Hope and Help for the Holidays

The holidays have arrived with fun-filled and stress-filled times sandwiched together, not unlike raising children, work, marriage and other life pursuits. So, here are some recommendations to make the holidays calmer and happier.

First, have realistic expectations of yourself.  Many of us feel disappointed because our “fairytale images” don’t materialize. Instead, focus on feeling good from the inside out.  Build a fire and roast marshmallows, shop with a friend, or take a long walk in the woods.  Meditate, workout, read, or  listen to music.  Take time to feed your soul.

Second, have realistic expectations of others.  No one’s family or friends are perfect, and the holidays won’t change this.  Since we can’t change them, we need to rely on ourselves to gather what’s positive and let go of the negative.  Experiment with creating new family traditions that don’t stir up bad memories.  If a situation becomes too negative, leave.

In need of some immediate stress relief? Then click here to view Dr. Sanford’s 5-minute mindful breathing and 15-minute body scan relaxation on YouTube.  After all, peace and love is the true meaning of the season and it starts from within.

Finally, if you’re looking for a gift for a pregnant or new or veteran mom,  preview our books on motherhood and self-care at our revamped livingselfcare.com site. While you’re there, let us know what you think of our “new look.”

Thanks for belonging to our self-care community. We wish each of you all the best at the holidays and throughout the year!

How to Control What You Can and Let Go of the Rest

Here’s my latest Examiner.com article. You can see the original post HERE.

Everyday stressors, such as broken appliances, leaving a bag of groceries at the store, and even stubbing a toe can build up into a big bundle of stress if we let them. Each thing in itself may be just a minor inconvenience, but when several things happen in a short period of time, it leaves one wondering if this chain of events is some type of punishment from Beyond.

Spiritual beliefs aside, it is very important to deal with each stressor as it happens. Even if there is nothing you can do about the situation at the moment, you can make sure that you perceive it in a healthy way, which will minimize the stress hormones in your body. That, in turn, will help you feel calmer, and over the long run, will give you the benefits of better physical and mental health.

As an example, let me tell you about what’s been going on in my life lately. Two weeks ago, one of our beloved dogs passed away. A week later, my daughter’s pet hamster died. The next weekend, I found out that an old friend of mine had passed away from a motorcycle accident. “I wonder what’s going to die next,” I remember thinking. The next day, my washing machine died.

Had one thing happened with lots of time in between the next, I would have had proper time to process the situation and moved toward acceptance of the loss. However, the day I started feeling a little better about losing our dog, the hamster died. He was an old, spoiled hamster, and his death wasn’t totally unexpected, but when added to the grief I still had to process about the dog, the rodent’s passing was all of a sudden very tragic to me. Not two days later, I heard about my friend. When the washer conked out, I had to laugh at the answer to my question about what would die next!

Believe me, laughing at the washer was a choice. There are four people that live in my home, along with a small zoo of furry friends, so an inoperable washer is a huge inconvenience. When I figured out that it was really broken, I thought about the question I had posed to the Beyond. I could have gotten frustrated or enraged or depressed. But I thought that I’d much rather have an appliance “die” than another person or pet. So, in a way, the fact that the machine broke was a blessing.

Don’t get me wrong: I did have a few really bad days. One day, I had a hard time getting out of bed because of the crushing grief. I was able to sit with the feelings and write about them. I accepted them as they came and remembered that they would pass. While I still have moments of sadness that seemingly strike from out of nowhere, I allow myself to feel them and cry if I need to. There is no “proper” time period for grief.

The broken washer gave me an opportunity to be pro-active. I couldn’t control the fact that my pets and friend were gone, but I did have some control over the appliance situation. I found a wonderful website called justanswer.com, which has hundreds of experts in many different fields on hand to answer questions about various things. They hooked me up with appliance expert Chas, and he helped me order the proper part, sent me a video that showed how to install it and helped me troubleshoot the machine after the part was installed. Now, the machine is functional, and I feel accomplished and proud, which are great counter-feelings to grief.

