Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Tag: health

I woke up today feeling unmotivated to get out of bed, uninspired by the day ahead of me, pondering what it would be like “if only…” I got up anyway.

As I made my tea and prepared breakfast, I looked out the window at the clear blue, crisp Southern California morning, heard the sparrows chirping and the doves cooing and decided to change my attitude. Just because I woke up feeling discouraged doesn’t mean I need to spend the rest of the day there.

Legend wants to know: What will you choose today?

Attitude is largely a matter of choice–especially for those without psychological conditions. But even those who suffer from mood disorders benefit from learning to shift their focus from what feels most natural (discouragement, sadness, suffering) towards something more life-giving. Our attitude impacts everyone around us, including our pets. When I’m in a grumpy mood, my dogs stay away. When I’m lighthearted they draw near. Same with my husband. The energy I communicate through my attitude changes the way others experience me and will reinforce whatever state I’m in.

Thoughts and feelings come and go. To a large extent we don’t have a lot of choice about the content that appears on the screen of mental awareness. But we do have choices about what we will do with what shows up.

Attention is the mental process that enables us to selectively concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of others. It is like a spotlight energizing whatever it shines upon. Deficits in attentional capacity contribute to all sorts of psychological, academic, occupational and life problems. It’s an essential skill for navigating the details of daily life, managing resources like time and money, and making health behavior changes. Without a strong capacity to focus attention on what is life-giving, we are prone to dysregulation of all sorts.

The apostle Paul knew about the power of choice and attention regulation. From a Roman prison he wrote these words of encouragement to his brothers and sisters in Christ who lived in the city of Philippi: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Powerful words from a man in prison. Like Nelson Mandela and other inspirational leaders throughout history, Paul didn’t let feelings evoked by unpleasant circumstances dictate his mood. He chose to set his mind on something bigger than his own miserable condition–specifically his faith in the God who radically interrupted his previous life as a persecutor of the Christian communities and called him to serve the very people whom he’d previously sought to destroy.

Twenty years ago I wanted desperately to do what Paul wrote about, but didn’t have the mental muscles to do so. I’d read biblical instructions telling me to choose to think differently, but couldn’t actualize it in my own daily life. I was largely subject to whatever thoughts and feelings rose to the front of my mind. In those days, “uninspired and unmotivated” might have set the tone for my day.

Like many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, I needed more than just good information and the power of the Holy Spirit within me to live out the transformation Paul describes in his letters. I needed mental muscles to access the power of the Spirit and mind of Christ.

The good news is that attention is trainable. Consistent use of mental and spiritual practices that work the aim and sustain part of our brains can strengthen attentional capacity. Over time the effort of intentional exercise of those neuronal pathways leads to what interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel calls “effortlesss traits of living…” which make setting our minds on what is life-giving possible.

Fifteen plus years of exercising my aim and sustain muscles through yoga, centering prayer and mindful awareness of all sorts, have enabled me to practice what Paul wrote about to the Philippians. If I’d stayed in bed with discouragement this morning, I might still be there.  Instead, I chose to get up and into action, to set my mind on what I really want–to be inspired and motivated. That got me moving in the right direction. Then I chose to notice the beauty of the day. That shifted me a few degrees more toward a positive mindset. Then I chose to show up to my blog and share my experience, strength and hope with others. That leaves me feeling inspired and motivated for the day ahead.

If you struggle with choice and attention regulation, instead of suffering through another day of “trying to get focused” or “trying to change your mindset” I encourage you to invest 20 minutes exercising the attentional muscles of your brain through a guided practice. Transformation is possible when you have the mental muscles needed to access the power of the Spirit of life within you.

Join me for weekly Christ-centered yoga classes at Fuller Seminary and Glendale Presbyterian Church or come to my June 21st “Self-Care through Self-Compassion” workshop.

For online resources, Dan Siegel shares downloadable audio practices as well as lots of other resources on his website. His Mindsight book is a wonderful introduction to both theory and practice related to mindful awareness.

A recent encounter with a former classmate who has lost and gained the same 50 pounds multiple times on numerous diets and programs reminded me why I teach what I do and why diets don’t work.

