Using Mindfulness to Heal Your Mental Health feat. Rachel Pires
Hi everyone. This is your host Michelle, and you’re listening to The Mindful Podcast, the show that aims to break the stigma associated with mental health. On today’s episode, we have Rachel Pyrus, a licensed clinical social worker, mindset coach, and healing practitioner in South Florida. We will discuss holistic integration, mental health, mindfulness, and ways to start your own healing process connecting the body and soul. Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Mindful Podcast. Today we have Rachel Pyris. Did I say that right? Yes, of course. How are you today? I’m good, how are you? Good. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me. I know it was a little drive. Yes, just a 53 minutes drive. Well, thank you anyways. I know it’s kind of late. Yeah. Do you mind introducing yourself personally and professionally for our audience? Sure. I am a licensed mental health sorry. No, I’m not sorry. Yeah, so let’s pause that. Yeah. Okay. I am a licensed clinical social worker. I am also a mindset coach. I own a holistic practice called Head and Heart Collective where we have a group of different therapists that come in and have different specialties within the holistic realm in addition to providing talk therapy and coaching services. Nice. How did you get into all of this? I think that it finds you. I think that the wellness and the holistic arena find you as much as you find had. When I was back in my grad school days, I happened to been placed in a health and wellness center at NYU Lingon Medical Center, where I was providing talk therapy alongside Reiki Masters Reflexologists. And we also had a gynecologist on site. And so it was just kind of like, jump in, this is what you’re doing. So that was really my first experience with any of those holistic therapies. And what was amazing was not only was I working alongside them, if they had openings, I got to step in and get a reiki session or a reflexology session. It was kind of a benefit of working there. And so it was just kind of complementary for me to step into providing mindfulness workshops and empowerment classes to the women that I was working with alongside providing the talk therapy. And then I graduated and they offered me a position there. And so I was able to really just step into that arena full on. And I was there for four years and then moved to South Florida. You left New York? I left New York and it came to South Florida. And that was during the recession. So finding a position where I was trying to find a position that had the complementary holistic modalities and wasn’t really seeing them down here so much. So I stepped into doing some nonprofit work, doing some in home counseling, got a sense of understanding all of Broward County’s systems from child welfare to juvenile justice, and did that for a minute, but found myself every minute that I could. Hey, can we breathe? Hey, can we meditate? Let’s take a moment to just breathe. Present moment. Yes. Let’s just slow it down. I realize we want to argue, but can we argue? Mindfully? So it was just kind of part and parcel to just taking what I learned and just kind of emanating that into all the things that I had been doing. And then I stepped into doing some nonprofit management and overseeing programs and different grant opportunities. It was really cool to kind of step into all of those pieces. And then again, it just always found me. And then along the way, when I had moved down here, I’d opened up a private practice on the side. So I was doing that know, since the minute that I moved down to South Florida. Had a couple clients on the side, had my full time job. Hustle. Hustle. Oh my God. And then the pandemic happened and I was just like, okay, I think it’s time. It’s time to step away from this nonprofit arena and do this private practice thing. And about two years prior to the pandemic, I took a yoga teacher training. So that just amplified my knowledge and understanding. And fast forward to here I am today doing it full time. Yeah. Sounds like an amazing journey. Yes, it is a journey. A journey where doors open and doors close and just a learning for the ride. But I feel like you found your niche. Yes, 100%. How do you integrate both Western and Eastern cultures in your practice into the practice? So I was trained and I did my graduate degree at NYU. So they are really psychodynamic, psychotherapy focused there. So that really looks at our unconscious patterns and how what we picked up as children unconsciously is still manifesting in our current present day behaviors. So what the cool thing is, is understanding. Okay? So I have this mindset of this is the psychodynamic approach to treatment and then lots of Freud. It’s great. And then yeah, ego superego. Unconscious. Subconscious. And then I learned that on an Eastern level, we still look at it through that lens and that we are all operating 95% of the time in the subconscious. We’ve downloaded programs from our childhood up to the age of seven that those programs were subconsciously, unconsciously continuing to run. So integrating like mindfulness or breath work or meditation. What it’s doing is it’s pausing that unconscious automatic space that we get into. So it’s giving us a moment to pause and to say, like, okay, how