It’s Okay to Speak Up, Really (Part 1)

Last Wednesday Susan from Working Moms Against Guilt posted about having difficult conversations with loved ones instead of an uncensored “snarkfest” brought on by repeatedly withdrawing from confrontation.  Sound familiar?  Most of my female friends and clients describe struggling with this because “nice girls” don’t make waves and depend on approval to feel good.

This week, I’m offering some guidelines for assertive not aggressive communication to help with this challenging practice.  Remember,  it’s important to be open and direct about both positive and negative emotions because love and praise often go unspoken too.

  1. Be assertive.  Speak openly, honestly and directly. Don’t be passive: beat around the bush, shut down, stop listening or withdraw.  Don’t be aggressive: yell, blame, belittle the other person or fight to be right.  Express yourself fully and listen openly to what the other has to say.
  2. State your thoughts and feelings openly, honestly, and clearly.  If you perceive the other person is not understanding what you are saying, try again.  Remain calm, centered and non-defensive.  Help them lower their guard so they can hear you fully and accurately. 
  3. Be courteous and respectful.  Pay attention.  Stop doing other things (TV, computer, etc).  Make eye contact.  If you disagree with what they say or their perception of what you’ve said, let them know openly and directly but don’t attack them.  Give and expect respect.

These suggestions foster open, honest, assertive communication.  They set the tone for a win-win situation.  Practice with someone you trust first.  Next week, Part 2 of what to do.

January:The Journey of Self-Care Begins

This month we’ve talked about how to make self-care changes which will stick, and how to appreciate the blessings of everyday life which is self-care in practice. While we’ve heard these ideas before, it’s “doing” them that’s challenging.

To summarize what we’ve said about making self-care part of  our daily routine:

  1.  Set small attainable goals, like 15 minutes a day.
  2.  Break the change into smaller steps.
  3.  Make it part of what’s already in the schedule.  Mommie Kate had some great advice on this.
  4.  Intend/visualize what we want to happen.
  5.  Don’t become self-critical of missteps.  Learn from the experience and try again.
  6.  Have a positive attitude about self-care.  Remember it’s a choice.
  7. Self-care and self-love gives us the energy to love others.  As Laura Nash said, “You can’t give what you don’t possess.”  

Now, for the big picture.  Self-care is not just a set of skills we practice, it’s an attitude for how we view and approach our lives.  With all life’s ups and downs, even in a single 24 hours, there’s much to be appreciated.  Often it’s in the small things-sunshine, our children’s smiles, flowers budding in spring or a kind word.  When we put our attention on life’s abundance, we feel loved and cared for. 

Buddha said, “If we could see the miracle of a single flower, our whole life would change.”  Embrace this year with wonder and positive intention.  Be grateful for all that is and all that is yet to be.  Self-care is a path to health, happiness and awakening the soul.  Let’s journey well together.

The Miracle of Everyday Life

Each January, we resolve to change ourselves and our ways so this year will be better than the year before.  We plan to be more organized, more motivated, more disciplined.  Always ” more,” and when we don’t succeed, we feel unhappy, inadequate and disappointed.  While goals are desirable, the miracle of everyday life is equally important.

Buddha  said, “Each morning we are born again.  What we do today is what matters most.”  Life occurs in the present.  If our gaze is too much on the future or in the past, we lose the chance to experience the abundance life offers.

I remember when my daughters were in elementary school and would burst in the door, chattering about the day.  Sometimes, I would listen.  Other times, I was occupied with work or making dinner, and wouldn’t  pay much attention.  I recall the disappointment on their faces when they saw I wasn’t interested.  Likewise, I recall how much I missed those chances during middle school and high school when it was far more important that they speak to their friends than me.

Now when they’re around and want to talk, I stop and listen.  At 18 and 22, they may not be around much longer.  I savor our moments together, and know it’s what matters most.  Buddha also said, “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”  Look for the miracle each day brings.  It’s right in front of us waiting to be found.

Diane's daughters

Time for Self-Care: Self-Preserving Not Selfish!

This month we’ve been talking about self-care and the importance of making it part of our lives. Last week, our guest blogger Mommie Kate, had some simple self-care tips which many moms appreciated.  Still, the issue of time stops many women from practicing self-care.  

 In our new book, Life Will Never be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide,  Ann and I devote an entire chapter to the obstacles that get in our way.   Here’s what we write about making time for self-care. 

1. Self-Care is a Choice:

“Children are demanding. They make their needs known. Messy houses scream: “Load these dishes” or “Make that bed.” Bosses inflict deadlines.  Your needs sink to the bottom of the list.  But, no one will make time for you or take care of you if you don’t.  No one will realize your needs if you don’t speak up.  Choose to put yourself first-at least once a day. ”

2. Adjust your expectations

“Another part of making time for yourself  is adjusting your expectations about how much time is needed.  Learn to think small. Take five minutes to practice deep breathing.   Or take twenty minutes to disappear into the bedroom when your partner comes home.  Use multi-tasking, too.   Lie on the floor with a magazine, next to the baby while he has his “tummy time,” and coo to him. Walk or jog with your infant.  Repeat to yourself, “Time for me is essential,” “My baby deserves a happy, healthy mom.”

For more ideas, preview our book at www.realmomexperts.com.

Smell the Roses: They’re Always There

Many times I figure out what my New Year’s resolution is after the new year starts. That’s what happened this past week.  I woke up Wednesday night thinking, “Stop struggling.  Enjoy the good life you have.”  Don’t get carried away and think my life is perfect.  It isn’t.  Although Ann and I teach  self-care, we are equally challenged to make it part of our daily lives.

The New Year is about how to improve life and ourselves rather than savor what’s already working.  In fact, last week I talked about taking small steps to make change stick which still applies because it’s  challenging to “smell the roses” when facing the “daily grind” as one of my clients puts it.  When did we decide that life had to be difficult and stressful instead of satisfying and joyful?  How often do we hear each other say, “I’m so stressed.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.”   It’s the mantra of modern life.

I’m listening to Deepak Chopra‘s Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: How to Create a New You. He says that reconnecting with our soul’s inner guidance can make our lives easier.  Well, mine woke me up last week and I’m resolved to spend more time soaking up the sunshine and appreciating my blessings.  My family, friends, comfy home, writing with Ann, work I love , and the wonderful community of women whose lives have touched mine.  Each day is a gift.  Even in the darkest night, the stars shine.

How to Make the Most of Your New Year’s Resolutions

Everyone starts the New Year’s with the best intentions.  Determined to make changes to improve their lives in significant ways.  And what happens?  Most of us fail miserably.  Instead of aiming for the moon, we need to undertake small, attainable goals.  Like practicing self-care 15 minutes a day (which many have remarked is difficult enough).

Breaking the change into smaller steps can  make it easier to achieve.  For example, if someone wants to lose 50 pounds this year, start with losing 1-2 pounds each week.  To do this, a person has to reduce their daily calorie intake by 500 calories each day or increase their activity to burn an extra 500 calories a day.  Doesn’t this sound less daunting?  By changing how we think about our goals, we can improve our motivation and persistence.

Likewise, it’s important to set our daily attention on what we want to do different.  When we get up in the morning, spend 5 minutes visualizing the desired change and let it be known that “Today I will make this happen.”  Once the intention is set, go about the day normally.  Remember,  life responds to what we put our attention and intention on.

Finally, if we get off track, don’t become self-critical.  Since what we think about expands, this only leads to feeling worse and diminishing motivation and persistence.  Instead, use this as a learning opportunity to re-evaluate what may need to be done and re-calibrate the next step.  Each moment affords  a new choice.  Success is only a step away.