Have You Hugged Yourself Today?

Living Self-Care: Our Hearts

Living a heart-healthy life means taking good care of our emotional health and relationships.  In short, it is loving ourselves and others unconditionally.

Heart-Healthy Habits:

1.      Prioritize Emotional Health: This involves making time for self-care but more important believing we deserve self-love.  It means saying “yes” to what makes our heart sing and “no” when it’s too much.

2.      Trust Inner Guidance: This is trusting what our “gut” is telling us.  While our inner voice isn’t 100% accurate, it’s often signaling questions or issues we need to consider.  Don’t drown it out with others’ need but listen to what’s coming up.

3.      Self-Acceptance:  One of the hardest habits is learning to love ourselves wholly with our strengths and limitations.  As Melissa Etheridge sings, “There’s no love from someone else if I can’t love myself.”  Practice unconditional self-love for optimal emotional and relationship health.

4.       Communicate Assertively:  Express both positive and negative feelings openly and directly.  Don’t  attack the other person or passively withdraw.  Address problems as they occur.  Be respectful and expect the same.  If the situation deteriorates, wait until later.

5.       Prioritize Relationships:  Nurture relationships with time, energy and attention.   How often do you stop when you’re busy doing what needs to get done to listen to your child or spouse?  Nothing is more important.  Relationships are flowers in the garden of life.  If you nourish them, they’ll bring much delight.  Neglected, they’ll whither.

The Sisterhood of Girlfriends

“Mom, you have friends?!”

It was my 5-year-old’s innocent response to me mentioning my girlfriends. Since having twins five years ago and then another son, I don’t get a chance to chat with, let alone see, my girlfriends as much as I would like. Yet, they still carry an important role in my life.

Girlfriends help each other carry their burdens, celebrate each others’ accomplishments and bring joy to each others’ lives. Girlfriends also have a keen sense of intuition. Despite miles of distance and months without communication, girlfriends are there when we need them most.

Take for example a dear friend who called me out of the blue as I was just beginning to miscarry my first pregnancy. Or another girlfriend who popped up on Google chat one day when I was having a terrible time coping with my son’s developmental delays. On two of the worst days of my life, these women
helped put everything into perspective.   I hope I’ve been there to do the same.

Mom Jessica

When the teeter-totter of life drops you square into a puddle of mud, it’s usually a girlfriend that climbs on the opposite seat and lifts you back up (then helps you shop for new pants). As women we naturally care for and nurture others, and through the sisterhood of girlfriends we give that nurturing back to ourselves.

Today’s author is Jessica Pupillo, freelance writer and editor of St. Louis Sprout & About (www.stlsprout.com).

My George

When I was first in therapy for anxiety and panic attacks, my therapist gave me an exercise: draw the anxiety. It ended up looking a little like E.T. but with a sour disposition. I named it, “George.”

The purpose of naming the anxiety wasn’t to adopt it permanently into my psyche; it was to have something that was NOT me to “blame” for anxious thoughts, feelings, etc. Though I don’t have panic attacks or much anxiety anymore, I still call George out when negative or illogical thoughts come to mind, causing me distress. This is a technique that I have shared with clients, most with success.

Here’s an example:

Jan works in an office with several other people. Because of her upbringing and low self-esteem, Jan believes that people don’t like her very much. In her quest to feel better about herself, Jan started therapy and named those ugly thoughts, “The Hulk,” because they feel angry and green.

On her way out to lunch, Jan passed her co-worker in the hall. Jan smiled, but the co-worker’s face did not change from one that looked a bit angry. “Oh no!” Jan thought. “Sheila is mad at me! What did I do?” Recognizing the angry, green feeling of her “Hulk,” Jan started questioning her thought.

“Have I had any interactions with Sheila that would cause anger on her part? No. I haven’t even spoken to her in a few days. Could there be another explanation for Sheila’s mood? Of course! She could be irritated or frustrated with a number of things that have nothing to do with me.”

As Jan focused on these questions, her “Hulk” turned back into mild-mannered Bruce Banner, who is way more manageable than his alter ego.

If you deal with anxiety, depression or just negative thinking, what does your “George” look like? What color, shape and texture is it? What is its name? By having a third party to “blame” for these thoughts, you are living healthier – for you are NOT your thoughts. And your thoughts do not have to direct your behavior. I have taken away George’s power to control me, and I’m much healthier for it!