do I want to respond to this? Do I want to respond to this unconsciously or consciously? So really the merging of those two and bringing in now there’s so much science behind the Eastern approaches and the mind body work and understanding that everything’s connected, everything talks to each part and Parcel talks to each other. So it just all blended in and made sense for it. To all kind of just morph into all the same thing in some ways. Okay, when we talk about holistic, what does that really mean in the mental health community? So the way that I define holistic care is a whole person approach. So we bring in not just the emotional and psychological components, but we also look at the physical components as well as the spiritual components of what that individual is going through and how we can kind of use all of those buckets together to create the most essential kind of cocktail for that person’s well being. So we look at all of those lenses and as a social worker, I’m trained to understand when we sit down and we meet with a client, we want to know their biological history. We want to know their psychological history and their social history. And so I think holistic care just takes that lens into every single session and says, hey, what’s going on with you on a physical level? Are you experiencing more stomach aches? Is that maybe where your anxiety is showing up for you this week? Instead of it being the running thoughts in your mind, it’s showing up in a physical level, on a physiological level, and in your stomach a lot. Yes. There’s so much research now that you think it’s just a headache, but it’s the stress or anything, it will just affect your back, your stomach. Yes, we look at sleep a lot. Sleep is like a huge conversation. How you start your day and how you end your day is like too, a big conversation that I have with my clients. Just because if you didn’t have a full night’s sleep, you’re already starting the day on like 5% battery. Right? And so if you can step back and see like, okay, well, why am I not sleeping? Oh, I was doom scrolling for an hour and a half last night right before bed. Instagram. Instagram and looking at everybody else’s lives and comparing them to my life. And then I can’t sleep or I’m thinking about what’s going on. I couldn’t shut off my brain. So what are those different things that you’re doing, those different habits and how are they contributing to all of these different buckets? What would you say would be the right amount of sleep that you need? Is like, everybody different because you’ll have the people that are like, oh, I’m good with 5 hours. And I’m like, I need yeah, I think that the going consensus is like, between seven and 8 hours is kind of like what sleep researchers are saying. But again, everybody’s calibrated differently. So I have some clients that are like, Rachel, if I get 5 hours, I’m good. I have other clients that are like, I need 11 hours. And it just depends on your own unique sleep signature is kind of how I describe it. And if you’re waking up and you’re feeling rested, then you got enough sleep, that’s enough. So it’s kind of like go to bed for a week and don’t set your alarm in the morning. I know this is not like a reality that most people can do, but it’s like if you take a vacation, what time do you wake up in the morning if you’re on vacation? Naturally? Well, even from Friday to Saturday. If Saturday, I’m off. If I go to bed, the latest at midnight, I’m up by 830. I usually sleep by 8 hours. So that’s about 8 hours. Yeah. But I can’t wake up at eight when I work through, the alarm always wakes me up. Yes, unfortunately. Unfortunately. But I love when I don’t have to set up an alarm. Yeah, I mean there’s like that feeling of like there’s no limitations here and you’re just waking up and so that’s looking at that as like a piece and an element that affects us emotionally, physically. Yes. We’re going to feel drained if we’re not getting enough sleep. Our ability to concentrate is not going to be as clear as we could be if we had that full 8 hours. That makes sense. How do you integrate the holistic part into your clients, into the practice, into sessions? Usually I like to take some time in the first couple of sessions to understand what their needs are because every client that comes in has a different need in terms of if they’re open to doing more meditation or say they’ve never meditated before I’ll talk to them about using the breath. So that is like one of my go to spaces that I love to teach about and understanding how. Here I go. I’m going to teach if we can step back and understand every two and a half hours, our nostrils are alternating. So your left nostril is dominant and then both are going at the same time. And then your right nostril is dominant. So we have this built in heating and cooling system in our bodies. And so the reason that breath work is so powerful is we’re actually activating and stimulating the body. The body’s innate heating and cooling techniques and strategies to manage stress. Yes. So I’ll teach like left nostril breathing, where you’re breathing in and out through your left nostril. It’s a cooling breath. