For some of us, doing the dishes is the last thing on our list.  For others, it’s the first because a neat orderly kitchen creates less clutter in our heads.  There are also those of us who wish others would do the dishes for us or that the dishes would just disappear.

I invite you to pause for a moment and ask yourself – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when it comes to doing the dishes?  And what the heck does doing the dishes have to do with feeling better?

If you think of doing the dishes as taking care of your health, it can often feel like an enormous pain.  Though some may call being in pain an adventure in learning, there are many times where the truth is it just hurts.   We (and that includes me) don’t want to deal with it, we don’t have time, and we surely don’t want to talk about it or ask for help.

For me, dealing with my health is a bit of an adventure in learning mixed in with varying amounts of fear and pain.

I can take care of  maintaining my health – just like the dishes – myself.

I can do things that help like exercise, yoga, eating nutritiously, and meditating on my own.   When I take care of my health on a regular basis, I feel better.

It’s the same with the dishes.  When I do them on a regular basis, I also feel better.

Unlike the dishes, however,  at some point  I cannot take care of my own health alone.  For example, when I notice I’m dizzy while driving I need someone’s help.

And when I ask for that help clearly, listen carefully and make sure I understand the options, I get good advice and can make decisions.  I also know that over time, by giving accurate clear feedback to my provider, we can tweak decisions as we go along.   I repeat this process again and again – taking the first step over and over by admitting I need help.

Here’s how this played out in my own life.  When I told my doctor that I felt dizzy sometimes and noticed it had to do with turning my head while driving and making right turns sometimes as well as telling her that it would come on suddenly and the road started moving, she suggested several options for treatment.  It took a while to figure out but the end result was I got a diagnosis and treatment for it.  When it happens, I now know what to do.

When I accept my role as a patient by clearly saying what hurts and what I need help with, I open the door to receiving that help.   When I have chosen the right provider, they can more easily use their professional expertise to help me.  I believe that when we work together for my well being everyone benefits

If you’re like me, most likely there’s some health issue going on for you (just like there’s probably some dishes waiting!).  I invite you to  see whether you can see the connection between doing the dishes, feeling better, and working with your healthcare provider in a mindful articulate way.

Does something I say resonate with you?  If so, please share it with us by making a comment.

Also, if something is going on with you that you’d rather discuss privately – please feel free to contact me and we’ll schedule a time to chat about it for 15 minutes to see if I can help you.

Always We Hope. . . .

February 2nd, 2011

I went on a retreat this past weekend   I thought I’d share with you this poem, by Lao Tzu, which helped me turn a corner over the weekend with respect to my recent bout with insomnia.  This insomnia has been particularly acute for the past couple months and reached a critical point over the weekend.

Thank God I was graced with this good supportive environment which, along with my healthcare providers and my loving family, helped me through this.

Always We Hope

Always we hope

Someone else has the answer

Some other place will be better,

Some other time it will all turn out.


This is it.

No one else has the answer

No other place will be better,

And it has already turned out.


At the center of your being

You have the answer,

You know who you are

And you know what you want.


There is no need

To run outside

For better seeing.


Nor to peer from a window.


Rather abide at the center of your being;

For the more you leave it, the less you learn.


Search your heart

And see

The way to do

Is to be.


I am hoping that, if you’re in the middle of depression, anxiety, or chronic pain, this poem may offer you some comfort.  And, if you’re not struggling with these things, my wish for you is to embrace whatever is happening in your life and rest in the knowledge that you do in fact know exactly what you want and what you need right now.

I’m relieved to report that my insomnia is behind me at the moment.  I have had two nights of restful sleep and am feeling so much better.

All of my issues are right where I left them – waiting for me to attend to the details.

My commitment is to attend to them with simple steps, noticing what works and being very gentle with myself in the process.  I share this with you because I hope, that by being vulnerable and transparent about my own process, that in some way this will encourage you to do the same for yourself.

As always, if I can help you along the way, please feel free to contact me.

Time to Say Goodnight. . . .

August 14th, 2010

Let’s pretend it’s the end of your day.  Imagine with me for just a moment – no matter what time you’re reading this, that you’re going to bed right now.

