Monday, October 30, 2017

So what's next?

Last Friday we discussed the exploding "Me too" movement that followed the allegations of sexual abuse and harrassment by film mogul Harvey Weinstein over decades. Thousands and thousands of women are coming forward with similar stories across career fields and venues.

As someone said on Facebook, "There can't be a woman alive who hasn't experienced abuse, harassment, or intimidation, whether it be sexual, verbal or psychological." It happens in workplaces, in the military, in the church and in a wide range of venues. As we watch the explosion of "Me too" comments on social media, we can see the prevalence of abusive behavior in our society.

Now that we're more aware of how widespread this is, the next question is: "Now what will we do about this pervasive predatory behavior—and the climate that has made it OK?"

Awareness is essential. But now what? This must lead to change. It is way beyond time to put focus on the victims (and keep re-victimizing them by shining the spotlight on them)—and high time we focus on the predatory behavior that's so pervasive. It's time we look at the reasons we tolerate this outrageous behavior. Why has it been allowed to go on for decades—or really, for centuries?

As women and, I might add, also men of good will, let's add our voices to the mix and push for real change. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to find your voice and add it to the comment box below.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Women finding their voices

If you've been awake at all these past few weeks, you will have heard of the "Me too" movement. When victims of movie producer Harvey Weinstein began coming forward with their stories of his sexual abuse and harassment, social media exploded. In huge numbers, women came forward with their own stories of abuse not only in Hollywood but in every career field and venue imaginable. What courage this takes!

Women began posting on their social media profiles that they had been victimized, and they encouraged others to simply put the words, "Me too" in the comment box and on their profile pages. The idea is simply to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in our society—to get women (and men, too) to raise their hands and say they have been affected. As The Atlantic put it, "There's a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting a climate of serial sexual predation—one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem is revolutionary in its own right."

The problem of sexual predation is an old one and runs deep in our society. It has been allowed to continue because of shame and secrecy. Victims are afraid to come forward because they'll be re-victimized, whether that be in the media, in the court system, by police or even by friends and family. Years ago in my life as a journalist, I interviewed dozens of victims of clergy sexual abuse. I was amazed by the number of church leaders and also church members who defended the abusive clergy and who blamed the victims. "She must've led him on." I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that! Abuse is never all right. 

It's time for all this to stop. We women are finding our voices. That is powerful! We need to support and encourage each other in this. We need to empower each other. This absolutely needs to end. Women's lives do matter. And we need to add our voices to the huge chorus being raised these days. Me too!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Another self-care tip

Whether you take several medications or just a few, it's a good thing to add to your self-care list the habit of annually throwing your meds in a bag and showing them to your primary care doctor—or to your pharmacist. It's important to have someone who's "in the know" look over the meds you're taking and see how they can interact with each other. It's important, too, to know whether you still need to be taking them—and whether they're the correct dosage. (You might also learn whether a generic is possible as that might save you money!)

This is also true for over-the-counter supplements and drugs. Make sure your doctor knows just what you're taking and how they work together, too.

Self-care includes such a wide range of things. It's much more than eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep. Those things are important to your well-being. So is what you put into your mind! Be sure you are careful with what you read and what you watch on TV. Negativity can be as toxic to you as some medications!

I just learned that October 21 was "National Check Your Meds Day." If you didn't know that last week, it's not too late to engage in that particular form of self-care! This is one place where awareness really is essential. We can't afford to be complacent about any of the medications we ingest, prescribed or over-the-counter.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Social media is exhausting

Recently I read an interesting article in USA Today that told me this: "Exhaustion. Weariness. Fatigue. Whichever phrase you prefer, recurring tiredness seems to be the new normal for a growing number of people, regardless of their age or background."

The article went on to say, "Causes range from illnesses such as anemia, depression, hypothyroidism, diabetes and heart disease to the increasing use of technology and its implications on our mental well-being."

That's right. It said that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram wear us out. It's not just the time we spend on those social media but also the stress of the urgency of social media and the feeling of overwhelm at knowing what's happening all over the world. The chair of a behavioral health service pointed out the complexity of our society and said, "We are dealing with perceived threats from everywhere, economic uncertainty; and we are in a constant state of fight and flight."

