meetings. Thank you to Julia Renaud for writing incredible re-caps for over 2 years – we’ll miss you and we wish you very well!

Hilary’s first re-cap is about our March Community Meeting – our first online Community Meeting – with the topic: Coping with Anxiety due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our speakers were BIST executive director Melissa Vigar; Michelle Diamond, Director, Case Management and Client Services at Function-ability Rehabilitation Services (and a former member of BIST’s Board of Directors); and Jenn Bowler, Clinical Leader of Allied Health who currently serves on the BIST Board of Directors.

Welcome Hilary!

BY: HILARY PEARSON

Like many of us, living with my level of disability usually means I am inside most of the time anyway, pandemic or not. I remind myself that I am a Quarantine Queen and I was built for this. Nothing much has changed for me. I miss seeing my family for our visits every few weeks. But on a day-to-day basis, I don’t have to worry about me and isolation. 

I feel more empowered and equipped to help others right now. It’s the people who do not live with chronic conditions or disabilities that are struggling with the drastic change in daily life. Living in isolation sucks. But I went through that ‘this freaking sucks’ period a while ago, when I first realized that I couldn’t go back to work, I needed to stay home, I needed to rest, and I needed to prioritize my physical and mental health.   

How do I stay safe?

The best way to keep safe is to practice physical distancing. Germs can spread as far as six feet when someone coughs or sneezes, landing on surfaces or in another person’s eyes, nose, or mouth. That’s why it’s important for people to stay at least six feet away from one another during this time.

Here are some physical distancing tips:

  • Wave to people instead of shaking hands.
  • Arrange for grocery delivery – this is hard to do right now. There are some volunteer resources that can also help with this and other grocery delivery options do not charge delivery fees. Find them, HERE.
  • Arrange for medication delivery. (Most pharmacies deliver for free).

If you need help getting groceries, medications or other necessities please call BIST at: 416-830-1485 or email info@bist.ca.

Picture of Dundas Square with large billboards warning of COVID-19
Toronto’s Dundas Square. Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels.

What do I do if I think I have Covid-19?

  • Check out the Government of Ontario’s Online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool, HERE.  
  • Call Telehealth Ontario to speak to a registered nurse: 1-866-797-0000.
  • Call your Family Doctor (most practitioners are having phone appointments.)

COVID-19 Symptoms include:

As we know, this virus is new to humans and researchers are still learning about symptoms. It is agreed that common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • cough
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • pneumonia in both lungs

If you have a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, reach out to any of the above resources.

When the state of emergency was announced, I found myself taking the online Covid-19 Assessment Test daily. 

The link below lists resources that can help during the Pandemic. BIST is updating this information as much as possible

Resources that can help during the COVID-19 Pandemic

You can find information on:

  • Financial Assistance, HERE
  • Food Access Programs, HERE
  • Mental Health Resources, HERE
  • Legal Resources, HERE
  • FREE Online Courses, HERE
  • FREE Self Care Apps, HERE
  • FREE Gentle Exercise Videos, HERE

If you need help accessing any of these services, please call BIST: 416-830-1485 or info@bist.ca.

Social Support

If you have little people in your life, FaceTime calls can bring joy to you and possibly give parents a mini-break from their 24-7 duties. Photo by Shanice McKenzie from Pexels.

Do you live alone? Go see someone else’s face.

My favourite face to see is of my 17-month-old niece. Isla sticks her face right into the camera and fills up my entire screen. She babbles about bears, elephants, pandas, reindeers, turtles, apples, cheese, bananas, blueberries, and everything else I pull out of my fridge. We played this game for two-and-a-half hours on day four of quarantine. 

It is so important to stay connected right now. FaceTime  is one of the most convenient tools for connecting with loved ones, especially if you live alone.  

On Easter Day, my whole family joined a four-way call on FaceTime. We all stared at each other while eating our favourite ice cream. Definitely quality quarantine family time. This felt weirdly normal. I think the attempt at maintaining some form of face to face interaction is significant.

