Friday, October 30, 2009

Self-Care: Taking Time For Yourself

Here in Chicago, it has been raining for the umpteenth day in a row! The sky is grey and the weather is cold and windy. What a great day to stay inside and relax! We often don’t give ourselves permission to relax or take care of ourselves. Kristy Hatch, a counseling intern currently at The Awakening Center has written an article about the benefits of taking time for yourself.

While you are considering taking time for yourself, you might appreciate what you have in your life. There are many people who go hungry and need help feeding their families. The Awakening Center is participating in The Paulina Station Food Drive to benefit the Lakeview Food Pantry. This food drive will start November 9th through November 22nd. We will have a drop off bin in our entry way at our office (3523 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60657). Please bring some non-perishable food items the next time you visit.
Amy Grabowski

Self-Care: Taking Time For Yourself

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say “I don’t have time to… (fill in blank).” I believe this is especially the case when it comes to taking time for ourselves. I am always curious to ask people “What do you like to do?” “What do you do to decompress?” “What are ways you take care of yourself?” “What does ‘self-care’ mean to you?” Some people say they enjoy yoga, to sit outside or to go for a long ride in the car. Many people know what they like to do, but they struggle to find the time to participate in the activities they enjoy. I believe the benefits of taking time for yourself are endless.

It Can Be A Refreshing Experience.
Many of us lead very busy lives. We can barely find time to eat, sleep, and shower. How is a person supposed to take time for herself while trying to juggle career, school, family, etc.? I have to remind myself that taking time for myself refreshes me when facing life struggles. When I am faced with a challenge, that is probably when I need self-care the most. There are times I feel I do not have time for yoga or to read for relaxation. But I have discovered if I do make the time for these activities I feel rejuvenated and able to face the next event on my schedule. Not only do I feel better, but I also have more energy.

Being a Positive Role Model
My parents started encouraging my sister and me at a young age to engage in activities that we enjoyed. I believe teachers, mental health professionals, coaches, mentors, and managers can also be this type of role model for their clients, students, employees, etc. They can encourage us to take time for ourselves and also provide examples of how they practice self-care. My parent’s message influenced me at a young age to understand that it is okay to take time for myself and to engage in activities that I enjoy, even if I am busy. I was able to apply their message throughout my life and into adulthood. I will admit this is not always easy for me, but spending time with my parents is a reminder of the long-term benefits of taking time for ourselves. This is one aspect (of many) in my life where I feel fortunate to have both of them as role models.

Increase Self-Awareness
Many of us may have noticed that as we get older our interests have changed, the activities we enjoyed at age sixteen differs compared to what we like to do as adults. I believe taking time for ourselves allows us a chance to explore various activities to find out what we enjoy. This can help to increase our self-awareness. What do we find relaxing? What helps us to reflect on the day’s activities? What helps us to focus on ourselves?

There are many reasons to practice self-care and many ways to practice in addition to the above suggestions. I believe taking time for ourselves can help us to enhance our life experiences. This is one way for us to feel cared for and refreshed. I encourage you take time out of your busy schedule to do something for yourself even if is a five minute walk around the block. Find out what you are craving and give it a try. You may discover a new life-long hobby.

Kristy D. Hatch

Thursday, October 22, 2009



Jolene Hwee, a Practicum Student from Northwestern University, has written the next blog article called “Pause”. Her article reminds me that we live in such a busy world that we don’t often take the time to “Pause” and take care of ourselves for all the little things we need to do, but also all the little things that we know we should do. But it is in those little “Pauses” that can change our lives. October is Breast Cancer awareness month. I encourage all of you, both women and men, to “Pause” and check your breasts. While 80% of all breast lumps are benign, it is with early detection that Breast Cancer is most beatable.