For some of you – you may go wheeeeee, that’s just where I want to be and it’s 8AM.  Or 2PM.  Or whatever.

And for others, it may be hard to find your way to bed when there’s so much to do . . . . still.

As for me, when I get to the end of most days – I have trouble giving it up. I have insomnia and it seems if I don’t start winding down by 10PM, I’m up til 2 or later.  And that really doesn’t work for me for so many reasons – it makes my life chaotic and stressful, when I know it would be easier for me if  I’d just go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Now, why is that sooooo hard for me? Well, because it involves looking  at what’s not working for me and having a lot of the “P” word. And I hate that word.

What’s the word I hate so much????  P-a-t-i-e-n-c-e. Oooooh, such a hard concept for me.

What I’m realizing is that I have to look at where my system for getting to sleep is breaking down.  Why?  So that I can find the little tweaks to make going to sleep and actually sleeping more restful and less a form of slow torture the way it has been.

So, I’m asking myself this question:

  • If I knew what to do to make it easier to go to sleep, which I do, what’s the first thing I’d try?  Hmmmm – get off the computer by 9PM comes to mind.

(this idea of “which I do” – or what I would refer to as the “gut feeling” -comes from my colleague Janet Bailey whose an ace with mindful questions~)

And then, I’m back to that “P” word again – patience.

Because I don’t want to  get off the computer by 9PM.  I love surfing the web, and connecting with other people.  The world’s such an interesting place – especially when the busy-ness of the day subsides.

Oooooh, that’s interesting.  I’m missing connecting with others.  Well, is there another way to get that met?

Yeah, and I don’t wanna do that either.

So, is there a compromise here? Is there anything I can do to make this slightly easier?

This took a while but I finally came up with committing to being off the computer by midnight. It’s a teeny tiny step towards creating more ease in my daily life and a start towards getting more rest.  And more rest will eventually lead to feeling more rested during the day.

Here’s my question for you:  If you knew what would make it easier for you to sleep, which you do, what’s the first step you’d take?

As much as I wish this was true, when I am in pain – I can’t be un-pained. When I am sick, I can’t undo it.

It’s like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube –it doesn’t work.

Oprah has struggled with her weight for years.   Her struggles have reflected the challenges many of us have with weight loss. The lesson?  Weight loss is not an easy fix.

Similarly, if you have back pain it can be beyond difficult to deal with it. The same is true if you’ve got tendencies to be depressed, anxious, or are tired. I’ve seen this with others and speak from personal experience as well.

What I’ve learned is nothing that you probably don’t already know.

When I realize that I’m having pain of any sort, what works every time is this:  Simply noticing what’s going on in my body and my brain and taking a breath.  And asking myself what might help me feel a teeny tiny bit more comfortable.

Self kindness.

And it takes me time to surrender to being kind to myself.

Being kind to myself can feel like one more “should” in my day.  It also takes patience to be willing to ask myself how I’m feeling.  It takes even more patience to take a moment to be with what comes up.

And it’s so totally worth it.  It makes all the difference in my quality of life.

I’m working on reframing that view of kindness in small ways.   Baby steps like noticing how I’m gritting my teeth as I type – pausing, taking a breath, and letting my jaw drop as I type, inviting a yawn.  That’s kindness.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal – and it’s those small moment by moment invitations to myself that make all the difference in my pain level.

When I have less pain, I enjoy my day more.

Again, that’s a simple awareness – but not easy to do.  And also well worth the effort.

Often, by the time I think of being kind to myself, I’m in so much pain that kindness is actually my last resort.   I realize that powering through just isn’t working for me.

And I’m getting better at noticing where there may be a little window for kindness to come in.  Like icing my hands before they are so sore I can’t touch the keyboard.  Like setting the timer so I get up and stretch every hour.

And noticing how as I’m typing I resent that my hands are asking for ice again.  I just did that!  And, taking a breath – telling myself, “I know sweetie” and grabbing the ice anyway.  Stopping – mid sentence – to invite a breath, and get some ice.

