Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning into Discomfort

Ep. 18 Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning in is a power principle with multiple applications. Today we’re discussing the power of leaning into discomfort in a specific area. I invite you to stay with me to the end and I have an invitation that I think you’ll accept, even if you never thought you would.

What Does it Mean to "Lean In"?

Have your ever heard the expression, “Lean into the wind?”  

Growing up, my brother and I walked to and from school no matter the weather. Which meant that sometimes we would push forward through fierce storms and arrive at the school building to learn that school was cancelled because buses couldn’t get through the snow. Anyone who has walked in strong wind know that in order to stand up straight in high wind, you can’t just stand up straight, you have to lean forward. You have to lean into the wind. Leaning into the wind means pressing forward in the direction opposite the way the wind blows.

Last summer I did a pioneer handcart reenactment in Wyoming. I don’t know if it has something to do with being near the Continental Divide, but that Wyoming prairie gets a LOT of wind—like blow your tent away in the middle of the night with you in it—kind of wind. And when we were walking and pulling our handcarts, if we wanted to move forward, we had to lean into the wind.

Traditionally lean in has been used in the context of sports to mean “to shift one’s body weight forward or toward someone or something.” In water and snow sports, you can lean into a wave, the wind, a slope, or a turn. You can lean in to a pitch or a throw. You can even lean in to a catch.

The first printed use of the term “leaning into”  comes from Hartley Burr Alexander’s 1906 Poetry and the Individual, where Alexander uses the phrase “leaning into the future” in reference to the power of poetry deriving from its “leaning into the future.” And Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, used “lean in” as the title of her 2013 book, a call for women to embrace challenge and risk in the work place and leadership. All uses of the term “lean in” point to the act of moving forward against an opposing force.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Why would we talk about leaning into discomfort? Why would a nice person like myself, ask you to lean into discomfort?

Episode 12 The Power of Imbalance, has been the most downloaded episode to date. (If you haven’t listened, go there next.)  I think because it strikes a universal instinct in all of us. We don’t like to feel out of balance or out of control or out of our comfort zone. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable. But, as Shawn my personal trainer taught me, growth happens in the zone of imbalance, in the zone of discomfort. If  you never lean into discomfort, you can not grow.

In yoga there is an expression, “Breathe into the stretch.” Yoga instructors emphasize that you shouldn’t push your body to the point of pain, but you should take your body to the point of discomfort, then breathe into that discomfort. Yoga teaches that rather than resisting what feels uncomfortable to move towards it, and in this way your muscles grow. This is opposite our instinct. Our knee-jerk reaction is to move away, to back away, to shy away, or to straight out run away from any discomfort. But, someone the act of leaning into the discomfort, of breathing into it, lessens the discomfort. Keep this in mind as we move to our third point today.

Leaning In to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

Earlier I said I had an invitation that I thought you would accept, if you can stay with me to the end. I invite you (and me) to lean into our discomfort about discussing mental illness.  

When you hear the term “mental illness,” pause to observe your reaction. Do you feel a jolt of resistance? Maybe you really don’t want to hear about it or discuss it. Maybe you feel a strong urge to change the subject or leave the conversation. That’s okay. Whatever reaction you have is okay. I am NOT asking you to change your reaction. I am NOT judging your reaction or saying it is wrong or saying you need to have a different reaction. Not at all. I am simply inviting you to OBSERVE your reaction, your thoughts and feelings, and instead of resisting them, moving away, 0r running away, I am inviting you sit with your discomfort and see what you can learn about yourself. This is an invitation to lean into your emotions. And remember to breathe.

I am assuming that most, if not all of us, have what I would call an averse reaction to hearing the term mental illness. There might be some extremely enlightened yogis and gurus in the world who have no reaction, but most words aren’t neutral. Any word we come in contact with triggers some kind of thought in our brain, which triggers a related emotion. And most of you grew up in the same society I did, with the same social conditioning about mental illness.

And where did that conditioning come from? Movies, stories, experiences.

Did you know that the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and has been since 1949. Congratulations. We are celebrating 70 years of Mental Health Awareness, and you didn’t even know it. I didn’t until this year. Now, think about our social relationship with Mental Illness 70 years ago, 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, (that’s when I was seeing doctors and getting confusing, conflicting, and unsatisfactory explanations about what was going on in my brain), to this year 2019. Good news. There have been a lot of positive changes in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of mental illness, largely due to development in brain science.  I feel optimistic and excited that we will continue to progress forward, AS LONG AS and to the extent that we allow ourselves to LEAN INTO the discomfort of entering conversations and getting educated about Mental Illness.

