2006-03-10 / Columnists

On The Beach

Changing Habits
With Beverly Baxter


BEVERLY BAXTERBEVERLY BAXTER Many of us who fly frequently have all seen the precautionarypre-flight demonstrations instructing us on what to do in the event of a change in cabin pressure.When the oxygen mask drops down from the overhead cabin, you are instructed to first put it on your face and then on the face of the child sitting next to you.If you become disabled and pass out, your charge is leftunattended and helpless. Thisexample is analogous to a common situationin which many women are sandwiched in as caregivers to both small children andaging parents. Society dictates that we can never giveenough.

We must be perfect soccer moms, haveMartha Stewart homes, and be warriors in the boardroom and Heidi Klum in the bedroom. Jugglers, while flying high on a perpetualtrapeze.Very often these daunting dual roles drain and deplete us of our energy and vibrant true self. Life renders all kinds ofpressuresthat impede our ability to function in a productive way. We lose ourselves in the hectic mix.How can we be triumphant in our effectiveroles as caregivers if we don't take time out to first find andgive to ourselves?

Debbie EisenstadtMandel answers this question and shows us how in her new book, "Changing Habits, The Caregivers' Total Workout,"published by Resurrection Press. In it, Debbie works with a demographic of women who are the ultimate caregivers:Nuns. She collaborated with Sister Peggy Tully, a Dominican Sister for whom the book is dedicated,and devised a program for the Dominican Sisters of Queen of the Rosary in Amityville, Long Island.

"Traditionally, nuns have viewed their bodies as containers for the soul and dedicated their lives to service. And it is this distinct separation of mind and body as well as giving, giving and more giving that has led to stress and other health-related issues common to millions of women," states Mandel. Nuns carry their communities on their shoulders. In addition, they must deal with the stresses oftaking care of elderly parents, theirown aging,spiritual growth, and illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. Through their selfless service, their bodies are often compromised.Changing Habits offers a complete stress-management program through which caregivers canconnect with and combine their body, mind and soul in order to become whole and complete. Its refreshingapproach takes the focus off of teaching the caregiverhowto give evenmore,and places the focusontohowthe caregivers must give moreto themselves first. In order to be fully and effectively selfless,the caregivermust first learn to be selfish.

How many of us in times of stresshave used food for comfort or have become shop-a-holic junkies: shopping for happinessand a temporaryrelief from stress.

I remember my own Grandmother stopping off at Howard Johnson's for her favorite maple walnut ice cream after each visit with her own mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. In avery short time, sheswelled from asize 10 to an obese 18. It was all stress-induced. Or what about the compulsive desperate housewife who shops‘til she drops, in search of yet another pair of stiletto pumps, as if the temporary quick fix of a pair of shoes could possibly fill the holes of a lonely marriage to an ailing husband. And yet there are those whobecome addicted to the chaos oftheconstant crisisin which caregivers often find themselves. Debbie Mandel asks,

"What are we running from?"

If anything, engaging in stress-induced negative activity does little to alleviate stress. It only breeds more!

Rather than running away from stress or getting lost in it, Debbie Mandel showsthe readerhow to channelit in a way that promotes well-being.Mandel affirms "Activity Alleviates Stress."

"By exercising we are exercising our right to make time for the self, get rid of toxic stress (caused by an abundance of the cortisol hormone), release thehappinesshormone (endorphins which flood our body and mind with good feelings) and most importantly, generate the life-giving force that is our birthright," states Mandel. Whether it is with a Medicine Ball (which you can purchase in any sporting good store) or with weights, you can literally release anxiety and discord and receive the benefits of peace and serenity that come with being in the moment with each movement.

We are all like the Sistersin that we all have a moral responsibility to take care of our bodies, mind and spirit.“If you are a caregiver, your anxiety is transmitted to those around you. Your calmness and serenity are also conveyed to others," says Mandel

We are very blessed to live in Rockaway where we can get out and be exhilarated by the nature that surrounds us. Put on your sneakers and hit the boards, take what Sister Peggy callsthat brisk "Thanksgiving"walk along the beach, put on those rollerblades and soar through the streets of our precious town and emanate positive energy.

"Pump up the volume" and the gifts that are unique to you.

You owe it to yourselfand to those around you tocontribute and bethe best you can be.

You canget Debbie Mandel's book from Amazon.com. Bernie Siegel, MD writes the Forward.

To find out more, visit Debbie's website at turnon yourinnerlight.com.

See you...On the Beach!    

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