My niece Morgen Paul is doing the AvonWalk for Breast Cancer in Washington DC in memory of my sister Terri who died in 2003 after a courageous 10 year battle. If you would like to help find a cure for Breast Cancer, please consider donating to a member of her team: “Terri’s TaTa’s”. Click on this link:
AvonWalk for Breast Cancer: Terri's TaTa's

Amy Grabowski


This summer I became a mother.

My life changed in every way possible. I was thrust from a world of books and clinical training to one filled with diaper changes, burp cloths and 3am feeds. Overnight, I became severely sleep deprived, physically exhausted and mentally overwhelmed. I was suddenly responsible for a tiny human being who was dependent on me for her every need, and although this responsibility was often a joy, it also filled me with wordless anxiety.

Maybe you have also experienced a change in your life- the loss of a friend, a new job, moving cities, marriage, graduation, a change that fills you with a kind of suffocating, racing anxiety that you can’t get away from. Maybe you experience sleepless nights, hectic days, and a constant wondering “How can I stop feeling so anxious? When will I ever stop worrying?”

I have found that it is precisely during these intense, anxiety-filled days that being mindful is necessary, but oh so difficult.

Mindfulness is “awareness without judgment of what is, via direct and immediate experience” (Cindy Sanderson, PhD). You are being mindful when you listen to a song and experience every note, when you make some tea and take time to smell its aroma, when you dance without self-consciousness and when you notice the colors of the sky during sunset.

Mindfulness is meeting every moment of life in the present, with complete awareness, and suspending our judgments, whether positive or negative. Unfortunately, the world we live in does not encourage mindfulness; we are expected to be multi-taskers, to do two or three or four things all at the same time. Most of us have two or more pressing responsibilities, work, school, family, friends, that constantly demand our attention. We admonish ourselves for not doing what we ‘should’ and doing what we ‘should not’. We often spend our time planning the future or ruminating about the past, rarely appreciating the present. We move through life with breakneck speed, asking, “What’s next?” instead of savoring what is now.

When anxiety overtakes us, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ may seem even louder. They can easily drown out our sense of self, rock our sense of equilibrium and steal whatever sense of peace we may feel. It becomes easier is do things on auto-pilot, to stomp through life, to hastily tick things off our lists, and hope that somehow, someday, that anxiety will go away.

But will it?

This is what I want to suggest; instead of hitting the fast-forward button, why don’t we try to hit pause.

Pause, and breathe. Pause, and feel. Pause, and savor.

Maybe, just maybe, if we slow down and take the time to live in this present moment, life and all its demands will be that much more manageable.

For me, being mindful is learning to be with my daughter without thinking about my work; and to be at work without worrying about my daughter.

What does being mindful mean to you?

Jolene Hwee

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Many shades of Blue"

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter and the skies get gray. You may be like many other people who find your energy level drops, your thoughts become sluggish and your mood feels depressed. You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.
The problem is the lack of exposure to sunlight. In earlier times, humans would wake at dawn. Sunlight hitting our eyelids and passing to our retinas triggers our brains to stop producing melatonin, the chemical which makes us sleepy, and to begin producing serotonin, the chemical that makes us feel good. But 20th Century humans have become disconnected from our ties to nature. We push our bodies to get out of bed in the dark; we surround ourselves with artificial lighting; we breathe re-circulated air. And we wonder what’s wrong with ourselves when we feel “blue”.

One treatment for SAD is light therapy. If you think you have SAD*, you can buy light therapy boxes online. Personally, I have found that exposure to bright light before I get out of bed has a profound effect upon my mood for the day. I have placed a small reading lamp on top of the headboard of my bed. I bought a full-spectrum light bulb (available at holistic health stores) and put the lamp on a timer. It clicks on an hour before I need to get out of bed. Rather than dragging myself out of bed in the dark, I feel rested and alert this way. I also have a full-spectrum light bulb in the lamp on my desk. If it is a particularly overcast day, I will shine the light upon my face for a few minutes in the early afternoon; this also energizes me.
Other ways to beat SAD is to get exercise and fresh air. Even a short walk around the block, particularly in the morning, can raise your serotonin levels. You may want to try it as a “science experiment” for one week – see if it makes a difference in your energy level and mood. Even in the winter, I now enjoy bundling up and going for a brisk walk with my dog every morning. It is amazing to me how beautiful the world can be in the quiet of the morning. If mornings are too hectic for you, get off the “L” one stop early and walk the extra two blocks to work.
Speaking of ‘Blue’… Anne Riley, an Art Therapy Practicum Student from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, has written a Blog article about ‘Blueness.’

