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

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.

 

Woman Plans; the Universe Enhances

Like most of us, I keep a calendar to make sure that I am aware of my daily appointments and things to do. However, on more days than not, my day ends up looking a lot different than my calendar! The opportunities that the Universe presents are abundant if I just keep my eyes open.

I am active in our local Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, so I am often up at the Police Department, helping them out with whatever I can. Yesterday, I was up there installing a new computer for our association to use (the old one still had a 3.5″ floppy disk drive in it!). My plans were to visit with a friend afterward.

I was finishing up when an officer came in to the workroom and asked the volunteers present if anyone could help him out with a CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) class that he was teaching that day. He needed two people to role-play mentally ill folks in crisis so that the trainees could practice what they had learned. I called my friend, who was happy to come up and help, and so we ended up helping to train local police officers on how to deal with the mentally ill!

Not only was this a great opportunity to assist the police department, but also a chance to speak up about the stigma of mental illness and give feedback about how we, in the role of someone in a mental crisis, felt we were treated by the officers. The scenario I chose to play out was one of a severely depressed and suicidal new mother. Basically, I was re-visiting my past and got to see what might have happened had my crisis gotten so bad that my husband had called the police.

Being trained police officers, all of the trainees, save one female officer, were lacking empathy and ended up escalating my anger with their approaches rather than making me feel like cooperating. After the role-play, we did a de-briefing in which I got to tell them about how I felt about what they said and did. Only one team even picked up on the fact that not only was I suicidal, but that I had a plan (I kept asking for the time because my “plan” was to walk out into rush hour traffic). It was a wonderful opportunity to educate the officers about subtle clues and essential questions to ask should they come across a woman in that situation.

I left feeling great that not only had I assisted the police department in general, but also educated the class about postpartum depression! My schedule just “happened” to be open that afternoon, allowing me to participate. The Universe does things like that all the time…we just have to pay attention! So, keep your eyes and ears open, evaluate each opportunity that presents itself, and act on the ones that your intuition says “yes” to!

Namaste’

Guest Blogger Sherry Duson, MA – “Speaking of Time”

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpgWelcome to Self-Care Month! We’re proud to present our readers with our first Saturday guest blogger, Sherry Duson, MA. Sherry holds Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist licenses in Texas and she’s also a State of Texas board-certified clinical Supervisor for both licenses. She’s about to expand her practice to include The Center for Postpartum Family Health. You can read more about Sherry at SherryDuson.com or on Facebook.

Do you ever find yourself running through your day at a pace that leaves you exhausted?  Are you frantically trying to cram in more errands or mark one more item off of your to-do list, only to find it leaves you depleted and spent?  For most women, our relationship with “time” is a complicated one. This leads me to an item of self-care which I believe is not discussed often enough, which is our conscious use of TIME.  Perhaps it is a remnant of the deeply embedded American work ethic, but many of us corrupt the quality of our days by taking on more to do than is realistic, and then carry a mantra of negative self-talk about not getting enough done.  This year might be a good time to re-think your relationship with time, and make the adjustments necessary to help you feel that you run your day instead of it running you.

I would challenge you to find a pace which is realistic for YOUR UNIQUE SELF, based on an honest assessment of your energy and stamina and a conscious decision to adjust accordingly.  If you have no idea of how much is too much, you may need to start with a little self-discovery.  Begin by taking inventory of your well-being throughout the day. Take a break every two hours and take a quick check of how you are feeling in that moment.  Just give yourself a number on a scale of 1-10. Notice how it changes throughout the day. If you start your day at a high number and then it deteriorates throughout the day, ask yourself why.  The answer is often some sort of self-judgment about your perceived lack of accomplishments.

Once you know a bit more about how you feel during your day, consider the tasks you lay out before you.  Are you asking yourself to conduct your day with a sense of nurture and self-preservation? Or is guilt driving your choices, making you feel badly about every lack of accomplishment? One way to figure this out is to ask yourself what you would say to a good friend if you saw her going through her day at a frantic, maybe even damaging pace. If you really loved your friend, you might say something like, “Wow, you are really hard on yourself! Why don’t you slow down and relax? You don’t have to do it all today. I am concerned about you, and I don’t like seeing you so stressed out!”  Now, consider being your own best friend.  Cultivate that feeling of love and nurturing towards yourself.  Chances are if you can do that, you will be more forgiving and less judgmental about what you do or don’t accomplish.

