Helping Others, Helping Yourself – a lesson in self-care

Helping Others, Helping Yourself – a lesson in self-care

I need to be completely transparent here.  When I was asked (in January) to write this blog for Mind Body Align, I knew very little about what went on at the Butterfly House, nor did I think that I would ever write a blog.  However, always being up for an adventure, I thought why not? It isn’t due until December. I can do this!

The topic, Helping Others, didn’t seem hard.  That is what I do, right? I mean, I am the oldest in my family (also known as, the caretaker), and retired from the local child support agency after 25 years of helping people establish paternity and child support orders for their kids (I should write a book about THAT!). In addition to that, for 6 years, have been the Intake Director for Starfish Project, which helps those struggling with addictions find treatment options.

Helping others is in my wheelhouse.  Super simple, right?

Doing the Research

What my crazy undiagnosed ADHD brain completely and conveniently glossed over was the second half of the title, Helping Yourself.  Oh. Stop. Helping Yourself? Like in, Helping Myself? Well, that is a game changer.

And, the way my brain works, I immediately launched into an in-depth study about self-help.  Let’s look at the research, study flow charts and statistical data, get some great graphics, a couple of good stories, and maybe a catchphrase to tie it all together.  Never mind if it is something that I can apply to my life or circumstances, just do the research!

With that spectacular goal in mind, I forged into the year and started attending the Coffee Talks – I wanted to know the audience, right?  I had already had discussions with our pastor about meeting with him to do some self-care. Perfect timing, let’s do that!

I looked up articles and studies on self-care and read them intently looking for great information and skills that I could pass on.  I looked at this assignment as a way to help the audience get information, but did not pay attention to what I was doing, nor did I apply it to my own life.  I was still running at a crazy pace. I wasn’t taking breaks or cueing in on what I needed. By March, however, I had noticed a couple of things.

Revelations and Purpose

First, I really liked the Coffee Talks.  I mean, I really liked them. I found the connection with other women was something which had been missing from my life.  Second, meeting with the pastor to talk about self-care in ministry was not painless. It forced me to focus on things about myself that I would rather not have thought about or acted on.  It made me quiet my hyperactive, squirrel-chasing brain for an hour or so and really work on myself.

Finally, the research and data did not really address the issue in the way I had hoped; it all seemed a little clinical.  So, I decided to regroup and to focus on what was working for me! This was great because I went into the second quarter of the year with these revelations and armed with a new sense of purpose. I pushed on.

The Big Crash

There were many summer events for Starfish. We were also involved with people going into treatment and returning to the community after treatment.  Meetings with the pastor were not happening at this time. We were just too busy.

A short break with a one week getaway to Western Michigan on the lake was decided on.  No real plans, just a relaxing time to reconnect with my husband and disconnect from the non-profit.  We had a great time. We ate good food, walked on the lovely beaches, and walked the streets of Saugatuck with our dogs enjoying the small shops and restaurants. We slowed down the pace of our lives.

On August 25th we got back into Mansfield late.   The next day was church and family time. And on the following day, August 27th, my mother died.  She was in hospice care, but even the caregivers were taken by surprise because she literally woke up, had breakfast, took a nap, and never woke up.

Permission to Pause

There was no obvious need to complete her funeral arrangements which were pretty much pre-planned, but there were some details to finish.  I felt like I was in slow motion and everything required more effort than normal.

I kept forgetting things.  I tried to keep going as best I could, but I knew that I needed a break. I needed time.  I needed to help myself.

So, I did something very uncharacteristic for me.  I did nothing other than what had to be done for that current day.  I did the minimum necessary for 2 weeks. No work, no new clients. I sat, slept, read, cried, and sat some more. I applied some of the “research” for this blog to my life, and it helped.

These are the lessons from my year:

Helping others is an act of love.  Coming from my Biblical perspective, I am commanded to love others as I love myself. As I love myself.  I can not properly love (help, support or nurture) others if I do not love myself first.

