And Now for the Rest of the Story

Am I the only one who misses Paul Harvey? I bet not.

I digress. Sorry about the missing Thursday post! Life has been busy…isn’t it always? I volunteer a lot of my time at my local Police Department, and we had our giant yearly fundraiser on May 10, followed immediately by National Police Week activities. Thursday, I was wrapping muffins and preparing for the annual Police Banquet!

I offer this not as an excuse, but as a beginning. I am blessed to have so many things that I am passionate about in my life. Many people have problems finding one passion, much less several! These things bring purpose and fulfillment to my life, at least right now. It wasn’t always this way, however, and probably won’t be this way forever. The one thing we can always count on to stay the same is change!

I think back to when my daughter was born back in 1999. Like many of you, I had an unrealistic view of what motherhood would be and was thinking about finding a way to be a stay-at-home mom. It sounded ideal to me! I could raise my child my way, save on daycare and not have to work, at least outside of the home (we all know that SAHMs are some of the hardest working ladies out there!). I was assigning raising my daughter to be my purpose in life.

Many mothers, grandmothers, dads and other caregivers have found fulfillment in this for thousands of years – I figured that I could, too. But I was wrong. And because I was restless, depressed and felt purposeless, I didn’t enjoy my time with my baby girl. Instead of looking at changing my situation, I blamed my discontent on myself as some sort of character flaw. I thought that ALL mothers naturally felt such joy with their babies and something was wrong with me because I didn’t. Those thoughts snowballed into a severe, suicidal depression with a nice, juicy side of panic.

I can look back now and understand that there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with me…I was just trying to make myself fit into a box that was a different shape than I needed. Over time and with therapy and medication, I got to that understanding, went back to work and felt much better. And, of course, as the years passed and my daughter got older, my preferences and passions have changed into something I never really expected. That’s the awesomeness of life at work – if we stop trying to force ourselves into boxes and instead just roll with things, doors will open that we have never even considered!

I knew that y’all would be cool with me being late with this post because we’re all Living Self-Care here! Now, my challenge to you is to sit with yourself and try to identify your life passions and purposes. Are you living them? Do you even know what they are? If not, use mindfulness to observe when you are truly content and in the flow…where time passes without notice. Those are the things that you LOVE to do and are PASSIONATE about. Life is too short not to have passion in your life. Whether it’s a hobby, a part-time job or a full-time career, fulfilling your true purpose is essential to basic good health, well-being and Self-Care!

 Namaste

Being in the NOW

By Diane Sanford, PhD

I loved Stacey’s post from last Thursday about how her hand surgery helped her bring her attention back to the present. It’s so astonishing when that happens although our thoughts quickly drift back to what’s ahead or behind us. Two weeks ago I was deep in worry about what was ahead of me-a combined graduation party for my two daughters and Mother’s Day celebration which my family hosted yesterday.

Instead, the weekend was relaxing and fun. There was still time to get my walking in, sit on my porch and enjoy all the greenery blooming around me, spend time with my daughters before and after, and get everything done. My older daughter who was planning to get in just before the party started, discovered on Thursday that a graduation event she thought was happening Saturday night was Friday so she came home early. An unexpected pleasure.Then one of my best friends stopped by to drop off some potato salad for the celebration. Because I didn’t have a “million things to do” like I’d thought two weeks prior, I had time to visit with her. Very pleasant indeed. Next, my sister who thought she’d have to work, called and said she had the day off and could join us, and then another friend who I thought was going out of town, called to say she could also make it by.

So, here’s the lesson. We really don’t know how any experience will be until we experience it. Instead of suffering from our fears of the future or regrets from the past, greet life as it’s occurring. Truly, it’s the only choice we have and as this weekend taught me once again, often much more delightful than what we’ve imagined. Namaste 

Mindfulness Marathon: Let’s Get This Party Started

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Stacey and I have decided as part of Maternal Mental Health Month to sponsor a “Mindfulness Marathon,” so here’s an exercise to get you started. If you’re new to mindfulness, it’s defined as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement.” Now, if this sounds like something more to put on to your to-do list, it’s not. One benefit of mindfulness is that you can practice it while you go through your day without adding anything. All you have to do is to pay attention to what you’re already doing.

