A Note from Our Founder.

When I first opened the doors of Liberation Institute in 2008 the country was in a financial crisis and, worse, many of the people I met on the street were in mental and emotional crisis. But little did I imagine the global situation we face today.

When the external structure and support in our lives get’s weird and wobbly, our internal self – mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual – can be thrown way off balance. I am so grateful that the organization, we as a community have created over the last 12 years, is here today to effectively and compassionately help those who need it. 

As soon as the virus crisis began to emerge, our management team and huge volunteer staff sprung into action. We were one of the first grassroots community mental health clinics to get all our therapists and clients online. While many public and government mental health services closed down or floundered, we continued to serve people non-stop.

I am writing today to say Thank You. 

Thank You to the amazing staff at Liberation for being so caring, dedicated and determined to serve. 

Thank You to the amazing community that has supported us all these years, and especially now. 

And above all, Thank You to each and every client we serve for their inspiring courage to be vulnerable and share themselves. 

It is clear to me, now more than ever, that when we each endeavor to nurture our own individual Healing, Growth and Freedom, we create a rippling effect of change that vibrates through our loved ones, families, communities, and the planet. 

In these times of deep global and personal challenge, we can all tap into that positive current and strive to Love – as much as we can, from where we are, with what we’ve got.

We are, indeed, in this together.

With deep gratitude,


Stever Dallmann. PhD

Founding Director, Liberation Institute

Fitness and Self-care Enhance Addiction Recovery

For many recovering from addiction, fitness has become a vital aspect of their recovery. There has been a lot written about the benefits of exercise for those trying to abstain from drugs and alcohol. Exercising can be a great motivational force that brings structure and discipline into lives that were previously trapped in the unpredictable whir of addiction. Physical health can also reward us in a manner similar to drugs and alcohol. When the body undergoes sustained exertion, a chemical is released in the brain. These endorphins spread through our neuro-receptors and create a pleasant experience known to many as a runner’s high.

However,  great exercise can be for our minds, bodies and our recovery, it should be mentioned that too much exercise can start to be a bad thing. Sometimes our routines can become so intensive and time consuming that we put ourselves at risk for overexerting our energy. This can possibly lead to injury, or even more troublesome, ending up forming a responsive habit that ends up doing us more harm than good. Here are a couple things to keep in mind when balancing a fitness routine with recovery so that we never lose sight of our own self-care.

Knowing Your Limits

A lot of times, exercise is a way for us to push ourselves to achieve more. We want to jump higher, run faster, lift heavier weights, but how do we know where to draw the line? The answer is easier than you might think: do what’s safe. If you decided to start lifting weights, you wouldn’t begin with a 500-pound bench press. When pushing yourself, you need to build up to your goals incrementally. 

As a recovering addict, there may be a temptation for us to go harder and faster than we usually would. We equate our progression in fitness as our escape from the past, but if we’re not careful we can end up making the same mistakes in a different way. Pushing ourselves over what we can physically handle can lead to injury, which in many cases leaves us broken and defeated for a while. When we’re broken, it’s easier to fall back into bad habits such as turning to drugs to relieve pain. If we really want to recover from our addiction through fitness, we need to do it the right way with time, patience, dedication and discipline.

Focusing on Self-Care

When we work so hard to make our minds and bodies better, we sometimes neglect to give ourselves the kind of self-care we so desperately need. Self-care means that we are mindful enough to pull the brakes from time to time and let ourselves relax, enjoy and appreciate our bodies. If exercise is about pushing our bodies to achieve more, then self-care is about loving our bodies for what we have already achieved. Activities such as meditation, spa days, acupuncture and good old-fashioned sleep are just a few ways we can say thank you to our bodies and really evaluate how far we’ve come from our past addictive behaviors.

Self-care also means eating well. Nutrition plays an important role in making your workouts more effective by aiding in improved muscle mass. The right diet can also contribute to a healthier gut, which affects how you feel throughout the day. The connection between gut health and mood is becoming more apparent, as more research is indicating that most of the hormone called serotonin—which contributes to happiness—is produced in the gut. Eating more probiotics from foods like yogurt and supplements will help to restore the balance of your body’s microbiome, which in turn can improve your mood, digestive system, and immune system.

