Women, Hormones and Mood

Did you know that women experience twice as much depression as men? Would that be because we’re more sensitive? I think not. The explanation which best fits is that we are more affected by hormonal shifts which influence our brain chemistry, particulary around times when our lives change dramatically-like pregnancy and post-postpartum.

In fact, 1 in 8 women will experience a clinical episode of depression or anxiety during pregnancy, postpartum and menopause, which is greater than the occurence of most health conditions. So, why aren’t women being routinely screened for mood and anxiety conditions? How can health conditions which have such a profound impact on moms, babies and families continue to be ignored? How many more stories like Miriam Carey’s will unfold ?

To end such needless suffering and tragedies, we must come forward and share our stories to support each other in getting the help we need and deserve. We must be prepared to educate our health providers and make it clear that we expect to be cared for-body, mind, heart and soul. We must challenge our own biases about anxiety and depression, and accept them as “health conditions” just like heart disease or diabetes.

Ghandi said, “Become the change you want to see in the world.”

Now, it’s up to each of us to do our part to reduce the stigma and shame associated with mental health conditions. In Miriam’s memory and for the sake of safeguarding the health of moms and babies, WE MUST.

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.


Candy Land

So, it’s November first – the day after the kiddos have dressed up and gone into a sugar coma! Can you believe how quickly this year has gone by? As you’re going about your day and glancing over at the loot left over from last night, consider these tips on how not to overindulge:

  • Divide the candy and treats into “portion sizes” and put each portion in a Ziploc baggie (a reasonable portion is 2 – 3 “fun size” candy bars)
  • Eat fruit instead of candy when your sweet tooth comes a-calling
  • Give yourself permission to eat a portion of candy on certain days (for example, “I may have my portion on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.”)
  • If you pig out, don’t thrash yourself. We’re all human and most of us love chocolate! After all, it boosts serotonin and releases endorphins, which elevate mood!
  • Use these same tips with your kids – moderation is the key to preventing tummy aches and you’ll be teaching them the importance of a healthy, balanced diet.

Days like Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah are usually filled with all kinds of sweet treats. Having a plan in place before you face the table full of desserts will help you stay on track with your healthy diet. After all, physical health is one of the basics of self-care!

Body Language: Louder than Speech

I was in session with a client yesterday who was telling me that she felt her whole life had been one giant obstacle. “Nothing goes right for me,” she said tearfully. She wondered why the people in her life seemed to always take advantage of her or make her feel inferior to them.

As I listened, I took note of her body language. She was slumped down on the couch, holding a pillow on her lap and looking down at the floor as she spoke. She was obviously feeling dejected and defeated.

I asked her to become aware of her body language in that moment. She brought her awareness to the position of her body, noted the pillow on her lap (which she hadn’t realized was even there), and looked up as if a light had just turned on in her mind. “People know things about me before they even meet me, don’t they?” she asked. After I asked for clarification, she wisely replied that her slumped position indicated that she had given up and the pillow on her lap conveyed her general fear of the world (the pillow was protection) and her feelings of helplessness.

Whether we know it or not, body language is a huge part in human communication. You may find someone standoffish but not know why or be introduced to a new person and find them immediately annoying for no obvious reason. Many times, it’s our subconscious picking up and interpreting the other person’s body language.

If someone is standing with their arms folded in front of them, that can be interpreted as standoffish, aggressive and/or unapproachable. The person could be the nicest guy or girl in the world, but his/her posture unwittingly prevents anyone from wanting to get to know them.

As you go about your day, pay attention to your body language. What messages are you sending out to the world by the way you walk, sit, stand and talk? Head up, arms down to your sides in an open position and a straight, but relaxed posture, is more likely to attract the people you would like in your life and put those you already know at ease. If you need to adjust your body language, please practice – and also be on the lookout for the subtle messages you receive from the people around you. You may be surprised at how you interpret folks at first glance!


Instant BFFs: Is it Possible?

Have you ever encountered someone that you’ve never met before, but it seems like you’ve known them forever? Someone that you knew within the first 5 minutes of talking to him/her that you want to be in his/her life (in friendship or romantic relationship)? If you have, you know how rare that is. If you haven’t, let me tell you about it!

Recently, I was on a writing assignment and went to interview my source for the story. The interview went very well and we were both professional. After the “official” work was over, this young lady and I sat around talking about this and that; it was surface chit-chat, but I felt as if I could tell her my deepest secrets – and I had only just met her!

It turns out that she had experienced the same phenomenon with me, and we found ourselves contacting each other to find ways to hang out. She’s a volunteer with a local animal charity, so I signed up too. I have made time to help out on 2 occasions so far, and while I enjoy working with the animals and people, it is nice to have extra time with my new friend!

If one of us is not feeling well, the other will offer (and mean it) to cook chicken soup or go to the store for remedies. If one of us is having a crisis, we instinctively contact each other. Keep in mind that I have known this woman for less than a month.

Somehow, I just know that I can trust her and that I can count on her. I also know that I feel a deep loyalty to her and will make myself available whenever I am able when she needs something. How can someone I just met feel like a best friend? How can such a short relationship feel like it’s taken years to build and cultivate?

I firmly believe that people are put in our lives for a reason: to teach us lessons, to see us through a crisis or victory, to be there when we need them. My “new” friend and I joke that we are long-lost sisters, but I know without a doubt that she is supposed to be in my life and I am grateful to have found her!

What Is Happiness – Really?

A friend recently directed me to a website called The Happiness Project. Basically, it chronicles a woman’s quest to find happiness in several areas of her life. She is very insightful and has some great ideas!

Happiness is something everyone aspires to, but have you given any thought to what happiness means to YOU? 99% of my clients list “to be happy” as one of their goals for therapy. When I ask them what “happy” means, I usually get confused or blank looks.

Happy means feeling happy, right? Well, do you think it’s possible to feel happy 100% of the time? Even the spiritually enlightened, such as Eckhart Tolle in modern days, and Buddha in times past, acknowledge that all feelings are fleeting – even happiness. So if it is not possible to feel happy all the time, how does one achieve the goal of “to be happy?”

I usually ask my clients to think of a time when they felt really happy, joyous even. I ask how long that feeling lasted. I have gotten answers anywhere from “a few minutes” to “a couple of weeks,” but no one has even said that the feeling was permanent. As I ask them to dissect that memory and feeling, setting the actual joy aside, most people come to the conclusion that inner peace and/or contentment is what lingered the longest.

The grand question is, “How do I get inner peace?” I wish I had a single answer that would work for everyone or have access to a magic pill. Since I don’t, let me tell you what I have learned from my clients and my own experiences. First, realize how little control you really have over your life. The only thing you have the ability to control is your own behavior. You can’t control other people, circumstances or events. So, if you are unhappy in some area of your life, either change your own behavior or work on accepting the fact that it is what it is and you can’t change it. Once you get a firm grasp of this concept, techniques such as meditation, yoga, aerobic exercise and mindfulness will be helpful in acquiring the inner peace you seek. Once you stop trying to control everything, you’ll free up some inner resources that can help lighten your emotional load.