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red bike counseling

~ freedom to live the life you envision ~

Lisa Lesperance Kautsky, MA, NCC, NLC, LPCC

Grand Junction, Colorado


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fight, flight, or freeze

From last week’s blog (www.redbikecounseling.com/narrative-therapy): Walking the predawn trail, an unexpected movement caught my eye. A dark creature walked alongside me. Perplexed, I looked again. Holy moly, a skunk...

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We hear about fight or flight response all the time, but there is also a third response in the face of a perceived threat – and it happens to be my notorious go-to, when I get nervous: the old-stand-there-like-a-deer-in-the-headlights routine. Back in the day (millions of years ago), the freeze response had its place against enemies who may not have been able to visually recognize a stationary target. In 2019, I’m not sure that freezing is the most adaptive response to modern perceived threats – or skunks for that matter. Heart pounding, eyes popping, I stood for a moment in utter panic. Fortunately for me, my faithful attention to mindfulness exercises paid off and I soon recognized that freezing wasn’t the best response to a skunk ten feet from me. However, when the skunk drew its tail up, I spun a brodie (180 degrees) and high-tailed it on out of there, Road-Runner style. Thank goodness for mindfulness!

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red bike counseling, red bike trail therapy

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What is mindfulness? According to Psychology Today, mindfulness is "...a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future."

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Mindfulness is not about trying to empty one’s mind, but rather about paying attention to what goes on in one’s mind. It’s about being in the here and now: the present moment. I’m a believer since I’ve been integrating mindfulness exercises into my life over the past few years. It has improved my focus and opened my eyes to what is happening in the moment – helping me understand just what I am feeling and needing. I have better clarity, improved memory, and reduced anxiety. Mindfulness helps us stay out of an overactive limbic system (where the fight, flight, or freeze response comes from) when we know there is no perceived threat.

red bike trail therapy, red bike counseling,
red bike counseling, red bike trail therapy, fight, flight, or freeze

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We all desire to make our own contributions to this world – putting forward our best gifts and talents. Making these contributions requires a modicum of wellness in mind, body, and spirit. Mindfulness provides a platform for that wellness. The more I can be in the present moment, the more aware I am of the status of my needs required for that well-being. The more wellness that I have, the more capable I am of making those worthy contributions. Mindfulness is not a self-indulgence, but rather a necessity for us to give it our best, and of course, avoid skirmishes with skunks.

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