Have you ever heard about the four seasons of the soul, or that the ego is your body guard and not the CEO of your life? Learn about holistic stress management and more in this thought provoking episode of the Breathe Love & Magic podcast.
Stress – It’s All in Your Head
My guest this week, Dr. Brian Luke Seaward, is a health psychologist who began his career as the sports psychologist for the Calgary Olympic games in 1988 which he says was great fun. After that, he went back into academia to teach stress management which for him is about how to improve human performance.
When people get nervous playing sports, their performance decreases. At the Olympic level, most people have the same physical skills, so what separates the winners from those who don’t win is what’s in their head.
That’s why Luke says holistic stress management is actually mental training in the athletic world, including confidence building, patience, mental imagery and rehearsal, etc. Then, in the every day world it can also be a spiritual practice.
How does Luke define human spirituality? Years ago, he met Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who spoke about Holistic Wellness which is the integration and balance of the mind, body, spirit, and emotions. She asked him to help her reintroduce human spirituality back into healthcare and health education and he agreed.
Three things are essential to human spirituality: 1) Relationships, 2) Values, 3) Meaningful purpose in life and this has been the focus of so much of Luke’s work. I know he’s spoken at medical conferences, so I asked him if American physicians could ever get this idea into their heads.
Luke’s perspective is that doctors who embrace this concept live two lives. One life is at work in the Western medical model and the other is their personal life where they address spirituality on their own time. He has spoken at the Mayo Clinic, so there is some acknowledgement that spirituality impacts your health.
In my opinion, this is one reason for the rise of functional medicine doctors and naturopaths, who take a more holistic approach to medicine, health and wellness.
What Are the Seasons of the Soul?
Many experts who talk about stress and spirituality, are actually describing what Luke has named the Four Seasons of the Soul.
Autumn is like the centering process where you enter the heart, go inside and get to know yourself – this is like soul searching.
Winter season you need to empty out the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs that no longer serve you which can get in the way of your progress. This is when you have to let go to make progress.
Spring is the grounding process when you get new insights and visions to help you move along through life.
Summer is the connecting process which is likened to Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey when you come back with learning and share with others. This helps raise consciousness for other people trying to make sense of their lives.
You cycle through these seasons continuously and can be in different seasons in different parts of your life. This is a process of letting go and moving on, but many people get stuck, not realizing they don’t have to stay where they are.
Words like detaching, releasing, and emptying all describe the process and are part of holistic stress management. Luke thinks of these actions as domesticating the ego. Often the ego resists letting go because it doesn’t like change and wants to hold on, thinking some of this stuff may be be needed down the road.
Taming the Ego
Meditation tames or domesticates the ego. Everyone needs the ego because it trips the fight or flight response which helps you stay out of danger. However, your ego is supposed to be the body guard, not the CEO of your life. The ego can’t be in charge of everything.
Meditation, which is a great way to center, quiets the voice of the ego to gain clarity and allow you to let go. For example, feeling victimized about how your life has been is natural at time and good to acknowledge.
However, you have to let go of feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, which are important to recognize, but aren’t healthy to hang on to for weeks, months, or years. This becomes baggage which can hold you back.
So how do you let go? This is of great interest to me personally because I would LOVE to release some stuff. But I think people (like me) get stuck here, not because they don’t WANT to let go, but they can’t see the possibilities of HOW to let go.
Luke agreed because the fear of the unknown can be scarier than being empty and letting go. He suggests meditation, journaling, and support groups for sharing and learning from each other. These are all part of holistic stress management.
It’s not easy. First you have to recognize that you are hanging on, right? Then you can start the releasing process. This takes some work. Don’t I know it!
Muscles of the Soul
In his work, Dr. Seaward tends to listen to many stories people have about their lives which fall into two categories: 1) The Victim and 2) The Victor. The Victim stories all sound similar, but what really makes him curious are the Victor stories.
How did someone get through a bad experience and come out glowing? People often point to things like optimism, sense of humor, patience, and forgiveness. These are gifts that are appropriate for everybody to lean on.
He calls gratitude, humor, forgiveness, etc. Muscles of the Soul and they need to be exercised and used or they can atrophy. These are tools to help you navigate tough times and are also considered to be coping techniques or inner resources.
Time Tested Techniques for Relaxation
Luke’s suggestions are either coping techniques or relaxation techniques and they can work together. He’s a fan of meditation which is very helpful for sensory overload. It’s really important to unplug from the world for at least 5 minutes a day.
People listen to music and this is called music therapy or sound therapy to calm your nervous system.
He also mentioned humor therapy because laughing is vital. Find one humorous thing a day. I brought up my current favorite series of YouTube videos – Denise, The Heaven Receptionist. Denise is the receptionist for heaven and she is hilarious, talking with new arrivals or people who want upgrades. Too funny!
There’s so much more in this episode, so listen in today and enjoy the whole show! Brian Luke Seaward offers many gems and insights into destressing, letting go, and moving on which we all can benefit from.
BIO- Brian Luke Seaward
Brian Luke Seaward is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the foremost experts in the field of Resiliency, Stress Management and Corporate Health Promotion. In addition to being regarded as an esteemed inspirational and motivational speaker, Luke’s wisdom can be found quoted in PBS specials, The Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, college graduation speeches, medical seminars, boardroom meetings, church sermons, and keynote addresses all over the world.
He has authored more than eighteen books, including the popular best sellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, The Art of Calm and Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward and the leading award winning college textbook, Managing Stress (10E).
For 25 years he served on the faculty of the University of Colorado Consortium for Public Health. Currently, Dr. Seaward is the Executive Director of the Paramount Wellness Institute in Boulder, CO and serves on the faculty of The Graduate Institute (Bethan, Connecticut).
As a holistic stress management expert, Luke’s corporate clients include Hewlett Packard, Royal Caribbean, Wells Fargo, TransAmerica, Procter & Gamble, Conoco-Phillips, Motorola, Quaker Oats, John Deere, BP-Amoco, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Maxtor-Seagate, Organic Valley Dairy, The US Army, Air Force and many others.