That’s kindness in action.

And when I overrule myself and don’t get the ice, well – the pain gets louder.  Like I said, I realize over and over again that when I’m feeling pain – I can’t be un-pained.  Wish it was different, just like Oprah wishes she’d solved her weight problem once and for all, and unfortunatly wishing things were different doesn’t change what’s true.

So, how can I find a way to be with what’s true which is that I’m feeling uncomfortable?

Same answer – grab the ice and breathe mindfully while I go get it gritting my teeth,  noticing how frustrating, annoying and irritating this is.  And doing it anyway.

How can you invite kindness into your life today?

It has been a long time in the making and dreams really do come true.  I am proud to announce the birth of my long overdue contribution to healthcare.

My eBook, Patient Power:  Get The HealthCare You Deserve which you can immediately download, is finally for sale today.  Here’s what you get:

  • Appointment Preparation Worksheet:  Helps you be thorough and organized when talking with your provider so you’ll never forget another important detail.
  • Appointment Summary Worksheet:  Helps you verify you got the story straight
  • 7 Day Dosage Log:  Keep track of your medications/supplements and their effects in this easy to use log that helps you give your provider clear accurate information on what’s going on with you
  • Medical Summary and History Form:  Take 10 minutes to list your surgeries, illnesses, allergies and update it easily so you always have your medical history at your fingertips

Here’s who Patient Power:  Get the HealthCare You Deserve is for:

  • People who don’t have time to take care of those niggling aches and pains and don’t want to deal with the healthcare system because it’s so overwhelming.  This will guide you through the system with structure and make it easier to get your needs met
  • People who have chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, back pain, arthritis, etc
  • People who are managing  conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease
  • People who are alone, dealing with physical or mental health concerns and trying to do it all while being their own caregiver.
  • Caregivers who are trying to help others who are in pain or dealing with chronic conditions.

You can read more about it here and get it at the introductory price of $25 right now. 

Special thanks to Sarah Lacy, Rebecca Leigh, Havi Brooks and Jeff Sarris for helping me create this. 

It is my mission to help others make informed choices about their healthcare and provide a pathway through the healthcare system so you can get through things with greater ease and clarity.

I hope it helps each and every one of you get the healthcare you deserve.  Wishing you good health as you use the Patient Power Process.

I want to share a story of a client of mine whose struggling with depression and hypothyroidism.  She’s in her mid 50’s, self employed and has been in remission from her depression for about 8 years.  She thought she was well beyond it as her life has opened up in surprising ways.  She’d worked with a therapist for many years, learned priceless tools to help her cope and though life continued to be stressful for her she had the tools to keep things together until BAM. . . . things changed.

First it was insomnia.  Then, she started having various aches and pains that she tried to ignore but eventually had to address.  She described her mood like a stick shift on a car where she could feel a sudden jerky downshift as she became paralyzed, indecisive, tearful and unfocused.

That’s when she contacted me.  We talked about what was going on with her and she cried as she described how alone she felt and how difficult her life had become.  She felt that she’d used up her “pass” with her support system – that no one was really interested in what was happening with her.  Yet, because she had been through this before, she held out hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

I suggested she contact her primary care provider and make an appointment.  I talked her through the Appointment Preparation Worksheet so that she’d remember what her issues were when she saw her doctor.  I invited her to make two copies so that if she fell apart at the doctor’s office, she could just hand the doctor a copy and say “read this.”

That’s exactly what happened.  She walked into the doctor’s office and sobbed uncontrollably.  She couldn’t even talk.  They ordered some bloodwork, gave her instructions for taking her basal body temperature and a prescription for anti anxiety medicine to take as needed.

That’s how an Appointment Preparation Worksheet can literally save the day when you’re in too much pain to communicate clearly. 

She called me after the appointment.  She felt heard and understood – all her questions were answered and she knew exactly what to do next.  We talked through what things made her anxious and how she would use her anti anxiety medication.  She decided she’d find other ways to get through anxiety than use the prescription.

That’s an example of figuring out whether what the provider was offering her was a match for her values.

