Archive for July, 2011

LIVING WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY: BECOMING AN ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF

Friday, July 22nd, 2011
Although we sometimes wish that other people could read our minds and go to bat for us, in reality no one knows our needs and desires better than we do. While you are in the rehabilitation center, the professionals who work there serve as your advocates. When you leave, you have to become your own advocate.
What does “advocating” mean? Basically it means standing up for yourself and communicating the importance of your needs to those who can meet them or who can help you achieve your goals. To advocate effectively, you must believe yourself worthy of having your needs met.
Different people have different levels of comfort in speaking for themselves, and we’re generally more comfortable doing so in some situations than in others. An extrovert may find communicating easy, while an introvert might find it intimidating. Comfort levels are also affected by the amount of stress in our lives.
Gwen, an attorney, was usually quite competent in dealing with situations that involved gaining entry using her wheelchair. One Saturday night she went to the movies with a couple of friends. Arriving at the theater, they waited in line in the freezing cold to buy tickets. They eventually got their tickets and entered the theater, only to be met by the manager, who told them that Gwen wouldn’t be able to see the movie because it was on the second level and the theater had no elevator. Gwen, who’d had a stressful week litigating a case and caring for her aging mother, burst into tears. This was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” she thought.
In another time and place, Gwen would have handled the situation with her usual professional demeanor, imparting information with a sense of humor. Her experience at the movie theater illustrates how emotions change, depending on what is happening in our lives. When advocating for yourself, give yourself some slack. Don’t expect to be “perfect” in being educational and understanding in every situation.
When you have the emotional resources, what sorts of skills do you need to be your own advocate? Most people agree that an advocacy tool kit should contain the following elements:
1.   Identify the problem
2.   Identify the desired solution
3.   Identify various ways to reach the solution
Each step requires clear thinking, the ability to articulate, and the willingness to hear other people’s ideas, appreciate them, and incorporate compromises if necessary.
How do you learn to advocate for yourself? First, be informed; know what you are talking about.
Second, learn assertiveness and advocacy skills. Programs that teach advocacy skills are most likely sponsored by your local Office for Persons with Disabilities or Commission for Women. You can also learn these skills through mainstream organizations that teach public speaking.
Some rehabilitation programs provide social skills training, and many community colleges and mental health facilities offer assertiveness training classes for the general public. On a very practical level, you can learn from watching how other people with spinal cord injury gain the attention they need to achieve their goals.
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MINDFULNESS: THE KEY TO THE MINDFUL-EATING PROGRAM

Thursday, July 14th, 2011
The fundamental concept underlying my treatment program is mindfulness. Many people are not aware of this term or what it means. If you have heard of it, you probably associate it with meditation and stress management. In fact, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center pioneered its well-known use with patients suffering from stress-related medical problems such as hypertension, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Mindfulness is not a new idea. It is an ancient concept that is the central component of meditation. Mindfulness is a state of mind that will help you gain control over your emotions, thoughts, and behavior. It will put you back in charge of your eating.
Mindfulness is awareness. It is not simply paying attention but a deep, focused awareness of yourself and your surroundings on a moment-to-moment basis. It is paying attention, on purpose.
Most of our eating occurs automatically, without real awareness. This is true whether you are eating low-calorie, nutritious foods or two candy bars. I mentioned earlier that when people binge they often do so in a robotlike, “spaced-out” manner. This state of mind is the exact opposite of mindfulness and one that is designed to keep you feeling out of control. Food is in charge, not you. Together, we can put a stop to this and put you back in control of your eating and your life.
Mindfulness will provide you with the opportunity to change your relationship with food and, eventually, your dependence on food. You will learn to heighten your awareness of every aspect of your life as it relates to food and eating. We will be applying mindfulness to your thoughts and emotions associated with food as well as to your hunger and appetite. To stop binge eating you must first become mindful of your automatic reactions related to food.
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IS IDEAL MARRIAGE ATTAINABLE?

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011
To many persons the marriage ideal we have set up will seem beyond the range of possibility for most human beings. And, judging by existing conditions, they are right about it. Probably from one-third to one-half of all men and women who marry find themselves unhappy sooner or later, not to mention those who are simply moderately contented.3 The present divorce rate—about one divorce for every six marriages—while regarded by some as appallingly high, really paints too bright a picture of the marital situation. There are a number of factors that conspire to make divorce statistics inadequate as an index of marital unhap-piness. Religious prohibitions, of course, deter many from dissolving marriage. Moral sentiment is probably even a greater force in holding unhappy couples together. Many persons who consider themselves thoroughly emancipated and by every rational standard know that they should live at opposite poles of the earth rather than under the same roof find almost insuperable mental barriers standing in the way of their freedom. Economic necessities, in rural districts especially, and everywhere in those age groups in which it is difficult for a woman to support herself, cause many to endure their unhappiness with stoic resignation. Added to these influences are the expense and the perjury required by our laws to enable a couple to obtain a divorce, and the vicious system by which parasitical young women may be granted alimony though not rendered by matrimony incapable of earning a living for themselves. The difficulty, too, of establishing new social contacts, which either or both of the divorced couple must face, is also a potent factor in keeping incompatible men and women together. And we have not yet even mentioned children, whose interests make separation a very serious matter, and justly so. Finally, we cannot judge the success of marriage altogether by the reports of the participants, for it is a part of the conscious or unconscious personality-defense of persons who have to make the best of a bad proposition, to try to believe or assert that they are happy.
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