Following someone else’s prescription for finding and maintaining a natural weight for your unique body–or for living your optimal life–isn’t sustainable. Eventually a crisis comes along, our best laid plans fall short of the demands of a given day, and we find ourselves facing decisions that the “program” didn’t equip us to cope with.

The energy and vitality you need to feel good in your body and enjoy your life comes from knowing yourself–heart, body, mind and soul–and making choices from inner guidance about what you really need in any given moment.

When fatigued toward the end of the day, do I really need a caffeinated diet soda, a cup of coffee, candy bar or bag of chips? Will any of those produce the energy I need to carry me through to dinner with a sharp and clear mind, peaceful heart and energized body?

Everybody is different. Maybe one of those options works for you.

My husband’s 4 p.m. cup of coffee really works for him. It doesn’t work for me. I’d be tossing and turning until the early morning paying the price at midnight for that boost of afternoon energy.  That diet soda may give you a caffeine hit and temporarily satisfy your sweet tooth, but in many people is linked to higher rates of weight gain and can contribute to heart and kidney problems. As for candy bars, composed primarily of simple sugars they’ll provide a quick boost of focused energy followed by a return to fatigue within a relatively short time.

One of the health professionals in my office building told me last week that when she’s in a depleted place and didn’t plan other options, she’ll pick up a bag of gourmet potato chips from our on-site cafe. Organic potatoes  fried in healthy oils and lightly salted, she says that gives her what she needs to get through to the next meal. But you can be sure it is not her “go to” choice for optimal nutrition!

Rather than offering diets or plans, I encourage my clients to become experts on listening to physical cues about hunger and fulness as  well as noticing the physical and energetic impact of individual foods and combinations of foods. What does that look like? I can only tell you what it looks like for me because everybody is different.

Here’s an example from my own life. When it comes to breakfast, a cup of tea with half and half and honey combined with a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon produces a heavy, full, satisfied feeling in my stomach and gives me an initial boost of energy followed by steady, slow burning energy for up to four hours. If I’m heading into a morning full of commitments with no time to refuel, that combo is a good choice, for me, but it might not be for you.

If I’m heading to workout first thing in the morning, opting for tea and a slice of toast with almond butter is preferable.  That gives me a boost of energy,  with a lighter feeling in my stomach that makes for better short term energy to fuel my workout. Then I’ll follow up with a protein rich smoothie after my workout. I do drink tea of some sort most days, but I mix it up and don’t always splurge on the emotionally satisfying but nutritionally questionable additives!

But that is my body. It’s what I’ve learned from years of listening to my experience. I eat differently depending on the day and season.

You are the expert on your body. No one else can tell you what you really need at any given moment. Trained professionals can offer general guidelines about what works best for most people but they can’t fine tune that information to meet the unique demands and needs of your daily life. That’s why I believe that finding and maintaining an optimal weight depends on developing a positive working relationship with your body by aligning information about nutrition and exercise with your own inner wisdom.

What about your body? What works for you? I’d love to hear your wisdom and invite you to share it here so others can learn from your experience as well.

Last month Chloe Sun at Asian American Women on Leadership posed the question, “How do you let others know who you are without coming across as self-promoting?”  She noted that, as leaders of various ministries and organizations, we must promote our causes and invite others to join us. Publicizing and being a spokesperson for what we’ve given our lives to is part of the job.

My passion is helping Christian women love themselves as we love God and others. Thirty years of ministry and clinical work shows me that while many excel at loving others and God, we often neglect our own spiritual, mental and physical health. Where did we learn this?  Not from the culture around us, but with encouragement from an unexpected source.

Growing up in Christian community, I often heard authorities challenge the concept of self-love. I especially remember an acronym taught at camp: How do you get JOY? From putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.

Such thinking can arise when scripture verses like Philippians 2.3 – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” – are read outside of their fuller context, promoting a distorted view of self-care as secondary to caring for others.  When read at face value, such admonitions  seem to tell us that loving others means negating ourselves, thus encouraging our insecurity about being “too much”, taking up too much space and using too many resources.

Yet such insecurities are anything but loving. How is my playing it small and being afraid to step forward to share the good news of what God has taught me and is doing through me helping anyone?

