Archive for Take Care of Yourself

That was on a card I gave to a friend—it hung on her bulletin board for years and made me smile every time.

In this “self-talk for success” mini course I seem to be writing for the 31 day Ultimate Blogging Challenge, it’s officially time to LIGHTEN UP.   I mean SERIOUSLY now, folks!   The minute you can find the humor in something you did (or didn’t do), you’re out of the trap of self criticism.       When you find yourself asking, “Now WHY did I do that?” or”Why didn’t I   think of that solution earlier?” or whatever has you slapping yourself upside your head…can you find the absurdity or the humor instead?
Even when something is truly no laughing matter,  you can restore your sanity and get back to a creative and inspired place with some laughter therapy.   Laughter has countless health benefits , including oxygenating the body which helps us think more clearly.   If you haven’t heard of laughter yoga, go check it out online or find a local class.   Great fun and very healing.

Here are some lighten up tools from the systems I work with:
1. Gobbledygook sounds: Speak nonsense words to another   person with inflections like you were actually conversing with them.   You’ll be giggling in no time.     Rumor has it that a group of scientists liked this so much, they now begin every meeting with gobbledygook.

2. Imagine whatever it is that you need to lighten up about is tiny, or huge, or play with the size of the characters, shrinking them down or blowing them up large, like Alice in Wonderland, or see the situation in a fun house mirror.

3. Fake it till you make it laughter: Even when there is absolute NOTHING funny, this will end up making your body feel as though you are laughing and you will get the health and emotional benefits of real laughter.   Plus you will almost certainly start laughing for real.

How to: Inhale, lean back slightly, throw your hands up over your head and bring them down as though you were slapping your thighs in hysterical laughter, exhale with a “ ha ha” sound.   Keep going and for even more laughs, do it a room with a bunch of   other people.

Go get lighter, I mean seriously dude!

Jul
08

Are you in growth or survival?

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In the last post I was talking about how we humans drive with the brakes on.   Why would we want to defeat ourselves?   Seems kind of perverse.

Actually it makes sense if you look at the world for which our basic instincts and nervous system evolved.   When food was scarce, when predators (animal or human) threatened our survival, when babies often died, we were encoded to survive and to stay safe.

For example, our bodies tend to respond to less food by slowing down our metabolism—because in the past, less food meant famine or starvation so we needed to use less fuel.   That’s one of the problems with very low calorie diets and why if you’ve done a number of calorie restriction diets, it gets harder and harder to lose weight. Our bodies stubbornly hold onto the fat and the weight because the message is “uh oh, starvation conditions”.

It was a good adaptation when food was scarce but causes problems in our modern world.   Most of us here in the US and the western world don’t live in starvation conditions, we live with a superabundance of food.   This metabolic cycle shows how our biological systems, including our nervous system, program us to choose staying safe over taking risks and growing. As cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton says in his work “The Biology of Belief”, our cells can only be in survival or growth mode, not both simultaneously.

When we are in fear and survival mode, we won’t take the steps we need to grow, because that involves risk. It’s easy to spiral downward from there, as many people are doing these days, with fears about paying the bills, getting new clients, even losing their home through foreclosure, etc.

The first step is recognizing when we’re in the downward survival spiral, when we’re getting into fear, worry and anxiety—and that these emotions and perceptions are getting in our way. The next step is to acknowledge with love, “this is what’s happening, I’m in the fear cycle” and then saying no, “I’m not going down further.”

This interrupts the spiral. Finally, if you have tools for handling your feelings and shifting your beliefs and emotions, get to work using them; if not, I’m happy to help!

 

Jul
07

People do what works!

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I love that quote of Dr. Phil’s.   It takes me out of self blame and smacking myself upside the head. So if I am looking at  a  self defeating behavior or  some negative self-talk, I can gently ask myself “How is  this working? What IS the hidden payoff here?”

Even  the most negative patterns have a hidden payoff. They are an attempt to  do SOMETHING for us that is positive. Try asking yourself, “What does this behavior actually get me?” “What is the payoff?”    If you’re working with your child aspects or “parts”  you can ask a particular part like your sulky three year old, “What are you trying to do for me (and use her name)?”   or “Oh, self-defeating habit, what ARE you trying to get that you think would be good for me?”

Be curious, be wlling to be surprised.