An Interesting Story

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In versus Into

Postpartum Depression with Amy-Rose White Part 2

mom postpartum depression holds baby

Ep. 17 Conversations on Maternal Mental Health (continued)

Episode 17 presents Part 2 of my conversation with Maternal Mental Health Specialist Amy-Rose White, LCSW. We discuss the importance of modeling emotional healthcare for our children as well as what dads, partners, and families can do to watch out for signs of postpartum health illnesses and steps for preventative care. Exciting changes are happening for Maternal Mental Healthcare in Utah, plus Amy-Rose tells us what changes she still wants to see. 

Did you miss Part 1 of this interview? Click Here for Part 1 

Q: Why Is It Important to Model Emotional Health for Our Children?

A: One way to help end the stigma surrounding mental health is to model healthy emotional needs for our children. We can say to daughters and sons, “I’m not well and I’m going to go get help and I’m going to figure this out.” Often it’s not easy to find the right help, the right team. Show your family that you are willing to keep trying, to keep opening doors and walking through until you feel well again.

Allow your children to see that you need rest and to see that self-care is natural and part of wellness. Know your self-care routine and what recharges your battery.  I expect my sons to contribute as community members now so that when they grow up and have partners, and possibly decide to have children, they will take the responsibility on as well. They will help carry the burden of raising children. Especially this generation of women, the “Millennials,” fight the “Have everything and have it all now”  pressure. Up and coming mothers are such high achievers and have a burden of options. The pressure is high, it really is. So it is essential to model caring for self and caring for emotional and physical health. 

Q: What Is Your Advice for Partners?

In the film about Postpartum Depression, entitled Dark Side of the Full Moon, one husband says, “Watch your wife. Keep your eyes on your partner.” I agree. 

  1. Focus on the basics. First, help mom get that 4-6 consecutive hours of sleep as soon as possible. This might mean paying for night nursing or doula care. Good nutrition and drinking two big pitchers of water a day are musts
  2.  Grounding is an anti-inflammatory measure which entail putting your bare feet in contact with the ground. Even in cold months, getting outside in nature, maybe a brief walk around the neighborhood, is healing. 
  3.  Getting a break from children every day.  My OB gave me a prescription for a daily break and it changed my life. I’d never had a medical provider say, “You matter and you have to nourish yourself and take a break. You’re not just a feeding machine. This is essential for you as a human being.” Mom needs an hour break to herself every day.
  4. Watch the signs. If your partner has history of depression or a history of sensitivity to hormone changes, they are at higher risk for postpartum emotional health complications. Other high risk factors include women who have tried three to five birth control pills before giving up because they all made her feel “crazy.” Or if your partner get PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome, watch them carefully during and after childbirth.

If partners can be educated about the warning and also help mom sleep, eat, drink water, and take breaks, these are preventative measures that can go a long way to prevent emotional health changes. Notice what your partner is going through and make the call with her or for her. Going with her to appointments says, “I love you enough that I want to help you get help and we’re going to figure this out together. There is nothing wrong with you.”

Q: How Can Fathers Keep Themselves Healthy?

Ten percent of  dads will develop postnatal depression, so a man also needs to watch out for himself, especially if mom can’t. Warning signs of postnatal illness in men are typically anger or withdrawal. The best remedy is to reach out to a counselor, which is not a guy thing to do. The language centers for men are different than for women. Men tend to need time alone to decompress. Another warning for dads is to be aware that if his partner has an illness, then his risk increases. Often I see that once a women is in remission and recovered, then her male partner gets the symptoms.

It’s a very sad thing I see in my practice, but sometimes relationships do end because of untreated Postpartum Depression. Divorce can occur during the postpartum period because the husband thinks, “This isn’t the person I fell in love with and I don’t see this ever getting better.” Or sometimes the woman might not be ready to get help, or the husband isn’t ready to get help. Postnatal health complications are challenging on a relationship.

Q: Speak to the Positive Side of Postpartum Struggles. What Growth Do You See?

The hundreds of women I’ve worked in say that even though their postpartum struggle was one of the hardest things they’ve ever endured, they wouldn’t trade the experience because of what they learned and who they became in the process of finding healing. Overall, couples who successfully work through postnatal emotional health complication come out with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for human beings in general, as well as less judgment for women and for other moms.

