Happy Sunday! How has your weekend been? I just finished my first ever Youtube video, which was quite a learning experience. I don’t have any professional equipment, so the hardest part was just rigging the “tri-pod” to hold my phone so I could record. It’s a recipe video for making a Dragonfruit Superfood Smoothie Bowl. Check it out and give me a thumbs up if you like it!
Now, I’m happy to introduce you to today’s guest for the Self-Care Sunday series, Dr. Ruxandra LeMay. Dr. LeMay is a licensed psychologist with experience and interest in communication, relationships, stress and anxiety management, executive coaching, and entrepreneurship. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage and the upcoming My Spouse is Different Than Me: How to Mediate Irreconcilable Differences and Grow in Your Marriage.
Allie: Tell me a bit about your health and wellness journey.
Dr. LeMay: I was raised with a strong focus on financial security so I naturally started out my career in business management and finance. My upbringing and education truly developed the left side of my brain, and I was excelling in planning, organizing, and following directions. I was skilled at science-y stuff, sequencing ideas, reading non-fiction books, and living life in a very linear, logical sequence.
But as I was growing up, maturing, and diving into grown-up things like work and relationships, I realized something was missing in my life. To be totally honest, I was kind of miserable and I had lots of anxiety, over lots of things. I was young, not married (although in a relationship with my now husband), and did not have any kids. I had poor self-awareness. I could not explain my feelings, my anger, my fears, my interactions with other people, my quick jump to judgment, my biases, my strong opinions, my constant drive for more, nor my overwhelming nagging thought of “not being good enough.”
I tried my first therapy session. I thought it was stupid and I hated it because the counselor told me “I shouldn’t feel anxiety, because it’s irrational.” Duh! I already knew that! Her invalidation reminded me of my early experiences when everyone in my family would tell me not to feel mad or sad or any other negative feeling they couldn’t handle and just to get over it! But the good thing that came out of that one and only session was my homework assignment, reading an anxiety workbook. Things started to make sense and I was completely hooked. I was hungry for more. I decided to go back to school and pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology.
That was 12 years ago. This journey has not been an easy one, but it is totally worth it. This transformation positively affected so many areas of my life.
- I became aware of my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and how they affect not only my own well-being, but also the ones around me.
- I improved the relationship with myself because I understand the parts I like and don’t like about myself and I have the knowledge and the power to change what I don’t like.
- I gave myself a chance to have a healthy relationship with my spouse; it’s not always a smooth ride, but it’s a successful work-in-progress.
- I became a mother, whose first goal in life is to have a good relationship with her kids, while teaching them to be kind, hardworking, and independent.
- Finally, I decided to nourish and nurture the Right side of my brain. I gave myself permission to develop my free-spirit, entrepreneurial sense by writing books and creating courses that could help others experience the same life-changing resources without worrying about not having the time, or the money, or access to a therapist that they truly like.
A: What is ONE thing you think everyone should be doing for his/her mental health?
Dr. L: SLEEP, especially for anything depression, mood, or anxiety related, but pretty much for anything and everything……Before I start any therapy sessions, I assess sleep quality and quantity; if it’s not adequate (and for most of us is not), I make that one of the top goals, to reinstate good sleep hygiene habits. There is no point in really talking about other things going on if the brain doesn’t have a chance to recover and recharge.
Sleep deprivation affects so many areas of our brains! It can make one impatient and quick to anger, it brings trouble with thinking and concentration, lower sex drive and emotional availability to loved ones, it lowers the immune system, it prompts us to eat more (to make up for the loss of energy) which causes weight gain, and it messes with our hormones, which obviously can affect so many areas of our lives.
A: Do you have a quote or motto you try to live by?
Dr. L: Generally, I like to focus on what I can control. If there is nothing I can do about a specific situation, I really focus on kicking that out of my brain, generally by distracting myself with more productive thoughts and activities. Rumination over negative things that we can’t control is truly a waste of energy. One of my favorite quotes is “Anxiety is like a rocking chair; it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you anywhere.”
I also practice from a holistic, multimodal perspective, which means I believe humans have many different aspects that affect our functioning: biology and genetics, thoughts, emotions, our behaviors, sensory experiences, our relationship with ourselves and with others. We are really a sum of all of these areas and the goal is to keep all of them in balance, so I am constantly looking for resources for each one of these. Really, looking for new ideas and inspiration is part of my personal coping skills plan as well one that I recommend to my clients. I hate to say it but Pinterest has become my new addiction as you can find so many great ideas for self-care and positive thoughts.
On my website, I have a monthly blog about my favorite new finds for your mind, body, and soul.
A: Tell me about a big WIN you’ve had in your health/self-care journey.
Dr. L: For someone who has struggled with anxiety all her life, my biggest wins have been: getting to the point of understanding anxiety, learning that’s not curable but manageable, and accepting that, being okay with that, embracing that as part of who I am, and not making excuses or being ashamed of it, but also being aware of how it can affect the people around me, especially in my interactions with my husband and my kids.
Also, every time I am able to distract myself out of an anxious thought, focus on the present to avoid any anticipatory anxiety and actually enjoy what I am doing …these are all small daily wins, but I consider them BIG wins in my mental health journey.
A: How do you practice self-care for mental health? And WHY?
Dr. L: I have a crazy busy life (primarily because I like to stay busy as it deters my brain from thinking negative thoughts-I like to say I feed it “positive” food to chew on, rather than unproductive, crappy thoughts…..but staying busy does not allow for too much downtime.
Thus, the biggest thing I practice is to listen to my body. It took me a while to learn that, but I think I finally got to a point where I am good at it….meaning if I am tired, I don’t care what my house looks like-I go to bed. If I am hungry, I eat. If I get a stress migraine, it means I overdid it and need to slow down and simplify my schedule for a while.
A: What are some interesting facts or tips you’ve learned in your years as a psychologist/therapist.
Dr. L: We are where we are because of our genetics, our parents’ ways of parenting (which could be great or less than ideal), and our choices. We can’t control the first two, but learning about them, how they affected us, and making a conscious decision to repeat history or change the course can guide your current choices and in turn your future and your kids’ future. Nowadays, we have access to so many resources and so much knowledge, but the motivation and the hard work to change are up to you as an individual.
Changing the we way we feel, think, or act is not easy; it takes some dedicated effort, but it’s achievable! I am reading a fantastic book, “Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents” by Lindsay C. Gibson that covers what I just mentioned. It’s a great resource to understand your background and it may have affected your emotional well-being. Having that understanding can be so extremely validating and healing.
Join Dr. LeMay on her blog and website for more empowering resources and action steps to assist you in becoming your own therapist and achieving a fulfilling and prosperous life. Or you can follow her on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
I’m running a Seven Day Self-Care Challenge on my blog and I’d love for you to join! You’ll learn about affirmations, meditation, gratitude, breathing, mirror work, and a lot more. Join here!
Looking for more self-care interviews? Check them out here.