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, I’m going to say, okay, your prescription for this week before bed, in bed through, you’re going to do a meditation. I call them meditations. In bed, you’re meditating but you’re going to breathe for three minutes. Set your timer for three minutes and just notice what that does for your body. So again, it’s kind of like bringing the subconscious to conscious and using that as a tool to say, okay, this is how we can incorporate it. So I’ll typically start a session with a breath work practice after we’ve found which breath work practice they like. Because some clients do not like to just sit there and breathe. They need a mantra. They need something to say to themselves because the mind is going too much silence, too fast, too much too many thoughts. Yeah, I’m going to try that tonight. You said the left nostril is calming. Yes. And then your right nostril is energizing. So, like, right before you’re jumping into a meeting or you have to have a difficult conversation, you want to be really alert and present. Right. Nostril is where it’s at. Maybe when I wake up. When you wake up, yes. It’s a perfect breath work to start your day, just to start it. And then you can do alternate nostril breathing, which then it’s just like a reset. It really is, because you’re doing both calming and energizing. I’ve done some breathing techniques and some of them make me dizzy because we’re not used to doing them. And it’s almost like you get high. Yes. There’s like a good feeling with that, but then, yes, you’re drowsy like, okay, you have to just find what works for you. And so sometimes if you’re breathing too quickly, that could be what’s causing that lightheadedness. I’m probably doing it wrong. I think I’m doing it right, but I’m not. It’s a whole process. How do you use mindfulness to help your clients? Sure. In particular, mindfulness. So if a client’s coming to me with anxiety, I like to frame the reason that the mind is experiencing anxiety. So again, it’s the mind’s experiencing anxiety, and it’s a byproduct of feeling it and you’re feeling it right. So what is anxiety? It’s thinking and worrying about the future. So mindfulness is present moment awareness. It’s being here, being now in this moment. Even if this moment is like the worst moment of your life, being fully present for it. And the way that the mind works is it wants to avoid discomfort. It doesn’t like feeling things that are hard or difficult. So we’re going to use tools like distraction. And that can be a whole bunch of different things, from gambling to money, to addictions to sex, to any of the things that we can use to distract ourselves. But when we talk about mindfulness, it’s coming back to here. So every session there’s a mindful moment when we’re doing that breath together, and even if the thoughts are wandering, we bring it back. Same thing with depression. Depression within the Eastern viewpoint is we’re thinking about the past, and we’re angry either at ourselves and at somebody else for something that happened in the past. And so, again, mindfulness is like, okay, that happened, and maybe you didn’t fully feel that anger in that moment, and still so it’s stuck with you. And so what mindfulness does in so many ways is it pulls us back into right now, and it’s so cliche. But the present moment is a present. For that reason, the future is not there yet. Yes. How do you bring someone to the present moment? Is there like a certain technique or a thought or what do you tell your clients? Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways. I like to use the 54321 grounding technique, which is you find five things that you can see. You’re using your senses. Using the senses is a really great way to bring you back into your body, into this moment. So you find five things that you can see, four things that you can touch. I always mix this up in different ways. So today it’s going to be this. Four things you can touch, three things you can feel. Right? So if you feel upset, you feel angry, you feel frustrated. Two things that you can smell or taste. And then one thing that you can. I know, I always okay, I’m going to have to do that again. Don’t worry. I know. Start over. Start over. Okay. It’s a little pause. Yes. Okay. So I like to teach a grounding technique which uses the five senses. So with each sense, we find something in the room or something within ourselves to pull ourselves back into the present moment. It’s really good if we feel ourselves dissociating, which basically means that we’re not really in our body in that moment, because something outside of us is triggering a strong emotion or a strong reaction, or something inside of us is triggering that reaction. So we find five things that we can see, four things that we can touch. Three things that we can smell. So if it’s a candle in the room, if it’s whatever the scent of the air is, if it’s your pillow two things that you can taste. Taste, yes. Two things that you can taste. See, this is what happens is I always switch it up. Maybe I won’t talk about this one. Maybe you could just edit out the grounding technique. Too late. Too late, it’s gone. Two things you can touch or taste. And then one thing that you can feel. So feeling angry. Yes. It helps the individual to come back into here. Now, there’s other techniques like EFT, which is emotional freedom technique, which is tapping, which is this practice where you’re tapping different meridians, different