The struggle creates a deeper connection for this universal experience on this planet of moms. Every mother in every country worries about essentially the same things: if her baby is eating enough and gaining enough weight and will get the education they need. We have a common thread as human beings that suffering brings to the forefront. 

Another positive outcome I often see, and this was certainly true for myself, is a sense of purpose and a calling to connect with other moms and to help women and families to know they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help they will be well. Which is the message of Postpartum Support International.

Becoming a parent forces you to become less selfish. With a child, you are instantly integrated into the world of babies, preschool, and school, so you have a vested interest in community, school, safety and what our world is becoming. The process is beneficial for our communities, so it’s not a thing to fear. There is a lot of growth that can come through the journey. Like we’ve mentioned, a deeper sense of strength, connection to the human spirit and to moms and motherhood and that we have more in common than we have different. And a desire to contribute and give back

Another positive outcome of postpartum health struggle is the “unlearning” of false beliefs and patterns. A lot of our role models as women were stoic and muscled through pain and illness, often because they had no other choice.  Our mothers and grandmothers did the best they could, but now we are entering a different era where we can model being self-full. A postpartum health journey can help us to unlearn the conditioning of our ancestors to muscle through. Instead we can learn that when I am healthy, strong and centered, then I can be there in service for my children, my family, and for the planet. 

Therefore, focussing on the personal strength you are developing through your postpartum health journey can be empowering. Though it’s a struggle, it can result in positive life changes including developing personal characteristics of empathy and connection as well as breaking down age-old habits and false beliefs.

Q: What Changes in Maternal Mental Health Are You Excited About?

This February PSI-Utah was successful in getting an appropriations measure passed in the state legislature to receive funding for three years to: 1) fund telehealth services for rural moms, 2) increase public health authority’s ability to screen and refer women, and 3) support the development of a new website through the Department of Health which will be a massive resource referral database where users can click on a geomap in your county and find counselors and support groups in your area that take your insurance.

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference is coming up May 31 and June 1, 2019 in Salt Lake City. This is cosponsored by Intermountain Healthcare with keynote speakers and breakout sessions by postpartum health experts. The conference is open to medical professionals as well as the general public. Information and registration found at psiutah.org or click here. 

A State Subcommittee for Maternal Mental Health came out of PSI-Utah. Through the Utah Women & Newborn Quality Improvement Collaborative and the Department of Health, we are educating clinics  and providers how to screen.Primary Care is where that subcommittee is focussing on improving quality measures and outcomes. Neither medical schools nor social work schools teach Perinatal Mental Health.  

A lot of watch guards are hard at work continuing the dialogue about programs that need funding and increasing capacity for care. 

Q: What Are Changes You Want to See for Maternal Mental Health?

  1. For every woman to be educated about the different possible health complications, what the symptoms look like, and how to decrease her own risks. I want every mother to know that it’s in the best  interest for  her baby to take care of symptoms as soon as possible. To know what to look for and where to go. Part of that prevention is to do things while she feels well. Some postpartum symptoms begin during pregnancy, especially the 3rd trimester. 
  2. Have every person who serves and comes into contact with a pregnant woman to be educating and screening her. The conversation conveys the message that mother matter and we want to be involved in helping you feel well.  Even more, for women not just to be given information, but to know what to do and that there is hope. We need to be proactive and not just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
  3. For every woman to know about the resources available through Postpartum Support International (PSI) which is Postpartum.net.  You can click on any state and get free social help. There is also international, Spanish speaking, and  LGBTQ support. You can call a local number and speak to one of 8 or 9 volunteer moms who have been where you are.
  4. My biggest want is that women wouldn’t feel ashamed. It is changeable. Education is key. Understanding that it isn’t a character weakness, that there are physiological changes in the body causing the symptoms. This will take everyone telling stories and going to the State Capitol. Speaking up makes a difference.

Resources:

Amy-Rose White, LCSW:  http://www.arwslctherapist.com/

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference May 31 – June 1, 2019 Salt Lake City Utah:  https://www.psiutah.org/2019-perinatal-mood-anxiety-disorders-conference/

Documentary “Dark Side of the Full Moon” Maternal Mental Health: http://www.darksideofthefullmoon.com/

Postpartum Support International UTAH: www.psiutah.org

Postpartum Support International:    www.postpartum.net

The Emily Effect: https://theemilyeffect.org/

Ep. 15 Rally for Healthy Mothers

Vibrant Motherhood

Below is a list of resources and opportunities to Rally for Healthy Moms during the month of May. 