Of course, I would rather hunt for Easter eggs in my parents’ house with Isla and my siblings. But I didn’t feel as though Covid stole a family holiday from me. I plan to frame the picture I took of our Easter FaceTime call. It’s our new normal. 

You can also connect with others via BIST’s Online Programs: https://bist.ca/online-programs/

The Story Mindset

 A speaker at the BIST community meeting said something that changed my mindset. 

“How will I tell a story to my grandkids about how I made it through the pandemic? What’s a creative, funny thing I did to help me.” 

This is the ‘story mindset.’ 

This concept stuck.

My brother, Daniel, insists on doing all the grocery shopping for our family during this pandemic. He shops and delivers groceries and supplies to three houses, in three different cities. Daniel wears a green face shield and blue surgical gloves.

We enjoy a physically distanced conversation, me on my balcony, Daniel on the sidewalk. I take a physically distanced selfie. Last time, Daniel launched a small plastic bag over my railing and onto my balcony. He thought I would like the sliced apples his wife packed for the drive.

Hilary Social Distancing Selfie
An edited selfie of Hilary from her balcony with her brother below on the sidewalk.

The stress, disappointment and grief the world is feeling right now is in-describable, but there may be moments that will stick out. Pay attention to these moments, as reflecting on them can help get you through.

Feeling isolated?

You can call BIST at 416-830-1485 to help with problem solving, resource finding or just to chat. We answer our phone Monday  – Friday 12-4 pm.

Check out our online programs: https://bist.ca/online-programs/

Learn about Mental Health Resources which are available during the Pandemic: https://bist.ca/resources-covid-19/mental-health-supports/


Hilary lives with one cat, one roommate, and one mini fridge stocked with lime Bubly water.

Community Meeting Recap: Osteopathy with Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Riki Richter

May’s Community Meeting featured Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Ricki Richter who came to talk to us about mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) through an osteopathic and movement lens.

About Riki Richter

  • Riki is an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner and Movement Based Rehabilitation Instructor at Synergy Sports Medicine in Toronto.
  • She has been a Pilates and Yoga instructor for over 20 years!
  • She sustained a brain injury when she was seven years old and was at SickKids for a week.
  • She lives with two cats and two lovebirds.
  • To learn more, you can visit Riki’s website: https://www.rikirichter.com/
Riki
Riki Richter

What is Osteopathy?

  • Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy with the goal of maximizing health by treating the source of dysfunction in the body.
  • Osteopathic practitioners combine their extensive knowledge of anatomy and the inter-relationships between body systems, while utilizing gentle hands-on techniques to improve health.

How Osteopathy may help mTBI symptoms

Following mTBI, it’s common to experience headaches, neck and shoulder pain and muscle weakness, among many other symptoms. There are a few simple and non-invasive osteopathic techniques which may make these symptoms more bearable.

First, let’s jump into the physiology behind the techniques. If you want to skip the science, scroll to the bottom of the post for five simple exercises.

Breathing & Its Effect on the Body

Blood Flow and the Brain

  • Breathing affects blood flow throughout the body.
  • Using the diaphragm (the primary muscle that controls breathing) with a directed inhalation is the most efficient way to breathe.
  • During a directed inhalation, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF, fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord) moves up to the brain, bringing nutrients and clearing waste.
  • Maximizing this flow of CSF can decrease headache severity!
Image via: Medicine Plus

The Lymphatic System

  • The lymphatic system functions to maintain fluid balance within the body and also plays a role in immune system function.
  • During shallow breathing, there is less movement of the lymphatic fluid.
  • The heart and pelvis have the deepest lymphatic systems within the body and they are completely dependent on breathing and movement to flow.
  • We know sleep is important, but did you know that the lymphatic system is responsible for 60 per cent of increased drainage during sleep? This means that the body is clearing out more waste while you are (hopefully)sleeping!
body
Image via hartfordhealthrehabnetwork.org 

5 Simple Exercises

 1. 3D Breathing Exercise

Purpose:

Generally, most people breathe into their chest or maybe breathe into their belly. While belly breathing is seen as more ideal compared to simply breathing into the chest, 3D breathing helps with posture and improves body system flow. With practice, this will become second nature and may even minimize the severity of headaches!