Hint: 9 times out of 10, what the habit is trying to do for you is to keep you safe and in your  comfort zone.  (Even when the comfort zone is no longer comfortable! We tend to stick with what we know even when it’s not so good, just because it’s familiar).   Other side of the coin: usually the habit is a way to stay small, invisible, under the radar or avoid success.

Perverse, isn’it? Why would we want to stay small or avoid success?   Seems irrational and like we are working against ourselves.   Yet  at a deeper level, it all makes sense.   I’ll explore that mystery more in the next post.

But back to the hidden payoff.   First you  discover what it is, or what need it’s trying to get met for you.   Then  you can see  how to meet this need yourself or get it met.  What would be supportive and help you move forward with self -love?  If the need is safety, start looking for ways to create more safety in your life—talking to a friend or coach, seeking a group, learning techniques like Sedona method or EFT to manage your emotions better, reducing stress through exercise, meditation, diet, supplements, etc.

What are you doing that really works for you, and what are you doing that is working but only to keep you safe?

 

In the last post I invited you to take a look at your  inner self-talk.   How is that going?  Did  you discover anything new or surprising about how you think and speak about yourself?     Most people are quite  hard on themselves and may not consciously realize they are immersed in a stream of self-criticism all day long.

If you are one of those people–don’t add another layer of negativity by beating yourself up about being self critical!    That’s just wrong, my friend.

Here’s a  technique that’s been  helpful for me and for my clients.   One of my trainings was in Gestalt Therapy (the Wildflowers Center for Compassionate Body Centered Gestalt therapy in New Jersey).   We  learned how to  dialogue with different parts of ourselves—the hurt child, the inner wise adult, the rebellious teenager, and with our   “shadow”—fears, angers and other parts of ourselves that we disown.

Each “part” or aspect of our self needs to be included and validated.   Each part has a voice with a message, telling us what we need.   If we don’t listen to the voice, eventually it will either get very loud and take over, or go underground and turn into an illness, a depression or some other kind of negative experience.   The bottom line is that when we reject a part of ourselves, sooner or later it will cause a problem.

This can show up  in almost any way, but common signs are  procrastination, avoiding putting yourself out there, being unwilling to set limits with a client, depression, irritability, mood swings or some other form of resistance (pick your favorite flavor!).

Where are you in resistance or struggling? What task, or part of your business is more difficult for you?   Chances are there’s at least one, and possibly several parts of yourself that are stuck and need to be heard.

I can, and would love to help you.   Feel free to contact me to learn more about how I could assist you.

Meantime, try these  ideas for working on your own with your critical voices and shadow parts.   An excellent book is called  Embracing Your Inner Critic, by Hal and Sidra Stone. It will teach you  how to work with your Inner Critic, your judging voices AND other voices that also want to be heard.  Another great resource is  a guided meditation called Overcoming the Self -Destruct, by Sanaya Roman.  (www.orindaben.com). In this meditation you imagine sitting at the center of an “inner council” meeting where all your parts get to speak, and then you explore how they can all work together towards a common goal or desire.

Be forewarned that this work is not comfortable and can be challenging, especially if you tend to be self critical.   Go gently with yourself.  In a culture of perfectionism and “you are not enough” it’s quite a stretch to learn to  be this welcoming and accepting of yourself.   If this kind of work is new for you, or you want to go deeper and need the right support,  I suggest finding an experienced guide–me, another coach, therapist or healer.    Besides working with you with these issues, I’d love to empower you by showing how to  do this work on your own.

Jump in and experiment.   Have  fun meeting your parts and dialoguing with them, and let me know how it goes.

An easy way to  do this is by asking yourself when you get up, or during the day if you are getting stuck or bogged down, “What do I need right now? What part of me needs attention, and what does she   (this part) need?”.   Enjoy the discovery and the healing, and don’t hesitate to ask if you need additional support!

 

Feb
12

Aromatherapy to Battle the Blues

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Have you ever walked into a room and felt instantly better? Maybe the scent of freshly baked bread was in the air. Maybe it smelled citrusy or calm like lavender. Scent has a powerful effect on your mood and emotions.  Aromatherapy is so powerful because smell goes through the nose directly to our olfactory center and right to the amygdala,   a part of our brain that can trigger a fear or a relaxation response.   It can stimulate you into action. It can also relax you and induce sleep. If you struggle with the blues, you can use aromatherapy to improve your mood.    

What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the use of scents to alter mood. You can use essential oils through a diffuser or even place them in diluted form directly on your skin. You can also use lotions or creams on your skin. Another option is to burn a candle with your favorite scent. Finally, some people like to steep the scent or brew a tea.

