It was an absolute pleasure to engage in a soulful conversation with Karen Salmansohn to discuss her upcoming book, Instant Calm: 2-Minute Meditations to Create a Lifetime of Happy; her personal story of triumph; the philosophies of Aristotle (along with other fascinating letter-A subjects from Encyclopedia Britannica); and much more.
“Karen Salmansohn is a former stressed-out advertising Senior VP and award-winning designer turned healthy living expert, best-selling author, and longevity research geek. After leaving her successful career in the advertising industry, Karen stepped out on her own as a writer and designer of books.
Karen became a multi-best-selling author, having sold over 2 million copies of her books internationally and has gained a loyal following of almost 2 million people. At the age of 50, Karen realized another dream when she gave birth to her first child.
Karen has been profiled in the NY Times, Business Week, Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Time Magazine, ELLE, Marie Claire, and Fast Company.
As a late-in-life mom, Karen loves to research a wide range of longevity boosters and share with her audience how to slow down the aging process and live not only longer – but better – with greater health and clarity of mind. Karen is excited to head up a tribe she calls “The Wellderly” – a community of people who positively embrace getting older and aging into their happiest, highest potential selves.”
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to sit down with Carolyn Forrester to discuss her upcoming course utilizing The Matrix of Emotional Health, her nature-based artwork, and her own healing journey. Please join us on The Healing Place Podcast to listen in as Carolyn shares her thoughts on overcoming trauma and moving toward a place of peace.
“As a woman who has struggled to fit in and who has lost herself to pleasing others (so much so that she spent 15 years of her life on someone else’s dream), Carolyn Forrester knows what it’s like to feel lonely, unsupported, and disconnected.
Her nature based art is created to help you pause, feel a sense of peace, and connect with your deepest Self.
Her teachings using the Matrix are an enlightening guide to help you discern your Truth, identify any stuck spots, and heal the traumas of the past.”
Anticipatory anxiety is where a person experiences increased levels of anxiety by thinking about an event or situation in the future. Rather than being a specific disorder in its own right, anticipatory anxiety is a symptom commonly found in a number of anxiety related conditions, such as generalized anxiety. Anticipatory Anxiety can be extremely draining for people as it can last for months prior to an event. The worries people experience specifically focus on what they think might happen, often with catastrophic predictions about an event. The nature of negative predictions about the event will be the difference between an anxiety level that is incapacitating or merely uncomfortable.
A friend recently reached out to me prior to her drive from Cincinnati to Chicago to inquire about mindfulness practices. As she spoke, she talked about her fears of traveling alone, the possibility of heavy traffic, not knowing where she was going once she arrived in Chicago, and the known fact that she would be driving over bridges. All of which were causing her to experience heightened anxiety. I love it that she reached out to me, trauma-warrior research guru that I am, to discuss options.
I advised her to begin practicing mindfulness as that is my favorite go-to when experiencing anticipatory anxiety. I just happen to be working through my own bout with that pesky little symptom of my C-PTSD right now. We are preparing for a trip to Denver to visit my oldest son. While I am super pumped to see his cute face and the beauty of Colorado, I am also fretting flying, the high elevations, and being far from home.
I am well aware of these fears and why they are present, after my four year stint in EMDR therapy, so I honor their presence and just notice them without judgment. I remind myself these are physiological responses triggered by chemical surges in my brain in relation to past traumatic events. I am working at re-wiring my brain and creating new neural pathways, but that is still a work in process.
Think: brain pep talks! Do what scares you, Teri. You got this, girl!
My personal anticipatory anxiety goes something like this:
Lying in bed. Thinking about staying at The Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver with its rooftop pool and tennis courts. Then my knees start to sweat. Rooftop pool? How does that water not crack the roof and cause the building to crumble? Is there a guardrail? How high is it? Will I be able to ride the elevator up there? Will I feel it swaying? I swear, if that kid of ours goes near the edge, my heart will stop. I wonder how the drive is from the airport? I’m hoping we aren’t in heavy traffic. Especially on a busy highway. I’ll have to sit in the back. You should check out the city and enjoy it, Teri. No. What if you have a panic attack. You haven’t had one of those in a long time.
