Halloween: More trick than treat for those with mental illness?

I came across a thought-provoking post today and wanted to share it here. The original post came from Healthy Place.

Halloween: More Trick Than Treat for Those With Mental Illness?

Halloween and Dia De Muertos (The Day of the Dead) can be child’s play. Ghosts, goblins, superheroes, Disney princesses and more bring both smiles and horror. For those with a mental illness, PTSD or panic, Halloween can conjure up very intense negative responses.

Sometimes horror flickers on the TV screen or in the movie theater, sometimes horror is found behind a mask, sometimes it comes to visit wrapped in “Trick or Treat!” Potential triggers lurk everywhere: black cats, oversized spiders, masks, horror movies and even costumes that perpetuate mental health stigma, domestic violence and much more. Ahhh, the midnight hour.

I Hate Halloween

I admit it – I hate Halloween with a passion. My dislike for Halloween began innocently enough: my birthday is the week before Halloween. Instead of a cake of my choosing, I used to get the horrid orange and black Halloween birthday cakes. There is nothing more unappetizing than black frosting. Next up: My 4th grade Halloween party. My teacher decided that fun would be turning off all of the lights in the room and having us stick our hands into bowls of food that represented body parts: elbow noodles for brains, olives for eyes and chicken liver for…well, you get the idea. Fun? Not so much when 15 kids are vomiting. Fast forward to 2003: I was assaulted on Halloween. My assailant wore a Halloween mask. Yep, I hate Halloween.

Halloween is Scary for Adult Trauma Survivors

For the adult survivor of trauma, Halloween can hold all the makings of flashbacks, panic and terror. The macabre comes out to play in the form of costumes, props and decorations. Whether it be fake blood, severed body parts, all-out zombie attacks, masks from classic horror films such as Friday the 13th, It, Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Pin Head, Scream or witch costumes or the props (knives, needles or impalement, anyone?), Halloween brings out those who enjoy Halloween for shock value. The beauty of Halloween is that for at least one day, we can be anything we wish: the shy become bold pirates, the geek becomes the hunk or diva, those who would suppose him or herself to be weak chooses to be a superhero. That is also the beast of Halloween.

Facing Halloween Can Be Difficult

If Halloween is troublesome for you, here are a few things that may be helpful:

  • Avoid watching television during this time.
  • Don’t give out candy or if you choose to give out candy, don’t answer the door by yourself.
  • Spend the evening doing things completely unrelated to Halloween.
  • Listen to some soothing music to help lower the hyper vigilance.
  • Eat the candy yourself. No one said you have to share it.

Happy Holidays!


To our faithful readers: we are in self-care mode as we enjoy the holidays with our families. Feel free to browse the archives for tips on how to make the holidays more pleasant for yourself and your family!

Diane and I wish you the happiest of holidays, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, Kwanzaa, the beautiful lights of Diwali or any other holiday that is special for you! May peace be in your home and may you put yourself first so that you may enjoy things, too!

Love – Stacey and Diane

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.


The History of Halloween

Many people go trick-or-treating, watch scary movies or go to parties on Halloween, often dressed up as their favorite alter egos. But does anyone really know the origin of Halloween? Most folks don’t think about it; they concentrate on the costumes, candy and fun!

It is believed that modern Halloween evolved from an ancient Celtic festival of the dead, called Samhain (pronounced sah-WEEN), which was actually held on November 1 each year. The night before this event, on October 31, the Celts would sacrifice fruits and vegetables to ward off the dead, who were believed to be mingling with the living in greater quantities on this particular evening. They would dress up as spirits to help keep the traveling ghosts moving.

As the Catholics moved into the area, they wiped out many Pagan holidays, including Samhain, in hopes that the Pagans would convert to the church. Pope Gregory III established November 1 as All Saints Day, a day to honor all Christian Saints that did not already have an observance day. Some of the people that had celebrated Samhain quietly kept it going on the day after All Saints Day. Finally, in the 9th century, the Catholics made November 2 All Souls Day, essentially squashing what was left of Samhain.

All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows, (“hallowed” meaning “holy”) provided a forum for the believers of Samhain to continue to focus on the “wandering dead” the night before, dubbed All Hallows Eve by the Catholics. Over time, this night transformed into the focus on evil supernatural beings, though this was not the original purpose of the holiday. Participants still put out food and drink to offer to the spirits and often emulated them by costuming themselves in what they believed to be the spirits’ images.

The name “Halloween” comes from an evolution of the name All Hallows Eve, which was eventually called Hallows Evening or Hallowe’en for short. As Hallowe’en had originally been the name of the ancient Celtic New Year’s Day before the Christians arrived, it was an unwitting hat tip to the Pagans.

These days, Halloween is a night for adults and kids alike to dress up and be someone (or something) else for the evening.The tradition of handing out candy is actually a long-evolved version of the Pagan food sacrifices to the spirits. So, next time trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell, think about the long and deep history that built Halloween.

Article courtesy of The Silvercreek Tribune

Welcome to the Holiday Season!?

Labor Day has come and gone, signaling the commercial commencement of “The Holidays.” Every year, I feel a little nauseous the first time I see Christmas/Hanukkah items displayed in a store in late-August/early-September. It’s sad, really. I remember a time when “holiday time” started after Halloween and consisted more of family gatherings instead of the shop-fest that it has become.

Instead of reiterating a bunch of advice about avoiding holiday stress, let me instead ask how can you make this early Fall more self-focused? The kids are off at school. Things are slowly starting to settle down. Do you find yourself settling down as well or are you immediately jumping ahead to planning Thanksgiving dinner?

