Welcome to our updated website and new blog!!

We are so glad you are here!!

After months of planning and discussions (and endless cups of coffee!) we are delighted to announce the launch of our new blog, IMA’S BLOG.

As postpartum advocates, we understand like so few can- the pain, guilt, and shame you may be experiencing through your journey and recovery.

But we also know that with the right support and encouragement there is HOPE.
Continue reading ‘Welcome to our updated website and new blog!!’

Racing to the Finish Line… Take a Minute to Breathe!

Here are practical some ideas to a smoother Yom Tov.

 

Technical and physical preparations

 

  1. Fill all prescriptions prior to going away for Yom Tov.

pills

  1. Erev Yom Tov is a long day. If you are traveling out of town, keep in mind that there is no formal meal until the Seder which is late at night. A leben or a string cheese won’t suffice to keep you or your children satisfied. Hungry kids equal cranky kids. Plan options that are permissible to eat after Biur Chometz.

 

  1. If traveling, make a checklist. Lists keep us organized and focused. Start packing two days prior to give yourself wiggle room to purchase last minute things. Check the weather forecast to make sure you’re packing the correct wardrobe. Here is an image of a packing list.

master packing list image

 

  1. Buy new baby bottles, sippy cups, wash bibs.

baby bottles good

  1. If possible, sign up some of the smaller children in a Pesach day camp. Send some of them for either all days off or even just one day to give yourself some quiet. Lakewood is full of fantastic programs run by adorable preteens the week of Pesach. Don’t feel guilty, it’s called making smart choices.

day camp

  1. Staying home and cooking? – take it slow and easy. The Pesach calendar this year is B”H so forgiving – one day Shabbos, one day Yom Tov. Keep the menus simple. Don’t forget Eruv Tavshilin, and if you have no burners on, light a Yarzeit candle to be able to light Hadlakas Neiros. The first Seder falls on Shabbos, make sure everything for Seder is prepared beforehand, no cooking or grinding allowed.

pesach menu planner pic

7. Before you go grocery shopping, have a list prepared of what you need.

pesach shopping list

 

 

8. Here is a good Erev Yom Tov Checklist:

last minute checklist

 

Emotional and Spiritual Preparations:

 

  1. Self-acceptance – It’s a challenging time. A lot of work, a lot of packing, a disruption of routine and schedule. Keep on telling yourself it’s normal that you’re not feeling the joy of the Yom Tov. You’re not broken or bad for feeling overwhelmed. So many of us feel that way. Give yourself that permission to feel uptight, anxious or stressed. Recognizing and admitting we are feeling something is the first step in letting go of it. Don’t deny it!

give yourself a break

  1. Don’t have high expectations – those beautiful scenes in the children’s Hagadah with serene happy children and beaming mothers sitting around a Seder table? Possible, but many times that’s just not our reality. The kids are low on sleep and high on carbs. Sleeping in different beds, operating on different schedules. Hyper, not eating properly, getting into fights with cousins. This can lead to us to feeling inadequate. Let’s start by not having such high expectations. Let’s be open to believe that the nature of a week long holiday will lead to some nights where kids go to be bed with barely eating a decent meal, or some days where haven’t really bonded with your baby because you’re so busy cleaning and cooking. Let’s lower our unrealistic expectations and thereby decreasing the disappointment.

expectations good one

  1. Emotional Triggers – spending a lot of time with extended family or family of origin when we aren’t our usual upbeat selves is really hard. Sometimes we are spending time with people who aren’t our favorites, and their behavior can bring about negative feelings. Some of it is actual, some of it is our perceptions, either way, the feelings are real. Our suggestion is to keep in mind that you won’t be spending forever with them, it’s just a few days, and soon you will be back home away from the inappropriate remarks or the tactless comments. If it’s too hard to detach, find someone safe that you can vent to, someone who would validate your feelings and allow you to share safely. If it’s a friend or a mentor, reach out and make a call Erev Yom Tov or over Chol Hamoed. Don’t keep those feelings bottled up inside, it will just fester. Keep on telling yourself, “this too shall pass! Before I know it I will be back home in my own space with no distractions.”my self worth
  2. Try to boost your psychological resources this week with sleep, exercise, and a good diet, to the extent that you can. Granted, this is easier said than done–and more often than not, putting a sleep or exercise routine into place is easier months before Pesach preparations begin. Nevertheless, setting a clear bedtime and getting out for a walk or a gym class even once a week is a giant step forward. If need be, reward yourself for getting to bed on time or exercising.

health

5. Focusing on the Meaning of Yom Tov – you might be too busy and overwhelmed to Daven much, and at the Seder you might be too tired or too busy with your children to really connect with the Hagadah’s beautiful messages. Be gentle with yourself, try really hard to accept that all your hard work for the Yom Tov is true Avodas Hashem. When we are down and struggling, the fact that we made an effort to beautify a Seder table, or buy new clothes for your children is a huge spiritual accomplishment. These are not tiny simple tasks. These are monumental efforts to make Hashem proud and to honor Hashem’s name. This in of itself is a celebration. If you are up to thinking deeper and want to connect more, read through these thoughts to have in mind at the Seder and over Yom Tov.