energy points on your body. And what it does is it’s a specific technique. You can Google it, you can find out more. There’s even a tapping, an EFT tapping app out there that you can use that will go through this practice where you’re invoking these different meridians and you’re moving the energy through your body. And every time I do it, I feel like I’m buzzing. It creates like a physiological sensation for me. And some of my clients have that same experience. That’s interesting. I love using that. It’s a cool technique, aromatherapy. Using the scent as a way to bring us back into our bodies. I’ll put a drop of peppermint oil onto one of my clients hands. We sit there, we smell it, and that immediately you’re doing two things. Yeah. You’re breathing and you’re also pulling in a new sensation with that sense of smell, and you’re creating a new experience within that moment in your body. I love peppermint. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite ones. I do the peppermint balm where it’s just like it wakes you up. It’s like coffee in a little bottle. Right. It’s really powerful. Nice. How can a holistic way help someone who is in recovery? Sure. So when I was doing my yoga teacher training, so I’m trained in Kundalini yoga, which is called the yoga of awareness, which is all about present moment, which is all about these different practices of being in our body. There’s specific meditations for addiction. Oh, wow. And so when we think about addiction, I always talk about this with my clients, even if they’re not coming to see me for an addiction challenge that they’re experiencing, I talk about, well, what’s underneath the addiction? It’s typically an emotion. We’re either trying to avoid feeling an emotion or trying to numb an emotion. And so there’s specific meditations that were customized and created for creating a new habit pattern in our brain. This is where the research starts becoming really interesting, where they can now, with science, map out premeditation post meditation with a particular type of intervention, and they can see these parts and areas of the brain changing because we’re creating new neuropathways. It’s pretty amazing. So when it comes to addiction, I will work with clients that have addiction challenges. Obviously, the first step is to detox and to help them to get really stabilized in their body. But we then look at what’s the emotion, what’s going on that has caused you to use. Let’s talk about the addiction. What did you get out of the addiction? A lot of times, we don’t even talk about that. What was it like when you were using? What was that experience for you? For five minutes, you didn’t feel anything? Let’s talk more about that. Can I show you a breath work practice where maybe for five minutes, you cannot feel anything? You can just be in your body trying to achieve right. 100% time? Yes. Just numb the pain or trauma or emotion, like you said. Yeah. So I can see how it could work. Instead of a way of distraction with addictions, we look at that, okay, what’s the emotional addiction underneath the actual addiction? And then we can see and say, okay, so if you are emotionally addicted to fear or anger or relationships that maybe are not serving you, we have to reprogram that. It comes back to like, well, what were those patterns that you learned as a child? What were the programs that you downloaded and you weren’t even aware that you were downloaded downloading? What was your mom talking to you about when you were a kid? What was your dad talking to you about when you were a kid? What are those habits that you’re currently enabling right now in the present moment, and how can you, in some ways, step back and see and say, like, those weren’t even mine to begin with. Those weren’t my programs. I want a new program. You think about, like, when we used to way back when, when we used to get computers, you would get a computer, and you would have to plop in. I know I’m aging myself here. No, I get it. There were these things out there that were called, like, computer programs. CDs, like Windows 94, that you had to take the CD and you had to put it inside the computer big box and downloaded. You downloaded the program because it didn’t work without the download. The human mind is the same. So we download these programs from an early age and then fast forward. We’re 35 with an addiction to marijuana or to alcohol. Okay, well, let’s look at the programming. And with the holistic interventions of using the breath and using meditation, we’re able to access the subconscious so much quicker than just traditional talk therapy. It just elevates it and just expedites that healing in a way that I’m seeing these results in combining the meditation and the breath work with the talk therapy. Sometimes these experiences are pre verbal, and we have to heal them. We have to move through them in a different way. Is there any treatment in particular that has worked the best for you, or I guess does it depend on the diagnosis? Yes. So it depends on yes, 100% depends on the diagnosis. I think that what I’ve seen is the clients that get the most out of their treatment are the ones that have been able to break through some of these patterns and these programs through showing up for themselves. And the showing up is sitting down on that mat or