The Diamond Jubilee
This weekend in London, and throughout the UK, is going to be busy and celebratory as this will be the main Diamond Jubilee Central Weekend (June 2nd-5th) finalizing in a special concert on June the 4th. I cannot help but admire any person who has been able to sustain a working rhythm that has lasted over 60 years. Yet I think the key to being successful at many things is having a rhythm and healthy rituals that you complete on a daily basis.
I have noticed that when routine leaves you then procrastination overtakes you. There's a lot to be said for the adage, 'if you want something done ask a busy person'. Being in the public limelight from a very young age and to have served as the Queen for 60 years has taken much stamina and determination. Even with the scrutiny of the joys and the sadness, the achievements and the missed opportunities, the Royals still have a mystique all of their own.
For me, I have to admire any woman who has woken up every day and put her feet on the ground and has walked through life managing all the moods, demands, and expectations. Perseverance is success because you have kept moving forward.
Very few of us are subjects of such public analysis, yet all of us are subjects of our own self-analysis.
If you keep a daily calendar of everything you do hour-by-hour for one month you might be very surprised because what you think you do is often not what you actually do.
The Queen’s structure requires her to live in reality in real time. This stability of pattern leads to mood stability too. I have found when things take a turn for the less good, it is often the structured rhythm you have in your life that gets you through because you have something to follow.
Look out for all the interesting activities of this weekend and take time to meditate on how making successful transitions in life can be supported by good emotional rhythms. All of us have diamond-like qualities within us if we take the time to find them.
It’s time to make shepherds pie and English trifle.
Memory Gain or Memory Pain
Having a good memory is a great asset especially when you are playing those game shows and your recall of both important and unimportant trivia can make the difference between winning and losing. The interesting thing about your memory is that it is the one thing you cannot give away to somebody else and you have to live with it 24/7.
It is actually a wonderful thing that there are some things that the brain selectively forgets in order to allow healing. Many women cannot recall the pain of natural childbirth a few years after the event. A memory can be a very good teaching tool, perhaps like riding a bike. Once you've learned the skill, it comes back even if dormant for a while. Experiences can teach you many positive life skills and cultural understandings that allow you to make good decisions. So what goes into your memory is very important.
There are times when you can allow your memory to work against you. Continuously ruminating over negative experiences may not be helpful and can lead to mood cycles, even depression. Most of us are going to have things happen from time to time that hurt. Holding on the hurt is like holding burning coals to your chest. It will damage you. This is memory pain.
I have learned a way to help me keep focused on positive aspects of life. I have a big picture of a lavender field as I love lavender and there is a house at the end of the field. I pretend I have a small plough that I am pushing through the furrows of the field with the lavender in blossom on each side. I hold this vision in my mind and think if I take my eye off my goals and get distracted by negative thinking, the plough will turn off course and I will accidentally cut down the lovely aromatic lavender. If I look behind I will go completely off plough and who knows where it will end up. Often the 'good old days' or 'the way things were days' are not as good as you remember. 'Not looking back' and 'letting sleeping dogs lie' is often a memory gain.
Some forgotten memories keep coming back because the trauma has to be processed and memory archived. This is sometimes referred to as creating a safe place in therapy. Once you have done this process, learn to live in your field of lavender and let your memory become your friend. Be careful and selective what and who you allow to be in it. Your mood will significantly be affected by what the memory recalls. Remember misery loves company. If you feel negative try to put yourself in a positive environment where you can be assisted to bring the mood to a positive.
Focus and Energy, The Explosion of Purpose.
Staff and clients came together for the powerful and moving Breaking of the Board Ceremony. As an act of symbolism, each board was covered with colorful word art representing the most difficult issues to break through. With bare hands, the boards were broken. Not by physical strength alone, but by shutting out all distractions and all doubt. Forgetting about all outside energies and with complete self-reliance, clients looked at the target and using the voice of their will, commanded the difficult issues to relent to the force of their action; the force of their purpose. In a single motion of energy…They Just Did It! By powerful explosions of purpose and complete focus they forgot to listen to any voice of doubt. If it didn’t give way, they stepped back, refocused and…Just Did It …again and again… until it was done. With the breaking of each board there came elated applause along with chocked back tears of admiration because of the undeniable strength and power shared in the room.
A relationship is defined as the way two people are connected. As human beings, we are meant to be involved in relationships. We are inherently social beings. We may have relationships with a spouse or partner, parents, siblings, children, friends, coworkers, bosses or employees, doctors, or clients among others. It’s an interesting exercise to sit down and map out all of the relationships you have. When you see it on paper it is literally hard to wrap your head around the fact that you are interconnected with so many different people in so many different ways. It’s great to have a wide range of relationships because it offers variety and the possibility of receiving support from so many different people.