A) Freedom. Thank You for taking us out of Mitzrayim and transforming our slavery into freedom. Thank You for the freedom today that we have to live as Jews and choose our beliefs. There are people in parts of the world who are still not free, and we Daven for them. May they be rescued from tyranny, from poverty, and from danger. Thank You for making us free

B) Connection. Thank You for bringing all of us here together to celebrate this holiday. Thank You for the gift of family and friends. Thank You for the incredible blessing of seeing generations sitting beside each other and singing the songs of our ancestors. Thank You for each other.

C) Home. Thank You for giving us shelter. For this beautiful table overflowing with food and drinks. For the chairs, the table and the lights. For the flickering candles and the fragrant flowers. For all the material goodness that You pour into our lives every moment of every day, thank You.

D) History. Thank You for giving us this opportunity to tell the story of our nation. To go back to the beginning of where we began and walk in the footsteps of our people. To feel their pain and remember their courage. To connect their stories to our own stories. How we began and where we have been. The challenges that we have overcome, and the moments that have defined us. The history of our nation and of each of our families. The stories that must be told and retold so that our children can write their own stories. Thank You for this, for our history, and the stories that keep our journey alive.

gratitude-makes-us-joyful-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

Take a minute when you sit down at the Seder to congratulate yourself for getting here. What a huge accomplishment! You may not have done it according to your standards of “perfect”, but you did it! You may not have done it with the “grace” and “patience” that you wish for, but you did it!  It may have involved tears, anxiety, frustration and hopelessness BUT YOU DID IT.  It takes so much courage, strength, bravery, resilience to push yourself to prepare for Yom Tov! Give yourself a silent round of applause and a pat on the back, because you earned it. Kol hakovod! If it’s hard for you to feel this, just remember, all of your Yad Rachel family members are silently applauding you and cheering you on! We know. We understand. And we respect the journey. Yay for YOU!

 

hardest climb

We hope you have a wonderful, easy, uplifting Yom Tov!!

Yad Rachel

 

 

The Stress is Real- Tools to Help With Pesach Prep

To our dear Yad Rachel family members,

 

Purim has come and gone! We sincerely hope that you were able to tap into some of the joy and celebration that comes along with that magical and mystical Yom Tov.

 

Can we sit back and relax now? Not quite. The Jewish calendar is once again calling for us to keep busy.

 

All around us, there is a palpable tension in the air. Conversations of cleaning, cooking, shopping can be heard. Shelves in grocery stores being lined and filled with Pesach products. Pesach kitchens being opened and scrubbed down. Lines in kids clothing stores with purchases and returns. For a large majority of us, all this activity fills us with dread and anxiety. The lists seem so long. The errands seem endless. The cleaning seems insurmountable.

 

When?

Where?

How?

 

The anxiety can turn to panic; the panic can then turn to anger.

“Is this Simchas Yom Tov? Really? Scrubbing and cleaning?”

 

The anxiety can turn to shame, which turns into feelings of inadequacy.

“Everyone else is managing. Why am I crying and why am I the only one not coping?”

 

The anxiety can turn to avoidance, which then turns into unmanageability.

“The list is too long. I can’t handle. I’ll leave it to the last few days when I have no other choice”

 

If you can relate to any of the above feelings, you are not alone.

You are also NORMAL.

The preparation for this special meaningful Yom Tov can make the most capable women not sleep at night. Especially women who might have a mood disorder and aren’t their usual selves.

 

Here at Yad Rachel. We understand. We can relate. You are not alone!

 

So we compiled a list of a few pointers to help you through the next few weeks.

 1. Purchase earplugs and blinders. Just kidding. What we mean is, try to tune out and detach from all the endless chatter amongst peers and family at where they are up to and how much they     accomplished. Just because a neighbor feels like it’s not Pesach unless all her closets are color coordinated, doesn’t mean you have to. Create a mantra and keep on chanting to yourself “I will do the best I I   can with what I have today”. Change the conversation if it’s heading in a direction that makes you anxious. Avoid discussions to begin with. The only discussion you should be having about cleaning is         calling your Rav and find out exactly what you need to do in order to make your home Chometz free. We guarantee “koshering the chandelier” won’t be on his list. You will be pleasantly surprised to hear that   it’s much less of an ordeal than you think it is.

 

            2. We hereby grant you full-fledged permission to save the spring cleaning for another time. You get zero spiritual reward for staying up all night reorganizing                         closets and dusting light fixtures. The Mitzvah of Pesach is to remove Chometz from our homes- not cobwebs or dust. Focus your energy on areas that you know contain Chometz

3. Create manageable, clear concise lists. This is an effective tool that breaks down each task into a more manageable one. There is such a sense of accomplishment when you can          check it off!