Next time you’re having “one of those days (or weeks or months),” make sure to carve out time just for yourself so that you can process each thing individually. If the situation is beyond your control, as most situations are, it’s healthiest to just accept it. That sounds easy, but it’s not. If you need some questions to ask yourself so that you can objectively prove that acceptance is the “proper” thing, feel free to use these:

  • How does this situation make me feel?
  • Am I OK with feeling this way for a while? (If the answer is yes, then you’ve already gotten to acceptance.)
  • Will these feelings hurt me in the long run (e.g. put stress on me)?
  • Is there anything that I can do to fix this situation? (If the answer is yes, then take the steps you need to in order to get things “right” again, like I did with researching my washer.)
  • If there’s nothing I can do about this, who is being hurt the most by my feelings?
  • Have I been able to sit and experience my feelings without running away from them?
  • How can I look at this situation differently so that I feel healthier feelings?

Moving through stressful, unhealthy feelings toward acceptance takes practice, as many of our stress-producing thoughts are very automatic. However, it is possible to find the “silver lining” or “lesson” in every situation, given enough time. Just remember that the one thing that stays the same in life is change. This too shall pass, my friend.

Pumpkin seeds: A way to scare off symptoms of anxiety and depression

Please enjoy this article that I wrote for Examiner.com! The original article may be found here.

According to many organic/natural websites and a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, one effective way to combat mood symptoms comes straight from the ol’ Jack-O-Lantern: Pumpkin seeds!

The seeds that come from pumpkins are packed with L-Tryptophan, which is an amino acid that is a precursor to Melatonin, which is essential for sleep. This is especially true for older folks, as Melatonin production decreases naturally over time in the body. The seeds also contain fats that covert to 5-HTP, which is metabolized into Serotonin. Many people who experience the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression have low Serotonin levels in their brains, which is often the root cause of the symptoms. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), also known as anti-depressants, help build up Serotonin levels in the synapses between neurons in the brain. Popular SSRIs on the market today include ProzacZoloftCelexaLexapro and Paxil.

For people who want to try a more natural approach to treatment, pumpkin seeds (as well as squash and other vegetables in the same category) may provide some symptom relief withoutthe use of SSRIs. The same mechanism is at work in the body with both SSRIs and many natural remedies, though the organic sources may be less potent and/or take longer to feel an effect. One important thing to be aware of is that if you are already taking an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug prescribed by your doctor, DO NOT add natural/organic remedies to your existing regimen without speaking with your doctor first. Too much Serotonin can be a badthing, leading to Serotonin Syndrome.

The benefits of pumpkin seeds don’t end there. The seeds are a natural anti-parasitic and are regularly used in China to kill tapeworms and roundworms. They contain Phytosterols, which protect the prostate and bladder, as well as add to heart health and may have preventative effects against many types of cancer. The Phytosterols can also help lower “bad” cholesterol. Pumpkin and its seeds have been labeled a “superfood,” along with blueberries, beans, broccoli, walnuts and more.

If you’re interested in trying pumpkin seeds as a natural treatment for anxiety and/or depression symptoms, the list below contains links to recipe websites, as well as links to pre-packaged pumpkin snack bars. Please talk to your doctor FIRST before trying any natural remedy, especially if you are already taking medication.

Enjoy scaring away your unwanted mood symptoms with pumpkin seeds!

A Gift Resides in Every Moment

Whether we are experiencing joy or adversity, each moment affords us an opportunity for growth if we are willing to learn from it. In life, our most challenging moments are often the ones we learn the most from.

When I was in my third year of graduate school, I failed my qualifying exams for my Ph.D. miserably, flunking 5 of the 8 questions. Returning to school the next semester, I didn’t know if I’d be staying or leaving after the completion of my Masters. After much deliberation, I’d resolved to do what I could to stay in graduate school even though I had panic attacks each time I walked up the stairs to our second floor classrooms. I felt totally lost and alone.