Finally, ask yourself how you would like to feel at the end of your day.  Do you want to be able to have a little patience and reserve left over for your family and loved ones? If so, it may require altering your day, so that you can do just that.  Connection with others requires some energy and patience.  If you have run yourself ragged all day, chances are nothing will be left over for those you care most about. Make the adjustments necessary to be your “best” self with those who matter most to you.

In closing, I remind us all that an important feature of self-care is to take responsibility of those aspects of our daily lives that we have control over. Your schedule is probably one of those things  Sometimes the reason we over-extend ourselves with commitments and appointments is because we are afraid to ask for help, or can’t admit we are doing too much. Once we set a realistic expectation for our day based on what we know of our personal energy capacity, we need to work to quiet any guilty feelings which accompany it, and tell ourselves that it is okay.  Perfection is not the goal.  Going through the day using a pace that works for us and those we love is a goal worth pursuing!

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.

Little Girls, Get up! Get Up and Eat!

I’m reposting this wonderful prose from Momastery. View the original article HERE. — Stacey

family-happy-1

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because the world needs more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

I went to school for Tish’s conference this morning. All is well enough. She’s doing fine- especially in her own estimation. As we were waiting in the hall, I saw [some] art work on the wall. Tish explained that the assignment was to write about their biggest, boldest dream.

You guys- I only had time to get three pictures, but over and over- again and again and again- I read: “My dream is for my family to be happy.”

Tish’s  poster wasn’t done yet. I asked what her dream was and she said: “To be Taylor Swift and for my mommy to be happy.” Oh, I said. Then she added: “Everyone at my table wrote ‘I want my mommy to be happy!’” Oh, I said again.

You guys. They want us to be happy.

They’re not saying: My dream is for my mom to be perfect. Or my dream is for my mom to be thinner or better looking. Or cooler. Or have more friends. Or have better things. Or to have had a prettier past. Or have a cleaner, bigger, nicer house. Or be richer. Or be divorced or reunited. Or work less or more or outside the home or inside the home or part time or what-have-you. None of that.

Just: My dream is for my family and my mommy to be happy.

Holy crap, you guys. We’ve got to get our joy back. We think it’s love to allow our roles –mother, wife, volunteer, career woman – to consume us like a fire until we can’t even be seen anymore – but that’s not love. I think our kids want to really see us. They want us to leave a part of ourselves unconsumed so they can see us. I think our kids want to see us come alive sometimes. Our kids never asked for martyrs.  It is not love to allow yourself – your spirit – to be buried and then fade away.

At first- these thoughts stressed me out this morning because I am passionate and I am kind and sometimes I’m ecstatic and I can usually find gratitude but I’m not “happy.” I’m intense and up and down and I get depressed and anxious and my anxiety makes me hard to be around sometimes. Because I’m impatient and snappy. I snap at people I love all the time and that makes me feel bad about myself. I want to be zen. I am so not zen. Whatever zen is- I’m the opposite of it.

But you know what- none of those papers said that, “My dream is for my mom to stop snapping.” None said, “I wish my mom would stop being so anxious and just relax and be more like Jesus or Buddha.” Their dreams were less about us in relationship to THEM and more about what they really want for US. As PEOPLE. They want us to be happy. Because they love US. And because they know, likely, that they are supposed to learn how to be happy during this beautiful life from us. And so if we’re slugging our way through life without joy- they are probably thinking- deep down– if she can’t pull some joy out of life- how will I?

And so those posters served as some SMELLING SALTS for me this morning. They woke me up. And I thought: WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY? What is one thing that I could do today that has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ROLES I PLAY and just FEEDS MY SOUL?