Finding the Right Balance 

While having a fitness routine is a great motivating tool, it cannot help us achieve our big-picture recovery goals alone. On the other hand, we cannot simply accept and appreciate who we are without ever working to overcome our negative actions and behaviors. We need to find a balance between the two, a way to love and care for ourselves, but also pushing to always achieve more and be better. We do this by dedicating time to both. If you’re already working within a workout regimen, then you already have the structure and organizational know-how to schedule a weekly massage, or to set aside some time to do some reflective reading. 

So, as we push our bodies and minds to be better, we have to take time to treat ourselves. By keeping a balance between fitness and self-care, we nurture our own ability to grow and learn. We can’t keep moving forward unless we take time to evaluate how far we’ve come.

June Lawerence

june@recoveryisland.com

Photo Credit:Pixabay

Liberation Yoga for All

Kai Shanti is a new addition to Liberation Institute and will teaching the Tuesday evening yoga class through July and August. She began her journey with yoga in 2009, when a friend invited her to a drop in class in Berkeley, CA. It didn’t take long for her to realize that yoga would become an integral part of her life.  In 2017, she attended her first 200 hour YTT in Guatemala at Mahadevi Ashram, learning the techniques and philosophies of Hatha yoga. In October of 2018 she traveled to the birthplace of yoga, India, to further expand her knowledge and deepen her practice, this time exploring the styles of Vinyasa and Ashtanga.  Her hope as a yoga instructor is to gently guide her students, not only into the physical asanas, but to help them explore their own relationship between the body, mind, and soul.   


Liberation Yoga is a holistic practice of Yoga that offers an alternative for anyone hoping to explore the relationship between body, mind, and spirit.  Our gentle 90-minute class is accessible to all people with a desire to practice yoga in a more conscious way, supported by teachers and a community who understand how the journey into presence can bring both challenge and benefit. We will often take the slower path, following a series of postures that engage the body and mind energetically from the ground up.

All are welcomed to this donation-based class. No one is one turned away for lack of funds. To RSVP, email Elizabeth@liberationinstitute.org

Whiteness and Therapy: Holding Ourselves Accountable

How to Manage Stress During Turbulent Times

Frustrated. Man in thoughts.

by Jaymie Meyer, NBC-HWC

“After every stressful situation, we become a little older,” said Hans Selye, the father of modern stress theory

“Stressing out” is what happens when we don’t handle stress in a healthy way. Stress and aging are closely related and the more stress you have, the faster your body will age.

So, how do we handle stress in a healthier way? Here are a few tried and true techniques to cope with unhealthy stress:

If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it.

When a situation has passed or is beyond your control, come to terms with it. Remember that you can’t always control situations, but you can control your reactions to them.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl writes:

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Honoring that space means recognizing and using that single, precious moment to recognize your next best step, which may be no step at all. It may be a pause. Using that space wisely allows us to avoid repeating thoughts and/or behaviors that keep us stuck and suffering.

Here are some other tools for navigating stressful times.

  • Focus on solutions, not problems.

Feelings around loss of control can cause stress to continue. When a problem happens, focus instead on finding a solution to regain a sense of regulation. Often the solution is a process, not a specific action. Here are a variety of processes that help reduce stress.

  • Redirect negative thoughts.

Program your mind to “take five”. Mentally revisit calm, positive images and experiences instead of letting negative ones get a foothold.

One way to do this is through meditation. There are a multitude of techniques including mantra, loving-kindness, mindfulness, and moving meditations. Like any skill, a mind/body practice must be done regularly, not just enlisted at a moment of crisis. Uninterrupted, dedicated practice over a long period of time builds resilience.

  • Take a deep breath.

Deep breathing helps to balance your hormones and increase oxygen levels while calming and minimizing your body’s response to stress. Practicing breath work daily (not just in the midst of a predicament) primes you so that you can breathe effectively when you need it most.

  • Move to mellow your mind.

Exercise works like a prescription that is designed to mellow one’s mood, but without the dulling side effects. As an added perk, research shows that fit people are biochemically less bothered by stress than those who are sedentary.

I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of movement each day, alternately addressing flexibility, strength and aerobic training. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Studies show that a 10-minute session has as much benefit as longer sessions. If time is short, consider breaking it up.