                                                                                           

 (We will provide this 3 Week Chametz Clean-Out as an attachment in the email)

4. Menu planning. If staying at home, we need to address cooking. Here is a great and easy way to be organized.

                                                                                  

It’s hard to be helpful with menus considering everyone has specific Minhagim and Mesorah related restrictions. Here are some universal tips:

A. Don’t bother with a million options. Double or even triple each item you make in advance. No one is there to judge your culinary skills, they just want a warm meal and good company.

B. Keep it simple. Avoid all recipes that require many steps and parts. One pan/one pot!

C. Skip desserts. Fresh fruit- watermelon and cantaloupe are an economical and excellent way to end a heavy meal.

D. Two course meals. Keep it simple! Start with a fish, and then go straight to a main. The culinary police aren’t handing out tickets!

E. Cooking is allowed on Yom tov. Make sure to have a hot plate or a burner on with a Blech. This way if you don’t get to finish your cooking, it is very simple to put up a pot of mashed potatoes, or bake some cutlets. Don’t fall into the “I must finish every little bit of food before Yom Tov” craze. It will just create an impossible task to overcome.

F. This year we have a long Chol Hamoed. When preparing your shopping and menu planning, keep that in mind. A simple option is to utilize your crockpot. Start the day by throwing in potatoes and meat, a vegetable soup or even a chicken soup. This way you don’t have to worry about giving your family a nutritious meal when they come home. Everything will be all ready and smelling delicious when you come home from your outing.

 5. News flash. Contrary to popular belief, children’s clothing stores remain open after Pesach. If the thought of getting all the clothing shopping done makes your heart rate accelerate, please remember that the rush to get every single summer outfit, Shabbos and weekday, including accessories, shoes, socks etc. is completely unnecessary. Majority of the time, Pesach weather is still chilly and rainy. First, only get items that are necessary (new shirts for husband, new shoes for someone who’s are too small) promise each child something new, a pair of shoes, a Shabbos robe, a new white shirt. Even a headband. Then let go of the pressure and enjoy the peace and quiet that the stores will have when you shop post-holiday.

6. MedicationIf you are being prescribed any medication, make sure to fill your prescriptions in advance. Yad Rachel is closed over Pesach, and we don’t want you stuck out of town without access to your medications. Now would be a good time to ask a Rav if all are Kosher L’Pesach and not leave it for last minute.

7. Every engine needs fuel. All thisplanning, cooking, cleaning requires energy. Make sure you are being super diligent about eating right, hydrating, and resting when necessary. Take some time off each day or night for some quiet self-care. Meditation, journaling, whatever form relaxes you the most.

8. Ask a Rabbi. Call your Rav to discuss your requirements when it comes to everything, especially the cleaning. As someone who has certain limitations at this time it’s important to discuss what’s Halacha, and what’s a Chumrah. Don’t be afraid to make the call. Now’s the time to embrace yourself with acceptance and love. Be open to hear Hashem’s message through the Rav who will eagerly grant leniency if you are truly honest and open.

 

Good luck with all preparations!

Keep in mind “this too shall pass!”

Let’s take steps to arrive at the Seder relaxed and inspired.

 

Tips to a Stress Free Purim!

To our dear Yad Rachel family members,

Purim is around the corner, just days away.

A beautiful Yom Tov, celebrating miracles of redemption and salvation. A day to take the time to recognize and commemorate Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis so long ago.
Feasting, dancing, gift giving, happiness and joy are the themes of the day.

So why is it so stressful?

Why is it that some of us aren’t feeling that happy vibe and instead feeling anxious … feeling overwhelmed…feeling tired… and even, although we feel shame admitting it, maybe feeling DREAD?

It’s a challenging holiday.

So much to do and accomplish for such a short day. Endless costumes, discussions about costumes, costume accessories, and then there’s creating endless amounts of Shalach Manos, kids Shalach Manos (when did that become the standard?), notes to be written to Rebbeim, teachers, therapists, delivering those endless amounts of Shalach Manos in the endless traffic, hearing Megillah twice while juggling babies who can’t attend Megillah, preparing Seudos, attending long Seudos where kids are hyper from too much sugar and too little sleep, dealing with a tipsy husband, the mess, the fatigue…
And of course, weighing most on your mind, is feeling terrible shame that you aren’t HAPPY. And feeling so guilty that you are secretly waiting for it to end.

Yes it’s a challenging holiday. And to some here in the Yad Rachel family, it’s even more than just challenging. When dealing with a post-partum mood disorder, a Yom Tov like this can be so triggering. One wouldn’t recommend someone who is healing from an anxiety disorder to throw themselves headfirst into chaos and lack of routine.

stress quote

Here at Yad Rachel we understand this dilemma.

We don’t judge or criticize anyone who feels this inner turmoil. We respect how absolutely challenging it might be.

