You would never know that the days are getting longer and my mare, Annie, is actually shedding. Anyone living in the deep North of the US is acutely aware of our sub-zero days, endless snow with drifts as high as an elephants eye! In other parts of the world it might be hard to imagine what we are dealing with. Over the weekend my sister who lives in Southern California sent me this picture of the view outside a beach house.
My reaction surprised me. Instead of being filled with envy and bitterness, I was relieved! Thank God! Somewhere in this world there is color and palm trees! It made me smile and shed a tear of gratitude.
Then I sent her this video of the view outside my window on the same day:
So the envy and bitterness wasn’t that far off after all. There it was lurking in the cold corners of my house, my neighborhood, my town, waiting to suffocate me any minute now.
These are tough times for the snow and cold bound. In my practice, just about everyone I see has something anxious, angry or depressing to say about the weather. No matter what the real theme they want to work on is, the coda plays: “…and then there’s the weather.”
Like labor pains, I don’t remember how bad past winters were. We tend to think that whatever we are experiencing now is the worst ever! But in this case, I really think this winter is the worse winter ever! A few years back I shared eight things that helped keep me warm, happy and sane despite the freezing temps after the holidays and without football to distract us. They still apply:
1) Alpaca fiber socks. These socks are the best socks in the world! They are called Survival Socks for a reason! Warm, soft and amazing at keeping dry. If you wear boots for any reason, for sport, for work, to dig out of the snow or walk your dog through the snowdrifts, these socks will not let you down. Even after coming in, I keep my alpaca socks on to pad around the house. A favorite sweater, wrap (#4), velvet-y soft pants and top, on some days can feel like a warm hug from Mom when we really need it.
2) Bonjour Primo Latte battery operated whisk. I am not big on kitchen gadgets but this is one I love! For under twenty bucks you can make your own skinny vanilla latte at home any time you want! Try this recipe: 3/4 cup 1% milk + 1/4 cup water heated in the microwave for 30 seconds, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp instant Espresso, a drop or two of real vanilla extract. Whisk with your new toy and Voila! A steamy, frothy, low cal treat!
3) Hot chocolate. Not just any hot chocolate. Ghirardelli Chocolate Mocha! I take my chocolate very, very seriously. This stuff is the Rolls Royce of hot chocolate. All other hot chocolate will turn to chalk in your mouth after you taste this rich goodness. That’s all I have to say.
4) A ruana, shawl, cosy blanket, throw or snuggie. OK, maybe not a snuggie but I love my favorite ruana, a soft wrap that traps my body heat just where I want it and it looks good, too! Which, let’s be honest, a snuggie can never do, even a leopard print one. Just thinking about my ruana makes me feel warm. I think I’ll go get it right now. (see #1)
5) Treadmill. If it weren’t for my treadmill I would be a squirrelly mess. Activity is a depression buster, and not being a skier, walking on my treadmill gives my cooped-up energy a place to go. Otherwise I’d be hurling large objects at my husband for no good reason. You don’t need a treadmill to move. Put on your favorite jam and dance wildly! Go through some yoga poses throughout the day. Stand and walk around while you’re on the phone calling the furnace guy.
6) Oil popped popcorn. Microwave popcorn is good but real oil popped popcorn has that special almost like movie popcorn taste. Some people say popping your own is healthier than microwave. I don’t know but I do know it’s cheaper! Popcorn is not that hard to make once you have the knack. Try this recipe.
7) A dog or a cat or any cuddly pet. Their furry goodness warms the heart and makes the frozen days feel less isolating. If they let you get close, their body heat is a good as any heating pad. They are great entertainment value as well! My dog happily hopping in the deep snow makes me laugh every time. Winter depression busted!
8) Binge Watching. All the Mindy Project and The Good Wife episodes you can stand passes the time during a blizzard.
Try this. Work out first (#5), break a sweat doing any kind of movement, then settle down with #1-#7. Give yourself permission, to not be as productive as usual, to sleep a little more and eat carbs. You’ll be purring with contentment in no time.
What helps you survive the winter? Please share! I’ve added a few more ideas in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you, especially if your situation if different. Do you have kids? Are you an older person or have a disability? What do you do to cope with our crazy environment?
Many people complain that whatever they do it isn’t ever good enough. Then they get a rash of “I get so angry at myself” –itis. Who is their harshest critic? You guessed it. They beat themselves up with what amounts to verbal self-abuse.