For me, it means that I need to acknowledge that I am loved by God and valued by Him just as I am (crazy brain and all).  It means a level of acceptance that believes I am worth loving, nurturing, and protecting, without feeling guilty or begrudging myself the same help I would give others.

Helping others will drain your emotional resources. Because that’s true, you must make allowances to replenish your spirit.  You cannot serve from an empty vessel. What is it that fills your spirit? Is it walking in the woods or reading a great novel?  Do you feel replenished after time spent alone or with family?

I found that what worked for me was connecting intentionally with my husband, children, and grandchildren. This means making time to really engage with them by turning off my phone and interacting.  The same thing applied to my connection with God by finding a space without distractions to allow Him to work in my spirit and rebuild me.

Helping others can be non-stop, and all-day-every-day,  if you let it happen.  In the middle of helping with others, whether it’s family, profession, or your calling, it is easy to come out of the experience tired and burnt out. When you are feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, it is okay to give yourself permission to pause.

Even though preparing for this blog, Helping Others, Helping Yourself was not what I expected, it’s been a useful and worthwhile journey full of self-awareness and valuable lessons learned. This time spent learning about what I need, and what it takes for me to stay balanced physically and emotionally allows me to better serve others. This journey to stay balanced is something I will always be working towards, and taking a pause for self-care allows me to be more effective at helping others, as well as helping myself.

Valerie Rust is a life-long resident of Richland County who retired in 2016 as the Assistant Director of the Richland County Child Support Agency to volunteer full-time for Starfish Project of Richland County.  She is one of the founding members of the non-profit which assists those struggling with addictions to locate treatment options. She currently works as a part-time Peer Recovery Coach for Catalyst Life Services and assists individuals in treatment from addictions to link with community resources.  Valerie is married to Stan Rust who retired from General Motors to also volunteer for Starfish Project. They have five adult children, fourteen grandchildren, and two spoiled diva dogs.

The Journey

The Journey

If you were sneaking into my house with the intention of finding out who I am, you might take a look inside my refrigerator. I often feel you can tell a lot about a person by what is in their fridge, bathroom and by what they read. After making a few observations including the fact that the light in the refrigerator needs replacing, you might think that the person who lives here must be healthy. The contents would include gluten-free veggie burgers, organic meats, yogurt and various whole foods.

Once you made your way upstairs, the bathroom would reveal organic shampoo and Annamarie’s Labyrinth soap along with natural, earth-friendly cleaners. If you stopped with the kitchen and bathroom, you might think that you could begin to put together a picture of who I am. If we were to use a stereotype, you might think I am a bit “granola”, a “crunchy” or a smidge “earthy”. This definitely tells the story of a woman who owns Birkenstocks. Some of this might even be true.

Then you would open my closet door. A closet would surely be the place that would be the most telling about a person. Right? At first glance you observe that hanging inside are clothes of a similar style with a specific color palette. Then you put on your best Sherlock Holmes impersonation and take a closer look. Once you finish gasping at the ridiculous quantity of shoes, you might begin to look at the clothing labels. You would notice that the tags inside the garments range from small to extra large and the picture starts to look a little less consistent with your prior thoughts about my identity.

One of our core values at Mind Body Align is to keep things simple and authentic, and I’m going to be extraordinarily vulnerable and authentic with you about my health and fitness journey.

I was steadily gaining

I was a skinny kid complete with knobby knees, glasses and a bowl haircut (we called it a Dorothy Hamill. If you aren’t old enough to remember it then give it a quick Google search). This physical body was mine—albeit gawky—and over time, I grew comfortable in it.

Puberty came, and I was pretty okay with who I was and how I looked. Throughout high school and college, I was physically active and maintained a healthy weight. I read Seventeen magazine and later Vogue and slightly idolized the models. I loved how the clothes looked on them. Thin was in.