But like many of us, my story doesn’t end there. When I went back to school, I learned what I needed to know to make things different. Even more, I discovered an inner strength and resilience I hadn’t fully realized until then. An unexpected and most welcome gift.

In Stacey’s last post, she talked about mindfulness and how that’s helped her weather life’s ups and downs. Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement. In mindfulness practice which includes meditation, we learn to value each moment for what it brings us. Whether joyful or challenging, it always provides the opportunity for us to grow into the fullest potential of who we are.

As Rafiki says to Simba in The Lion King, “Oh, yes. The past can hurt but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

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What will you choose? Namaste.

This post was inspired by Day 6 of Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge which we encourage you to join at https://chopracentermeditation.com/challenge.

Life Lessons on “Good Enough Mother”

Hey y’all! I’ve been featured on Good Enough Mother! Here’s the article:

*Are you happy at the moment?

The word “happy” always throws me for a loop.It’s kind of vague, so I have defined what “happy” means to me: inner peace and contentment. So, at this time in my life (age 42, married almost 20 years, 14 year-old daughter), yes, I am happy!

*If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

I would tell myself that while everything seems earth shattering now, most of what I get upset about wouldn’t matter in the bigger picture. I would teach myself how to be in the present moment and to not worry so much about what other people think about me, including my parents. I would encourage myself to speak up to my mom and dad instead of burying my feelings deep inside, creating a landmine waiting to explode.

*What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

I’ve been gradually learning that other people’s actions, reactions and general behaviors have nothing to do with me. I’ve been learning this slowly over a couple of years, but it really gelled with me this year. When someone says or does something that stings, I can finally step back, ask myself what (if any) part I had in the interaction and determine what to own and what to walk away from.

*What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

Personally, I want to achieve an almost-constant state of mindfulness. I’ve found that this is the key to inner peace (happiness) for me. Professionally, I would like to start getting paid to write! Socially, I’d like to nurture some important friendships and let go of toxic ones. I want to continue supporting my daughter emotionally with respect and build more emotional intimacy with my spouse.

*What’s your secret to happiness?

I’ve found that as I get older (and maybe wiser), I have learned to pick my battles in many areas of my life. Being in the present moment as much as possible and choosing to look at emotional things objectively has given me a freedom that I have never known. I used to be a people-pleaser and would always put others’ needs in front of my own. I know now that I am the most important person in my life and if I’m not happy, I can’t wear my mom/wife/counselor/writer hats with any real effectiveness.

*What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

Staying in the present moment (mindfulness) has been the best tool for me to stay grounded. I wish I could say I am able to stay present all the time, but I can’t. I use mindfulness mostly in situations in which I experience stress and/or negative emotions. I am such an Empath – I feel other people’s feelings – that being able to remove myself from my emotions and look at them objectively has been the key to staying grounded.

*What’s your biggest regret?

I personally don’t believe in regret. Everything that has happened to me, including my own choices and behaviors, has shaped me into the person I am today, which I am generally happy with. I also don’t believe in failure. Not reaching a goal is not really a fail, it’s an opportunity to learn something to apply in the future to get more positive or healthier results. Are there people out there that I’ve hurt? Sure there are! I have done all I can to make nice with the folks I am aware of that I have injured emotionally. If someone is angry with me and doesn’t let me know, there’s not much I can do about it.

*What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

I hate to sound like a broken record, but mindfulness has been the biggest lesson I have passed on to my daughter. She has been diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and is a highly anxious kid. She takes medication, which helps her ability to tap into her natural internal resources. She has told me several times that staying in the present moment helps her overcome her worries, fears and anxiety.

*What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

I do not exercise much at all. I’d like to WANT to get out and get moving. I am not overweight and don’t have Diabetes or anything, but while I know that getting my blood pumping will feel great and help deal with stress, it seems I can always find something I want to do more. My motto is, “Follow your bliss,” as Joseph Campell said, but doing this keeps me from being more physically fit.

*Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but my personal growth over the last few years is what I am most proud of. I have a long list of achievements and recognition from outside sources and that’s where I used to get my sense of self-worth. But now, even though it’s nice to hear good things at times, I know I am awesome without anyone else having to tell me or even agree with me. I went through postpartum depression when my daughter was born. I believe now that the endless tears, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, constant anxiety and eventually, my suicide plan were all of the feelings I had stuffed for most of my life coming to the surface. I never want to remotely feel like that again. I have bad days just like everyone else, but this was a dark place that I don’t ever want to see again. I was able to take that awful time, go back to school and get my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and start a private practice specializing in helping new families who are going through the same thing that I did. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to pay it forward (wellnesspearland.com)!

*When were you happiest?

Without a doubt, I am now the happiest I have ever been. For people who are afraid of 40, I say don’t be! It may be the first time in your life that you feel like you may know who you really are! I wrote a book in 2007 about the importance of self-care, but even though I knew intellectually that my words were true, I don’t think I connected them with my heart until recently (wellnesspearland.com/book-store/).

*What ten words best describe you?

Loyal, intelligent, compassionate, clumsy, empathic, free thinking, reasonable, bitchy, independent, and curious. I’m sure if you asked people who know me, you’d get a few others, but hey – this is about me!

Stacey Glaesmann, MA is a Life Coach, freelance writer and author who lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas. She specializes in treating new moms and families with postpartum mood disorders. She has written a book called What About Me? A Simple Guide to Self-Care in the 21st Century and has been published in several online and print media outlets. Samples of her work can be found at http://www.examiner.com/self-help-in-houston/stacey-glaesmann and her website is wellnesspearland.com. Stacey has been happily married for almost 20 years and has a 14 year-old daughter, who is as neurotic as her mother.

– See more at: http://www.goodenoughmother.com/2013/11/life-lessons-stacey-glaesmann/#sthash.XJF670nW.dpuf

Happy Thanksgiving!

We here at Living Self-Care would like to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! This year has been full of changes for us, and I think I can speak for Diane when I say we are very grateful for each and every one of them.

When things happen, they’re just things. We are responsible for what we label them (good or bad). It’s hard to imagine something like a cancer diagnosis being something GOOD, but I have also heard from several survivors and current cancer patients that their diagnosis and journey has ultimately changed them for the better.

It’s easy to be thankful for the obviously positive things in life, but most of the time, the negative (or what we label as “bad”) presents a learning opportunity. The trick is to be open minded and try to look at the situation outside of your usual way of thinking. There’s usually the proverbial “silver lining” to be found, and I truly believe there is no such thing as failure, only lessons.

This year, as challenging as the change has been, I am so thankful that my mother moved in with us. We don’t have to worry about each other long distance anymore. And though we bump heads often, I am so thankful that we are learning how to relate to each other again (in a much more healthy manner this time).

As you go about your Thanksgiving traditions, remember that there are so many things to be grateful for – even the things that you may have categorized as “awful.” Have a safe and happy one!!

All of our love,

Diane Sanford and Stacey Glaesmann

The Holidays Are Here: How to Stay Low-Stress

The holidays are here with fun-filled and stress-filled times sandwiched together, not unlike raising children, work, marriage and other life pursuits. So, here are some recommendations to make the holidays calmer and happier.

First, have realistic expectations of yourself.  Many of us feel disappointed because our “fairytale images” don’t materialize. Instead, focus on feeling good from the inside out.  Build a fire and roast marshmallows, shop with a friend, or take a long walk in the woods.  Meditate, workout, read, or  listen to music.  Feed your soul.

Second, have realistic expectations of others.  No one’s family or friends are perfect, and the holidays won’t change this.  Since we can’t change them, we need to rely on ourselves to gather what’s positive and let go of the negative.  Create new family traditions so they don’t stir up bad memories.  If a situation becomes too negative, leave.

Likewise, don’t take relationship stress too personally. If your partner snaps about household clutter because they’re stringing Christmas lights while baking cookies, understand it’s their problem.  Don’t let them take their bad mood out on you but don’t react poorly either.  After all, love is the true intention of the season and it starts with you.