There are many essential oil products for sale, and the quality varies widely.   The most powerful benefits come from using therapeutic grade oils, which have to meet a higher standard in how they are processed.   I particularly like and recommend Young Living   essential oils, which are steam distilled, very high quality therapeutic grade oils.   You must purchase them from a distributor (some health food stores may carry them) or for better pricing, you may join as a distributor and order directly from the company.     Young Living has a wide variety of oils and essential oil products as well as supplements and personal care items without toxic chemicals.

Scents Commonly Used to Treat Depression

While there are a number of combinations and scents used to elevate mood, relax, diffuse anger or create calm, these scents are commonly used specifically for depression:

* Basil
* Bergamot
* Cedarwood
* Clary sage
* Frankincense
* Geranium
* Grapefruit
* Lavender
* Lemon
* Jasmine
* Myrrh
* Neroli
* Rose
* Sandalwood
* Spruce
* Orange
* Ylang ylang

The citrusy scents elevate mood and awaken the senses. Scents like jasmine and lavender induce a state of calm and relaxation. You may want to play with various scents to find which works best. Of course, you’ll also have personal preferences.

As mentioned you can use aromatherapy in a number of ways. You can combine essential oils into a bottle. With a dropper you can place the oils on the edge of your pillow or on clothing you’re wearing. Test the oils befoe   applying directly to your skin.   Some oils are “hot” and can be irritating, and some can make the skin more light sensitve (the citrus oils and bergamot).   This is one of the reasons to use a therapuetuic grade oil versus a more commercial oil that may be more diluted and may have carrier oils that are not the best for us.   When putting oils directly on your skin it is best to try first diluting them with an unscented almond or sesame oil you can get from your health food store. You can also simply inhale the essential oilby bringing the bottle up to your nose, putting the oil on a cotton ball or tissue, or using a diffuser.

Alternatively, you can add the essential oils to a lotion base. This will diffuse the strength of the oils so it’s safer for skin application. If you enjoy baths, you can add a drop or two of your choice essential oil to a bath and enjoy the calming effects. The oil will mix better with the water if you drop it onto a cupful of unscented sea salt or Epsom salt and then toss the salt into the water.  

There are a number of ways to enjoy aromatherapy and to reap the mood-enhancing benefits. You can also find blends or recipes on how to blend scents online. Or visit your local natural store and find recipes there. Young Living has a specific group of oil blends that can be very helpful…Valor, Joy, White Angelica, and Harmony.

Aromatherapy is a depression treatment that you can use each and every day. It’s safe and effective. Find your favorite scents or combination of scents and start feeling better today.

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Each year thousands of people’s lives change. The sky grows darker and the air gets colder. As the days shorten, their mood sinks. Depression sets in. It’s a condition commonly known as SAD. It’s quite different from the common winter blues. Winter depression can be severe and it can alter your life. If you suffer from winter depression, take heart. There are treatments. You can manage your winter depression and have a better season.

Winter Depression Causes

Winter depression is commonly caused by the hormone levels changing. You might be surprised to know that while winter depression is most commonly associated with SAD, others can suffer from spring and summer depression too. When the hormone levels like serotonin and melatonin drop, depression can set in.

Depression is most common during the winter months because of the sun’s effect on hormone levels. Scientists and the medical community believe they’ve uncovered one of the answers to this mystery – Vitamin D. The sun’s rays help your body produce vitamin D. It’s a vitamin that is essential for physical and mental health. Unfortunately, it’s not a vitamin that exists in many foods and it’s not stored in your body. You need sun exposure to create it. Or you may need to take a supplement. Most people around the country are deficient in vitamin D.

During the winter months when the sun’s rays are not strong and people tend to stay inside where it’s warm, you can become significantly deficient in Vitamin D. Other hormone levels can drop as well. All of this combines to cause winter depression.

Winter Depression Treatments and Coping Strategies

There are many things you can do on your own to manage winter depression. You can:

* Get outside when the weather permits and get fresh air and sunshine – 20 to 30 minutes.

* Take a vitamin D supplement.

* Eat foods rich in vitamin D, B, folate and omega fatty acids.

* Exercise – this raises your hormone levels and releases endorphins which elevate mood. It also helps you sleep better. This affects your hormones positively too.

* Make sure you spend time daily with people you love and enjoy being with. Friends and family make a difference.

* Do something that makes you laugh. For example, take a dance class. Learn something new.

