Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for December, 2013

When it comes to healthcare these days everyone seems to be pointing the finger at someone else. The insurance companies blame the hospitals and providers for the high fees consumers pay for coverage. The doctors blame the insurance companies for their limited time and access to resources for patient care. And everyone is blaming Obama!

But the number one factor in healthcare is self-care!

Food is Medicine

More than 75% of healthcare costs go to treating largely preventable chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And while access to care (10%), genetics (20%) and environment (20%) all factor into disease onset, most causes of disease are related to health behaviors and lifestyle (50%).

Psychologist Ellen Baker calls self-care an ethical imperative for mental health professionals. The demands of regular exposure to emotional distress and trauma can lead to depletion. When we don’t proactively attend to our basic needs and replenish our own storehouses of emotional and physical sustenance, we increase our risk for clinical impairment. Similar liabilities show up in studies of ministry professionals who are at far greater risk of depression and anxiety than people in other occupations.

I’ll be sharing some of my own experience with the occupational hazards of ministry and mental health at Self-Care for Helping Professionals at Azusa Pacific University in February.  While ministry and mental health professionals have an ethical responsibility to take care of ourselves lest our our impairment jeopardize our competency, I’m more and more convinced that all of us have a moral imperative for self-care.

What makes self-care a moral imperative for all of us? How about the 1.87 trillion dollars spent in the United States on largely preventable conditions?

My career transition from mental health to health coaching is largely motivated by my sense of moral conviction at the inequity that our over consumption of resources creates in a world where many lack basic resources. While we in the United States are busy gobbling up resources and making ourselves sick, children around the world are dying because they lack clean water, nutritious food and basic medical care.

Imagine how radically different the world would look if even a portion of that 1.87 trillion dollars went to meeting those needs. Many of my friends are doing just that by participating in Team World Vision’s Run for Water project. They are taking care of their own physical health by training for the LA Marathon while raising money to bring clean water, sanitation and hygiene to communities in Africa.

What about you?

What will you be doing in 2014 to attend to your own self-care?

How will you make a difference in reversing the healthcare crisis by making self-care a priority in your life?

If you’d like support with that, I’m available for no-fee phone consultations. Also, if you’d like updates on my workshops and health coaching programs for 2014, please sign up for my newsletter (lower corner of right sidebar).

***Statistics from Duke University Integrative Medicine Professional Health Coaching Training Program

Saturday, February 8th, 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

It’s that time of the season when temptations to neglect body and soul come in many forms: overbooking social events, not drinking enough water and mindless eating of holiday goodies are three I’ve encountered these past few weeks.

My daily centering prayer time and regular yoga practice are two primary ways I maintain my alignment with myself amidst the stressors. They keep me rooted and grounded in the Love that is the point of these holy days. When my spiritual tank is empty from not praying, and I’m disconnected from my body because I’ve not been practicing yoga, I’m more likely to ignore the signals that tell me to slow down, drink water, and stay away from the sugary treats that show up everywhere this time of year.

Time to Align with Love

My former pastor Bob Whitaker used to tell us that people got sick at the holidays from eating too much sugar.  I snickered then, but wondered if there wasn’t some truth in his folk wisdom.  Now I learn, in my wise adult life, that in fact sugar does deplete my immune system and make me more prone to infection. My intention is to enjoy a little bit of the things I especially love — like my own Famous Irish Toffee and the Cobb Family’s homemade fudge — but to keep a kind and loving bridle on the part of me that wants to eat the whole batch!

As you enter into these busy days of celebration, staying connected to the One from whom all good things come will be good for both your body and your soul.

What helps you stay connected to yourself and what holds you together when life gets stressful? Imagine how different the next few weeks will be if you dedicate five minutes a day to writing a gratitude list, praying a psalm of thanksgiving, meditating on God’s love or some other soulful practice.

What will you do to stay connected to yourself and the One from whom all good things come during this season of celebration?   Your good health is worth at least five minutes a day, isn’t it?

I love Mary Oliver’s poem “When I am Among the Trees” so much I committed it to memory. It reminds me of who I am and what I am called to be. Like the trees, I have come into the world “to go easy, to be filled with light and to shine.”

This week has been tough. Personal and professional challenges show up to dampen my days, weigh me down. I practice gratitude, pray for help, do all the things I know to do to be well. But the clouds have hung close anyway.

