Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Lost in headlines about presidential electioneering and the roller coaster stock market is the news that October is designated to raise awareness of domestic violence. The irony is that financial shock waves may increase the prevalence of abuse. The economic turmoil will undoubtedly lead to greater fears, pressure and anxiety within families facing financial collapse - and that stress can lead to battering.

The Centers for Disease Control believes that 10% of the population is affected by domestic abuse, although it is estimated that only one-third of these cases are actually reported. It is the most common cause of injury for women ages 15 to 44 who suffer physical as well as emotional injury, such as depression, anxiety and social isolation.

domestic violence by speak.india
domestic violence, a photo by speak.india on Flickr.

Why do women remain in abusive relationships? Frequently, the reason is fear - they've been brainwashed by the perpetrator, convinced that they are helpless and cannot cope alone. Or they're afraid that the abusive partner will harm them or the children if they attempt to leave. Some victims incorrectly believe they are responsible - that they have caused the abuse or it is up to them to stay and keep the family together. Denial as a defense mechanism can remain strong: victims may not see themselves as battered and don't believe the perpetrator will continue the abuse.

If you're afraid of your partner's anger and how he/she treats you, your children or elders under your care, your first responsibility is to protect yourself and loved ones from harm. Resolve to begin the tough process of freeing yourself even if you feel trapped and so deeply entrenched in the dysfunctional relationship that it seems you'll never break away. Visit our blog again on Wednesday as we give you some steps to start the process of protecting yourself.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Want Halloween Treats Instead of Tricks?

On Halloween, you don't have to dress up as a member of the Sandwich Generation - you likely already have that frazzled look about you. Caring for parents growing older and kids growing up can lead to stress and, in crisis, even depression. See if these practical insights can help with your negative emotions:

Knowledge is power. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling - explore Internet search engines and sites or the self-help section of your local bookstore. And talk with friends and family who understand and whose opinions you respect.

Gratitude and forgiveness are compelling emotions. Use this to your advantage. Tell your partner, kids or parents about their positive qualities and what they mean to you. And forgive others who are important to you for some past wrongdoing or misunderstanding. Watch their reactions and see how that makes you feel.

Support is crucial – connect often. Enroll in a class or workshop through a university extension program or mental health center. Join an ongoing support group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns, problem-solve and gain new perspective. A therapist or coach can be a sounding board and guide - someone to validate your ideas and help you follow through with your plans.

It can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when your circumstances are complicated and perhaps even painful. But you owe it to yourself to begin to cope with your changing moods. Recognize strengths and skills that are already an integral part of you. Release tension through humor to help you bounce back. And notice how a positive attitude supports what you do and who you are.

Beginning to talk about depression can increase your awareness, reduce the stigma and help minimize your symptoms. Think about exorcising your demons, once and for all. Don't disguise your true feelings, no matter what time of year. And this Halloween, take off your mask and commit to feeling emotionally stronger.

Sign the email list to the left of this post - you'll receive our free monthly newsletter, "Stepping Stones" and download a complimentary eBook about how to reach your goals. And in celebration of Halloween, we want to treat you to these tips about taking control of stress in a financial storm.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Exorcise Ghosts from the Past

Although Halloween today revolves around trick-or-treating and costume parties, in the past masks were worn to placate the evil spirits. You may not believe in witches and goblins, but when was the last time you thought seriously about ghosts that haunt you?

Your thoughts are mental products although they don't necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, for you, they do represent how you feel. The bad feelings you have may be due to normal temperament, stress overload, situational sadness or even clinical depression. Did you know that 1 in 4 people actually suffer from depression at some time in their lives and close to 50% do not receive treatment? If you have had extreme sadness or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness for over two weeks, it's best to schedule an appointment with your medical professional to assess your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.