sitting in bed and doing three minutes of breathing, five minutes of journaling, whatever it is, where it’s just like every day, the only person that’s going to show up for you is you. So I’ve seen that the clients that can tap into that and can realize, like, okay, the only person that’s going to show up for me is me. I’m going to do that breath work practice that Rachel is talking about, and I record them for them, so then they hear my voice. So then they’re like, oh, it’s kind of like Rachel’s with, like, whenever I need her, she’s there. And that’s the therapeutic relationship in action, right? Where it’s not just some, I love Deepak, and he’s know we can listen to Deepak’s, like, meditations. Deepak Chopra. For those of you that have not checked out his work, he’s doing some pretty amazing things out there with his meditation challenges, but some people don’t resonate with his voice. So I found that if I record the meditation or I record the breath work, and I say to them, okay, this is your homework is doing this work actually have to do the homework. They have to do it, and I’m going to have a conversation with them and it’s just like, okay, so what showed up this week? What were your roadblocks? Oh, I forgot to set my alarm. Okay, so let’s talk about that. Are you sleeping? It goes back to yeah. So what are the things that are showing up in your life that are kind of sabotaging you or you’re sabotaging in some ways? Yeah. What can someone do to start that healing journey and connecting mind with body? Like someone at home that might want to start that process or therapy? Yeah, I think that the first step is seeing and saying like, okay, I’m ready to look at things a little bit differently. And just doing some research into there’s so much content out there now that you can explore all the different types of breath work out there. And meditation. One of my favorite apps to use is Insight Timer. I don’t know if you’ve ever checked that out. So it’s a free app and when you log on, it shows you how many people in the world at that moment are meditating really? That are using the app and meditating. Okay. So it’s just like, oh, there’s other people out there that are doing this. Cool. I’m a part of this. I’m a part of this collective community. And there is anywhere from like three minute meditations on there and breath work practices to hour long breath work and meditations. And it’s just testing one out and seeing which resonates with you and seeing and saying, okay, I’m going to make a little bit of an experiment here and I’m going to try out a Wim HOF method, for instance, which is a very intensive breath work practice. That’s the one that makes you dizzy, that makes you dizzy, that prepares you for your body literally stepping into a very traumatic space of jumping into an ice cold pond. But his stuff is pretty magical and it works for some people. Other people like a guided meditation. They want like maybe a relaxation meditation that goes through each body part. They need some guidance, a progressive muscle relaxation. So it’s kind of like stepping back and saying to yourself, like, well, what do I think that I need right now? And let me try out that one meditation for like three to four days and see how I feel about it. That’s always where I start and it’s kind of like you know yourself best. And so if meditation breath work isn’t your thing, that’s totally okay. Maybe journaling is maybe doing like a daily gratitude practice where you’re writing out five things that you’re grateful for in your life. And after the fifth day, it’s really hard because it’s like, I’m grateful that I can breathe, I’m grateful that I’m alive. But then you’re then creating these neuropathways in your mind where you’re consciously, then seeking out things to be grateful for. And when you’re emitting that kind of frequency, we talk about emotions on a frequency. A gratitude frequency is really, really powerful and really, really healing. And it could be the smallest thing. Like, I don’t know, maybe you passed a test, you’re an adolescent. Or maybe, I don’t know, you didn’t think you were going to do something and you were able to do it and you grateful for that. It could be anything. Yeah, that’s important. It could be just like that. I woke up today that I have these legs that work exactly, that I have these arms that I can give. High five people. Yeah, we take that for granted until we see a sad video, and then we’re like, oh, my God, I’m going to be so grateful. And then you forget about it and or something happens right where it’s just like you randomly lose the ability to use your leg. You have a sports injury, or you’re walking down the street and you roll your ankle, and then for five weeks you’re in a boot. There’s so many things that we do take for granted. It always happens to me when I get a cold and I can’t breathe. I’m like, oh, my God, I missed breathing through my nose. Yes. And then it’s just like, when is this cold going to move? And then you remember like, wow, I did take that for granted. Okay, I can’t do the breath work practice Rachel was talking about because I can’t breathe. Exactly. But it’s these little things that it’s a very mindful way to move through life, finding these little moments that we do take for granted, just slowing down. How do you stay mindful on