World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day May 1, 2019

Please sign the petition calling on the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organization to officially recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH Day), to be commemorated annually on the first Wednesday of May. The next day will be Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Maternal mental health advocates, researchers, academics, clinicians, and people with lived experiences are committed to improving the mental health support for women during and after pregnancy throughout the world.

https://www.change.org/p/world-maternal-mental-health-day

The Emily Effect

Founded in February 2016, theemilyeffect.org is dedicated to support and provide resources for women and families during and after childbirth. After her death from complications of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, Emily Cook Dyches’ family and friends started TheEmilyEffect as a way to expand the conversation about and end the stigma surrounding Perinatal Mood Disorders. The Letters of Light section is a library of real women’s stories about journeying through Postpartum Illness. Women also share their stories through Videos of Light on TheEmilyEffect YouTube Channel

On today’s podcast episode, I share my story about the twists and turns of life that led me to volunteering with TheEmilyEffect. 

You can read my own Letter of Light herehttps://theemilyeffect.org/project/maleah/

Or watch my Video of Light here: [not yet published]

Climb Out of Darkness

These hikes are the world’s largest fundraising events to support the mental health of new families. Organized through Postpartum Support International (PSI), these local hikes bring women and families together to symbolically climb out of the darkness.

For more info on joining or organizing a hike in your area, visit: https://www.postpartum.net/join-us/climbout/

The Utah Valley Climb Out of Darkness Event will be Saturday, May 11th at 9:30 a.m. at the Battle Creek Falls Trail in Pleasant Grove Utah. The hike is one hour round-trip with a fair amount of incline leading to a beautiful waterfall. The short hike is kid-friendly. Bring your spouse, children, parents, best friend, or a new mom you want to support. 

For details or to donate click here .

Be Your Own Best Advocate

It is up to us as mothers to promote change in postpartum diagnosis and care. No one will solve the problem for us. Speak up. Use your voice. Be clear to doctors and health care providers about what you are experiencing. Demand satisfactory answers. Question diagnoses and treatments that don’t feel right. Ask clinicians to look beyond the “mood disorder” to find, explain, and treat the physical malfunction that is causing the emotional symptoms. 

Ways to Speak Up and Get Involved:

Share Your Story:

 https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/blog/

theemilyeffect/lettersoflight

 

Share Your Story

Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 13 The Power of Naming

The process of naming the animals demonstrated dominion over the earth.

Power of Naming

Have you ever had that feeling? Something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on what it is? Something is wrong with your child. Something is going on at work. Something is bothering your spouse. It’s there, but you feel powerless to fix it until you can name what it is. 

Naming is a power principle because naming the problem is the first step to solving the problem. My sister has always said, “I can handle anything as long as I know what it is.” She speaks truth. We are strong, intelligent, resourceful. It’s the unknown that gets us.

Science of Naming

Why is naming so powerful?

Scientists have long studied the power of words on the human brain. The brain receives thousands of  data impulses every second. These data impulses are processed as thought words or thought images.

What’s in a Name?

A name is simply a word—a combination of letters—assigned to a specific person or thing. In order to make its job a little easier, the brain names data and groups it together with similar data through categorization. It assigns words to data in order to know where to “file” the information.  Anything the brain isn’t able to name ends up in the dark abyss of  uncategorized info. The brain can’t do anything with this stuff until it’s identified. 

Examples of Naming Found in Literature

We intuitively sense the power of names. There are examples in stories of the power that can come from naming.

  1.  Adam & Eve  In the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve power to name the animals. From the moment they chose the word elephant, the process of naming demonstrated their dominion and stewardship over the earth and all living things.
  2. Rumpelstiltskin The classic Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tale tells of strange man who convinces a young woman to promise him her first-born child in exchange for spinning her straw into gold. At the birth of the child, the woman begs for a way out of the deal. The strange man agrees that if she can correctly guess him name in 3 days, he will relinquish his claim on the child. The ability to identify his true name is what frees the woman from his hold.
  3.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane  this Neil Gaiman story recounts the havoc worked by an evil entity disguised as a nanny named Ursula Monkton. The Hempstock women are unable to rid their town of the creature until they can successfully discover its true name. Once Lettie Hemstock learns that Ursula is really Skarthach of the Keep she chases Skarthach to the end of the lane where it cries, shrinks, and disappears. The power to remove the vexing thing came in calling it by its true name.

