Fight Terrorism. Take Care Of Yourself.



It makes me so sick. Another gathering of innocents. Another shooting. Another massacre. More desperate phone calls. More screams. More grief so sharp it cuts through bone.

When things like this happen I give myself allowance to avoid the media. It’s too gut-wrenching. The Paris attacks, Belgium, now this. My imagination and empathy take me to such dark places it’s unbearable. So I spare myself as much as I can in order to function.

Is this selfish? I hope not. I think of it more as necessary, healthy self-care. To be able to provide empathy and compassion I need to be able to think straight. That’s hard to do when I’m overwhelmed by the utterly overwhelming reports of what happened in that nightclub.

There’s a kind of re-traumatizing that happens with too much information all at once, over and over again. The brain just isn’t built to process the fire-hose delivery of information and it literally burns out. In my case burn out means full blown panic. In others it might mean a sadness so profound it leads to despair. This is how the terrorists win. This is how they rend the fabric of our society. We must do what we can to not allow this to happen.

So I stay away from the 24 hour news outlets, especially the individual personal accounts they seem to revel in. My news moratorium does not mean I don’t get information. You can’t avoid it completely without very strong effort. Snippets come through, a headline here, an interview over the radio, just enough to be horrified but not too much to be able to handle. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

I know the victims are people with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, friends. Young people with the pulse of life dancing through them, simply enjoying their Saturday night. I know each and every one precious life has their own story of hope and struggle. I do not need the details force-fed to me by an all too eager reporter.

Sidebar: Do they hear themselves? Do they ever turn off the video and just listen to their breathless voices? To how excited they sound shouting out really awful things? I would be so ashamed.

As we grieve, our family, our friends, our community all need us to take care. Do what you need to do to titrate your exposure to the tragedy. Balance the exposure with walks in nature, listening to music you love, reading an escapist novel, laughing at an episode of a favorite sit-com. This does not make us insensitive. It is because we are so sensitive that we need need to be careful.

Try this Self-Care Exercise. Take a break in as quiet a spot as you can manage. Close the office door, turn down the lights. Sit or lie down as comfortably as possible. Breathe in deeply slowly, and out deeply, slowly through your nose if you can. (If not, don’t sweat it) three times. Then just breathe easily. Bring to mind the place, person or thing that gives you refuge from the storm. A place where you always feel safe and nurtured, a person who never judges, who only has love for you, a thing that reminds you of a time or place that was wonderful. Visualize your refuge with as much sensual color as you can. Smells, sights, sounds, textures and tastes all come together to create a real sanctuary where you can breathe easily, plug into your source of positive energy and recharge your battery. Give yourself a minute, ten, twenty, however long you wish to be in this place of peace.

You’re Invited to a Mindful Walk In The Woods



photo

Nature tells us, “It’s going to be OK.”

Do you feel you could use some unplugged time from your busy life? Would you like to enjoy the calming connection nature provides? I’ve got just the thing for you! You are invited to a mindfulness hike in the woods this summer!

“When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor.” –Florence Williams, This Is Your Brain On Nature

The idea for the Mindfulness Hike Retreat grew out of an experience I had a few years ago. At that time I was still suffering with the pain of being forced to change my job. In my first job after earning my degree, I loved going to work everyday. I finally felt like I had arrived. This was the job I worked so hard for the last few years. To top it off I was in a clinic where my colleagues felt like family. It lasted a year, a year that I am still grateful for.

Then one day my supervisor told me I was being transferred. The news came out of the blue. My heart sank and my eyes started to smart with tears. Immediately I felt a heavy sense of loss, betrayal and lack of control. I was devastated.

During the transition I struggled going to and being at work. I was so angry! My thoughts were constantly racing – “Should I look for a different job?” “This is not fair!” “This is going to be a disaster” “You are going to hate your new job.” Not very helpful, right?!

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5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Couples Therapy



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This is a True Story.

A couple walked into a therapist’s office. (OK. It was my office…)

“If you would only stop doing what you’re doing we’d be fine!” yelled one.

“If you would only stop telling me what to do we’d be fine!” growled the other.

“Time out!” said the therapist (me), using the universal ‘T’ hand gesture.

The couple, united in intent at last, stared at me, shocked, as if a monkey had suddenly jumped on my head.