We call this “informal” practice. For example, when you’re showering, direct your attention to the sensory experience of taking a shower-sounds, touch/feeling, smells, sights and taste (well, maybe not taste although when shampoo gets in my mouth…). If thoughts occur, note them by saying “Thinking-Planning-Overthinking, etc,” and then re-direct your attention back to the sensory experience of the shower. At first, you may spend most of going from thought to sensation, thought to sensation and back again. Don’t worry, that’s completely normal. The idea is to let whatever happens happen without judgement or self-criticism.

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This week your assignment (should you choose to accept it), is to pick one activity you do on a daily or regular basis, like showering, doing the dishes, driving to work, and focus on your sensory experience of the activity rather than the thoughts or “tickertape” running through your head. Do this without judgement, understanding that your mind is likely to drift from thought to sensation and sensation to thought frequently. Remember, mindfulness is realizing your mind has wandered, so when this occurs, stop, take a breath, and re-direct your attention to the moment you’re in. That’s it!

Namaste

Postpartum Progress Hosts Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health

mothers-day-rally1On Sunday, May 11th, we’ll be celebrating our 6th annual Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health here at Postpartum Progress. That day we’ll feature 24 letters to new moms, one posted each hour on the hour, from great writers who’ve been there. They know how it feels. 

Read more…

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.

Just Let Me BE

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As I write, it is thundering, lightning and raining heavily outside my window. Days like this make me want to curl up in bed and just BE. Unfortunately, I have not taken much time lately to do that.

I was chatting with Diane on the phone yesterday and we were laughing at how we “Self-Care Gurus” need to practice what we preach! It seems as if she and I are usually on the same “wavelength” and can totally relate to the other. So when I described my dilemma of loving my work vs. Self-Care, she understood.

I realized that I am very blessed to love what I do; however, if I keep up at the pace I am currently running, I WILL burn out, no matter how much I enjoy what I am doing. The thought of NOT loving my work is unacceptable. Even though it takes a lot of discipline, I am getting better at setting alarms to remind me to take breaks, eat and take time to just BE.

In fact, I may take some time to do just that after this post. When is the last time that you just WERE? No technology or other distractions, no other people, no activities…just you and the present moment? Spend some time with yourself and your breath, mantra or thoughts and note the differences in your mind and body when you’re done. It IS like a little vacation!

Your Most Vital Commitment

logo_dailyomToday’s post comes from one of my favorite daily inspirational sites – DailyOMMadisyn Taylor is an exquisite writer who really gets to the heart of the matter. She’s recently published a collection of her inspirational posts! Make sure to check it out! Namaste – Stacey

Finding Time for You

Within each of there is a well of energy that must be regularly replenished. When we act as if this well is bottomless, scheduling a long list of activities that fit like puzzle pieces into every minute of every day, it becomes depleted and we feel exhausted, disconnected, and weak. Refilling this well is a matter of finding time to focus on, nurture, and care for ourselves, or “you time.” Most of us are, at different times throughout the day, a spouse, a friend, a relative, an employee, a parent, or a volunteer, which means that down time, however relaxing in nature, is not necessarily “you time.” Though some people will inevitably look upon “you time” as being selfish, it is actually the polar opposite of selfishness. We can only excel where our outer world affairs are concerned when our own spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs are fulfilled.

Recognizing the importance of “you time” is far easier than finding a place for it in an active, multifaceted lifestyle, however. Even if you find a spot for it in your agenda, you may be dismayed to discover that your thoughts continuously stray into worldly territory. To make the most of “you time,” give yourself enough time on either side of the block of time you plan to spend on yourself to ensure that you do not feel rushed. Consider how you would like to pass the time, forgetting for the moment your obligations and embracing the notion of renewal. You may discover that you are energized by creative pursuits, guided meditation, relaxing activities during which your mind can wander, or modes of expression such as writing.

Even if you have achieved a functioning work-life balance, you may still be neglecting the most important part of that equation: you. “You time” prepares you for the next round of daily life, whether you are poised to immerse yourself in a professional project or chores around the home. It also affords you a unique opportunity to learn about yourself, your needs, and your tolerances in a concrete way. As unimportant as “you time” can sometimes seem, it truly is crucial to your well-being because it ensures that you are never left without the energy to give of yourself.

madisyn-press2-200Best-selling author Madisyn Taylor is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the popular inspirational website DailyOM, and she is responsible for all its content. A recognized leader in self-help and New Thought spirituality, she has more than 15 years experience in personal development and alternative-healing methodologies. When not working, Madisyn can be found meditating in her garden and communing with nature.

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.