Naming Our Troubles

Sometimes the only thing we need in order to solve a problem is to be able to name it. This is why talking things is so helpful. The process of talking is the process of putting those ambiguous bothers into words. Meeting with therapists, doctors, coaches, or church leaders is helpful because they can offer words for what is troubling us. I might know I have a head ache and a sore throat, but don’t know how to remedy it. Once I know it is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, I know to take an antibiotic.  

Naming our emotions is powerful. Most of the time we sweep our emotions under the rug without acknowledging what they are trying to tell us. Emotions are messengers. When we take time to say: This is sadness or This is frustration we are more effective at working through the emotions.

Ep. 10 Empower Kids Through PLAY

Empower Kids Through Play

Empower Kids Through PLAY

“The opportunity for kids to freely engage in play with one another has diminished considerably over the last 50 years.” Michael Yogman, AAP

Research shows one of the best ways to empower kids is through play. Play helps kids develop problem-solving, decision-making, and risk-taking skills that prepare them to be successful adults. However, play has decreased steadily. The ramifications are becoming so serious that doctors are prescribing play as a remedy for many ills. The American Academy of Pediatricians is encouraging doctors to implement a Reach Out and Play campaign to correspond with the Reach out and Read initiative. Doctors are asking parents to protect and even to enforce playtime.  Episode 7 discussed four specific ways to give yourself permission to add more play to your life. 

What is PLAY?

According to research by Dr. Rachel White: 

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE: Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED: Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED: When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN: It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED: Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL: It involves make-believe.

Play empowers kids because it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The benefits of play are internal (for the individual) rather than external (associated with outside approval or award). Play is self-chosen and the players are free-agents, meaning they can stop at any time. Because play contains non-literal elements, it buffers the individual from real-life consequences and provides opportunities to practice and grow skills essential to living in our complex world.

There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and developing skills. Emphasizing math, reading, and writing at younger ages has forced teachers to remove playful elements from early childhood education. But learning new skills is best facilitated by social, playful interactions where risks can be taken with little consequence. The emphasis on performance measured by test scores is diminishing opportunities to learn from mistakes, even when failure is often the best teacher.  

Benefits of PLAY

According to a report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions. Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”

Benefits of play are numerous and well documented. Play with parents and peers is fundamental for the development of safe, trusting relationships. Play regulates stress levels. Studies have shown that the lack of play increases ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Play develops the learning process, incites creativity, problem solving, and risk-taking. Specifically, play develops language and math skills and improves concentration. 

How to Empower Kids through PLAY

1. Lower the Stakes 

As parents, we can empower kids through play by making sure that for every performance-based activity kids are signed-up to do, they have equal opportunity for unstructured, experimental play. An AAP report states:  “Parental guilt has led to competition over who can schedule more enrichment opportunities.” As parents, organized activities like lessons and competitive sports feels good because they have measurable results which validate our investment of time and money. As adults, we like the structure of consistent time, date, location for activities. The unmeasurability of unstructured play can be a barrier. Which lead us to principle #2: 
 

2. Build Trust Through Play

Dr. Hank Smith, Ph.D conducted his doctoral research in developing trust in educational systems. He discovered that play is a powerful way to build trusting relationships. He found that one of the best ways to repair a struggling relationship (particularly a parent/child relationship) is through play. Get on the same level as your child and do something they love. Don’t talk about grades or problems or instrument practice. Playing together helps kids to know that they matter. You love spending time with them for who they are. They are valuable to you outside of their performance on a report card or in a soccer game. 

Play becomes even more essential in times of family crisis. In the midst of divorce, death, serious accident or illness, job loss, or jail sentence, it seems counterintuitive to play. However, play is exactly what will ease stress and remind family members that it’s possible to experience pockets of happiness in the middle of tragedy. Play helps all family members to grow through the struggle and to develop resilience and personal strength. 

3. Embrace the Mess

Play is messy. The toys buckets will be emptied. The legos and blocks and train set will be strewn across the floor. When our children were young, my girlfriend said the best thing to me. She said, “I love when my house is messy because it means my kids are playing.” Those blankets and beach towels that were folded so neatly in the closet are going to be stretched across the furniture to make forts, which means that every heavy book from the shelf is stacked to hold down the blankets.

Play doesn’t necessarily help with housework. On days that I’ve just mopped and vacuumed, I almost prefer my kids to watch TV instead of play in the sand box. In order to promote unstructured play, as parents we need to lower our standards of tidiness and embrace the mess. 

4. Trick Your Kids Into PLAYING

You know as well as I do that if command our kids to play, they protest. This is because play must be self-chosen. As parents, we can apply a bit of reverse psychology. When my kids have been staring at screens too long or are complaining about boredom, I give them a chore to do. This is a “nonessential” chore. Something like cleaning out the junk drawer in their bedroom, weeding the garden, washing the car, or organizing the game closet.