Method: 

  1. Sitting tall in a chair or standing with good posture, bring awareness to how you breathe by holding a stretching band or towel placed around your ribcage just below the sternum.
  2. Inhale and feel the strap expand as the ribcage moves out to the sides and back.
  3. Exhale, keeping the strap tight while breathing all the way out.
  4. Focus on keeping the breath slow and silent.
2. Tight Neck/Poor Sleep Exercise

Purpose:

To improve poor sleep or tight upper two vertebrae.

Method:

  1. Sit at a table placing the right elbow on the tabletop.
  2. Place the right thumb under the right cheekbone.
  3. Lean head into thumb and allow the thumb to slide up the side of your face to the ear.
  4. Repeat on left side.
3. Shoulder Exercise:

Purpose:

To loosen tight shoulders.

Method:

  1. Place fingers up and under collarbone (see picture below to help locate the collarbone).
  2. Add some pressure by placing the opposite hand on the wrist.
collarbone
Photo Via Healthlinkbc.ca  

Neck Exercise

Purpose:

To strengthen neck muscles to prevent the feeling of the head falling backwards.  

Method:

  1. Sit with good posture, looking down so the nose is down and base of the skull is up.
  2. Maintaining the position of the head, move the neck so the head moves lightly back, giving the appearance of a double chin.

Posture Exercise

desk
PHOTO VIA absolutehealthcentre.com

Purpose:

To improve circulation to and from the brain.

Method:

  1. Sit straight and allow the head to float over the ribcage and the ribcage to float over the pelvis.
  2. Inhale slowly through the nose using the 3D breathing technique (Simple Exercise 1) and exhale allowing the ribcage to recoil.
  3. Continuing to breathe, shift body weight forward so sit bones almost come off the chair.

Osteopathic College Student Clinic

Are you interested in seeing an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner but have a tighter budget?  The Canadian College of Osteopathy holds a student clinic where you can be treated by a student overseen by an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner. Find more information about the student clinic, HERE


Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

Community Meeting Recap: Ocutherapy with Alex Theodorou

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s August Community Meeting was an Ocutherapy demonstration with Alex Theodorou.

Picture of Community Meeting Speaker Alex Theodorou, Founder & CEO of Ocutherapy.
Alex Theodorou

 About Alex

  • Alex’s father sustained a stroke in 2005, changing the lives of him and his family forever.
  • This event lead Alex to pursue a master’s degree in neurolinguistics from McMaster University. He wanted to find a way to improve the lives of people living with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and other cognitive difficulties.
  • In 2016, Alex came up with the idea of Ocutherapy, a Toronto-based Virtual Reality (VR) program aimed at improving speed of recovery for individuals in post-acute care rehabilitation programs. The company was launched in 2018 and its momentum is strong.

Ocutherapy uses virtual reality to bring together patient and practitioner to inspire, motivate, and educate in the recovery journey. [It] offer[s] interactive experiences that make the healing process both engaging and intuitive.

 Health care and brain injury

  • ABI is one of the most common neurological conditions.
  • Treating ABI can be costly to the health care system and patients may receive limited treatment.
  • Limited care, high drop-out rates, and potential for re-injury can leave patients feeling defeated.

Clip art of a person in a science lab, with seekers, computers and lab equipment

 Features of Ocutherapy:

Patient-centered

  • The program learns from the user to determine the level of difficulty.
  • It tailors its exercises to help train the areas of the brain and skills that are most important to each individual.
  • A check-in is included at the end of each game to get feedback about how the user felt the game went.

Utilizes a connected rehabilitation approach.

  • Data can be easily accessed by health-care workers to better track the progress of each patient.

Beneficial and fun!

  • There are different tasks involved with each game allowing the individual to stave off boredom while focusing on key areas of the brain.
  • Works on fine motor movements and can enhance quality of life.