  • Surround yourself with upbeat, positive people.

Emotions are contagious. Brain researchers use the term “mirroring” to describe how the brain reacts to people who reflect emotions, either positive or negative. Being around happy, uplifting people stimulates the brain to turn on happy emotions.

Watching the news, particularly during these turbulent times, can contribute to anxiety and depression. If you choose to stay informed, then do so, but understand that upsetting news takes its toll. Plan a way to detoxify by utilizing the recommendations here.

Jaymie Meyer is the Founder of Resilience for Life and a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her greatest passion comes from helping others realize the connection between mind, body and heart. Skillfully blending ancient wisdom with modern science, she supports clients in implementing useful, sustainable habits in the areas of stress reduction, weight loss and optimal sleep. She frequently presents the HeartMath Resilience Advantage workshop in San Francisco and NYC and offers 1:1 coaching online. More info: www.ResilienceForLife.com

Self-Care Advice for Seniors and Caregivers

Photo by Huyen Nguyen on Unsplash

 

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the senior population will only increase with each passing year. Advances in medicine allow us to live longer, but many seniors find they cannot care for themselves like they could when they were younger. In fact, many people find they need the help of a caretaker to complete daily tasks. Most of the time, they use an informal caregiver. Informal caregivers are family members and friends who provide help and support without pay. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older during 2015.

Caregiving is rewarding, but it’s also very stressful. It’s not easy watching someone you love and respect lose their autonomy. Likewise, it’s very difficult to experience such a loss yourself. Practicing self-care enables seniors and their caregivers to handle the stresses they face while supporting physical, emotional, and mental health.

Invest in Insurance

It might not sound like traditional self-care advice, but getting insurance can actually give you peace of mind. Medicare is an invaluable resource for seniors. It helps cover the costs of medical expenses, which tend to take up the majority of a senior’s fixed budget. Staying on top of Medicare enrollment dates ensures seniors are covered throughout the year; however, basic Medicare plans aren’t going to cover things like vision, dental, and hearing. Medicare Advantage plans are developed by private insurance companies to supplement coverage for seniors at an affordable rate, though they do vary by state. The right Medicare Advantage plan can save seniors and their caregivers time, stress, and perhaps most importantly, money.

Try Out Yoga

Yoga has many benefits for seniors and their caregivers. It’s a gentle activity they can do together at home or in a social setting. The gentle movements and stretches that coincide with yoga alleviate pain and stiffness in the muscles. It also relieves swelling in joints, improving mobility and reducing arthritis pain. Even if the yoga sequence isn’t strenuous, the exercise instigates the release of endorphins and feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When the body experiences a rush of these chemicals, it alleviates feelings of depression and anxiety. Finally, a major part of yoga is focusing on the breath and practicing mindfulness, much like meditation. Practicing mindfulness is good for seniors because it improves longevity, decreases feelings of loneliness, and slows memory loss. For caregivers, mindfulness relieves stress and centers them in a place of compassion.

Plan Quick and Healthy Meals

Seniors and their caregivers need ample nutrition to support their minds and bodies. However, caregivers may not always have time or energy to make healthy meals from scratch. That’s when freezer meals are a lifesaver. Freezer meals are easy to assemble and made with simple ingredients. They can be prepared in disposable cookware to cut down on the amount of dishes caregivers have to do once the meal is done. And perhaps best of all, they can be made for cheap, helping seniors and their caregivers live better for less.

Some great freezer meals for two caregivers should try include:

  • Roasted chicken and vegetables
  • Baked chicken fajitas
  • Turkey and sweet potato saute
  • Spaghetti pie
  • Chicken broccoli rice casserole
  • Baked ziti
  • Garlic pork stir-fry
  • Vegetarian chili
  • Lasagna
  • Twice baked potatoes
  • Crockpot beef stew

Millions of Americans act as the primary caregiver for a senior loved one. While caregiving is rewarding, it’s also stressful. Self-care is essential for supporting physical, emotional, and mental health. Seniors and their caregivers can benefit from self-care practices like practicing yoga and meditation, and nourishing the body and mind with hearty meals. Caregivers, in particular, should look into Medicare Advantage plans that cover health expenses regular Medicare does not. To save time, energy, and money, caregivers can make freezer meals ahead of time and turn to them when they are too exhausted to make a meal from scratch.