That all transpires in a mater of seconds. Ah, the joys of racing thoughts. But, then I reach into my coping skills tool box and start to pull out my calming strategies and redirect my thinking.
Deep breath. Closing my eyes slowly, I savor that breath. Now another. A smile creeps into the corners of my mouth. Another breath follows, even deeper. I reach over and grab a grounding stone lying bedside. I love this stone. It’s cool to the touch. And heavy in my hand. So smooth. Other than that rough little edge where it dropped into the gravel on a hike once. I wonder sometimes how long it might take for me to rub it smooth again. My fingers engage in their rhythmic dance along that edge.I’m excited to walk the one block trek from our hotel to the 16th Street Mall. I’ll let John pick a fun restaurant since he’s now a Denver pro. My sweet boy. The best hugger ever. Looking forward to that hug. If something triggers some anxiety, I’ll just hold onto his arm. He knows how to help his momma stay grounded. So blessed to have these children in my life. This trip is going to be amazing. I am going to savor every one of my senses. The sights of the city and atop the mountains in Estes Park. The tastes of new eateries. I wonder how crisp the air will be without Cincinnati humidity? I look forward to breathing it in, smelling The Rocky Mountain flora. We will definitely need to rent a boat on the lake so I can feel the cool water mist splashing onto my face. Oh, to hear the laughter of my children as they catch up with one another after months apart.
My anticipatory anxiety is now silenced. Perhaps it will poke its annoying head out of hiding again. But, I know how to put it in its place.
Back to my friend who was traveling to Chicago.
She called me today as she drove back home to Cincy. I was happy to hear her voice sounding perky. When I asked about her trip, she replied, “Oh, Teri, it was wonderful!” Yay! I then inquired about the six hour drive. She spent the next thirty-one minutes telling me about the strategies she used throughout her trip. How she brought along one of her stuffed otters someone had gifted her from the Cincinnati Zoo, having stuffed the little guy into a pocket of her purse, and reaching for him to touch the softness as she approached a sky-way bridge into the city. She discussed the pep talks she gave herself, You’re fine. You’re doing great. Just stay focused on your lane. The songs she sang along with and the phone calls she made in order to pass the time and keep her mind re-directed from anxious thoughts.
Her friend lives on the fortieth floor of a high-rise condo overlooking Navy Pier so her fear of heights was another anticipatory anxiety. She explained how the elevator ride was smooth and quick and her friend kept the shades shut in the bedroom in order to allow her to settle in. She took stunning photos of the scenery from forty floors above the city streets, but avoided stepping onto the balcony. Honoring her needs. I love that.
She also challenged herself to new adventures, such as an architecture tour of the city from a boat cruising along the Chicago River. Her friend praised her for how well she was doing throughout their escapades. She even watched the fireworks display through the windows of her friend’s condo upon returning from their day of tours and sight-seeing. She told me she continued to use mindfulness techniques to shake off her anxieties and enjoy the present moment. Again, I love this!
Mindfulness as defined by me: reminding myself to re-direct any old habitual scary thought patterns back to this moment, right here, right now, and all the joyous beauty to be found in it by use of my senses. I open myself up to all things smile-inducing in this moment in time.
So, how do you stop anticipatory anxiety? Practice mindfulness. As often as possible. Soon you will be living mindfully aware. And anticipatory anxiety may try to sneak in a word or two, but you can mindfully remind it to sit down and shut up. You have a beautiful life to enjoy without its input.
While I have an overflowing tool box of coping skills to utilize whenever those terrifying symptoms of my C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) pop up, I have recently been focusing specifically on keeping them at bay by using my new “I am lean, I am strong” mantra. I have been on a mission to make myself feel stronger physically along with the added perk of trimming my menopausal waistline. I am amazed by how much stronger I feel mentally and psychologically as a side-effect of my new attitude and regimen.
Following is a list of ways I have been proactively taking more healing strides in my life. Literally.
