A Self-Care Christmas

It’s tempting to get caught up in the quest to give our loved ones the “perfect Christmas” — especially when we see visions of it plastered all over our television screens and in magazines.That’s a lot of pressure and work. And if something goes wrong, we feel we’ve failed.

Last year I realized the “cure” for holiday burnout was to shift my perspective. We still put up a tree, decorated the outside of the house with lights and bought presents. We just scaled back a bit. The emphasis was on finding balance including mindful spending, skipping out on a few social obligations in lieu of more family time and forgoing the holiday baking. (Because I have enough dirty dishes piled up in the sink.) This year, I decided the “family present” would be to hire someone to deep clean the house before hosting company. (So maybe that’s more of a gift for me. But we all know if mama’s not happy, no one is.)

I’m pretty sure when my son is grown and looks back on his childhood Christmases, he won’t remember how the tree was decorated or how many gifts he received. But he will remember the times we spent together laughing, lounging and loving every minute of each other’s company. And to me? That’s what’s most important.

Today’s author is Lisa Bertrand, founder of StLFamilyLife. We love this post and wanted to share it with you before you’re engulfed in holiday madness to help keep perspective.

Empower Yourself to BE YOU!

I’m on vacation this week so I’m running Kelly’s guest post which reminds us to be true to who we are.

To be empowered is to say “YES! This is who I am” rather than letting others define you.   To find your inner voice and strength and use it to control your mind, your body, and your thoughts, staying true to yourself whatever life presents.

Being empowered is to reject helplessness. It is finding the courage to face what frightens you, and instead learn what you can from these experiences. By searching out these silver linings you are refusing to let the pain or fear rule you. Redefining life’s challenges by what you’ve gained.

When is the last time you used your “pause button” and MADE the choice to listen to yourself, to appreciate who you are, or to ask yourself “what do I want?” Remember that only you are the expert on you. You have the strength to create your life and to connect with your inner voice.

So try asking yourself:

  • What truly matters to me?
  • What are my priorities?
  • What are the values that I
    strive to live by?
  • When I wake up tomorrow what
    do I want to remember about today?

And now concentrate. Focus.
Breathe. Listen. And just BE YOU.

Today’s author Kelly Caul, MSW, LCSW is founder of EMPOWERED Therapy, LLC, whose mission is to empower you to BE YOU through individual and group therapy.  Kelly can be reached through her website at www.kellycaul.com.

3 Weeks Until Fall Self-Care Contest/Challenge: Let’s Get This Party Started

In the midwest where I live, there are definite signs that fall is upon us. Leaves are turning and days are growing shorter. Summer vacation is over, children are back in school and the air is buzzing with activity. Fall also signals impending holiday madness with too little time to get things done.

Which is why self-care is so important now and the reason we chose Mental Health Week (October 2-8) for our bi-annual self-care challenge/contest. We want to remind you to conserve some your energy now, like squirrels gathering acorns, to have enough for what’s ahead. Most of the tips in our contest/challenge take only 10-15 minutes but the resulting good feelings last much longer.

Last week, I spoke to Darline Turner of MamasOnBedrest about how moms/women can take better care of themselves whatever circumstances they find themselves in. Check out our podcast by clicking here. Darline is a champion for women’s health and said that she learned firsthand, like many of us, about the importance of self-care after becoming a mom.

Prior to the normal post-birth upheaval, her pregnancy journey was very stressful, which puts women even more at risk for postpartum issues. However, whether momss or not, women still have twice the depression men experience. For women,  self-care cannot be ignored.

Join us for our contest/challenge, 10/2-8. We’ll have more prizes, free downloads, and great advice. Meanwhile we still have Godiva Chocolates to give away. Find 5 friends to subscribe to our blog, livingselfcare, and you could be this week’s winner!