a day to day? What do you like to practice? So I love hot vinyasa yoga. If I could do that every day, I would. My schedule doesn’t always allow for that, but at least three, four times a week I like to do that practice because it’s like you’re in your body and you are hot and you are sweating and you are a little uncomfortable. And there’s something about being in that space of discomfort that I think that we all are always trying to run away from. And I could get up and walk out of that yoga class if I wanted to, but I also know that two of my friends in the corner are going to judge me. Just be like, what are you doing? And at any moment, I can always go into child’s pose, which is like this. I use that a lot. Quintessentials where I need a break. You’re down on the floor and your head’s on the fore, like your forehead’s on the ground, and you are just like there. But you keep going, you keep going point. You just push through it. Yeah. And then once you’ve gotten through it, you’re like, I really felt uncomfortable in that. Posture, but I stood with it and I held myself and I felt my body in all of its glory and all those muscles that I needed to move to get into that posture, that’s one of my favorites. I love to take moments in my day just to take some deep breaths. Just five deep breaths is a great reset. That in between a client, I get up, I walk around. Definitely in between clients. In between clients. I have to there is a little patch of grass outside of my office that sometimes I’ll walk out and just put my feet in the grass and kind of ground myself literally into the Earth’s electromagnetic field. It’s really powerful and I try to meditate every day. I try to stay with a consistent practice. I have to do it in the mornings, I can’t do it at night. I’ve tried a million times. It just doesn’t work. So I kind of carve out time once I get to my office that I have my mat there and I sit down and I use that. So those are my go to. And then sometimes just trying to drink a lot of water, it’s just like a mindful practice in and of itself. Just like we are basically houseplants with complicated emotions. We need to be hydrated. I’m not good at that one either. We are going to get better with the water. It’s a yogic teaching. If you’re angry, go drink a glass of water and then see how you feel after it. Anger is typically an emotional response to dehydration. I thought it was when I didn’t eat. They call it hangry. Hangry. It’s water. That too. Yeah. Okay. It’s like a combination of them. It’s been a lovely conversation. Yeah. Thank you for having me. Is there any last message that you would want to tell our listeners in regards to holistic mental health? Mindfulness anything? No. Well, I think that it’s not as woo woo as we all make it to be. Everybody thinks of like, oh, my gosh. It’s like holistic care means like you’re walking in and you have bells and you’re a hippie and you have patchouli burning in the background and you’re saging. I love Sage. And I love Palo Santo. I constantly use it in my space as a way to cleanse the air and move the environment. But there’s so much neuroscience and science behind these practices that is really, really powerful and I think that we’re going to see in the next I hope in the next hundred years that the way that we approach mental health is going to be through a holistic lens. Because we are like diamonds. We have multiple facets. It’s already happening. Yes. I feel that more people talking about it. A lot of people I’ve interviewed are talking about the integration model and all that. I think it’s wonderful. I agree. Yeah. It’s the future. It is the future. I think we’re ready for it. I don’t think that we have 15 years to sit on the couch and figure out what our mom and dad did to us. We can’t be victims anymore. We have to be empowered. And I think that holistic care offers that type of treatment. Nice. Gets in there, cleans it out, gets you moving. Yeah. So that you can find your purpose. Because we all have something that we are uniquely gifted with on this planet. Exactly. And if we move some of this programming out of the way, we can really tap into that. Got to move the energies yes. And fix this world, fix this, fix what we’ve done so that for so many years, it starts with you 100% cliche. It is, but it’s super cliche, but it really is. I have to say yes. Oh, my God. Where can people find you? Sure. So I’m on Socials head, underscore and underscore. Heart collective is my practice. I have some amazing practitioners there that you’ll find through social media as well as my website is headandheartcollective.com. You can send me an email at email@example.com and yeah. Just see what we’re all about. There’s lots of info on our website. We send out weekly newsletters with lots and lots of free content, lots of holistic interventions, from journaling to meditation and breath work practices. So I’m all about sharing the info and yeah, people can find us there. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you for having me. We’re going to have to have you back later on. Anytime. Keep talking. Holistic. More holistic. There’s lots and lots to cover there. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you, everyone, for listening. Don’t forget to, like, subscribe and leave us a comment. All right, see you next week.