Blog Archives
Making Connections – One of the Many Gifts of Being Present

I can’t believe it has been months since my last blog post.  Where did the time go? 

My perception of time flying is likely a reflection of living a very full life these days.  In other words, I have been really busy.  I am sure many of you can relate.   

But, I’m not complaining.  On the contrary, I am truly thankful for the many great experiences I have had over the past month.  They have allowed me to connect with incredibly talented people, all of whom are doing their part to enrich our lives and essentially make this world a better place. 

One theme that stands out among the work of each of the artists, health providers, and entrepreneurs I’ve been fortunate to meet and collaborate with over the past month, is the importance of connection; real connection. The kind of connection that can’t be achieved through a screen or a device. The kind that can only be experienced by paying attention to the small things, the things that can easily go unnoticed but are essential to allowing us to feel grounded in a world where the constant distractions take us away from being present, from being connected to the ‘here and now”. 

The month started with the launch of Walking with Walser, a delightful little book by my friend Daphne Gordon.  Through Urusla, Gordon takes us on a journey full of quirky insights and reflections in response to the things she notices during her daily walks along Queen Street in Toronto.  Her fascination with the little things gives Ursula a child-like quality that is so compelling it inspires the reader to want to leave the house on foot to experience the adventure that awaits outside, an adventure that is always available provided we are actually prepared to pay attention. 

This theme of attending to the “here and now”  was the focus of discussion among all the presenters at the Integrative Health Institute’s free information night  titled, The Next BIG Thing in Brain Health.  As clinicians from our various backgrounds, we talked about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of mindfulness, a state we can practice by engaging in activities with the intention of remaining focused on the present.  We discussed the importance of slowing things down, and observing our own thoughts without judgment so that we can make conscious choices, rather than engage with the world in a reactive manner. 

As we noted that evening, advances in the field of neuroscience are literally showing us that these kinds of experiences contribute to the resilience of the brain as we age.  Focused concentration, new experiences and having fun are all important for the brain’s ability to adapt to its environment and to form new connections.  This is what allows us to learn and make new memories throughout our lives. 

Unfortunately, much of our modern technologies, or rather our attachments to them, seem to be leading us in the opposite direction, into a state where rapidly shifting attention has become the norm. 

One of my favourite moments of the night was when Corinne Korytkowski, mindfulness coach, acknowledged that we all, including us “experts”, struggle with being present.  Amen! It certainly is not something that comes naturally to me.  But it is something I have been working on in a conscious way for the past 10 years. 

My children have probably been my best mindfulness teachers to date.  There is nothing like a screaming child to make you let go of your best laid plans. On the flip side, there is little that compares to experiencing the world through a child’s eyes and being reintroduced to it as a place of wonder and amazement. 

So, whatever it is you do today, consider taking a moment or two to slow down, “unplug”, and really pay attention to what is happening in the moment.  You might be surprised by what you experience.

 


Divine Mothering: The antidote to being Pinterest Perfect

 

About a month ago, I was contacted by Simone Olivero, Assignment Editor at Yahoo! Canada for my expert opinion about a disturbing trend: websites like #thighgap, and #collarbonechallenge that make being thin a competitive sport.  I was horrified to know that websites that encourage eating disordered behaviour like this would even be allowed to exist.

You can read the article here:   What’s really happening when body shaming on… – Fashion and lifestyle News – Yahoo Style Canada

The timing of Simone’s request was interesting as I had recently been thinking about how the media routinely sets women up to feel inadequate at all stages of life.

When I was a teenager, me and my friends spent hours pouring over fashion magazines, debating which of the super models was the most beautiful and trying our best to emulate their looks.  Needless to say, as a slightly overweight girl of colour, seeing beauty consistently depicted as thin, typically blond and white did not do much for my self-esteem.

I have to imagine that the internet’s ability to expose us to a gazillion images of perfection can only serve to cause many of us to feel like we are just not measuring up.  Of course, celebrities are not exactly “normal” people.  It’s their job to look perfect.  But we nevertheless can’t seem to help but compare ourselves when one of them is featured in a magazine looking as thin as ever just after giving birth…to twins!