 

Kent Elliot

info@athomeaging.info

Light in Dark Days

Winter, the solstice, and the holidays can be a cozy time of connection and celebration, but for many of us this period is sad and challenging. Here at Libi our doors and hearts are open to those who need it.

If you know someone in need, please have them contact us.

You can also help by spreading the word about our critical fundraising campaign. It’s your generosity that allows us to serve others:

https://handup.org/campaigns/supportcommunitymentalhealth

Sad man sitting in sunset

We are a community of people helping people everyday. With your help we can compassionately change the world. Thank You!

We’re All Connected

the-birds-on-the-wires

Everyday around dusk, outside our main offices in SF, a flock of little black birds gathers on the wires to chirp, gloriously
celebrating the day. This always reminds me of the symphony of transformation that happens with the work we do at Libi – people helping people in community.

Here’s a video for a reminder that we are ALL connected – each of us an integral part of Life’s song!

Meditation linked to lower stress among prison inmates

Prisoners who practice transcendental meditation twice a day may experience less stress and fewer mental health issues than fellow inmates who don’t meditate, a small US study suggests.

Previous research has linked this type of meditation involving mantras and mindfulness to reduced stress in a variety of populations at risk for mental health problems, including trauma victims, refugees and military veterans.

Photo by Nicole Bengiveno

Photo by Nicole Bengiveno

For the current study, researchers offered 90 male inmates in Oregon state prisons a five-session training program in meditation then asked them to practice the techniques they learned twice daily for 20 minutes. Researchers also followed a control group of 91 inmates who didn’t receive any intervention.

After four months, all the men showed some improvement in symptoms, but men in the meditation group reported significantly larger reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, depression, dissociation and sleep disturbances than the inmates who didn’t participate in this program, the study found.

For depression and sleep problems, symptom scores were reduced by half, on average, among men who meditated, as was their total trauma score.

“This is the first randomized controlled study to confirm that transcendental meditation can substantially decrease trauma symptoms, including reducing depression and sleep problems, in prison inmates,” said lead study author Sanford Nidich, director of the Center for Social and Emotional Health at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

The practice may have benefits for both mental and physical health, Nidich added by email.

“Elevated trauma symptoms are associated with poor lifestyle decision making and higher rates of recidivism,” Nidich said. “Experience of trauma exposure also is associated with adverse mental and physical health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.”

Researchers evaluated the transcendental meditation program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution, a medium-security prison, and the Oregon State Penitentiary, a maximum-security facility.

Men participating in the study were 29 years old on average.

Approximately 52 per cent were white, 16 per cent were black and 15 per cent were Native American.

In the treatment group, men were encouraged to meditate each morning and afternoon after completing the training program. They could also attend optional group sessions several times a week.

Before treatment started, and again four months later, researchers asked participants in the meditation group and the control group to rate how often they felt stress as well as a range of symptoms associated with trauma such as sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety.

While both groups experienced declines in perceived stress, men in the meditation group reported a bigger average decrease, researchers report in The Permanente Journal, online October 7th.

One limitation of the study is that it isn’t designed to show transcendental meditation works better than alternative treatments, only that it’s better than doing nothing to help prisoners cope with stress, the authors note.

“This is quite a significant weakness of the study,” said Bei-Hung Chang, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester who wasn’t involved in the study.

That said, the results suggest it’s feasible to try the approach in prisons and get inmates to participate, Chang added by email.

“Meditation is a lifelong practice and regular practice is the key to maintain and deepen the effects,” Chang said. “As such anyone who has learned the technique should continue the practice if they want to maintain the effects and continue to improve.”

Because the study only followed inmates for four months, it’s unclear how many sessions a week, over how long a period of time, would be needed to cement an effective meditation practice, noted Dr. James Stahl, a researcher at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire who wasn’t involved in the study.

But there may be no harm in trying, Stahl added by email.

“I think it is safe to say for those amenable to transcendental meditation that it is a safe, effective, inexpensive intervention that can have long term beneficial effects,” Stahl said. — Reuters.

Join us every Thursday night at 7 at the Liberation Institute for our donation based meditation class!