Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for November, 2013

The holidays are upon us! What will you do to maintain your health amidst the many added stresses of the season?

It’s a time for celebration but it’s also a very sad and difficult one for some of us–especially those whose lives aren’t filled with the love and joy they hope for. Some of us have lost loved ones this year or are continuing to feel the void of a beloved who died years ago. Depression, anxiety and other psychological symptoms often increase in December. Add to that the weight of financial pressures, navigation of family challenges and all that sugar that suddenly appears everywhere you turn, and you’ve got a recipe for all kinds of mental and physical health problems.

What does stress look like?

Take Time to Slow Down

Most often we hear “stress” used in a negative connotation: “I’m so stressed out getting ready for hosting Thanksgiving at my house. I don’t know if I can get it all done.” While ideally hosting a celebration is a joyful opportunity, here it’s been turned into a problem. It’s become a burden rather than the blessing we’d hope it to be.

Stress comes in many different packages. Even desired life events like marriage, a new job, entry or graduation from college or the birth of a baby, add significant stress to our lives.

How stress impacts our health depends on how we perceive it and how we respond to it.

How do you perceive holiday stress?

Martin Seligman, a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, says that our explanatory style is the critical factor as to whether stress takes us down or becomes an opportunity for personal and relational growth. His ideas are especially helpful when considering the “desired” stressors of the holidays.  Pessimists respond to stress from a stance of helplessness (“How am I ever going to get it all done?”). Optimists respond from a stance of power, choice and capability (“I am excited about hosting! I am going to work diligently and enjoy all the details of preparing a beautiful day to celebrate with family and friends.”)

Those who thrive under pressure maintain three views that minimize the impact of stress: a commitment to staying engaging (reducing isolation and passivity which lead to depression), taking appropriate control of whatever part of the situation can be altered and influenced (reducing helplessness) and seeing stress as a challenge - that even difficulties provide an opportunity for personal and relational growth.

How do you respond to stress?

Make Time to Pray

How we cope with stress factors heavily on its impacts upon health. The holiday season abounds with opportunities to fall into unhealthy coping patterns–especially overeating, drinking too much and neglecting stress reducing commitments to exercise and spiritual practices. Of course smoking or other compulsive substance use or activities are also likely to increase under stress.

Along with behavioral signs, increases in anger, crying, depression, negativity, physical tension, headaches, insomnia, digestive problems–all may indicate you need to increase your support for coping with holiday stress.

Positive Coping Ideas

Be proactive. Begin now to develop a plan for coping with potential holiday stress. Consider experimenting with a few new stress management techniques as part of your plan.  Possibilities include everything from taking a ten minute walk each day to setting boundaries about how many “treats” you’ll eat at a given event.

If you want support on developing your plan for either surviving anticipated grief or thriving through the celebrations, I’m offering a holiday health coaching special from now through December 20th – two individual sessions (phone or in person) plus email or text support between sessions for $225.00. I’d love to support your good health and help you enjoy the blessings as well as cope with your unique set of challenges.

Last week I met a remarkable young woman named Kate who fears that God, her parents and friends won’t approve of her searching beyond what she’s known of him all her life to be the “only truth.” Yet she also fears staying in the safety of that belief system, of not following her innermost self and trusting her own capacity to understand her tradition in a bigger way–what my husband Dave calls the big “G” Gospel.

It takes courage to leave the safety of traditional ways of believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like it takes courage to leave home and go away to college. Yet doing so is an essential part of adult identity and faith development.

What does it really man to “believe” the good news that Jesus preached? As I read the resurrection story in the last chapter of the gospel according to Mark this morning I considered the meaning of “believe.”

What does belief look like in daily life? Is about knowing facts and information, cognitively assenting to ideology? My evangelical training emphasized correct doctrine as the key element of belief. Discipleship focused on studying topics like “know what you believe” and “know why you believe” rather than equipping me for transformation into a more loving, Christlike person.

At this point in my spiritual journey I think belief has more to do with how I live and how I love than anything else. Faith in Jesus Christ is reflected in my attitude, motivation and behavior more than in what I proclaim to be true about God, human nature, reality and other existential issues. Interestingly, the modern English word “belief” has it’s etymology in Old English and Germanic words reflecting the more personal nature of belief as “holding dear, esteeming and trusting.” Billy Graham, who’s been called the greatest evangelist of our time, once said that the greatest expression of belief isn’t cognitive assent but to “be love” in the world.