* Take daily walks.

* Pamper yourself with aromatherapy, light therapy and cheerful surroundings.

If your winter depression lasts more than a few days or you find it’s getting worse, it’s time to see your doctor. Winter depression can be serious. Your physician can prescribe light therapy, medication and other changes to help you beat depression. You don’t have to suffer. These treatments and coping strategies when combined with a doctor’s diagnosis and recommendations can help you enjoy this winter and live your life to its fullest.

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If you struggle with bouts of sadness or depression, there may be a simple solution. Studies have shown a link between vitamin D deficiency and mood. Vitamin D is a vitamin our body doesn’t store. Each day we need a source of vitamin D or we become deficient. The good news is that getting enough vitamin D each day is easy.

The Vitamin D Link

Many studies have been done on the link between Vitamin D and depression. During the winter months the sun’s rays are weaker and often covered by clouds. This caused scientists to believe that it was the absence of light that caused depression. In a way they were right. The sun’s rays trigger our body to produce vitamin D.

When the sun isn’t strong, we don’t get enough exposure. Worse, when its cold outside we tend to go out covered up – if we go out at all. That means no sun and no vitamin D. The result is an effect on mood and overall health.

So what’s a person to do when the sun isn’t shining and its thirty degrees outside? The answer is two-fold. Eat foods that are high in vitamin D and take a supplement.

Foods That Contain Vitamin D

These foods are high in vitamin D compared to other foods:

* Fish like salmon and mackerel (note that when you eat the soft bones of fish like salmon you get more vitamin D)
* Soymilk
* Fortified cow’s milk
* Shrimp and shellfish
* Fortified breakfast cereals
* Mushrooms
* There’s also a little vitamin D in potatoes

You’ll notice that vitamin D really isn’t present in many foods. Additionally, you’d have to eat a lot of fish and drink a lot of fortified milk to get enough. The RDA is between 200 and 600 IUs depending on age. Supplementation is therefore the most logical answer during the winter months.

Most multivitamins don’t contain enough vitamin D. Check your label to make sure you’re getting at least 200 IUs or 5-15 mcg of vitamin D in your multivitamin. You can buy vitamin D supplements in your supermarket. Consider, if you’re also not getting enough calcium, buying a combination vitamin D and calcium supplement. That way you’re making sure you get plenty of both.

Start taking Vitamin D right now. Don’t wait until you feel poorly or depressed. Take a vitamin D supplement. Get sun exposure when it’s possible and safe to do so. And eat foods that contain vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D is a sure way to reduce winter depression. You may even prevent it altogether.

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When you’re feeling down you often want to be alone. The last thing you want to do is socialize. However, the company of others may be exactly what’s needed to beat the winter blues.

Laughter

When you socialize with others there’s generally a lighter, more jovial mood. Surrounding yourself with laughter and happiness, even if you’re not feeling light and happy, can help. Laughter has been proven to release hormones in a person’s body. These hormones help elevate mood and alleviate stress. And you may find yourself joining in on the laughter and fun.

New Perspectives

When you’re around others you may be able to see things from a different perspective. You may find that others share your present situation. They may have a different outlook or approach to the problem. This new perspective or outlook can help you find a way out of the darkness.

Gratitude

Friends and family have a way of reminding us what’s important. You may be able to look at your present situation in a new light. Gratitude is a powerful emotion. When you feel it, it can change your entire perspective. Many experts recommend keeping a gratitude journal or notebook to help remember what’s good in your life.

Music, Food and Fun

Many social outings are centered on these three things – music, fun, and food. It can be difficult to stay depressed when there’s an upbeat vibe. When you’re surrounded by delicious food, great music and laughter, a winter depression can slip away.

Make Socializing a Part of Your Life

If you’re prone to the winter blues or have experienced depression in the past, consider being proactive. Schedule weekly outings with friends and family. Make it a tradition. Meet at a local restaurant or start a dinner club and rotate homes. This way you know you have a plan to get yourself out of the house and socializing on a regular basis.

Find other ways to get out of the house too. Consider joining a fitness class. Or take a class at your local community center. Learn something you’ve always wanted to learn. Do you want to take a graphic design class? Romance writing class? What about pottery or photography? Learning something new and surrounding yourself with people can help you avoid the winter blues all together.

Take charge of your life. Don’t let the winter blues get you down. Socialize, interact and remember to have fun!

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You might be surprised to know that exercise can alleviate depression. Getting outside and exercising gets your heart pumping. It also gives you the fresh air and sunshine your body craves. Exercising indoors can help too.