These are chores that I know will quickly devolve into play, and that’s okay because that’s what I wanted all along. Five minutes into sorting his junk drawer, little Johnnie will be exploring his imagination. One or two weeds might get pulled, but more likely the garden hose will get turned on and there will be a dirt castle surrounded by a muddy moat will appear next to the squash plant. Inevitably the bedroom, closet, and yard will end up more disorganized that they were to start. And that’s okay. That’s when I will smile and say, “I’m happy because my kids are playing.” We have plenty of opportunities to teach chore completion and organization at other times. For today, play is the priority.

Channel Your Inner-Child

Children learn best from example. As parents, we can model playful behavior by engaging in hobbies, being spontaneous, and taking time for activities we enjoy that don’t have any external benefits such as earning money or receiving an award. If you have children in your life, you are lucky. Being around children helps to re-prioritize our lives and help us tune in to our inner-child. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer for kids through Big Brother Big Sister programs, the YMCA, school PTA programs, or foster parenting.

The bottom line is to change our mindset that play is a waste of time. In truth, play can often be more productive than work. So give yourself permission to bring back the Power of PLAY.

Ep. 7 Permission to PLAY

Permission to Play

Permission to PLAY

Anyone who knew me back when is probably laughing at the idea of me doing a podcast episode about play. That is okay! I hope you have a really good laugh on my account. Over the years I have learned the hard way that all work and no play make Maleah a real bore. I’ve also discovered play as a powerful way to energize and elevate my life. 

Why is PLAY a Power Principle?

Evolutionary biologists believe that play is an important key to survival. Species that don’t play don’t survive. Play is essential to survive, AND to thrive. Question: How I play? A documentary called The Power of Play (airing Jan 20, 2019) explores the science of play research. Research by California psychologist Stuart Brown, has shown that playing freely as a child is key to being mentally healthy as an adult.

Play is powerful because it allows for low-pressure exploration, discovery, and risk-taking. 

When was the last time you played? What did you do? 

Distraction is Not PLAY

Play is not the same as distraction.

Distractions are the things we do to avoid doing the things we have to do. Distractions are easy defaults like browsing social media, playing that game on the phone, mindlessly surfing the television channels. These things use time, but they don’t necessarily recharge or energize us the way that true play can. 

Play is not a waste of time. Play is more than merely goofing around. Play is the way we explore new skills without the pressure of performing or being judged . Through play we tap into creativity and build social connections. 

1. Permission to PLAY First

I used to believe that I had to have all my work done before I could play. I carried that belief into my work as a full-time mother. But for moms, work is never done! As a result, I never allowed myself to play and my life became cumbersome and dark. Part of my healing through Postpartum Depression and chronic illness was learning to prioritize play.

I learned to trick my brain and tell myself that I needed to get my play done before I could work. Doing this, I found that I had more energy and had time to be playful and get a lot of work done. 

2. Permission to Get Work Done Quickly so I can PLAY

Another way I trick my brain is to find ways to get work done quickly so that I have time to play. It’s when I’m doing the less exciting chores of paying bills, calling the insurance company, or cleaning the kitchen that I get distracted and end up wasting time surfing the web or browsing FaceBook on things things that don’t really matter to me. Instead, if I set a time to get necessary tasks done quickly and reward myself with play, then I am actually more productive and feel more relaxed at the end of the day.

3. Permission to Find Your FUN

 I’m guessing you could easily tell me ten things on your To-Do List today. And I’ll also guess these are “work” items. It’s hard to be motivated to get work done if you don’t know what you like to do for fun. What are 10 things you can give yourself permission to do that feel playful

When we default to browsing social media or playing that online game, it’s usually because we haven’t decided what we’d rather do instead. Somehow along our journey to adulthood, we lost our sense of play until we no longer know how to play. Give yourself permission to discover your play. Plan to PLAY

4. Permission to Turn Work into PLAY

What is the difference between work and play? For an NBA player, are basketball workouts and games work or play? Or when I write for ten hours straight, is that work or play? The bottom line is that it depends on mindset. And any task can be made easier by making it more playful. This is the old Mary Poppins’ principle: “In any job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun, and snap, the job’s a game.” The point is that we can all benefit from incorporating a more playful attitude into anything we do. Remember KISMIF from Episode 4 Permission to Make Life Easier? Keep it Simple, Make it Fun. 