One good way of dealing with an event that’s looming on the calendar is coming prepared.
Be prepared physically, emotionally, and mentally. Come up with a strategy. Often, a well devised plan eliminates a tremendous part of the unmanageability.
Here’s some good ideas to help insure your Purim goes smoothly:

1- Sit down and have a frank and open discussion with a friend/ family member you trust.

communication quote



Share your feelings. Share your fears. Admit the dread. Often, just getting the feelings out in the open and admitting they exist gives us immediate relief. Be specific so that they can help you brainstorm.

2- If your Shalach Manos hasn’t been made yet, keep it simple.

wise-quotes-sayings-pictures-quote-life-pics-e1447103150246



Newsflash- no one really truly cares about your Shaloch Manos. They are just wondering if you are admiring theirs. Seriously, we hate using the cliché but it’s so apropos- it’s the thought that counts. Your friends and family want to see your smiling face on Purim, not your perfect Manos. This is not the time of year to obsess over color schemes, themes, ribbons, cellophane. Find what works for you- if you prefer to bake, if it’s relaxing and enjoyable, keep it simple with biscotti or muffins.
If you can’t imagine making anything homemade, go to the nearest candy store, ask a sales lady the following “hi, I need your help. Can u walk me through the store and help me put together a Shaloch Manos for under six dollars, including bag, ribbon, sticker?” Most likely, they will have done this hundreds of times this past week so they will be helpful and fast.

3- Cut your list in half

Here’s the rule in my house – every child picks ONE teacher to visit on Purim. The rest gets sent to school. Period. No discussions. We’ve been doing this for years and everyone is still alive and well B’H.

Plot out a route with only super important drop offs. If going in and out of the car is stressful, stay inside the vehicle and send your child representative to the door.

4- Ask a Rav if you have to fast

As someone who has a history of PPD, or if you are currently in treatment for PPD, you might not have to fast Taanis Esther . Please remember a Psak about whether or not to fast, is a very clear yes or no answer. If you are told not to, don’t hesitate, or second guess it.

5- Prepare good nourishing breakfast and lunch

THIS IS IMPERATIVE.

You need strength and koach and energy. Make sure to take a few minutes Purim morning to sit down to a warm breakfast. Same goes for your children – full stomachs equal calm children.

Breakfast ideas – whole wheat grilled cheese in sandwich maker. Or one bowl of instant hot cereal with a sliced banana or other fresh fruit. Have time? Make an omelet loaded with cheese and veggies and serve with spelt crackers. The fuller they are; the less nosh they will eat. The fuller you are; the more energy you have to deal.

fruit pic

salad pic

Lunch – More often than not, the Purim Seudah is late afternoon/evening. The kids have been up super early; because the day they have been waiting for a full year has arrived! By the time noon comes around they are famished.

Here are some ideas -
Cholent/goulash crockpot.
This is genius. The night before Purim, put up a big nourishing crockpot of meat and potatoes, or chicken and rice, maybe even a rich veggie soup, whatever your family prefers.
You and your children can dip in and enjoy any time during the day, and it’s both baby and adult friendly.

cholent pic

goulash pic

Keep a lookout for healthy Shalach Manos, put those aside for a quick snack. Try to ignore the tempting cookies and cake. Bless those friends that send salad, homemade applesauce, crackers and dips and eat them if you’re feeling hungry.

6- Seudah plans
Make sure your host has a playpen/crib if you need. Prepare your diaper bag the night before so you’re not left begging your tipsy husband to watch the kids while you run to a pharmacy. Come prepared with blankets and pacifiers.
If you are making the Seudah at your home. Keep the menu super simple and DELAGATE. This is not the time to be superwoman. Try your hardest to have your cleaning help available if possible.

7- Davening and feeling spiritually connected to the Yom Tov

Please understand. By working hard to make the day goes smooth and well for your children and husband you are achieving lofty status as an Eishis Chayil and a true Eved Hashem. This is enough. This is where Gadlus is achieved and measured. Please try to accept that and internalize it. Maybe there will be a friend bragging how this Purim her goal is to be able to daven all three tefilos. Maybe there will be a sister in law of yours who is reciting the entire Tehillim while you barely mumbled Brochos in the morning. That’s all admirable. But your Tafkid this year is to know that true spirituality lies in accepting our limitations as G-d given ones. This is real courage. Loving ourselves and not judging ourselves and not comparing our insides to other people’s outsides, that is the essence of a spiritual life.
We can only do the best we can do where we are at and that’s OKAY.
So whatever you can get to Daven, say out loud “Hashem, thank u for letting me Daven Brochos this morning. I feel ready to start the day right now. “
And if you can’t? A famous Rebbetzin once told us, talking to Hashem while you’re going through your day is just as powerful as any formal Tefilah- it’s a true connection.

8- Don’t feel the need to clean up everything

I think this is why we have Shushan Purim, no? To unwrap Shalach Manos, and clean up from the chaos.
So when u come home or when the last guest leaves, go straight to bed! The rest will get done in the morning. Trust me, it’s not going anywhere!

9- Hydrate.

Dehydration triggers anxiety. Need I say more?