“Couples Therapy is not about having the same fight you have at home here in this office,” I said,  “Just because there’s a third party witnessing it won’t make the fight, or your relationship, any better. Let me explain what it takes to be in couples therapy. Then you can decide if you want to continue.”

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Teens@Risk: The Dark Side Of Smartphones & Social Media



Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Fred Siebert via Flickr

Your teen’s smartphone may not be as smart as you would like it to be. Teens today are presented with a world that did not exist that long ago. Giving your child a smartphone can introduce risks that you may not anticipate.

When teens open various apps such as KikMeetup or even Facebook, they could be inviting predators into their lives without realizing it. This can introduce cyberbullying, sextortion, blackmail and relationships that can become lethal. Yes, that means it could threaten their safety and ultimately their life.

Recently I was interviewed by a reporter who knew of my work with adolescent girls. In the article ‘Sextortion’ of girls can make smartphone as lethal as a gun, I’m quoted:

“It’s a very vulnerable age. They need attention. They are trusting. They want to feel loved,” Maleski said. “They also may feel like they’re in an adult relationship, so they feel mature and that they can handle it.”

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Happy Leap Day! Time to Take A Chance!



Leap and the net will appear. ~Buddhist proverb

What you probably already know about Leap Year:

Feb. 29 is more like a catch-up day than a leap day, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told NYT columnist, James Barron.

…the earth takes 365¼ days to orbit the sun, so a day is added to the Gregorian calendar every four years.

… leap years… have also given Ireland its tradition of the so-called Ladies’ Privilege. That is, women proposing to men. (Whether it’s a privilege is debatable.)

Of course it’s not a privilege! There’s no debate about it. It’s archaic. A cute idea for a Hollywood rom-com, but way past its use-by date.

Over thirty years ago I proposed to my husband after knowing him for four months. It wasn’t a Leap Year. I loved him, I wanted to spend my life with him. Nothing exceptional about this story except that he turned me down. I took a risk and he said no.

Was I hurt? Yes. Did I have to take a moment and rethink my plan? You bet. So what’s the point?

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The Good Life Is Built With Good Relationships



15 Tips to Survive Valentine’s Day



Courtesy Romel via Flickr

It’s Valentine’s Day and once again I find myself torn about what to write.

Do I write about romance and falling in love? About mature relationships and how to keep the fires burning? The joys of the single life? Or chuck the whole thing and admit that Valentine’s Day is annoying to 90% of the population. Well, 80% anyway. OK, I just made that statistic completely up.

But I think I’m right.

If you’re in the first stages of love those fireworks are still going strong. You don’t need a special designated holiday to celebrate. For the rest of us, I thought an assortment of articles, books and websites might bring a little something to everyone. Enjoy the collected love wisdom, beginning with the words of the immortal Mr. Oscar Wilde:

“To love oneself is the beginning

of a lifelong romance.”

Or, as Miss Rupaul would say it:

“If you don’t love yourself,

how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

~***~

Valentine’s Day Love It Or Dread It?
That Loving Feeling Takes A Lot Of Work
The Happy Marriage Is the ‘Me’ Marriage
The Sustainable Marriage Quiz
To Fall In Love With Anyone Do This
The Power Of Two: Secrets to A Strong and Healthy Marriage
How To Be Happy Being Single On Valentine’s Day
5 Fun Things You Can Do If You’re Single on Valentine’s Day
Getting The Love You Want: A Guide For Couples
Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
Our Marriage Do-Over
How Can You Tell If You’re Really In Love
Five Ways To Find Grounds For Marriage
How To Turn Loneliness Into Sweet Solitude
Enjoy Your Valentine’s Day By Lowering Expectations

Don’t *Should* On Yourself!



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A master at work. Courtesy Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

Yoga class. Downward dog. As my hands push into the floor and my legs quiver in response to a deep stretch, I begin to wonder… Am I doing this right? Are my legs and arms where they’re supposed to be? In an instant my attention is off my mat. My eyes and mind wander to the others around me in the room. I begin comparing their postures to mine and wiggle around my mat to make what I think are the adjustments I SHOULD make.