In addition to the constant barrage of celebrity “news”, social media provides a venue where many of us “normal folks” can post pictures of our best moments and pretend that it is an actual day in the life.  So much for reality! Social media has essentially taken the pursuit of “keeping up with the Joneses” to a new level.

My friend and colleague Nikki Bergen (http://www.nikkibergen.com/)  recently introduced me to a term that eloquently sums up much of the content on social media:  “Pinterest Perfect”.   I loved the term so much that we decided to use it in the title of a workshop we are presenting this September on postpartum recovery.  It’s called, Modern Motherhood:  NOT Pinterest Perfect.

One of the topics we plan to discuss is the influence of social media on the development of unrealistic standards for postnatal recovery and the negative impact this has on body image and self-esteem. 

And then I came across this site:  http://divine-mothering.com/

What a welcome breath of fresh air to see these postpartum women with their babies looking absolutely radiant and comfortable in their own skin.    Bravo Liliana Toboas for conceiving of this project and for your celebration of moms and their inspiring stories.  We finally have a bit of balance to the conversation.

Check out my EVENTS page at http://www.drstacythomas.com/events/ for more information about my workshop with Nikki Bergen, founder of the Bump Method, on September 20, 2015.  We look forward to hearing more stories from real women about the realities of motherhood as well as sharing concrete strategies for getting back to feeling good again, both emotionally and physically.

It is sure to be a spirited discussion.

Hope to see you there.

Dr. Stacy


Self-care. It’s about time.

 

Hello.  Welcome to my blog.

I chose today, July 24, 2015, to publish my first post because it is a great day.  Not just because it’s Friday and the weather here in Toronto is spectacular.  Believe it or not, according to Health Canada, today is “International Self-Care Day”.

Ahh…self-care.  A topic close to my heart, and one that invariably comes up as an issue for most of my clients at some point over the course of treatment.

First, what is self-care?  Self care is just as it sounds.  Taking the time to take care of one’s self.   This can mean a variety of things.  It could mean following through with that resolution to quit smoking. Or, it could mean taking the time to eat lunch without trying to do something else at the same time.  It might mean going to bed early rather than finishing another load of laundry.  Or maybe it is about locking the bathroom door and taking a shower while someone else looks after the baby for a while.

What would you do to improve your self-care?  Whatever it is, now is the time to stop putting it off and to start doing it.

Here is a revolutionary idea: experiment with putting your needs first for a day and see what happens.

Now, you will need to do some planning. It is not realistic to just drop everything to go get a manicure.   But what if that manicure, yoga class, lunch with a friend, or walk by the lake (fill in restorative activity here), became a priority rather than something you will do if you can fit it in after you’ve taken care of everything and everyone else?

If you actually made self-care a priority, you might find that you start making different choices.  You might start to re-evaluate the urgency of some tasks.  You might start to consider whether some things could be delegated to others.

The process of negotiating time for yourself may also require learning new skills in order to effectively communicate your needs to your significant others and enlist their cooperation in your plan.

For me, my time for self-care is between 6 and 8 am, Monday to Friday. Whether I am sweating like crazy in a spinning class or running by the lake, that time is mine for taking care of my body and spirit.  It allows me to burn off some of the negative energy that I absorb through my work, clears my head, and allows me to feel energized.

My morning workouts have become precious to me.  I have to do this for myself. Otherwise, I literally become a less pleasant person to be around.  I don’t sleep well, which leads to me being irritable, less focused and overall not the person I want to be.

To do this, my family has had to make some accommodations, which often means that my partner has to wake up far earlier than he would like.  He absolutely hates waking up early.  But he also appreciates the fact that I need this for my own physical and mental health.  And I love him dearly for his support.   Ultimately, my routine has become part of the routine for my household.

When we start talking about prioritizing self-care, people often express concern about being perceived as “selfish”. It’s not selfish, it is just being responsible.  There is absolutely nothing selfish about taking ownership for one’s own health and well being. Besides, those around you are sure to benefit.  It is far easier to give to others when the tank is full rather than depleted.

So there it is.  I have given you the argument.  Now it is your turn to put these ideas into action and make it happen.  No more excuses.  Besides, it’s International Self-Care Day!

Enjoy.

Until next time…

Dr. Stacy