When there is no obvious trigger, do you try to minimize, ignore or dismiss how you feel? Instead, here are some ideas to help you better understand your negative emotions. You can learn how to reframe your thoughts and take better care of your emotional self. Begin by following these social support and self-care tips:

Honor your body to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. Pay attention to your exercise routine, your sleeping pattern and what gives you pleasure. Try to stay away from situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel more relaxed and alive.

Focus on what you can accomplish rather than on what you can't. Look on the bright side of difficult situations as you create a balance between caring for others and your own needs. Take at least half an hour and read a book, listen to music or call a friend - it may help to mark it in your schedule until it becomes a regular part of your day. Although you can't always control external circumstances, you can control how you handle them.

Explore our website, Her Mentor Center for articles about what impacts the emotions of your family relationships as well as yourself. And log on here Wednesday for more practical insights that can help you beat the blues.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Virtual Book Tour with Anne Kreamer

Readers, we're delighted you're here at our Virtual Book Tour and we give a hearty welcome to author Anne Kreamer. We first featured Anne and her book, Going Gray, in 2007. We think that you'll find what she has to say about her new and thought provoking book, It's Always Personal, very interesting. So let's get started:

Nourishing Relationships:
What motivated you to initiate the investigation to do this book and is there a personal story behind your desire to do this project?

Anne Kreamer:
My interest in the subject of emotion in the workplace crept up on me, starting from a very personal point of view, then growing in gradual concentric circles to include statistical research and neuroscience. A few years ago I was chatting with my former colleague, Sara Levinson, who has been a top executive within both deeply male (MTV, the NFL) and deeply female (Club Mom, the women’s group at Rodale publishing) professional environments. She asked me a funny question: Did I know any woman who had never cried at work? While I’d obviously never conducted a crying-on-the-job poll of my friends, I realized that no, I probably didn’t. And certainly I had cried, years earlier, when I was a senior vice president at Viacom’s Nickelodeon, the children’s network, and my uber-boss, Sumner Redstone, called me for the first time -- and screamed at me.

With that one cocktail-party question, I set off on a two-year journey exploring emotion -- negative emotions, positive emotions, all emotions -- in the modern workplace. The timing of Sara’s question was also interesting. It came during the recession in America which led to the tectonic plate-shifting fact that women were the majority of the workforce for the first time in history. Secondly, developments in the field of neuroscience meant that also for the first time in history we had the ability to observe living, working brains in action. Those two major new facts led me to wonder if this moment presented a unique opportunity to reassess traditional emotional workplace norms.

N R:
What are the main differences you noticed between men and women in the work place?

A K:
There is not one easy answer to this question -- in fact, the answer to this is woven throughout my book and involves both inherent neurobiological as well as socially conditioned differences. But I’ll try and address a few differences.

When equal employment laws were passed in the United States during the 1960s, men overwhelmingly controlled the style and protocols of the workplace, which de facto meant that equality for women meant that they had to adapt and adopt male standards for professional behavior – and really the blandest versions of male behavior at that. As they entered the workforce and for most of the almost half century since, women have been instructed to “man up” and “whatever you do, don’t let them see you cry.” To be successful, many women had to deny and suppress distinctly female parts of themselves -- their nurturing impulses, their essential femininity and, as I discovered, aspects of their intrinsic biology. So right off the bat the rules for women were different because women in significant ways weren't permitted to be themselves.

Let’s look an anger, for instance. In 2007, Victoria Brescoll, who teaches at the Yale School of Management, conducted three studies in which people watched videos of male and female actors pretending to apply for jobs, and sometimes showing anger. Whether the angry female in the experiments was described as a trainee or an executive, both men and women rated the angry woman lower than a comparable man if she showed anger. Additionally, the women’s anger was blamed on her -- “she is an angry person,” “she is out of control” -- whereas men’s emotional reactions were ascribed to some external factor that seemed to justify anger -- “the work was shoddy” or “the report sucked.” In real life angry women at work cry, with tears and blubbering as the unintended, rechanneled byproducts of anger.