My Fitbit Versa, coordinating phone app, and chosen clock face on the watch all keep me motivated and moving. I have set reminders for myself to move at least 250 steps per hour. That keeps me from sitting too long at my computer while at the office (I have a stand-up desk in my home office, but not at my company office . . . more on that in a moment).
I recently bumped my daily step goal to 11,000. And I’m doing it! I grab our therapy dog, Sammie, and head out for a hike at our local nature preserve almost daily (Sammie is afraid of water falling from the sky so we stay indoors on rainy days). Those nature hikes are challenging yet so unbelievably peaceful. Birds chirping, frogs croaking, breezes rustling. I truly find it soul-quenching.
I even hit my goal on The Fourth of July amid a pool party at a friend’s place and family movie night. If I have a few thousand steps to go to make it to 10,000 for the day, I’ll turn on some music in our backyard and walk laps around our pool, while the dogs lounge in the grass curiously watching me move along my oval path.
My trick ankle is less swollen, my wobbly knees are stronger, my resting heart rate is lower, and my anxiety symptoms are staying further and further away. Yay!
I am lean. I am strong.
We are blessed to have a beautiful in-ground pool in our idyllic backyard. We are known in our community for hosting movie parties for families. I’ve lost track of the amount of times someone has commented how our little slice of paradise reminds them of being on vacation. There’s a tiki hut, trampoline, gardens, bird feeders, an island marker sign, Adirondack chairs surrounding a fire pit in the sand, cushioned chairs under a canopy umbrella, and even a Florida Marlin hanging on the back fence.
Luckily our summer weather is usually sunny and hot so our water temperature in the pool stays in the mid-eighties. Positively delightful for evening swims. I have recently discovered if I run in the water, my waterproof Fitbit actually counts the steps. Another way to reach my step goal while moving other muscles as I work to keep myself afloat.
Engaging my teenage daughter in swimming races helps keep me moving toward my lean and strong goal. All the while, helping my body regulate itself. Thereby keeping me calmer and empowered when triggered. Creating this sanctuary as part of our home was purposeful as I have utilized it often when needing grounding. From placing my hand on our sturdy maple tree to digging my hands into the soil while I garden or just sitting quietly while practicing mindfulness exercises. It all helps me keep those C-PTSD symptoms in check.
I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded.
Joining a new gym which recently opened close to our home was a family venture. We toured it together and made a commitment to our health as a group effort. We even signed up with a personal trainer just to assess our individual needs and discover ways we could kick-start ourselves into healthier choices.
I love the water yoga classes in the warm-water pool, although I have yet to attempt the cold-water lap pool. I think I’m a bit too spoiled by our sun-kissed water at home. I am trying out new exercise classes such as Pilates and a kick-ass Metabolic Strength session. Yoga is always a perk, as well. I’m looking forward to trying Zumba again, too.
A sampling of available classes at our local gym include: group cycling, cardio muscle, cardio kickboxing, TRX circuit, Barre circuit, various yoga choices, aqua arthritis, core cardio in the pool, and many more. Plus, I try to warm up on the stair stepper, rowing machine, or treadmill. Our trainer taught us about the medicine ball, balance balls, weight machines, free weights, and more. I love the idea of strengthening my body.
My favorite activity, however, has to be my almost daily treks to the track with our daughter. I love, love, love the fact that this kiddo comes to me every day and asks, “Can we go to the track and then shoot hoops in the gym?” How cool is that? I get to hang out with my thirteen-year-old and compete with her for steps on our Fitbits then help her with basketball drills as we continue working up a sweat in the air-conditioned gym.
I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated.
(And teaching this girl to feel strong, too.)
I had an old beat up mountain bike with tires that deflated once a week. It served me well when my older kids were little. How many times I attached their carrier to the back of that bike and took them on riding adventures through campgrounds and our neighborhood streets.
They were quite patient with me as I took one by one by one out for a spin. Then I saw THE one. I had to have it. Not because of the price. Or the design. Or the speed. Or the accessories. Why? Because of the color. Ha! This mint green bike made me feel like I was back on my favorite island, cruising along under the droopy Spanish Moss. It is the cutest bike I’ve ever seen. I actually smiled at it this morning as I hopped into my car to head off to work.
