Back to Mindfulness AND Self-Care

By Diane Sanford, PhD

May turned out to be a “too busy” month for me. While our double graduations, my mom and daughter’s birthdays, my anniversary, and Mother’s Day all went well, I’m realizing today that “too much of a good thing” is still too much. Despite a busy life, like many of you who follow us, I usually have enough time to sit on my porch or walk around our lovely neighborhood, all of which restores me and helps maintain my health-mind, body and spirit.

Not this month though which was supposed to be our “Mindfulness Marathon which led me to two important insights. First, I need to keep practicing self-care whatever is going on because this is the foundation of my health and well-being. As a psychologist, I talk about four pillars of health-exercise, nutrition, sleep/rest and stress reduction. Even with my regular mindfulness practice when these are lacking or diminished by life’s busy-ness, I’m more out of sorts, short-fused, reactive, and “crabby” which my daughter informed me yesterday.

The second insight in the absence of self-care, “mindfulness” does prevent me from losing perspective altogether and falling into an abyss of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and sensations, from which I struggle to return. Throughout the month, there were many times I was able to observe my experience and my changing thoughts and emotions and know that “this too shall pass.”  I had moments of joy and elation peppered with frustration and irritation and more neutral times, “living the full catastrophe” over and over again.

So, back to mindfulness AND self-care. For me, and maybe for you, I’m reminded that I need both for life to go well. What happens to you when you lose sight of either one or both? What can you do to practice each this week? Let us know.

Namaste.

 

May Mindfulness Marathon Starts Thursday

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Stacey and I like having monthly themes now and again, so we’re inviting you to join our May Mindfulness Marathon. We’ll be posting about our experiences with mindfulness, and would welcome your submissions for posts too. If you have any mindfulness resources you’d like to recommend-websites, YouTube videos, books, inspiring quotes and such, please pass them along as well. To help you get a mindful mindset going, here’s a poem from Hafiz from “The Subject Tonight Is Love” collection.

At This Party

I don’t want to be the only one here

Telling all the secrets-

Filling up all the bowls at this party,

Taking all the laughs.

I would like you

To start putting things on the table

That can also feed the soul

The way I do

That way

We can invite

A hell of a lot more

Friends.

Join our May Mindfulness Marathon and make time each day to stop, take a breath, and reconnect with the present moment. When you’re stopped at a stoplight, getting into bed at night, putting your make-up on in the morning, or anything you do daily, pause and reflect on the moment you’re in. Savor the sweetness of where you are not where you’re going. Feed you soul, and let’s have one hell of a party!

Namaste

Family That Lost All to Fire Reminds Me That Life is What You Make It

Life…you just never know what’s going to happen. I suppose that makes it exciting at times and stressful at others. I was just reading my last post. At that time, I had no idea how that seemingly innocuous thunderstorm would change my life.

Not too long after I finished writing, I heard fire engine sirens – a LOT of them. Not wanting to get in the way of emergency personnel, I called our local Sheriff’s Office to find out what was going on (yes, I’m nosey but I am also our Neighborhood Watch Chair, so it’s sort of my job to be). They confirmed a house fire, but couldn’t give me specifics. As my research went on, I finally found out that a home in my neighborhood had been struck by lightning.

The next morning, I went to the home to see if I could establish contact with the family, get details and perhaps begin a relief effort. I approached a man who was working in the garage, apparently sorting the salvageable from the unsalvageable. “Are you the homeowner?” I asked. “It depends who’s asking,” the man replied. I told him who I was and he seemed relieved. He told me that remodeling companies and legal firm reps had been stopping by to sell him services…less than 24 hours after his home had burned. I was incredulous for a few seconds, but then reality hit. Those people have to make a living too.

The homeowner explained that the lightning had struck the natural gas line (metal pipe) that led to the stove inside. This lit the gas and it basically exploded into his kitchen. I took a quick look inside and burst into tears. The kitchen was gone. The large television in the living room had melted. The water in their fish tank had boiled. The man said something soothing to me when he saw how upset I was and then reminded me that, “This is just stuff. The real valuables were not hurt (referring to his family).”

Indeed, his mother-in-law and youngest daughter had left the home to go to Mothers Day Out about 2 or 3 minutes before the explosion. His wife and older daughter were already at work and school, respectively. He heard about the fire from his next door neighbor, whose home security alarm was triggered by the excessive smoke coming from next door. “We are so blessed and will still have a happy Easter,” he assured me.

I left feeling a little dazed and in awe of this man’s attitude. I started sending out information to the community for relief, and generous folks from all over the area responded with clothing, toiletries, school supplies and gift cards. It was truly overwhelming. I spent much of Easter Sunday just resting and reflecting on what had happened. Perspective and attitude really does determine if one’s life is good or not!