Accessible

  • The virtual reality headset and controller make Ocutherapy portable, improving access to care.
  • The headset can be worn with or without glasses.
  • The headset also utilizes bone conduction technology. This permits the user to hear the sound without having their ears covered and, if you aren’t the wearer, you don’t hear any of the sound at all, which is very cool!

Intuitive

  • Since Ocutherapy throws away the traditional method of therapy*, it learns from the user and adapts the program accordingly all while tracking progress.

*For me this involved the wall clock, laser and stick pointers, tones of papers and tape everywhere to name only a few. Also, if I never had to see the letter ‘A’ again, I would be completely fine with that!

Who could benefit from Ocutherapy?:

  • Ocutherapy aims to improve speed of recovery for individuals in post acute care rehabilitation programs.
  • Benefiting individuals include those who have experienced or continue to experience effects from:
      • ABI
      • Neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s)
      • Aging
  • Ocutherapy may aid with memory, attention, spacial orientation, brain fog, and mood, to name a few.
  • Due to the nature of the VR device, Ocutherapy may not be ideal for individuals with:
      • Visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses.
      • Motor impairment affecting the hands.

Why haven’t I heard about Ocutherapy before?

  • Ocutherapy is in its early stages and is in the midst of being trialed and tweaked.
  • Early testing has been conducted; however, Alex and his team continue to adapt the program, improving its accessibility, technology, and ease of use.

Want more info about Ocutherapy?

  • Check out the official website: www.ocutherapy.com where you can meet the team, read articles about Ocutherapy and watch Alex’s Tedx Talk.
  • Have any ideas, suggestions, or questions? Alex and his team would love to hear from you!

Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

Community Meeting Recap: Chair Yoga with Julie Notto

BY: JUlLIA RENAUD

June’s Community Meeting was a chair yoga workshop by BIST’s Programs and Services Coordinator, Julie Notto.

About Julie Notto

  • She discovered yoga as a way to deal with chronic pain issues.
  • Julie became a yoga and Pilates instructor and taught for over ten years. She was also a yoga teacher trainer.
  • She has taught movement classes at many locations including at university, a wellness centre, and within the corporate sector.

What is chair yoga?

  • Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice which involves using various breathing techniques, exercises, and meditation to improve overall health for the body, mind, and spirit.
  • While yoga is commonly practiced using just a mat and the body, a chair can be incorporated to make it accessible for everyone!

Why practice yoga?

  • Yoga is great for your overall health, including brain health. It can be relaxing, rejuvenating and wonderful for improving circulation to the brain and body. Increased circulation means more oxygen is transported to body’s organs, and more toxins get cleared out from the body, including the brain.
  • Incorporating the three basic movements of flexion, extension, and rotation, yoga can be a great way to stretch sore and tired muscles and can also be challenging enough to act as a form of exercise.
  • Yoga is great for brain health! It’s a modifiable and fantastic way to be active at the pace your brain and body need.

How do I start?

  • Find yourself a chair; any chair will do, as long as it doesn’t have wheels! It’s best to be able to plant your feet flat on the ground while you are seated. If your feet dangle or your heels can’t quite touch the floor, get creative and find an item that can help give your feet a boost. You may try folding a yoga mat, using a step stool, or even a sturdy shoe box!
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. Try one exercise and see how you feel. Check in with your body (and brain) throughout to make sure you are working at your own pace.
  • Scroll down for some exercises!
breathe in slowly gently deeply breathe out
Image via yogagreedom.com.au

Breathing techniques for yoga

  • Remember that there is no right or wrong way to breathe; each breath will be different. Relax your shoulders and breathe however is comfortable for you.
  • To keep your mind focused on your breath, try saying ‘in’ with each inhalation, and ‘out’ with each exhalation.
  • If you’re more of a numbers person, maybe you would prefer counting breaths: inhale with the count of one, exhale with two, inhale with three to ten. When you reach ten, start again at one.
  • When doing poses, try to take three complete breaths at the peak of each individual movement. If three breaths feels like too much or too few, adjust accordingly to what feels right to you.
  • While breathing, feel the support of your breath, bones, and gravity.

