Maintaining Personal Power in Helpless Situations

power-of-attorney-480x450Personal power: it’s something we take for granted. We make our own decisions every day, from what to have for breakfast to where to live. But what if you found yourself in a position in which your personal power has been taken away? For example, a medical emergency could land you in the hospital. In this scenario, it’s very important to maintain the position of “calling the shots.” However, if you’re unable to for any reason, you must have an advocate who will.

We don’t usually sit and think about possibilities like this unless we’re dealing with a disease or long-term illness. It may be unpleasant to ponder, but drawing up a Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will is just important as paying your car, health and life insurance every month. It’s also a very basic part of self-care, just like visiting a doctor once a year for a check-up.

Planning for the unexpected will not only make sure you are taken care of, but will take the confusion out of these situations for your loved ones. I have heard countless stories of someone falling ill suddenly or having something go wrong with a routine procedure. Without a Medical Power of Attorney, your healthcare decisions may be left in the hands of doctors who do not know you, as opposed to someone who knows you well and will make the decisions that are best for you and in line with your wishes.

These documents are readily available on the Internet and from area hospitals in most states and can be notarized and filed with the person you have chosen, as well as with your lawyer. In fact, you can have your Medical Power of Attorney put on file with any hospital that you wish! It’s a simple process, but may end up taking the complexity out of a sudden and dire situation.

Self Care: How Not To Do It

Jennifer_McC_portraitToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Blogger is Jennifer McCullough. She is a 20-year PR and Marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom slash blogging fanatic. You can learn more about her and read her crazy mom antics at http://www.mommyhooddom.com. Please stop by and say hello. She’d love to meet you!

After my son was born in the fall of 2011, with the exception of two trips to the pediatrician’s office, I didn’t leave my house for a month. I mostly just cried all day and ate Peanut M&Ms. The idea of self-care, or taking even a minute for myself, was nowhere on my radar.

At the same time I was getting my sea-legs as a mom, I was mourning the loss of my mother, who had died a month before my son was born. In the course of a year, I moved to a new city far away from friends and family, had a baby and lost my mom – that’s a pretty good recipe for emotional upheaval!

One of the main reasons I didn’t go out more right after my son was born was because I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. My breasts were humongous and hard to conceal. Pumping hurt, so I didn’t like to do that either.

I didn’t much like breastfeeding in those early days, but my son LOVED it. It seems like he wanted to nurse every 20 minutes, around the clock. I found out what real sleep deprivation is like. It’s not the kind you experience when you’re having fun in college. It’s the kind that goes on for weeks on end and that is actual torture.

During that first month, I didn’t talk to many people. I rarely showered. I guess maybe that’s why they didn’t talk to me. I don’t know.

To say I neglected my needs for basic things like sleep, nutritious food, exercise, shampoo and emotional support would be the understatement of the century.  I was a case study in self-care:  how not to do it. Those first 30 days were tough to say the least, but things slowly got better.

I will never forget the first trip I made to the grocery store, which was also my first time out of the house alone, about a month after my son was born.

I guess my brain had forgotten how to process so much sensory stimulation because I remember being overwhelmed with all the colors and shapes lining the shelves! I couldn’t focus on any one thing. The barely audible overhead music combined with the sounds of shopping carts and occasional chatter from the other shoppers bombarded me like a Mardi Gras parade.  I realized I needed to get out more often or else risk becoming someone who could not go out – at all. And that thought frightened me – a lot.

I wish I could say I started going out all the time after that grocery shopping experience, but I really didn’t. Living in a new place where I didn’t know anyone made it tough. The weekly trips to the grocery store and the occasional weekend trip to the mall were big adventures. Mostly, we stayed at home, my infant son and me, while my husband was at work. The long winter days melted together.

The next spring, my son and I did start having a few play dates here and there. It was great to connect with other moms. My son loved the social time with other little ones. We worked our way up to visiting the library.

When it warmed up, we walked around our neighborhood. I remember being so happy just to get fresh air. It was such a small thing, but after being inside for months on end, fresh air felt like such a luxury!

Eventually, I started getting my hair done again. For the longest time after my son was born, I either cut it myself or went to one of those drive-thru hair cutters for the easiest, most low-maintenance style possible. It’s called a pixie and it takes forever to grow out!

My son turned two-years-old a few months ago and to celebrate, I went out with one of my girlfriends and got a manicure and a pedicure. It was awesome! It was only the second manicure I’ve ever had in my life and it was my very first pedicure! I thought surely they’d give me a discount! They didn’t, but that’s ok. I’m still going to go back.

I still breastfeed my son several times a night and before his nap, and whenever he gets an “ouchy.” But, I do sleep a little more these days. I’m still looking forward to getting a good 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. I know it will come, eventually.

I joined a health club last week. Crazy, I know! I haven’t actually worked out yet, but I don’t want to do too much too fast. They say you should start slow. I figure I’ll get ON the treadmill around the first of March.

I started a blog called Mommyhooddom. Writing is great self-care therapy for me. I like to write sad stories about missing my mom and funny stories about being a mom. Connecting with other parents online is a huge blessing! They make me feel human on the days I feel like a wind-up mom.Mommyhooddom_logo150

I have a long, long, long way to go before I can say I’m good at taking care of myself. But, I have high hopes that by the time my son starts pre-school in the fall, I’ll be well on my way to remembering what it was like to have both of my legs shaved at the same time.  One can dream, even while awake at night!

©2014 Jennifer McCullough

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.

Getting to the Heart of This Matter

Please excuse my tardiness! I usually like to have a post ready to go first thing Thursday mornings, but I knew that I would have an interesting day.

Being actively involved with my local police department, law enforcement and prison issues are of interest to me. So when my neighbor invited me to go hear Ryan Ferguson speak at a nearby college, I was enthusiastic.