The problem arises, however, when we look at those relationships on paper that are toxic to us. Toxic relationships are sometimes really obvious; you know, the person who always tries to fight with you or is always complaining about everything that’s wrong with their world (often without any regard for what may be happening in your world). Sometimes, though, it’s a lot harder to identify toxic relationships. Maybe it’s the person who calls you and when you get off the phone you feel exhausted or depressed for some reason but you don’t know why. Maybe it’s the phone call or e-mail you receive and see the name on caller ID or in the sender column and you sigh heavily or just can’t muster up the desire to answer the call, listen to the voicemail, or open the e-mail. You feel guilty or anxious for not answering the phone call or even returning the call or feel a sense of shame because you just can’t reply to that e-mail right now. If these feelings are coming up, listen to your gut. More often than not, if something doesn’t feel right in your gut for you, then it’s probably not the right relationship at the moment. If you’re constantly giving and not receiving you’ll find you are exhausted with the relationship because you’re allowing the other person to “suck the life out of you.”
The thing is, relationships are a two way process. It’s not all about you, and it’s not all about the other person. It’s about BOTH of you. There’s no healthy relationship in the world where you should have to alter who you are, change your authentic self, in order to please the other person in the relationship. If you’re not staying true to who you are, then what do you have? It’s like trying to build a house on an uneven foundation. On the surface the house may look beautiful but deep inside it’s ready to fall apart. An unsteady foundation causes stress on the whole system of the house. Toxic relationships create stress on the whole system of you. Is it worth it?
What better time of year to evaluate and cleanse your relationships than springtime? With more daylight, sunshine, and warmer weather typically comes increased energy, and improved mood and motivation. That’s one of the reasons why “spring cleaning” is popular and possible. Take the opportunity to inventory and then de-clutter yourself of the toxic relationships in your life that are zapping you of precious energy, time, and happiness. Just like the sense of relief that comes when you finally get the cobwebs out of the closet that have been annoying you all winter, so too will that sense of relief come when you remove the cobwebs that toxic relationships create in your life. Is it an easy task? Absolutely not, but gaining a sense of clarity and lightness may just be worth the work.
Al Fresco Eating
The weather has been so good that I am going to be eating outside at every opportunity. The thing I love about al fresco dining is you can change the whole dining scene so easily.
The mood and the ambiance can be geared up or down to a lighthearted lunch or star lit supper. The options for higgledy-piggledy, tone, and blend mixes are just such fun. Flowers, candles, and pitchers of homemade lemonade themed around a color, a fruit, a flower, or a bolt of cloth can send the imagination into overtime. To de-stress and lazily languish over the sheer beauty of a summer’s evening is enough to make most anxiety retreat into a coma. Al fresco has no rules except to relax, breathe, and let all your senses dance with joy. Getting close to nature nurtures getting close to yourself. This is an activity I enjoy as much on my own as I do when with friends. If I feel like company I might play a talking book. Think of dressing a table like dressing yourself. Do it for your own pleasure. There is no end of great ideas in magazines if you need something to get you started. Find a look you can experiment with and make it your own. Having rituals that allow you to manage stress and anxiety are a self-gift that makes simplifying to become a comforting friend. It's time to start mood and ritual management al fresco style.
I often make a hot dish when people are coming over for salads, cold chicken, BBQ meats or seafood called Pineapple Au Gratin. I am asked for the recipe all the time. This recipe is taken from 'Dining Under the Carolina Moon' by Debbi Covington.
National Women's Health Week, May 13 -19
We are coming to the end of National Women's Health Week. The question is have you actually done anything to think about your own health this week. The theme for this special week is "It's your time".
There is no time like the present when it comes to health. It is exceedingly precious and needs protection. A little effort has a high yield so empower yourself by making your health a priority.
This week is to encourage women who have put their own needs on the back burner whilst looking after their children, their parents, their partners, their jobs, and their homes to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health.
Make those appointments to have preventive screenings. Peace of mind reduces anxiety. Rule out as many organic health issues as you can. It builds confidence and lifts depression to know there is nothing physically sinister going on in your body.
Get active. Find something you like to do. Swimming, walking, badminton, dancing, zumba, hula hooping. A little a day keeps everything working better.
Eat Healthy. Try to eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as you can. I love to juice.
Mental Health. You must have enough sleep, learn to practice sleep hygiene and managing stress. Unmanaged stress can cause the mood to swing and anxiety to ramp up. Learn new coping skills to level stress.
Avoid unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, not wearing your seat belt, or riding a bicycle without a helmet.
Keep a calendar of what you do in one week to support your own health and how your feelings change through the week. Your mood will become confident and you will feel empowered. It is your time.
Have You Sent a Letter Lately?
I never realized the wonderful power of mail until I began working at Brookhaven Retreat.
Everyday, except Sunday, the postman gets out of his car and delivers a box of mail to the front reception office. We pull the box onto the sorting table and sign off for any registered or certified mail. We eagerly rife through all types of correspondences looking for colorful envelopes and handwritten cards. Stumbling upon so many beautifully and thoughtfully prepared communications of all shapes, sizes, and presentations.
Like paper treasures we steal them aside to their spot in the office, where they wait for client pick up. One-by-one the ladies find time in their day to come by to the office checking for mail. Those that are depressed or anxious want to hear from their loved ones and there is nothing as special as a letter. The expressions we witness are humbling and powerful to watch. Receiving a single hand addressed envelope is like a hug. A hand full of letters, at once, is a “WOW!” moment. Handing over a package creates the tears of “I'm not forgotten. I am a woman who has been thought about by somebody else.”
