Thanks, Karen Kleiman. Let’s Keep Our History Alive!

Two weeks ago in her weekly blog, my colleague and friend, Karen Kleiman, of the Postpartum Stress Center, thanked ten of us who had been involved in promoting awareness and education of postpartum depression. It felt wonderful to be recognized among such an esteemed group of women, many whom I’m happy to say are friends.

It also made me think about a book I’ve been reading, Crones Don’t Whine by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, and the importance of having gratitude for the women who have come before us and cleared the way for us to follow. I remember 28 years ago when I became one of the psychologists associated with PPD (postpartum depression) and other postpartum conditions (anxiety, OCD, PTSD, PPP), there were two women whose tireless efforts led the field now called “perinatal mental health” to what’s it’s become: Jane Honikman and Nancy Berchtold.

Both were survivors of postpartum conditions and had the courage to speak out, each in their own way, about how we needed to pay attention to these conditions women were experiencing after childbirth for the mom’s and her family’s health. Long before others, these two pioneers dared speak the unspeakable, that motherhood is not always bliss, and that most women who experience PPD suffered in silence and tried not to let it show so as not to be judged a “bad mom.”

They helped many of us start a journey which continues to be an important part of our lives today. I know it has been in mine. Here’s to you Jane and Nancy for your passion, leadership and inspiration.

With much gratitude and affection.

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.

Dark Night of the Soul Gives Purpose

After hearing Ryan Ferguson speak yesterday, I have been watching lots of videos about the case. The one below was filmed after Ryan’s charges had been cleared, but he was still sitting in prison like a convicted man. After finding my purpose after the hell of PPD/Anxiety, I was glad to hear that the lessons learned in this hell had not been lost on Ferguson.

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.

The Science Behind a Happy Relationship

I had the honor of being a “pioneer” at Happify, which is a site (an app) that uses scientific methods to help the user increase his/her happiness levels. They have just released this infographic, and I am “happy” to share it with you!

Click on the image below to view the entire thing.

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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.

Validation

Diane’s video reminded me of one I first saw years ago, before TJ Thyne became famous for his role in Bones. It’s not what I expected, and that’s what’s so great about it. It’s a little over 15 minutes long, but I hope you take these moments for yourself and watch the whole thing. And then maybe pass it on… 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!