The following week, she called me again and was once again despondent.  She couldn’t stop crying, didn’t know why, had done her basal body temperatures and called the office, which resulted in a crazy making game of phone tag.  It was so frustrating as even though she had told them she had a private voicemail where they could leave a complete message, the messages were: “This is Sue from Dr. Helpful’s office.  Please return our call” – so not helpful at all. 

I suggested she call the office, ask to speak to the nurse and if she couldn’t get through to schedule an appointment.  She balked at the idea – she didn’t want to take the doctor’s time.  She thought she should be able to handle it.

Here’s an opportunity to practice Patient Power:    I reminded her that she deserves good healthcare.   If she trusts this provider, this is an opportunity to step up to the plate and get and give clear complete information.  We filled out the Appointment Preparation Worksheet together again.

This time, though, she left the Appointment Preparation Worksheet at home unfortunately.

You know, the amazing thing about preparing for your appointments ahead of time is even when you forget the sheet, the sheet is still working for you.  Yes, it’s better when you have the Appointment Preparation Worksheet to refer to – but life doesn’t work out perfectly for any of us.  She remembered why she was there, got the instructions she needed and is doing better today.

So, here’s what you can learn from this.  It applies to any situation – whether you’re dealing with depression, pain, or some other conditon.  Just substitute whatever is going on for you with the word depression and see how it fits.

  • I know I may sound like a broken record here but please do yourself and your provider a favor and download the free Appointment Preparation Worksheet, fill it out ahead of time and bring two copies with you to your appointment.
  • If you’re struggling with depression, please ask for help.  There is help for you.
  • If you’ve had depression and been in remission, sometimes it shows up again – often when you least expect it.  Of course, that’s alarming and disappointing.  That’s a very natural reaction – it’s painful to be in that spot that is so amorphous and indescribable.  Remember that you’re not alone and there’s a way through this.
  • Depression, by its nature, is pervasive – it can affect every aspect of your life.  It can seem like you’ve always had it and will never get over it.  And that’s just not true.
  • When you’re not feeling well, it’s the hardest time to step into your authority and speak up for yourself.  It’s also really important that you find a way to say what’s true for you – despite the fact that it is so very hard to do.  If you need help with this, contact a friend or you are welcome to contact me and I will help you get the healthcare you deserve.
  • Hang in there – and I don’t mean to sound trite here.  But, part of dealing with depression is hanging on til you get the help that you need.  That’s another thing you may need support with and I can help you.

Having said all this, by all means, if you’re questioning your ability to keep yourself safe you MUST let someone know about it so that you can get the help you need.  You matter – get the healthcare you deserve.

 

I was listening to XM Radio the other day. Elizabeth Lesser, one of my favorite authors, was interviewing Arianna Huffington who was talking about how multi-tasking and constantly being plugged into the internet, cellphones, ipods, etc are really affecting our well being. We are so busy muli-tasking  that many of the pleasures of daily life are passing us by.

I completely agree with this. After struggling with insomnia, I realized that part of the problem was being on the computer too late which was in essence turning my “nights into days” and confusing my circadian rhythms.

Raiman Naiman wrote a great book on this called Healing Night if you’re interested in more information about this.  In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honroe is another great book on the subject of monotasking..

On the other hand, there are occasions that in my mind definitely call for multi tasking. One of those situations is when you’re making phone calls and can reasonably anticipate that you’ll be put on hold.

I used to get very frustrated with voicemails, being put on hold,  dealing with computers instead of people that ask you to respond to questions and I’m delighted to say that I’ve conquered (at least for the moment) that learning curve.

I did this by making a list of things to do while I’m on hold.  Sometimes, this list is in my head – it may be something like cleaning out a refrigerator, filing, or grooming the dog.  It may be laying down with my feet propped against the wall with an eye pillow.

In any event, the idea here is that after I’m done going through the necessary inconveniences of resolving the problem that put me on hold in the first place, I end up feeling like I’ve accomplished something and relaxed while doing it.

It is a place where multi-tasking works.  Just as mono-tasking works when it’s important to be focused on driving, multi tasking helps me stay cool, calm and collected.