So if you're feeling run down and worn out, it might be more than your schedule. It could be that social media might be part of it. Does that resonate with you at all? If it does, a solution surely is within reach—cut back on social media time! Again, it is important to engage in good self-care. Reducing stress and knowing when to let go or say "No" are important pieces of self-care.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Brain health—keep it

What have you done for your brain health this week?

We have become more conscious about taking care of our bodies—eating well, exercising, getting regular physicals and generally caring for our health. But we may not often think about our brain health. We should.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, by the year 2050, about 30 million Americans are expected to suffer from Alzheimer's disease. And right now the Alzheimer's Association says about five million people in the U.S. have some form of dementia. They expect that number to increase dramatically as baby boomers age and more people live longer.

Exercising your brain with mentally stimulating activities does appear to help keep cognitive decline at bay. Read books, put together puzzles, work crosswords and other mind puzzles and engage in a variety of mental activities. In addition, exercise seems to help—as does a diet high in vegetables.

Don't take brain health for granted. Be proactive and care for your mind—and your body. Good health is best not left to chance. If you have good health, enjoy it, be grateful for it and do what you can to keep it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Add laughter to your day

In an article on health for people in their 70s and beyond, AARP The Magazine included a segment on the value of laughter in which it said:

"Whether you giggle politely or guffaw till your face hurts, don't miss out on a daily chuckle. Laughing can give your immune system a temporary boost, east pain, relax arteries and offer your torso a mini-workout. In a study of people in their late 60s and early 70s, memory improved and stress levels dropped for those who watched 20 minutes of the TV show America's Funniest Home Videos."

The article recommended trying laughter yoga. Never heard of it? Google it and see what comes up. It's a practice that has spread across the globe. Perhaps you can even find a laughter club near you. If not, there surely are YouTube videos so you can do this at home or with a friend. Doing it with others has the greatest benefit, but doing it at home is better than no laughter! 

Watch comedy shows on TV—or catch a funny movie either at the theater or on Netflix or cable TV.

So if laughter is good at that stage of life, why wouldn't it also be good at any age? Do whatever you can to add laughter into your day—and into your life on a regular basis. You'll feel healthier and happier.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Time to refuel?

Author, speaker and workshop leader Arnie Kozak wisely once said, "Like trying to cut wood with a dull axe, trying to take care of others without taking care of the self first is a counterproductive strategy."

And yet ... and yet, don't we often try to do that? We see someone else in need of care, and we dive in, often letting go of our own self-care practices. This can be especially true of full-time caregivers, for whom time is an extremely precious commodity. It's so easy to not carve out time for yourself in those situations. But it truly is counterproductive.

We hear this every time we fly on an airplane, too: In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before you put on someone else's. That's always a good reminder.

If you think self-care if selfish and that the above advice is wrong, just imagine trying to pour water from a pitcher that hasn't been refilled or trying to drive a car with an empty gas tank. We can't run on empty either. Something has to give.

Take time today to refuel or fill back up if you're feeling worn out, run down or depleted. It's OK. More than OK, it's essential!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Respond with love

I'm really torn. I want to be an informed citizen of my country—and of the world. And yet so much of the news is seriously disturbing—and involves events upon which I can have little to no impact. Of course, some of the things we hear in the news, we can influence or address. We can give aid to those affected by hurricanes, for example. But the rest? Not so much.

One Monday morning at my yoga class, our instructor urged us to simply bring those things we'd heard on the morning news that we found disturbing into our hearts and with deep breaths, feel our love enveloping the globe. That seemed a better response than allowing the news to spur negativity, anger, fear or hate on my part. It's so easy to go to a place of fear and anxiety—or to turn to blaming someone else.

We don't need more toxicity in the world. We don't need any more hate or anger or fear. So I'm going to try what my yoga instructor advised: Respond with love.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Question expectations

Last Monday I wrote about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's book on surviving the grief of her husband's sudden death. In that same AARP The Magazine interview, she also addressed the topic of questioning expectations.