All of that changed in my mid-twenties and early thirties. My weight was out of control. Have you ever heard the term, “size denial”? That was me. Over many years, I was steadily gaining weight. I knew that I was shopping in the plus size section—hello Lane Bryant—but somehow that did not connect with the logical part of my brain that knew that I was not healthy. My reality was warped.

Make conscious choices

The change came in a room at Mansfield General Hospital. My grandmother was dying from complications of diabetes. She spent several weeks in the hospital, and I came home from Florida to be with her. My usual coping mechanism had been to eat my way through a crisis. Food was a comfort for me. This crisis was no different as I spent hours in the hospital cafeteria.

One day when I was sitting by her side, a nurse came into the room with a scale. I had not measured my weight for years so I decided to step on. Size denial no more! The numbers don’t lie. I decided right then and there that I needed to make swift and severe changes. I did not want to spend my last days suffering in the same way as my grandmother.

I immediately started to make conscious choices about food, and as soon as I returned to Florida, I joined a local Weight Watchers group. My weight loss journey was a fourteen month one with the end result being a loss of 75 lbs. I went from wearing a size 20 to size 6. I tell you this only so you can get an idea of the change. I faithfully walked 30 minutes a day and eventually added other forms of exercise. Most importantly, I was healthy. It wasn’t about a diet. It was about a lifestyle change. Yes. The scale was my new best friend, but I viewed it more as a tool and not the judge and jury. I maintained my goal weight and stayed within a healthy range for 15 years.

Be your best self

The topic this month is about sharing challenges and triumphs, and I’ve had my share of both in regards to health and fitness. At this moment, I am challenged. I am having a tough time controlling my weight and prioritizing regular exercise. Although I eat mostly healthy foods, attend yoga classes, ride a bike and enjoy other outdoor activities, there is room for improvement.

Recently, I was scrolling through Instagram when a post caught my eye. It was a picture of a pair of feet on a scale. The scale read 180.4 lbs. It was a post from Olympic Volleyball player, Gabby Reece. Gabby is not only a professional volleyball player, but she is also a sports announcer, fashion model, and actress. She also happens to be my age.

Here is what she wrote:  “Scale talk. I’m 6 foot 3 in and don’t fit into any of the typical measuring modalities. Just a reminder. Be your best self. In my case, I’m going with “one big bitch.” Just concern yourself with being healthy, feeling good, sleeping, and connecting. Not ready to talk about cellulite yet.”  This was, as Oprah says, an “Ah Ha” moment for me

Discovery and triumph

I am discovering that my body is changing and I am needing to embrace new strategies as I move through middle age. As I approach my fifties, I am realizing that health and fitness are more important to me than the size on a label, and I want to live my life in such a way that I am physically able to have all the experiences that I choose to have.

I have all of the tools I need to achieve success and this feels like a triumph.  I also feel strength and support from my tribe as I embark on my newest journey. This is my health and fitness story, not my life story.  I will do this!

The closet that you peered into at the beginning of this blog does, in fact, contain a variety of sizes. The story my wardrobe tells is that the woman who lives in my house and wears those clothes is a real woman with real challenges. She buys organic food, is a little bit crunchy, sometimes struggles to live her best life and, through it all, she is enjoying the journey.

Jennifer Blue is the Operations Director for Mind Body Align having joined the team in August of 2017. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. She returned to Mansfield in 2005 and is excited to be a part of the positive changes occuring in our community.

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

You’re Already Living in Your Amazingness. Recognizing it is the Hard Part

I’ll admit it; this particular topic was difficult for me at this point in my life. You see, for the last several weeks I have felt more un-amazing than anything else. I dragged my feet on writing this knowing I’d have to fess up to the terrible way I’ve felt about myself recently. So… here it is: after losing my job I felt like a giant failure. I was certain everyone could see that failure on my face. But you know what? Now that I’ve said it out loud, I can see how awful it really is.

It’s ok to feel un-amazing for a while

Why did I let that statement make me so miserable for literally months?