This has been a learning curve for me.  It took me realizing how resentful I felt about having my time absorbed by some meaningless hold music to help me see that I was in control of my mood.  And, as Maya Angelou says, “when you know better you do better.”

Is there something you are feeling resentful about?  Can we help you find ways to feel better?  Have you learned some ways to manage your time and your mood that may be helpful to the rest of us?  Please feel free to share your comments and questions here.

I have struggled repeatedly with chronic back pain as well as insomnia.  I also am at that beautiful midlife point where my weight and mood are often a challenge for me.

Ahh, the beauty of aging and how it helps me find more and more compassionate ways of being with what’s true for me while also “working the system.”

Most of my life, I’d describe myself as kinda low energy and sluggish.  I’d much prefer a good book to a run outdoors.  Yet, I found that the extra weight was weighing me down and creating issues for me like high cholesterol, increased back pain and fatigue.

Thank God I discovered the work of Leslie Sansone. She is a genius at inspiring me to move my body in safe ways that work for me.   I’ve been doing her DVD’s for about a year and have lost over 30 pounds and actually kept it off.  It’s a miracle because if the truth be told, though I try and eat fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein I can bounce around in that area sometimes.

I also find that by consistently doing her workouts, I sleep better at night and have more energy and creativity during the day.   My cholesterol is now normal too!

The best feature of her work is that it is so do-able. Most of her workouts can be done in 10 minute increments and believe it or not, you can really shift your mood by doing a quick walk with her.  Many of her DVDs are available at the library as well so you can try them out and see if you like them.  You can also find them at www.amazon.com

She reminds me that you can’t do this wrong which as a recovering perfectionist, I really appreciate.  She’s got a great sense of humor and a gentle encouraging manner.  But, most of all, she keeps me moving at a good clip and I have the results to prove it.

Check her out here.

Let me know what you do to keep yourself in shape.   I love hearing how you keep yourself well!  Also, if you aren’t into moving and have challenges that you’d like to explore – feel free to share those here.   I’m here to support you in whatever way is helpful.

What Made Your Day Today?

January 6th, 2010

I love a great cup of coffee.  For me, that translates into a rich cup of Sumatra at my favorite coffee shop.  Unfortunately, they stop serving this at noon and I was a few minutes late. 

“Knowing” that they wouldn’t have any, I asked the clerk what their bold blend was.  She couldn’t understand me through the drive thru speaker so I repeated my question.  I was absolutely positive they wouldn’t have it anyway but I asked again. 

She finally understood me and said, “We don’t have any right now but we’d be happy to make a pot for you.  It’ll take about 4 minutes.”

That woman totally made my day.  I parked the car and went in to pick up my coffee and as I did so I told her:  “You totally made my day.  I so needed to take a break, get out of my car and stop to relax for a few minutes with my favorite brew.  Thank you so much.”

She said, “THIS made your day.  My God, you’re easy to please.”

I said, “You know. . . . it’s the little things that make the  biggest difference to me.”  I took her name and the name of her boss and told her I’d be writing him a letter about their excellent service.  She said:  “We don’t normally have bold blend at this time but if a customer asks for it, we’ll be happy to brew a pot.”

Who knew?????  And what huge lessons there were for me here.

First, don’t assume that what you really want isn’t available.  For example, if you have gluten allergies and you’re at a restaurant, you may want to ask for the modification that helps you feel good – rather than presuming there’s nothing you can eat on the menu.  Even if in the past you haven’t been able to get what you want, you may want to ask again.  Maybe something has changed since you last visited. 

(In this case, I didn’t specifically ask for the dark blend but the clerk was nice enough to notice that I wanted it and offer it to me.  Next time I go there I’ll ask them if they’d be willing to make me a pot if it’s not available.)

Second, what’s a big deal for you may be “no big deal” for the person who you’re making a request of.  It was a big deal for me to have bold coffee.  It was no big deal for the clerk to brew a pot.  I thought that was “against the rules” and impossible for me to get.  I was wrong. 