It’s been a week since the fire, and the family’s needs have been met completely by their church, the insurance company and area residents. They will be in an apartment soon and can expect to have their home rebuilt in 6 – 8 months. Because of their faith, attitude of gratitude and perspective, this was just a bump in the wonderful road that is life.

Appreciate what you have. Don’t compare. It can change in an instant.

Namaste.

Join Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s Meditation Challenge

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Last week, I started the newest Oprah/Chopra meditation challenge with some of my Mindful Mom students and counseling clients. I like this one very much although one of my friends who’s new to meditation, couldn’t quite figure out what to do. So, I suggested she listen to my YouTube video on 5-minute breathing first and then go back to the challenge. If you’re new to meditation, you may find this helpful as well.

Click here for 5-minute breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWmHn_YMsp8

If you choose to participate in the challenge (and we hope you will), here are a few other reminders. First, meditation is about having a simple experience. It’s not about reaching nirvana or feeling “relaxed” 100% of the time. It’s learning to direct your attention so that you can create opportunities to let go of stress and step out of the thought stream. Whether it lasts a few seconds, moments or more, committing the time to taking a breath (or two) and being still is health enhancing. It also counts as self-care. Bonus!

Equally important, do not judge how well (or poorly) you’re doing. As with mindfulness, approach this meditation experience with self-compassion. Remind yourself that these practices do not come naturally to those of us in the western world, and that your participation is enough. This is not a test. Whatever happens, you are still wonderful and deserving of lovingkindness. Remember this, always.

Stacey and I will be participating too so if you have any questions or comments while the challenge is in progress, let us know. Please, click on this link to get started: https://chopracentermeditation.com.

Namaste

 

Start Loving Yourself By Not Judging Yourself

Jack Kornfield, psychologist and founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, tells a story about a group of western meditation teachers who went to visit the Dali Lama. During a discussion about self-compassion, the teachers related how critical and self-rejecting they felt. In fact, several actually used the word self-hatred which the Dali Lama had never heard. After he finally understood what they meant, he replied ” But, no. This is wrong. The way to relate to oneself is with self-compassion and love.” As Buddha said, “You as much as anyone else in the universe are deserving of your love.”

At livingselfcare, this is one of the practices Stacey and I mention often because many of us relate to ourselves with judgement, self-criticism and even self-loathing. A few weeks ago, I was teaching an intro to mindfulness when a new student commented about how during our breath awareness exercise, she kept judging herself and focusing on how she was messing up. Another student, who’s been practicing mindfulness for a while, spoke up and said, “I used to do that all the time when I started. Lately though, it’s gotten better and I can quiet those thoughts more. I try to be kind and patient towards myself like I am with my children and friends. It’s still an effort but that’s okay.”

This week, each time you look in a mirror smile, and remind yourself how precious you are. Remember, each of you is a unique expression of the universe and that’s something special!

Namaste

Self-Care: Make It #1 on Your “To Do” List

Do you treat your body as if it is sacred? Do you have a regular exercise and fitness regimen? Are you eating healthy meals? When is the last time you went to a spa to pamper yourself?

Your body is your temple. Think about it. It is the only place ‘your self’ has to live in. Life’s responsibilities are countless for many of us. And in trying to juggle those responsibilities we neglect to take care of ourselves–our temple. We might think about our physical health but that is often where it begins and ends.

Most of my adult life has been weighted with high stress careers, once in the military, and now in corporate America. I rise before the aurora and retire long after sunset. Over the past few months my stress levels have been escalating, my body was feeling energy-drained, my skin was breaking out and my mental acuity was becoming dull. So I thought, “I can combat these negative forces and make improvements in my overall health if I just make taking care of myself number one on my ‘To Do’ list.” So I have taken steps to do precisely that and have seen steady progress. You, too, can make marked improvements in your health and fortify your body–your temple.

Make Self-Care #1

Self-care is an integral part of stress management. Our bodies are conditioned to respond negatively to unhealthy forces bombarding it. Granted, it tries to warn us, but often we do not listen. Bottom line is you can dial-it-back and condition yourself to focus on a healthy diet, exercise and relaxation. Increasing your relaxation response can prevent chronic stress from having a negative effect on your body and overall health.

Get started with these five basic tips:

  1. Make exercise a morning priority before your day gets started.
  2. Drink plenty of water (it flushes impurities from the body).
  3. Get a massage (it is known to promote relaxation and well-being).
  4. Go cold turkey on doing things that don’t fuel you.
  5. Take a break from your agent of stress (go on vacation).

Don’t wait for the body to warn you. Start today and put self-care higher on your own ‘To Do’ list.