10- This too shall pass.

 this too shall pass quote                                                       

Anticipation anxiety can create a false sensation that an event is much longer than it actually is.
If you are worried how you will manage. Keep saying over and over.
“It’s just 24 hours. And then we are back to routine. “
We Chas Vishalom aren’t counting down for it to end or be over.
We Chas Vishalom don’t want to feel like Purim is a burden and maybe it would be easier if you stay in bed all day. No!
We just attempted to assist you to help process and participate in it in a healthy way.
Saying “this too shall pass” helps us minimize the feelings of being overwhelmed. We will not be stuck in this anxiety forever. It will end. Just like the day ends.

We hope that by coming prepared into the Yom Tov ,
You will be able to be mindful during some of it. If you do experience any brief moments of peace and quiet, grab onto them and enjoy. Try to match your child’s smile, try to hum along with the music, try to admire some of the amazing creative creations that come through your door. Hopefully those brief experiences will fill your heart and soul with a taste of the joy of Purim.

Desserts
Have a wonderful meaningful Purim!

 

 

Natural Happiness

Using Exercise & Nutrition to Help Fight depression!

 exercise 2018 4

Exercise and Depression

Want to learn more about exercise and depression? Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.

What are the Psychological Benefits of Exercise with Depression?

Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

exercise 2018 2

Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive energizing outlook on life. Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain by acting as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain.

exercise 2

 

It appears that any form of exercise can help depression. Some examples of moderate exercise include:

tennis

  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Housework, especially sweeping, mopping or vacuuming
  • Jogging at a moderate pace
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Playing tennis
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Yard work, especially mowing or raking
  • Yoga

exercise with bike 2018

Because strong social support is important for those with depression, joining a group exercise class may be beneficial. Or you can exercise with a close friend or your husband. In doing so, you will benefit from the physical activity and emotional comfort, knowing that others are supportive of you.

 

The Best Foods to Ease Anxiety:

Anxiety disorders typically require medication or psychotherapy or both- but that doesn’t mean lifestyle changes are totally out of the question. A balanced diet and a regular exercise routine might not be cures, but they can help improve overall mood and wellbeing.

Similarly, to the way certain foods have been shown to reduce stress, a number of foods and drinks may help to limit anxiety, too. Here are a few of the most well- documented:

1. Fatty Fish

fatty fish

In a small study from the Ohio State University, students given an omega-3 fatty acid supplement exhibited a 20 percent reduction in anxiety compared to students given a placebo pill. Rather than encourage the public to rush to buy supplements, however, “people should just consider increasing their omega-3 through their diet,” study co-author Martha Belury said in a statement.

***Tip- Salmon is a versatile fatty fish. All you need to do is stick a few fillets in a foil pan, sprinkle salt/pepper and olive oil and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Good warm or cold- serve as a main or in a salad.

2. Chamomile Tea

chamomile tea

Chamomile has been utilized for its natural healing properties since ancient times, but modern science is beginning to catch up. A small 2009 study found a “modest” improvement on anxiety in people with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) treated with chamomile extract.

 

3. Eggs

hard boiled eggs

The brain needs a wide range of B vitamins to operate optimally. When we’re lacking in the B department, we may experience confusion, irritability and anxiety, among other effects, Psychology Today reported.

Make sure you’re getting enough by incorporating B-heavy foods into your diet, like beef, citrus foods, or, one of our favorites, eggs. They have the added benefit of being one of nature’s richest source of choline, a crucial B vitamin for brain health.

****Tip- Boil a pot of eggs at the beginning of the week. You’ll be able to take one a day by slicing it into a salad, layering it in a sandwich or just eating it on the go with a sprinkle of salt!

4. Probiotics

yogurt bowl

We know that our brains and our bellies communicate-how else would we explain hunger, after all-but growing research suggests the bacteria in our guts are at least somewhat involved in the conversation.

The good ones, probiotics, live in the intestines and promote healthy gastro functioning. But in a 2011 study, Irish researchers found that feeding a certain probiotic bacterium found in yogurt to mice reduced “behaviors associated with stress, anxiety and depression,”, Discover magazine reported.

The study’s author called the findings “encouraging” in a interview with NPR, but cautioned that further research is needed.

****Tip- Stock your refrigerator with yogurts- reach one as a snack or pair yogurt with a banana or berries for a refreshing breakfast!

5Green Tea

green tea

Green tea is rich in an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been reported to have calming effects in general.

In one study, taking 200 milligrams of L-theanine before a test helped anxiety-prone university students stay calm.

However, it’ll take you anywhere from five to twenty cups to get that much from tea alone, Health.com reported

***Tip- Because coffee and caffeine are a big no-no for anxiety, make the switch to tea!

 

Printed from WebMd.com

 

 

Breaking the Myth of Perfection

By: A Yad Rachel Mentor/Volunteer

 

I once attended a lecture years ago about postpartum depression. I volunteer at Yad Rachel, and this training like many others was mandatory.