Conclusion

This episode has reminded me of so many ways that I can give myself permission to be more playful, to lower the stakes, to remove pressure and remember not to take life so seriously. Unless it’s about play, because these days I take my play very seriously.

Ep. 5 Permission to Make Decisions

Permission to MAKE DECISIONS

Have you given yourself PERMISSION to MAKE DECISIONS?

Humans make an average of 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day. If that statistic makes your feel more panicked than empowered, then you are in the right place. Making decisions can be confusing, overwhelming, and even paralyzing. And there are good reasons. This episode discusses six barriers that block us from making decisions and four ways to power through those barriers in order to learn to make decisions like a boss. 

 

Six Barriers to Decision Making

How do you feel about making decisions?  Determined or indecisive? Confident or hesitant? Resolute or wishy-washy?

No matter your past experience with making decisions, you have the ability, starting today, you have the ability to learn how and to practice becoming an effective decision-maker.

The first step is to increase your personal awareness about your decision-making process. Awareness is the first step to change. And don’t criticize yourself. You don’t get positive results in life by thinking negatively.

Here are six barriers that trip you up in the decision-making process: 

  1. LABELING:

    Too often, we make a decision, then wait for the result to decide whether it was a good or bad decision.  If the results turn out well, then we say it was the right decision, but if the results go sour, we say we made the wrong decision. It is harmful and paralyzing to measure our decision based on outcome. It is called OUTcome, because it is OUTside of our control. The truth is that we have to make the best decision we can based on the information we have at the time. We aren’t fortune tellers, so it isn’t fair to judge our present decision based on unpredictable future results.

  2. I DON’T KNOW: Saying “I don’t know” drains our power. We have access to incredible information. It’s better to say, “I am in the process of figuring it out,” or “I am exploring my options,” or even, “I am open to possibilities.”
  3. FEAR: Fear of the future outcome can block us from making a decision in the present. Maybe we’re afraid of failing, or maybe we’re afraid of being wildly successful. More than anything, our brains are afraid of the unknown. Our subconscious loves its comfort zone; it likes to stay right here where everything is familiar, so our subconscious often sabotages us from making a decision that would take us outside our comfort zone. 
  4. OBSTACLES: Our brain wants to avoid obstacles and challenges. In fact, sometimes if we run into a challenge, then our brain tries to tell us that we made the wrong choice. This is not true. Obstacles don’t mean that path is wrong. It means you’re going to have to summon your courage, get a running leap and get through the hurdles.   
  5. UNCHOOSING: Okay. Technically unchoosing is not a word, but it is a real barrier to decision making. This is the challenge that choosing one menu item at a restaurant means “unchoosing” all the other delicious possibilities. The reality of being burdened by options can render making a decision painful or next to impossible.
  6. OVERTHINKING:  Research shows that the prime age for overthinking is between 25 to 37. Overthinking is trying to hard to find the “RIGHT” decision. It’s a paralysis of “I can’t choose this one because maybe a different one is better.” Overthinking is more harmful than beneficial, but there are ways to stop overthinking.

How to Become an Effective Decision-Maker

You can learn to become an effective decision-maker. Here are four simple and effective TOOLS for becoming more confident, self-trusting, and speedy in making decisions.

1.  PERMISSION TO GET OUT OF “I DON’T KNOW”     

    So you don’t know what you want to study in college or do for your career, but sitting in the “I Don’t Know” chair is NOT going to help you figure it out. You don’t discover your favorite flavor of ice cream by never tasting ice cream. An important part of decision-making is exploration and discovery. You may have to get our there and try a lot of things before you DO know what you want. Give yourself permission to get out of “I Don’t Know” and enter “I am exploring options.”

2.  PERMISSION TO LET GO OF THE MYTH OF RIGHT OR WRONG DECISIONS

Life is not a quiz with right or wrong answers. The truth is that you don’t “know” your life path, rather, you “create” your life path, so there are not right or wrong decisions. Certainly there are consequences for every decision, but maybe those consequences will be what you need in order to learn, grow, and become a better person. The process of making decisions create opportunities to progress. Not making decisions makes your life stagnant and stifles growth. So practice making decisions whether it’s painting a wall or re-arranging the furniture. 

3.   PERMISSION FOR UNLIMITED DECISIONS

Unless you choose the poisoned drink or the tunnel with the fire-breathing dragon (which might be the final decision you ever make)  few decisions are ever final. Very few decision are life or death. This is good news. Make the best decision you can today, and you can make a new decision later. Trust that you have the intelligence and ability to manage the consequences of your decisions.

