Try It! You’ll Like It!
Today I was asked to try Maple Walnut Pie. My first reaction was a polite, “No thank you.” Then after a bit of urging, I took a tiny bite. “Yum!” It was amazing. As a child I had tasted something containing walnuts and was not pleasantly surprised. I decided then and there, “No more walnuts for me!” Though years have passed and my tastes have changed, I never revisited the “walnut issue.” For me, it had already been decided long ago. I was not then, and would never be a walnut consumer.
It sounds funny, but aren’t we like this with many aspects of our lives? We make snap judgments based on isolated events and determine within ourselves that we are forever opposed to whatever it is. This can be very counterproductive to our lives. Perhaps the issue isn’t walnuts, but treatment of your mental health. Perhaps you are suffering from depression, anxiety or substance abuse. You may have tried counseling, medication or residential treatment in the past and were unhappy with the results. This can be discouraging and cause many to turn away from future attempts to rebuild their lives. How unfortunate this is! Hope for tomorrow is found when you refuse to give up and keep trying.
Life can be worthwhile and fulfilling if you possess the skills necessary to navigate your way through. Brookhaven Retreat can teach you those skills. At Brookhaven Retreat we recognize the unique and very special needs of women. A holistic approach to treatment allows women to move toward healing in every area of their lives, body, mind and spirit. Acquiring this skill set greatly increases the probability of success following treatment, assisting women in regaining control of their lives and maintaining healthy relationships.
Does it Matter?
In today’s fast paced world, we sometimes find ourselves frazzled from our commitments. Between children’s soccer games, church or civic activities, and working outside our homes, we are often left with little to give. While it is good, even admirable to help others, it is not advantageous if we deplete our emotional resources. This is detrimental to our emotional well being, and can lead to feelings of anxiety, inadequacy and depression.
I must admit I have found myself in this frazzled, overly committed frame of mind at times. I would be asked to teach a class or volunteer my time for church activities, and always felt compelled to say yes. It wasn’t that I thought those asking for my help wouldn’t understand if I said no. It was that I really did want to help.
The problem arose when I found myself committed to doing something ‘extra’ almost every day of the week. Soon, my helpful attitude was replaced with irritability, and my typically fun-loving demeanor with my children was turned sour as well. One day, as I complained about how overwhelmingly busy I was, my daughter reminded me, “Mom, you’re the one who said yes to all of this.” Out of the mouth of babes, right? It occurred to me that she was indeed correct. I was the one who said yes, when I had the option of saying no. The things I agreed to were good, but they were not best. My family deserved my best. They did not need to be the recipients of the scattered fragments I had left after giving all the ‘good stuff’ to everyone else.
From that point till now, I have determined to ask myself three things when I am asked to commit my time: 1) Is this important enough to sacrifice time with my family? 2) Am I the only one who can do this? 3) What will be the consequence if I don’t do it? I have found this to be very helpful. If the answer to the first question is no, then I don’t bother asking the second and third. My time is valuable. I want to use it wisely. I want to give of my time to serve others, but never at the expense of those closest to me.
A Morning Walk
We often speak of self-care in terms of massages, hair appointments, and self-time. Sadly, this is because so many women put everyone and everything else ahead of them; caring for the self becomes an urgent matter of mental health rather than a regular practice.
Hobbies, self-time, and salon appointments are great treats that improve mood and increase self-esteem. They encourage the regular self-care that protects mental health. But there are also day-to-day routines so seemingly ordinary that we forget to nurture ourselves through them – these routines can also have a significant impact on mood and mental health.
Every morning, I make time for a quick ten-minute walk. Though it only takes ten minutes of my day, this walk allows me to clear my head of any leftover clutter and set goals for what I want out of my day. Often during the end of this walk, my clearer head and goal-focused mind allows ideas to come to me more quickly and freely than any other time of day.
It was a difficult habit to begin – why take a few minutes to walk? It’s not a particularly special activity, nothing I couldn’t do at any other time of day. At first I even felt guilty taking this time that I could use for more “proactive” things. Yet it not only cleared my mind and made me a more efficient worker, it also made me happier throughout the day.
What routine is part of your daily self-care? Do you take time to set your goals for the day? Quiet time to yourself may allow the paths to these goals develop in your mind so that when you are done, you are ready to charge forward with your day. You’d be surprised at the impact a few minutes can have on your entire day.
What Are You Thinking?
“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.”
- Chinese Proverb
How many of us are truly aware of what we are thinking? If we said out loud or wrote down the thoughts we have, I believe we would be surprised by what we hear and see. Thoughts can be our greatest assets or our most troubling pest. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of thinking.
A cognitive distortion is a thought pattern that is irrational and exaggerated. These thought patterns affect us in ways that develop depression and anxiety. Cognitive distortions at times try to turn us in to mind readers. For example, someone may be having a bad day and we perceive that they are angry with us when they have no reason to be. We make assumptions based on our perceptions of another individual’s demeanor.