Living Self-Care Goes Global

Yesterday we got our first global subscriber from London. England has historically been a leader in providing humane treatment to women with postpartum depression/psychosis. Today, a clerk asked about our e-mail, “realmomexperts,” which led to a conversation about how she had stayed home with their children and her husband wondered why she was so tired. Now that their roles are reversed, he can’t understand how she got so much done.

Even moms-to-be are interested. Just this week an excerpt from our book on “Obstacles to Self-Care” was featured in The Expectant Mother’s Guide- http://www.expectantmothersguide.com/library/stlouis/obstacles-to-self-care.htm. Lack of self-care is a global epidemic among women of all ages, life stages, roles and vocations.

Here’s an exercise to reinforce the necessity of self-care:

Find a quiet place. Close your eyes. Practice breathing deeply, so slow that your abdomen rises and falls. For two minutes, repeat to yourself  with each exhaled breath: “Taking care of me benefits everyone around me.”

When you take care of yourself, are you filling your pitcher, building  your bank account, or recharging your batteries? Pick the metaphor that works  best for you. Picture that image in your head while you repeat the phrase.

Each time thoughts weasel into your head, chastising you that something  else is more important than taking time for you, take a deep breath and  practice this exercise. This may seem silly or strange at first. You may doubt  how this can work. Just try it for a few days before you judge its value.

Free Yourself to Be Yourself: Mary Oliver’s “The Journey”

To continue the theme of examining your life from Monday’s post, we wanted to share a favorite poem “The Journey” by Mary Oliver in which she describes how ultimately we must abide by our “inner voice” if we are to survive. Imagine our delight when we discovered this is also Maria Shriver’s favorite poem which she presented for National Poetry Day at the 2011 Women’s Conference.

So sit back, relax (well maybe) and enjoy the following rendition of “The Journey.” Then let us know what you think. Is this too radical to imagine or not? If so, what may be standing in your way? What would it take to free yourself to be yourself?

“The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  When asked to refrain from teaching this, he chose to end his life by drinking hemlock. For the last few weeks, this phrase keeps coming up in conversation which prompted me to write about it.

How does examining one’s life relate to self-care? Because part of self-care is learning to listen to our “inner voice” and become clear about who we are and what is truly nourishing. Not in a self-centered way but a self-respectful one. However, in today’s frenetic, “need to do one more thing” culture, we often don’t slow down and get quiet enough to hear what our “inner voice” is saying.

Likewise, it’s easier (and less painful) to lose ourselves in what we’re doing and what needs to be done than reflect on who we are and what we may need to change to create our best life. For example, someone who is in an unhappy marriage may focus their attention and energy on their children to protect them from knowing how miserable they are. Or a woman who has a demanding parent may exhaust herself trying to appease them rather than look at her own co-dependent need to be needed.

When we choose self-care, we send a message to ourselves that we are important and that our health-body, mind, heart and soul, is a priority. We quiet the noise of other voices and instead attend to own. Dangerous yes, but totally worthwhile!

What do you think???

For Prego Moms: Beat the Summer Heat!

We’ve been discussing all types of ways to engage in self-care.
No time is more important than when you’re pregnant.

Prego Factoid: During your pregnancy, your body produces
approximately 50% more blood and body fluids to meet the needs of the developing baby. Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by this additional blood and fluids. Normal swelling, which is also called edema, is experienced in the hands, face, legs, ankles, and feet.

Swelling can happen at any point during your pregnancy but is
usually noticeable around your fifth month; it can increase while you are in
the third trimester. Here’s why it happens: Summertime heat, standing for longer periods of time, “long” days of activity, diets low in potassium, higher
levels of caffeine consumption, and too much sodium.