When you increase your heart rate and get the blood flowing through your body, it lifts your mood. Endorphins, also known as feel-good hormones, are released. The result is an elevated mood. In fact, many doctors recommend regular exercise to their depressed patients. It may not be the ultimate cure for all cases. However, you can exercise your way out of a winter depression. Here’s how:

#1 Take a daily walk – Unless the weather is unsafe, there’s a lot of value to good old-fashioned fresh air and sunshine. The sunshine stimulates the production of vitamin D which improves mood. It also helps your body manage stress. Taking a walk gets your body moving without the pressure of fitness performance. Aim to walk for twenty to thirty minutes a day.

#2 Stretch – Yoga and other mindful exercise programs help you accomplish two things. They help you get your blood flowing to your muscles. This releases those endorphins mentioned earlier. Stretching and yoga also helps you become mindful and focused. It pulls you into the moment. Instead of worrying about tomorrow or regretting yesterday, you’re in the present moment. You can feel calm, in control, and centered.

#3 Dance and play – Adults often forget how to play. They forget about joy and laughter. Find an activity that you love. Find something that makes you laugh or brings joy. Consider dance, martial arts, jumping rope or even riding your bicycle.

#4 Run or jog – Running is a fantastic calorie burner and it’s great for improving your fitness. It’s also something that almost everyone can do. It doesn’t have to be about performance, speed and distance. You can simply embrace the sport as a fitness jogger. The health benefits are the same. If you’re new to running, combine it with periods of walking. The goal is to help boost your mental and physical health.

#5 Swim – One of the reasons we can become down during the winter is because it’s cold and gray. Join a swim club or find a gym with a pool. The warm water and the bright lights will help you feel better. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, join a water aerobics class. There’s just something fun about water aerobics. You can laugh and get fit at the same time.

Think about the activities you did as a child. What made you feel good? Get outside and have a snowball fight. Go sledding. Climb a tree.

In addition to the mental and physical benefits exercise offers, it also helps you sleep better. Studies have linked poor sleep to depression. Simply exercising and getting better sleep can help you beat the winter blues. Beat depression by moving your body. Get outside. Work out indoors. Stretch, run, jump. Play, laugh and have fun!

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Feb
05

SAD and Winter Blues

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Every winter thousands of people feel less joyful than they normally do. The degree to which they feel down varies widely. Some experience full-blown depression while others simply seem to have the blues. Most people assume they have SAD. This may not be true, however. The treatment for SAD and the winter blues is quite different.

If you struggle with depression during the winter months, it can be tough. Finding the right treatment and diagnosis is key.

SAD Defined

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is not the winter blues. It affects people on a regular basis. Each fall and winter, as the sky grows colder and darker, people begin to experience this depression.

Symptoms of SAD include but are not limited to:

* Depression
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Anxiety
* Social withdrawal
* Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
* Appetite changes and weight gain
* Difficulty concentrating and focusing
* Lack of energy and difficulty sleeping

If these symptoms persist for more than a few days and consistently return season after season, you probably have SAD. It’s important to see your doctor and get properly diagnosed.

Because SAD is often caused by lower levels of melatonin and serotonin, treatment for SAD often includes:

* Light therapy
* Medications
* Home therapy

There are also some home and alternative therapies like dietary changes, yoga, meditation and supplementation that have been shown to improve SAD.

Winter Blues

The winter blues is just as common as SAD; however, the symptoms don’t persist. They don’t last as long and they don’t necessarily show up like clockwork when the seasons change. The winter blues happen when a person is feeling down for a couple of days. Getting out and socializing, exercising and making a few dietary changes can alleviate the problem.

Many people experience an occasional bout of the blues. And the winter is a common time for it to creep up. The sky is dark. The air is cold. People don’t get as much fresh air and sunshine as they need.

How Do You Know If It’s the Blues or SAD?

Take a look at your symptoms. If they occur regularly, year after year, then it’s probably SAD. If your symptoms don’t go away after a few days and they persist or worsen, then it’s probably SAD. If you’re in doubt about what’s going on, always see your doctor. When it comes to your mental health it’s good to be cautious.

If you’re diagnosed with SAD, there are ways to manage the condition. If it’s the winter blues, then create a plan to stay positive. Diet and exercise improve both SAD and the winter blues, so take good care of yourself. This winter, find joy and happiness and leave depression and sadness behind!

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