We have a bike trail close by that stretches seventy miles. Not that I’ve ever ridden the entire length of it. Although I did train for a half-marathon on it and walked 13.2 miles of it back in 2010. It’s a beautiful trail surrounded by trees and rivers and quiet neighborhoods. It even runs through the fun little city of Loveland, Ohio, lined with breweries, shops, and restaurants along that stretch.
The joy I find in biking is that it gives me the ability to move faster than my fifty-something-year-old legs can travel on their own. The biking wind tickles my skin and I can’t help but smiles as I glide along the trail.
However, I also am quite mindful in my rides. I stumbled upon the sweetest little snail attempting to make his way across the hot asphalt a few weeks ago. I stopped to find a leaf, let him slooooooowly climb on board, then moved him off into the woods to cool off. I think he winked a thank you my way.
I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated. I am happy.
I promised I would loop back around on this one. I am standing at mine in my home office (a.k.a. sacred writing space) right now. When I take a moment to contemplate an idea or search my brain for a word, I swing my hips back and forth, letting my arms move in rhythm. More heart rate, more muscle tone, more steps registered. Leaner and stronger. Calmer and more grounded.
There’s the blessing of being surrounded by my meditative music, the scent of an iced almond chai candle burning, and lots of angel paintings and figurines smiling at me as I move in this space.
Research shows the benefits of standing desks to be: lowering health risks, increasing energy, and improve productivity, among other positive results. See the article 7 Benefits of a Standing Desk. I know, for myself, my hip pain from sitting for prolonged periods of time (a drawback of being a writer, podcaster, and business owner) has been reduced drastically since I started using a standing desk.
Plus, when I’m already standing, if a great song comes on my 80’s station on Pandora, I can break right into dance. Hopefully I’m not scaring the neighbors too much with my disco moves.
I am lean. I am strong. I am grounded. I am motivated. I am happy. I am a dancing machine.
I wish you peace along your healing journey. I hope you find your positive affirmations that keep you motivated and moving. If you want to borrow mine, just remember . . . you are lean, you are strong, you are grounded, you are motivated, you are happy, and you are a dancing machine!
David Kenney shares his insights on adopting traumatized children, the impact of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), healing avenues, trauma recovery, and much more during our in-depth conversation. Thank you, David, for joining me on-air and helping others along their healing journey.
“David J. Kenney is a seasoned speaker having presented to parent and professional groups at colleges, universities and educational in-services on topics such as healing trauma, stress management, anxiety reduction, helping children with attention deficits, behavior as a language, general parenting and achieving success in our schools.
David has been a school psychologist for over twenty-eight years in a diverse group of educational settings, from rich to poor, from one of the highest ranked schools in the state to one with much less success. He has worked in urban, suburban and rural settings. He currently teaches psychology courses at Lansing Community College.
As an undergraduate student, David was invited to the 1985 National Fairweather conference to present a program he developed using creative writing with chronic, schizophrenic patients. This project was spotlighted in the Detroit Free Press on August 30, 1985. In 1986, David graduated, magna cum laude, from the University of Detroit with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and again as a Specialist in School Psychology in 1989. He was liaison to the Michigan State Board of Education from 1995 to 1997 and served as President of the Michigan Association of School Psychologists in 1997-98.
But all achievements pale when compared to raising traumatized children to a healthy maturity. Children wounded by the world have been given little reason to trust it, so there were no guarantees of successful outcomes. Through his committed efforts, Dave and Barb learned strategies to heal harmed children. His expertise and insight has been noted by colleagues, who continue to seek him out for mentoring and training.”
Every Tuesday morning this school year, Sammie and I have visited the kids at Terrace Park Elementary school. Sammie melts my heart as I witness her work her therapy dog magic with these sweet little humans. The idea of helping a child who is experiencing anxiety or feelings of overwhelm touches me on a soul level. I know how much small gestures of kindness and gentle acceptance meant to me as a child. That’s what helped me live through my hell and come out smiling. Sammie is helping me pay it forward with her gentle ways with kids.