One of the fascinating things I discovered through two national polls I conducted, and which academic research corroborates, is that women consider people who cry at work “unstable,” which sounds like a chronic and serious character flaw… whereas men see crying at work as at worst “unprofessional” behavior, more suggestive of a forgivable circumstantial lapse. Men in our survey said that after crying their minds felt sharper, the future brighter, and they felt more physically relaxed and “in control” than before the incident. Women? Women felt the exact opposite.

N R:
Are the reasons why people cry, or explode emotionally, at work mainly due to situations experienced in the office or events in their personal lives that are carried to the work place? Of this two, which one is more "frowned upon"?

A K:
I don’t think there is one that is more “frowned upon.” What I do think is that we are very, very confused about the boundaries between the two realms. In the old days -- pre-Internet, pre-cell phones -- it was a lot easier to believe that work = rational and home = emotional. But now that work and home life bleed into each other constantly, that distinction has become anachronistic and probably self-defeating. People text and e-mail their friends and family members throughout the workday, and they receive messages from colleagues and clients on nights and weekends and during vacations.

The membranes between private life and work, especially office work, have always been porous, but today employers and employees expect accessibility and accountability pretty much round-the-clock. And whereas old-school office memos and business letters generally weren’t expected to be friendly or candid -- that is, human -- business e-mails most definitely are.

Conversely, what used to be considered private behavior can instantly reverberate at work through social networking. People fire off e-mails late at night only to regret their tone and intent in the cold light of day. Facebook friends from work can stumble on wild-and-crazy pictures from a bachelorette party. Tweets and anonymous mobile video uploads can instantly broadcast unflattering emotional displays by surly customer service employees or misbehaving CEOs.

The conventional wisdom used to be that we brought home the emotions we were unable to express while at work - snapping (or worse) at unsuspecting partners and children. Which is as true as ever. What’s new is that home life — with all its messy, complicated emotional currents, has become inextricably and undeniably woven into the workplace.

N R:
Your study suggests that men cry more than we’d assumed in the workplace; could you explain that in depth?

A K:

I think the conventional wisdom was that men simply didn’t cry in the workplace. That 9% of American men admitted that they did struck me as significant – and with men like John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, or Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader for the U. S. Senate, crying visibly and frequently in public, it strikes me that we’ve reached a turning point in our culture where it is acceptable for men to express emotion. In fact, research reveals that those who “lead from the heart” are viewed as more trustworthy.

N R:
Is crying a good therapy to release stress and maintain productive?

A K:
Tears are nature’s natural emotional reset valve. Tears are not an emotion, but rather are our bodies way to express that an individual has experienced an intense emotion. Psychic tears (as opposed to irritant tears, the kind we release when cutting an onion) happen in response to strong experiences – of joy, sadness, anger, anxiety, fear. Tears help us release hormones that flood our bodies during those times of intense feeling and help us re-establish our baseline equilibrium. Tears also increase our dopamine production, thereby helping to return our bodies to equilibrium – and they are also something akin to the warning lights on our car dashboards. You should pay attention to them – they are a signal communicating that something may be not quite right under the hood. There are many, many different kinds of tears – those of happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, pain, and joy and it’s important, as with warning lights on the dashboard, to figure out which kind you are experiencing and then understand what they are telling you – are you overwhelmed, underappreciated, angry? Then figure out how you want to address those issues. In the book I offer a variety of strategies for how one can do that.

N R:
Why do women feel so guilty after crying after an incident at work while men don’t?

A K:

Once again this is really complicated and I believe social conditioning is one of the primary reasons women feel ashamed after crying at work. And social conditioning fails to take into consideration basic biological differences between the genders. Women produce 6 times the amount of prolactin that men do and prolactin is the hormone that causes tear production. Women also have smaller tear ducts, that’s right, they are anatomically different from men’s so that when women do cry, tears most often will stream down their face, whereas men’s ears merely “tear up.” I think if we were all more educated about our neurobiology, women would feel less regret after crying – acknowledging their tears for the biological impulse, like breathing or a muscle reflex, that they are.