Now for the self-care part! Eating foods that are high in potassium such as bananas and avoiding caffeine can reduce your swelling. Here are helpful hints:

  • Avoid standing for long periods
  • Minimize outdoor time when it is hot
  • Rest with your feet elevated
  • Wear comfortable shoes, avoiding high heels if possible
  • Wear supportive tights or stockings
  • Avoid clothes that are tight around your wrists or ankles
  • Have your legs massaged
  • Remove your rings before your fingers swell up
  • Drink water which helps flush the body and reduce water
  • Minimize sodium (salt) intake, avoid adding additional salt to

If you follow a regimen of self-care, you’ll always feel better!  Today’s guest author is Mollee of pregnancy.org.

Even More Benefits of Self-Care

Self-Care Makes Us a Better Role Model:  By
modeling self-care, we are setting a good example for our children.  Watching us take time to care for our own health and well-being, encourages them to do the same and helps them learn to practice self-care when they are young.
Our daughters in particular learn that it is important to care for themselves as well as they do others instead of sacrificing their health and well-being to
solely meeting others’ needs.  It teaches both our sons and daughters self-respect and to be respectful of everyone because we expect them to value us as we do ourselves.

In Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide we say, “A pitcher of water provides a clear demonstration of what we mean. Imagine that you are a pitcher of water.  You keep pouring out, giving and giving as you take care of the needs of those around you: baby, children, partner, family, friends and pets. If you do not take action to fill the pitcher up again, pretty soon it will be empty.  No one is a bottomless pitcher. What do you need in order to fill up the pitcher again?”

What are you doing this summer for self-care?  If you’re aren’t, get started. Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me.  If I am only for myself, what am I?  If not now, when?”  Need help?  Comment and we’ll respond.

Redefining “vacation” (when you have kids)

I’m on “vacation” right now. I put the word in quotes because, well, it doesn’t exactly feel like vacation.

Sure, we’re staying in a family friend’s lovely condo (for free!) in North Carolina,  steps from a gorgeous pool and a 30-minute drive to the beach.  How lucky are we?

But with a 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son along, this week has been a lot more work than relaxation. Starting with the two-day road trip to get here, during which my son cried and coughed most of the way. Oh, and hotels? Two-year-olds don’t seem to “get” the concept, period. I got maybe
two hours of sleep that night.

In between naps, stopping to pee, retrieving endless snacks and drinks (kids don’t seem to get the concept of “meals,” either), beach trauma, pool trauma, carseat discomfort – you name it – we’re happy to get even an hour a day of true R&R during our vacation.

But, the kids are having fun.  My daughter invented the sport of “wave jumping” in the ocean (with help from Mom or Dad) and is quite proud of herself. My son has decided swimming is the best thing ever, even if he has no fear of drowning or clue about how to actually stay afloat.

From packing and traveling to settling in and returning home, I can’t help but wonder: Is going on vacation really worth it? And when do I get a vacation to recover from this one?

Today’s author is Susan Wenner-Jackson of WMAG.

The Benefits of Self-Care

When we take good care of ourselves, there are multiple benefits to us as well as others.  While self-care may seem self-indulgent, it’s not.  Just as we’re instructed to put our oxygen mask on first if there’s an emergency on an airplane so we can help others, self-care enables us to help ourselves and others more.

Self-Care Improves Our Health:  Self-care tends to improve our
immunity, increase positive thinking and make us less susceptible to stress,
depression, anxiety and other emotional health issues.  Taking time out to care for ourselves helps remind us and others that our needs are important, too.  Feeling well cared-for leads to feelings of calm and relaxation, and conveys to others that we value ourselves which contributes to long-term feelings of wellbeing.

Self-Care Makes Us a Better Caretaker:  People who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves are at danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, low self-esteem and feelings of resentment. Also, sometimes people who spend their time only taking care of others can be at risk for getting burned out on all the giving, which makes it more difficult to care for others or themselves. Taking time regularly for self-care can  actually make you a better caretaker for others.

What are you doing for self-care this summer?  Have family/social demands eaten into me-time?  Do you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation as Susan writes about Thursday?  Let us help.  Send us a comment or preview “Obstacles to Self-Care” at  www.realmomexperts.com.