Namaste’

 

Simply Self Care

By Diane Sanford, PhD
photo1I took a break last week from posting. I needed it. The holiday weekend had me “holidayed” out. I didn’t do much but I felt like it after weeks of too much doing and not enough being.

Instead, I spent the afternoon relaxing in the thirty dollar wading pool (for adults), my daughter and I got at Sam’s Club earlier this season. I was so happy sunning and doing nothing. It reminded me (once again) that I need to stop more often and experience life with “ease and joy” as one of my mindfulness teachers says. Likewise, it doesn’t take a “special” situation or circumstance for this to occur. In mindfulness we call this as “informal” practice. Simply, paying attention to what you’re doing.

This week, I encourage you to take 5 minutes a few times each day to pause and become fully engaged in the moment you’re in. Then take 15-20 minutes once or twice during the week to intentionally choose an activity that eases stress and brings you joy. Your to-do list will still be there when you’re done but it may not seem as urgent or oppressive. A little “time-out” can go a long way.

Namaste

February is Self-Care Month! Help Us Celebrate!

Buddha

We’ve deemed February as Self-Care Month! It’s a great time to do special things for YOU! Valentine’s Day focuses on relationships, but our February focuses on love for the Self.

We’re looking for a few good women to be guest bloggers on Saturdays during February. Have you got something to say about the importance of self-care? Have you established a self-care regimen that works for you? Do you have questions and would like to hear feedback from our readers? Have you made a video about self-care or wellness that you’d like to share? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then please contact us using the form below!

Guidelines:

You may re-post things from your own blog or site (and we’ll put a link in your post to direct readers to your site), write something original or post something that someone else wrote along with your reaction to it (make sure to include any relevant links to the original article/author). Basically, our website is your canvas to paint whatever you’d like as long as it pertains to self-care, self-compassion, self-love, wellness, mind/body health or any other POSITIVE mental health topic.

We look forward to hearing from you, ladies! Let’s share the love in February!

Intuition Helps Solve “Mid-Life” Crises

I am in the middle of the developmental stage when most Americans hit their “mid-life crisis.” This generally occurs between the ages of 35 – 45 (I am 42). And yes, there is something to the mid-life crisis. Obviously, it isn’t universal, but most people experience a big change or the urge to make a big change during these years. From buying the clichéd red Corvette to changing careers to marriages and divorces, big transformations are often afoot.

I am currently assisting several clients with break-ups of all sorts (marriages, engagements, relationships), total career changes, and a few that are focusing on their “bucket lists,” experiencing now what they said they would, “some day.” The last category is especially exciting to help with, as the client is generally joyous and looking forward to each day, planning travel, visiting family, etc. The break-ups are tough, but on some level, each person knows that what’s happening is for the best in the long run, even though it’s painful now. I can personally identify with the folks making career changes because I am, too!

Don’t worry – I am not going anywhere! I am actually transitioning from counseling to exclusively writing and designing websites. It’s strange to think of “retiring” from a profession at age 42, but the inner voice that Diane referred to on Monday has been directing me to do this for quite some time. I have been listening and stopped taking new clients months ago, but only lately have I started making some real changes, such as designing a website (caution: under construction!) for my new business, updating things on my LinkedIn profile and researching ways to market my services. I’ll admit that it’s a bit scary, but since these actions are aligned with my inner voice, I am confident that I am following the “right” path.

This has happened to me once before, back in 1999 when my daughter was born and I was working in computer science. I had gone through and recovered from postpartum panic disorder and anxiety and felt something tugging at me. After feeling frustrated for a while, knowing I needed a change but not knowing how or what, I had one of those “spiritual experiences” that people talk about here and there. All of a sudden, I had visions of my future flash before my eyes – going back to school, working with addicted persons and then sitting across from a new mother, counseling her as she went through a postpartum mood disorder. These visions lasted only a few seconds, but it felt like longer. Even though I had been shown the path, it took me a while to find the school (I got in by the skin of my teeth because someone turned down one of the 20 spots offered per year). I got a job immediately after school working with drug trials to help addicted people stop using. And in 2004, I opened the doors of my private practice, where I specialized in postpartum mood disorders.

Here it is 10 years later and my inner voice is telling me what my next move needs to be. My mid-life crisis may involve a big change, but I am confident that I am doing what is best for me. The good news for YOU is that you have an inner voice, too! You don’t have to meditate or chant to hear it, though those things work for some people. There are simple techniques you can use to “tune in” to your intuitive self and have major questions answered!