N R:
What are the different personality types you recognized in an ordinary office?

A K:

Based on the responses to over 1,000 regular working Americans in all 50 states, we identified four different primary types of emotion styles. I’ve named these Spouters, Accepters, Believers, and Solvers. Women and men were equally represented in all four groups. There were minimal differences among the four types between income and management levels which means that there is no one “right” type to be. If your reader’s would like to take a very simplified version of the survey they may do so here.

Can you give us a few tips for controlling our emotions in the work place?

A K:
I offer lots of what I call “emotion management toolkit” suggestions in the book, but if I had to select just one it would be to get outside and walk. If I’m walking in a city, the rich diversity of shops, people or street smells wafting out of restaurants stimulates me in ways that connect interesting new creative dots for me and if I’m walking in nature the rich loaminess of the soil, the chittering birds, frogs and insects calm me and connect me to my spiritual side. I find if I’m cranky or anxious, just walking out my door almost always lifts my mood. Changing perspective helps change your brain chemistry.

Thanks, Anne, for insight into your work and such thorough responses. Now, readers, it's your turn to share your thoughts and ask Anne your questions. Just click on 'comments' at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts. You can even sign in as 'anonymous' - it's as easy as that. And if you want to learn more about Anne and her books, spend some time on her website.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Thinking of Going Gray?

We are pleased to be hosting Anne Kreamer here on the blog on Wednesday, October 19 to talk with us about her latest book, It's Always Personal. Our readers were fascinated by her last visit here when she shared her personal story about Going Gray, so we thought we'd share some excerpts of our last chat with Anne. If you've ever considered going gray yourself, here's some of what Anne shared with us at that time:

NR: What were the issues that you’d uncovered while your hair was growing out?

Anne: I discovered that I was worried about whether I could ever be attractive to men in the same way with gray hair as I thought I had been with my dyed brown hair. And when I began to talk with other women about my experience I uncovered that worry about their loss of attractiveness is perhaps the single greatest fear almost all women feel as they get older since gray hair is our most visible signal of age. Women were also terrified that they would lose professional opportunity if they were perceived as old.

NR: How did you go about getting at the underlying truth or issues behind those fears?

Anne: I did several different things. I talked to as many different kinds of men and women as I could – from well-known people like Emmylou Harris, Anna Quindlen, Frances McDormand, Mireille Guiliano (French Women Don’t Get Fat), Nora Ephron and Governor Ann Richards to regular people I met across the country. I conducted a national survey of 500 people probing all sorts of issues around aging and the things that we do to mask the signs of aging. I used myself as a guinea pig in a variety of situations – I pseudo-dated on-line, went out to bars, interviewed headhunters and met in cognito with image consultants. And I read everything I could get my hands on.

NR: What surprised you the most?

Anne: You mean after I figured out that I had spent $65,000 on hair color alone during the 25 years I dyed my hair? (That $65,000 would today be worth $300,000 after adjusting for inflation!)

NR: Wow! But yes, beyond that statistic.

Anne: What most surprised me was discovering that when it comes to letting their hair be its natural gray, or not, I think a lot of women tend to be worried about the wrong thing. I certainly was. More women are more worried that men won’t find them attractive with gray hair, and yet believe that gray hair is acceptable professionally. My research revealed that the truth is the opposite.

NR: What do you mean?

Anne: Well, for instance, I tried to really get at whether gray hair was unattractive to men on I figured if I was honest about my age and interests and posted an image of myself with gray hair that I’d naturally get fewer “dates” (or “winks” as overtures are called on than I would when I posted the same information but instead used an image of myself with my hair Photo-shopped brown. And shockingly, after I did the experiment three times in three different cities, three times as many men in New York, Chicago and L.A. were interested in going out with me when my hair was gray. This blew my mind. When I was on Good Morning America, they replicated the experiment with a 61-year-old widow in Florida and she had the exact same results! Maybe men figured that if we were being honest about the color of our hair that perhaps our lack of pretence would make us more accessible and easier to date. Or maybe the gray made me stand out from the overwhelming majority of Match-com women my age who color their hair. I honestly don’t know. But I do know the results were inspiring. We should give men a lot more credit.