We all go through these cycles of feeling bad and then getting better but we greatly undervalue a certain part of the process: the part where we dust ourselves off and try again. Why do we give such weight to the negative and yet, without blinking, completely undermine the strength and courage it takes to overcome our darkness?

That journey, the one that only you know, it’s special and there is amazingness in having lived it. So let me share with you some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help me get past these negative feelings and start again with sincerity towards my own amazingness.

Tell your story

In her 2015 publication, “Rising Strong”, Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

By owning your experience and sharing it with others, you become the narrator of your own history. It’s your story, so make sure you tell it with conviction. For example, leaving my former position was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. There are still days when I am not sure it was right but what I do know is that in the wake of that decision, I’ve pondered new ideas and pursued things that I never thought would be a reality for me.

I’ve become more attuned to my strengths, due in large part to my moments of weakness. I am more comfortable in my abilities than I might have ever realized had I stayed where I was. To me, this unexpected realization is pretty amazing.

Find your tribe

What’s cool about finding the right group of people is you really recognize their importance in your life when you feel the least awesome about yourself.

Moment of truth coming up: I haven’t always been a good friend.

I rarely make dates to get together and if I do, I often have to reschedule because of my job or kids or some other pressing issue. But let me hear that a friend is down on hard times and I’m there. No questions asked. This is what I’ve experienced recently but on the receiving end.

The women and men who I call my “tribe” really stepped up and helped me through the dark parts by saying all the nice things to me that I wasn’t able to say to myself at the time. You see, if you surround yourself with people who will jump in and be champions for you when you are unable to climb out of the pit, you’ve got yourself something seriously amazing there. Even better, when you have true and loyal supporters who lift you up, you’ll start to see yourself the way they see you and soon afterward, you may even start believing it, too.

Free your mind

If you come to my home and it is really, really clean, you’d be witnessing the aftermath of some mental tornado. Like so many others, I clean when I am stressed or depressed or need a moment to gather myself. The act of physically placing things in order can have tremendous metaphysical benefits for our internal journey.

As Albert Einstein, said, “Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

When we release the weight of things which no longer serve us, whether in our careers, our homes, or our hearts, we open up space to carry the things we didn’t have the strength for before. Sometimes, the simplest things can bring amazingness to the surface—you just have to prepare your mind to accept it—which you can’t do if it is filled with too much unnecessary junk.

For me, I found this in good old fashion exercise. Not only did I get the endorphin high from the physical activity but I also started to see results, which helped me let go of so much of the negativity I had toward myself about my appearance. Just physically feeling better helped clear my mind of the awful and hurtful things I would think about myself on the regular.

It’s OK to know you’re amazing!

When the time comes to let all that negativity and self-loathing go, you’ll know.

One day, suddenly, you’ll realize that you’re stronger than you were the day before. You’ll remember how hard you’ve worked and you may even get mad at yourself that you allowed this sad state to go on for so long. But don’t get distracted here. Now is the time to own your experience by sharing it with others and reaching out to your tribe. Soon you will begin to clear the clutter and start again.

The moment when you decide to live with our un-amazingness and keep going anyway, this is the most amazing part that we often overlook. So next time you find yourself in this place, where you have to choose to stay the same or to live in your un-amazingness, recognize that what you’ve done, what you have, and where you are going is actually pure, golden amazingness. Let this be the part of you that shines.

Mary Cabrera Kennard is a self-made dreamer, a global citizen, and a pogonophile who resides in Mansfield, Ohio with her husband, Blake, and their two young sons, Griffin and Phoenix. For over 10 years Mary served the non-profit community in Mansfield as the Education and Outreach Director at the Mansfield Art Center and most recently as the Deputy Director at the Ohio State Reformatory Historic Site. Mary is a graduate of Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelors of Arts in Art History with an emphasis on visual culture. As a Richland County native, Mary returned to the area after receiving her degree in hopes to grow roots in the community where she grew up. Mary contributes to the areas’ cultural landscape through her efforts as a fashion & lifestyle influencer on Instagram and as a self-taught makeup artist through her business, Ohio Style Vibe. In addition to her own ventures, Mary acts as a brand style-strategist for Black Forge Creative, a multi-media design company owned by her brother, Dennis Cabrera.