An exposition of the biblical and theological meanings of love is beyond the scope of this post. My point is that when biblical texts or church teachings contribute to anxiety and self-neglect, we’ve clearly gotten the meaning wrong.

Love the Supreme Emotion

From a social sciences perspective, love is a sharing of positive emotional connection between people that elicits a desire to act in ways that support mutual well-being. When I “promote myself” in teaching a class or facilitating a retreat, I ooze with love. Few experiences give me as much positive emotion as supporting psychological, physical and spiritual well-being in others. Most often I feel that sense of positive connection among the entire group strengthen as we move through our time together. And we all leave with a stronger commitment to loving ourselves as we love others.

When our self-promotion comes from a place of love, then refusing to self-promote may be the most unloving thing of all. Letting others know who we are and inviting them to join our causes, participate in our programs or purchase our products and services is an act of love.

I’d love to support you in loving yourself as you love God and others. You can still sign up for “Self-Care through Mindful Awareness” this Saturday, March 22nd, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in South Pasadena. I’d love to support you in loving yourself as your love others either this Saturday or at a future workshop, yoga class or retreat. Sign-up for my newsletter (lower right sidebar) to get updates.

Thanks to my sisters at AAWOL who originally published this blog on their website. If you like what you read here, consider following their blog also.

Please join me for a South Pasadena Community Special Event Screening and Community Discussion of the award winning documentary Miss Representation Monday, February 24, 2014 , at the South Pasadena Library.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Free Screening - South Pasadena Library, Monday February 24 5:30 p.m.

Hailed by the Hollywood Reporter as “A relevant and important doc[umentary] that deconstructs the insidious role of visual media in the widespread, unbalanced depiction of women and girls,” Miss Representation exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under- and mis- representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which makes it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

“How we think about ourselves helps to determine our sense of self-worth. Well-being is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Well-being is linked to how you feel about yourself and your life. We need to be increasingly mindful about the demeaning and sexualized images of women and girls that popular media promotes. This event will bring awareness to the source of these negative messages and jumpstart a much needed conversation in our community about self-esteem and political empowerment.” Marina Khubesrian, MD, FAAFP

The 90-minute film will be screened from 5:30pm-7pm followed by a dynamic discussion from 7pm-8pm facilitated by Cissy Brady-Rogers, LMFT, featuring expert guests Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media), Mayor of South Pasadena Dr. Marina Khubesrian;, SPHS Feminists Unite Club members Charlotte Foley, Mia Forman, Paige Valentine, Paige Forman, and Suki Sekula; Katherine Wong (Common Sense Media); Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah; Oliver Middelstaedt (USC student and featured in the film);, Pasadena City College Board Trustee Linda Wah and Shaunelle Curry (Media Done Responsibly).

The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are required. Space is limited. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. While attendance of the screening is encouraged, it is not necessary for participation in the community discussion.

Press Release supplied by Healthy South Pasadena and Day One.

Christ-centered yoga brings body, mind and spirit together to help you deepen you connection to God’s love.

praying with our bodies

We use the physical poses of yoga, breath awareness and experiential prayer to enhance your ability to sense God’s presence and align yourself with the graces continually being poured out by the Spirit to transform us degree by degree into greater Christlikeness.

In addition to the spiritual growth fostered through praying with our bodies, other potential benefits of regular practice include: increased mobility and energy, improved balance and mood, normalized gastrointestinal functioning and much more.

I’d love to share the gifts of yoga with you.

Tuesdays at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena @ 7:30 p.m. – 8 week session begins January 14th.

The Fuller class is open to people outside the Fuller community when spots are available. Contact Jose at 626-584-5680 to register.

Wednesdays at Glendale Presbyterian Church @ 6:15 p.m. – meets weekly in room 202. Contact me for more information.

Both classes are open to all levels of experience.

Bring a yoga mat or towel, water and wear comfortable clothes.

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?

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.

I’ve blogged about the dangers of use, misuse and abuse of alcohol before. A recent N.Y. Times discussion got me thinking about it again.

Studies indicate an association between binge drinking and rape on college campuses. As one of the N.Y. Times bloggers states: there’s nothing liberating or empowering about getting so drunk that you make choices to go places and do things you’d never do if you were sober!   If women think that being free to “drink like a man” is a sign of liberation, they’ve got some serious self-reflection to do on the meaning of life.