The speaker, a popular social worker who specialized in treating women of child bearing years, was asked to educate us on perinatal mood disorders. After spending time giving over many scientific facts and percentages, she suddenly shared a message that was both powerful and direct. “Ladies, there is a disease that is rampant in your community that is causing untold amounts of stress and anxiety. No, not postpartum depression. It’s called the disease of perfectionism. It’s destroying women and their families, and we must fight it!” She went on to share that in her many years of practice, she has counselled women of all different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds. ” in general, women especially mothers, can be hard on themselves. But of all the women I’ve seen, Orthodox Jewish moms have placed unrealistic expectations upon themselves that are impossible to achieve or maintain that are bringing them to a breaking point ”

perfectionism
She listed the demands we make on ourselves one by one, and we all nodded along.

Perfect Wife – We need to be supportive, encouraging, and expected to look beautiful at all times or else we feel that we are responsible for our husbands’ unhappiness.

Perfect Neighbor – We need to do untold amounts of chesed for our friends and in addition be able to entertain or host at any given time or else we feel we have failed as a good community member.

Perfect Daughter – We live in enmeshed communities where we worry endlessly about our parents and extended family of origin and are responsible for their wellbeing and need to be a present and caring daughter- in- law or else we aren’t loving enough.

Perfect Jewish Soul- We need to attend a certain amount of Torah classes, refresher courses, read and study and learn and grow or else we feel we have disappointed   G-d.

Perfect Housekeeper -We need to maintain an optimum level of cleanliness, a constant rotation of mouthwatering gourmet nutritious meals, all with seamless order and routine or else we feel we will be labelled dysfunctional.

Perfect Breadwinner – In addition to all this, it is expected to at least have one additional job, and be best in your field, or else we feel we are labelled someone who is lazy and unmotivated.

Perfect Parent – We need to have large beautiful families, and treat each child like they are an only child, which means, seeing that all their emotional needs are met via attending yearlong parenting courses, hiring therapists and tutors, all while seeing all their physical needs are met by feeding them, bathing them, clothing them, playing with them, spending extra time with them, schooling them etc. or else they might end up in the streets G-d forbid and it will be all our fault.

She added Yom tov and Shabbos. She added external pressure – obsessing over appearance and weight, beautiful clothes in the latest most modest fashions.

She added chesed- being involved in tzedakah, bike-a-thons, Chinese auctions, and the like.

perfectionism 2

She continued on about this insane juggling act that we do. The toll it takes on all of us. How impossible it is to do it all. How impossible it is to achieve this level of success in all these areas and how it’s called the disease of perfectionism. How it’s created a rat race where mothers are depleted and drained from all this multi-leveled constant giving and nurturing and worrying about so many things and so many others. How so many of these “perfect” women are crawling into her practice anxious, depressed, overworked and overwhelmed. Isn’t it ironic, she observed, how these women ended up being inadequate mothers and stressed wives and needing assistance from the community since they were falling apart from taking upon themselves too much. And knew in truth, if they would let go and just “be,” they would be fine.

It seems obvious now, but at the time it was eye opening for me. I never heard it put that way before. Labelled as a “disease”. Referencing it as such created a negative image which adequately depicted the insanity of it all.

Be gentle with yourself, your doing the best you can

When I think of a mother, a woman, I think of a tree. Strong, fruit bearing, reaching her branches out to provide shade to those around her. Growing higher and higher touching the heavens. If I continue this parable, I think of the expectation for the tree to grow and bear fruit. But it’s understood by both G-d and man that for that to happen, the tree must be watered, must be exposed to sunlight, and must be pruned and treated for disease or rot.

 

fruit tree
The tree is also expected only to produce one specific fruit. No farmer expects the apple tree to suddenly give forth oranges or blueberries. No one waits each spring for the tree’s leaves to grow feathers or develop stripes or spots. It has one purpose: The fruit that G-d assigned it to grow. No one judges the tree for not doing more than its G-d given capability. Everyone is okay with the fact that the tree only blossoms one season a year. No one turns to G-d demanding otherwise. We must have this level of acceptance for ourselves, too…

So how do we fight the disease of perfectionism other than listening to lectures about it?
It takes time and work and a lot of self-awareness to get there. Sometimes we need to be broken and hit rock bottom before we do. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be open to these concepts before we are affected by it.
You see, we need to fully accept and realize that we too, have limitations. We are humans, not super machines. We too need to be accepting of the best we can.

the strongest ppl perfectionist
How?
We need to work on loving ourselves and not judging ourselves by society’s yardstick. We need to really truly understand that children need parents to be present, not perfect. That being a role model means doing the best with what we have at that moment and not doing what others deemed acceptable.  We must put on our blinders to avoid getting distracted by the high standards that others have placed which creates the impossible demands we make on ourselves. Only then can we focus on being happy productive mindful mothers.