Because that’s important. It is important to feed my body, mind and soul every day. If we are going to ask for our daily bread- we’ve got to take the time to receive it and eat it. God provides –but we’ve got to slow down long enough to TASTE AND SEE. And we cannot say that our list of things to do is too long to slow down and feed ourselves. Because there are URGENT things and there are IMPORTANT things – and no matter how much URGENT there is – we must fit a few TRULY IMPORTANT things into our day or the URGENT things will consume us every day forever and ever ’till we die. We feed ourselves or we die. It’s inconvenient- especially in a culture that worships productivity and efficiency and busyness for busyness’ sake- but it’s THE TRUTH. We eat or we die.

WHAT MAKES YOU COME ALIVE? WHO ARE YOU BENEATH ALL OF YOUR ROLES? HOW DO YOU FEED YOURSELF?

Listen. This is a thing. We are going to figure this out together. If joy is so far out of reach that you don’t even remember what the word means- let’s talk about getting to a doctor. That’s step one. If you can’t remember how to feed yourself but you remember what joy is: BE STILL. YOU HAVE TO GET STILL BEFORE YOU CAN REALLY GET UP. GOD MADE EVERYTHING WONDERFUL AND CREATIVE AND BEAUTIFUL OUT OF NOTHINGNESS- STILLNESS AND GOD STILL DOES. So find some quiet. 10 – 5 minutes a day. Try this- Travis sent it to us last night:

1) Prepare to pray the Psalm in 5 consecutively diminishing sentences.
2) Either aloud or quietly to yourself, say the words, “Be still and know that I am God”
3) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
4) After a couple deep breaths, pray “Be still and know.”
5) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still.”
6) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be.”
7) When ready, pray, “Amen.”

AH! 12 years old. That’s when it happens. That’s when we start looking to find our joy in other’s expectations and boys and magazines and cigarettes and food and we start getting buried. Go back. Before you were 12. What did you love?

MY FRIEND: YOU ARE NOT DEAD. YOU ARE JUST ASLEEP. YOU JUST NEED TO GET UP AND EAT.

LITTLE GIRL, GET UP!

GET UP AND EAT!!!!

A New Look at Exercise

I was shopping recently at a big box outlet, and they had already placed Christmas merchandise on sale. I could hear good ‘ol Charlie Brown saying,”Good grief!”

The reality is, Christmas and New Year’s are right around the corner. Soon we’ll be flooded with commercials about New Year’s Resolutions, including our need to exercise.

Why can’t we keep our exercise resolutions? Excessive office hours? Overbooked family schedules? Regardless of the reason, let me share with you the exercise framework I’ve used to manage my low- back pain for the last 20 years. Hopefully you can tailor it for yourself.

First, create achievable goals. Start small. If you can only go for a brisk walk for 20 minutes for 3 days a week, start there. It’s better to create achievable goals, and celebrate your accomplishments. Expand your exercise program later.

Next, choose exercise that’s fun. If you hate distance running, don’t do it. Be creative; try new forms of exercise. If you try something new and don’t like it, don’t get discouraged – move on. The key here is to have fun and remain active..regularly.

Ok, so you’ve set achievable goals for fun, regularly scheduled exercise. Anything else? One last suggestion: you need the right motivation. You’re probably asking, “What does that mean?”

I define the right motivation as “a goal beyond one’s own self with accountability.” For me, my motivation is coaching my sons’ soccer teams. Seems basic enough, right? So how can this be a right motivation? First, this is quality time I spend with my sons. Second, coaching soccer requires me to keep my lower back healthy so I can demonstrate the game. So I have a motivation that is beyond one’s own self (my sons’ happiness) and has accountability, requiring me to keep my lower back healthy. This is the right motivation I need to help me exercise when I’ve had a long day and would rather relax in front of the TV.

I hope this helps. By the way, why wait for the New Year? Get exercising…right now!

Today’s guest blogger is Christian Miles, CPT, CPA, MBA. He is the President of the Global Exercise Group – an Internet based exercise education company focused on helping individuals suffering from lower-back pain by using a holistic approach. He can be reached at any of the following:

Website: www.globalexercisegroup.com
Email: info@globalexercisegroup.com
Twitter: @globalexercise