Boy, do I know how that feels:
“Why did I get an 89 on that report? It should have been 100. I’m an idiot!”
“What was I thinking when I called in sick? I should have gone into work anyway. Now my boss will think I’m a bum. I am a bum!”
“Why did I eat that pie? Why did I eat two pieces of pie? I’m fat and out of control!”
A lot of us are guilty of being mean to ourselves in a way we would never tolerate form anyone else.
It has got to stop! Here’s how:
1) Tune in, like you would a radio dial, to the voices in your head. How are they sounding? Supportive or nasty? Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how cruel we can be to ourselves until we detach just enough to listen as an observer. Write some of it down. Let that help you realize the extent of the verbal self-abuse you’ve been sustaining. During an episode of depression I did this and was surprised to learn how unkind I was to myself.
2) Whose voice is it? It isn’t yours. Your genuine voice is thoughtful, even when you legitimately need a kick in the butt. Trust me on this. Often that harsh voice you hear is a parent or other adult who had an impression on us when we were kids. Back then our brains were sponges that soaked up and internalized everything, including repeated criticisms.
Isolate and defuse that negative voice. Identify where it came from and realize its origin was outside of yourself. Take another moment to filter through the ‘noise’ of the mean voice. Underneath all that muck is your genuine voice or your ‘gut’. That voice is reasonable and supportive. Listen to it.Read More...
Editor’s Note: Explore What’s Next therapist, Nicole Newcomb, LMHC, runs a great group for people who are recovering from an eating disorder. In today’s thin-obsessed society getting back to healthy self-care is no easy task! In this article Nicole describes why she created this program and how it works. ~Dr. Aletta, Director
Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to be happy with your body! Health magazines tell you “Lose 10 lbs in 5 Days!,” media broadcasts of unnatural photo-shopped models and even health insurance billboards show unrealistic expectations.
Every time we turn around someone or something is telling us that we do not look fit enough, thin enough, beautiful enough and therefore we are not good enough. Sadly, when told this repeatedly, we start to believe it! Internalizing all of the messages and expectations from our culture can be very detrimental to our self-esteem and drive us to “improve” ourselves.
However, with unattainable goals to increase our self-worth, we fall into the trap of unhealthy behaviors. It doesn’t take long for calorie counting, excessive exercising and food rules to take over our lives. Quickly, we realize our efforts are still not improving our self-esteem and we push ourselves harder, sometimes to the point of doing things we never thought we would!
Have you become rigid or anxious about your food, work- outs and weight? If you feel like you struggle with chronic body dissatisfaction, skipping meals, over-eating and have intense guilt… then it is time to Break the Rules! Explore how to get out of your head by learning how to break the eating disorder rules!
In this group you will gain an understanding of what it means to have an ED, support from peers who understand your struggle, education about symptoms from a qualified therapist and recovery skills for breaking bad habits and learning how to cope! You can be happy with your body AND be healthy!
Call, text (585.737.4564) or email me (email@example.com) anytime. I’d love to hear from you! ~Nicole Newcomb, LMHC, Group Leader.
Photo courtesy of Malingering via Flickr
I am not a big fan of the New Year’s Resolution. Because I failed at keeping mine year after year, leaving me feeling quite depleted, I finally figured out resolutions are best avoided. I have New Years Guidelines instead.
Not that resolutions are all bad. They can be friendly reminders to keep us on track when we need an external nudge, kind of like the kiddy bumpers at the bowling alley. But the truth is, for most of us, by the end of January our resolutions are piled up like a bunch of bill payment notices, nagging at us for what we haven’t done, not inspiring us to do what we can.
Did you ever wonder who that rare creature is who is capable of living up to their New Year’s Resolutions? God bless you if you are one of them, but I’m about to reveal your secret.
Back when I was in college I took an industrial psychology class. We studied what makes some people higher achievers than others; those people who set a goal for themselves and actually accomplish it.
You might think that high achievers set big, fat goals but they don’t. Research shows that the most successful people chose flexible, mid-level goals. The bar they tend to choose requires a bit of a stretch, just outside their comfort zone, but well within their grasp.
That’s a life lesson for anyone who tends to feel like they are always coming up short, always a step behind, always failing at what they set out to achieve.
For example. Losing weight is a very popular New Year’s resolution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come up short on that one. After countless tries, I finally learned that if I made the misguided promise to journal every-single-thing-I ate-day-after-day-from-now-on-forever-and-ever, by the end of January I’d have already messed up. The resulting inevitable failure would only make me want to eat more.