NR: Did you test this theory in the real world?

Anne: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. I went out to a variety of New York bars (from places where Wall Street guys would hang out to the kinds where locals went to watch sports) and once again I was really surprised by how it seemed that my gray hair color did nothing to prevent me from meeting and talking with nice-looking younger guys. Most women I talked with during research for my book were convinced that if a woman had gray hair and then got divorced that it was absolutely essential that she dye her hair if she were ever going to date again. I strongly believe that that is not the case. And moreover, I would suggest to most women that if the guy they’re interested in will only like them if they dye their hair, then maybe he’s not Mr. Right.

NR: Was there anything else that supports your contrarian point of view?

Anne: The results from my survey were compelling. There is a huge double standard. Through a Photo shopped experiment I also tested precisely how much gray hair aged a person and what I discovered is that if a person is in their 40s or 50s, gray hair allows others to accurately guess a person’s age. When I Photo shopped the gray hair out with brown, the person was guessed to be about two or three years younger. Which seems like a modest difference to work so hard to achieve. I think the reality is we are only fooling ourselves about our age through the use of hair color.

NR: So what was the story professionally?

Anne: I interviewed different media headhunters – one in New York, the other based in Colorado and both said that they had neither a female client nor a prospective job candidate with gray hair. They went into real detail about how gray hair was consistently viewed as a signal that a person would not be “right” for most company cultures. And they suggested that if a woman were in sales or marketing allowing herself to go gray on the job would be the kiss of death.

NR: You didn’t expect this?

Anne: I met with these women assuming they’d tell me that if I wanted to get back into the corporate arena then I’d have to update my image and dye my hair. But I didn’t expect them to be so emphatic about how damaging gray hair could be to a woman’s career. What I’ve come to believe is that we need women in prominent positions (say, Hillary Clinton) to have their natural hair color in order to give other women the choice or option to dye or not to dye. In my mind it’s like baldness was for men before professional athletes like Michael Jordan or actors like Bruce Willis made baldness seem sexy and masculine. If there were more Emmylou Harris’ the choice would be easier.

NR: What about the image consultants?

Anne: I was completely taken aback by the image consultants. I met with three very different people and firms and in each instance they believed that my gray hair could be a professional asset – something along the lines of the way Meryl Streep looked playing the character, Miranda Priestly in the Devil Wears Prada. The main thing I learned from the consultants is that if you change any one aspect of your look, then it is important to modify everything else to bring out your best features. I needed to update my style and color palette.

NR: Where did you end up? Do you disapprove of people who dye their hair?

Anne: I certainly don’t disapprove of people who dye their hair – after all, I’m a very recent convert to my natural color. And I no longer work in a corporate environment so I have the luxury of feeling safe and comfortable writing at home by myself with my gray hair and I’ve been married to the same man for 30 years. But I did come through on the other side happier and more at home in my body than when I dyed my hair. It feels liberating to walk down the street and know that as much as possible I’m projecting pretty much who I am to the world. I love not spending the time at the beauty shop and I really love not spending the money.

I feel like I’m a better role model for my daughters and it seems like my husband finds me as sexy with my natural hair.

I also discovered through my research and reading that acknowledgement of your real age is one of the most important tools we have to increase the odds that we’ll age healthfully and happily. Several studies have clearly indicated that people who accept their age actually live longer. So I love that by choosing to give up one little piece of artifice I might actually be helping myself stick around longer for the grandchildren I long to know.