I can’t “prove” my interpretation via exegesis. Moreover, I don’t want or need to. Years of exegetical training and practice did much to equip my mind for the study of scripture. But it did little in terms of making me a more loving, Christlike person. Psychotherapy and contemplative Christ-centered practices have been the primary avenues the Spirit of God has used to free me from reactive, defensive, unloving ways of being in my life. Centering prayer in particular has been the greatest tool for being transformed by the renewing of my mind in Christ.

I’m grateful to stand with Kate and many other millennials who are searching outside the expressions of Christianity they were raised in. They need boomers like me to support them in their desire to deepen their connection to Christ through both traditional and non-traditional forms.

My prayer for Kate and others millennials doing the hard work of adult faith development comes from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus: according to the riches of God’s glory, may you be strengthened with power through God’s Spirit in your innermost beings, may Christ dwell in your hearts as you are being rooted and grounded in love, may you have power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and be filled to all the fullness of God.

“Now to the one by whom the power at work within us is able to do abundantly far more than all that we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”   (Ephesians 3.16-21)

It’s Friday afternoon at 4:50. The sun is setting and I’ve got a list of unfinished tasks. My energy is running low. My mouth is dry. My attention is waning. What shall I do?

Chill out. Take a break! Now!

promoting good health with Legend & Skye

My helpers in restoring equilibrium

I went outside, picked up dog poop, checked out the rising crescent moon.

Nothing like a few moments of solitude and silence to provide a mental reset.

What’s the power of solitude and silence?

Intentional inward focus with reduced input from the outside sources creates space for the mind to re-organize, to ground and center internally.

Solitude, even a few moments of it when done in an intentional way, can do wonders for restoring mental equilibrium.

The critical part is being present to the moment, with an intention to withdraw. If I’d picked up the poop with an intention to “hurry through it” so I could get back to the computer, it wouldn’t have the same impact. The simple choice not to focus on the next item on the list and to keep my attention on the dog poop, being where I was, not where I intended to go next, made the difference.

Many things can activate this inner stillness that restores mental harmony. The form is a tool to harness and direct mental attention away from external distractions and draw within. Brother Lawrence entered such a state when he “practiced the presence” of God  while working in the kitchen. Meditation of all forms help usher us into a similar state.

This blog is dedicated with love and gratitude to Legend and Skye who made today’s break possible!

A courageous, intelligent, creative and vulnerable 25 year old woman sat across from me this morning and reminded me who I am. Half my age but filled with the same eternal wisdom of God, her eyes filled with tears as she said, “When I met you and saw your gray hair, you became my role model. I don’t want to grow up afraid of aging, of my body changing, of getting old.”

She also spoke of her fears for her six year old cousin who knows all about her mother’s recent liposuction treatment.  And, about how glad she is that smart phones weren’t available when she was in puberty. “It was bad enough without Facebook, Twitter and other media plastering my mind with airbrushed, photo-shopped images. It’s so much worse now.”

At least one prominent Beverly Hills board certified plastic surgeon reports that “a sizable chunk of his Beverly Hills patients are in their 20s, raised by moms who thought Botox was just part of a normal beauty regimen, like a pedicure or a waxing. You see a line, you get it Toxed.”

Lord, have mercy!

21 years ago a breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 became a shocking wake up call to love the skin I’m in! It transformed my attitude about aging. My wrinkles document the tears of love and laughter I’ve been blessed to experience as I’ve grown older.

I earned these wrinkles!

I’m not immune to feeling negatively about aging. Like the wise woman that sat with me this morning, I too have my moments when old ruts of negative thinking sneak up on me.

These days, when an initial wave of  “I’m looking old” thoughts and feelings hits me as I look in the mirror,  I breathe and pray, “Lord, have mercy.” I recognize the feelings and thoughts are part of being a 51 year old woman who chooses not to color my hair or “tox” my lines in a culture where that is becoming increasingly common and expected. I allow the negativity to pass through me like a wave.

Then, I remind myself of the alternative: “I could be dead!”

Hmmmm….wrinkles or death? I think I’ll choose the wrinkles!

My young colleague and I cried this morning as we spoke of our shared passion to bring a better story about our women bodies to the upcoming generations. I told her the story an African woman name Leah told Eve Ensler as she interviewed women around the world about their bodies.  When Eve asked if Leah loved her body, she replied “My body? Love my body…of course I love my body. It is my body.” Leah goes on to point out how all the trees are different, they don’t compare themselves to one another. “Eve” Leah tells her,  “you’ve got to love your tree.

May the eternal wisdom of our loving Creator that Leah embodied and testified to, that inspired our tears this morning, break through the darkness of self-deprecation and shame that so easily entangle and set us free to love ourselves as God loves us.

May we have more faith in that incorruptible, immeasurable and infinite Love, than we do in the stories of industries that want to profit off our insecurities and self-loathing.