One of the first pieces of advice I remember ever giving my daughter was, “Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” The same goes for all of society’s mass outlets – TV, radio, Internet and stores themselves. If the merchants were to have it their way, we’d buy back-to-school clothes, Halloween candy and costumes, huge turkey dinners, Christmas/Hanukkah gifts and holiday dinners, one right after the other. Family? What family?

As you send your kiddos off to school today, I challenge you to avoid the media – avoid the hype. See what a pre-Fall day can be like with just your thoughts about things, not influenced or controlled what you “should be” thinking forward to. Staying in the present moment is a tried-and-true method for reducing anxiety and tension. So, when you look at right now, what do you see? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Or just September 6, 2012, ready to bring you whatever it brings? This is YOUR “holiday season,” whether it’s already started or not – do what’s best for YOU and YOUR family!

Happy September!

Hatred is a Heavy Burden

I’ve been astonished at some of the hate being spewed out from my “friends” on Facebook as the Presidential election draws near. It’s great to debate, share opinions and find like-minded people. However, like the race itself, both parties are getting dirty and hateful.

We’ve all felt that hateful feeling at one time or another. Most people say they don’t like feeling that way, but there are always a few that not only like it, but purposely create it. If you carry grudges or find yourself hating someone or something, think about who that is really hurting…YOU.

The subject of your negative feelings is most likely unaware or unaffected by your hatred. But you have to carry it with you all day, every day. It weighs you down, tires you out and makes life in general more difficult.

Politics and religion seem to be the hot topics that elicit such hateful statements. I’ve had to make myself ignore ugly posts and comments because it does stir a lot of anger in me – not because I feel one way or another about the candidates, but the shock at the actions of my “friends.” If you find yourself feeling rageful, hate or carrying a grudge, the best thing you can do for yourself is let it go. The minute you do, you will feel lighter and your stress level will go down. Anything that has those results is definitely self-care! So, gals, let it go and focus on what is really important in your life.

A Good Kind of Stress

I just got back from a wonderful vacation to Disney World with my daughter and my dad. It was a great week, but I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation! This got me thinking about the stress we experience from good things – it’s called “eustress.”

Whether it’s a vacation, getting married or getting a promotion, even good experiences have stress attached to them. At Disney, we did a lot of walking and waiting in long lines in a high heat and humidity climate. We had to navigate crowds and deal with air travel. So while we all had a fabulous time, all 3 of us are now taking a couple of days to relax from the eustress we experienced.

Many people don’t realize the amount of stress that’s involved with positive events. And if they feel stressed-out, irritable or anxious, they think that there’s something wrong with them instead of acknowledging the eustress that accompanies good events. Thoughts like, “How can I be feeling so bad? I’m on vacation!” can increase anxiety and cause guilt. But when folks accept that yes, even positive situations are stressful, the anxiety and guilt will usually decrease or go away altogether.

When we chose the dates for our vacation, we purposely booked the flight home on a Friday so we would have the weekend to decompress from our eustress before going back to work on Monday. I have been relaxing, watching movies and playing around on the computer all weekend. Laundry and other chores need to be done, but they will still be there tomorrow when, hopefully, I will feel recovered from my vacation eustress.

What are some of the coping techniques that you have used to dissolve your eustress? We’d love to hear what works for you!

P.S. We will be announcing the winners from our May Self-Care Challenge on Thursday! Stay tuned!

Hello, It’s Nice to Meet Me!

I just had the pleasure of seeing the movie 1,000 Words, starring Eddie Murphy, with my daughter. I wasn’t sure what to expect – a physical, bawdy comedy or a dramatic life lesson. Let’s say it was a good mix of the two – I recommend it!

The movie got me thinking about the masks we wear for others, and sometimes, even for ourselves. Fans of meditation will tell you that you truly do not know yourself until you have gone deep within and faced whatever demons lie in wait for you there. Thomas Moore called it, “The dark night of the soul.” You, the hero or heroine, then emerge all shiny and new and genuine.

I’m not sure how many methods there are to meeting your True Self; besides meditation, I’ve used imagery and yoga. My max time in sitting meditation has been maybe 5 minutes, so you see the problem there. But the movie renewed a strong desire in me to really find out who I am…me…not my job, my masks or the many hats I wear…ME.

What a great way to renew your spirit this Spring – to finally meet The Real You! At the very least, you’ll be amazed at just how many masks you do wear for others as well as yourself. And when you get some quiet, alone time, can you sit in silence, just with your breathing keeping you company? Or do you need the TV or radio on, or do you have to be reading something, keeping your mind in “escape mode?” We constantly distract ourselves from ourselves and don’t even realize it!

TRYING to meditate!

So give it a try! Leave a comment if you’re a veteran meditator or let me know how it’s going if you’re going to give one (or more!) of these methods a try!

Spring is the Time to Take Control

Spring has come to symbolize a time for new beginnings, starting from a clean slate, or thinking about the choices we’ve made or didn’t make. Take a moment to think about the past year, and how it played out. Are you satisfied? What would you change?

Paul Simon in a song said, “Seasons change with the scenery, weaving time in a tapestry…” Our lives are complex and at times complicated. Do we give ourselves the chance to start anew? How much do we care about what we’re going through at any given moment?

Logically, we all care on some level. That’s what self-care is all about. It’s more than getting a massage, being nice to yourself, or getting yourself flowers. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all great stuff, but we need to do more for ourselves, each other, and in our community.

The most common phrase we hear from other women (including ourselves) is, “I don’t have time to…” Why don’t we? What is the real reason? What prevents us from embracing inner peace, health and wellness, or achieving success?

More often than not it’s fear and doubt. This pair is among the top killers of innovation, success, and happiness. This spring, clobber the dirty duo and engage with your inner you, take charge and reset!



Today’s guest author is Mollee Bauer, founder of pregnancy.org, the premiere website for info and support for pregnant and new moms.