Another example of thinking patterns that cause anxiety is something called catastrophizing. This occurs when we think something like being late at work will get us fired and we will never work again because we are terrible employees. Have you heard the saying “making mountains out of molehills?”
One of the ways to take hold of our thought patterns that cause us trouble is to become aware of them. Practice mindful thinking and to the best of our ability not let thoughts bounce freely around our minds. Another way to gain mastery over the cognitive distortions is to be able to distinguish between fact and opinion. Do I have evidence of this situation or am I making an assumed judgment based on opinion?
None of us are exempt from the occasional cognitive distortion, however we can learn to take control of our thoughts instead of our thoughts controlling us. Our thoughts determine our feelings and our feelings drive our behaviors. As we learn to be mindful of our thoughts, we begin to take ownership of our lives and our thoughts turn into tools we can use to build our future.
Sweet and Tangy Kale
Kale has experienced a tremendous rise in popularity over the last several years, and with good reason. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. One cup of kale provides twice the recommended daily value of vitamin A and all of the daily value of vitamin C. It’s also high in fiber, iron and powerful antioxidants.
Because it’s so filling and healthy, kale makes a wonderful accompaniment to lunch and dinner. Try this sweet and tangy recipe with bean chili, grilled chicken or all by itself.
Your Spectacular Body
With everyday life’s stress, pressure and obstacles, it is sometimes easy to forget to take care of your most important asset, your body. As women, we often get so caught up in caring for others that we should take time each day to take care of ourselves. Self-care and a positive perspective of your body are critical to reducing risk for anxiety and depression and maintaining your overall wellness both inside and out.
Think of your body as the vehicle you drive through life. Every vehicle requires maintenance, as does your body. Fuel your body with nourishing foods that are a delight to all your senses, with bright colored fruits and vegetables, foods that smell fabulous and look great when placed on the plate. Then take time to allow your body to savor the experience of the meal. Enjoy the taste, sight, smell, and sounds of the food that will become a part of your body.
The human body as with any vehicle is built to move. Physical activity keeps your body strong, flexible and happy. Physical activity doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, it can actually be something you enjoy doing. Make of list of activities you enjoy or you think you would like to try and start moving. Some ideas for physical activity may be as simple as playing with your children or working in your flower garden. Take time to appreciate the strength, flexibility and balance physical activity provides to your body.
Even the finest tuned machines eventually need to be turned off for minor maintenance. Plan for time to allow your body to rest and rejuvenate. Your body needs sleep and relaxation to allow you to be focused, calm and ready to move you through life. When you rest, thank your body for what it has allowed you to accomplish throughout the day.
And finally be your body’s best friend and greatest supporter. Remember your body is a spectacular instrument that makes your life happen. Honor your body. Respect your body. Nourish your body. Rejuvenate your body. Surround your body with others with positive energy that supports your inner strength and beauty. Thank your body for all the spectacular gifts it provides to you daily and welcome those gifts. You deserve them.
The Grief of Pet Loss
Most of us have owned a pet in our lifetime. Pets are special additions to our families. When you lose this “family member,” the grieving process can feel the same as when losing an actual human family member. Throughout my life, I have many fond memories of the pets I have owned. They all take me back to good times and put a smile on my face. Pets are there to brighten your day when you are sad or depressed or even just to sit on your lap for comfort. They are always happy to see you….wagging their tail, running in circles with excitement…no matter if you’ve only gone to the store for a quick trip. Pets love unconditionally.
One of my fondest memories is of Sparky. Sparky was a vivacious, red Dachshund with lots of personality and spunk. He was always by my side, following me everywhere I went. He was a part of my family before my children were born. I was a little worried when I was pregnant with my first child about how Sparky would handle the new addition to the family, as he always wanted my undivided attention. When my children were born, instead of treating them as strangers, he “welcomed” them into the family. Strangely, he never growled or snarled at the babies. It was like he knew they belonged with us and in our family.
As my children grew, Sparky grew older, grayer, and feebler. His normal playful, jaunty self slowly deteriorated over the years to the point he was miserable. After 17 years, I had to make the painful decision to have Sparky euthanized. I had to decide how to tell my children that Sparky was gone and wasn’t coming back. He had lived a good long life. However, my selfishness did not want to let him go and the prospect of telling my children filled me with anxiety and dread. As with the death of any family member, grieving the loss of a pet is quite similar. We had to learn to cope. There were, of course, the questions: “Mom, when is Sparky coming back?” This statement from my 5-year-old who did not yet comprehend exactly what death meant. The first few days after his death were the hardest. When the kids came home from school and Sparky wasn’t in his bed, they would go to their room and cry. I always tried to be strong for my children, but it was hard for me to see their hearts breaking along with mine.