  • Use the breath. Breathe in slowly and ask your question silently. Breathe out and listen for your answer. Make sure you are in a quiet, peaceful environment and are as relaxed as possible. You may have to repeat this several times, but the answer will come if you’re listening!
  • Trust your “hunches” and “gut feelings.” If you have a vague, bad feeling about something, then that is your inner voice telling you that is not a good choice for you! Conversely, if you feel “right” about your decision, path or choice, then it is a good thing!
  • Use a pen and paper or computer. Start writing about the situation you are in and then let go of controlling which words you write or type. Just write down whatever comes to mind. Journaling can take you from Point A to Point Z in a few minutes!
  • Work in your sleep. Before going to bed at night, take a few minutes to think about your situation. Then tell yourself that you intend to work it out in your dreams. When you wake up, immediately write down anything that comes to mind.
  • Do not listen to your ego-driven thoughts. These are the thoughts that cause confusion instead of clarity. Anything that is judgmental or starts with, “What if…” is definitely an ego-driven thought! Intuitive messages usually appear in your mind as images or you feel them in your gut or heart.

I hope that you’ll find one or more of these suggestions helpful! If you’re facing a “crisis” and have always wanted to try meditating, this would be a good time to start. For more information on meditation, visit http://www.how-to-meditate.org/.

Video Does Great Job Explaining Depression

I came upon this video yesterday and thought it was an outstanding way to explain depression to someone who has never had it. It also mentions the awful stigma that comes with dealing with mental illness and its symptoms. Feel free to share this with someone who could use it. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc. Namaste’.

Striving for Underachievement

In honor of my “sick day,” I am re-posting an oldie but goodie! Enjoy! – Stacey

Have you noticed that we live in an achievement-oriented society (at least those of us in the U.S.)? Many people feel like they are wasting time if they are not producing, attaining or completing something. It can get exhausting at times! Sometimes the only occasion we give ourselves a break is on vacation – and many times even those are meticulously planned out to the minute, leaving little real relaxation time.

When is the last time that you aspired to “underachieve?” I’m talking about taking a day off to do “nothing” like watching TV, movies, reading a book, staying in your pajamas, eating ice cream? Have a day to turn off your phone and computer, to not do any errands or chores, take a nap or go within? When is the last time you were able to take a whole day to “play it by ear?” I hope your answer involves some time recently, but if it doesn’t, why not try “underachievement” soon? When you give yourself permission to not do anything productive, there’s no reason to feel guilty. You may, however, feel a little pampered – and that’s generally a pretty good feeling!

Happy New Year and Other Musings

happy-new-year-wallpapers7-2014

I’ve heard so many people say that they are glad 2013 is over. Since time is an illusion, logically, December 31 doesn’t really change much when January 1 arrives. We still experience a constant flow of present moments. However, many people use the new year as a chance to either “start over” or change something for the better. Resolutions are posted all over social media and discussed by the water cooler. For an interesting take on New Years Resolutions, read this article from Psychology Today.

This holiday season was challenging for my family and me, as there were many losses (pets, friends and a family member). I must admit that I am still in a bit of a funk – just not feeling “quite right.” I am an empath, meaning I tend to absorb feelings from people around me and even the general energy of the larger community. I am acutely aware of this, yet my not-rightness is still hanging around.

I could just be doom-and-gloom about it, but that doesn’t do me or anyone around me any good. Instead, I am trying to ground myself in the present moment as often as I can. I may generally feel “off,” but RIGHT NOW I am A-OK. I also know that “this too shall pass,” and am processing things as they come up in my journal or with my therapist. It’s hard not to feel impatient or wish that this would just go away. However, I know there are lessons to be learned in this situation, and if I don’t stay present, I may miss them. This didn’t change with the passing of 2013.

As this new year starts, I wish all of you a wonderful 2014 and encourage you to slow down, breathe, stay mindful and enjoy the small things in life that make you smile. If you’re having a hard time finding something to smile about, check out the links below. Laughter is truly great medicine and these funny sites can help you switch from yucky to joyful in a matter of minutes!

Namaste’.

Slow Down! Going Faster is Tempting Disaster

I just read this article on Psychology Today and loved it! I thought you might love it, too! The original article can be found HERE.

old chronometer

The other week en route to New York, my plane landed at Chicago O’Hare at the very minute my connection to Newark began boarding. I was seated in the bulkhead row just behind first class, and as soon as the door opened and the first class folks filed out, I launched myself out of the plane and sprinted full speed up the gangway.