NR: If you'd like to hear more from this dynamite woman, join us again on Wednesday for another sit-down with Anne Kreamer. You'll learn about her take on the new realities of emotions in the workplace as Anne talks about her new book, It's Always Personal.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Goodbye to Kids at College, Hello to Yourself

If your kids are settled into college by now, it's time to catch your breath. How about luxuriating in a bubble bath or something equally unfamiliar? Don't you deserve it after years of caring for your family in flux? And here are a few ideas to think about as you begin this new chapter:

Discover your passion. What do you really value and care about? What do you imagine is your life purpose now? Take advantage of the extra time and follow your dream of returning to school or changing jobs. Join a hiking group, volunteer program or exercise class. Sign up for bridge or yoga. Put you front and center for a change.

Learn more about what you want. What nurtures your creative thinking or stimulates your curiosity? Identify your natural talents that come so easily you often don't notice. Think about your greatest personal strengths. These could be attributes as diverse as a love of learning or a sense of humor.

Consider how others view you and your contributions. Who uses you as a role model and why? What in your life experience has led you to wisdom? Honor these insights and find ways to share what you already know well with others who could benefit from your knowledge.

Decide to make a start - any start. Now, finally, it's about you. Why not pick up a journal and write about your feelings and plans for the future. You can begin with some specific goals and break them down into manageable short term objectives. Think about their purpose and what that means to you. Consider your internal and external resources and how they will help you achieve your goals.

With Parents' Weekend right around the corner, here's what to expect. And when packing for the event, don't forget to take along your new attitude. It will help ease your college kids' minds about how you're adjusting to life without them.

We encourage you to spend time exploring our website, You'll find lots of articles about how to nourish you. On the homepage menu, click Newsletter Library and Nourish Relationships and then on the specific topics that interest you.

Want more information? Download our complimentary eBooks Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching Your Goals. and Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm Let us know how you're doing and give other readers some tips about how to make a fresh start – we're all in this together. Just click on 'comments' at the end of this post and follow the prompts.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs: 8 Practical Insights

Steve Jobs, the technology innovator who created the Mac, iPod iPhone and iPad, died of pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011. He was born in 1955 to unwed graduate students - they later married and had a daughter, novelist Mona Simpson, whom Steve met as an adult. He grew up an only child and, at an early age, his adoptive parents taught him to read and nurtured his keen interest in electronics.

He dropped out of Reed College after his first semester because he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. But over the next 18 months he continued to audit classes that appealed to him. Apple, his first business venture, was started with a friend in his garage. And curious about Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, Jobs went on a spiritual journey to India. He was a private man but we do know that these are some events that shaped his destiny. They may seem like a nightmare for empty nester parents, but a testament to what can happen when creativity, curiosity, and love for our passion lead the way.

Of course, Steve was human. He was fired as CEO of Apple and denied paternity of his first child but later named a computer, Lisa, after her. Employees have described him as temperamental and controlling. Although some say he had a critical management style, he was greatly respected for his business acumen. And he had an almost mystical ability to predict where trends were headed and what people wanted. Just think about the influence he's had on the way we live, work and play today.

Steve Jobs changed the way we relate to the world - how we see it and how we move in it. He modeled skills that we can all aspire to and there are lessons that apply to all of us:

• When you make promises, be sure to deliver.
• There can be success in failure.
• Under increasing skepticism, believe in a little magic.
• Unleash your creative voice and artistic expression.
• Encourage your kids to explore and ask questions.
• Make it safe to experience unabashed excitement.
• Change can be an opportunity for growth.
• Know that you can achieve personal greatness.

Steve Jobs left a legacy of straightforward designs that demystify technology. Haven't we all, at one time or another, had a love affair with our computers? Of course, it's vital to discover your passion. But let's not live our full relational and emotional lives only online.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Thriving after any serious illness is complicated and sometimes feels like an uphill struggle. Today's coping tips can help you support yourself - emotionally and physically - along the difficult course of dealing with beast cancer and its treatments.

