Monthly Archives: November 2013

Managing Our Expectations

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. When I was younger, it was always the same small gathering of three – my mom, my brother, and me; regardless, each year my mom would prepare enough food for 15 people.

The other 364 days of the year she was too overworked, tired or recovering from some stress-induced illness to go to the trouble of cooking. But on that one day in November, she would insist on exhausting herself to do all the cooking. Our home would smell so warm and comforting like my grandmother’s, and I remember feeling the fleeting sense of being a “normal family.”

At the time, I didn’t realize this was her way of living up to the high expectations she had for herself to create that sensation for me and my brother, since she was raising us alone. She was successful each time and the fact that she managed to pull it off, probably gave her a sense of huge satisfaction.

Now that I have kids of my own, I wonder what expectations are being set in motion. Am I setting myself up to not enjoy the day by getting too caught up in creating a memorable day for them? As I attempt to find a balanced perspective, I find myself torn between the bliss and nostalgia of Norman Rockwell and the fear and chaos of Home for the Holidays!

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“Home for the Holidays”

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“Freedom from Want” ~ Norman Rockwell

 

To manage my expectations and anxiety, I remind myself to MODIFY my expectations… Instead of putting pressure on myself to create a perfect holiday season, I guide myself to explore the overall goal of creating a happy family. I ask “Am I staying in the present moment enough to enjoy what is happening this year, or am I getting lost in what should be happening or what might not happen?” and “How can I make things better?”

At this time of the year in the office I do more counseling than other months, as more patients need to be “talked off the ledge” and guided to answer these same questions for themselves’ instead of getting bummed out that things are not “perfect”.

Whether the person is struggling with an old family dynamic, or the disappointment that they don’t yet have a family or partner of their own, they likely need to vent frustrations or be reminded that even though they may not have reached certain goals by this Thanksgiving, they still have much to be thankful for. This gratitude-based perspective can help calm our anxiety about what isn’t there yet, or ease the pain as we realize our dream may not be slated for us in this lifetime.

Where I used to view expectations as places where my life didn’t measure up to what I had always envisioned for myself, I now see that the term expectation means getting out of life what we EXPECT.

For example, if we expect holidays to be sad, they will be. If we expect to be happy, likely we will be.

Starting in the weeks that follow Halloween, it’s helpful to reframe expectations into the general mindset that it is possible to enjoy what happens. Remember, if after a long day of cooking you turn to see the dog eating the turkey, it’s only a problem if you can’t laugh it off.

-Danica

Oxytocin and Anna

Without a doubt, the smartest decision I ever made was to ask Anna Werderitsch (formerly Anna Loskutoff) if she would like to practice acupuncture in my office.

After two years of intensely building my practice, I had been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure at age 32. Luckily Anna joined me at that time and she refused to allow me to accept that diagnosis. We decided that during my “rest” days I wouldn’t see patients, but I would go into the office anyway… to see her for acupuncture treatments and nurturing conversation.

Danica & Anna '05

Danica and Anna   ~ 2003

Every time we met I left feeling more in control of my fertility. By talking things out, we came to understand what our teachers meant when they explained that “The uterus is the second heart.”

Those sessions with Anna, my trusted friend and acupuncturist, became centered on releasing my worries, fears and old hurts. Our intention was to repair my “second” heart and make it a safe place for a baby to grow someday.

Fairly soon, it became clear that my situation was improving and likely it was from our conversations, not just the acupuncture. It wasn’t until nearly 5 years later that I realized true healing had occurred — despite my diagnosis, my daughter was conceived on the first natural attempt!

Those vulnerable moments of sharing had worked!

Danica, Anna, & Emily '07

Danica, Anna, & Emily Bartlett   ~ 2006

Over the eight years that Anna worked in my office, we noticed regularly that something “magical” happens in the treatment rooms. In the midst of sharing personal stories and dreams, we were surprisingly able to feel optimistic about even the most challenging patient outcomes and life in general. At the time, we didn’t realize that our boundless optimism came from being under the influence of large doses of oxytocin.

While neither of us intended to create an office space that would store hormones in the walls such as estrogen, oxytocin, endorphins and serotonin, that’s exactly what happened. Over the years all this sharing, conversing, tear-wiping and laughing in the sessions has positively impacted thousands of women.  We were witnessing it most frequently in the form of “infertile” women carrying full-term babies, against the odds.

(from left to right) Virginia Prior, Danica, Anna and Carolin Bennett '07

(from left to right) Virginia Prior, Danica, Anna and Carolin Bennett  ~ 2008

Oxytocin, this understudied “bonding hormone,” has enormous healing potential. Women effortlessly release this magic when they laugh, cry, share… and when they do, from seemingly nowhere, miracles happen. Oxytocin can make even the most cynical person feel as if it is possible to turn things around.

Women with disappointment and despair from various ailments come to Well Women and begin working through life issues such as peri-menopause, infertility and relationship stress. In time they learn to reframe their situations, tap into their emotions and marvel as their situations change for the better.

It’s this phenomenon of the “bonding hormone” that I experienced firsthand several times with Anna, and is what has made the Well Women office such a success.

Well Women Acupuncture began with just Anna and me, talking and healing. It then grew to include several practitioners who have left the practice including Emily Bartlett, Virginia Prior, Carolin Bennett, and Janice Chen. Now there is Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss and Julie Grados. Together we have continued to nurture this oxytocin-rich environment where women tap into their own inner healing source, simply by connecting with each other.

– Danica

The current Well Women Team, ’13! (from top-left): Kaitlyn Connors, Julie Grados, Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss, Danica, Nyjah Westbrooks and Caitlin Phillips. See their full bios on the “About Us” section of the Well Women Website.

The current Well Women Team ~ 2013!
(from top-left): Kaitlyn Connors, Julie Grados, Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss, Danica, Nyjah Westbrooks and Caitlin Phillips.
See their full bios on the “About Us” section of the Well Women Website.