Today these kids and the amazing staff at that school made my heart smile . . . and Sammie’s tail wag. A lot!! They gifted us with a new backpack (mine was falling apart and my menopause brain kept forgetting to switch over to another backpack!), bags of dog treats, much needed Dentastix (Sammie has stinky dog breath even though I brush her teeth), toys for Sam, even toys for our puppy Max . . . and noodles!!!
But, the cards. These hand-written thank yous teared me up and, again, had my heart smiling. To know my beautiful dog touches so many lives just by radiating love and giving stinky kisses and sharing hugs (she has started to put her head on a shoulder and push her head against the hugger’s head) . . . is fulfilling in ways I can’t really express in words. It’s like my soul is filled with light.
So I send out a thank you to the awesome staff who welcome us each week with smiles and dog treats in the office before we head upstairs, thank you to the amazing teachers who invite us into their classrooms, thank you to Tricia and Liz for helping me continue to learn the gifts contained in just listening and for offering Sammie a space to shine, thank you Jen Hrovat for introducing us all and giving an adorable hint on the rainbow tennis balls. And THANK YOU to the kids for loving my Sammie girl and brightening our Tuesday mornings.
I love this dog. She’s a therapy dog. She’s The Doodle with the Noodle. She’s sweet. And snuggly. And funny. And overflowing with love. She’s my best friend. And my snuggle buddy. My hiking pal. And my calming presence.
But most of all, she is love. A lot of love in a furry body.
What a beautiful conversation with Maria Dunlap, founder and CEO of Vivian’s Victory, about the difficult subject of losing a child and parenting a child with a chronic illness along with a discussion on the gifts that come from grief and the healing journey. Thank you, Maria, for sharing your heartache, triumph, and light of hope with those needing support and guidance.
“Maria Dunlap is the Founder and CEO of Vivian’s Victory. Vivian’s Victory is a nonprofit dedicated to bring hope, building community and bridging gaps for families that have a child diagnosed with a chronic illness. After Maria’s daughter, Vivian, died in the hospital at 59 days old in 2012, she knew families needed to receive support during perhaps the hardest moments of their lives. Since the inception of Vivian’s Victory in 2014, over 2,000 families have been impacted through their mission.”
I so enjoyed this amazing conversation with Amit Janco (I found it fascinating to be talking to someone on the other side of the world who was already in tomorrow!), discussing her personal continued healing journey after falling from a bridge, the exciting release of her book (Un)Bound Together: A Journey to the End of the Earth (and Beyond), the healing aspects of nature and art, and so much more. Thank you, Amit, for sharing your brilliant insights (I love your ability to paint a picture with your words) and shining the light of hope.
“Amit Janco is a writer, serial walker, labyrinth designer and yogi who has lived in Bali since 2011. As an artist, Young Living oiler and Narrative Therapy practitioner, she loves to design multi-sensory experiences that inspire creative expression. After falling from a bridge in early 2009, Amitset off, like thousands before her, on a journey of physical healing along the mythical Camino de Santiago. What was slated to be little more than a rehabilitative adventure of walking across the undulating terrain of northern Spain, would become an unexpectedly gratifying, comical, and, at times, emotionally tumultuous odyssey through physical and emotional recovery, into the very heart and soul of her existence. Part memoir and part Camino pilgrimage, Amit’s newly-released book, (Un)Bound, Together: A Journey to the End of the Earth (and Beyond), reveals how a quest for whole healing can unfold in unlikely ways and places.”
I want to share one coping strategy a month. These are strategies I use (or have used) in my own life as I travel the healing journey. I hope they bring you tranquility, as well!
WRITE AN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE PRAYER
Write an unconditional love prayer for one person who has created difficulty in your life. Think only of their needs, pain, and heartache. Do not mention your own. This is about honoring that person’s journey and offering unconditional love in the form of prayer.
I did this in relation to someone I had considered my best friend for almost seven years before she *ghosted me. It was liberating. This prayer helped me to let go.