SavionToday’s guest blogger is Dr. Sydney Savion. Dr. Savion is an applied behavioral scientist, member of the American Psychological Association and scholar-practitioner in the field of life transition for more than a decade. She views life transition as a gradual psychological progression of questioning self, others, the situation, seeking a new direction, and a quest to start to anew. It is a natural part of living that is triggered by an event that has a momentous impact upon and changes a person‘s life ecosystem in a manner that demands a person to cope and adjust. For example, this event could be a loss of a loved one, a marriage, your mental health, or even livelihood. She is the author of the Living a Blissful Life blog on HealthyPlace.com.

 

Heroes Among Us: Finding Our Inner Strength

I was very touched by a couple of the posts on our site last week. One written by Stacey on Thursday  (click here), was about Ryan Ferguson, a young man who spent 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and resentful, he chose to find meaning in his experience by speaking up about it so that other families might not suffer the way his did. The other written by Jennifer McCullough on Saturday (click here), was about her emotional struggles after becoming a mom and losing her own mom several months before giving birth. She described how her self-care and self-esteem suffered, how she slowly rebuilt her life and finally, reclaimed her self-worth and began practicing self-care again.

brave-online-free

As I grow older, I am less in awe of people who accomplish extra-ordinary feats and more by “ordinary” people who weather the storms life thrusts upon us and emerge intact, often stronger and wiser than before. Some of these “heroes” become known to us like Ryan Ferguson. Others may not be known publicly like Jennifer but they are no less heroic or accomplished in what they have done. In fact, there are many heroes among us, perhaps even ourselves, who go unacknowledged but are no less deserving of our admiration and praise.

Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that may never  be and say why not?” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” These quotes define what heroism means to me and provide inspiration when I experience a “dark night of the soul” like Ryan and Jennifer went through which Stacey wrote about on Friday (click here).

This week, take  time out to reflect on what heroism means to you? Who are your heroes? When have you been heroic in your life? What did you lose? What did you gain? Let us know.

Namaste.

Confessions of A Recovering Mind-less Eater: The Benefits of Mindful Eating

By Diane Sanford

I wanted to follow up on our guest blogger’s Kathleen’s post from Saturday about Mindful Eating and encourage you to read her post (below) if you haven’t already. I have experienced issues with food since my mid-teens. By my mid-twenties while in graduate school, I weighed 40+ pounds more than my ideal body weight. I had gained and lost weight multiple times by then but couldn’t keep it off. Now, few people believe me when I tell them this but it’s true.

To keep the weight off, I had to come to terms with my relationship with food. In turning my attention to my eating, I discovered I was using it to cope with my emotional life and relationships with men. I would eat if I was happy, sad, bored, and mostly stressed. It was my family’s way of dealing with our emotional life. I also ate because every time I became slimmer, more men would be interested in me and I didn’t have the self-esteem then to deal with them assertively.  Although the reasons are slightly different for each of us, they are present. Two wonderful books for exploring this are: Why Weight by Geneen Roth and Fat is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach.

As I became aware of what was behind my mind-less eating, I began cultivating a more mindful relationship with food. I learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger and eat to physically nourish my body. I would eat slowly and intentionally without the distraction of TV, or reading or answering the phone. Just sit there and eat. We didn’t have cell phones or tablets or electronic devices to distract us then but I would include those now.

I learned to chew my food, one bite at a time, and pay attention to the texture and taste. While I’ve always LOVED food, it was much tastier and more satisfying to eat this way. By the end of a meal, I felt physically full not thinking about what I was going to eat next. We didn’t call it mindful eating then but looking back, that’s what I was learning to do.  I found it extremely worthwhile and I know each of you will too whatever your size and weight.

Please read Kathleen’s post just below this one and try the “chocolate kiss” exercise. Let us know how it goes. Remember, we’re in this together. Have a good week. Namaste.

Self-Care Month Guest Blogger: Kathleen Carroll and Mindful Eating

regroup-betaHello Living Self-Care Community! My name is Kathleen Carroll, and I am the community manager at Regroup Therapy – a website that safely offers video sessions for therapists. I met Stacey and Diane through Regroup, and I have absolutely loved getting to know both of these inspiring women. Thank you Diane and Stacey for inviting me to post. I am grateful to be included!

Today, I want to write about Mindful Eating, and our complicated relationships with food. At Colorado College, I led a mental health support and advocacy group for students living with mental health issues. On our campus, eating disorders were the most prevalent concern. Colorado students are typically athletic and socially minded. The line between “outdoorsy vegan” and obsessively healthy-minded is often blurry, and as an ally, I felt it an important issue to address.