I was not disappointed by Ryan’s calmness, maturity and reluctance to say anything nasty about those who took away 10 years of his life. When asked how he handled any feelings of hatred he said, “Hate and anger are natural emotions to feel in situations like this. It’s how you express these feelings that really matters. I took this enormous energy and channeled into bettering myself and advocating for those who can’t do so for themselves.”

Wow. This, from a guy who was arrested at the age of 20 for something that he did not do and because of unethical prosecutors, witnesses and law enforcement personnel, spent the next 8 years in prison. There was NO physical evidence at all linking him to the crime; in fact, this evidence should have immediately exonerated him.

After hearing from his mom, dad and girlfriend, it became evident that this young man had an amazing support system. He had already accomplished many things in his life before he was arrested, including achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He never wavered during his 9-hour interrogation, which included lies, threats and yelling from the officers and detectives. He never got in one altercation during his time in county jail and prison, despite lengthy stretches of 23-hour lockdown and no outdoor privileges. He never acted out or lost his temper, even after the judge put a $20 million bond on him, basically forcing him to stay in jail even though he was still, “innocent until proven guilty.” If this young man hated anyone, it was never evident today or in any of the numerous videos presented of his interrogation, trials and sentencing.

And in spite of his amazing journey, Ferguson told the audience to please remember one thing: that a man had died and no justice was done. He wanted us to think of Kent Heitholt. All I could think of was compassion, but maybe that was his real point.

Self-Care Month Guest Blogger: Kathleen Carroll and Mindful Eating

regroup-betaHello Living Self-Care Community! My name is Kathleen Carroll, and I am the community manager at Regroup Therapy – a website that safely offers video sessions for therapists. I met Stacey and Diane through Regroup, and I have absolutely loved getting to know both of these inspiring women. Thank you Diane and Stacey for inviting me to post. I am grateful to be included!

Today, I want to write about Mindful Eating, and our complicated relationships with food. At Colorado College, I led a mental health support and advocacy group for students living with mental health issues. On our campus, eating disorders were the most prevalent concern. Colorado students are typically athletic and socially minded. The line between “outdoorsy vegan” and obsessively healthy-minded is often blurry, and as an ally, I felt it an important issue to address.

GROWWhen advocating for young people with eating disorders, mindfulness becomes a central focus. You must be mindful of triggers, mindful of coming off as judgmental and most importantly mindful of your own habits and areas for improvement. Preparing an Eating Disorder Awareness Week was one of the greatest creative challenges that I have ever faced! Thankfully, my friend’s mom is a mind-body specialist, who was eager to come out and visit her daughter. Dr. Claire Wheeler has both an MD and a PhD in Psychology. Her focus is solely on mindfulness and the mind-body connection. She came all the way out to Colorado with a prepared presentation on “mindful eating,” and its implications for both everyday use and for the the treatment of eating disorders. It was perfect! Not only was mindful eating a trendy response to preventative healthcare (and college kids respond to trendy), but it also allowed us to include a large scope of people, without the isolation that comes with, “this is for you, young people with eating disorders.”

hersheykissThe exercise began with a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss. Claire asked us to let it melt on the tongue. We closed our eyes, as she led us in an almost meditative practice. I still remember how incredible it tasted – just a little chocolate Kiss! The entire process took about five minutes. She acknowledged that it would be all but impossible to assume that we can all mindfully eat for every meal. However, mindful eating allows both healthy control over food, and also a “reclaiming” of the experience of eating. She repeatedly emphasized food as fuel, taking the ritual out of mealtimes, and becoming present while eating, as necessary in creating a healthy relationship with food.

You may have a left-over chocolate from yesterday. Try eating it mindfully:

  1. Picture the chocolate – your mouth prepares by salivating;
  2. Put the chocolate in your mouth;
  3. Allow it to melt slowly, without biting into it;
  4. Experience all of the flavors and texture as it melts onto your tongue;
  5. Enjoy!

Happy post-Valentine’s Day to you all, and thanks again for having me, Diane and Stacey!

[Thank YOU, Kathleen! What a great exercise! You can do this with any type of food. And as Kathleen mentioned above, don’t expect yourself to eat mindfully every time you eat; however, if you do use mindfulness during a meal, note how much more you enjoy it! – Namaste’ – Diane and Stacey]

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.

Self-Care and Recovery from Postpartum Depression

coordinator-cor-meyerToday’s Self-Care Month Guest Post is courtesy of Linda Meyer. Linda is a mother of two, a Postpartum Depression survivor and a Missouri Co-Coordinator for Postpartum Support International. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Linda!

The term self-care was not even on my radar as a new mom. You give birth and this becomes your 24 hr/day job until eternity, right? No more lazy mornings, naps, lingering showers, uninterrupted meals, or socializing with friends.

Imagine that you are performing a monotonous mommy routine all day every day without thinking about yourself or your needs; you’re losing yourself.  Three months postpartum, motherhood became tremendously more difficult and overwhelming than I ever imagined. In fact, I was not in love with my new role, completely unaware that I was actually suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD).  I did eventually seek help (not an easy task!). After receiving a diagnosis, I began working with a healthcare provider and a therapist, and self-care became instrumental in my recovery.

Here are some simple self-care suggestions for the new mom:

  • Get out by yourself without your baby (It’s okay to do this, I promise!)
  • Shower/get dressed
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise
  • Talk with a therapist/counselor (important for emotional distress)
  • Stay in touch with supportive friends (or make new friends)
  • Sneak in a date night every so often
  • Occasionally ask a relative/friend to take your baby overnight (It’s okay to do this, really!)

It doesn’t matter if you choose to do one or several steps listed here. Choose whatever makes you happy, helps you relax and reminds you of the person you were before you became MOM.

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’

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.