As you move through this process, you find that staying informed and involved at each step gives a sense of power and resiliency. The National Cancer Institute, a part of NIH, has a wide range of materials to make this job easier. And here are some more tips to help you take charge of your life:

Accept your changing emotions as normal and give yourself permission to express them. After a brush with cancer, it is normal to feel many different emotions such as anger, fear, worry, anxiety, depression, stress or loss of control. It's OK to express these to people you trust and acknowledge them to yourself. Only then can you begin to cope with them.

Recognize the changes in your body. You may feel that your body has betrayed you, leaving you feeling vulnerable and with a loss of innocence about your own invincibility. You may need to grieve this loss. In addition, you may be experiencing side effects of the treatment such as fatigue, stiffness, lymphedema, weight gain, as well as menopausal symptoms. Once you clarify how your body is reacting, you can address each of the symptoms and alleviate them.

Take good care of yourself. Pamper yourself - you deserve it! Follow the guidelines of the American Cancer Society and set aside time for you. Begin an exercise program that includes aerobics, flexibility and strengthening exercises. Enjoy eating a more healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Schedule relaxation time to decrease the stresses in your life. Learn visualization techniques. Think about what you really like to do and do it. Of course this is easier to say than it may be to do, but stick with your decision to make time for yourself. You can make it happen.

Take credit for the challenge you have faced and the changes you are making. Recognize and accept that you have faced many difficulties in your process of healing. Give yourself credit for the hard work you have completed to get to this point in your recovery. You have learned about yourself and made changes in the way you think, feel, act and react to yourself, others and the situation around you.

We celebrate your survival with you! You reflect the unity of women who are surviving breast cancer - and the men who love you.

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Monday, October 03, 2011

Tough Enough to Wear Pink

Now that October - designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - is here, a focus for women is early detection and improved treatments. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I have participated in many Walks over the years and this weekend I again joined with other families to raise funds for finding a cure. Each time I have walked with others to support research, I find that what we really support is each other. The camaraderie and sisterhood that comes from walking together and working together to fight breast cancer transforms a feeling of helplessness to a powerful sense of control.

Worldwide over 1 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common one facing American women today. The likelihood is that 1 in 8 women in America will need to cope with this disease during her lifetime.

With mammography, MRI and physical exams leading to early detection, most breast cancers can be successfully treated today. With improved therapies, there are between 2 and 3 million American women living today who have survived breast cancer. As breast cancer survivors have learned, coping with any serious illness can take a toll on you - emotionally as well as physically. We've got some tips this week to help manage your recovery so that you can move forward with your life and become more resilient:

Turn to others for support. Your family and friends can provide a network of comfort, encouragement and assistance. You may also want to join a breast cancer support group, either in person or on-line. Support is helpful in several ways - it gives you someone to listen to you when you need to express yourself, someone to give you information and feedback, someone to help you with practical matters such as an errand that needs to be done. Support will be there for you if you look for it. It may feel awkward at first to ask for help, but you'll find friends want to do what they can for you.

Begin to set new goals for yourself. When you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel like your life is completely out of control. To regain a sense of direction, reflect on what priorities are important to you and then set a goal within your reach. Identify your strengths and build on them as you plan how to achieve your objectives. You may want to start a journal to help you consider strategies and options. Initiate your plan in small steps and review your progress regularly.

Look for ways to draw something positive out of the experience. Women who are able to find some positive meaning in such a negative situation often experience growth as well as a greater sense of control and feelings of confidence and optimism. Think about how you can use the unique perspective you have gained to make the rest of your life richer and more meaningful. Nancy G. Brinker supported her sister Susan in her unsuccessful fight against breast cancer and later founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure. It has become the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists and the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to winning the fight Susan ultimately lost.

You may feel overwhelmed by the challenges you are facing after breast cancer and that you don't have the energy to cope with it all. Remember that just as in a 5K walk, when you begin to put one foot in front of the other, you will eventually get to where you want to be. And you may even arrive with a new perspective and a greater appreciation of the preciousness of your life.

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