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Many Shades of Blue
It’s been just “one of those days.” A blueness that has the ability to linger around, possibly couple days, weeks, months, or year. Whatever the length, sometimes we may just feel blue. Blue can be both dark and light, even with shades of grey. Our lives everyday can be a challenge on how we want to look at life; what outlook we have on events or experiences that bring us to that blueness.

The blueness or periods in our lives that aren’t filled with laughter and joy are often uncomfortable. The blue aura that seems to surround us can be far from pleasant and we may wonder with what to do next. Is music the answer? Maybe taking a walk and smiling at people we pass? How about reading a favorite quote or calling a friend? Still, sometimes nothing can shake the feeling of sadness. The question arises and is scary at that; will I ever feel happy again?

It is pertinent to experience life in all its hues, even the crummy, not so awesome curve balls that life throws in our direction. Many changes and decisions are made for us that lead us to this blue state. It isn’t always a matter of what we are faced with, but rather our reactions to negative experiences or a bad chain of circumstances. The options of how to respond are never written out for us in a book; there is no book that guides or leads us toward the end to this sadness.

The blue feeling hangs out, sticks around like it is going to stay and starts to camp out within our Self. What now? Remain in this poignant and uneasy state? We can stay in this condition and go through life sad, possibly angry, or we can hide the feelings altogether and “brush them under the rug.”

Some may find it easier to not look where the blue aura is stemming from. By sitting back and letting sadness fill our lives, anger has the strength to come in and alter our view towards life; the once sad time now somehow becomes bitter. Life being viewed in this way is rarely enjoyable. The “brushing it under the rug” tactic appears nice to those around you, but isn’t necessarily genuine. This too, doesn’t sit so well with us after a while.

Another alternative is choosing to be happy. Yes, this may seem far-fetched, but we can choose and seek out happiness. The option of happiness, true joy of looking at life with it’s fullest potential seems inconceivable when we are in our blue-grey stage, but it’s possible to obtain. The happiness will come. Like many things, it is a matter of time. It may only take just that single day to choose a happier lifestyle, but it can take a long time to figure what is really behind all of the sadness.

The process has no time limit and there is no race to the finish. We can go at our own pace; the important thing is to just wait, ponder, and accept that we have times in our lives when we are just going through a funk. An answer is never out there on a billboard or written in the advertisements on the bus; advice from people we trust isn’t always the key either.

The underlying truth to all the blueness may not have a definite starting point. The important thing is to just be and not rush the process. Instead validate that we have these gloomy feelings. Once we’ve sat with it, we then have a decision to make: wallow in our sadness, or find what makes us smile, makes us happy, makes us be Real and in our Self. When we find little things that tend to be positive, our attitude begins to shift and we’ve gotten back to where there is no blue aura around us and the glow that is in all of us really starts to shine again.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed. -Carl Gustav Jung

Choosing happiness over sadness is a very conscious effort that we can make. Being happy and being sad hold great advantages in our lives. With the sadness, we can then appreciate the happy side of life that much more. We become more aware that it is a choice that we are granted. In choosing happiness, we gain fulfillment of life.

Anne Riley
During her internship at The Awakening Center, Anne leads an Expressive Therapy Group on Thursday evenings. If you would like explore the many colors of your Self using non-verbal forms of therapy, please call Anne at (773) 929-6262 x 13.