Exercises

Give these a go to strengthen your legs, increase blood flow, improve balance, and to calm the mind and nervous system.

Strength

Chair Cat-Cow Stretch

Chair yoga
Image via enable.me
  1. Sit tall on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands atop your thighs or knees.
  2. While breathing in, arch your spine and roll your shoulders down and back. This pose is called cow.
  3. While breathing out, round your spine, gently dropping your head and rolling your shoulders forward. This pose is called cat.
  4. Ease between cat and cow at your own pace, being mindful of your breath.

Chair Downward Facing Dog Stretch

chair downward go
Image via sleeysantosha.com
  1. Make sure the chair or table you are using stays sturdy throughout this pose to prevent face planting onto the floor! If using a stand-alone chair, push it against the wall before beginning. The goal is to not move the chair during this pose.
  2. Stand facing the chair, placing your hands atop the back rest.
  3. Walk your feet back until your upper body is extended, keeping a slight bend in the knee and heels on the ground.
  4. Lift your pelvis and feel the stretch as you extend through your spine, while breathing with intention for several breaths.
  5. Walk your feet back in, and roll up from the base of your spine to the top of your head.

Balance

Chair Tree Pose

chair tree pose
Image via acefitness.com
  1. Stand with the back of the chair facing the side of your body, rooting your feet into the ground and holding on to the back of the chair with the closest hand.
  2. Slowly and carefully, lift the foot opposite the chair off the ground, pushing its sole into the side of the supporting leg in one of these variations:

Lower: Keep the toes of the raised foot touching the ground so your heel is roughly upper-ankle to mid-calf height.

Higher: Place the sole of your foot higher along the supporting leg, above or below the knee. Keep your knees happy by not putting your foot on the joint itself – knees aren’t made for this type of lateral pressure! Press your raised knee out to the side to open your hip and raise your free arm above your head. Breathe! Repeat on the other side.

Side Bend (Half Moon):

  1. Stand tall, with both feet together and rooted into the ground. Inhale while bringing your arms overhead and pressing your palms together.
  2. Shift your hips left while bending your torso and arms right to make a crescent shape with your body. Press your knees together for balance.
    Hold the pose and breathe.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

 

April 2019 Community Meeting Recap: Protecting Yourself from Scams and Phishing with Jason Peddle

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s April Community Meeting featured guest speaker Jason Peddle, Vulnerable Persons Coordinator at the Toronto Police Services who spoke about protecting yourself from scams and phishing.

Police Officer Jason Peddle

About Jason Peddle:

  • With a background in Kinesiology, Social Work, and Dementia Studies, Jason has worked as a Therapeutic Recreationalist in nursing homes and as a Family Support Worker at the Alzheimer Society.
  • He switched vocations in 2006, and for 10 years worked as a Police Officer in various roles, including front-line policing.
  • As his career progressed, his interest in Community Focused Policing led to his appointment as Toronto Police Service’s Vulnerable Persons Coordinator, a role h he has done for three years.

What to know about scams:

  • Anyone and everyone can be a target of a scam
  • The goal of the scammer is to get your money now OR
  • Get your personal information to use to get your money later!

The 5 Hallmarks of a Scam

1.     Unsolicited

They came to you without your request, such as by phone call, e-mail, door knocking etc.

2.     Urgency

They want you to do something right away or else, such as ‘pay now or you will get arrested!’

3.     This is routine

If you question them, they will assure you that what they are doing is completely normal. They talk quickly and give a lot of information so there is less time to process it. They will try to convince you that if you question them, you are in the wrong, such as ‘I have checked all of your neighbours’ water heaters; your neighbourhood seems to have particularly bad water heaters.’

4.     High Reward & Low Risk.

Pay attention to your gut! If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The potential reward for these criminals is high for very little risk.

5.     Payment Up Front.

They want the money right away, not later.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

  1.  Follow up with contact info that you find yourself.

Don’t rely on the text displayed on your caller ID, even if it says your bank’s name; fraudsters can change the caller info that comes up on your phone! Yikes!

