A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Moms, wives, women: How do you reward yourselves?

The teal "Flowers for You" murano
Why don’t we take better care of ourselves? It is, undoubtedly, a symptom of depression. But maybe it’s also a symptom of being a woman, or a wife, or a mom, or all three.

We tend to do the things that are urgent. And we sometimes ignore the things that are important but not urgent - like.. oh I don't know... our health! As women we seem to have a very hard time making our health a priority. I have even struggled with believing that I DESERVE to be happy and healthy.

So I was pretty proud of myself for taking care of my health last Monday. I had an appointment with the nurse from the Shared Care Mental Health Team. I also went to the nurse practitioner because I had a lump in my breast. And I had blood work done – what they call an INR – to measure the clotting factor in your blood if you’re on blood thinners. I even renewed my hospital card. Those things are important, but not necessarily urgent.

Sometimes I wait until they ARE urgent. Until I’m told that I will get billed for my appointments if I don’t have my provincial health card. Or the pharmacist at the Thrombosis Clinic threatens to discharge me if I don’t get my INR done on schedule (and then I’d have to figure out who can tell me what dosage I need for my blood thinners). Maybe it was because there was nobody standing there, saying, “Mommy, I need you to sign this form or I can’t go on the field trip.”

In a workshop on stress management, one of my University professors said, “It is not the things that you have done or the things you are doing that are causing you stress, it’s the things you have yet to do.”
Teal is one of my favourite colours

One of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression is avoiding the things that are important. In my journey with depression, there have been times when I have avoided opening mail or paying bills. I’ve avoided washing the dishes. I even avoided getting a mammogram for a whole year! When you battle depression, self-care is one of the hardest things to do!

We can change this. We can start paying attention to what we have done instead of just paying attention to the things that we still have yet to do. Whenever I start to beat myself up and say to myself, “I didn't get a thing done today!” I make a list; not a “To Do” list but a “Done” list. Some days I might need to remind myself that I even got out of bed and got dressed - check. I made my kids’ lunches - check. And on the most difficult days, when I feel like I’m just not going to make it through the day, I remind myself that, so far, my rate of success at “getting through the day” is 100%.

The bunny rabbit does not look back at her day and say, “I didn’t get eaten by a fox today.” In nature we don’t learn that way. However, the bunny would be well-advised to look back and say, “That was a close call. No matter how yummy the clover, that meadow is too close to the fox’s den.” In evolution, the species that survived in the survival-of-the-fittest, was the one who learned from mistakes, not learned from positive outcomes. Our brains are still wired this way. We are designed to pay attention to the negative things because doing so keeps us alive. But when those things that we have yet to do, and our negative self-talk, weigh us down, it is not productive or healthy.

So pay attention to the positive. Instead of just moving on to the next thing on your to do list, stop and pay attention. Give yourself a pat on the back. Start to change the wiring in your brain to notice the good and not just the bad – the “done,” not just the “not done” (yet). And – here’s where the Pandora comes in – reward yourself. Acknowledge your successes. Stop long enough to congratulate yourself. Just paying attention to the positive for 12 seconds starts to rewire your brain.

The teal muranos for my Lucerne Recovery bracelet
Here's an example of how I use Pandora to reward myself for taking better care of myself.

Shortly after I started collecting Pandora – over four years ago now – and building my first bracelet, I injured my knee, as I discussed in my first blog post about meditative walking. I had just recently begun my recovery from my eating disorder, so I was not coping terribly well, although I was remaining symptom-free (no bingeing, purging or restricting). I am a typical former athlete, who still thinks she can do the same things with her body as she could do in the past, when she was a varsity athlete – and we’re talking 30 years ago, and quite a few pounds later. As a result, when I started a walking regime, I pushed myself to do too much, too soon, without enough rest – a sure prescription for an overuse injury. The diagnosis from my physiotherapist was, “You have pissed off your knee.”

My family doctor referred me to physio, but she also wanted to send me for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The thing about MRIs is that in order to make use of this very expensive piece of equipment, and the high demand for this procedure, they run the machine 24-7. My appointment time was 4:30 am, and I needed to arrive half-an-hour early to do the paperwork.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. I don't like getting up early at the best of times, but this early in the morning was going to be a challenge! It would have been very easy to get overwhelmed at the prospect and just not go, which I have done with other appointments, on many occasions in the past. But I pushed myself, set an alarm for 3:00 am, got dressed, and took a cab to the hospital. The procedure was without incident and I was home before the rest of my crew were even out of bed.

So I was very proud of myself and earned the teal “Flowers for You” murano glass charm. Since then, whenever I do something for my physical health, go to physio or see my eye doctor, for example – or get a mammogram, as I did last week – I congratulate myself. I wear my teal Lucerne Recovery bracelet, and I spin this same teal murano that I earned four years ago, and I say to myself, “I did it. Flowers for ME!”

An early version of my Lucerne Recovery bracelet


  1. I loved this!! Your charms have a meaning, a history! This is wonderful!!! Keep going, your bracelet is amazing, you are building a beautiful story!!!

  2. Thanks so much for your lovely comments. Much appreciated :)

  3. I always feel guilty spending money on Pandora, it's like the money could've been used for your children or family's needs. But reading this, I thought to myself, I do buy Pandora to reward myself for my hard work. It's something I bought for me, and I love me.