*If you suspect that you have SAD, we recommend you see a medical doctor before attempting to treat the condition yourself. The ideas in this article are merely suggestions, not medical advice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Are You An Intuititve Eater?"

Are you an Intuitive Eater?

Intuitive eaters eat when they are hungry and stop when they feel satisfied. Small children are usually quite good at letting us know when they are hungry and when they are full. We all had that ability at one time. The good news is that we can relearn how to become an intuitive eater.

Intuitive eating or normal eating is not based on deprivation, calorie counting or making foods forbidden. It is based on making peace with food, making eating pleasurable, and being in tune with your mind and body.

Becoming an Intuitive Eater

Enjoy your food. Don't stop eating because you think you should but rather because you are satisfied. This does require being present while you eat and using all your senses.

Look at the variety of colors, shapes and sizes on the plate.
With your eyes closed, deeply breathe in the aromas.
Savor each taste sensation in the food: sweet, sour, salty, bitter.
Feel the textures and temperatures: crunchy, soft, creamy, hot.
Listen to the sound the food makes if it is a food that you chew.

Eat slowly. A general guideline is to let 20 minutes lapse from the time you start eating until you want to serve yourself more food. This is because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you have eaten enough. If you eat slowly, that 20 minutes comes naturally.

Use moderation. Make choices to get a variety of healthful foods, yet don't be so restrictive you eliminate foods you enjoy.

Recognize that everyone overeats sometimes and under-eats at other times. Your body can balance meals over time. Each meal and each day not need to be perfect.

Trust your body. Your body will give you signals when it is hungry and full. Listen to what it is saying. Also, your body can make up for some mistakes in eating. Eating is one of life's great pleasures - enjoy eating guilt-free.

Try it out! The Hershey Kiss Experience…
1 Do not eat the kiss right away!
2 First, admire the shape and color.
3 Anticipate how the kiss will taste.
4 Slowly unwrap the chocolate and place in your mouth.
6 Let the candy melt slowly in your mouth.
7 Savor the flavor and texture.

Jennifer Reiner, MS, RD, LD – Jennifer is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who practices out of The Awakening Center. She can be reached by calling (773) 929-6262 x16.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Believing in Your Own Ability to Recover"

For many years, The Awakening Center has been a practicum site for several of the Universities in the Chicago Area. This is a “win-win-win” situation for The Awakening Center (having a background in Education, I love teaching practicum students the "art" being a counselor), for the practicum students (they get a well-rounded schedule of training and experience), and for the clients (who otherwise would not be able to afford therapy). This Blog article is written by Christine McRice, a senior at DePaul University who is doing a bachelor’s level internship at The Awakening Center.

For more information about The Awakening Center as a practicum site, please visit:

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

“Believing in Your Own Ability to Recover”

Since this internship is my first experience in the field, I wanted to be sure to find a site where I felt true compassion for the clients, and which had a mission I could stand behind. In my search I visited several other treatment centers, but I did not feel the warmth and empowerment that I found at The Awakening Center.

The Awakening Center understands that eating disorders involve more than the client’s relationship with food, but more importantly it is the relationship with self. Learning who you are, and learning to accept and love that person, will bring you a happiness no one could give you. YOU have the ability, YOU have the power, and YOU have the strength that some day you will gain full recovery and fulfillment in life.

At The Awakening Center, I have been lucky enough to co-lead an ANAD support group for those with eating disorders, regardless of your stage in recovery on Tuesday evenings. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but have been pleasantly surprised by the respect and emotional support our members provide one another. ANAD provides a safe environment where judgment is suspended and you are free to discuss issues relating to your ED and learn that you are not alone in your struggles. Many of our members have very inspiring stories about their own recovery and can offer sympathy and understanding to others. Other members are just beginning their journey on the path to recovery. Taking the first step of admitting you need help out loud to those who understand (and to yourself) can be a very relieving leap!

Christine McRice