GROWWhen advocating for young people with eating disorders, mindfulness becomes a central focus. You must be mindful of triggers, mindful of coming off as judgmental and most importantly mindful of your own habits and areas for improvement. Preparing an Eating Disorder Awareness Week was one of the greatest creative challenges that I have ever faced! Thankfully, my friend’s mom is a mind-body specialist, who was eager to come out and visit her daughter. Dr. Claire Wheeler has both an MD and a PhD in Psychology. Her focus is solely on mindfulness and the mind-body connection. She came all the way out to Colorado with a prepared presentation on “mindful eating,” and its implications for both everyday use and for the the treatment of eating disorders. It was perfect! Not only was mindful eating a trendy response to preventative healthcare (and college kids respond to trendy), but it also allowed us to include a large scope of people, without the isolation that comes with, “this is for you, young people with eating disorders.”

hersheykissThe exercise began with a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss. Claire asked us to let it melt on the tongue. We closed our eyes, as she led us in an almost meditative practice. I still remember how incredible it tasted – just a little chocolate Kiss! The entire process took about five minutes. She acknowledged that it would be all but impossible to assume that we can all mindfully eat for every meal. However, mindful eating allows both healthy control over food, and also a “reclaiming” of the experience of eating. She repeatedly emphasized food as fuel, taking the ritual out of mealtimes, and becoming present while eating, as necessary in creating a healthy relationship with food.

You may have a left-over chocolate from yesterday. Try eating it mindfully:

  1. Picture the chocolate – your mouth prepares by salivating;
  2. Put the chocolate in your mouth;
  3. Allow it to melt slowly, without biting into it;
  4. Experience all of the flavors and texture as it melts onto your tongue;
  5. Enjoy!

Happy post-Valentine’s Day to you all, and thanks again for having me, Diane and Stacey!

[Thank YOU, Kathleen! What a great exercise! You can do this with any type of food. And as Kathleen mentioned above, don’t expect yourself to eat mindfully every time you eat; however, if you do use mindfulness during a meal, note how much more you enjoy it! – Namaste’ – Diane and Stacey]

We Can Only Control Ourselves, or NERDS RULE!

jgreenIt’s no secret that most people make their own stress. We worry over things, which accomplishes nothing, and ruminate about the past, which is equally useless. I’m pretty good at catching myself when I am out in the worry-zone. This is a result of years of practicing present-moment awareness, which is something that I find extremely useful to manage my stress. My daughter, however, is another story.

She is a freshman in high school and a bit of an over-achiever (I have NO idea where she gets THAT from!). My husband and I both have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, so we made a special effort to raise her in a laid-back atmosphere, which also helped us chill out. She seemed to be pretty mellow until about 6th grade, when the homework increased. And when I say increased, I’m talking going from an hour or so nightly to 4+ hours of homework every night. Part of the reason that happened is because she took many more pre-AP (pre-advanced placement) classes than she had before. This sent her into overdrive in junior high. Her anxiety levels got so high and she was so distressed that we got her some help from a therapist and a psychiatrist. That seemed to help a lot…until high school.

Now, she gets very upset if she makes a low A or (heaven forbid) a B in a class on her report card, progress report or even an individual assignment. I was obviously concerned with this unnecessary standard she has for herself, so I asked her why. She claimed that “everybody” already knew what University they were going to and what they were going to major in. She was worried that she wouldn’t be “good enough” to get into whatever college or University she decided to go to (and yes, she has some choices picked out). All I could think of was my 9th grade self, totally oblivious to colleges and majors. After all, I was a freshman. My college kind of got picked out for me when I was a Senior because I got a free ride to Blinn Junior College for graduating in the top 10% of my class (I still don’t know where that overachiever gene comes from). And even after I transferred to the University of Houston, I changed my major a couple of times. I always thought that college was where you figured out “what you wanted to be when you grew up.”

My daughter tells me that times have changed and that things are just more competitive than they used to be. That may be true; I have seen evidence of it in my readings and from parents of other (and older) high schoolers. But that pressure is nothing compared to what she puts on herself. I have a friend who teaches at my daughter’s high school and she told me that the friends that my daughter hangs out with are the “high stress” crowd. You know, the nerds. While I am proud that my kid has such great taste in friends (Who rules the world? Mean girls? No…NERDS!), their influence seems to be counterproductive to my daughter’s overall stress management.

It’s been my challenge to try and explain this to my sweet girl. Nothing I say seems to get through, to the point of frustration. She knows about present-moment awareness and uses it in extreme anxiety situations. She knows it works. But she won’t or can’t use it when it comes to her future. As a parent, it kills me slowly inside to see my daughter suffering while I hold the key to the “cure.” But I can’t make her take it. She has to get there on her own. The only thing I can do is be supportive of her, answer her questions honestly and tell her that I’m proud of her. Oh yeah, and stay in my own present moment, even if she won’t. I am the adult with more life experience and I know that this, too, shall pass.

Namaste’

nerdfighters