Posts tagged ‘Self-care’

The New Embrace of 2015

2015 Embrace!

2015 Embrace!

I embrace you. I embrace each of you warmly and securely. My intention for 2015 is to help you see how uniquely resilient and creative your adaption to your life has been. I dedicate fifty-two blogs in 2015 to the celebration of survival and triumph. Each Saturday we’ll drink lemonade together! Life and its circumstances may have bombarded you with lemons, but look what you did with them. As the President says to Katniss in the new Hunger Games movie: “You’ve got this, soldier!”
You’ve got this and you’ve had this. Were it not so, you would not be reading this blog. You have not only survived – although I feel you prickling at my use of the word “survived” because you prefer to think you have just done what anyone would have done in the circumstances – but you have triumphed – and I feel you prickling at my use of the word “triumphed” as most of the time you do not feel like you have overcome anything but simply lived through it. I know that more of the time you feel like you are just getting by and figuring it out as you go along. I suspect that most of the time you don’t even allow yourself to think about the past and what you have gone through to get where you are.
That’s actually where I want to start this first day of this new series of writings. As you know, I am a therapist who by chance or divine direction or both has come to know somethings about PTSD. Here’s one of the first things I ever learned: don’t let anyone ever force you to talk about or think about anything that has happened to you. You do not need to remember. You do not need to write it down. You do not need to talk to anyone about anything you have endured. You can. If you want to, you absolutely can. But, it is not necessary, and sometimes it can be downright harmful.
Here’s where your brilliant creativity comes in. You have each survived trauma in your own individual and courageous way.  As I say in the introduction to The Many Faces of PTSD, “Do not compare your trauma to that of anyone else.” Here’s the truth of that, which is a truth of life: there is always someone prettier, slimmer and less traumatized. There is always someone less pretty, chubbier and more traumatized. Everything is relative. Actually, there is a lot of humor in that statement, since many of our relatives are responsible for many of our trauma experiences. As one of my clients likes to say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother.”
Whatever you have gone through cannot be compared to what anyone else has gone through. That’s useless and destructive. Whatever you have gone through can only be constructed into the very foundation, framework, functionality, and style of YOU. They say that when we dream of a house, we are dreaming of ourselves. If we dream we’re in a tent, we’re probably feeling vulnerable. If we dream we’re living in a cave, we may feel we must hide our true selves. (I don’t mean this as a guide to dream interpretation.)  I am only trying to say that each of us builds a structure that becomes ME: my “self”, my ego, my personality, the persona which I “live in” as I go through life. At times we renovate and redecorate, but we have designed the very structure of our SELF based on what we have needed to live through what life has given us.
I have spoken before about the three basic ways we come through things: fight, flight or freeze. These can become the basis of a personality which is angry (fight), anxious (flight) or sad (freeze). THERE IS NO BAD PERSONALITY. Our personalities have developed, as have our egos and our personas (the picture of ourselves that we offer the world), as a result of every piece of creative response we have been able to muster. And no two people who are exposed to similar circumstances will respond in completely similar ways. I remember teaching in communication classes the list of about forty variables which affect our responses, things like culture, values, ethnicity, coping skills, age, gender, time of day, time of year, world events. . .  It’s a very long and involved list.
I have also talked about the Myers-Briggs in The Many faces of PTSD and The Many Faces of Anxiety. In the Support Letters and Guides to Healing which I’m offering through The Pillar of Light Foundation (website presently under construction, Coming soon!), I’m going to be talking in some depth about the Myers-Briggs next month. ( I mention the Myers-Briggs now because it explains how temperament factors in to our responses. We come into the world wired. It’s like coming into the world as a Smart Car or a Chevy Van or a Dodge Charger. We come in with different equipment, different skills, different styles, and different abilities, even though we’re all cars.
Self-knowledge is a necessary predecessor to self-acceptance. But make no mistake. Whatever we learn about ourselves is simply what is. For example, I like people better than animals. I have no patience with “things” and have horrible spatial skills. All these parts of me simply are. However, just because I like people better than animals doesn’t give me the right to kick the cat. Just because I have no patience with things, doesn’t give me the right to destroy “things” which frustrate me. Our preferences and dominant aspects are never excuses. Who we are in our naked, solitary moments is simply an explanation which will help us understand and accept ourselves.
If I’m a Smart Car, I’m going to get passed a lot, but I’m also going to fit into the tightest of parking spaces and save the planet by requiring little fuel. (But where do they put their golf clubs?) If I’m a Chevy Van, I’ll have plenty of room for friends and a comfortable ride, but the friends are going to have to chip in at the gas pump. (Plus, all that room might encourage my hoarding tendencies.) If I’m a Dodge Charger, I can leave everyone in the dust. That could be lonely. Plus, speeding tickets are very expensive.
No car has everything. Every car has something. The purpose of this writing is not to encourage you to figure out what kind of car or house you are. You probably already have a fairly clear idea. The purpose and hope is that you will embrace your uniqueness and your style. I pray you will spend the year, with or without my musings to stir you, seeing yourself through new, welcoming, generous eyes. This is the beginning of 2015, a year I know can be the best year each of us have ever created for ourselves in whatever ways we most need and desire.

Blessings for new beginnings, susan

Blessings for the continuity of photography by Mary Ellen Jelen


January 3, 2015 at 1:13 AM 3 comments

July: Self-Care from the Inside Out

Starting from Scratch

Self-care comes naturally to the tiny minority of people who received loving, appropriate, boundaried nurturing as children. For everybody else – most of the world – self-care is as much of a mystery as quantum physics. So, we’re going to start from scratch, because, as one of my favorite clients likes to say: This is not my first day at the rodeo.