2. Don’t rush decisions / do your homework.

If someone threatens you with a time limit, it’s a fraud.

3. Don’t let people into your home.

Stand your ground, it’s your home and you have the right to say who comes in and who doesn’t.

4. Don’t share personal information, no matter how meaningless it may seem.

If the person is legitimate, they won’t mind your precaution.

Scam artists are sneaky

They look like you and me  – often they look professional and have impressive offices/addresses and they are very good at what they do!

Examples of Common and Current Scams

  1. Someone claiming they are from the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you asking you to pay your taxes right away.

This is the most common scam every year because people keep falling for it.

2. Emergency

Someone calls pretending to be someone they aren’t saying there is some kind of emergency and  you need to respond quickly. This is also called the “grandparent scam” as the elderly are often targeted.

3. Advance Fee

You’ve won a prize but need to send money in advance.

4. Misleading Prize Offer

You win the lottery or  a prize for a contest you didn’t enter.

5. Romance

This is the most profitable scam and can happen online or in person. Someone pretends to fall in love with you; then they ask for money, often more than once.

6. Non-Existent Charity

Someone asks you to donate money to charity using a recent, real life tragedy to make them sound credible. If you want to donate, reach out to the charity of your choosing using contact information from a reputable source.

7. Account Info Update

Someone contacts you to update your information.

8. Online Purchase

You as the seller: an interested buyer (intentionally) overpays. The buyer claims they made an error & asks you to send back the difference using an untraceable method (i.e. wire transfer). The payment ends up being fake and you lost your money.

You as the buyer: you don’t receive the item(s) you paid for.

9. Door to Door

Someone claims  they need to enter your home to check or service something that you had not arranged (i.e. furnace, water heater, duct cleaning service, etc.).

Many types of door-to-door sales are now illegal.

Know about your rights regarding door-to-door sales and home service contracts, read more about Ontario’s regulations concerning door-to-door sales, HERE.

Phishing

Phishing happens when cyber criminals trick you into giving information. When you respond, they get access of your accounts or download ‘malware’ to your computer. Here are some tips to prevent being a victim of phishing: And importantly, if you receive an e-mail you don’t trust, delete it without opening it!

Phishing Scam Examples:

  1. The Email Scam

Clues that it’s a scam:

  • The spelling of the sender’s address doesn’t make sense.
  • Generic/non-personalized greeting.
  • A link to click on.
    • Careful, the listed link isn’t always the actual link!
    • Hover your cursor over the link beforeclicking it to make sure the links match; if they don’t, don’t click on it!

2. The CRA Scam

Clues that it’s a scam:

  • Generic/non-personalized greeting.
  • The dollar sign is on the wrong side of the numbers.
  • A link to click.
    • Clicking it could cause malware to be downloaded onto your computer. Uh oh!

How to Tell If you’ve been a Victim of a Scam:

  • You notice unexpected changes in your account.
  • You receive credit cards you never applied for.
  • You receive notice that you have been denied credit that you didn’t apply for; or, you are denied credit for no apparent reason.
  • You receive correspondence from debt collectors.
  • Credit report shows accounts that aren’t yours or contains inaccurate information.
  • Bills or statements you still receive by mail stop coming.
  • Unsolicited proposals come more often.
    • This is because fraudsters sell information of victims to other fraudsters.

Who to call if you’ve been victimized 

Toronto Police: 416-808-2222

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre: 1-888-495-8501

Better Business Bureau: 519-579-3080

Check your credit with a credit bureau you trust.


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

 

March 2019 Community Meeting Recap: Transforming Your Stress with Michelle Jacob

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s March Community Meeting featured occupational therapist Michelle Jacob who discussed managing emotions and demonstrated HeartMath technology to our members.

Michelle Jacob
Michelle Jacob

About Michelle Jacob:

Michelle has been an occupational therapist for ten years. She is also currently following her passion as a therapeutic coach, speaker, and author. You can find out more about her on her website, rewiringminds.com, YouTube Channel and Instagram feeds.