"Studies of 'affective forecasting'—our predictions of how we'll feel in the future—reveal that we often overestimate how long negative events will affect us. This was certainly true for me. Every time I tried to tell myself things would get better, a voice inside my head insisted they would not. It seemed clear that my children and I would never have another moment of pure joy again. Never. So, just as I had to banish 'sorry' from my vocabulary, I tried to eliminate 'never' and 'always' and replace them with 'sometimes' and 'lately.' 'I will always feel this awful' became 'I will sometimes feel this awful.' I also tried a cognitive behavioral therapy technique where you write down a belief that's causing you anguish and then disprove it. I wrote, 'I will never feel okay again.' Seeing those words forced me to realize that just that morning, someone had told a joke and I had laughed. If only for one minute, I'd already proven that sentence false."

This may sound simple, but it isn't. It is effective, however—and over time, you can train yourself to change your language and thus, change your negative thoughts into more realistic expectations. The extreme vocabulary becomes more tempered—and much closer to the truth.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Share your grief

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, lost her husband to sudden death after only 11 years of marriage. Together with her psychologist friend, Adam Grant, she has written a book about grief and recovery. It's entitled Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

In an interview with AARP The Magazine, Sandberg advises people who have faced a trauma such as the death of a loved one that they not isolate themselves.

Here's what she says: "You have to find ways to break the isolation. I found it very hard to tell people that I wanted to talk. It felt like I was imposing my sadness on them. When someone asked, 'How are you?' I kept saying, 'I'm fine,' and then people wouldn't ask me any questions. But I learned to say, 'I'm actually not doing that well.' One of the most common things about grief, about loss, about adversity, is silence. So what happens is, you go through this adversity or trauma, and then what piles on top of that is the isolation of no one talking about it."

Have you experienced this, too? Yes, it's pretty common that people in grief pull into themselves and isolate. I remember doing that after my divorce, too. However, Sandberg's advice is helpful. Isolation only prolongs the grief and makes you feel more alone than you already feel. If you are grieving something now, try Sandberg's advice. Be honest about where you're at in the process. Let friends and family help you. And if you know someone who's grieving, gently continue reaching out to them.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Be extravagant!

It's often been said that the deepest and most precious things in life cannot be seen or touched, and isn't that true? As Helen Keller said, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." Although those we love are precious, what is deep and true and meaningful are the things that pass between us in those relationships. The looks, the shared moments, the deep conversations, the special touches.

Author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia put it this way: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

What that reminds me to do is to be generous and completely extravagant with my touch, my smiles, my kind words, the way I listen, my compliments and all kinds of random acts of care and kindness. If I stay focused on how grateful I am for all the precious gifts in my life, it will be easier for me to be extravagant with all the priceless and precious things that cannot be seen or touched.

Let your heart be filled with love—and be generous in spreading it around!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let go of worry

There are many wise sayings and proverbs. The Chinese have left us with a fair share of them.

One of my favorite Chinese proverbs really speaks to me because I can spend too much of my time and energy in worry, a habit that seldom produces anything worthwhile for me. It does use up time that I'll never get back, however.

Here's the proverb: "That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change. But that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent."

Do you like that one, too? Yes, worry and care will flit around us and fly over frequently. Let's try hard to let go of worry—and not let those worries and cares find a landing strip in our hair!

Thinking about our problems in order to find solutions is far different from worrying and stewing in the juices of our cares. Let's not confuse the two. Let go, let go, let go of worry.

Monday, October 2, 2017

It's a brand new month

We've just turned the calendar to a brand new month. What will the month of October hold for you? What does this season of the year mean to you?

For me, this particular October is absolutely jam-packed. Some of the things on my calendar represent wonderful times with family and friends. Other things are necessary tasks that must be done. Some are even heavy-duty commitments I need to fulfill.

However, the bottom line is that I absolutely love the fall season. I enjoy the vibrant and beautiful colors in which the trees are dressed this time of year. I love the crisp air and the mosquito-free days to walk in the woods. I really enjoy the Indian Summer we often experience here in the Midwest. I even like the more subdued colors of leaves that follow later in the fall.

And beyond that, I'm grateful to be alive. Grateful for family and friends. Grateful for health, home and safety. There is so much for which to be grateful.

What's on your gratitude list in this brand new month?