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Recognize the good – Hakarat ha’Tov

Choosing to be grateful is just a shift in thinking. For some, it is a significant shift. For others more subtle. To me, the key word in our topic for November is choice.

Our thoughts naturally seem to turn to thankfulness and gratitude as we approach Thanksgiving. We are inundated with commercials meant to tug at both our heart and purse strings to remind us to appreciate the little things, not to mention those Hallmark movies that I love so much.

Social media is full of folks proclaiming their gratitude for things both big and small. Recently I even jumped into the pool. I committed to posting three things each day for which I’m grateful. I was going to make a conscious effort and demonstrate it for the whole world to see. Do you want to know how many times I did this? Once. Let me repeat: I did it once.

I set the intention wholeheartedly. I put it out there and dropped the proverbial ball. I publicly said that I was going to do this every day for November. It happened once!

Beating myself up

The reason I’m sharing this with you is that I want to focus for a minute on choosing gratitude and self-compassion.

One of the benefits of the mindfulness practice is that one learns to experience life in the present moment. Recognizing it for what it is, not resisting and then making a choice – rather than reacting.

Before I started practicing mindfulness, the dialog in my head would have been something like this:

What are people going to think? I only posted once. Am I a truly selfish person?

Couldn’t I even list three things a day?

Am I so important or busy that I couldn’t take time out of my day to post?

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Letting myself off the hook

Luckily, along with living mindfully and choosing gratitude comes a little thing called compassion. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, it took me years to learn about compassion. I could be overly compassionate toward others but rarely toward myself. This current situation was a time when I needed to choose to pull out the self-compassion card.

Does anyone remember my announcement on Facebook? Answer: Most likely, no. Technically, I could go into my timeline and delete it (going there now. click, delete and gone). Does it mean that I am ungrateful because I didn’t send a press release to Richland Source every time I had a moment of gratitude? NO. I needed to let myself off of the hook. It doesn’t even matter what the reasons were for not sticking to my plan. I felt guilt and shame.

By writing this post, I have the opportunity to reflect on this recent situation. The truth is that I feel gratitude in a million little moments in every single day. Just like most of you. We need to choose to recognize those times, but it doesn’t always require demonstrating through a grand gesture. A quiet acknowledgment does the job.

Recognize the good

As usual, I’ve taken the long road, but my point is that we can choose to appreciate things around us that are good. In Hebrew, it is called “Hakarat ha’Tov.” (pronounced HA-car-ott, HA-tove)

The literal translation is recognizing the good. When we are not experiencing gratitude, and we suddenly recognize it, we can choose to show compassion to ourselves. Choosing gratitude can be just this little shift in our thinking and remembering this short phrase: Hakarat ha’Tov.

So here it is ladies. It’s another thing that we can add to our list of things to not over-think. Gratitude. It’s not about forcing a feeling, keeping to a schedule of Facebook posts or feeling obligated to do something. It is a simple thing, Hakarat ha’Tov, or recognizing the good.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday so my call to action for each of you, a “no pressure” call to action, is to recognize the good.

Jennifer Blue is the Operations Director for Mind Body Align having joined the team in August of 2017. She studied political science at Otterbein College and the University of Louisville. She returned to Mansfield in 2005 and is excited to be a part of the positive changes occuring in our community.

Discover Fun Ways to Nourish Your World

Discover Fun Ways to Nourish Your World

Nourish: provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

July is the month of Nourishing at Mind Body Align. Nourish is one of my favorite words. You can nourish your body, your mind, your spirit, a child, a friend, a friend’s child, an animal, your environment, and even the community. And, I am going to challenge you to come up with some fun ways to do just that this month.

First, grab a writing implement and piece of paper, I’ll wait.