Here’s how this may translate to you.  When you’re feeling wiped out and stressed, think about what you’re truly yearning for.  Maybe it’s to take a nap and you need someone to watch the kids.  Or, maybe you just want a half hour to run some important  errands that you’ve been putting off that have been brewing in the back of you head draining your energy.  You may think there is no way that this can happen,.  I invite you to think again.  Consider what options are available for you so that you can do what would feel most rejeuvenating to you in that moment.

On the other hand, what’s “no big deal” for you can be a big deal for the other person.  It was a HUGE deal to this employee that I asked for her name and the store number to send an email to her boss – she couldn’t believe I’d be willing to take the time to do that.  I am delighted to do that; I want to acknowledge great  customer service and let them know I’m a raving fan.  Its no big deal to do this whatsoever.

You may be able to use this analogy when you’re at the doctor’s office and one of the staff is especially helpful.  For example, I left a message with my doctor’s receptionist today with very specific information so the doctor could make recommendations regarding how to handle my hypothyroidism and insomnia.    I spoke slowly and asked the receptionist to read the message back to me.  She got every word of it perfectly.  I let her know I appreciated her taking the time to be so thorough.  She said it was no big deal to do that.  I told her I’d be letting the doctor know at my next visit that she did a great job of getting all the details correctly.  She said, “Oh, Char, you just made my day!”

See how this works? 

The coffee clerk made my day.  I made the receptionists day.  What’s a big deal to one person is no big deal to the next.  As the expression goes:  “One hand washes the other.”

What made your day today?  Whatever that is – I bet you made someone else’s day too.

My focus this week has been on how our relationships can be supportive of feeling our best. We get to decide if we need more time with others or more time to ourselves.

What I want you to know is that even when you’re super busy, you can still stay connected to yourself so that you don’t feel so burnt out later by too many commitments.

Being with others doesn’t mean you’re responsible for things “working out.”  If you’re the hostess and have a lot of company coming for dinner, it can feel overwhelming even with help to pull it all off.

The simple answer here is you can’t make anyone do anything.  We aren’t responsible for how others act .  We just do our part and see what happens.

We can do our part by trying very hard or loosening our grip on the whole situation by resting into it. Rest isn’t really a concrete concept.  What’s restful for one of us is often a major deal for another.

For example, when I make dinner for the holidays, I do quite a bit of planning and preparation ahead of time.

Lately, I’ve been playing with relaxing while I”m doing the actual planning and leg work – in very simple ways.  Like noticing the first sign of needing to go to the bathroom and going then instead of when I’m way overdue.

Another example of this is noticing that I”m tired, hearing that “just do this one more thing” voice in my head giving me my marching orders and being willing to acknowledge that voice.

Honestly, it’s a second and third step to actually stop doing what I’m doing and pull myself away. It’s usually not easy for me to pull myself away from what I’m doing even for a minute.   . . but I’m working with it.

And that simple “loosening of my grip” when I notice it is putting a tiny bit of rest into the prep work.

Similarly, when we’re with others that tiny awareness that “I’m not responsible for how this works out” even when I notice myself trying to make sure things go right – is the first step towards rest.  The second and third steps are choosing what conversation I want to engage in particularly  when someone says something that feels provocative or taunting.

Again, it’ wearing life as a loose garment as Carla Blaznek says.

My work is about helping people who aren’t feeling so great face it with greater ease and with the tools they need to get information and support. Rest as an attitude or intention is one of the ways to support ourselves when we’re feeling stressed, overtired, or hurting.

Being willing to notice that something has us feeling ickyin my opinion is a great place to begin.  Stop right there and you’ve accomplished a lot.

Resting into being with others or being with ourselves can be as simple as being willing to notice that fatigue factor.

It’s the reason I named my business The First Step as life is a series of steps that we can take no matter what we’re involved with.

When we notice something, it instantly has feedback for us if we’re willng to listen and not force the message.

What are you willing to notice about yourself?  Whatever that is, please feel free to share it here.

I invite you to comment by filling in this sentence.:  ” I am willing to notice______________”  You are always welcome to say more about it if you want.   I’d also love to know how this idea of willingness to rest affects you as theholidays approach.