Actually, let me tell you a quick story about the time I learned once and for all not  to “assume.” It was 1967, and I was 21 and a first year teacher. The good news was I had gotten a job. The bad news was I hired to teach English and History to kids with learning and behavioral problems.

I have no idea what our lesson was about on the day I learned my important lesson, but I suggested to this class of seventeen educationally disadvantaged and disenfranchised kids, “Tonight when you sit down for supper with your family, ask your mom and dad . . .” And then I stopped talking. They were staring at me as if I had just switched to French. “What?” I asked, and they looked around at each other. Finally, one of them stammered that no one cooked for them, and they didn’t eat family meals, although they had seen such a thing on television, but they didn’t realize “real” people did that.

Sixteen of these seventeen kids who couldn’t read and hated school didn’t have family meals. Probably just a coincidence, you think? I think definitely not. No one took care of these kids in even the most fundamental ways. That day I learned to “assume nothing.” I have since learned something related. We learn to care for ourselves by the way that our care-takers care for us. We are taught self-care.

ss to do

So, assuming nothing about your knowledge of self-care, and wanting us all to be on a level playing field, let me tell you what I think are the four fundamentals of self-care: eat, sleep, shower, and seek balance in all things. Three meals a day is the standard. You may have more, but not fewer. Coffee is not a meal. Neither is a pop tart. Your body requires food and water to function. If you have an eating disorder, go on a weight maintenance or fitness site. See how many grams of protein and good fat you can and need to have every day while still losing weight. I feel certain you are way under in some category. I think it’s FitDay which even tells you which vitamins and minerals you aren’t getting enough of.

If you’re a sugar addict, that addiction has your whole body chemistry out of whack. If you are an addict, it will take you twenty-some days to break the addiction. Honey and fruit should help. After a few days you’ll start feeling better: more patient, more clear-headed, more energized for longer periods of time. We need balance in eating – food groups, remember? You wouldn’t feed your

dog just treats or food with no nutritional value. Only you can nourish yourself healthfully. I start almost every evening meal by putting a little olive oil in a pan, adding garlic and onion and maybe celery and carrot. You can go anywhere from there. Just add a slew of other veggies, (playing with a knife every day is good for reducing aggression), or chicken, or some ground beef or turkey – sometimes add a can of beans or a can of tomatoes, or some shrimp – you can go anywhere.

Sleep is a habit. If you wake up at three every night or sleep until noon, that is a habit you are in. People who go to sleep at (approximately) the same time every night and get up at (approximately) the same time every morning are exponentially more likely to sleep well. Our bodies are designed to go to sleep when the sun goes down (beware staying up too late – you’ll get your “second wind” and not be able to settle down) and get up when the sun comes up. Cool,

dark rooms are best for deep, refreshing sleep. If you wake up tired every morning you probably didn’t eat enough good stuff the day before. If you have frequent headaches, remember that dehydration is a primary cause of headaches. Most of America is sleep deprived and research suggests we need eight or nine hours a night to function best. Interestingly, we need a good night’s sleep to maintain a healthy weight, also. (Just saying . . .)

Cleanliness is next to godliness, they say. The standard is a shower or a bath every day. You can make an exception twice during the winter on a weekend when you won’t be seeing anyone other than your cat. Again, we need to establish a healthy self-cleaning habit. Morning or evening – your choice. Bath or shower – your choice. Dirty hair and bad breath do not encourage intimacy.

Clean up your act and reap the rewards. As with healthy eating and restful sleeping, a clean body simply makes you feel better – stronger and more empowered. Eating, sleeping and showering are easy to explain compared to balance.

ss balance graphic

We need balance in all things, my friends. In AA they use the word HALT to remember that if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, you are much more likely to indulge in self-harming behaviors. Those are four recurring ways we get ourselves out of balance. Balance means moderation: not eating only one food group, not sleeping fifteen hours a day, not bathing once a month and not forgetting where your toothbrush is. Balance means eating fairly healthfully most of the time and sleeping eight to nine hours many nights. I can tell you the opposite of balance: rigidity. And I can assure you that the greatest roadblock to balance is all-or-nothing, black-and- white thinking. For example: I wasn’t in bed by 10:30 so I may as well stay up until three. Or: I had this many M&Ms, I might as well finish the bag. Or: Since I don’t have time to wash my hair and shave, I may as well skip the bath altogether. (“I may as well” sounds like trouble, doesn’t it?) So now we’ve hit the basics. If you are wondering why I started here, in other words, if you already do all these things, then you are well on your way to establishing a good foundation for self-care. Congratulate yourself.

Next week we’re going to talk about the role our thinking plays in self-care. I know you’re tired of my harping on your poor brain, but your poor brain has been programmed to work in opposition to your best interests. For you to begin thriving instead of simply surviving, we need to get you thinking in a much more self-accepting, self-loyal way. And I’m going to share with you everything I can think of (and, as those of you who know me know, some stuff I’ll make up, too – why be limited by the known things in the universe?) As always, if there’s something you want me to talk about, let me know. If you want a phone session, I remind you those are available, also. Don’t stew, share.

I heard a profound saying this week: problems can never be solved by the same consciousness that created them. (Albert Einstein) We all need a friend!

Blessings, my friends, susan

July 6, 2014 at 2:44 PM 3 comments

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