Encouraging women to drink responsibly is not about putting the blame for rape on the women, it’s about taking personal responsibility for our own welfare. Moreover, the same message should be sent to the men who rape them. I wonder about my own experience: would that man I met in the bar have raped me if he were sober? Would either of us made the choices we did if we’d met at a coffee shop instead of a bar?

Another author asks an important question about the abuse of alcohol: When did it become a social justice issue to defend anyone’s right to get so inebriated they make decisions they’d never make if they were sober?

And so the conversation continues…

A recent LA Times headline caught my attention: “CDC targets needless deaths due to poor lifestyle habits.” I thought of my mom and dad’s lifestyle choices. Committed smokers (mom refused to go anywhere they wouldn’t let her smoke) they both died of lung related diseases that might have been avoided if they’d quit–or better yet–never started! It wasn’t for lack of effort. I remember mom trying any number of extreme methods, including tying her pack of smokes up in a maze of rubber bands to limit access.

The CDC study refers to “avoidable deaths” as those which could be prevented by better medical care or healthier lifestyles.  Death itself is unavoidable. We all come into life with a genetic predispositions for disease that will eventually contribute to our bodies wearing out and dying. But the onset and progress of disease is complicated by many things, including: availability and quality of medical care, nutrition, activity level,  social support and geographic location. The CDC study indicates higher rates of avoidable deaths in the South. Even your zip code plays a role in how your genetic predisposition for disease manifests!

Mom died because her lungs gave out, but I bet her cholesterol levels were still healthy.  In spite of a diet consisting of a lot of butter, eggs, half & half and sugar, mom never had problems with cholesterol. I probably inherited that from her. My doctor once remarked that she’d never seen a “good” cholesterol number so high! Genetics is on my side with that one–thanks be to God (and my Irish ancestry apparently)!

Disease is part of life. Genetics loads our system for certain potentials, but lifestyle impacts how they play out. A coaching client reported that in spite of a very healthy diet, active lifestyle and limited stress in her life, she has high blood pressure. “Both my parents had hypertension, so I’m not surprised that in spite of all I do right, it still runs high.” Imagine the problems she might have if she weren’t conscientious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The CDC reports that nearly one fourth of all deaths from cardiovascular disease are avoidable through lifestyle changes. But those changes could also eliminate other “needless” physical, psychological and relational problems.  Smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet and excessive use of alcohol (the primary lifestyle factors in heart disease) also contribute to limited energy, strength and mobility, depression, relational stress, isolation and feeling like a burden to family and friends–among other things.

The study also points out the need for systemic change–like improving access to quality health care and providing physical and social  environments to support healthy lifestyles for people in economically and geographically challenged locations. Other suggestions include improving community design to increase access to sidewalks and providing bike lanes, improving the local food environment, enhancing worksite wellness programs, and improving insurance coverage.

Local school breakfast options

What about improving the quality of school lunches? As my friend massage therapist and health minded mom Erin Wrutemberg pointed out when she posted a lunch menu for a local school district, “I wonder if test scores would be higher if all kids were eating real, whole, nourishing food for breakfast. Its no light bulb realization that the epidemic of childhood type II diabetes, heart disease, and obesity IS linked to diet. If your typical lower income kid who qualifies for free and reduced meals at school eats off this menu they are beginning the day at a disadvantage.”

For many people it may take a village to create and sustain healthier lifestyles. Kids who eat funnel cake and bacon cheese eggstravaganza’s for breakfast are starting out with a weak foundation for later disease manifestation.

Mom might never have quit smoking, even if she’d had a village behind her. Many of the friends she smoked with in earlier decades were able to quit when it became clear in the 60’s and 70’s that smoking was hazardous to your health.

Who is in your village and what are you doing to support health in your spheres of influence?

What small changes might you make in your lifestyle or advocate for in your community to support better health for yourself and others?

Death isn’t avoidable, but some of the pain and suffering of it’s precursors can be alleviated by small choices we make each day. May we all have compassionate wisdom and strength to make small choices now that may minimize suffering later.