On the other hand…If I tell myself, ‘Today I will keep a food journal!’, I believe I can achieve that. The chances for success go way up, boosting my self-esteem. If I don’t keep a journal for one day, it’s only a one day blip, not a for-all-eternity failure. That could mean the difference between a slightly bruised self-esteem versus one that is deeply wounded.
Here’s another thing: My list of possible resolutions is endless. Keep a food journal, meditate daily, hang out with friends more, ride my horse, Annie, more, exercise more, blah blah blah. All that is terrific, but it misses the point. Which is to be grateful and content now, right now. After all, who we are and what we have right now is pretty fricking awesome!
And if “happy” is too far a reach (achievable goals, right?) then “satisfied” will do. If you’re like me and tend to postpone satisfaction with myself until I’ve lost a few pounds or can afford a trip to Europe, let’s “resolve” to cut it out. Because doing so is not only sad, it’s judgmental. And who are we to judge?
By giving ourselves permission to be content just for today, to be grateful for what we have now, our self-esteem will smile because it feels nurtured, relaxed, strong and resilient.
Happy New Year!
Have an opinion? Of course you do! Please share it in a comment.
Editor’s Note: My dear friend, Amy Jo Lauber, CFP, author of Life Inspired Financially Empowered, is holding a weekend retreat for couples! Of the big three reasons couples fight, sex, money and family, I have to say money was the usual suspect in our house. A retreat like the one Amy Jo has planned would have saved my husband and me a lot of tension and strife! Here is a reprint of an article written by Amy Jo describing the highlights of the retreat and why couples will benefit for the good of your bank account and your relationship!
It is booked! The “Couple’s Retreat for Financial Harmony” that I’m cheekily calling HARMONEY!
Since most couples argue (or at least disagree) about some aspects of their finances at least some of the time, I feel offering this retreat is a way of helping them stay married (if indeed they’d like to). Being a good steward of your resources is one way of showing love for your spouse.
Financial decisions and actions are reflections of our innermost values and priorities, so they tend to pull our triggers in ways we may not always understand. Once triggered, it’s difficult to listen to our spouse and step into a place of rational, wise decision making because we go into tantrum mode.
This is not healthy if you desire a long-term marriage and will only make you grumble at the “for richer or for poorer” vow you took. And what about “for worse?!” Who marries “for worse?!”
So, let’s make it “for better” and we’ll work on the “for richer” part, too.
This retreat is designed to be a sacred time and place for you and your beloved to:
- Discover each other’s values, goals, fears and priorities
- Foster a sense of understanding for each another
- Learn how you complement each other financially
- Increase your communication skills
- Learn how to tackle your finances as a team
- Create and commit to mutual goals & courses of action
Salsa SarahSarah Haykel (“Salsa Sarah”) will start us off Friday evening with a bit of fun, then Saturday I’ll help you discover what’s truly important to you – individually and as a couple – and how money can be your servant (and not the other way around).
Then Dr. Elvira Aletta of Explore What’s Next will give you the tools you need to communicate your needs and priorities to each other so that you can like each other and feel that you truly have each other’s back.
The retreat runs from Friday October 24th 6:30pm through Saturday October 25thth 4pm at the gorgeous Beaver Hollow Conference Center 1083 Pit Road, Java Center, NY 14082 (note this is a non-smoking facility).
$525 per couple: All meals and guest rooms included!
Make checks payable to Lauber Financial Planning, 3976 Seneca Street, West Seneca, NY 14224
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin
Don’t you love that quote? I don’t know how many women I’ve met who say this quote is an all time favorite. Why does it speak to us?
Because change is scary. Because it takes a lot of guts to face the change instead of avoiding it, to take charge of our own story instead of handing it over to someone else to tell for us, to take center stage and be the star of our show instead of sitting on the side lines!
Yup, it’s all risky. ‘Cause who can tell us how it’s all going to turn out?
We have fooled ourselves into thinking we can handle it all! Society and our own perfectionistic-y egos tell us we should be able to handle it all! Yet despite all our resources we begin to get frayed around the edges. Exhaustion, sleep troubles, emotional eating, irritability…
During times of transition we can all use a little help from our friends to remind us how awesome we are!
Why go it alone? Transition can be overwhelming! It’s OK to think that, even say it out loud. Coping with aging parents and children’s needs, empty nesting, illness, changes at work or in a relationship and more – sometimes all at once!
