Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reap What You Sow and How You Sow - Republished from Social Work PRN

Reap What You Sow and How You Sow

Cash Crop
Soil, it appears, is no respecter of seeds. Good soil will grow whatever is planted in it – be it weeds, tomatoes or grass. It’s not really particular about how the seed gets there either. It can blow in, be dropped on the surface, planted, and transplanted or root from a vine that creeps down from a planter. Soil has one job – to provide nutrients to what is sown.
It’s a lot like the human brain that way. Whatever thoughts, bias, beliefs, words or concepts are blown or sown into our awareness, through books, movies, video games, conversations or friends – the brain will nurture those things, grow them and make sure we reap what we have sown – for good or bad.
By consistently weeding my garden this summer I’ve kept the plants I didn’t want – the crabgrass, clover and whatever – out, and allowed the plants I did want, tomatoes, squash, peppers and herbs, to flourish – at least until the squash bugs invaded.
Sowing and reaping has become a metaphor for me in other ways. I’ve watched my fears; my doubts, my confidence and my habits grow just as easily as my garden has. What I’ve learned of course is that the old clich├ęs are true – what you water grows, pluck out the bad or undesirable thoughts before they have a chance to grow and so on. But I learned something else I did not know:
What vegetables you plant next to each other impacts how each plant grows. By planting basil next to my tomatoes for instance, I inadvertently helped both plants grow bigger and stronger and increase the flavor of both plants!
The pungent odor of marigolds keeps certain diseases and bugs off of tomato plants.
I learned that I shouldn’t plant fennel next to tomatoes because it inhibits their growth – which is true in the corner where I planted one tomato plant next to fennel. It is the smallest plant in the garden.
There are dozens of combinations of plants you should or should not plant next to each other. Some combinations include providing shade for a plant at a critical growth stage; others involve plants that compete for the same nutrients versus plants that give back beneficial nutrients.
It’s all very fascinating and complex to me, a new gardener. But it occurred to me that by combining certain habits and thoughts in my life I can also inhibit or support the thoughts and habits I’m planting. By combining exercise and breakfast, working out early instead of waiting until my sleepy afternoon energy lull, my exercising has gone so much better because it’s actually easier to go in the morning and nap later rather than sleep in.
By making the phone calls and doing the things I don’t enjoy doing after I eat lunch instead of on an empty stomach, I’m less likely to be grouchy and impatient and more likely to be calm and relaxed. Those are the obvious things. But when I made the connection around environment, energy, mood, habits and other things I realized that by grouping certain things with other things (no matter how bizarre it may seem to other people) I can get more done with less effort.
If you’ve been in the profession any amount of time you know that who you schedule as your first or last appointment can set the tone for your day, or for your evening.  Not many LCSW want to come back from lunch to their most non-stimulating client of the day if they tend to be sleepy after lunch.
If client placement in your day is so important to conserving energy and attention, what about the rest of your life? Do you really think about how you group things like dinner? Paperwork? Meetings? Exercise? Self-care? Vacations? Dating or time with your spouse?
Married friends of mine have a regular “date night” once a week so they can get away from the kids for a few hours. The dates had been mostly stressful and filled with talk of the kids and non-romantic things and not going very well. They even talked of stopping the practice. Then their work schedules one month forced them to change date night to a Wednesday night instead of the usual Friday night. What they found was they were less stressed in the middle of the week and had more energy. Date night became fun!
They realized that by going out on a Wednesday instead of a Friday they weren’t thinking of the next day and all the soccer games, kid’s sleepovers, laundry, cleaning and chores they had to do over the weekend. They could relax and enjoy each other’s company, knowing all they had the next day was work. The restaurants they liked were less crowded, almost empty, as were the theatres and other places they typically visited on a Friday night. The trade-off was they were up later on a work night, but realized they slept better with a mid-week break so the change worked.
The added bonus was that instead of date night with each other, Friday nights became date night with the kids, enabling them to spend time with their children watching DVDs, eating pizza, playing games and just hanging out before they all went in six different directions the next day – a Saturday.
You’re going to reap what you sow, so why not plant your life in a way that what you reap is the best it can be?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Enjoying life’s unexpected gifts and simple pleasures

This morning I was blessed to experience – and notice I was experiencing – a series of pleasantly surprising and truly enjoyable moments.  It began on a visit to my chiropractor’s office. Donna Funk is a network chiropractor and works simultaneously on several different people (allowing your body to rest between adjustments). Between Donna’s skill, the comfortable tables, and the peaceful music, the experience of having Donna work on you is relaxing and transformative. There were five of us on tables during my visit this morning, and, as sometimes happens, we somehow ended up engaging in a very funny conversation. Today’s topic was   “Chocovine.” Chocovine is a chocolate-infused dessert wine from Holland. We were all giggling at the thought of drinking chocovine through straws as we lay face down on the tables getting adjusted. We broke into laughter at the idea that we could create a wildly funny commercial endorsing Chocovine and our chiropractor, beaming in unison about how “divine” our experience had been. Getting adjusted, laughing, enjoying community – What a fabulous way to start the day!