Next, find a comfortable place to sit, lightly close your eyes and take five slow, deep, cleansing breaths.  I am going to wait right here until you finish. You can even roll your shoulders or your eyes a few times before you answer the following questions:

1.  How will you nourish yourself?

2.  How will you nourish family and friends?

3.  How will you nourish the environment?

4.  How will you nourish community?

I want you to be creative, detailed and have some fun!

How can you support growth, health and good condition in each of those areas this month? I will share my answers with you so you can hold me accountable and I would love it if you shared some of yours!

Here goes.

I, Linda Snyder…

1. Will nourish myself by eating a healthy breakfast at least 5 days a week, listening to music when I cook, and creating 30 minutes daily for outside meditation. NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS!

2.  I will nourish family and friends by actively listening, not only in person, but when on the telephone by turning off any distractions that may be present while on the call.

3.  I will nourish the environment by refraining from purchasing anything made of plastic during the month of July (this includes polyester and acrylic clothing) and reducing my shower time to 5 minutes, even when I travel for work. I will sing my naked woman song while showering. (This song was created many years ago while my daughter and I were tent camping in Maine. It cost .25 cents to shower so we showered together, quickly.)

4.  I will nourish my community by attending public events, exploring places I can volunteer, and purchasing goods from local establishments.

See? That’s do-able isn’t it?

Now it’s YOUR turn – please share your answers below.

Linda Snyder is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and Yoga Teacher who just downsized, along with her husband and two cats, into a 38-foot Motorhome on the West Coast of Florida. Linda enjoys being outside, dancing in the grocery store, and traveling.

What does “Nourish” really mean?

What does “Nourish” really mean?

When the MBA team gave me the topic of “Nourish” it seemed like a logical fit for someone in the restaurant business. But the longer I thought about the topic, the less I felt qualified to write about it!

What does “Nourish” really mean?  Synonyms include: feed, provide for, sustain, maintain, enhance, cherish, nurture, foster, harbor, etc.

So, OK, I feed people; I provide food for people; I give the opportunity to people to enhance their diets with healthy food options. Those are the obvious reasons for me to write on this topic. But to me, Nourish has a more spiritual meaning.

Humans nourish themselves not only by feeding their bodies, but also through doing the things that they are passionate about and that make them happy. Which is precisely why I wasn’t sure that I was qualified to write about this topic. Being a business owner is hard work, and while I am happy doing it I find that I have ignored myself in the process. The things that I used to be passionate about have been pushed aside.

I was not nourishing myself. Or, so I thought.

While pondering these revelations, I kept being reminded of a profound experience that happened to me at the restaurant one day.

It was a very busy day and we had a full dining room plus many delivery orders to fill. I was feeling pretty stressed when all of a sudden I stopped and listened to the sounds of happy people talking and laughing in the dining room, and I had an overwhelming feeling that my Italian Grandma would be so proud if she could see what I have accomplished (and yes, tears are streaming down my face while I write this.)

My Grandma would invite all the nuns and the priest and anyone else who didn’t have somewhere to go for holiday meals… she loved to feed a crowd. Feeding people in a warm, loving environment nourished her soul. That profound experience nourished my soul.

With loving nourishment

Maybe one day I can get back to those things that I used to be passionate about. For now, I will nourish my soul by helping others find nourishment… not only through offering the healthy food options, but also by providing a place where they will always be greeted with a welcome, a smile, and a warm, loving place to meet friends.

I hope that you have/take time to nourish whatever you are passionate about. Feed your soul! And if, like me, you feel that you’ve had to push aside the things you are passionate about, I hope you can find nourishment being exactly where you are. Your soul will thank you.

Susan is the owner of Doc’s Deli, celebrating 10 years of nourishing people with healthy food options. She is a graduate of Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, Wooster, with a degree in Greenhouse Management and Floral Design, and a graduate of the Master Gardener program. While life has taken a lot of twists and turns along the way, gardening is a passion that Susan hopes to find more time for in the near future!