The Need to Achieve: Making Peace with Doing Less

Just finished reading Stacey’s post about staying in flow but not getting too carried away that you forget to take care of yourself. Funny, how even positive choices can become too much. In general though, it’s our never-ending to-do-lists that enslave us.

I’m still struck by how many women I know and counsel who feel that they can’t take time to sit and eat their lunch without multi-tasking or stay up late at night doing laundry and straightening the house. The “need to achieve” is so strong that whether we’re in flow doing something we enjoy or trying to get caught up at work or home, we can’t seem to stop. We’ve  convinced ourselves that a steady diet of going without meals, sleep,or time to recharge, is what’s necessary. We think we’ll rest easier when “everything’s done,” and instead end up feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

Three weeks ago after my vacation where I actually “did” very little, I jumped back into over-doing mode. I put in extra time at work and home “getting things done”. The only area I shorted was spending time with friends.  Although I practiced self-care, it doesn’t work as well when I’m already tired and worn out.

So, noticing this, I’m choosing to do less the next few days. Yes, I won’t feel as “accomplished,” but I know I’ll feel better.

This week, how can you put the brakes on? Make peace with doing less? Re-fuel with sleep, meals, and taking breaks?

We’ll be practicing too.

Namaste

 

Persephone’s Journey: How Everything We Touch Changes

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With the arrival of spring, I am always reminded of Persephone’s story and the lessons to be learned from the daughter of Demeter, mother earth, and her journey.

I was introduced to Persephone’s story a few years ago at a women’s retreat.  In Roman mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, Mother Earth, who leaves “the world above” to become Queen of the Underworld. Although some versions say she was abducted by Hades and taken against her will, I prefer to believe that she left because she had outgrown living as a child in her mother’s garden and wanted to fulfill her unique destiny.

While she is still in the Underworld, she brings healing and hope to the spirits of the dead. Wherever she walks, “a line of bright daffodils sprout in her wake. By her simple presence and passing, she brings color and life” to the darkness below. However, she might not have noticed these changes at all if Hades had not asked her to turn her head and notice the changes she’s brought to a path that for her was “already in the past.”

So, here are some questions for you to consider this week. “What flowers, what color, what brightness have you left in your wake? Often without noticing it? Can you take a moment to turn, to notice? Can you take in the power, and responsibility, of this reality-that you too change everything you touch?

When you look over your shoulder, what do you see? And how does that feel? What might this noticing change?”

Enjoy your week. Namaste.

Note: Quotes are taken from 2010 Mystery School Workbook, Diana’s Grove

 

 

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

My Journey in Women’s Mind-Body Health

Today, most of us have heard the phrase mind-body medicine and may have tried different mind-body techniques (relaxation training, meditation, yoga/mindful movement) to improve our health and well-being. A recent article in Time Magazine discussed “The Mindful Revolution,” which is occurring in the US and abroad, and how mindfulness skills are becoming the go-to “stress” antidote for people ranging from Silicon Valley techies to soccer moms to corporate executives. These mind-body health practices, some of which are thousands of years old, have survived because they work and are supported by mind-body medicine research which has shown them to help ease stress and tension, diminish depression and anxiety, improve one’s ability to cope with chronic pain and other health conditions, boost attention and performance, and even help us get a good night’s sleep.

I was first introduced to mind-body health almost 30 years ago by two pioneers in deciphering the mind-body connection in women’s lives and more specifically their reproductive health, Dr. Alice Domar and Dr. Christiane Northrup. Dr. Domar’s book, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman was one of my guideposts along with Dr. Northrup’s Women’s Bodies; Women’s Wisdom. I was just opening a  psychotherapy practice in women’s reproductive mental health in St. Louis then and their expertise enabled me to understand the inter-connectedness  between hormones, mood, stress, and women’s reproductive mind-body health issues including postpartum depression and anxiety, fertility issues, pregnancy loss, pregnancy-related depression and anxiety, PMS and menopause. They taught that treating women and couples experiencing these conditions with mind-body health techniques (relaxation training, deep breathing and guided imagery) could successfully reduce their dis-stress and suffering, and it did.

