3361438790_1f68e4aa27_mI know I need self-care as much as I need air, sleep, water, and food. I need time to recharge after constant yessing and doing. I just can’t seem to make enough time for it. Sure, if I reflect hard enough, I see a moment here and there spent reading a book during a bout of insomnia or taking a very quick walk between tasks. My version of self-care is so fast that if I blink, I miss it completely. It is an afterthought–something to check off the to do list once everything else has been done. Or something to do simultaneously while folding laundry.

I tell myself that I should be happy with the random moments here and there. That a moment is more than some people get. And that my reasons for not having time for self-care are happy problems (not even “problems” at all)–my son, who wants to spend every waking minute with me, being the primary reason. I enjoy the vast majority of the time we spend together, I really do. I am so grateful for our time together. I’m fortunate that our battles are few and far between. Like every parent-child pair, we have some tough times, and those times make me want to run away and hide.

This morning was like any other weekday. I got in the shower, and no sooner than the water got hot did Jax come into the bathroom and lay on the floor next to the shower. Then the dog and cat joined him. All of them relaxed on the floor of my teeny tiny bathroom while I tried to get ready for work. And then I kind of melted down. I raised my voice and I yelled a little about wanting some space and privacy and breathing room. And then when my husband finally escorted them all out of the bathroom, I slammed the door and locked it and cried because I felt so incredibly guilty at kicking out my son, who 5 minutes previously had just said to me, “Mommy, I see so much beauty today.” (See how awesome he is??)

My heart hurts today. I don’t know what I want and I feel like a huge contradiction. I want to be with my son all the time. I also want space and time alone. I want to go to work, where I can interact with grown ups and read things on the computer all day long and feel important. I don’t want to work at all. I’m tired but still seem to find the energy for playdates several nights per week. I hate doing laundry, but sometimes it’s all I want to do! I miss blogging regularly (without having to choose what to sacrifice or say no to in order to make time for blogging). I hate yelling in order to get what I need. Why can’t I simply get what I need without having to melt down? I’m and angry and resentful when I see others reading books, watching tv, enjoying themselves without scheduling it or asking anyone’s permission. But I also applaud them for putting themselves first once in a while. Why do I struggle so much with that?!

I think what I need is a vacation.

My husband offered me an amazing gift this morning on my drive to work when I called him to talk about hard-boiled eggs. He told me that for my Mother’s Day gift, he would buy me a plane ticket to visit one of my friends in another part of the country. He wants me to have a weekend getaway to recharge.

Immediately I started to cry, and my brain spewed reasons I shouldn’t accept his gift. Then the rational side of me jumped in and I realized that this is what I myself said I needed this morning while I was yelling and ranting in the bathroom. And that the boys will be completely fine without me for a weekend. And that nothing bad will happen while I’m away. And that there isn’t any valid reason I shouldn’t go away.

So I texted my best friend in Florida and told her, thinking that merely saying out loud what was on the table would mean I would have to go. That she would hold me to it, and it would be good for me. Just last night, the two of us had texted each other about how much we miss each other. This would be a fun, good thing.

So I guess I’m going away for a weekend to recharge?? I’m going to have to fight off my anxiety about this and keep reminding myself that this is a gift and a very good thing to do. It’s going to be hard to not make excuses to get out of it. Which, when I read what I just wrote, makes me feel kind of silly.

Have you ever escaped for a weekend by yourself? How did it make you feel?  

Image credit: János Tamás

In yesterday’s post, Easing Seasonal Depression: Part One, I told you about two kinds of light therapy that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (aka, seasonal depression). Did you know that light therapy can also help with anxiety, PMS, and sleep disorders?

Why I Love the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

Now that I’ve tried light therapy via both a traditional lamp and a headset with earbuds, I realize I am a devoted convert to the Valkee 2 headset for several reasons:

  • Portability. The headset is small, around the size of an iPod nano, and therefore it is easily transported–sometimes I place it in my back pocket while I’m wearing it. And while I’m using it, I’m not tethered to my desk.
    Quickness. The Valkee 2 requires only 12 minutes of daily use, which is easy to fit into my busy days. After 12 minutes, the device shuts itself off automatically.
    Discretion. It is far more discreet than the traditional SAD lamp. When the earbuds are placed in my ears, nobody can tell light therapy is being used; anyone passing by thinks I’m listening to music. No more co-workers giggling about my Bat Signal. And no more sore eyes (like I would sometimes get with a SAD lamp).
    Charging Time. I’ve been using it for a month now, and I’ve had to charge it only one time. Charging is simple and fast, done via a USB cord plugged into my computer.
These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

Because of all these attributes of the Valkee 2, I find it incredibly easy to use. It has become part of my morning routine. I typically use it when I get to work around 8:00 am, while I’m checking email. I place the earbuds into my ears, turn the device on (it has only one button), and forget all about it for 12 minutes until it beeps to indicate it’s shutting off. The Valkee 2 has a circle on the front, which lights up when you turn it on. As each minute passes, part of the circle grows dim, so you can tell how much time has elapsed of the 12-minute cycle. For example, when 6 minutes have passed, only half of the circle remains lit. When people stop by to talk to me while I’m using the Valkee 2, I don’t have to remove the earbuds, as they are not noise-reducing earbuds and no sound is emitted during use.