The Nervous System & Brain under Stress:

The autonomic nervous system is comprised of two branches that ideally remain balanced:

  • The sympathetic system causes the flight/fight/freeze response.
  • The parasympathetic system permits body restoration and digestion.

When under stress, brain signals travel to the midbrain (the site of emotional processing) instead of to the frontal cortex (the site of decision making).

Why do we respond to stress in this way?

Back when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, there were many threats they had to be prepared to encounter. If they were being chased by a tiger, it was helpful to have the fight or flight instinct. While we rarely have to outrun tigers these days, the stress we experience still causes the autonomic nervous system to react in a similar way, preparing our bodies to fight, run away (flight) or freeze.

What about the heart?

The heart responds directly to stress. Have you ever noticed your heart beating faster when you’re feeling nervous or concerned? During times of stress, the heart tends to have a variable/chaotic rhythm. When relaxed, it beats in a more consistent and smooth pattern. It’s all about balance!

Managing Stress

Several factors that can help manage stress are:

  • Breath
  • Emotions
  • Thoughts
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity

We will explore the first three factors in more detail below.

Breath

Breath is affected by awareness, so paying attention can help you recognize how you are breathing (i.e. fast, slow, irregular). Having this awareness can help you to modify your breath to gain a sense of calm.

Here are three different methods of conscious breathing that you can try:

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is a technique that brings attention to your abdomen by contracting the diaphragm.

  • Breathe in while pushing your belly out; breathe out while pulling your belly in.
  • Place a hand on your stomach to feel the rise and fall with the breath.
  • Sit tall and pay attention to your posture;  this is so the diaphragm doesn’t get compressed.

Heart-Focused Breathing

Brings attention to the area of your heart as a stress reduction technique.

  • Breathe in carrying the breath through the heart area, to the stomach.
  • Breathe out from the stomach, through the area of the heart, and out your nose or mouth.

Rhythmic Breathing

Involves breathing to a count, or setting a rhythm to your own breath.

  • Breathe in to the count of four, and out to the count of six.
  • Alternatively, breathe in to the count of four, hold for four, and out to six.
  • If you would like, pick your own numbers. The out breath is generally slightly longer than the in breath.
  • Do what feels right to you!

Emotions

Emotions are central to the experience of stress, they are a reaction to something we perceive.

When under stress the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol regulates a   body functions such as: metabolism, immune response, memory and sleep. Having a cortisol level that is too high can be bad for the body.

Here are some different methods of to help ease stress:

Notice and Ease

  • Close your eyes and think of a situation that you would consider to be 5 / 10 on the stress scale.
  • Notice what is happening in your body and the emotion that is tied to it. Name the emotion (i.e., frustration, anger, resentment).
  • Imagine the emotion in the area of your heart; breathe into your heart, into your stomach, and out of your heart.
  • With each exhale, think of the word ‘ease’ and feel the emotion melting away.
  • Breathe until the emotion has been neutralized and you no longer feel it. When ready, open your eyes.

Quick Coherence Technique

Quick coherence technique is a combination of heart-focused and rhythmic breathing, while including a lovely memory.

  • With your focus on your heart, breathe through your heart, into your stomach, and out through your heart.
  • Breathe in for a count of five, and out for a count of five.
  • Bring to mind a memory that you cherish (this can be of a person, place, or thing) and hold it in your heart.
  • Stay with the positive feelings in your heart. When ready, open your eyes.

Taking It All In

Hopefully, you are now feeling re-energized and ready to tackle the world; but you may be wondering, how often should these exercises be done? Michelle recommends doing one exercise three times a day; morning, afternoon, and night. Using these techniques can help form new neural pathways to keep you cool under stress, but that doesn’t mean that you need to feel stressed to do them!

In case breathing exercises aren’t yet your thing, consider starting a Gratitude Journal: Write and/or draw the things that are going well for you in your life while focusing on feeling grateful.