I found my quiet center and a lightening of my load as I sat at my kitchen island and took a mini-retreat with my colleague Joy Malek’s  Sacred Space Retreat Kit.

when i am among the trees

She introduced me to Wendell Berry’s “I go among the trees” – reminding me that like the trees that shed leaves in the fall, stand naked through winter, and bloom again in spring, my life unfolds one day at a time and nothing lasts forever.

Both the blessings and challenges of life must be worn lightly, not clinging too tightly to the goodness nor resisting the struggles. It’s all part of the cycle of life that enables me to be filled with light and shine, even when I’m naked in the midst of winter clouds.

Joy’s kit is a series of simple reflections to create a pause in your day, go within and find your quiet center. Or, as Joy puts it, a life centered in soul. A wonderful way to pause in your busy or burdened day and “go easy, be filled with light and shine.” Even if you can’t get away to the trees, a few minutes at your kitchen table or before you check your email might be just the thing you need to lighten your load today.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer the Tuesday before Thanksgiving 21 years ago. Far from thankful, in spite of my doctor’s assurance that I had less than 5% chance of re-occurrence, fears of all sorts filled my mind that Thursday as we celebrated at my brother’s home.

ThanksLiving with Pam & Deni

A year later I was grateful just to be alive. More connected than ever to the gift of each day, being alive with eyes to see the beauty around me and soak in the love of family and friends was enough.  We gathered a few loved ones for a simple meal to celebrate life on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. A friend designated it a ThanksLiving party. It became a tradition and we’ve been celebrating ever since. A week after our 21st ThanksLiving Sunday event, I’m still soaking in the gratitude that filled our home a week ago.

ThankLiving is a lifestyle of giving thanks for whatever good will come as we seek to be a loving presence in the world. Whatever the circumstances, gratefulness is good medicine for the mind. I didn’t know the power of gratitude in 1992. Since that time, when I get to feeling fearful, anxious, worried or resentful, I come back to gratitude–making a mental or physical list of all I’m grateful for in the moment. It reminds me that just being alive is a gift!

My great uncle Solanus Casey lived a life of gratitude — a ThanksLiving lifestyle. He became known for his practice of thanking God ahead of time for whatever good would come as he trusted God’s providential care for all beings. His love for the poor and suffering endeared him to people of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. When in died in 1957 over 20,000 people attended his funeral mass in Detroit. He didn’t do anything remarkable. He just showed up each day to comfort and pray for the troubled and to serve food to the hungry. People said that just being in his humble Christlike presence ministered peace and consolation to their troubled minds and hearts.

Solanus followed the biblical teaching that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us. I spent a great deal of energy in my younger years trying to “find” God’s will for me. I thought God’s will was about circumstances: who I married, what job I had, where I lived. But time has taught me that God’s will is about being a loving, Christlike presence in the world. In whatever circumstances I find myself, who I am and how I respond is the key to living the will of God. And gratefulness is the perspective that gives me eyes to see the goodness of life, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Pam, Todd and I celebrating 50 years of combined life post cancer diagnoses!

Last Sunday we hosted our annual ThanksLiving open house. Loved ones came and went all afternoon and evening. As I enjoyed reviewing photos from the day, I noticed how many of our friends are also cancer “survivors.” And all of us are survivors of something. Gratitude helps us move through the difficulties of life. When we can’t see any good to be grateful for in the moment, we can thank God ahead of time for whatever good will come. It reminds me of the following prayer reflection used by Solanus during his life.

Life is to live and life is to give and talents are to use for good if you choose.  Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be strong. Do not pray for tasks equal your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks, then the doing of your work shall be no miracle but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God. But everyone needs someone–knowing that somewhere someone is thinking of you. (A reflection used by Solanus Casey, OFM)

Kari & I - grateful for Life!

Pam, Deni, Kari, Todd and I have also survived many other trials. We keep showing up each day, thanking God when we remember and doing our best to be loving Christlike people in the world. Whatever troubles you face this season, may you have eyes to behold the richness of life that has come to you by the grace of God and to thank God ahead of time for whatever good will come when the darkness is so thick you can’t see anything good yet. The miracle isn’t in the circumstances, but in the transformation that will come in your own heart and mind as you open to the grace of God that transforms us degree by degree into more loving Christlike people.