Through the use of these skills and counseling, I’ve seen hundreds of women and couples regain their health and reclaim their lives. Although their outcomes were positive, I still felt that something was missing. Then 10 years ago, I learned about mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose without judgement.” This seemingly simple practice which encompasses multiple mind-body health skills (deep breathing, guided meditation, yoga and walking in nature), has been extremely effective in reducing stress, worry, anxiety, depression and emotional pain for many patients who come to see me for women’s reproductive health concerns including the ongoing challenges and stresses of infertility. It is easy to learn, goes with you wherever you go, and can be practiced during the day without adding anything, i.e. informal practice. If you want to try it, click here for my mindfulness exercises on YouTube.

Also, check out my new and improved website at http://www.drdianesanford.com which Stacey G, my co-author here at livingselfcare, designed for me for additional info on women’s mind-body health, my practice in St. Louis or contacting me about a phone or online consult.

Namaste.

Heroes Among Us: Finding Our Inner Strength

I was very touched by a couple of the posts on our site last week. One written by Stacey on Thursday  (click here), was about Ryan Ferguson, a young man who spent 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Yet, instead of becoming bitter and resentful, he chose to find meaning in his experience by speaking up about it so that other families might not suffer the way his did. The other written by Jennifer McCullough on Saturday (click here), was about her emotional struggles after becoming a mom and losing her own mom several months before giving birth. She described how her self-care and self-esteem suffered, how she slowly rebuilt her life and finally, reclaimed her self-worth and began practicing self-care again.

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As I grow older, I am less in awe of people who accomplish extra-ordinary feats and more by “ordinary” people who weather the storms life thrusts upon us and emerge intact, often stronger and wiser than before. Some of these “heroes” become known to us like Ryan Ferguson. Others may not be known publicly like Jennifer but they are no less heroic or accomplished in what they have done. In fact, there are many heroes among us, perhaps even ourselves, who go unacknowledged but are no less deserving of our admiration and praise.

Robert Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that may never  be and say why not?” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” These quotes define what heroism means to me and provide inspiration when I experience a “dark night of the soul” like Ryan and Jennifer went through which Stacey wrote about on Friday (click here).

This week, take  time out to reflect on what heroism means to you? Who are your heroes? When have you been heroic in your life? What did you lose? What did you gain? Let us know.

Namaste.

Confessions of A Recovering Mind-less Eater: The Benefits of Mindful Eating

I wanted to follow up on our guest blogger’s Kathleen’s post from Saturday about Mindful Eating and encourage you to read her post (below) if you haven’t already. I have experienced issues with food since my mid-teens. By my mid-twenties while in graduate school, I weighed 40+ pounds more than my ideal body weight. I had gained and lost weight multiple times by then but couldn’t keep it off. Now, few people believe me when I tell them this but it’s true.

To keep the weight off, I had to come to terms with my relationship with food. In turning my attention to my eating, I discovered I was using it to cope with my emotional life and relationships with men. I would eat if I was happy, sad, bored, and mostly stressed. It was my family’s way of dealing with our emotional life. I also ate because every time I became slimmer, more men would be interested in me and I didn’t have the self-esteem then to deal with them assertively.  Although the reasons are slightly different for each of us, they are present. Two wonderful books for exploring this are: Why Weight by Geneen Roth and Fat is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach.

As I became aware of what was behind my mind-less eating, I began cultivating a more mindful relationship with food. I learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger and eat to physically nourish my body. I would eat slowly and intentionally without the distraction of TV, or reading or answering the phone. Just sit there and eat. We didn’t have cell phones or tablets or electronic devices to distract us then but I would include those now.

I learned to chew my food, one bite at a time, and pay attention to the texture and taste. While I’ve always LOVED food, it was much tastier and more satisfying to eat this way. By the end of a meal, I felt physically full not thinking about what I was going to eat next. We didn’t call it mindful eating then but looking back, that’s what I was learning to do.  I found it extremely worthwhile and I know each of you will too whatever your size and weight.

Please read Kathleen’s post just below this one and try the “chocolate kiss” exercise. Let us know how it goes. Remember, we’re in this together. Have a good week. Namaste.