Over time, as with any death, our grief went through the entire process. To this day, we still get sad sometimes when we talk about Sparky, but mostly we laugh and remember the good times. Some people may think it is juvenile to be so upset over the loss of a pet. Some people may think it is ridiculous, just because Sparky was an animal. To us, it made no difference. We still had to go through the grieving process and learn to cope with his absence in our lives. Our pet, Sparky, was a very important part of our lives for many years.
So if someone you know is struggling with grief and sorrow, try to empathize and remember whatever loss they are grieving was important and should not be minimized or thought of as juvenile. We must all learn how to cope and adjust. It is a natural life process, and how we handle it is up to us.
Isn’t it a nice surprise to open the mailbox and find a card or letter nestled among the bills and junk mail? In this day and age of Facebook, e-mail, and text messages, a handwritten note is rare. Letter writing has become a lost art. But did you know that putting pen to paper can be therapeutic? Writing can help us process our thoughts and feelings. It allows us to release negative feelings in a constructive way and to reframe our view of a difficult situation. As the author Elizabeth Hardwick stated, “Letters are above all useful as a means of expressing the ideal self…In letters we can reform without practice, beg without humiliation, and shape embarrassing experiences to the measure of our own desires.” Even a simple note recounting our day can help us find joy and meaning in the simple, everyday things that we often overlook or take for granted. Writing letters is a wonderful way to release feelings of anxiety and depression, reflect and reconnect. I know that for me personally, it’s easier to express myself with pen in hand than it is sitting down in front of a keyboard. My sincerest sympathy, deepest gratitude, or truest thought seems more genuine when conveyed through my own handwriting.
Walt Whitman wrote, “The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.” It doesn’t take much time and costs no more than a postage stamp, but the simple gesture of sending a card or letter can do so much to brighten someone’s day. We all want to know that we’re in someone’s thoughts, that they care about and appreciate us. A letter provides us with insight to another’s thoughts and feelings. This amazing gift can be enjoyed each time we read their message. Our memory of a conversation can change or fade with time, but the words in a letter remain the same. Letters share the essence of who we are and tell the stories of our relationships. They stand as historical records, giving us a window to our past. The Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that letters transform ourselves, others, and therefore the entire world…”Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.” I encourage you to rediscover the art of letter writing and start the letter of your lifetime today.
We all want to live a life of roses with no thorns, few mistakes, and little effort, but the reality is that you can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. First things first: just “Think.”
T… is it true?
H… is it helpful?
I… is it inspiring?
N… is it necessary?
K… is it kind?
Ask yourself is what I am thinking or about to say true to myself? Am I being true to my feelings, my beliefs, and what I think is best? Is it helpful to me to think this way or do this? Is what you’re thinking positive? Is it going to build you up or bring you down? Afterwards, is it going to help the situation or resolve the problem? Is this inspiring? Are you doing something you love that’s going to increase your mood? Is this something you’re sincere about and going to increase your self-esteem? Is it kind? Is it polite? Is it positive? Is what you’re going to do or say going to be nice, beneficial, and healthy?
To have a healthy life free from depression, anxiety and negative thinking, you have to have a healthy you. To do that, we have to be there for ourselves. By asking ourselves these questions we are able to reassess what we think, ensuring that it’s the best thing for us in that moment. So next time you see a rose notice that it does have thorns, which is true, but without those thorns what would it be??? Think about it!!!
Lately, news outlets have been saturated with the story of the three kidnapped girls from Cleveland. These girls were found nearly a decade after their disappearances, yet their joyous return is darkened by the horrors they endured all those years.
The details of their bondage trickle in slowly: rapes, beatings, miscarriages and potential deaths of other women. The trauma these three women have endured has captivated a horrified public. People ask: what’s next? How does a woman recover from such a horrible experience?
This high profile case is one example of a trauma that occurs silently every day. One in four women will experience some type of sexual assault in their lives. More than one third of all posttraumatic stress disorder cases are classified as severe, and negatively impact women’s everyday lives.
Women everywhere endure trauma and keep silent. These secret traumas damage mental health, create anxiety, depression, suicidality, mood disorders, substance abuse and prevent women from truly living.
There is a long path ahead of women suffering from trauma. Women must free themselves from the resulting emotional trauma through a difficult journey of self-discovery, love and understanding. A co-occurring diagnoses treatment center allows women to explore mental health and substance abuse issues resulting from trauma and develop a path to wellness. A variety of therapies help women emotionally regulate, distance themselves from trauma and learn to love themselves again.
The road is long and fraught with struggle, but recovery is possible. With time and patience, women can get well. A holistic approach explores aspects including social support, body image, nutrition, sleep hygiene, medication, self-care and therapy to build a life that supports mental health recovery.