*Ghosting: the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
WARNING: Confessions of a frustrated co-dependent. Things a child, no matter how old, should ever have to go through.
My mother told my sister last week, “Tell Teri to go to hell and I never want to see her again.” Obviously, intoxicated. This was a result of my discovering she was using a younger family member to drive her to the grocery (where there is a liquor store) and I informed that family member’s parent.
Two days ago she advised a family member she would be “drinking herself to death”. Same old story I’ve heard since I was a kid. Drunken slurs told to me as a child like, “Teri, this life does not matter. I want to be with Jesus. I just want to die. Death is beautiful. If you died I would celebrate. How lucky would that be.” A child. Being told by her mother that she would celebrate her child’s death.
I used to wake up and find my mother standing over me with a butcher knife in her hand. Her eyes would be lifeless. As if she was staring through me. I would cry as silently as possible so as not to startle her. My little sister always found her way into my bed and would wrap herself around me. It was a comfort for both of us.
Today I sit here furious. And bitter. And sad.
She is on another “I haven’t eaten in 3 days. I am no longer taking my medications. I am only going to drink until I die” missions.
I called 911 two days ago when she first threatened to kill herself as we cannot get into her secured building. She turned them away. Today I called her doctor and was advised to have the police accompany the paramedics as they will force her to go with them for a psych eval. Her building social worker called to tell me, that even though she had a “huge bottle of vodka” sitting next to her and a glass filled with it, the police left without taking her. And no paramedics were with them.
So I just printed off the “instructions for filing an emergency guardianship” paperwork. It states a physician must appear before the magistrate in a hearing to justify it is necessary to avoid immediate harm to the ward. I cannot get her to a hospital as she refuses transport.
She cannot live on her own, per her doctor’s own words, but I cannot force her to move until she’s no longer competent enough to make the choice. Apparently the police think she’s still competent enough to decide.
Therefore, we sit and wait. For our mother to sober herself up. Or die.
No child should EVER have to go through this hell.
I lost my mind on the social worker. I snapped. I cried. I screamed, “I’m fucking done. Let her die.”
I’ve reached out so many times for help. I just don’t know what to do anymore.
This is the lady I grew up with. A bottle of alcohol always next to her. She would come home from work and pour a drink and sit down to read. I learned early on to lock myself in my room and put my headphones on and escape into my music. If I approached her, she would slur at me, “Can’t I just relax for five minutes? Just leave me alone!” Or, if I approached with happy news, “Mom! Look! I got a 93% on my test.” (A 93 was still an A back in the 70’s) Her response, “A 93? A 93? God gave you a brilliant mind, Teri. And you are wasting it. Why wasn’t it a 100%? You are disappointing God. And me.” And I would turn away, once again, belittled and shamed. Shamed for not being good enough.
She tried to drown me in a bathtub when I was 4, holding my head underwater. She told me I would be happier with Jesus. Until my dad came in and sucker-punched her across the bathroom. She landed between the toilet and cabinet.
She tried to kill my dad with a butcher knife. But, he lifted a chair in time in front of him as protection to have the blade completely penetrate the wood seat. I witnessed her hauled off in handcuffs on that occasion. I was 4 or 5.
She beat my sister relentlessly. She didn’t like her and made it clear. I got to listen to the screams from behind a locked bathroom door where I would hide for hours until it was quiet again.
She told me I was frumpy and ugly and used to show my 7th grade photo to people and laugh about how ugly I was. I had braces and a unibrow and yes, pretty hideous, but really?
When I was in my 20’s (after the bank robberies) I dressed conservatively for business. She would laugh and call me, “Margaret Thatcher” and advise me I needed to brighten myself up so people would think I was happy.
Yet, I have fought and fought and fought for this lady’s love and approval my entire life. All I wanted was for her to love me and accept me.
I know my life motto is #nevergiveup, but damn is this a tough battle to keep fighting. Please pray for strength and answers as we move forward with guardianship. And that I keep my cool and not explode in frustration again. I’m starting to reach the end of my rope with this one.