Managing Stress through Healing Arts

Tools for Self-Care

November 11, 2015

This free experiential workshop offered practical techniques to relieve stress, increase self-awareness, and enhance mental resilience in daily life, outside a clinical setting.

Experts in therapeutic writing, yoga, painting, and the ancient Chinese practice of qigong explored how these healing arts can improve physical and emotional well-being. Through guided activities, participants experienced this firsthand, and were provided with resources and opportunities to extend learning and gain more experience with these practices.

Presenters

Chris D’Adamo, PhD, is a nutritional research scientist and director of research at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. His research interests include the synergistic effects of healthy lifestyle practices and genetics on human health, as well as outcomes evaluations of multi-modality, whole-practice integrative health interventions and programs. He received his PhD in epidemiology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Afsaneh Faridi, MA, BFA, graduated Cum Laude from Washington State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Clothing & Textiles in 1983. She studied Applied Healing Art/Acupuncture at Maryland University of Integrative Health in Laurel, Maryland, 2008-2009. She received a Certificate of Digital Illustration with Honors from CCBC, the Community College of Baltimore County, Maryland in 2011. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and American Association for Women in Community Colleges. She is a founder and teacher of “Afsaneh Integrative Healing Art.” She has had exhibitions and taught workshops and classes for Jubilee Arts, Wisdom Well, Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center, Maryland University of Integrative Health, Community College of Baltimore County, the Institute for Integrative Health, and Pikesville Senior center.

Nancy McPartland, LCSW-c, MS, E-RYT, is a licensed clinical social worker, a yoga Instructor, and a Reiki Master with more than 20 years of experience working with individuals and families. In addition to earning master’s degrees in social work and in counseling, she has multiple advanced certifications in the following areas: yoga instruction, energy medicine, meditation, family therapy, group therapy, solution oriented therapy, filial therapy, and play therapy. 

Michelle Pearce, PhD, is a Clinical Health Psychologist at the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine. Her practice focuses on utilizing the connection between mind, body, and spirit to improve health and obtain optimal well-being. She has helped clients reduce stress, better cope with illness, improve sleep, exercise, lose weight, reduce compulsive eating, improve diabetes management, better manage anxiety, situational depression and life adjustments, and improve overall quality of life.

Mary Pinkard has expertise in multiple wellness domains. She has studied under Qigong expert Dr. Kevin Chen, achieved certification in Feng Shui and pursued training in yoga and tai chi. Mary teaches local Qigong and group fitness classes and has worked on wellness projects with GBMC, St. Joe’s Hospital, the Institute for Integrative Health and Walter Reed Hospital. She has a degree in Music Education and a graduate degree in Early Childhood Education, and the integration of music and wellness education informs her practice and teaching.

Developing safety, persistence, trust

Healing is facilitated through safety, persistence, and trust.

  • Persistence: “People did not simply progress through this sequence and experience healing. The healing journey was a recursive, back and forth process. They found helpers, used the skills/resources that those helpers provided, found other helpers that provided more resources and used those skills and resources. As this process continued, people experienced a gradual amelioration of their suffering. Although many despaired at times, all demonstrated the quality of persistence—they refused to give up.”
  • Safety & Trust: “To connect to helpers, it was essential for people to feel safe in those relationships and able to trust that the person would be a helper and not a barrier to healing. Persons whose wounds included a violation of trust were especially careful about testing the safety of new relationships.”

Acquiring Resources

Resources support us as we heal. They include reframing, responsibility, and positivity. “Making connections enabled participants to acquire and refine resources and skills that were essential in their healing journey. People also brought their own personal strengths to the journey.”

  • Reframing: “A particularly important skill was the ability to reframe—that is to look at suffering through a different lens.” This does NOT mean minimizing trauma or pain, but rather it often means the opposite: understanding what happened was wrong, unfair, or uncontrollable and that we are not to blame for it.
    • “I think I kept trying to convince him I was crazy. And he kept saying, ‘No, you’re not crazy.’ […] You wouldn’t necessarily say a Vietnam Vet was crazy. You’d say they are responding like you’d expect to extraordinary circumstances.”
    • “I’m not the only one who have [sic] this problem. A lots, millions of people, you know. […] They don’t have nothing to do with that. I guess I have to live.”
  • Responsibility: While we don’t have control over what happened to us, we are the only ones who can help ourselves heal. “A third essential resource that people acquired or refined was the ability to take an appropriate amount of responsibility for their healing journeys. They participated actively in the process of healing. Once again, some participants already had developed this skill, and some acquired or refined it from their helpers.”
    “You need a lot of energy and a lot of work … it takes a lot of work. It doesn’t just happen. It’s not like a magic wand.” This patient understood that they had to actively participate in the healing process.
  • Positivity: “Another resource that people acquired or refined during their healing journey was choose to be positive—that is to have some optimism about their situation.” People have varying predispositions to positivity. In the study, positivity was important in helping people heal. This doesn’t mean a toxic positivity, but rather simply finding some good in life and feeling hopeful about our situations.

Helping Relationships

“Connection to others was an essential part of all the healing journeys.” Humans are social creatures, and even the most introverted of us need close relationships. Friends and family add meaning and value to life and help support us, in good times and bad. When we experience relational trauma, relationships can feel scary, but reestablishing safety and trust in relationships is where the healing happens. (To be clear, we do not mean reestablishing safety and trust with abusers, but rather finding other healing relationships.) “When safety and trust had been established, people were able to connect with helpers. The nature of the behaviours of helpers that fostered healing ranged from small acts of kindness to unconditional love.”

  • “Moving from being wounded, through suffering to healing, is possible. It is facilitated by developing safe, trusting relationships and by positive reframing that moves through the weight of responsibility to the ability to respond.”
  • “Relationships with health professionals were among these but were not necessarily any more important to the healing journey than other kinds of helpers, which included family members, friends, spirituality and their God, pets, support groups, administrators, case workers and supervisors.”

Healing

Healing probably means different things to different people, but one definition that emerged from the study is: “The re-establishment of a sense of integrity and wholeness.” Healing was an emergent property that resulted from each individuals’ complex healing journey, a result of bridged connections between resources and relationships. Healing, in this sense, does not mean cured—none of the study participants were cured of their ailments—”but all developed a sense of integrity and wholeness despite ongoing pain or other symptoms.” In varying degrees, “they were able to transcend their suffering and in some sense to flourish.” When we begin to heal, we find increased capacity for hope, renewed motivation to help others, and are more able to accept ourselves as we are.

Suffering

Suffering is the ongoing pain from wounding. There is debate about whether or not one actually needs to experience suffering on the path to healing.

Wounding

Wounding happens when we experience physical or emotional harm. It can stem from chronic illness or by physical or psychological trauma for which we do not have the tools to cope, or a combination of those factors. “The degree and quality of suffering experienced by each individual is framed by contextual factors that include personal characteristics, timing of their initial or ongoing wounding in the developmental life cycle and prior and current relationships.”