This is the chemotherapy of this awful soul-draining disease.
This is a huge undertaking. Easier said than done.

never comapre your beginning
At Yad Rachel, where I volunteer, we are helping mothers heal from this illness of perfectionism. We see time and time again how much of a trigger it is, especially post birth when we are so vulnerable and fragile.
We stop women from beating themselves up for not being perfect enough, and we teach self-love, self-care, self-acceptance. We guide our wonderful beautifully imperfect women to embrace themselves. We believe that asking for help takes so much more strength and courage than pretending to be an all-around super star. That G-d doesn’t roll out the red carpet for mothers that are martyrs. (That it’s ok to serve frozen pancakes and instant hot cereal for supper, that it’s ok to text a friend “Mazel tov” after she has a baby and not feel compelled to make a four-course supper for her family of six if you’re not up to it!) We help eliminate the fear that eats away the self-confidence of parents and help them tap into their G-d given mother’s intuition. And with our women’s Wellness initiative, we encourage mothers to nurture themselves, so they can properly nurture others.

With our commitment to spread awareness in the community and educate women about PPD and other mood disorders, we have opened up dialogues about mental and behavioral health and have helped reduce the stigma which stops so many from reaching out.

We have come so far since that lecture. We have helped heal and empower countless of women. We have a long way to go. But hey, that’s fine. We are doing amazing work and we are doing the best we can. We are far from perfect.

 

The Fifth Trimester

The “Back to Work after Baby” Blues

By: Dena Neuman

fifth trimester 2018

So, you’re going back to work after having a baby. How are you feeling? Elated? Terrified? Wracked with guilt? Are your feelings exactly the opposite of what you expected them to be?

I can see you, brand new Mommy, on the night before your first day back at work after maternity leave. Everyone else in your house is asleep, but you are not. You can’t sleep. I see you sitting at your desk, illuminated by the soft glow of the computer. You are typing Baby’s daily schedule for the babysitter, checking it over three times to make sure that you included everything in it, because how else will the babysitter know that Baby takes one short nap and then a longer one only an hour later? How will the babysitter know that he likes to be swaddled, but with one arm out, free to touch the world?

 

This article first appeared in Ami magazine. Please Click here to continue.

Lifting My Cloud of Depression

By: Tehilla Vanfossen

LiftingCloudDepression 2017

 

It runs in my family. But depression is a sneaky disease and it did its insidious work without anyone putting a name to it.

As I was growing up, no one said that my father was depressed — instead, he was ‘moody.’ My grandmother, who couldn’t pull herself together long enough to make dinner, was described as ‘eccentric.’

But clinically depressed? Not in my family, thank you very much.

By the time I reached adulthood, I was forcing my way through most days in a blur of emotional pain. Negative thoughts constantly pounded me: I was worthless — lazy and stupid — with no redeeming qualities. I didn’t expect anyone to like me — I didn’t even like myself. I never seriously considered suicide, but if I’d had a huge cosmic eraser, I would have used it on myself.

This article first appeared Aish.com . To continue reading, Click  here

 

 

Dear Yad Rachel…

I was recently perusing through one of the local newspapers and spotted an ad from Yad Rachel. You weren’t asking for donations, your weren’t hosting a dinner, and you weren’t advertising a Chinese Auction. Your ad was inviting all women who are experiencing pre or postpartum distress/depression to reach out to you for help.

The advertisement brought back a rush of memories- all the way back when I was in 8th grade. My mother had given birth to our youngest, and everyone knew there was something wrong. My mother was completely not herself, constantly crying, and was hardly talking. I didn’t understand at the time what it was that she was going through, and I thought that I could do something to help the situation. I took to cleaning the house from top to bottom, bathing and caring for my younger siblings, and acting as the mommy at bedtime. All the while waiting for that expression of thanks from my mother. None was forthcoming. This continued for weeks, and I felt like I would crack. That’s when Yad Rachel, then a fairly new organization stepped in. Someone started coming to make suppers, someone got the extended family to get involved to come and take the children on outings, and most importantly, Someone was helping MY MOTHER GET BETTER.

The whole episode took about 2-3 months at most, but while we were going through it, it felt like forever. Only many years later did it dawn on me what my family actually went through. It was a truly frightening experience. Now, as a young mother myself, b”h, I realize the tremendous chessed that Yad Rachel does and how it gives everyone involved a new lease on life.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

My Anxiety Disorder

MyAnxietyDisorder230x150-

We are not transparent. Our fears and struggles are hidden under the façade of confidence and nonchalance. An acquaintance once told me, “You’re the calmest, most relaxed person I’ve ever met!”

If she only knew! I thought to myself! I am the one who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia and fatigue, racing thoughts and heart palpitations. I am the one who clutches the little bottle of pills hidden deep inside my pocket while I struggle to breathe deeply and take it easy.

To Continue article click here.

When a Loved One Has Depression

8 tips to help you cope.

