Taking our well-being into our own hands

Pastor puts both hands to work teaching others how to reduce stress and anxiety

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Judy Slater has stress-reducing and anxiety-alleviating techniques at her fingertips. Following a webinar she put on last week, so do members of Presbyterians for Earth Care.

Watch Slater’s hour-long “Building Resilience: Empowering Tools for Reducing Burnout, Stress and Trauma” by going here or here.

“The nice thing [about the methods she was about to impart] is all you need are your hands,” said Slater, a retired pastor in the Presbytery of the Redwoods, a trained facilitator with Capacitar International and a certified Red Cross Disaster Child Care Volunteer. She works with clients in her coaching business Innerlude & Associates and is co-founder of C Street Village Cohousing in Novato, California. “Often when we are in an emergency or are stressed, our brain shuts down. Our heart can get flooded and overwhelmed with emotions. The one thing we can learn to count on is our body intelligence.”

The body, she said, “has an innate wisdom that knows how to recover, how to balance itself out. … You don’t have to get in a meditative state when stuff is swirling around you.”

Slater offered up a centering exercise “to bring yourself in the present moment.” Bringing together all 10 fingertips, Slater crossed her legs at the ankles to “keep the energy circulating within yourself. Feel your body shifting a little bit. It allows you to breathe deeply.”

She also spoke of grounding by “dropping the weight of our body into the ground.” She took viewers on the imagined journey: into the topsoil, past the aquifers, through dead and decaying materials, past minerals, crystals and gems, down through magma and then “all the way down to the bellybutton of Mother Earth. That’s the place you can always be grounded to.”

The Rev. Judy Slater

Among her favorite stress- and anxiety-reducing practices is an exercise called “Finger Holds for Emotions.” She extended a hand and wiggled her fingers to explain:

The thumb represents grief. The index finger is fear. The middle finger — “We all know what that is,” she said — is anger. The ring finger represents anxiety, while the fifth finger “is for when you’re feeling small,” according to Slater.

One at a time, she wrapped each finger with the other hand and held it for a few seconds, transforming each into a “C” emotion: Comfort for the thumb, courage for the index finger, and compassion for the middle finger, “for yourself and others,” Slater said. “As it becomes balanced, you can become aware of some passionate action for justice.”

Holding her ring finger, Slater transformed anxiety into calm. “We wouldn’t ordinarily think of putting a blanket around our ring finger,” she said, “but it’s there waiting for you.”

Finally, holding the little finger for a while reminds us we can trade a lack of self-esteem for confidence.

“Remember how simple this is. You can do this while you’re preaching or you’re sitting down. You can do it anytime,” Slater said. “I do this often when I wake up in the middle of the night, worried or anxious about something. I just run through the fingers and it really does help.”

Slater also demonstrated Tai chi movements and acupressure techniques during the webinar.

“Be healed,” she told those in attendance, “and heal the planet.”


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