A few long strides in, I realized something was off. I stopped and turned and sure enough, the flight attendant standing at the door of the plane was holding the high heel from my right boot up in the air and waving it at me.

Without even noticing, I had sheared it right off when I leapt out of the plane.

Beyond dismayed, I hobbled back to grab my mangled heel, and must have made quite a spectacle as I ran across the terminal in a bizarre limping run, clutching the heel in my right hand the whole way. I got to the boarding area just as the last person had boarded, and I’m amazed they let me on—there were exposed nails sticking out of the heel and there was no way I would be parted from it (in case it could be repaired; these were my very favorite shoes). Thankfully the flight attendant was so busy laughing at me that she didn’t notice.

Was it really necessary to be in SUCH a rush? Probably not. If I’d just focused on calmly yet briskly making my plane, I’d probably still have made it. Some other latecomers boarded after me, and I’d still be wearing my beloved boots, which sadly were beyond repair.

I’ve had a few conversations lately with people about this epidemic of rushing, and here are some thoughts on why and how most of us need to slow down:

  • You think you’ll get there faster but you’re tempting disaster: Whether you’re racing through your house to get out the door on time or weaving through traffic like you’re stunting a movie chase scene, you edge yourself perilously close to trouble far worse than being late. I’ve treated patients who fell down stairs and broke bones while rushing around, and if you think of times when you’ve hurt yourself, it was very possibly because you were moving too quickly and not paying attention.

The other day I was trying to get home quickly and decided to get around traffic by slipping through an alley. By the time I was halfway down it, I realized it wasn’t taking me where I needed to go. Annoyed, I decided to back up to get out. My rearview was clear but I missed seeing something just off to the left and scraped the side of my car as I backed up. I don’t even want to know how much it’s going to cost to fix the damage to my car, and it really would not have made a huge difference to my life to wait in traffic. It would have been a far lesser evil. Awful! Remind yourself to back off and calm down when you find yourself racing along the edge of safety (and even the law!). It really isn’t worth it.

  • If you focus too much on your destination you’ll be blind to where you are: A friend recently told me about a disaster that occurred on a busy weekend packed with tons of commitments. She was thinking about all she had to get done and running from task to task, in that keyed-up state you might be familiar with. Rush, rush, rush. Coming out of a store and hurrying back to her car, she stepped out from between a row of cars in the parking lot. Bam – a passing car crashed into her leg. She was so lost in her thoughts and her rushing that she didn’t see it coming, and wasn’t present enough to catch the license plate as the driver took off. She’s still having pain and trouble walking weeks later.

If you notice you’re tuning out because you’re in “hurry” mode, slow down, catch your breath, and make sure you’re aware of your surroundings. Being present not only will you feel calmer and perform better under time pressure, but it will also keep you safe.

  • You don’t want to miss the good stuff: A client that I’m coaching told me yesterday that an alarming number of people close to her are having bad things happen to them. A friend has cancer, another lost her husband, and another friend was in an accident. “Everyone seems to be falling apart around me,” she said. “It’s really woken me up, and I’m learning to slow down and be more aware of life. I need to stop racing around, and concentrate on what’s truly important.”

What could you be missing in your haste? Do you miss connecting with (or even making eye contact with) your kids or spouse in the morning as you hurry to get ready? When you’re racing to get to a destination, do you miss having a real conversation with whoever is in the car with you? When you go for your brisk morning run, are you taking time to notice [things around you]? What would be better about your life if you just slowed down? (And I haven’t even talked about the stress hormones that this constant rushing generates)

Whenever you find yourself getting worked up and starting to rush, start by reminding yourself to breathe, and back off your pace just a little. I find that repeating this to myself helps, too: “You have enough time. You’ll be just fine. Slow down, take your time.” When I calmed myself this way yesterday, I ended up being half an hour early for a speaking engagement when I’d worried much of the day that I’d end up being late.

The funny thing is that when you take your time, you seem to have more of it. Try this and watch what happens!

Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. is a medical doctor, media wellness expert, transformational life coach, professional speaker, flamenco dancer and the author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You. She is available for keynote presentations, seminars, media commentary and private coaching – contact susan@susanbiali.com or visit www.susanbiali.com for more details.