Mindfulness For Self-Care: Informal Practice

I’ve been teaching my new mindfulness class “Don’t Worry. Be Mindful.” for the past two days so I thought I’d share some of the info here since mindfulness can be one way of practicing self-care. 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 add 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.

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 “Thought-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 which is another benefit of mindfulness. It teaches you to treat yourself with self-compassion instead self-judgement or self-loathing which we in the western world are ever so good at.

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As in mindfulness, self-compassion or self-love is a key aspect of self-care. Likewise, letting go of your worries and thoughts and just allowing yourself experience the richness of the moment you’re in, helps nourish you-mind-body and spirit. Research has shown that practicing present moment awareness, i.e. mindfulness, diminishes stress, tension, pain, depression, and anxiety and strengthens your ability to cope with life changes, improves your health and immunity, and increases feelings of joy and well-being.

Last week, Time magazine ran a feature article about “The Mindful Revolution” which you can read by clicking on this link-http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2163560,00.html.

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, as one class participant described it Saturday. 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 mindfulness!

Namaste.

Celebrate Your Awesomeness with Kid President

I was looking for something fun and inspiring to kick off “February is Self-Care Month” when this Kid President video arrived in my e-mail. It’s about what he would tell someone if it were her “first day here.” I think that if you follow his advice and say these things to yourself, you’ll feel better and more accepting of yourself, which Buddha reminds us “you as much as anyone else in the universe deserve your love and affection.”

Please watch this video until you’re convinced of your awesomeness. Play it as often as you need to quiet your inner critic. It’s a great way to practice self-care. Enjoy!

Preview of February Self-Care Month Events

As you may have seen, Stacey and I decided to designate February as self-care month. With Valentine’s Day not far off, it seemed that the idea of self-care and showing ourselves “a little love” was timely.

During February, we’ll be writing and having guest posts on topics pertaining to self-careself-compassionself-lovewellness, mind/body health and other POSITIVE mental health topics. If you have something to say about the importance of self-care, have an established a self-care regimen that works for you or have questions about how other women (ourselves included) make self-care work, then please contact us using the form on our post announcing Self-Care Month.

If you live in St. Louis,we’ll be hosting several self-care classes at my office, Midwest Mind Body Health Center which are:

Mindful Stress Reduction: Saturday, February 8th 10am-noon

Join Dr. Sanford for this 2-hour class to learn clinically proven techniques to reduce anxiety, depression & stress, and improve health & well-being. Mindfulness skills include: breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation training, mind-body movement, thought-releasing techniques & self-compassion.

Mindful Moms: Mondays 9:30-10:45am

Start your week off in a calm, peaceful way with Mindful Moms. Practice basic mindfulness skills with other moms. Learn meditation, breathing exercises, mind-body movement, thought-releasing techniques and self-compassion to stress less & live better.

Women’s Self-Care: Wednesdays 7-8:15pm *Preview 1.28

Is it time for Code Lavender? Time to reduce stress and increase overall health and well-being. An intentional self-care map will make 2014 a year of transformative personal & professional growth!

Mommy 411: Thursdays 9:30-10:45am

Join Jamie Bodily, PLPC, for this on-going 4-session class and support group. Topics include mom & newborn physical care; coping with postpartum emotional adjustment; dealing with relationship changes & developing healthy sleep habits and schedules.

 

Free Yourself To Be Yourself

In a conversation with a client last week, we talked about how difficult it’s been for her to focus equally on what’s in “her best interest” as well as those of others. While she’s finally doing this more in her 50′s, it’s been hard to overcome the message that women often learn growing up of taking care of others in spite of the emotional cost to themselves.

I still remember when I said “No” for the first time to one of my family members and they threw a jar of mayonaise at my feet. Although I was startled by their response, I knew I had to stand my ground. One of the most revered Jewish teachers, 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?”

In her remarkable poem “The Journey,” Mary Oliver describes how ultimately we must abide by our “inner voice” if we are to survive. This is also one of Maria Shriver’s favorite poem which she presented for National Poetry Day at the 2011 Women’s Conference, and which I advised my client to listen to last week.

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?

Click on the black box below to listen.