With the weather warming up, I feel as though it’s even more fitting to sign off by saying, breathe deep and keep cool everyone! – J


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

Next Community Meeting:

Osteopathy with Osteopathic Manual Practitioner Riki Richter

Wednesday May 29, 6-8 pm

January 2019 Community Meeting: Vision Boards with Celia Missios

BY: JULIA RENAUD

I’ve been getting lots of good feedback about the Quick Facts section, so this month I am condensing the recap in hopes of better tailoring the article to the entire brain injury community. For this post, there is no need to scroll to the bottom of the article, just find the headings you like and read on! Also, don’t forget to let us know what you think!

Celia Missios
Our inspiring speaker and leader of the evening, Celia Missios.

Rolling into a new year or season is exciting and can usher in endless possibilities. For BIST’s January Community Meeting, we got our creative juices flowing to make Vision Boards. Celia Missios, ABI survivor, BIST board member, and founder of  the self care website Reslientista, stopped by to teach us what vision boards are all about. 

Discovering the power of manifestation – Celia’s Story:

While recovering from her ABI, Celia was looking for something to do to bring meaning to her life. She discovered scrapbooking and decided to create a scrapbook of her own about where she wanted her life to go and what she wanted it to look like. A couple of years later, while looking through her scrapbook, to Celia’s surprise, she realized that the things she had included in her books were coming to fruition!

A Vision Board
One of the many vision boards of the evening.

What’s a vision board? 

A collage of images, phrases, and quotes specifically made to help you manifest your life’s desires. They act as a reminder to envision your goals and take steps toward achieving them.

Why use one:

If you have dreams, goals, enjoy creative activities, or are interested in trying something new. If you like scrapbooking and/or motivational mind mapping, making a vision board is likely right up your alley.

Materials:

  • A canvas or thick paper backing (even cereal box cardboard will do!)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • A few magazines or pictures

Materials for Vision Boards

Steps for making your own:

  1. Assemble all of your materials.
  2. Decide on the type of vision board you’d like to make:
  • Themed: Can help you hone in on a specific area of your life for a more focused manifestation. Examples: Nature, Career, Family, Travel, Design, etc.
  • Life: A smattering of everything and anything that resonates with you!
  1. Flip through magazines or browse the internet to find pictures, words, or quotes that you are drawn to.
  2. Get cutting and gluing, arranging your chosen clippings in a way that is pleasing to you.
  3. Make sure to leave a blank space somewhere on your board. Here you will write, ‘This or something better’
  4. Once complete, look, appreciate, and become inspired!

A person places a large cut of of a picture of an eye on her vision board

One of the BIST members how to arrange their board.

Work together:

Making vision boards as a group activity is quite fun! Not only can it help save time, but if you are working on a themed board, you can make your theme known to the group so they can send found pictures, words, or quotes your way.

Three Steps to using your vision board:

Step 1:  LOOK! 

Hang or prop up your vision board someplace you will see it every day (think bedside table, beside your television or computer, or, if you’re anything like me, near your fridge!)

Step 2:  IMAGINE!

Spend a few moments every day looking at your vision board and imagineyourself experiencing all of the wonderful things on your board.

For example, if I have a picture of a person crossing the finish line of a race, I would envision running (or walking, or rolling – whichever suits you) toward the finish, and paying attention to how I feel while doing so.

Step 3: ACT!

Do something to align yourself with your vision.

Using the race example, I would go for a walk as a way of working toward my goal in hopes of manifesting the act of crossing the finish line.

Not feeling crafty? You could try this instead:

  • Make a Vision Board on Pinterest!
  • Prefer words to pictures? Make a word-only vision board by displaying words that resonate with you. Alternatively, write a vision journal where you describe what you would like more of in your life.

BIST members hold up their completed vision boards

The BIST Social Learning Attendees holding up their (mostly) completed vision boards. Great work everyone!

My Experience:

I have been looking at my vision board every day since I have made it. It was really fun to make and I find it beautiful, inspiring to look at. While I’m still working on manifesting my dreams and desires, I’m definitely enjoying the process!


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!