Our new group is designed to give you support on your path of change. Our goal is for you to grow out of Overwhelmed and into Empowered! We provide a safe, comfy place where you can just be you, inspired by new ideas and perspectives, validated and encouraged.Read More...
I will not judge Robin Williams’ death. In my work I see what severe depression does to a person’s cognitive functioning, the self-loathing and hopelessness that are its hallmark. Substances are often turned to in a desperate, and yes, misguided, attempt to lessen the pain. We all know what good that does.
Suicide is *not* a selfish act. It is the horrifyingly logical conclusion of a devastating illness that takes every ounce of our self-worth away. The “selfish” act is to listen to the healthy voice, inside us, however weak and tiny that says, “Live! You deserve life’s gifts.”
If you are worried about a loved one or are suffering yourself from thoughts of self-harm call 800-273-TALK immediately.
Hello again Dr. A!
Sisyphus and his rock had nothing on me. This week is my daughter’s second wedding anniversary. I’m embarrassed to admit that for two years, I’ve had two (empty) photo albums I’d offered to complete for her (plus 600+ wedding photos) sitting in a big basket full of (expensive!) wedding-themed scrapbooking embellishments in the corner of the living room, all of it reminding me every time I pass that corner of the room that this task is HOW long overdue?!?!
I know, I know, I know – if I would only pull it all out onto the dining room table and just get started (as you point out in #2), I could polish off this creative project in due course – and probably actually have fun creating it.
I do have a beaut of a procrastination excuse, however. On her wedding day, her Dad became very ill. He managed to walk his only daughter down the aisle before one of our guests (a physician) insisted that he needed to go straight to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and stayed in Intensive Care for over two weeks, seriously ill. So instead of leaving on her honeymoon, our daughter sat vigil with her new hubby at her Dad’s bedside for those two weeks.
As you can imagine, when we look at those wedding photos now, it brings back a nightmarish memory of a day that started off so beautifully but ended with such high drama. Hundreds of photos of her smiling a frozen little pasted-on smile, trying bravely to get through the reception, the dinner, the endless speeches, the party afterwards – when really all she could think of was her Dad who wasn’t there. I dread looking at those photos of her – and let’s face it, she’s in almost every one!
The timing of your post is near-perfect – just the boot in the bum I need. Thank you for this!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I sincerely hope your daughter’s father is well and able to enjoy her second wedding anniversary with the family.
What a doozy of a procrastination excuse! That’s how sneaky and devious that Anxious Avoidance Voice can be. It can hit us where we live so that we’re convinced that avoidance is the right thing to do. Reading your story, anyone with a heart would say, well, of course you don’t want to look at those photos! Put them away! Don’t suffer looking at them. A lot of us can identify with your situation. I spent well over a year avoiding cleaning out my father’s clothes closet after he passed away and felt terrible about it every time I walked by.
I am so happy that the Avoid Procrastination article inspired you! It sounds like you’re determined to get your project done now! I came up with a few more suggestions (see below) that I hope will make your Sisyphean task a bit easier, not just for you but for any of us who are faced with a similarly painful, long avoided project.
Warmest wishes, Elvira
1. Know that getting started is the hardest part. There’s this thing called entropy. It’s a physics thing but I believe it applies to emotional energy as well. When NASA needs to blast a satellite into space, it takes massive amounts of rocket fuel to push out of the pull of Earth’s gravity. That huge effort then dissipates once the satellite is in orbit. Procrastinating anxiety wants us to think that the same huge effort it takes to get started will be needed throughout the execution of the task. That is just too much for anyone to bear! The truth is that once you are out of the sticky pull of doing nothing, the energy needed to keep your momentum, to keep on course, is nothing compared to the initial, getting-started effort.Read More...
“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~William Butler Yeats
Friendships are a big factor in health and happiness. People with active friend circles apparently live longer and report higher levels of life satisfaction. Sure, that makes sense.
But as we get older the usual routes to making friends peter out. How hard is it to make friends when your kids no longer need you to help out with school field trips or to accompany them on play dates where you could bond with the other moms?
Really, really hard!
How does a person no longer in college make friends?
Last year this was a big thing on my radar. With my youngest in her first year of college I was officially an empty nester. Without my daughter’s presence available as an easy distraction, the absence of a solid girlfriend circle was obvious. I wanted to actively do something about it. This is what I came up with:Read More...