4.  PERMISSION to OWN YOUR DECISIONS 

It’s tempting to choose your spot of grass, then stare longingly at the green grass in the other field. The truth is that every field has spots of lush green and spots of wilted, dead, sour grass. You notice your own wilted patches more because you are closer, but the other field has dead spots, too. 

 

 




 

Ep. 3 The Power of Permission Part 1

Power Permission

The Power of Giving Yourself Permission

Have you given yourself permission to do what you love? Often we think we need outside permission before we can pursue a goal or passion. Sometimes we think that other people know better what we can do. That’s not true! No one knows your passions and desires better than you, and no one needs to give you permission to go for your dreams.

Other Places We Get Permission

Going for our dreams without external endorsement can be scary, so sometimes we wait for life to let us know it’s okay to move ahead. We get default permission from three sources:

 
  1. Seeing or Hearing Someone Else Do It: I always felt guilty for taking a nap during the day until I read that Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, loved to take power naps any time, any place, including on the floor of trains. I also felt embarrassed for my mismatched collection of partially-filled notebook diaries until I saw J.K. Rowling’s haphazard collection of papers and notebooks. Sometimes knowing that we’re not crazy and not alone gives us permission to be true to ourself. 
  2. Accident, Illness, or Near-Death Experience:  This is the “Live Like You’re Dying” paradigm. It’s not the ideal way to get permission, but it can be very effective. I’m betting that you know someone who really started to live and pursue long-buried dream as a result of an accident, illness, or near-death experience. Before Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness, I lived in full-out martyr mode. I could not give myself permission to slow down, take a nap, or take care of myself. Getting sick definitely gave me permission to safe-guard my own health, but wouldn’t it have been better if I’d just given myself permission to be healthy in the first place? I think so.
  3. Being Asked to Do It: You might also know aspiring actors, singers, authors, etc, who want someone else to discover their talent and take care of all the career building. Having someone else tell us that we are good enough and ask us to share our talent feels much safer than going it alone. But the truth is that most successful people are self-made. Their permission came from inside. 

I Give Myself Permission To . . .

Part of my journey of healing through depression and chronic illness has been learning to give myself permission to:

  • Take my time
  • Take a Nap
  • Make mistakes
  • Leave thing undone
  • Try
  • Figure things out
  • Play
  • Be an amateur
  • ASK FOR HELP
  • and much more

Next Week: The Power of Permission Part 2

In Episode 4 we will explore the Power of Permission in Specifics areas such as happiness, money, health, decision-making, and doing less. See you next week. mw

Ep. 2 What Do I Want? The Power of Desire

What Do I Want

Do you KNOW what you WANT? Your DESIRES give you POWER.

When did you last ask yourself, “What do I want?” and really listened for your deep-down answer.

Are you ready for something more in your life, but don’t know where to start?

Does your life seem to be full of problems? Are you surrounded by drama? Do you want to resolve these problems and break free of the drama but don’t know how? Then, my friend, this episode is perfect you!

The Universe Gives us More of What We Think About, so DON'T Think about Problems!

Last episode we talked about The Power of I Decide. As humans we are great at knowing what we don’t want, but we’re not so good at knowing what we do want. And guess what? The Universe gives us what we think about most. So if we are constantly thinking about problems, the Universe gives us more problems. Therefore, the solution is to think more about things we want. And before we can think about what we want, we have to know what we want.

Five Barriers Block us from Knowing and Getting What we WANT:

  1. KNOWLEDGE: Often, the biggest problem is that we don’t know what we want. We don’t take the time to ask, “What do I really want?
  2. PERMISSION: We think someone else knows better than we do, so we wait for outside permission. This is living outside of ourselves.
  3. FEELING UNWORTHY: I call this “False Martyr Syndrome” or the belief that we have to sacrifice the things we want most in order to be worthy.
  4. FEAR: Dreaming can be scary. And getting what we want can be as terrifying as the possibility of not getting what we want.
  5. HOW: We don’t go for what we want because we don’t know HOW. Knowing the how is not your job. You job is to figure out the WHAT. Once you know the WHAT, the Universe will manifest the HOW

Your natural wants and desires are what make you Unique. Deepak Chopra explains that desires must be clear in order to be fulfilled. Start today to get clear on what you really want. Explore your deep-down desires. They are your gifts to share with the world. The more you can discover and achieve your heartfelt desires, the better you are able to serve others and find authentic joy.