Before I know it I am no longer gently working on myself but rather beating myself up! Becoming aware of this, oddly enough, I start to judge my judging! “Wow what a cycle!” I thought as my confidence began to dwindle.

Then I remembered the intention I set for my practice that day: “Listen to your body.”

Gathering my thoughts, I gently escorted them back to my mat. Refocused, I coached myself through letting go of all of my high expectations, the things I thought I should be doing. The object of my attention became just sensing my body, awareness of my pose. My thoughts shifted to “I can do this. I will do my best.”

Soon my self-doubt and uncertainty faded. A sense of calm and stable confidence replaced it. As I leaned into the stretch of the pose with my breath and attention focused, my downward dog not only felt more comfortable but it was in a deeper position than before!

Only a few minutes worth of thoughts on my mat but, oh, how they represented my daily life struggle. Always striving to be better, to meet high expectations and to do what I “should” be doing, it took a long time to see how these thought patterns keep me anxious and feeling guilty. Now with the power of my “I can only do my best” mantra, I can feel confident and therefore more at ease.  Who would have thought!

Here’s your gentle challenge: Turn a curious eye to how often you put a “should” or “must” on yourself today. Instead, be kind. Remember that who you are and what you’re doing is your best in this moment. And that is good-enough!

Nicole Newcomb-Chumsky practices mindfullness and cognitive behavioral therapy at Explore What’s Next. Contact her today to learn more.

Postpartum Depression: What You & Your Doctor Should Know



PP Depression: It’s been around for a while.

New guidelines calling for pregnant women and women who recently gave birth to be screened for postpartum depression came out this week. Well it’s about time, I thought.

Honestly, I’m a bit confused that the frequency of postpartum depression is presented by the media as some kind of revelation. For ages it’s been known that the majority of new mothers report lowered mood after giving birth. The majority! Back in 2009, when I wrote “Bad Mommy! The Baby Blues & Postpartum Depression,” the Mayo Clinic reported as many as 80% of mothers said they experienced the baby blues and that postpartum depression occurred in 10-20% of women after giving birth. Today it’s like, Wow! a whole new finding that “one in eight and as many as one in five women” develop symptoms of postpartum depression. Which, btw, translates to 10-20%.

Whatever! When it comes to women’s health the sands of awareness and change are slow indeed! At least in this case we are going in the right direction.

“Depression is among the leading causes of disability in persons fifteen years and older. It affects individuals, families, businesses, and society and is common in patients seeking care in the primary care setting. Depression is also common in postpartum and pregnant women and affects not only the woman but her child as well.

The preamble to the latest recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is clear. It would be a good thing for medical professions who care for women to know about postpartum depression and make an assessment for it part of their routine exam.

Please, medical professionals, get some training in how to do this from a behavioral health professional! Sensitivity is just as important as a valid screening tool. Women may be reluctant to report their lowered mood because she ‘should be happy’ about her new baby. Anything less would be failure.

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When Snowmageddon Comes, Be At Home



Buffalo, NY Dec 2001. Courtesy of Mikail A.M. Flickr

Buffalo, NY Dec 2001. Courtesy of Mikail A.M. Flickr

My plans to go to NYC this weekend were caboshed by Jonas. The aspect of snow itself didn’t bother me. The City is beautiful in the snow, hushed and glistening. But the thought of being stuck at an airport all weekend waiting for a flight that never came was too much. I hardly had to bother canceling, the City decided to shut down all by itself.

My colleagues on the Eastern Seaboard, bracing for the blizzard of 2016, said, “You should be used to this,” as if two feet of snow is like a bad smell. No, you don’t necessarily get used to it, but you do learn not to fight it. Some of us even learn to enjoy the forced time off. Dolce far niente!

In Case of Blizzard, Do Nothing, by former Buffalonian David Dudley, says it very well:

“There’s something cartoonish about the menace of a blizzard, in which nature’s wrath assumes a fluffy, roly-poly form and tries to kill you. It’s the meteorological equivalent of getting smothered in Tribbles, or attacked by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. And yet, kill it does, via car accidents and heart attacks and other misadventures, usually involving people trying, unwisely, to do something.”

So to my friends downstate, hunker down, make yourself some popcorn, a hot chocolate or well-laced Irish coffee, and read the whole article. What else do you have to do today?

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