From my chiropractor’s office, I headed out on some errands. I marveled and rejoiced when the first spot in the parking lot was available for me at, not one, but all three of the stores where I went. Amazing! Then, at the bank, they were able to resolve a previously complicated issue with ease and humor, and I really enjoyed talking with the bank employee who helped me. After this, I went on my Blackberry and scrolled through Facebook posts, only to learn from my friend Edie Weinstein that today is “Wiggle your toes day.” This piece of information not only caused me to wiggle with glee but to giggle enthusiastically. What fun! Since being trained in laughter yoga in June - and engaging in a regular laughter yoga practice since then - I have been able to laugh more and more easily. I love laughing, and I love sharing laughter yoga with others. I find myself opening to deeper experiences of joy and love. 

When I settled down on the couch at home to read a book later, my two kitties snuggled up beside me. On my right, sweet Zoe had her paws criss-crossed in front of her, resting gently on my leg.  On my left, Lucy placed her little head on my lap and purred. What a beautiful moment to celebrate! Filled with gratitude for this wondrous morning, I sat down to write and share my experiences with all of you. While seemingly simple, and possibly insubstantial to some, this lovely tapestry of moments uplifted my spirit and energized me for the day ahead.

Today I wish you moments of laughter, love, and pure joy – and an open heart with which to experience the mini-miracles around you every day. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Self-Care is Not Self-Pampering: Republished from Social Work PRN

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Ask anyone what they do for “self-care” and their answers are more likely to sound like “self-pampering” or “self-indulgence,” such as:
“I take a hot bubble-bath. I treat myself to a meal in a nice restaurant or some new shoes. I get a pedicure or a manicure. I get a massage. I have a pizza or drinks with friends when I’m stressed. I do something nice for myself as often as I can afford it.”
Pampering and self-indulgence are fine if you can afford them, but they’re not the things you do to ensure self-care that meets your needs for physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.
Self-care is personal health maintenance – in other words, it’s anything that restores, improves, maintains, treats or prevents disease. It’s what we do to balance the stressors and demands of our life in a way that benefits our emotional, physical and mental health.
Self-care includes meeting our needs for:
  • Physical fitness and exercise and overall health
  • Nutrition and medical care, adequate supplements, medicine and treatments
  • Hygiene – including a healthy home and work environment and surroundings
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Spiritual needs, emotional and mental health needs
  • Life Skills such as communication, relationships, assertiveness, boundary setting.
If you’ve felt frustrated after pampering and indulging yourself and still not feeling complete or healthy – chances are that misunderstanding the role of self-care and why we need it is part of the problem.
If you have a client who is unable to find or hold down a job, sustain a healthy and safe relationship, eat healthy foods, give up alcohol, drugs and compulsive behaviors, take responsibility for themselves or their lives, money, health or personal safety, you’re not likely to tell them to “take a bubble bath,” or “buy yourself something nice,” until their most basic self-care needs have been met first.
Self-care for yourself is no different. Social workers who don’t have life skills such as critical decision making, communication, boundary setting, financial literacy, cognitive restructuring, self-soothing, anger management and even parenting skills aren’t going to improve their lives with a manicure, a weekend at the beach or a bubble bath. Those things might distract us from the lack of life skills, or fitness, or spiritual needs – but they won’t meet those needs.
Self-care includes all the health decisions you need to make for yourself in order to get and stay physically and mentally fit. If you’re feeling stressed, burned out, fatigued, exhausted, angry, depressed or anxious some self-pampering might help, but it won’t heal. Self-care is giving yourself the gift of wellness.  Putting yourself first is not selfish. It’s smart. Nurturing yourself and making sure you are 100% fit ensures you’ll be around for a long time to take care of all the people in your life you love and are responsible for. If you can’t evaluate yourself, then find a medical or mental health professional that can.