Many women feel much cult and shame about focusing on themselves, but when they receive such gentle and warm regards from those that want them to become well, it brings about an instant change. The power of the pen brings tears to their eyes and can be read over and over again. They walk away with brighter eyes and lighter more confident steps of courage. The writer has become their cheerleader as they fight to find emotional stability.
There are only two things difficult about mail delivery. One is looking over at the sacred spot and impatiently watching for the pick up of an as yet undelivered letter or package which will be like receiving a bundle of encouragement when finally in the hands of the client. I must confess I love to say to the clients "you've got mail". Which brings me to the hardest thing about mail delivery. When a lady comes to the window and asks, "did I get mail" and I have to say the words, "not today". So, please let this blog be a letter of encouragement to take a moment to express your loving thoughts and send them through the postman.
What comes through the pen is very different to what comes through the voice. A note to a woman who is depressed can be a shaft of hope that can make the difference to that day.
Nurses Need Care Too
Some of the most wonderful women I have met in my life have been nurses. It was a huge step forward in medical care when the nursing care of others was moved forward and professionalized by Florence Nightingale.
I am always impressed at their degree of patience, kindness, and ability to cope through so many situations depending on the discipline of nursing they have followed. Nurses that work in ER, trauma, or ICU are at the front-end of life and death daily. They work with the families and comfort those who become so depressed at catastrophic news, a very demanding task.
The nurses at Brookhaven Retreat work with mood disorders, depression, mania, bipolar, and more. It amazes me the close bond the clients feel towards them. The families so desperately want the woman they love to become well and have the life they believe she deserves.
Learning to shift chronic depression and develop coping skills is an arduous and tedious journey. The nurses are soothing and patient and are an endless source of support and strength. I remember a couple of years ago when we had our yearly reunion of alumnae, the call for nurse CoCo nearly started a riot.
CoCo is almost an institution at Brookhaven Retreat having been with the program from the beginning. The true mother-love she brings in caring for the clients is never forgotten by them. No matter how broken, distressed, anxious or fearful, all the nurses know that loving professional care has a voice all of its own.
It is also interesting to remember that nurses, along with medical and clinical professionals, are the hardest to treat when they have experienced a trauma, have become depressed, or are working through complicated grief. They refuse to allow themselves to be cared for the way they care for others. Be sure you care for the careers.
At the end of National Nurses Week, I have to honor all the amazing nurses at Brookhaven Retreat.
Do You Just Want to Scream?
Edvard Munch's famed 1895 pastel of 'The Scream' sold at Sotheby's in New York this week for $120 million dollars becoming the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction.
‘The Scream’ is so much more than a painting; it's a symbol of psychology as it anticipates the 20th century traumas of mankind. This piece of art is a symbol of angst and existential dread. The image has been used in pop culture as it embodies a feeling that creates an emotional engagement for any person who has experienced severe anxiety, panic attacks, or extreme fear. These feelings often become associated with chronic depression.
Sometimes the demands of the daily chaos of life give you the feeling that you want to scream, to grasp out for some kind of relief. Somehow this painting gives the sought relief as it screams back, you are not the only one. You are not alone; there is another person that has the same pain that you do.
Feeling alone and isolated by our own anxiety can cause a person to retreat from life. Screaming anxiety is like a screaming toddler, you have to soothe it, calm it and teach it to breathe. I used to hate it when people would say to me 'just breathe' when I was very anxious. However, breathing significantly helps if you can learn the techniques of how to breathe when it feels like the pressure cooker is about to blow a gasket.
When you are all screamed out, then you will be able to listen to what is happening and how to be kind to yourself.
Are You a Super Hero?
With the release of the new Avengers movie this week, the super heroes certainly command a huge following in serial fiction and on screen. Their extraordinary powers, skills, and equipment vary; yet they do seem to have some things in common.
Some of the things that we all seem drawn to is the strong moral code they have, including a willingness to risk their own safety in the service of good without expecting a reward. At the same time, there seems to be some Achilles heel that has to be taken care of. Superman and Kryptonite. The Hulk and anger.
The feeling of needing justice and fairness often eludes women as they trek through the meadows of life. To be rescued and scooped off to another life is the wish of many when traumas have hit and seem solutionless and dark.
When a new baby is born, the only superhero it knows are its parents. A new baby does not know if it is receiving justice or not. To really be loved from birth is not the gift every baby receives. Sometimes health issues, postpartum depression, and situational issues make mothering very difficult for some women. For some young women growing up, this can leave them feeling emotionally detached with a sense of aloneness. As a woman matures and becomes an adult, the 'mother' issues can become a persistent Achilles heel. Just thinking about such issues can turn her feelings into the explosive mood of the Hulk.
Helen Keller said “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” To be your own superhero you have to have a fertile imagination. A physician friend of mine sent me a quote that I love, “When ego is lost, limit is lost. You become infinite, kind, and beautiful.”