How Do I Feel?

When I showed the Valkee 2 to my physician the other day while I was having my sprained wrist examined, he asked me if I think it’s working. My snarky but truthful response was, “Well, I’m not here asking you for an antidepressant, am I?”

It’s been a month since I started using the Valkee 2, and I feel really good! As I’ve said before, January is typically the month when I feel seasonal depression the most. It’s been a brutal winter here on the East Coast, with so many cold, gray January and February days. But I haven’t felt down, like I usually do in the winter. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s contributed to the Valkee 2 or other factors (I am also taking a 12-week mindfulness course and I’m giving yoga another shot), but I like to think at least part of it is. I’m considering the Valkee 2 a crucial part of my winter survival plan.

Valkee 2 Giveaway

At the time of this writing, the device, from Finland, retails for approximately US $269 (199 euros). Valkee has generously offered to give one James & Jax reader a Valkee 2 of your own. On Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, one winner will be randomly selected to win a Valkee 2. You can enter this random drawing in several ways:

  1. Leave a comment below indicating what appeals to you about the Valkee 2. What makes you want to try it?
  2. Like Valkee on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  3. Like James & Jax on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  4. Tweet about this giveaway and comment here with the link to your tweet.

Each of the above is good for 1 entry, so you can enter a maximum of 4 times. Please be sure to leave a comment for each entry. The winner will be notified via email no later than 6:00 pm (ET) on February 14.

Disclosure: I received one Valkee 2 headset, courtesy of Valkee. All opinions expressed herein are a truthful representation of my experience using the Valkee 2 for one month. 


Back in November when I was bracing for the approaching winter (like I do every autumn), my therapist asked if I’d started to use my light therapy lamp yet. I had started in October, but only sporadically for a few reasons.

The Problem with Traditional Light Therapy

SAD lamp

My traditional “SAD lamp” (on the right)

First, I rarely sit still long enough to use it for the recommended length of time each morning (I believe it’s 30 minutes, at least to start). I’m a bit frantic in the mornings, packing lunches, checking Jackson’s school bag, and helping him dress and eat while getting myself ready before I race out the door to work. I don’t have the time–EVER–to stop what I’m doing and sit in front of my lamp. I’ve tried using it while I apply my makeup, but I’m sure you can guess how that turns out (I’ll spare you the terrifying clown photo).

Second, and this is directly related to the first reason, I keep my lamp on my desk at work. The only time I sit still for 30-minute increments is at my desk, so it seemed like the perfect place to sit in front of my lamp. However, the lamp is too bulky and fragile to lug home on the weekends, so I don’t use it on Saturdays and Sundays at all. Also, there are some mornings when sitting directly in front of the lamp isn’t feasible. Maybe I have to work on the computer, or maybe I have a meeting. Most importantly, it’s kind of embarrassing to use the lamp at work. I’ve had several co-workers stop by, curious about the light beam being projected from my cubicle to the ceiling. They’ve started calling it the Bat Signal.

Of course even with all those limitations, if something helps to relieve my seasonal depression symptoms, I’ll deal with the downside and just do it–when I can, anyway.

The Valkee 2: A New, More Convenient Light Therapy

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

So back to that November day in my therapist’s office… She asked if I’d heard about a Finnish product called the Valkee Bright Light Headset, which is essentially light therapy via earbuds. Intrigued but skeptical, I said I had not but I would look into this.

I found the company’s website and I started to read up on what seemed to me like a completely crazy idea–how could projecting light beams into my ear canals help my seasonal depression?! Because of my day job as an editor of several health care publications, I often read peer-reviewed studies and am familiar with and respect the peer review process. I appreciated that the company seems to have gone to great lengths to provide links to so many such studies, indicating promising results about “transcranial brain-targeted bright light treatment“–talk about a mouthful, right? I clicked through and read some of the abstracts to these studies, published in some very reputable journals.

My curiosity mounted. So what would any blogger do at this point? Find them on Twitter & mention them, of course! With astonishing speed, the company replied to my tweet, inviting me to contact them about perhaps receiving a Valkee of my own. It felt like Christmas to this girl who has suffered from seasonal depression for years!