WhenALovedOneHasDepression-230x150

 

The suicide of beloved comic actor Robin Williams has again brought the topic of depression to the forefront. I cannot imagine what it feels like to have the weight of such unendurable despair that is so intense you cannot bear even staying in this world. But I know all too well what it is like to live with family members who have depression. One of my parents, a sibling, my husband, and one of my children have also suffered from this black cloud, in varying degrees, and for varying lengths of time. I have spent much of my life living with people I love with all my heart who often have trouble feeling happy or optimistic. This is in itself is very, very painful.

Depression runs in families, and seems to be especially common among Ashkenazi Jews. Maybe our difficult history somehow let it seep into our psychological DNA. Depressive episodes don’t necessarily have causes. While traumatic events can trigger depression, in many cases it is part of a person’s psychological make-up, and I was at first baffled when years ago, my daughter, who had everything going for her, including friends and success in school, suddenly descended into a black cloud, seemingly “for no reason.”

Too often I have seen “that look” on a loved one’s face: the grimly set mouth, eyes slightly hooded, shoulders slumped, the entire demeanor broadcasting the message to stay away, that she cannot cope now. I had to learn that my daughter’s or sister’s or father’s or husband’s depression was not my fault, that I didn’t do anything wrong as a child, sibling, spouse or parent to “cause” it. I have also had to learn coping skills to deal with it. Here are some of the most important lessons I have learned about living with someone who has depression.

1. Offer your love and support emphatically and consistently, especially when your loved ones are in their least lovable states. A depressed person has trouble believing in herself, no matter how much she has going for her. Hearing someone say, “I love you” and “I believe in you,” and knowing that they mean it emphatically, is hugely important. Your expressions of love will register, even if they cannot be returned at that time.

2. Get help to deal with your own stress. You need to still try to live your life to its fullest, and you have to balance all your other obligations in addition to being a caretaker of sorts for a depressed person. Confide in wise and close friends. Support groups or short-term therapy could be a good idea.

3. You cannot “convince” someone not to be depressed. Nor can you “cheerlead” her out of an episode. Accept the reality that these episodes will repeat from time to time, but that they will pass. Offer that same reassurance to your beloved family member that you know it will pass, like a wave.

4. It is not okay for someone with serious depression to refuse treatment or stay in denial. If that is the case, she has no right to expect ongoing unconditional support. The behavior and moods of a person with depression affect everyone around them, and it is their responsibility to acknowledge the problem and agree to a plan of action. It is helpful to reassure the person that there is nothing to feel guilty about if they need to take medications to stabilize moods. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, someone with significant depression will need medication on a short-term or perhaps long-term basis, as well as therapy. I have been fortunate that most of the relatives I have dealt with have recognized the need to be proactive and been willing to get help.

5. Take care of yourself and do not let the wave of depression engulf you. Just like when you are in an airplane and advised that if traveling with children, you need to put on your own oxygen mask first before putting it on your child, you need to do things that lift you up, provide you with satisfaction and joy. In fact, it is extremely important for your loved one to see that you are making self-care a priority, especially in cases where a relative, consciously or not, uses their depression as a tool to exert power over you.

6. People predisposed to depression are predisposed to it in their own individual ways. When life’s accumulated stressors or traumas line up in a certain way, the result can be anxiety, depression or even schizophrenia. Our genetic make-up is God-given, and because our make-up is so unique, it is not easy to find the right therapeutic modality right off the bat. For some people, a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy works well; for others, dialectical-based therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, or mindfulness based stress reduction work better. This is only a short list of treatments that can help. Start with a good therapist who will be willing to offer referrals to other practitioners if he or she cannot help get results.

7. Take it one day at a time. Don’t allow worrying thoughts to pile on, imagining “what if” scenarios that have bad endings. A friend of mine gave me a little laminated card with this bit of wisdom: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles; it empties today of its strengths.” Stay strong by pushing long-term worries away.

8. Pray. This is an opportunity to grow closer to God and to ask Him to help you. I have told God very directly, “I cannot do this without You. I need Your help.” And I have found comfort and solutions in this. One year ago, right before Rosh Hashanah, I began to pray like I never prayed before for my daughter to heal from persistent depression. And for the first time, I replied to an advertisement from an organization in Jerusalem to have someone pray for my child at the Kotel for 40 days. While I believe in prayer, I had considered these annual pray-for-something-or-someone at the Kotel pitches to mostly be about fundraising. But last year, when things looked very dark, I figured I had nothing to lose and possibly much to gain. I wrote to the organization about my very wonderful child and all her talents and potential. I sent a picture of her. I also had everyone else in our immediate family also say the special prayer that was being said for her during those 40 days. At first things got worse, but after two weeks we had a wonderful breakthrough, finding a new and different treatment that has worked better than anything else has over the course of many years. I believe that heartfelt prayer does work, and that the Almighty is the ultimate Healer.

Depression is an illness that can be pernicious and debilitating, and it takes a toll on those near and dear. But there is always hope for a better tomorrow, and with effort, teamwork, faith and patience, you and your loved one will survive those occasional black clouds and see the sun shining through again.

 

by Pearl Goldman.

http://www.aish.com/