Not only was I impressed with the idea of a new, portable, convenient way to use light therapy, but I also was impressed by the company’s responsiveness on social media. What’s even better is that the Valkee CEO himself responded to my emails, often within minutes. We talked about the product, and I grew more and more excited to try it myself.

In part two, I’ll tell you how it’s going, now that I’ve been using the Valkee 2 for exactly one month, and tell you how you can win one! 


I’m trying something new. I’m writing through my anxiety as it’s happening and I’m planning to publish it, this stream-of-consciousness-while-anxious blather. Maybe it will help someone, maybe it will help me! I’ve never tried writing while anxious before, which is kind of shocking.

It’s raining some wintry mix at the moment. The drive to work, including the walk to the car, was treacherous because everything was covered in a sheet of ice. I’ve had caffeine, which is something I know better than to do but often can’t resist, so I made myself more prone to anxiety. And for no good reason, given that I can’t taste the difference between decaf and regular coffee!

A text alert from the credit monitoring service I signed up for when I received two different notices from two different companies that I was at risk for identity theft alerted me to a change in my credit report this morning. The alert, combined with the worry on the drive to work, has my heart thumping.

And there is a stack of articles on my desk, all of which will require hours of entering corrections and making PDFs to email to authors. I can’t go home until this is done. After this, there are still four items on today’s to do list. It’s overwhelming how much there is to do lately!

I’m going to put on some music. Sometimes talk radio is better when I feel like this, but it’s harder to convince myself to put that on. Why is it that when I’m already anxious, it’s hard for me to do the things I know will make me feel better?

I’m remembering items from my list of things that make my anxiety retreat–music, distraction (hmm, maybe I should focus on all the work instead of writing about the anxiety itself?), lavender (I keep a lavender essential oil spray in my cubicle), Rescue Remedy (a tin of the pastilles sits on top of my desk), breathing (I learned a new breathing technique this week, so I should practice that)…. The list is pretty long. I’m going to get started, one thing at a time.

But first, my friend just emailed me about Martha Stewart’s skin care regimen. I think reading about that will get me out of my own head a minute! She’s 72 years old and her face looks amazing.

Huh, she uses oil. I do that, too. Someone should tell her that coconut oil is way better than Johnson’s baby oil.

I need to spend more time working out. And get a facialist. And eat more veggies. Use some masks–I bet I could get some great ones from Lush. Those are the one type of Lush product I actually haven’t tried yet!

My skin felt really great after I washed it last night and then used a sample of Angels on Bare Skin (a Lush product). Then I followed up with coconut oil with one drop of tea tree oil mixed into it. I stunk (tea tree oil doesn’t smell good, in my opinion), but my skin felt great.

Hey, whaddya know, I distracted myself out of feeling anxious in about 5 minutes. I sense it slipping away. Good music, daydreaming about skin care products… who knew that would do the trick!

I’m such a spaz. But hopefully a spaz with glowing skin in the future. Not that my skin is bad now.

I’m getting back to work. This is getting kind of ridiculous, but it did the trick. Hmm, dare I hit publish?


Finishing out my week on Postpartum Progress as part of the Warrior Mom Leadership Team, I posted there today about how traumatic my c-section was and how triggered I was for quite some time after it, especially by that show A Baby Story! It’s become clear to me (and to my therapist) in retrospect that I suffered some PTSD from that experience. As it turns out, an unplanned c-section is a risk factor for PTSD in mothers.

I am in a better place now, whenever I think about it. But for that first year or so, I cried a lot about it. I felt so raw. I could not even look at my scar. Now, I can talk about the c-section in a different way–with less sadness, less anger, more appreciation for the medical advances that sometimes save moms’ and babies’ lives. However, I do still find myself reeling every time I hear about one of my friends being scheduled for or having a c-section. Maybe someday that will change, but for now I’m just giving myself grace to grieve along with them, if that is what they are doing.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join me at Postpartum Progress if you don’t find this topic too intense or triggering for you. If you do, just know the bottom line: It’s OK to run flailing from the things that trigger you.

Knowing What Triggers You and When to Change the Channel

P.S. I also want to give a shout out to a fantastic post that was also published on Postpartum Progress nearly 3 years ago. I found it after I had written my own post. As I read it, I just wanted to hug the momma who wrote it and also thank her for providing so much information about this topic!

Mom Recounts How Childbirth Trauma Led to Her Postpartum PTSD

P.S.S. Here is a post I wrote years ago about what I wish I’d known prior to my c-section:

Arm Yourself With Knowledge